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The kings of the Wodeyar dynasty set the bar high for the southern cultural capital of Mysore. Ornate palaces and the Gothic St. Philomena's Church with its 175-foot spires pack a visual punch; local institutions keep Carnatic classical music and dance in the public eye. A prominent 11th-century temple sits atop 1,000 steps on the city's outskirts. Dress to the nines and party like a rock star in celebration of Mysore heritage during the lively Dussehra festival, held for 10 days in October/November.
Deep in the foothills of the Western Ghats, Chikmagalur draws in-the-know travellers in search of a green getaway. Located close to the region’s hilltop temples, coffee plantations, and national parks, the district capital's biggest surprise is that it's retained its off-the-beaten-path ambience.
Popularly referred to as Ooty, this gem among southern hill resorts is covered in eucalyptus and pine trees and coffee and tea plantations. On a clear day, it's possible to see as far as the Mysore plateau from Dodabetta Peak, the district's most prominent viewpoint. The Stone House, a landmark 1822 bungalow, and St. Stephen's Church are remnants of the area's first British settlement. Also noteworthy: formal botanical gardens, a children's mini-garden and a contemporary art collection.
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.
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.
Kodaikanal has an endangered animal called the grizzled giant squirrel. To us, that alone is reason to book a trip ("grizzled giant squirrel" might be the best animal name ever). Perched on the woodsy southern crest of the Palani Hills, nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, this popular lakeside resort town is a magnet for nature lovers. Wander the peaceful slopes, keeping an eye out for birds, exotic flowers and, of course, grizzled giant squirrels.
The city of Mahabaleshwar is a pinnacle of greenery, boasting one of the only evergreen forests in the world. The landscape abounds with lush hills, valleys and lookout points such as Lodwick Point, Arthur's Seat and Babington Point, all of which offer spectacular views. Trot along on horseback for a delightful four-legged tour of the gorgeous Venna Lake area, and savour juicy native strawberries, mulberries and corn.
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.
Established in the Himalaya foothills by a British Army officer in 1820, the "Queen of the Hills" stands above the rest with its deep woods, favorable climate and Doon Valley views. Its name is derived from the berry-covered Mansur shrub found in abundance around this trekker-friendly area. Vestiges of its colonial past are still reflected in the cuisine and architecture. For stunning natural sights, head to Gun Hill or Childer's Lodge, the two highest peaks, or the famous Kempty waterfall.
Darjeeling, nestled among rolling mountains, is a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Popular places to visit include Tiger Hill, Batasia Loop and the War Memorial, and the Himalayan Zoological Park and Snow Leopard Breeding Center. What should you bring home? Tea, tea, and more tea—and beautiful local handicrafts.
The capital of the state of Sikkim, Gangtok is an attractive tourist destination, reflecting a unique ambience which derives from its happy blend of tradition and modernity. Alongside the deeply felt presence of stupas and monasteries, Gangtok also bustles like any other thriving town. Some of the key places to visit include Rumtek Monastery, Do-Drul Chorten, Enchey Monastery, Tashi View Point and the local bazaar, Lal Bazaar.
In Hinduism, Manu was said to have survived a great flood that destroyed the rest of the world. He then recreated mankind in this Kullu Valley town. What a rush, huh? No wonder the towering peaks and verdant terrain of Manali attracts adventure travellers, with heli-skiing, hiking, mountaineering and river rafting the favored active pursuits. Come down from your endorphin high by breathing deeply at the four-story, wooden Hidimba Devi Temple, which sits in the middle of a nearby deciduous forest, or take a medicinal soak in the hot springs burbling from the ground a 30-minute walk from town.