Exploring the historically-rich monuments, pilgrimage sites, captivating sandy beaches and misty hill stations of India on your own has a certain charm. It lets you travel without compromising with the whims of other travellers. You can do what you want, when you want it, and take the time to discover yourself and the wonders of the country. The rising temperature makes for the perfect excuse to plan a spontaneous solo adventure to a destination of your choice. But where do you go to? Here is a look at some of the best summer holiday destinations in India that you can travel to explore and experience on your own.
Hanuman Tibba, Manali
Manali has long attracted solo travellers to its busy streets. The popular hill station is surrounded by towering Himalayan Mountains and dense pine forests, with the roar of the river always audible above the cacophony. From German bakeries to Tibetan monasteries and hot springs, you can find a lot of things to see and experience in Manali. Besides, this town is the perfect spot from where you can explore Spiti and other nearby places. Manali is also close to spots like Solang Valley where you can participate in adventure sports. While you may not be able to ski down snowy slopes, you can still go para-gliding or rent a bike to ride along the slopes of Rohtang Pass. Irrespective of what season it is, though, Manali offers beautiful scenic vistas of the mountains and forests, and the perfect setting for soul-searching.
Sela Pass, Tawang
The mountain town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is as close as you can get to the mythical paradise of Shangri-La, at least in India. Home to the legendary Tawang monastery, the hill station lies around 10,000 feet above sea level and requires a special permit to visit. But despite the trouble it may take, a visit to this historic and breathtaking town is well worth it. The 400-year-old monastery is, of course, the highlight here. It is among the oldest and biggest ones in India, and is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Tawang lies besides China-occupied Tibet and was once part of the country. The monastery was established by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1680-81, seemingly after the site was chosen by his horse. In fact, Tawang is said to be mean “Chosen by the horse”. The sparsely-populated hill station is not a famous tourist spot, but that makes it all the more suitable for a quiet and quaint summer holiday destination.
The desert city of Leh is a Tibetan Buddhist stronghold in Jammu and Kashmir and has recently become a popular spot for travellers because of its heritage and scenic if barren, landscape. The majestic Leh Palace is a reminder of the city’s imperial past. Leh was once the capital of the Ladakh kingdom, and the palace was built like the Potala Palace in Lhasa as the residence for the Himalayan kingdom’s royal family. The town also has several Buddhist monasteries and spots worth visiting, like the Sanskar Gompa and Shanti Stupa. In fact, it is called Little Tibet. The barren, brown mountains around the city are adorned by colourful prayer flags and small settlements. Despite seeing growing tourists every season, Leh remains a beautiful destination to visit and explore, especially on your own.
Nainital is the emerald gem of Himachal Pradesh’s Kumaon region. Spread around the scenic Naini Lake, Nainital is an extremely popular summer destination in India because of its pleasantly cool climate and natural beauty, with fresh cool winds blowing through the valley during the summers. The clear weather in the summer season also gives you a clearer view of the Himalayas from Nainital. The view is especially spectacular from China Peak, the highest peak in the mountain range where Nainital is located. The peak is situated at an altitude of 2,611 metres, and is said to have been the spot where the Hindu god Shiva performed his Tandav. Nainital Zoo is another famous tourist spot, as is the Eco Cave Garden and Raj Bhavan gardens. Although preferred by families, solo travellers can also enjoy Nainital and its more commercial delights.
Far from the cool air of the Himalayas, Goa is a great beach destination throughout the year, including the summers. The afternoon heat may be a little too much to handle, but you can otherwise hop on a rented bike and travel around the lanes of Goa in the mornings and hop bars in the evening. Goa has its own charm in the summers, and taking a dip in the waters of the Arabian Sea is one of the few ways to beat the blazing heat of the summer sun. You can forget about the rising mercury by plunging into some exotic drinks and grooving to trance music and parties. For adventurers, there is water-skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling and windsurfing on offer. You can also opt to relax on the white sands and soak in the sun or unwind with a full body massage at a nearby spa. There is so much to do here for the solo traveler.
Rishikesh, Photograph courtesy: Darcey Wunker/Creative Commons
Lying on the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand and at the holy confluence of the rivers Chandrabhaga and Ganga, Rishikesh is rather popular as a Hindu pilgrimage site. From here, you can visit the Chota Char Dham sites of Badrinath, Gangotri Yamunotri and Kedarnath. As such, Rishikesh makes for a great summer destination for the spiritual traveler. Here, you can spend your time meditating and finding peace for your soul. In fact, you will several meditation camps conducted in this place that is often called the “Yoga Capital of the World”. The city is also popular among adventure junkies, with white-water rafting along the holy Ganga River being a major draw. Other big activities here include bungee jumping, cliff diving, trekking, kayaking, rock climbing and more.
Home to a massive Tibetan diaspora, including the spiritual leader Dalai Lama himself, Dharamsala is a world unto itself and a popular destination for solo travelers. The place is split into two, with Upper Dharamsala also known as Mcleodganj. Located in the western end of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamsala has the largest Tibetan monastery outside of the Tibetan region, and its rich Buddhist culture is a huge draw. Travelers can immerse themselves in the monasteries or glimpse into the history of the culture by visiting the museums. Trekkers can find their own solace through the various trails nearby, including Triund and Billing. The latter is also a popular paragliding spot that takes you flying across the Himalayan mountains. You can also trek up to the high-altitude freshwater lake of Kaereri.
The deep, scenic Parvati Valley runs eastwards from the confluence of the rivers Beas and Parvati, all the way up to the sacred Mantalai Lake, lying at an altitude of 4,100 metres above sea level. It stretches from Bhuntar and all the way up to Spiti, crossing through the pilgrimage site of Manikaran. All along the way, you will find fascinating places to see and trails to climb, like the Pin Parvati pass and Pandu Pul rock formation. A trek up the Kheerganga forests is one of the most popular activities here, as is a visit to the Pin Valley National Park. The town of Kasol in this valley is considerably famous for its Israeli cuisine and culture and is even called Mini Israel. The banks of the Parvati River make for the perfect place to camp out for nights, and the white waters of the river are ideal for rafting.
Although Pondicherry is at its hottest in these months, it makes for a great getaway from the hustle of cities. The crowds are less at this time of the year, and the quiet streets of Pondicherry have a different atmosphere. You can relax by the beaches or take a walk down the French alleys and lanes of this place that seems so much different from the rest of India. The fascinating little town is India’s own small piece of France and is home to the spiritual sites Auroville and Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Both places are worth a visit for the spiritual traveller looking for a bit of enlightenment, but Pondicherry is also famous for its beautiful beaches. From here, you can take a dip in the Indian Ocean and enjoy the sunrise and set down the horizon. You can also enjoy kayaking, swimming and canoeing activities here, or just hog on the authentic homemade French-Tamil cuisine here.
Darjeeling, the “Queen of the Hills”, is the quintessential summer holiday destination. During the summers, the clouds that surround this major town roll back to reveal the majesty of the Himalayan peaks around it. This is, in fact, the perfect time to get a glimpse of the massive Kanchenjunga peak. Apart from the view to kill for, Darjeeling offers sprawling tea gardens that produce its world-famous tea, along with lakes and trekking trails and viewpoints to explore. You can sit back and relax at its hill resorts or explore the city and the places around it to take in the spectacular sights of the Himalayas.