Come summer and I wish I were still in school. I miss the mornings that started with my favourite TV shows, those lazy afternoons and surcharged evenings packed with cricket sessions. Summer vacation are distant memories now. Summer now means mornings that start with coffee followed by making my way through traffic jams, caffeinated afternoons spent with colleagues and caffeine-packed evenings that conclude a stressful day. Nonetheless, every summer I manage to take the edge off for a few days while relaxing in the cool environs of northern India.
While every place I have travelled to has a special place in my heart, here are a few that stand out from the rest:
It’s the true escape to the Himalayas. A five-hour drive from Khardung-La, the world’s highest motorable pass, takes you to the Nubra Valley. And even if you had imagined the Himalayas in hundred different ways or seen them in 20 different places, nothing compares to what you will see here. You will be completely enthralled! Guaranteed. The first time I went there, I didn’t even realise that my mouth was wide open the whole time until I saw the pictures clicked by my friends. The awe-inspiring Karakoram range surrounds the valley’s fertile fields, sand dunes and Siachen and Shayok rivers. The real pleasures of Nubra Valley come from exploring it on foot. And to visit this place, you will have to get an Inner Line Permit in Leh – contact your travel agent.
I always wondered what was so special about Mussoorie that attracted Ruskin Bond and Sachin Tendulkar. After visiting the place, I realised its charm lies in the peaceful environs and idyllic settings. While adjectives like ‘idyllic’, ‘picturesque’ and ‘breathtaking’ might have been used umpteen times to describe its beauty, none of them could do justice to it. This is the kind of place that inspires you and connects you with yourself. My favourite memory of Mussoorie is the striking colours of the cloud-filled sky and lush mountains as the sun comes up early in the morning.
The seat of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mcleodganj is bathed in natural beauty. This small settlement on the outskirts of Dharamsala is a tourist hub and you will find everything here – tour organising services, nice restaurants, internet cafes, stores selling Tibetan handicrafts, trekking organisers and hotels, all crammed up in a small space. However crowded the main area is, you will not be able to escape its charm. What I love about Mcleodganj is its serenity, of course, once you leave the township behind and enter the wilderness flanked with deodar and pine trees. The Dhauladhar range challenges you to conquer it and once you climb a mountain’s peak, the challenge is forgotten and all you can think of the unrivaled scenic beauty right in front of you.
Another Himachali jewel, Dalhousie is the less explored ergo, the less crowded hill station. That’s what draws me to its pine-clad valleys. Its unspoilt natural beauty casts a spell on you, especially at night when you can see the lit up valley against the backdrop of black sky housing millions of sparkling stars. It’s a sight you will never forget. Spend your days strolling around the streets taking in cool breeze and splendid vistas. For great clicks, head to Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary – the views are awesome and you might even spot leopards or bears.
Sonmarg and Gulmarg
As the sunlight falls on the mountains, glaciers and lakes around Sonmarg, its reflection off the blanket of snow glitters brightly. I think that’s where its name comes from, as it translates ‘the meadow of gold’. The beauty around here is simply breathtaking and your adventure begins here with trekking. While there are many beautiful lakes (Vishansar, Satsar, Gangabal, etc.), my favourite point is Nilagrad, where a beautiful small stream plunges into the Sindh river. A 2.5-hour drive from here will take you to the ‘meadow of flowers’ – Gulmarg. Equally beautiful, Gulmarg is best known for skiing slopes and cable car ride that promises a mesmerising view of snow-clad peaks.
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