Readers’ Response: Scintillating Summer Trips

From islands to highlands and everything in between, here are the places our readers chose to go and the trips they decided to take for the hallowed summer vacay.

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Seeing 108 chortens perched at a staggering height of around 3100 metres, in Dochula (Bhutan), was always on a reader’s summer bucket list. Photo by: Lakkana Savaksuriyawong/Shutterstock

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Seas the day

Adventure in the Andamans

In the summer of 2016, we spent two days in Port Blair, exploring history at the Cellular Jail and discovering museums where we learned about local tribes and their customs. Then we took a cruise ride to Havelock, spending the following four days experiencing the beautiful colours of the sky, witnessing the best-ever sunset and enjoying the crystal-clear water. I also went scuba-diving for the first time—it had always been my dream to experience my first dive in Andaman.

– Apoorva Shrinivas, Bangalore

 

A trip of many firsts

My favourite summer vacation is from Lakshadweep. Just done with our Boards, our group of friends set off for Kavaratti via Cochin. We spent a few days exploring Fort Kochi before taking a ship to Lakshadweep’s capital. In Kavaratti, we spent days exploring its various shores, and nights in sleeping bags on the beach. It was a number of firsts for me—first time scuba-diving, first time spotting a huge white turtle, and first time travelled so far away from home!

– Neha Paranjpe, Pune

 

Goa-ing Away

Summer is never a holiday or a trip. It’s creating a memory and my memory is Goa. It’s my childhood memories wrapped in sunshine, scented with freshly cut hay from the paddy fields. It’s riding bicycles on village roads and catching fish by the local brook. It’s climbing up jambul trees to pick the best ones. It’s risking our hands in thorny bushes to pick karvandas; Running through valleys and bird watching along salt pans; Sipping on urrak and feni; Swimming at Benaulim beach and eating patties and samosas after building up an appetite; Hiking along trails to find waterfalls and chewing on the sweetest cashew fruits we could find.

– Ninoshka Dasilva, Goa

 

Summers Abroad

Salzburg, a dream within a dream

The melody of the river flowing by, local stalls selling handmade dream-catchers at the bank, and the view of the castle on top of the mountain—it was like an Inception moment for me: a dream within a dream! Lying down on the well-trimmed grass of the Mirabell Gardens and reminiscing about scenes from The Sound of Music brought back my childhood. The street performers serenading with Mozart’s music and the smell of freshly baked bread wafting in every small cobblestone lane—my summer in Salzburg felt as fresh as it could be.

– Monali Sengupta, London

 

An Adriatic adrenaline rush

The best summer I spent was on a trip to Croatia. We backpacked from Zagreb to Zadar and then to Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik. The highlight was kayaking in the Adriatic Sea and watching the sun set behind the horizon. The beautiful beaches and the out-of-the-world Plitvice Lakes National Park made it a perfect summer vacation.

– Tanvi Raul, Mumbai

 

Swiss serendipity

It was my summer trip to Switzerland and we obviously did the touristy things, including seeing Mount Titlis. But instead of staying in Lucerne and going to Titlis and coming back, we made plans to stay in the beautiful town of Engelberg, at the foothills of Mount Titlis. Engelberg is surrounded by many trails. So our first day, the four of us set out on a hike. It was a long winding trail, very narrow and slippery, full of stones. We treaded slowly, my dad leading the pack and my mom protecting us from the back as my sister and I walked up safely between our two pillars. All throughout we could hear sounds of bells but couldn’t figure out where that was coming from. I never could have imagined that that two-hour narrow trail would suddenly open into a vast field full of cows with bells around their necks. There was a coffee shop called The Ritz and in the background was Mount Titlis, partially covered by clouds. The scene seemed like it had jumped out of a painting. We had our coffee, took a few pictures, enjoyed the music and started on the trail back to our hotel.

– Tanisha Kalra, New Delhi

 

Readers' Response: Scintillating Summer Trips

One reader recounts driving in New Zealand’s scenic South Island (top) as the best summer vacation she has taken, while another dubs exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia (bottom) as one of her most memorable travel experiences away from the hotter months in India. Photos by: Nur Ismail Photography (road); Paul Prescott/Shutterstock (waterfall)

 

Columbia calling

In March-April 2019, I took my first trip to South America. My adventure-filled summer in what’s known as the world’s most dangerous neighbourhood included dancing to Punjabi music in a club in Bogota that played only international music, visiting Pablo Escobar’s “prison” in Medellin, living a day in the life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the surreal Cartagena, and exploring some ‘fat art’ created by Fernando Botero. And who can forget gorging on deep-fried (but surprisingly bland) Colombian food.

– Rishabh Kochhar, Chandigarh

 

The hip life of Pattaya

Imagine a summer holiday where you wake up on a coral island and head out for snorkeling. Once the beautiful underwater exploration is over, it’s time to discover the other blue wonder. As you go paragliding, the best feeling is to look at the sea beneath and the horizon beyond. In the evening, head out to one of the hidden gems of Pattaya: the Sanctuary of Truth Temple, where mystical stories come to life through intricate woodwork. The adventures of this summer day in our case received a befitting close to some soothing, homemade Thai green curry.

– Laxmy Surendran, Bangalore

 

On the Road in New Zealand

My most favourite spot for a summer driving holiday is New Zealand’s South Island. The freedom to halt at any location, bewitching beauty, scenic landscapes, cool breeze on a sunny day, it’s just so beautiful. Whether it’s a drive from Mount Cook to Fox Glacier, adventure sports, a walk around the lakes, the jade capital—it is just so fulfilling for the soul. It’s simply jaw-dropping beauty right from the time you land in Christchurch, rent a vehicle and just get at the wheel.

– Chandana, Plymouth

 

Girls’ trip to Jordan

In the summer of 2017, two of my best friends and I went on a seven-day road trip around Jordan. From enjoying the best hummus at the local cafés of Amman to getting mesmerised by the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra, from doing a Bollywood-inspired sari photoshoot in the middle of Wadi Rum desert to going ga-ga over the gorgeous handicrafts at Jerash, we made some great memories. What’s more—we can proudly say that we met some of the warmest local people and never felt even remotely unsafe at any point of time.

– Anupriya Dutta Gupta, Kolkata

 

Journeys out west

Kicking back in Purushwadi, Maharashtra

Ahmadnagar in Maharashtra is nestled in the densely forested Western Ghats, between rivers Kurkundi and Mula, roughly five hours from Mumbai and home to several indigenous tribes. I visited the place with my 19-year-old son in the second week of June, and there were pre-monsoon showers. This period coincides with the mating period of fireflies. We also witnessed village life, picking mangoes, taking walks and seeing the monsoon roll in, experiencing the traditional hospitality of the villagers at the homestay, and savouring delicious home-cooked food. Adding a touch of magic, the nights at Purushwadi were illuminated by millions of fireflies around the kurunj trees lining the fields, across the rivulets.

– Meeta Athavale, Bhopal

 

A rendezvous with fireflies

I recall my road trip to Bhandardara in May 2021 with immense joy. For years, it had been my dream to see fireflies, so we went to explore the interiors of the Sahyadris. When the moment finally occurred, it seemed no less than magic, as I saw millions of fireflies blinking in the dark.

– Purvi Rajdev, Mumbai

 

Readers' Response: Scintillating Summer Trips

While Pahalgam (right) is sure to always prove the perfect respite from soaring temperatures, Dzukou in Nagaland (left) offers treks full of pristine views and rejuvenation. Photos by: PS Mahanty/Shutterstock (tree stumps); Jim W Kasom/Shutterstock (river)

 

A summer fest in the desert

Being a Rajasthani, I was crazy enough to plan a bike ride across Rajasthan in June when the heat is at its peak. It was a seven-day ride starting from Jaipur and ending at Sam Dunes in Jaisalmer. It was a whole new experience to witness how people in different cities and towns have their own inventions to cope with summer in Rajasthan, from tying jute bags around matka, to wearing turbans and sleeping outdoors under the sky.

– Aftab Ahmed, Jaipur

 

An abiding love affair at Ranthambore

Since 2007, I have tried to visit a forest reserve or national park in the summers as it’s easier to see tigers when the foliage is dry. Even the birds seem more colourful in the summers. Ranthambore National Park is where my heart is and I have made more than a dozen trips there. My love affair with that forest began in June 2007 with a sighting of the legendary tigress Machhli and her three cubs. I saw the fourth generation of her lineage last week with her great-granddaughter, Riddhi. The 10 zones of the national park are so different and the fort as a background and ruins in the park, the huge banyan trees and the beautiful blooming Indian laburnum trees is a sight to behold.

– Kanan Bhuta, Mumbai

 

Southern sojourns

Ooty with family

My childhood trip to Ooty with my parents is my favourite, since every other year we would go to our grandma’s place in the summer. With great excitement we boarded the train to Coimbatore from Chennai and after a satiating South Indian breakfast in Coimbatore, we resumed our journey to Ooty. Our driver for the journey was an energetic, interesting and funny person, whom we had a whale of a time with. The following day, we set about exploring the hill station, visiting the Ooty Flower Show, hitching a ride in the toy train, and also travelling to Coonoor.

– Parvathi Palavakkam, Chennai

 

Precarious in Pichavaram

Pichavaram is the second most expansive tidal mangrove habitat after the Sundarbans. The islets in Pichavaram are separated by broad, deep lagoons—the highways—and inlets just wide enough to allow a boat to pass. The inner channels can be explored only by rowboat. As we negotiated these narrow passages, our boatman instructed us to duck and stay close to the boat to protect our heads. Unfortunately, he didn’t warn us about the jumbo mosquitoes who were more than happy to feast on us. I looked at him with worried eyes and cried out for help with my little knowledge of Tamil. He grinned with his tobacco-stained teeth and dismissed my plea for help. Birding is a bit of a challenge here. But if you are lucky you can sight Common Kingfishers and Pied Kingfishers, perched inside the web of trees. Striated Herons fished precariously on overhanging branches as we made our way out. Parakeets gossiped in the shrubbery and flitted among the blossoms of the flowering mangrove trees.

– Pallavi Sarkar, Chennai

 

Dizzying Dochula

My most memorable summer holiday was in Dochula Pass, Bhutan. Seeing 108 chortens, nestled at a staggering height of around 3,100 metres, was always on my bucket list. To reach Dochula Pass, one of the highest motorable passes in the world, we left Thimpu around 6.30 a.m. After some stops in between to take photos, driving through the hairpin curves across some of the best panoramic views, we reached around 8 am. As we scaled up, the temperature dropped and we were welcomed with mist and a faint drizzle. And there they stood, those magnificent white stone stupas, also known as ‘Druk Wangyal Chortens’ or the ‘Victory Stupas’, built in three layers. Usually, violent history and dark times stimulate people to create something moving and beautiful, and this is precisely what the Bhutanese did. They created stupas in honour of 108 Bhutanese soldiers who died in a 2003 military operation.

Built by Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo, the stupas were all uniform and when we looked at them closely, we noticed a small Buddha on the red band on each chorten. Each stupa was white in colour with a red border, and a golden yasti or spire on top. Slowly walking on cobbled steps took us through the two levels to reach the top level. Every few steps, we would perch ourselves at the edge of the step, looking at the stupas and soaking up the fresh air from the cypress forest. We saw the snow-clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas far away. We had some breakfast at the café that had glass walls opening up to the mighty snow peaks above and a misty valley below, before leaving the place for Punakha.

– Chaitra Arjunpuri, Doha

 

Readers' Response: Scintillating Summer Trips

Cartagena (left) and Jordan (right) were surprises among the destinations our readers chose for their summer trips. Photos by: Raffaele Giannattasio (desert); Anna K Mueller (city skyline)

 

Northeastern summers

Nagaland’s Great Outdoors

My throat was parched, I felt light-headed. It was the first trek of my life, and what a trek to begin with—Dzukou Valley, Nagaland. Halfway through, I wished I was back at my BnB, buried in blankets, enjoying the cold, misty morning in Kohima. And yet I was pulling myself up onto the next rock step. Our trek guide, Nicholas, was extremely patient with me. He could perhaps see how much I wanted to quit, and kept motivating me at every step. We met other trekkers on the way—some extremely professional, and some miserable yet determined. Most interestingly, no one quit, and neither did I. When we reached the peak, Nicholas pointed at the breathtaking view of 40 villages of Nagaland, basking in the sun that managed to peep through the clouds for a few minutes.

– Palia Pandit, Goa 

 

The pleasures of South Sikkim

On a hot May afternoon when college was slowly coming to an end, four of us planned to take a short backpacking trip to Sikkim, intending to explore the state’s off-the-grid villages. No trains were to be found; we opted for a bus journey from Kolkata to Siliguri and a homestay in South Sikkim. Luckily, our homestay had one room left when we reached, in which the kind owner was happy to accommodate us. We were left awestruck by the breathtaking views the outdoors machan on the property afforded, along with some local snacks and tea.

– Nabarun Raha, Kolkata

 

Trips to the Himalayas

Cycling in Himachal

Just this May, I went for a cycling trip to Himachal Pradesh. Starting from Aut (28 kilometre short from Kullu), I cycled uphill through lush greenery and friendly people and curious dogs, covering places like Fagu Pool, Jibhi, Sojha, Tirthan Valley and Jalori Pass. Throughout the 90-kilometre route, the beauty of the shifting landscape—meadows, lakes, rivers and pine forests—would make all the tiredness go away instantly. Cycling also gives one the freedom to go at your own pace, stop at beautiful places and take it all in, take photos and make our minds active and happier.

– Deepjyoti Paul, Kolkata

 

Everest shenanigans

In 2017, my friends and I planned a trek to Everest base camp—but we wanted to make the travel as cheap as possible. We travelled via train, crossed the border in a tempo and got caught by the police. Fortunately, they let us go, after which we took a helicopter to reach Lukla, where the trek would start. The trek itself was mind-blowing and we were humbled to find ourselves in the presence of the towering massifs.

– Nitin, Hyderabad

 

Hitchhiking to Leh

As part of a hitchhiking experiment I had undertaken, I was able to hitchhike from Jaipur to Leh. The views on the way from Srinagar to Leh were blissful (a journey that took more than 12 hours and 300 kilometres to reach). It was a life-changing experience where I was able to experience the ‘truck life’ firsthand and then see Leh at the end of the day. Totally made my previous one and half months of hitchhiking—from the south (Kerala) of the country to the north (Ladakh)—worth it.

– Kevin Shaji, Kochi

 

A summer trek to remember

Considering it was still summer, we didn’t pack enough warm clothes for our Tungnath trek all the way to Chandrashila. The temperature was low and not feeling like getting inside our tents, we sat out and soaked in nature’s beauty, with a hot plate of noodles and a few furry dogs for company. The trek in itself was quite a story; we dragged ourselves to one of the highest Shiva temples (3,680 metres) and saw the sun light up the morning sky, mesmerised with the majestic Himalayas.

– Varun Jadhav, Goa

 

Pahalgam and its unspoilt montane beauty

I still remember that bright, sunny day of summer in May 2015, when the sun’s rays danced on the Lidder river, as we travelled to Pahalgam from Srinagar. We reached around noon, and as we went about exploring the place, I was amazed by the fact that even during the summer, the temperature went down to 15 degrees. The following day, we travelled to Baisaran, also known as ‘Mini Switzerland’. The best way to reach this place was by a horse ride. These graceful beings trotting through the trees, and water streams speckled with bright sunlight through canopy was the best part.

– Dhaval Vishana, Surat

 

Spiti—worth the schlep

This summer, we travelled 1,892 kilometres to get to Spiti Valley. We covered many places—all of them different climatically and geographically. I remember witnessing snowfall, rain and even a sandstorm—all in the space of three days. I also remember trying some great Indo-Bhutanese fare at a café in the Kaza market. Also memorable was viewing Kinner Kailash: as far as the eye goes, you find apple blossoms; in the background, you see the mighty mountain itself. Experiencing it during both sunrise and sunset was the cherry on the top.

– Aastha Vyas, Jamnagar

 

Tosh’s summer snow

Last summer, I went to Himachal for the first time, trekked for around five kilometres to reach Tosh and intently wished it would snow (despite it being impossible in April, so said the locals). The following day, I woke up at five, shivering, went out and witnessed a whole wonderland covered in snow. I cried in joy, danced like a child and clicked countless pictures.

– Swarnali Chakraborty, Bangalore

 

Readers’ Response | Vacations Abroad for Thrifty Travellers

 

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