I took an impromptu trip with my two childhood best friends, two years back. We witnessed a rare meteor shower, among other things…
It was a journey full of thrill, fun and amazement. One of my friends is a Wildlife Filmmaker & Photographer and wanted to shoot the meteor shower of the Eta Aquarids created by debris of Hailey’s a phenomenon that happens once in 76 years. As she told us about this, the two of us at once decided to join her and this impromptu plan turned into one of the best trips of our lives.
We started for Dhanaulti the next morning and reached in almost 7 hours. The first place we visited was Dhanaulti Eco Park, amidst thick Rhododendron, Cedar and Pine. We trekked towards the park and reached on the top from where we enjoyed a spectacular view sitting on the swings. These little joys make a trip worth cherishing and so we did whatever we could to make the trip memorable. We also stopped by to have some hot spicy Maggi and realised that “pahado ki Maggi” is indeed the most delectable thing one can have.
Now was the time for all the challenges, thrill and chills as our hunt for a secluded and peaceful place to set our camp began. We were not looking for a proper camping area; instead an untouched place at a certain level from where we could have a clear view of the starry sky. In order to shoot the meteor shower, we needed a dim spot where light wouldn’t reflect.
A little ahead of Dhanaulti in Kanatal, with the help of some locals, we found the perfect place in the wilderness to set our camp. The place was far from the village with no or little sign of human intervention. The locals also warned us about the place being a little risky being a remote forest area but we were all ready for an adventurous night. Little did we know that the night would be more thrilling than expected. As soon our tent was set, mother nature surprised us with heavy rains, thunderstorm and lightning. For almost four hours we had to lock ourselves inside with zero hopes that our tent would be able to survive the weather but when it did, we were thankful. The night grew so cold that we almost experienced what it would be like to freeze.
By this time, the possibility of shooting the meteor shower was washed away by a thick cover of clouds. So we decided to sleep in turns with alarms set for every half hour to check on the weather. We were well equipped with torch & lighters and pocket-size safety equipment like pepper spray, swiss knife and paper cutters to protect ourselves from wild animals and also unwanted humans. The night was quite scary; we could hear and feel every little sound of nature, even that of silence, in the forest area.
It was only after midnight that the thunderstorm and rain stopped. The stars became a bit visible and the rain-washed sky looked extremely beautiful that the three of us couldn’t help but admire it all with just our heads popped out from the tent; it was too cold to step out and we weren’t backed with enough warm clothes . (Tip for last minute travel plan to the hills: do not leave without a big thick jacket).It was around 3 am when we jumped with joy and could not believe our eyes; we were looking at the meteor shower!.. We gathered some courage and finally moved out of the tent. While my friend was busy capturing the spectacular view in her lens, me and my other friend guarded ourselves by keeping an eye on all sides.
Once the shoot was done, we could rest our eyes with a little peace. Mornings in mountains amidst forest are peaceful and so unlike waking up to alarms, we woke up to the chirping of birds. The realization that we survived a terrifying night brought absolute relief and we gave each other a pat on the back. In difficult situations like these, positive attitude and encouragement means a lot and that is what the three of us kept doing to each other the entire night. When the locals heard about us they were amused as not often they see young girls doing something adventurous in the wild. One of them even told us that he will tell his daughters about us and that how brave we were to overcome our fears. Hearing this brought a sense of achievement for all of us in the true sense.
On our way back, we also visited the Tehri Dam and were mesmerised by the beauty of the region. We kept talking about how tranquil the morning was, in contrast with the night we left behind. Perhaps, that is how you feel after coming on the other side of a spine-chilling adventure.
For a perfect weekend, Escape Route picks up these ten destinations around Delhi that make for stunning weekend escapes…
For those who love to travel, a perfect weekend is about escaping the daily grind and exploring new destinations. From historical marvels and wildlife sanctuaries to picturesque hill stations and cultural havens, pick the destination of your choice along with a suggested stay option and escape for a road trip! (Please note: The distance to each of the following is as measured from Delhi.)
Bhowali – 307 kms
In the vicinity of many popular hill stations of Uttarakhand, beautifully secluded Bhowali is a relaxing weekend escape. You will find the beauty of nature in abundance here; it is one of those destinations to go to and do nothing at. If travelling between June and August, you must get your hands on freshly ripened apples, apricots, peaches and plums indigenous to the area. Other than that, explore an existing nature trail or discover one of your own, hike to the famous Tiffin Top to see what the view from their looks like.
As you arrive in the capital city of Rajasthan, its vibrancy, culture, and people make you its own… The famous forts and palaces are the heart of the Pink City; be it experiencing the sunrise from the top of Nahargarh Fort, an elephant ride in the Amber Palace, a walk through the heritage Hawa Mahal or the sunset view from Jal Mahal built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, each has its own charm.
On the other hand, the hustle-bustle in the colourful streets of Baapu Bazaar and Johari Bazaar keeps the city alive and is something to be experienced. It is a paradise for shoppers as a range of artefacts, jewellery, traditional footwear, apparels and leather items etc., can be found here as you walk through the lanes. For the foodies, local delicacies such as daal bati churma, ghevar and pyaaz kachodis in the bylanes of Jaipur must be relished. The city has been one of the most convenient weekend escapes for the people of Delhi and we see no reason why it shouldn’t be!
To travel to the city of love, take the route through Yamuna-Agra Expressway and enjoy a smooth and comfortable road trip. Chances are that this will not be your first time in Agra and you might already have plenty photos with the Taj Mahal. Whether or not that is the case, this time, try and look at Agra as the capital that it was during the Mughal Empire. Trace the walls of the Red Fort,
The city owns the most magnificent architecture, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal, built on the banks of river Yamuna. It is the royal beauty of this monument and picturesque location that attracts travelers from across the globe.
While Taj Mahal is built from the precious white marble, its sister monument – the Agra Fort – is beautifully built in red and white sandstone. Don’t forget to try the popular “Agra Ka Petha” while you stay in Agra. 35km ahead of this is Fatehpur Sikri, a city with grandeur indo-Islamic architecture, culture and Mughal heritage worth exploring.
Apart from the adventure activities, Rishikesh, is also a center for spirituality and pilgrimage as the scenic view and holy atmosphere detoxifies the mind and soul. If you like solitude and introspection, then Parmarth Niketan is a must visit for meditation and spiritual healing. Well, the Beatles Ashram is also a place to be at, the famous music band visited the place back in 1968 to learn Transcendental Meditation and since the last few years it has become a famous tourist spot. Small shops offer head massage and body massages while restaurants like Chotiwala, street food and small bakeries will entice your taste buds.
*Please note that Shivpuri has been shut since the beginning of June and rafting activities have been discontinued until further government notice.
The paradise of bird watchers, Bharatpur, is the ultimate destination for exotic bird watching and nature photography in the popular Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary or Keoladeo National Park. Come here to listen to the songs of nature and enjoy the magical flora & fauna. Rare and endangered species of birds right from Sarus Cranes, Herons & Egrets to Indian Darter migrate here during different seasons. It is not advisable to cover the entire area on foot instead you can opt for a cycle or Tonga ride as well as jeep safari and elephant back safari, which are more fun amidst the nature.
The Lohagarh Fort in Bharatpur is magnificent and strong architectural structure ever built in India and this is a place often explored by curious travellers. The lovers of history often discover their “bliss” in the Government Museum of Bharatpur, where they find illustrations, sculptures, artifacts, weapons of the Jat rulers, zoological preserves and manuscripts paintings all under one roof dating back to second century.
Bhimtal, The Lake City, is an ideal getaway for a peaceful and pleasing stay amidst hills and lake. Nature lovers find this picturesque location their abode for the variety of activities they do here to stay close to nature such as exotic bird watching, nature walk, boating and much more. Unlike its more popular cousin Nainital, Bhimtal is more peaceful and less crowded which makes it more striking to nature lovers looking for an escape. There are these little tals around Bhimtal easily discoverable on foot, each with a story to tell.
Do not forget to pay visit to the Butterfly Research Centre, the fourth largest reference collection centre in India for butterfly and moth. It is believed that in Bhimtal alone, around 240 species of butterflies is found of the total 1300 species present in India. Also, what adds value to a place is the charming stays and the hospitable staff, giving you the best of services and local guidance during the stay.
If you are looking for a relatively less crowded and unspoilt hill station then, Lansdowne is the place to be at. The road journey from Delhi to Lansdowne is about 7 to 8 hours with well-connected roads, so for a relaxing weekend escape, it is one of the pleasing hill stations to be at. A perfect escape from city life, Landsdowne is an easy option to rejuvenate your soul.
One of the tourist attractions here is, The War Memorial, at the Parade Ground of the Garhwal Rifles Center, for which you will need permission from the military authority. With a short walk you could get a panoramic view of the Garhwal Hills with the backdrop of magnificent Himalayan Range., During monsoons, this hill station witnesses devotees of Lord Shiva from all over paying visit to its most famous temple, Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple.
Get lost in nature amidst mountains and dense forest of tall oak and deodar trees and explore the serenity of this peaceful hill station. Unlike many other active hill stations of Uttarakhand, Dhanaulti is peaceful and untouched which is why travelers dwell to this place for solitude during weekends. For the adventurous kind, there is a lot Dhanaulti has to offer, such as hiking in the lush green forests of Dhanaulti is the perfect thing to start your day with. Rappelling, Burma bride, horse riding and various other adventurous activities can be enjoyed in the Eco Park. The hot & delicious Maggi and tea served right at the entrance of the park will calm your hunger pangs and relish the taste buds in the mountains. Dhanaulti has less of luxury accommodation options, so camping under the open sky with stars twinkling right above makes the trip an everlasting experience. Tents can be availed on rent as well.
Rejuvenate yourself completely in this calm and beautiful hill station, Landour. Almost 5kms, away from the crowded bazars of Mussoorie, it is a more serene place to be at. Prefer a walk between the bazars of Mussoorie and Landour and enjoy the tranquility of life. As you move towards the Laal Tibba Hill, which is the highest point in Mussoorie, hold your breath because from here you experience the most charismatic sunrise and sunset.
Landour’s Chaar Dukan area is quite pretty and a popular spot, where tourists often stop-by for lip-smacking sandwiches, ginger lemon honey tea, Maggi, juices and more at Anil’s Café. Landour happens to be the hometown of Ruskin Bond, so you might get a glimpse of him. It is one of the first places in India where Peanut Butter was made commercially so do not forget to carry some fresh homemade peanut butter back to your homes.
Sarika Tiger reserve has held its fort for tourists over past many decades. The population of tigers might have been in question once in a while, but the place is the nearest getaway for wildlife enthusiasts from Delhi. Here, you will find a variety of wild animals such as jackals, leopards, jungle cats, wild boars, deer among many other not so wild species such as sambhar, spotted deer, lots and lots of peacocks. Some of the rarest species of birds migrate here, so for bird lovers this place has to be in their bucket list.
Though whenever one hears about Sariska, it is The Sariska National Park they think about but it has many hidden gems as well that are worth exploring such as the magnificent Sariska Palace, which was once the home of Maharajas of Alwar. The ruins of Bhangar fort, which is believed to be haunted is the most explored places when people visit Sariska. There are endless haunted stories of Bhangarh that catches people’s interest.
Please note that Sariska Tiger reserve is open for the public every day from October till May from 6 am till 3:30 pm.