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Sprawling tea plantations surround the serene hills of Munnar, which attract adventure travellers hungry for paragliding, treks to Anaimudi (South India's highest peak) and hikes originating at the confluence of three mountain streams. The stone Christ Church, built by the British in 1910, is adorned with renowned works of stained glass, and Eravikulam National Park, about 10 miles away, is home to equally colourful wildlife, including the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (ibex), ruddy mongoose and 120 bird species.
The misty hills, lush teakwood and sandalwood forests, and acres of tea and coffee plantations of Kodagu are, in a word, stunning. Also known as Coorg and dubbed "The Scotland of India," Kodagu is a postcard-perfect region of scattered villages and hamlets, which are the epitome of old-world charm. Kodagu is ideal for outdoor activities such as trekking, angling and white-water rafting, and major festivals like Keil Poldu (worship of weapons), Cauvery Shankaramana (return of the river goddess) and the Huttari (harvest) festival are a huge draw.
Known as both the "Garden City" and "The Silicon Valley of India," Bangalore (officially "Bengaluru") is a techie’s paradise, boasting the highest concentration of IT companies in the country. When you’re done geeking out, there are plenty of gardens, museums, natural features, palaces and temples to fill your dance card. Visit Vidhana Soudha, Cubbon Park and the Ulsoor Lake of Bangalore, well known for its beautiful locales and boating facilities. Bangalore is also a major centre of Indian classical music and dance, and of vivid, cutting-edge nightlife.
Lonavala is one of the twin hill stations located near to each other, the other being Khandala. These hill stations are very popular getaway spots for people from Mumbai and Pune, which are very well-linked with Lonavala by road and rail. Monsoons are the best time to visit Lonavala/Khandala.
Blossoming bougainvilleas, crumbling cathedrals on leafy boulevards and 18th-century colonial buildings colour the former French colony of Pondy, which sits on the Bay of Bengal. But it's also unmistakably Indian, with colourful festivals throughout the year, several mosques and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Quiet beaches stretch north and south from town, good for swimming and sunrise strolls. Pondy is a popular weekend getaway destination from Chennai and is easy to navigate on foot or by bicycle.
Just 45 minutes out of the city, the East Coast Road first stops at the historic town of Mahabalipuram. The 7th century erstwhile port city is famous for its rock-cut shore temples. A lone lighthouse on a hill watches over a group of temples below. Mahabalipuram also has some great cafes that serve good sea food. A backpacker’s delight, one can find cheap accommodations and plenty of activities.
Want a taste of being royal? Eat in Hyderabad, where culinary traditions have been passed down from the Nizam monarchy. Arabic, Turkish and Mughlai influences are easily recognisable. The city is famous for its rich, aromatic biryani made with lamb, chicken or vegetables and served with fragrant basmati rice. Satisfy your sweet tooth with double-ka-meetha, a bread pudding.
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