Holi, while immensely enjoyable for several, can prove quite a nuisance if you don’t enjoy being vigorously drenched in water and colours that refuse to fade even after several baths.
However, with this Holi weekend being a long one – Good Friday comes right after the Hindu festival this year – it’s an ideal excuse to indulge the traveller within, and escape to quieter, scenic places.
Here are 9 incredible destinations within the country that promise an experience as colourful as the festival itself, on any long weekend this year.
Although it is situated at a lower height than the two other prominent hill stations (Ooty and Kotagiri) of the Nilgiri district in Tamil Nadu, Coonoor holds its own as a quick weekend getaway destination. A small tea garden town at an altitude of roughly below 1900 metres, it offers pleasant weather (sans any frost) throughout the year, and is frequented by botanical lovers for Sim’s Park, a well-maintained botanical garden and bird watchers.
It is advisable to stick to Coonoor’s less populated refreshing outer pastures, instead of the central town, which is quite chaotic. Coonoor is best accessed by rail or road travel
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Hosting a phenomenal variety of birds, several islands, teeming number of mackeral, shrimp, crabs, and the Irrawady dolphin, Asia’s largest brackish lake, Chilika Lake quite literally pulses with life.
Although the sighting of birds has declined over time, an ideal spot to relish the short experience is Rajhans beach island, which is almost completely uninhabited save for a couple of shacks.
The areas around this lake serves as delight for foodies thanks to its rich offerings of seafood and even sumptuous vegetarian fare.
Though not as prominent as Gulmarg or Malani, Garhwal’s Auli is heavily frequented for its skiing facilities. It also features Asia’s longest cable car that extends across a distance of 4 kilometres across the meadow, although it has recently been gaining a reputation for trekking in the snow.
March is possibly the best time to experience the rolling clouds that envelope Auli’s lush green landscapes that feature dense oak, rhodenderon and deodar forests (enhanced by sipping a cup of steaming hot chai). Located at approximately 3000 metres above sea level, it also offers some majestic (almost 200 degree) views of Himalayan peaks, such as Nanda Devi, Hathi Parbath and Trishul. Here's how to reach Auli
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With its rich mix of laid back, pristine beaches, beach shacks, and Shiv temples, the small temple town of Gokarna is slowly building a reputation as the 'new Goa' sans glittery commercialisation.
Gokarna plays host to large crowds of Shiva devotees who come to pay homage to the birthplace of the god (literally translated Gokarna means 'Cow's Ear
'). It also features the famous Om beach, whose shores are curved to resemble the religious symbol, along with other popular beaches such as Paradise and Kudle beach.
Situated roughly 200 km from Manipal, a popular college town in Karnataka, Gokarna is well connected by road
, however the nearest airport (Dabolim airport in Goa) lies 140 kilometres away.
It best welcomes travellers looking for a reflective holiday, or in search of spirituality. Pot smokers, unlike in Goa, are heavily discouraged by the vigilant police.
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Located in Amaravati district of Vidarbha region, Chikhaldara is possibly the only region in the Maharashtrian belt to grow coffee -- a beverage that pairs beautifully with its beautiful viewpoints of velvety-green hills and ever-active waterfalls. A popular summer retreat, it is located at a height of roughly 1,118 metres offering breezy days and cool evenings. It is best accessed by road or railway
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Perched at an altitude of roughly 2,150 m or 7,200 feet, Pelling is possibly the most popular tourist destination in Sikkim largely thanks to the incredible view it offers of the world's third highest mountain Mt. Khang –Chen-Dzonga, and a variety of easy trekking options.
Situated 115 kilometres from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, Pelling is well connected by bus and jeep services
November - April are the best times to visit this little hill station that originally housed a monastery. Pelling garners a huge crowd during December -- the month of the Khangchendzonga Festival
that offers a host of fun activities such as mountain biking, para gliding, and several cultural exhibitions.
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Settle down in a hammock by the ever- gurling river Parvati that will direct your eyes to its namesake peaks, and the chaotic din of Holi in the Capital fades into a distant unthreatening memory....
A small village that rests on the banks of the river Parvati, Kasol is tiny, yet bursting to the gills with bakeries, cheap guesthouses and tiny bars. It caters to a variety of tourists, dominated by Israelis and hippies attracted by its peaceful setting and easy availability of wild charas.
Also a popular base for trekkers, Kasol falls between Bhuntur and Manikaran (known for its hot springs), and is easily accessible by buses travelling to Kulli and Mcleod Ganj.
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Situated approximately over 200 km from Delhi, Bharatpur is easily accessible thanks to the Yamuna Expressway.
While it is advisable to avoid the city that takes on an even noisier demeanour than usual during Holi, its 250-year-old bird sanctuary -- Keoladeo National Park
-- provides ample relief to animal and bird lovers or photography enthusiasts.
One can walk or cycle through the woods, or even opt for a quiet boat ride to observe the plethora of fauna (apart from birds, the park also boasts 379 floral species, 50 species of fish, 13 species of snakes, five species of lizards, seven amphibian species and seven species of turtles).
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The Venice Of The East
, as Alapuzzha is commonly referred to lies just over 60 kilometres from Kochi, and is a must-visit for its beautiful beaches and backwaters.
Calm, peppered with greenery, and dotted with houseboats all across its backwaters, Alappuzha or Alleppey (as it is also known) can be accessed from the railway station (4 km from the city centre) or bus
. The Kochi airport however is quite far, at a distance of over 80 kilometres approximately.
It is also renowned for the famous annual Nehru Boat Trophy race that takes place in August every year.