Tag Archives: Uttarakhand

THE MOST COMPLETE GUIDE to Kausani, Uttarakhand

THE MOST COMPLETE GUIDE to Kausani, Uttarakhand

Kausani – The Switzerland of India – is cradled under the lush hills of Kumaon Himalayas and provides stunning 300 degree panoramic views of the snow-crested Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nandakot and Panchchuli peaks. Tucked atop a ridge, the village is engulfed by dense pine trees overlooking the Someshwar Valley, Garur and Katyuri Valleys! Very few places in the world can boast of beauty similar to Kausani and the tiny village enjoys the stature of a cute, quaint hill station of Uttarakhand.

A happy place for backpackers and a haven for writers – Kausani has a lot to offer, for those willing to explore.

Kausani – A Place Where Time Sleeps | Candid Kumaon

About Kausani

The tiny little village of Kausani is spread across 5.2 sq. km and is situated at an elevation of 1890 mts above sea level. Also, the beauty of this place is so mesmerizing that eminent personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi were also bewitched! In fact, it is a known fact that Mahatma Gandhi often referred to Kausani as the Switzerland of his homeland. This goes without saying that the landscape of the two places is quite similar and lends perfectly to the backdrop of snow-covered Himalayan ranges all around!

Geography

Kausani is situated in the Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand in the Kumaon region. In terms of distance, the village is about 51 km north of Almora. From the perspective of nature, the region is most known for the Tea estate – growing some delicious quality tea leaves.

History

In the generations passed, Kausani was often called the Valna, where the prosperous kingdom of Katikyapur existed. Apart from this, Kausani is the hometown of famous Hindi poet Sumitra Nandan Pant. In fact, a lot of his poems pay homage to this stunning hill station and talks of the ethereal beauty that is Kausani. Also, in 1929, Mahatma Gandhi stayed here for 14 days at the Anasakti Ashram. He scripted his book titled ‘Anasakti Yoga’ and was greatly impressed by its environs.

Best time to visit Kausani

Kausani is an ideal winter destination. Even more so, this is the perfect place to ring in the New Years! Winter season boasts of the most stunning crystalline views of snow covered peaks! However, don’t let this stop you from visiting in the summer months – which provide their own kind of beauty. With days beginning earlier, you’ll be greeted by chirping birds and stunning, take-your-breath-away, kind of views!

Weather

As with the rest of the Himalayan hill stations – weather follows a similar trend. And, keep in mind that the monsoons are a tough task to maneuver – especially in terms of reaching the tiny town. However, this is primarily due to the hills are susceptible to landslides during this time. And, the summers experience a maximum temperature of 26 degrees Celsius and are spread across the months of April to July. From November to February – the winter months commence and bring with them an onslaught of stunning cool climate and a ton of snow. And, it should be noted that the likelihood of snowfall is highest in January and February.

How to reach Kausani, UK

Located in proximity to Delhi (406 KMs), Kausani makes for an ideal weekend destination. There are a bunch of recreational activities that one can partake in – making it a fun filled getaway. Kausani has a decent road connectivity. It should be noted that the Air and Rail network in Uttarakhand leaves a lot to be desired – making roads your most convenient option!

Here’s how to reach paradise!

By Air

The nearest airport is Pant Nagar, which is situated 178 Kms from Kausani. You will need to hire a cab from here to reach your destination. Also, buses are available from Haldwani, Kathgodam and Nainital to reach Kausani.

By Rail

The nearest railway station is Kathgodam, situated at a distance of 141 Kms. From here, you’ll reach Kausani through Almora or via Ranikhet. Kathgodam enjoys decent connectivity with major Indian cities as this is the gateway to Kumaon region.

By Road

The road network is well developed in this region and Kausani is linked to several other hill stations through road.

Major distance maps for nearby locations are
Almora-51 kms,
Rainkhet-60 kms,
Pithoragarh-107 kms,
Gwaldam-39 kms and
Nainital-117 km.

Assuming you start from Delhi, you can take one of two routes, which are similar in the conditions, to reach Kausani.

1 – Delhi – Hapur – Moradabad – Ramnagar (Corbett National Park) – Ranikhet – Kausani
2 – Delhi – Hapur – Moradabad – Rampur – Haldwani – Kathgodam – Bhimtaal – Bhowali – Almora – Kausani

The choice truly depends what all you want to do on your journey and the kind of views you’re expecting. Personally, I would choose the Corbett National Park route and spend a day or two (or longer!) there before continuing on towards Kausani. However, the other route will also provide some stunning beauty along the way.

Kausani-Snowfall
Kausani-Snowfall

Things to do in Kausani

If you’re a true-blue nature lover and need seclusion – you’ve chosen, the right location! Kausani is for the ones who think with their soul and search for experiences to fill their hearts with the pace of nature. The definition of idyllic, Kausani will offer you stunning walks into dense forests or exceptional treks to reach the highest of the hills. Some of the worthiest treks nearby include heading to Pinnath (5 kms), Burapinnath (5.5 kms) and Bhatkot (12 kms).

Apart from natural beauty (which you can get to your heart’s desire), there are a lot of other things to do as well.

Anasakti Ashram

The Ashram is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, who stayed in this Ashram for 14 days in 1929 to pen his book on ‘Anasakti Yoga’. His spinning wheel (Charkha) and other memorabilia are kept here. You can also explore the ashram to find a study with a small library. Here, you’ll be surrounded by interesting books on Gandhian philosophy. The Ashram can accommodate up to 300 people and every evening prayer is conducted in the main hall. Sure shot not to miss is the hypnotic sunset and enthralling sunrise from the Ashram premises.

Kumaon Shawl Emporium

If you’re anything like me, you love to collect souvenirs from places you’ve been to. Anything that reminds you of the place you’ve called home for even a couple of days – is always a welcome gift in your normal day to day life. Do NOT forget to visit the Emporium for a fabulous collection of high quality woolen shawls, exquisitely designed by the local weavers

Pant Museum

Dedicated to the famous Hindi poet, Sumitra Nandan Pant, who was born in Kausani, this Museum showcases the articles of his daily use along with some drafts of his poems, letters, his awards etc. This Museum is located at a short distance from the Kausani bus terminal.

Nearby Places

If you have time left over to explore nearby places, then the following are a must visit!

Baijnath

Highly cited as the most important historical place in Uttarakhand. Baijnath is situated at a height of 1126 meters above sea level near river Gomti. Overall, it will take you a distance of 19 kms from Kausani to reach Baijnath.

Lakhudiyar

The Lakhudiyar Caves are located in the Barechhina village at the banks of the Suyal River in the Almora district. This place is known for its caves and rock paintings, depicting animals, humans and also tectiforms, created with fingers in black, red and white. Lakhudiyar literally translated to ‘one lakh caves’. These walls depict the life and the surroundings of the early man

Bageshwar

Situated at a distance of 40 kms away from Kausani, Bageshwar sits on the confluence of rivers Saryu and Gomti. This town is an important site for worshipping Lord Shiva. According to Hindu scriptures, the sage Markandaya lived here and spent many years worshipping Lord Shiva. Bageshwar is also the beginning point for your journey towards Pindari, Sunderdunga and Kafni glaciers.

Chaukori and nearby beauty to Kausani
Chaukori and nearby beauty to Kausani

Chaukori

While slightly father at 87 kms from Kausani, Chaukori is a wonderful place to visit. This picturesque tourist spot amidst mighty Himalayan peaks near the Indo-Nepal siding. You can read more about Chaukori in full details.

Best places to stay

Given that Kausani attracts a lot of tourists throughout the year, and especially in the winters, there is decent accommodation availability here. You have a wide range of options to choose from – luxury to as well as guesthouses! You may even be able to score a tenting accommodation here. From some choices, Heritage Resort – a 14 bed resort has the most stunning views that you can imagine. Also, Aashritha is a small 10 bed boutique guesthouse with limited amenities by some of the most stunning views. Managed by Col. Narendra Singh Mahara, you can imagine the cleanliness to be top notch!

Best places to eat

Even though Kausani has firmly stabilized itself in the region for tourists- there are still not a lot of restaurants here. Even though there are now a few roadside dhabas in the region – it is nothing in terms of having an expansive spread! In house restaurants are still going to be your best bet!

The Stunning Beauty of Kumaon Region

Conclusion

Kausani is a hidden wonderland, the Switzerland of India! With the most stunning views and the sights to behold – it is a must visit. Especially if you live in northern India, this makes for an easy weekend escape. Plan your travels well and you can cover a lot of attractive and intriguing places on your trip. Uttarakhand is a tourist spot that not many people are talking about yet. However, given all that it has to offer – I think we should start taking the road less travelled and, well, travel!

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Readers’ Responses: Hometown Discoveries in Indian Neighbourhoods

Readers’ Responses: Hometown Discoveries in Indian Neighbourhoods

Bhopal’s hammam that houses secret scrub recipes, Rajasthan’s lake that served as a seaplane base in World War II, Andaman Islands’ waters that offer chance sightings of dugongs—we’ve compiled a collage of hidden gems from the hometowns of our readers.

The picturesque Radhanagar beach in Havelock Island offers surfs, calm and sea-breeze. Photo By: click_o_flick/Shutterstock

Ticking off trendy neighbourhood cafés or checking out the iconic hotspots of a destination might seem like the obvious thing to do while travelling, but ask an insider, and your itinerary will change. Indian cities and towns brim with relatively obscure treasures when it comes to travel, and as it turns out, our readers are also keepers of the best-kept secrets of their hometowns. We’ve assembled anecdotes of off-beat hiking trails and secret beaches, remote ruins and birding delights, all from your backyard.

Aftab Ahmed, Jaipur, Rajasthan

In Rajasthan’s Aravalli hills, there is a less-trodden hiking trail that starts from the pond in the premises of the Galta Ji temple (monkey temple), winding straight for a few 100 metres, after which one must chart their own way. This trail is locally popular as a route where dacoits lay in ambush in olden times, and the ruins of a palace on the top of the adjacent hill, named Chor Mahal (Thieve’s Palace), account for the stories. Climb up, and you will be rewarded with a stunning panorama of the the Aravalli range on one side, and Jaipur city on another. The region’s wild aura is amplified by the presence of deciduous forests, and the waves of wild, chirruping birds that sometimes emerge out of them.

Mohil Kapoor, Bhavani Island, Andhra Pradesh

Bhavani Island, on the Krishna river—which flows through Vijayawada—is considered one of the largest river islands in India. Named after one of goddess Durga’s 108 names, it is your veritable ‘Isle of Adventure’. Reach after a pleasant boat-ride, park yourself at one of its resorts, and head out indulge in some water sports. Lush green views and the calm of lapping of water makes it the ideal getaway from those looking to escape urban chaos.

Niyati Shah, Vadodara, Gujarat

Back in the 1950s when cafe culture wasn’t common in Vadodara, Canara Coffee House was the only coffee hub in the city. To the day, the cafe, despite its name and origin, remains famous for a flavourful Marathi delicacy called Puna Misal. And although the place has undergone renovation recently, its menu and prices are delightfully stuck in time.

Another historic element to the city are a series of old bungalows near the Vadodara railway station, known as the Contractor’s Bungalows. The buildings are said to have been built by contractors close to the royals of Baroda at least a century ago—and are fully-functional till date. Currently privately owned, one of them has been recently converted to a heritage cafe, showcasing its proud Parsi heritage.

Once you’ve had your fill of the city’s obscure icons, turn to Rasalpur. The small, scenic village lies a short drive from of the city, and offers a backdrop of laid-back rusticity by the Mahisagar river.

K. Rohan, Havelock Island, Andaman Islands

If you’re at Radhanagar beach in Havelock Island, part of the Andaman Islands, a brisk 2 kilometre/15 minutes walk along the coast will bring you to the beautiful Neil Cove. Rustling sea-mohwa forests fringe one side of the rock-ringed, concave beach, and freshwater streams gurgle out of the wilderness. If you are lucky you may spot dugongs and sea turtles swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the bay.

A hike through the famous Galtaji or Monkey Temple in Jaipur not only presents scenic views, but also offers the curious traveller with ancient lore. Photo By: AlexAnton/Shutterstock

Richa Chaubey, Champawat, Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand’s touristy areas belie the beauty of its more pristine pockets—like my hometown Champawat. Believed to be graced by the ‘Kurmavatar’ (Vishnu turtle incarnation), this picturesque town in the Kumaon Himalayas is a sight for sore eyes. Come winter, rows of pine, deodar and oak trees stand like silver sentinels at the base of snow-laden mountains, and its dewy mornings are a sublime dewy affair. Abbott Mount (named after 20th century English businessman John Harold Abbott), an hour’s drive from the town, is a serene location populated by beautiful wooden cottages, forests, wild mountain birds and even an ancient church. If you are one for spooky thrills, Morris Hospital, established in the early 1900s, adds an element of alleged mystery to the hill station’s already-haunting beauty.

Lakshmisha Kerekoppa, Gerusoppa, Karnataka

Chaturmukha Jaina Basadi is situated deep inside the evergreen forests of Sharavathi valley on the banks of Sharavathi River in Karkala. Although the place is largely inaccessible to common tourists due to inadequate information and lack of public transport, Jain devotees do visit using private vehicles.

The Jain temple is located near the town of Gerusoppa, which functioned as the capital of Saluva family of Vijayanagara empire. The shrine is built during the reign of Queen Channabhairadevi in 1562 AD who was known as ‘Raina de Pimenta’ (the Pepper Queen) by the Portuguese. Chaturmukha Basadi is made up of grey granite stone and is open on all four sides (chaturmukha) which leads to four statues of Jain Thirtankaras. All in all, a rare, gorgeous find for history and architecture buffs.

Khushbu Singhal, Basistha, Assam

Basistha is a rolling, green suburban landscape, located in southeast part of Guwahati, Assam. The hilly area is contiguous with Meghalaya, the neighbouring state of Assam. Expect groves of deepest greens, tall trees swinging with native flora, wild animals like jackals, monkeys or even elephants, and a stunning variety of birds that go well eyond the usual mynah, cuckoo and cattle egret. Not surprisingly, the area is a part of Garbhanga Forest Reserve.

Through the wilderness, a road leads up to the Basistha temple. The ancient edifice is situated in one of the hills near the Basistha or Bahini river, a trickling arm of the Bharalu, which in turn is a tributary of the Brahmaputra river. The ancient temple and the gurgling rivulet make a formidable combination for travellers drawn to nature, and regional history.

Despite it being a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Mhow is packed with a plethora of unique experiences and landscapes. Photo By: Rjsngh55/Shutterstock

Burhanuddinn Nagpurwala, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Not so far from the daily hustle of the Maximum City lies a meandering trail of wilderness. Starting from the last village of Aarey (Bangud), it winds towards a lake, situated in the thick of the forest.

On some lucky occasions, usually around dawn, I have seen spotted deer, scampering, a crocodile, and even a leopard near the lake. Camping, star-gazing and connecting with nature are some great options.

 

Karma Tenzing, Mysore, Karnataka

In the city of Mysore, stands Hotel Original Vinayaka Mylari, a part of the city’s gastronomic history since 1938. Their highlight—soft, crisp, melt-in-mouth dosas that you will not find anywhere else. Served with a dollop of white, unsalted butter and creamy coconut chutney, the dosas alone are worth a trip to the eatery. That is not to say that their fluffy, cloud-like idlis are any less of a treat. Prepared on woodfire, the taste is unforgettable, making the 10-12 seater establishment a humble but proud legacy of the city.

 

Deepjyoti Paul, Naihati, West Bengal

Located about 40 kilometres north of Kolkata, Naihati is the hometown of Bengali poet and novelist Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay. The creative force credited with shaping modern Bengali prose as well as penning the Indian national song, Vande Mataram—Chattopadhyay lived and created in what can be described as an architecturally precious mansion, now turned into a museum and research center for his works. His abode is located in a peaceful, green area of Kanthalpara, a 10-minutes walk from Naihati Railway Station. Travellers can buy a ticket and enter the complex, which has retained its gorgeous medieval-style facade over the years. See the study room used by the writer who gave birth to Vande Mataram in his novel Anandamath (the song eventually used as a rallying cry by Indian freedom fighters), to bask in the palpable history of the place. Every year, a Rath Yatra fair adds colour to the landscape in front of the Jagannath temple of the house, filling the area with the scent of delicious mela-food.

 

Harsha Kumawat, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Reasons to visit the Ahar Museum in Rajasthan are many. The Ahar civilisation, dating back to around 2500-500 BC, was an ancient settlement along the banks of the rivers Ahad and Banas, in the Western region of India. Think present-day Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In this lesser-known museum, discover characteristic white-painted black and red pottery pieces, some of the excavated water pots similar to those found in Iran. On your visit, learn about their well-equipped houses, made of stones with bamboo roofs and with chulhas (earthen ovens), or admire recovered statues of lost deities, ornaments, and ancient coins from the advanced civilisation.

The Ahar Museum is a must for all history enthusiasts, especially for those looking to gain knowledge around the Ahar civilisation. Photo By: Christina R Miller/Shutterstock

Rahul Jain, Dandeli, Karnataka

In Dandeli, where I grew up, a unique experience is the white water rafting which provides the adventurous with a healthy dose of adrenaline rush. River Kali is ferocious and rocky and hence there are lots of ups and downs through the journey, which offers tourists a thrilling challenge. 

Shraddha Gandi, Raigad, Maharashtra

Raigad lies at the heart of the Sahyadri Mountains which is a dream for photographers, birders and travellers of all kinds. The Raigad Fort, which is 23 kilometres away from Mahad, served as the capital of all forts under Chhatrapati Shivaji’s rule. The architecture here is remarkable, with a vast expanse of greenery. En route to the fort, are some spots like the Koturde Dam and local strawberry farms that make for leisurely pitstops. Nearby lies the Gondale area, which is a small forest-like reserve area where biodiversity is abundant. To understand local culture, I visited the village of Taloshi, also on the way to the fort. Interacting with the locals opened up a treasure trove of history and information. 

Anushree N, Visakhapatnam, Aaraku Valley, Andhra Pradesh

Aaruku Valley is one of the most verdant valleys in the Eastern Ghats. One must dig deep through its deep forests for startling discoveries. Hailing from Visakhapatnam, I had travelled to the valley on an organised trekking event, guided by none other than the tribes of the valley. Here, we set out on the Gosthani Cave Trek within the Borra Caves, towards the end of which lies the Gosthani River. 

An intriguing story is linked to the river’s nomenclature. According to locals, residents of the region were initially unaware about a river flowing beneath the cave, and it only came to light when a cow fell from a hole in the Borra Cave but managed to stay alive by landing up in the water body. Thus the river was given the name Gosthani (Abode of the cow). 

Another secret spot in the valley is the Aradakota Waterfalls. Only known to the locals, this beautiful waterfall is the perfect halt for those planning a short trek in the region. 

Anushree Joshi, Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Lakdi Bazaar (wooden market) in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur is a place full of colour and character. Usually brimming with crowds, the narrow alleys and wide roads of the market are open every day save Friday. From small shops selling select items to big showrooms with an entire floor or two dedicated to export goods, the market has something for all age groups. 

As a kid, I learnt about this place from my family, a rite of passage as a local. Whenever anything made of wood had to be bought or repaired, Lakdi Bazar was the place to go to. During one of my summer breaks, I had convinced my mother to accompany me to this famous market. There, I was fascinated to see the woodwork hanging on both sides of the road. 

I was spoiled for choice with wooden toys, photo frames, carved furniture, shoe racks, magazine holders, combs, cutlery and a whole lot more!

Dandeli in Karnataka is the perfect place for the adventure-junkie, offering challenging rafting experiences. Photo By: Bubz/Shutterstock

Sharayu Jakhotiya, Jawhar, Maharashtra

Jawhar, 130 kilometres from Mumbai, was once the capital of the princely state of Jawhar, ruled by the Mukne family. It is the nodal point for 80 tribal villages. Jawhar is known for its natural beauty and mixed cultural heritage. A huge population of Jawhar has migrated from Maharashtra and some parts of Gujarat, enhancing the rich tribal culture it already had. 

The Jai Vilas palace of the last king of Jawhar is well known and a sought after destination. But before the royal family moved to this palace, they lived in a stone and wood palace right in the centre of the town. After they relocated, the old palace was abandoned and left to the forces of nature. The palace walls have been taken over by huge Ficus trees, it’s roots running deep through the walls and merging with the palace’s foundation. 

The entrance to the main hall is now framed by the living roots of trees and is a sight to behold. On closer inspection, one will be able to see the minute and artistic wood carvings on the pillars inside the wall. Thick roots now run alongside the ancient flooring. The main palace wall has also been claimed by nature and one will be able to see trees at different angles jutting out from rocks. The well, situated just outside the palace grounds, is now surrounded by thick foliage and one would think twice before venturing too close as the area is now an abode of snakes. The old palace which is hardly ever visited by tourists, is a marvellous place to witness the magic of history and nature. 

Sayan Sil, Satgachia, West Bengal

I live in a small village in West Bengal called Satgachia. During monsoon, my village looks like a green carpet, as local farmers cultivate paddy. In the lap of nature, you can enjoy simple but delicious regional cuisine like the traditional Bengali fish curry with rice. From here, you can also visit the Burdwan Rajbari and 108 Shiva Linga Nawab Bari, which is approximately 30 kilometres away. Nabadwip, the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, lies close by. 

Soni Bhumika, Kankroli, Rajasthan

I’m from Kankroli, which falls in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. Kankroli has one of Asia’s largest man-made sweet water lakes—Rajsamundra Lake. During World War II, the lake was used as a base for sea-planes and mammoth iron shackles from that time still lie deep within its waters. The holy temple of Dwarkadhish Ji and Nau Chauki, which lie on the banks of the lake, have beautiful carvings and irrigation gardens–a must-see for all visitors. What’s more, the gorgeous royal city of Udaipur is just an hour’s drive away. 

Chayan Das, Digboi, Assam

Amid the lush landscape of Assam hides a small town. It’s name originated when an engineer named Mr. W. L. Lake in the late 1800s had shouted “dig, boy, dig”, after having discovered stains of crude oil under the feet of elephants. ‘Digboi’ is an unassuming town where time seems to stand still. A walk down its clean roads will lead you to uncover a host of colonial architecture, starting with the Chang Bungalows standing over low hills, its sprawling lawns and golf-course maintained to this day, and its gardens swarming with bees and butterflies. 

The Raigad Fort served as one of the central forts under Chhatrapati Shivaji’s rule. Photo By: Satish Parashar/Shutterstock

Abhishek Jotwani, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal hosts a 300-year-old Qadimi hammam (a kind of Turkish bath) which is in the Kamala Park area of the city. The women of the city use the hammam during the day, while the men use it at night. Oil massages and steam bath options are available, however the recipes of the scrubs remain a secret. The hammam opens every year on Diwali and functions till Holi. 

Dhrubangshu, Siliguri, West Bengal

Not many have heard about Latpanchar in West Bengal, a beautiful mountain hamlet offering stunning views of the Kanchenjunga. It is also home to a diverse range of wildlife such as the barking deer, wild boar, leopard and elephant. To make matters greener, Latpanchar contains cinchina plantations used for curing diseases like Malaria. 

Also in West Bengal, Lamahatta is another calm and peaceful village surrounded by alluring pine trees. It has beautiful gardens, blossoms of orchids and Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the wind, with an encompassing view of the Kanchenjunga. Manebhanjyang serves as the gateway to the Singalila National Park, which is the highest altitude park in West Bengal and offers several trekking routes towards Sandakphu. Sprawling within the lush green valleys of an alpine forest, Tinchuley is another delightful and hidden gem near Siliguri. The alpine forest is a dream for birders between the months of September and December. 

Reshmi KR, Kozhikode, Kerala

Kozhikode is known for its food culture, where age-old restaurants serve everything from spicy regional delicacies to pasta and falafel. However, the hidden gem I would like to talk about dishes up delicious views of nature. Mango Park, situated in Govindapuram, near the Kendriya Vidyalaya school, was a barren land on top of a hill which was in time converted into a mango grove by a group of dedicated morning joggers. With benches dedicated to passersby, it is an ideal spot to spend an evening, with a view of the rumbling Arabian Sea in the distance. It is said that during the British Raj, soldiers used to camp here as it served as  vantage point to observe the whole city and the sea. For those who visit Kozhikode for a gastronomic holiday, this sweet little spot should be on the list, for equally sumptuous sunsets. 

Mandvi Mankotia Rawat, Mhow, Madhya Pradesh

For a town that is all but five kilometres from one end to another, Mhow in Madhya Pradesh packs a punch. A melting pot of culture and faiths, it has churches of all denominations dotting the undulating vistas. Temples in the main market street stand cheek by jowl, with mosques and even a Parsi fire temple tucked in a back lane. I discovered the interiors of a church I’ve crossed a million times only this last Christmas, always having observed its needle-sharp spire kissing the sky from afar. The pews of the church, which was built in the 1820s, contain brackets to hold rifles, an additional structure added after the 1857 mutiny, when the mutineers on their way to Indore burnt the outhouse that was the residence of the priest. 

Bhaskar Ramani, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

The famous ridge just above Mall Road in Shimla is actually a continental divide. If you spill water on the left side of the ridge, it will eventually go into the Arabian Sea and if you spill water on the right side, it will flow into the Bay of Bengal.  

To read and subscribe to our magazine, head to Magzter or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here. 

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Social Distancing Travel | 11 Healing Hideaways in India for Your Tired Soul

Social Distancing Travel | 11 Healing Hideaways in India for Your Tired Soul

Beachside solitude in Ganpatipule, lost-in-time architectures in Melkote, birdwatching along the marshes of Mangalajodi—seek out these secluded places of beauty for a post-lockdown getaway.

A short trip from Murguma village in West Bengal would lead you to the enchanting world of chhau, a masked tribal dance form. Photo by: My Image / Moment / Getty Images

The wait to break free—bob along rivers and wade through wildflowers—is going to be long. But when the time comes, well be ready to rejuvenate. A pandemic demands staggering human resolve. If getting by from one day to another has frayed your nerves, bunched up your heart into dirty, matted knots, here are secluded places of beauty within India you can head to, when all of this is over.

In the North

Chitkul, Himachal Pradesh

The highest and the last settlement of Himachal’s Baspa valley is also one of its most serene. Perched on the right bank of the Baspa river in the Kinnaur district, life in Chitkul simmers slow and sweet, away from prying tourists who generally stop 20 kilometres short in popular Sangla. The village, as green as a sky full of parrots, opens up the view to majestic Himalayan peaks. Flowering fields of buckwheat, a staple of the region, grin pink in the harvest season. An assortment of olden temples and a monastery shine light on the village’s amalgamation of faith; residents practise Hinduism, Buddhism and sometimes, a mix of both. The village offers an ideal base for several scenic treks and the meditative company of pine forests and starry skies. 250 kilometres/8 hours from Shimla by bus, Chitkul also offers Zostel accommodation.

Nathukhan, Uttarakhand

A relatively new pin on the map, Nathukhan is a comely village in Uttarakhand, not far from the holiday classics of Nainital and Mukteshwar. Dressed in velveteen pleats of oak, birch, deodar and kafal trees, it boasts almost-180 degree views of the Himalayas, including the Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nilkantha, and Panchachuli peaks. Relish nippy temperature and hissing hot shikar-bhaat (rice with chicken/goat curry) here, with heady side-helpings of DIY nature walks and bhang chutney. Infrastructure is scant and vistas abundant in this village, a 65 kilometre/2.5 hour-drive from Kathgodam railway station. Woodnotes Foreststays, with its mud-walled rooms and pahadi kitchen, offers a taste of local life.

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In the West

The Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh are a reminder of human perseverance. Photo by: ImagesofIndia / Shutterstock

Social Distancing Travel | 11 Soulful Spots in India to Forget Your Trouble 4

Marvel at sand dunes untainted by overtourism in Rajsthan’s Khuri. Photo by: Robmeador.com / Shutterstock

Khuri, Rajasthan

That star-gazing in the Thar Desert is a cure for taut nerves shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the sweet seclusion of Khuri village, a 50 kilometre/l-hour-drive from Jaisalmer’s tourist scramble, catches one unawares. Spend your afternoons scaling sand dunes, or chasing splatters of pomegranate-pink sun. Come nightfall you can revel in the grandeur of skies punched with silver holes, and even the Milky Way, if you’re carrying a telescope. A stay at the clay-walled Badal House, run by local man Badal Singh Ji, offers both rustic hospitality and intimate desert excursions.

Ganpatipule, Maharashtra

A 30 kilometre/1 hour-drive from Ratnagiri railway station will take you to the sleepy Konkan town of Ganpatipule. The town’s name is derived from the Hindu deity who is said to have taken abode here, and is worshiped at the 400-year-old Ganpatipule Temple centred on his Vermillion, monolithic idol. White sand lines its beach, along with cobalt waters and groves of coconut trees. While a rocky terrain makes swimming at the Ganpatipule beach difficult, water sports such as paragliding, jet-skiing, snorkelling, and banana boat rides temper its tranquillity. The Jaigad fort and lighthouse offer rambling views of the Arabian Sea, and the Thibaw Palace, an insight into the region’s links to India’s colonial history. Drive along the coast to the Aare-Ware beach, ideal for quiet swims or walks of the solitary kind. Marinate in the afterglow of salty sunsets with a side of fish curry, kokam rice and ambapoli (mango pancakes). The MTDC Beach Resort at Ganpatipule offers reasonable accommodation.

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In Central India

Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

A UNESCO World Heritage Site covering 10 kilometres of the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, the Bhimbetka rock shelters offer a portal to our collective past. Bhimbetka boasts 760 rock shelters and caves cut into seven hills, with prehistoric rock paintings adorning the walls of 500 caves. The rock art is said to offer insights into life in the Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Chalcolithic, Early historic and Medieval eras and has been compared to in those in Kakadu National Park in Australia. Although only 12 of the painted shelters are accessible to the public, inside them persists the seed of human imagination— the Boar Rock showcases the outline of a boar, “Nataraj” is the painting of a man dancing with a trident-like staff, and the Zoo Rock depicts bison, deer, and elephants. Bhimbetka does not have any accommodation; MP Tourism recommends Banyan Tree Farms in Bhopal, 50 kilometres/1.5 hours by bus.

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In the East

Mangalajodi, Odisha

Social Distancing Travel | 11 Soulful Spots in India to Forget Your Trouble 6

Mangalajodi’s bird-dotted marshes are one of Odisha’s hidden delights. Photo by: Wirestock Images / Shutterstock

If marshlands flanked by typha grasslands and migratory birds suggest a calming visual for you, the Mangalajodi wetlands, located north of Odisha’s Chilika lagoon, will manifest that dream. A birder’s delight for the wealth of wildlife that inhabits its languid waters, it is also a fulfilling experience of nature for those without binoculars. Not that you will have much use of binoculars here; gliding through slender stretches of water on wooden boats made cosy with thatched canopies, you will be at arm’s length of purple moorhens, ruddy shelducks, bar-tailed godwits, and other wetland beauties. Expect deep silence, ruffled only by bird calls or the sound of oars splicing open still waters. Mangalajodi village lies 70 kilometre/1.5 hour southwest of Bhubaneswar, off NH-5. Mangalajodi Ecotourism, a community-managed wildlife conservation venture, offers elementary lodging and boating packages.

Murguma, West Bengal

Swaddled between the ancient Ajodhya Hills and a tributary of the river Kangsabati, Murguma village in West Bengal knows nature’s soliloquy by heart. To listen in, drive 46 kilometres/1.5 hours west of Purulia station until you’re ringed by red hillocks, lotus-streaked ponds, and groves of sal, bamboo, and flaming bastard teaks. Soak in the panorama at the Murguma dam, or visit the nearby tribal settlement of Charida, where generations of mask artists create flamboyant Chhau masks, used in the eponymous dance form. The wild expanses of Peacock Hill, Bamni Falls, Khairabera, Turga Falls and the Ajodhya Hill and Reserve Forest Area are some adjacent attractions. A stay at Murguma’s Palash Bitan Jungle Huts offers basic facilities and a deluxe brush with nature.

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In the Northeast

Yuksom, Sikkim

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Visit a forest cradling a sacred coronation throne in Yuksom, Sikkim. Photo by: Nigel Killeen / Moment / Getty Images

Divorced from the din at 5,840 feet, Yuksom in West Sikkim is revered as ‘the meeting point of three lamas’. The name should perhaps be an indicator of the town’s proximity to monasteries such as the Dubdi, Tashi Tenka, and Tashiding. Having served as the first capital of Sikkim, where the foremost chogyal (ruler) of the kingdom was consecrated, Yuksom’s culture is best experienced in symmetry with its natural beauty; you will eavesdrop on the rustle of indigenous trees while visiting the Coronation Throne of Norbugang. And it is the peaceful waters of the Kathok Lake that form the backdrop of the seat of the three lamas. Vistas cannot possibly disappoint at the ‘Gateway to Mt. Kangchendzongha’, as pleasing hikes leading to the Goecha La trail or the Kangchendzongha basecamp testify. Expect farm-to-table dining at Yuksom’s ample homestays, run by the local Limboo tribe. Bagdogra airport is a 160 kilometre/5 hour-drive away from Yuksom, but cabs are best availed from Siliguri Junction, half an hour from the airport.

Mawphlang, Meghalaya

Drive 26 kilometres/40 minutes southwest of Shillong to reach a junction of Scotland-ish greens, and a village whose name translates to “grassy stone.” The name is a nod to the many monoliths in the culturally distinct East Khasi region. Mawphlang is also the gateway to the Mawphlang Sacred Grove, one of the biggest sacred forests in Meghalaya. The forest, stitched together by an intertwined network of flora and medicinal herbs, has but one rule. Nothing can be taken out of the enclosure, believed to be home to the local deity— not even a dead log. Tune into the harmony of nature and ancient faith, and learn about indigenous culture at the Khasi Heritage Village, a model village located opposite the grove. The historic David Scott Trail stretches from Mawphlang to Ladmawphlang village, a system of woods, rocks, waterfalls, bridges, and the beautiful Umiam river. A stay at the family- run Maple Pine Farm allows ample access to the attractions.

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In the South

Social Distancing Travel | 11 Soulful Spots in India to Forget Your Trouble 1

Melkote in Karnataka is a treasure trove of architecture (right), lost in time; Easily accessible from the Maharashtrian town of Ganpatipule, the Aare-Ware beach (left) promises deep blue solitude. Photos by: Pritesh Bhosle / Shutterstock (woods), Nila Newsom / Shutterstock (carvings)

Melkote, Karnataka

Sunsets have a mystical quality in monument-riddled Melkote, but they do nothing to accelerate time. If you’ve ever wanted a ticket back to lost kingdoms, glimpses of Hoysala-era architecture in this hilltop town offer a fix. Trust the slowness in the air as you fritter away days that begin with plates of special puliyogare (tamarind rice) and end amid the stunning stucco sculptures of Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple. The dramatic ruins of Raya Gopura and a smattering of stone pavilions and maths accentuate the sense of time-warp. Small- scale dharamshalas and lodges are common in the town easily reached by bus or cab from both Bengaluru and Mysore.

Valiyaparamba, Kerala

Valiyaparamba is a fishing island in Kasaragod district. Separated from mainland by the Tejaswini river, the secluded isle—about 62 kilometres/1.5 hour by road from Kunnur International Airport—houses the Valiyaparamba Backwaters, third-largest in Kerala. Made accessible by a bridge, an alternative way to reach the island is to take a ferry from Kottappuram or Edayilakkad. Once there, hop aboard a traditional kettuvallam (houseboat) to glide through placid waters, swirling in native flora and fauna. To the west of the island, the Valiyaparamba beach is serene. Fish using rustic tools, sample seafood, and soak in the cool breeze of coconut lagoons. 30 kilometres/one hour-drive away, the Bekal Fort affords heart-stopping views of the Arabian Sea. The Tyndis Mangrove Trails, 10 kilometres from the island, offer a plethora of hiking, boating and birdwatching activities. Kerala Tourism recommendations for stays include Kavvayi Beach House and Avisa Island Homestay, among others.

The article features inputs from Sambit Dattachaudhuri. 

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News Alert | Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh Reopen to Tourists

News Alert | Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh Reopen to Tourists

Both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have lifted their travel restrictions, but each with a set of guidelines for all travellers. Here’s what you need to know.

Uttarakhand has announced that it is lifting the travel restrictions it had in place due to COVID-19. Photo By: Amit kg/Shutterstock

On July 2, the hilly state of Uttarakhand announced the lifting of all travel restrictions, both to domestic and international tourists. The state, which had been under lockdown from March 22 had begun to slowly lift lockdown restrictions on June 8. After Uttarakhand, another tourist hotspot state—Himachal Pradesh—decided to lift travel restrictions on July 3, after a period of three and a half months. With both states offering postcard views along with picturesque hotels and homestays, tourists can start thinking about a trip to the mountains. 

However, with these lifting of travel restrictions come a set of safety guidelines for each state.

For Uttarakhand:

Only those hotels and homestays which do not fall in a containment area, will be allowed to open for business. 

Those entering Uttarakhand from any other part of the country will have to upload their COVID-19 test results on the official state government website: https://smartcity dehradun.uk.gov.in.

At all border checkposts, district authorities will verify travellers’ medical reports. 

Hotels have to make it mandatory for their guests to have undergone RT-PCR tests from ICMR authorised labs, which will need to reflect that they have tested negative for COVID-19. Additionally, these reports cannot be earlier than 72 hours from the guests’ time of arrival.

Those travelling from overseas countries will have to register themselves on the aforementioned web portal and undergo home and institutional quarantine for a period of seven days. 

Inter-district travellers will not need to undergo mandatory quarantine, but they will have to register themselves on the web portal. 

There is no time limit for how long visitors and tourists can stay in the state once they have followed through with all the protocol. However, hotels and homestays have been asked not to take in bookings that are for less than a period of a week. 

For Himachal Pradesh:

Those travelling inter-state will have to register for an e-pass in the COVID e-pass software (covid19epass.hp.gov.in) for monitoring purposes. Those who are travelling by road, will also have to register their vehicle details. 

Principal Secretary (Revenue) Onkar Sharma has also said that those coming into Himachal Pradesh from other states will have to “strictly adhere” to the guidelines that are issued by the health and revenue departments of the state. 

The state government has also said that those tourists who have made pre-bookings of at least five days and have tested negative for COVID-19 by an ICMR accredited laboratory (not earlier than 72 hours at the time of entry), will not require mandatory quarantine in the state. 

To read and subscribe to our magazine, head to Magzter or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here. 

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Monsoon food – what to eat when it pours :: Lonely Planet India

Monsoon food – what to eat when it pours :: Lonely Planet India


Almost every state in India has its own monsoon delicacyImage courtesy: ©Indian Food Images/Shutterstock.com

When the rains come lashing down and the sweltering heat ends, different parts of the country start rustling up special dishes that go beyond the usual pakoras, bhutta, and chai. Here’s what India puts on its plate when monsoons awaken the appetite for something richer, crisper, and extra tempting than summer fare.

Ghevar, Rajasthan

Ghevar is a traditional sweet that originated from Rajasthan

Ghevar is a traditional sweet that originated from RajasthanImage courtesy: ©Pooja Barua/Shutterstock.com

When it pours, it is time to leave the guilt behind and bite into one of India’s most delectable sweets called ghevar. An unusual texture like a honeycomb it’s made of flour and milk, fried in ghee then dunked in sugar syrup. Shops across Rajasthan offer this sinful sweet around the Teej festival. Laxmi Misthan Bhandar in Jaipur, one of the oldest mitthai shops in the city, has been selling ghevar since the 18th century.

Makai No Chevdo, Gujarat

Gujarat is famous for its many mouth-watering snacks

Gujarat is famous for its many mouth-watering snacksImage courtesy: ©JD Phote/Shutterstock.com

Eating corn on the cob (bhutta) from the street vendor with a sprinkle of masala and lime is popular during monsoons when bumper corn harvests arrive. But Gujarat serves it up differently. Makai no chevdo is steamed corn kernels that are tossed with toasted peanuts, chillies, and sprinkled with masala and sev. You will see it flying off carts in Ahmedabad but it is easy to make this apt monsoon snack at home.

Malpua, North India

Malpua is an Indian pancake served with rabri

Malpua is an Indian pancake served with rabriImage courtesy: ©Snehal Jeevan Pailkar/Shutterstock.com

When flour, khoya, dry fruits, sugar, and ghee all combine to make a rich pancake, how can it not be delicious? Eaten with rabri, this deep-fried sweet is traditionally cooked twice a year – around the festival of Holi and when the rains arrive. While most sweet shops in north India serve malpua, the best ones are usually prepared at home. Fry it a bit longer so that it becomes crisp around the edges while the centre remains soft.

Kismoor, Goa

Dried prawns are a popular ingredient in the Konkan region

Dried prawns are a popular ingredient in the Konkan regionImage courtesy: ©Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock.com

Fishing is not allowed in the monsoon season, but Goans cannot do without seafood, so how do they satisfy their craving? They stock up on extra shrimp or mackerel in summer, salt and sun-dry it. It’s then tossed up in salads typically with tamarind, coconut, onions, and chillies with a dash of lime. It’s crunchy, sour – almost like a seafood bhelpuri. It’s also prepared with prawns, bitter gourd, jackfruit stem, and beans.

Rushichi Bhaji, Maharashtra

Rushichi Bhaji is made with yam and many other vegetables

Rushichi Bhaji is made with yam and many other vegetablesImage courtesy: ©grey color/Shutterstock.com

Monsoons signal the start of the festive season and one dish that is prepared extensively across Maharashtra on the second day of Ganesh Chaturthi is rushichi bhaji – a concoction of seasonal vegetables like yam, green banana, corn, amaranth stems, and arbi. It is a one-pot dish that’s slow-cooked without onions and garlic. Instead, its distinct flavours come from tamarind, coconut, jaggery, and green chillies. Some chefs liken it to the English potpie. It is typically not served in restaurants but The Bombay Canteen in Mumbai did their version of rushichi bhaji in their monsoon special menu last year.

Fiddlehead Fern, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh

Fiddlehead fern is delicious and nutritious

Fiddlehead fern is delicious and nutritiousImage courtesy: ©Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

Call it lungru, linguda, lingud, kutelda, or karsod – this healthy fern is high in antioxidants and fibres, grows abundantly in the Himalayan region, and is plucked in the monsoons. Many households in Uttarakhand and Himachal cook it as a simple vegetable without adding too many spices to preserve its nutritional value. The fern can also be used in salads or even turned into a pickle. It is served as part of the Himachali dham during this season.

Khichuri, West Bengal

Khichuri is prepared with simple ingredients like dal and rice

Khichuri is prepared with simple ingredients like dal and riceImage courtesy: ©Riya Sarkar/Shutterstock.com

Bengali people will agree that the first dish they eat when it rains is ‘Khichuri’. The mix of dal, rice, a few veggies with a dollop of ghee is true comfort food. The accompaniments matter even more – pickle, fried pappad and fritters called bhaja – it can be potato, eggplant, or even egg. Restaurants in Kolkata include this in their menu during the monsoon season.

Ilish Maach, West Bengal

Most Bengali food is prepared using mustard

Most Bengali food is prepared using mustardImage courtesy: ©Kingsly/Shutterstock.com

Like Goans, Bengali people love their fish and when the monsoon makes its way to the state; it’s time to tuck into hilsa, considered a delicacy. One of its most popular preparations, called sorsheIllish, is typically made with mustard and relished with steamed rice. Eating it is like an art since the fish is full of tiny bones.

Karkidaka Kanji, Kerala

Karkidaka Kanji is a herbal dish that helps boost immunity

Karkidaka Kanji is a herbal dish that helps boost immunityImage courtesy: ©Santhosh Varghese/Shutterstock.com

This porridge made of red rice, coconut milk, jaggery, peppercorn, cumin, and fenugreek, is widely believed to have healing properties as it is supposed to ward off colds, flu, and is also an immunity booster in the wet months. But a steaming bowl of karkidaka kanji, sprinkled with fried onions, is as soul-satisfying as it is healthy, especially when dark skies are bringing those bountiful rains.

AUTHOR’S BIO: Pallavi Pasricha is a New Delhi based travel and food writer. With more than 13 years of experience, she writes for leading travel and lifestyle publications in the industry and was the former Digital Editor at Lonely Planet India. More on: www.pallavipasricha.com

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