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Waterfalls at Maharashtra, India by Snehal Jeevan Pailkar

India’s Seductive Monsoon Beckons

With monsoon season getting off to an early start, you’ll want to head to these epic spots and savour the spectacles of mother nature. These gorgeous destinations will make the heat and humidity bearable because of their breathtaking beauty and cool temperatures. So pack your bags now, you don’t have much time to soak in all this splendour––September will be here before you know it.

Udaipur, Rajasthan Visiting the “Venice of the East” may feel a bit counter-intuitive during monsoon season but its treasures are easily and even more wonderfully explored during the storms. Just outside of the city, The Monsoon Palace sits in all her glory. Located on the summit of Bansdara Mountain at 945 metres, you’ll experience stunning panoramic views of Udaipur. Monsoon season is an ideal time to visit, as the temperatures drop and you won’t run into the heated, frenzied Summer crowds. A sight to behold any time of year, the lake city Udaipur comes alive in the storms and is at her most spectacular during the monsoons. Make a splash with a stay at Oberoi Udaivilas, designed in the style of a traditional Rajasthani Palace. The easy drive from Udaipur (UDR) airport just 22 kilometres away, makes for an ideal getaway. oberoihotels.com

Mount Abu, Rajasthan The only hill station in the region, Mount Abu is located on the highest peak of the Aravalli range and is known for its Dilwara Jain temples––a dizzying array of intricately marble sculpted construction. A trip to nearby Peace Park will find you walking among nature as the aptly named park begins to make you feel more and more tranquil with every step. The sacred Nakki Lake where Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were immersed, Toad Rock, sunsets at Honeymoon Point and the Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary round out an incredible tour of this monsoon hot spot. Mount Abu is located 475 kilometres from Jaipur. Enjoy rustic elegance and landscaped gardens among Aravalli range’s scenic, tranquil peaks at Hotel Hillock, a short distance from Nakki Lake and 210 kilometres to Udaipur (UDR) airport. hotelhillock.com

Kutch, Gujarat Come for its famous mud architecture and stay for the oral traditions, colourful artisan handiwork and diverse activities. Perhaps you will decide to go on The Gandhi Circuit, starting with the Kochrab Ashram established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1915. Gujarat has one of the best road networks in India inviting you to an exotic, ultimate road trip. Or, go on a cinematic tour of the famous locations in the region. The greeting Aavo Padharo, a Gujarat welcome, will become familiar when its people welcome you to next-level hospitality as they believe guests to be God. One trip will hook you for life. Fly into Bhuj (BHJ) 114 kilometres away, and enjoy an elegant, traditional cottage at City The Village. citythevillage.com

Lonavala, Maharashtra The most visited hill station in Maharashtra is also a big draw with romantics and Chikki candy lovers. During monsoon season, the hills literally drip green. One of its greatest draws includes the peace and quiet that comes from leaving city centres behind. There are no shortages of awe-inspiring destinations here. Take your pick from Bushi Dam, a monsoon favourite for travellers and locals alike, allows you to spread a mean picnic while taking in epic views of the emerald-green hills. Other attractions include Shreevardhan Fort, Rajmachi Wildlife Sanctuary, and Tikon Fort––a great place for the adventurous and favourite of photographers. Only 77 km from the Pune (PNQ) airport, “gen next hospitality” hot spot Della Adventure Resort will help you play in luxury. dellaadventure.com

Lohagad Fort, Maharashtra Nearby Lonavala, this marvellous military installation of the Maratha Empire was built in the 18th century. The natural sights here visually stun and surprise like the Vinchu Kata which is a mountain range in the shape of Capricorn. Connected to Visapur, a trek from Lohagad to Visapur is an easy one and exotically beautiful especially during the monsoons. If you like to trek, it would be best to make the journey when you have set aside time to explore both forts. The cool mountain air refreshes the body and the variety of birds calms the spirit. An excellent way to escape the noise of the city. Della Luxury Resort will welcome you to the exotically beautiful and is trainride close from Pune (PNQ) airport. dellaresorts.com

Karnala, Maharashtra Speaking of birds, you will enjoy exploring all the feathered creatures and other wildlife here in the Western Ghats Mountain range. Monsoons create the perfect environment for the magpie, and the paradise flycatcher, to name a few. Delight in the wonderful experience of being engulfed in the tranquillity of the forest while listening to the sweet songs of these birds. Built during the 12th century, the fort here was intended to command the highroad of the local trade route. The Elephanta Caves, a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site, are located close to Karnala. The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai––host to maharajas and kings, presidents and princes––is the perfect place to launch a day trip to Karnala. This wilderness escape is just under 2 hours drive from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM). tajhotels.com

Goa During monsoon season, you’ll get to experience one of the best beach destinations in the world at an incredible value. But forget the beach this time, and check out iconic Dudhsagar Falls bursting wild and free unlike any other time of year. Monsoons don’t put a damper on the parties and celebrations Goa is known for, so be ready to party in the city that is even more colourful and beautiful than at the high season. The rain brings out all things green and gorgeous in and around the famous city, and you’ll avoid the feeling of being part of the high season herd. There is no shortage of luxury accommodation in Goa. We recommend your home away from home at W Goa, 50 km north of Goa International Airport (GOI). w-goa.com

Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh Chaaparai’s amazing cascades of water is a must-see during monsoon season. Nestled in the forest, it is one of the most popular travel destinations in the area. Many streams meet among the rock formations of the Araku Valley. If you can’t beat the rains, you might as well check out the wet-and-wild fun here when the water level is at its peak and most dramatic. Rock formations make great natural slides, but are not recommended during monsoons. Take the fun inside at the Borra Caves where you can get swallowed up by fantastic, visually stunning and dramatically lit stalagmite and stalactite formations. Your journey of happiness and tranquillity can begin by flying into the airport at Visakhapatnam (VTZ), The City of Destiny. Find luxurious oceanfront accommodations at The Bheemli Resort managed by AccorHotels, the perfect place to launch day trips to Araku Valley. accorhotels.com

Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh Cool breezes greet you at the 1265 metre high Horsley Hills, home to awe-inspiring natural views, a respite from the crushing heat experienced elsewhere during the summer months. Stunning plant life here has many medicinal uses, featuring Eucalyptus and Jacaranda to name a few. Panthers, jackal and bears roam the mountains here. Highlights at Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary include viewing its many elephants and visiting the Antharagange caves. Stay at the soulful, consciousness-expanding hotel and ashram, Shreyas Relais & Chateaux, a peaceful base camp for your sanctuary adventures, less than three hours away while the nearest major airport is the Kempegowda International Airport (BLR). shreyasretreat.com

Ethipothala Falls, Andhra Pradesh Ethipothala means to lift and pour in the Telugu language and you’ll understand why. On the Chandravanka River, the falls are fed by three rivers Chandra Vanka Vagu, Nakkala Vagu, and Tummala Vagu, which are all tributaries of River Krishna. To best experience then is to be here during the monsoon season. You’ve undoubtedly never seen anything like this in the region, with water falling from a height of 21 metres. Among the astounding beauty of gorgeous green hillsides, discover many cave temples which cause travellers to stop and linger over long picnics. The crocodile breeding centre at the falls is also a popular destination for tourists. Rustic elegance can be had at the ecotourism boutique hotel The Mrugavani Resort, a great jumping off point for many epic attractions around Hyderabad, including the falls with Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (HYD), the nearest major airport. mrugavaniresort.com

© This article was first published in June/July 2017 edition of World Travel Magazine.

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