KODAIKANAL, Tamil Nadu
Perched at an altitude of 2,133 metres, Kodaikanal is known as the ‘Princess of Hill Stations’. It is one of the most popular summer destinations in South India and a favourite of families. Visit the Berijam Lake (requires a permit from the forest department) for its calm blue waters and forested shores. For activities like boating and fishing, head to Kodaikanal Lake, a star-shaped waterbody constructed in 1863. The Pine Forest and Pillar Rocks—a set of three 122-metre-high rocks looming over the surroundings—make for great photo ops.
Located around 134 km away, Madurai Airport is the closest airport to Kodaikanal. Daily flights from Chennai, Bangalore, Trichy, and Mumbai arrive here.
The Carlton offers comfortable rooms with a breathtaking view of the Kodaikanal Lake (starts from ₹10,250/USD141; carlton-kodaikanal.com).
KHAJJIAR, Himachal Pradesh
Known as ‘Mini Switzerland’, Khajjiar beckons with grassy meadows spread out as far as the eye can see, thick forests of deodar and pine, and clear blue skies. Its location in the foothills of the Dhauladhar range in the Western Himalayas offers opportunities for activities such as paragliding, horse riding, zorbing, and trekking. The tranquil Khajjiar Lake, surrounded by cedar trees, is perfect for a family outing. Don’t forget to visit the 12th-century Khajji Nag Temple, which is a fascinating blend of Hindu and Mughal architecture, and as its name suggests, dedicated to snakes.
Fly from Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi to Kangra Airport in Gaggal. From there, Khajjiar is a four-hour drive.
Located in nearby Dalhousie, JK Clarks Exotica offers luxurious rooms with balconies looking out to the snowy mountains of the Saach Pass (starts from ₹6,249/USD86; clarksinn.in).
SWARAJ DWEEP, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Pristine white beaches, swaying palm trees, and sparkling blue water—the Andamans are a dream come true for beach bums. Swaraj Dweep (previously called Havelock Island) is popular for its gorgeous beaches—Radhanagar Beach is counted among the best beaches in Asia, and Elephant Beach is a favoured spot for adventure sports. You can simply take in the view while relaxing on the shores, or explore the stunning coral reefs and aquatic life of the archipelago by scuba diving or snorkelling.
The closest international airport is in the capital city of Port Blair. From there, both government ferries and helicopters ply to Swaraj Dweep. The fastest way to reach is to take a private catamaran.
Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Andamans offers 54 villas on stilts under coconut and palm trees. The resort also offers forest treks and a variety of activities for kids (starts from ₹28,450/USD392; tajhotels.com).
The dense forests, meandering rivers, and waterfalls of Mahabaleshwar offer refuge from the heat. That’s why it was once a summer getaway for the British and remains a popular weekend destination for locals of Mumbai and Pune. Mahabaleshwar’s rugged terrain and stunning vistas appeal to visitors of all ages, making it a favoured family holiday spot. Visit Mapro Garden (mapro-garden.business. site) to sample ice cream made from the region’s famous strawberries, explore the 17th-century Pratapgad Fort and the 16th-century Mahabaleshwar Temple, or spend a day at Velocity Entertainmentz (velocityentertainmentz.com), a 10-acre amusement park. Elphinstone Point offers a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area, and you can catch the sunset from a boat on the Venna Lake.
Fly to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai. Mahabaleshwar is a six-hour drive from there.
Located close to the popular attractions, Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa is the perfect base to explore the hill station (starts from ₹16,200/ USD222; marriott.com).
PACHMARHI, Madhya Pradesh
Also known as ‘Satpura ki Rani’ (Queen of Satpura), Pachmarhi is located in the Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh. It is the only hill station and the highest point in the state, and is known for its majestic waterfalls: Rajat Prapat, Bee, Apsara, Duchess. The hill station gets its name from the five (pach) ancient caves (marhi) in the region that are said to have housed the Pandavas of Mahabharata during their exile. The Pachmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary is listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and it adjoins the Satpura National Park (satpura-national-park.com), a prime location to spot Royal Bengal tigers, leopards, and birds. The hill station also houses remnants of the British era: Christ Church, an ode to 19th-century European architecture, is built entirely out of sandstone. Trek up to Dhoopgarh, the highest point in the Satpura range, to catch a beautiful sunrise.
The closest airport is the Raja Bhoj International Airport in Bhopal, 208 km away, and it is connected to major Indian cities. From Bhopal, Pachmarhi is around five hours by road.
The Summer House offers a choice of 29 well-appointed rooms (starts from ₹5,000/USD69; amhotelkollection.com).
Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dotted with the remnants of structures that date back to the 14th-century Vijayanagara Empire. Admire the ruins of opulent palaces, temples, and massive fortifications, where the architecture is a combination of several South Indian styles, such as Deccani, Chalukya, Hoysala, and Dravida. Most of the prominent ruins are located in two areas—the Royal Centre has palaces, baths, pavillions, stables, and temples for ceremonial use, while the Sacred Centre is set along the banks of the Tungabhadra River and encompasses the Virupaksha Temple and Hampi Bazaar area. A solo trip to this awe-inspiring region is incomplete without trying your hands at bouldering; Hanumanahalli is one of the popular climbing spots.
Fly to Kempegowda International airport in Bengaluru. From there, take a flight to Bellary Airport, 60 km away from Hampi.
Soak in royal luxury at Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, built to emulate Vijayanagari grandeur (starts from ₹25,000/USD343; evolveback.com).
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