The monsoons are a welcome relief after the searing heat of summer. As the dark clouds come rolling in, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Almost all the country, except the rain-shadow areas of Ladakh and the Thar desert in the West receive torrential rainfall. The greenery comes alive and the fresh scent of petrichour permeates the air. Rivers and lakes fill up to their brims and with the swirling cumulus reflecting in their turbid waters, their beauty assumes a dangerous avatar. In most of the tourist places, this is the off-season and the crowds are almost non-existent and you can enjoy long walks in the drizzle or maybe get drenched in the downpour!
Our favorite destinations to be at during the Indian Monsoon are:
This part of Karnataka is magical in the rains- the rainforests bloom under dense grey skies, the western ghats are at the pinnacle of their splendour and the otherwise sparkling ocean takes on a different avatar- it lies sprawling like a sheet of cold metal. The best ways to enjoy this lush season is to go cycling through the many pretty villages that dot the countryside. When the weather is ambient enough, you can go for surfing or scuba diving. Choose to stay on a Spice Plantation for an authentic flavour of the place. An excursion to the Dandeli Anshi Sanctuary is wonderful in this season- deep green foliage dripping with rain, the scent of the earth and the lush solitude will win your hearts.
In the monsoon, the salt flats are flooded lending the never-ending white desert a touch of magic. The land turns into a fishing ground in this season and prawns are bred. The area has a rich birdlife, and that includes the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard. The area around Chhari Dhand in the Banni grasslands is included in the Ramsar Convention and boasts of a rich biodiversity.
The Rann in the rain (Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Monsoon is pegged as the best season to visit this charming village located in the foothills of the Sahyadri Hills in Maharashtra. Everything here is community run and you can get a detailed glimpse into the lives of this very hospitable community. Join the villagers as they work in the fields - The Story of Rice programme presents to you the "story" from sowing to harvesting and aims to instill a sense of gratitude for our staple food. You can also lend a hand in making bhakris. And if you love trekking, there's a day trek to Mount Ajobagad to visit the Valmiki Ashram. If you're looking for a holiday with a difference- this is it!
Tagore's Shantiniketan is an absolute adobe of peace in the rains. The green is greener. The red earth lanes appear in sharp contrast, cutting through the vegetation. In July-August, the Varsha Mangagal is celebrated. A tree planting ceremony preceded by Halokarshan or ploughing is held. You can take rickshaw rides to Kankalitala. Located on the banks of the Kopai River, it is a much revered shrine to Goddess Kali. Wander through the buildings of the university, find a corner and indulge in Tagore's rich poetry. What can be more beautiful than rainy mornings with Rabindra Sangeet dripping in the background?
Celebrations in Santiniketan (Photo courtesy: unwto.org)
If long breaks aren't your thing, drop in at Kerwa for a day's worth of adventure! Located in the vicinity of the Kerwa Dam near Bhopal, Kerwa Jungle Camp offers a range of activities like river crossing, rappelling, paintballing and kayaking. The camp also has one of the country's longest zip-lines. For naturalists, these forests provide ample bird-watching opportunities. You can spot flycatchers, woodpeckers, owls, peacocks, nightjars among others. During the rains, the forests are an entrancing green- enjoy long strolls under the canopy with birdsong and cicadas for company. The local cuisine comprising of simple but delicious dishes like dal bhati and mahua ka cheela will appeal to even the pickiest of eaters!
Rafting in Kerwa
Since this region receives little rainfall, it is one of the most preferred monsoon destinations. The stark landscape dotted with monasteries and picturesque villages is otherworldly to say the least. On the other side of the Khardung La, sprawls the fertile Nubra Valley with the Shyok River flowing through it. It is redolent with apricot and walnut orchards. The changing colours of the Pangong Lake is a treat. For adventure lovers, there are endless opportunities. Go para gliding, trekking (we recommend the classics- the Markha & Sham Valley treks), rafting, biking or on camel safaris through this cold desert. In the first two weeks of September, the Ladakh festival starts with spectacular processions and traditional dances.
Come monsoons, and the Pushpawati Valley erupts in a riot of colours! The valley was accidentally discovered by Smythe, Shipton and Holdsworth in 1931 after they lost their way after a successful summit of Mt. Kamet and ended up in this flower-strewn valley. The Valley of Flowers is an easy trek from Govindghat to Ghangria. Flowers include orchids, poppies, primulas, marigold, daisies, campanulas, geraniums and anemones. Rhododendrons lace the hillside in pink and red blooms. There are roughly 31 endangered flora species here. Apart from bees, varieties of butterflies lend more colours to this valley.
Valley of Flowers
Like Ladakh, this part of Kashmir does not receive much rain in this season. The Great Lakes Trek is a seven-day trek that goes along the ancient trading routes of the Gujjars and includes the breathtakingly beautiful high-altitude glacial lakes of Gadsar, Satsar, Gangabal, and the twin Lakes Vishansar and Kishasar. The entire route goes through some of the most scenic parts of the planet. Imagine hiking through undisturbed forests, alpine meadows carpeted with multi-coloured flowers and lakes in perfect shades of jade, sapphire, emerald and turquoise reflecting the snow-capped peaks around.
The erstwhile "Shikargarh" or hunting grounds of the Nawabs of Bhopal is a community-run eco-tourism destination today. Located 36 km from Bhopal, Samardha was the first community run initiative of the MP Tourism Board. The Samardha Range with its rich biodiversity- 65 species of birds, 20 species of mammals and 45 species of trees- appeals to nature lovers and naturalists. For the adventurous, there is mountain biking and treks from the Jhamunjhora Stop Dam to the rock shelters of Chudail Dant. A trip to the surrounding villages will give you a glimpse of the tribal culture and wall art.
Located close to the Cardamom Hills of Kerala, Periyar National Park is one of the few parks in India that have their gates open in this season. This is one of the few places in South India where you can see wild elephants. Periyar is mostly known for its wild cats- the Tiger Trails programme is one of the best in the country. Go on safaris through the heart of the sanctuary and if you want a break in-between wildlife spotting, take a relaxing boat ride on the Periyar Lake or trek up to the revered Sabarimala Temple.
Lake Front, Periyar
Despite the torrential rains, the monsoons accentuate the overwhelming beauty of nature. Embrace the showers and the fresh scent of earth and set out to experience serenity. These are our top monsoon favorites. Tell us yours.
Article by: Mohana Das