It is that time of the year when the rain gods smile upon us, blessing the country with the monsoon. And while traveling in the monsoon is challenging to say the least, it is not something to be missed. The cool weather replaces the repressive heat of the summer, tempting nearly everyone to go outdoors and feel the breeze caress the face and tangle itself in the hair. The plant and trees get their sustenance after many cloudless months, and turn even greener and brighter in gratitude. Everything becomes wet, yes, but everything also becomes beautiful. And who would want to miss out on the chance to explore India. The country has several places that are spectacular in the monsoon; but let’s look at the more offbeat monsoon destinations in India.

Binsar, Uttarakhand

Binsar in Uttarakhand

Binsar in Uttarakhand

Binsar in Uttarakhand is beautiful in the monsoon. Located at the top of the Jhandi Dhar hills in Kumaon, Binsar is home to one of the less frequented wildlife sanctuaries of the region. During the monsoon, the clouds fly low, gliding through the valley and covering the pine-laden paths with fog and mist. The setting is perfect for trekking through the forested mountain passes of this region, and it almost feels like you are walking through clouds. Binsar offers incredible views of major Himalayan peaks in India, including Kedarnath, Panchachuli, Nanda Devi and Chaukamba. Zero Point is where you get the best views of the Himalayas through the clouds, and the dense forests are also perfect for going on treks, nature walks and camping.

Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh

Ziro

Ziro

Located in Lower Subansiri, Arunachal Pradesh, Ziro Valley is one of the oldest towns here and also one of the least known and frequented. The monsoon rains add a new dimension to this valley town, even though it can get quite humid in the season. The old town is home to the Apatani, a tribal community that has its own culture and traditions that is fascinating to explore. The pine hills nearby also have trekking trails to walk through and rice fields along which you can go for walks. The rains are mild and not enough to spoil your plans. However, you do require an inner line permit to enter Arunachal Pradesh and Ziro. The pine grove that lies around 3 km away from the town is a great picnic spot, and Talley Valley wildlife sanctuary offers safari opportunities just around 4 km from the town center.

Chail, Himachal Pradesh

Chail Palace

i Chail Palace

Once the capital of the kingdom of Patiala, Chail today is a picturesque hill station that offers quietude and a respite from the crowd of Shimla, which lies just around 55 km away. Chail is particularly enticing as a monsoon retreat, when the tourist crowd thins even further and leaves you closer to nature. You can spend days here rejuvenating and relaxing, watching the clouds float by and through the mountains around you. Chail is skipped by many because they expect heavy rainfall in the region, but it actually receives a relatively small amount. You can see the lights of Kasauli, Solan and Shimla from here, and enjoy the mild yet pleasant monsoon weather here.

Lonar, Maharashtra

Lonar Lake

Lonar Lake

A national geo-heritage monument, Lonar is the only lake in the country that was created by a meteor strike. The meteor struck the earth approximately 52,000 years ago, and the result was a unique saline soda lake that has been studied extensively by scientists. Lonar lies in the Aurangabad district, which is also famous for its expansive Buddhist and other religious cave complexes. If you have the time, the Ajanta and Ellora caves are also well worth exploring in the monsoon. As for Lonar, you can go trekking through the hills and the forest that surround the lake or explore the temples nearby, especially the Daitya Sudan temple with its carvings similar to the famous Khajuraho temple complex. ALSO READ: How to reach Lonar Crater Lake

Ranikhet, Uttarakhand

Ranikhet in Uttarakhand

Ranikhet is a beautiful hill station and valley in Uttarakhand worth visiting any time of the year, but it is infused with new life in the monsoon. The mountains and forests of Ranikhet turn even greener than before, even though you would likely miss out on the activities that are available here during the winter and summer months. For those who prefer to just bask the beauty of the Himalayas rather than taking part in adventure activities, Ranikhet in the monsoon is an ideal destination. Sprawling green meadows, tall pine trees, warm people, a cool climate and tranquil settings; you get it all here. And given that it is home to the brave Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army, things are also quite organized and clean in this hill station. To top it all, the beautiful Valley of Flowers lies nearby; do not miss the chance to explore its beauty.

Dudhsagar Falls, Goa

Dudhsagar Falls

Dudhsagar Falls

It is hard to say no to a Goa trip any time of the year. You would want to escape to its pristine beaches in the blistering summers, cool winters and even the wet monsoon. But beaches are not all that Goa has to offer. Come monsoon, and you can find a lot more places to see and explore in Goa, particularly Dudhsagar Falls in Molem. A part of the Mandovi River, the four-tier waterfall is at its most majestic in the monsoon months, roaring through the hills and and resembling a sea of milk, which is how it gets its name. The tall waterfalls surrounded by the lush green forests add up to make the ideal setting for a trek, and there are two trails that you can take to the bottom of the falls. One starts from Kulem and the other follows the railway track.

Panshet, Maharashtra

Boat ride at Panshet Lake

Boat ride at Panshet Lake

Panshet lies near Khadakwasla, home of the National Defense Academy, and around 40 km from the cultural capital of Maharashtra, Pune. As such, it makes for a great weekend getaway choice for Puneites and even Mumbaikars. Located beside Ambi River, Panshet is home to the picturesque Panshet Dam and the lake that is made of the backwater from the dam. Surrounded by the Sahyadri mountains, Panshet offers plenty of peace and quiet and respite from the busy streets and hustle and bustle of Pune and Mumbai. Monsoons add another level of charm to this destination, carpeting it in greenery and cool winds. With nothing but a handful of quaint villages and forests around you, this is a great getaway for rest and relaxation for a couple of days.

Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

Mawlynnong

Mawlynnong

Located in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, around 100 km from the capital city of Shillong, Mawlynnong is most famous for being the cleanest village in Asia. That is an achievement you would best appreciate by visiting the little village. Covered in clean, grass-lined paths and proper walkways, this is a place that would put even India’s modern cities to shame. Add to that the magic of the monsoon, and it just gets even prettier. This is one of the most beautiful villages in the country, with gardens in every thatched hut home and bamboo baskets to collect the waste. The entire operation is driven by goodwill, which is another thing that is just so rare these days in India. And then there are the famous Living Root bridges, incredible creations made from twisting the roots of the giant rubber trees that dot the hills.

Orchha, Madhya Pradesh

Orchha

Orchha

Orchha is part of a typically dry Malwa plateau, but every monsoon the barren brown landscape turns into a hundred different shades of green, filling it with life. The Betwa River nearby begins to flow in full force, and the landscape turns romantic, with lush greenery, rolling grasslands and tranquility. You can spend your time just enjoying the sounds of the forests, but there are also plenty of forts, monuments and places to visit here, still standing as a reminder of the rich history of the region. Even the temples and monuments get a fresh coat of beauty thanks to the rains. If you want to see just how the monsoon can transform the landscape of a region, visit Orchha.

Pushkar, Rajasthan

Hills around Pushkar in the Monsoon, Photograph Courtesy: 4ocima/Creative Commons

Hills around Pushkar in the Monsoon, Photograph Courtesy: 4ocima/Creative Commons

Known mainly for its namesake fair and for being one of the five sacred Dhams in Hinduism, Pushkar in Ajmer, Rajasthan offers more than just that. During the monsoons, the barren hills that surround the town turn bright green, and the temperature drops to make Pushkar a beautiful destination for a quick escape. You get to see a different side of Rajasthan here, separate from the desert, the palaces, forts and royalty. With a holy lake at its center, Pushkar is home to one of the few temples dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma, who is said to have created the town by dropping a lotus down from heaven. Here, you can explore the hundreds of temples and bathing ghats, listen to the sounds of peacocks and prayers, and take a camel to the large bazaar where you can shop to your heart’s delight. NOW READ: Monsoon holidays 2017: Best monsoon holiday places in India for family vacations

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