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Natural beauty abounds in the state of Uttaranchal's Lake District. Boaters flock to hill-ringed Naini Lake, which according to mythology is one of the emerald eyes of Shiva's wife. A hike or horseback ride to the top of Naina Peak (aka China Peak), the highest point, provides stunning views of the snow-capped Himalayas. To share a prime vantage point with family members of all ages, take the aerial lift up to Snow View; there's also a small marble temple at the top dedicated to Dev Mundi.
The holy city of Rishikesh, in the base of the Himalayas, holds deep cultural and spiritual significance for local Hindus. Sacred rivers and mountains set the scene for yoga and reflective hikes, and rafting here is an absolute must. The Beatles got in touch with their Eastern spiritual side here, writing several songs during a 1968 stint at a local ashram.
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.
East meets West in this sun-soaked state, where Indian culture intertwines with Portuguese influences left over from a 500-year occupation. The beaches have long served as a magnet for serene hedonists. To the north, the tourist-centric scene is prevalent, with an international flair that is now skewing more hip than hippie. Travel south for stretches of unspoiled sand and an escape from large resorts. Temples, mosques and wildlife sanctuaries provide diversions from the beach.
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.
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.
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.
Want to make your co-workers insanely jealous? Just casually drop "I’m holiday making in the Maldives this year" into conversation, preferably in the dead of winter. Or better yet, go there without mentioning it to anyone—then send them a "Wish you were here!" postcard.