Chase This Trail To Relish The True Spirit Of The Indian Monsoon

03/06/2016 5:33 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
gulfu photography via Getty Images
The bright drops ring like bells of glass,Thinned by the wind, and lightly blown.Elinor Morton Wylie

Monsoons are the lifeblood of India and her people. The farmer spends the days of high summer in anxious anticipation of the rains and so does the city-dweller, not necessarily -- as in the farmer’s case -- for reasons of livelihood but for the sheer relief from the scorching summer heat. The Indian monsoon first hits the Andaman and Nicobar Islands around the end of May. These southwestern winds hit Kerala soon after, by the first week of June, before making their way up north.

Welcome as they are, rains can be a mixed blessing for infrastructurally challenged Indian cities. Which makes a getaway to experience the monsoon in all its beauty and grandeur an all the more attractive proposition. Fortunately, there is no dearth of rain-swept destinations across the Indian subcontinent.

Here is a list of ideal places for monsoon chasers. Almost as a rule, July and August are the best months to visit. One exception is the state of Tamil Nadu, which experiences showers from October to December, and the other is Cherrapunji, known the world over as the place where it rains practically all year round.

  • Havelock Island, Andaman
    Sourav Saha Photography via Getty Images
    When was the last time you saw a sea this clear? If not recently, consider visiting Andaman and Nicobar. The islands are the first to welcome the monsoon, before it hits Kerala (there is also some rainfall during November). Thanks to the efforts of the government, Havelock island is now a popular eco-tourism destination. One can head to Radha Nagar beach and swim with Rajan the elephant in the limpid blue-green waters or, to Elephant Beach for snorkeling. Fishing, scuba diving and jungle treks and kayaking trips are also popular activities here. Here’s how to get to Andaman and Nicobar.
  • Kovalam
    David Sutherland via Getty Images
    A popular holiday destination during the winter, Kovalam is at its quietest during the monsoon season, but no less beautiful. Aside from witnessing its rain-washed beaches, one can indulge in Ayurveda therapies: several Ayurveda facilities in Kerala tout the monsoon as the best time to visit. According to them, Ayurveda’s benefits, such as the cleansing of the body, are best realised during this season. Kovalam experiences mid to heavy rainfall, so it is best to carry an umbrella at all times. The usual sporting activities are not available during this time, so instead focus your energies on some excellent local food. Try Curry Leaf on Samudra Beach or Malabar Café on Lighthouse Beach road. Here are some other excellent restaurants to visit.
  • Munnar
    Paddy Photography via Getty Images
    An umbrella, a camera, and a cup of hot masala chai are your best friends on a trip to the scenic hill station of Munnar. If you’re not on a romantic sojourn, that is. Munnar is also known for its Ayurveda treatments. It is advisable to book a room with an excellent view to really enjoy the misty panoramas that the monsoon brings with it. Go see the Atukkad and Lakkom waterfalls – all of Kerala’s waterbodies are a beautiful watch during this season, or trek across to Anamudi Peak and Hill View Park (keep an eye out for leeches). The tea museum, Eravikulam National Park, and Top Station are must-visits. Here's how to get there, and get around.
  • Varkala
    Lindsay Brown via Getty Images
    Approximately an hour-and-a-half by road from Trivandrum, Varkala (a Hindu pilgrimage centre dating back to the 12th century) is a shopper’s and beach lover’s haven. It is not advisable to venture too close to the sea during the monsoons, but Varkala’s long stretch of cliffs offer spectacular views of the rain-swept sea. There are plenty of eateries and the toddy shops near Velliyazhchakkavu are a must-visit for their variety of fresh produce. The natural springs near the beach traditionally known for their medicinal benefits are also frequented regularly.
  • Goa
    Chris Hepburn via Getty Images
    The monsoon doesn't settle in Kerala, but moves on to Goa by the first week of June. While beach shacks are generally closed around this time, there are other interesting activities in the city to explore. The well-known Sao Joao festival takes place at this time of the year: it involves several men jumping into wells, and ponds to retrieve bottles of Feni and other presents.
  • Coorg
    Joe Ravi via Getty Images
    After hitting Goa, the monsoon makes a beeline for Karnataka. The well-recognised hill station of Coorg is one of the best places in the state to experience the rains along with a steaming cup of coffee. Tadiyandamol and Brahmagiri are ideal options for trekkers and campers, although one should be vigilant about small snakes and slippery paths. River rafting also picks up during the monsoon here at the rivers Barapole and Kaveri. Coorg also has many waterfalls that swell to the peak and are a delight to watch – Chingara, Irpu, Mallalli and Cheluvara are a few one can visit.
  • Agumbe
    Journey with my kaleidoscope via Getty Images
    Also nestled in the Western Ghats, Agumbe, which is often referred to as the Cherrapunji of south India, receives its heaviest rainfall between the months of June to September. It’s mist-covered forests come alive during this season: waterfalls and rivers transform from tiny streams to gushing bodies of water, and a motley of crabs, insects and amphibians are suddenly visible everywhere. The Onake Abbi Falls, Kunchikal Falls and Barkana Falls are breath-taking, and one can also visit the ARRS- Agumbe Rainforest Research Station. One can also visit Dodda Mane, where the famous sitcom Malgudi Days was shot, where visitors are at leisure to pay what they feel the trip and fare is worth.
  • Malshej Ghat
    RBB via Getty Images
    Famous for its flamingoes and other types of fauna that flock around, Malshej Ghat can prove a fun and comfortable monsoon trip, given its smattering of private resorts as well as campsites. Head to Darkoba Peak for some rock climbing or trekking, or simply admire the many waterfalls that seemingly sprout out of nowhere in this area.
  • Kaas Plateau
    (c) Anand Joshi via Getty Images
    Situated near Satara, Kaas Plateau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monsoon season is the best time to visit this belt, hosting as it does over 850 different species of flowers. The endless variety of flowers blossoming underneath an overcast sky make it the perfect romantic getaway. The drive from Satara to Kaas is also beautiful with many interesting stops such as Sajjangad fort that houses the samadhi of saint Ramdas Swami, Shivsagar lake and Pateshwar, an old Shiva temple.
  • Thoseghar Falls via Getty Images
    There are a series of waterfalls located near the village of Thoseghar, ranging from 20 - 500 metres in height. The best time to visit these falls is during the monsoon, when there is a heavier flow of water. Even if it can get slightly crowded at the waterfalls, the area offers quiet respite from the busy city of Mumbai.
  • Bakkhali
    Krishnendu Chatterjee via Getty Images
    One of the many islands dotting southern Bengal, this quiet seaside resort offers a beautiful view of the monsoon rolling in from the Bay of Bengal. A short walk through the mangroves will bring you to a seven-kilometre long beach with hard sand that makes it ideal to walk or cycle across its length. Aside from this and the rich variety of seafood there is not much to do here, making it ideal for a quick weekend getaway. Make sure you carry a flashlight and enough cash as there are no ATMs here.
  • Jim Corbett
    Safique Hazarika Photography via Getty Images
    Bad roads notwithstanding, the pristine Jim Corbett National Park can be a beautiful destination to take in the monsoons as they make their way across the sub-continent. The park is partly closed during this season, effectively slowing down the rush of tourists, which can be a blessing if you are looking for some peace and quiet. While the weather can get quite humid, the forests here take on brilliant shades of green and are dotted with brimming lakes and ponds that are visited by frolicking animals and a plethora of birds.
  • Cherrapunji
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    It rains in Cherrapunji when moisture-laden clouds approaching from the Bay of Bengal hit the Khasi hills. Most of the rain here occurs in the mornings. The city is also famous for its ‘living root bridges’ which are shaped by manipulating the aerial roots of Banyan tress across rivers streams over many years so that they can be used as bridges by people.
  • Shillong
    Danielrao via Getty Images
    Though not frequented often during the monsoon months, Shillong is at its most beautiful during the season. The sight of the rolling Khasi hills enveloped by misty clouds, stunning wild flowers and swelling waterfalls makes it worth getting drenched in the rain. The biggest advantage of the off-season, is good bargains for hotels and food. A trip to the All Saints Cathedral, and the Don Bosco Museum of Indigneous Cultures is a must-do. Shillong's golf course during this time is best avoided.
  • Valley Of Flowers
    John Brown via Getty Images
    Possibly one of the most beautiful treks in India, the Valley of Flowers is transformed into a kaleidoscope of wild flowers such as zinnias, petunias and poppies, between June and September. It also hosts several species of butterflies and endangered animals such as the mountain leopard and the blue sheep. A moderately challenging climb (the entire trek can take a week), the 10-kilometre valley is situated at a height of 3,600 metres above the sea level.
  • Zanskar Valley via Getty Images
    Zanskar Valley, a popular trekking route during the month of January, also offers some excellent trekking trails and an opportunity to go white-water rafting during the monsoon months. One can sample some excellent food, and witness the region's colourful cultural dances at the many festivals that occur during this time (June to September).
  • Courtallam
    Martin Siepmann via Getty Images
    Often referred to as the Spa of Southern India, on account of the numerous health and wellness resorts it hosts, Courtallam witnesses heavier rains during the months of October to December, and lighter showers from June to September. It is frequented more often during the latter months for its waterfalls (Thenaruvi, Aintharuvi and Peraruvi) and scenic temples (Thirukutralanaadhar Temple and Thirumalai Kovil).
  • Kodaikanal
    Paddy Photography via Getty Images
    Kodaikanal takes on a greener hue in October, during the monsoon season. It is preferable to cycle or walk around the lake instead of trekking across its slippery hills. Visitors must leave with several bottles of eucalyptus oil, which is available in ample quantity.
  • Kanyakumari
    Soumya Sumitra Behera via Getty Images
    The best time to visit Kanyakumari is during October, which is just before the monsoons set in. The famous Vivekananda memorial (set amidst the sea) attracts larger crowds during this time. One can also participate in the Cape Festival, a three-day affair (celebrated around this time).

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