With Mahashivratri coming over a long weekend in February 2017, many holiday seekers have already planned for their vacations. But, there are yet some who are still in a dilemma of jotting down an ideal place that cannot only give them a good break from work but where they can also indulge in an activity of their interest. If you are also amongst those who are sort of confused and live in NCR region, here is a list of top 10 destinations near Delhi which you can definitely consider to go holidaying.
The foremost destination which flashes through most of the holiday seeker’s and nature lover’s minds when thinking of an ideal weekend getaway from Delhi, is obviously the ‘Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary’. Located almost 200 km. from New Delhi by road, the place is home to thousands of colourful winged species, making it an ornithologist’s paradise; needless to say, countless bird watchers and wildlife photographers with a quest for an unmatched bird sighting experience are magnetized to this wonderful abode of birds throughout the year. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, without a doubt, you are bound to have an amazing time here spotting a variety of resident bird species including Indian Peafowls, Rose-Ringed Parakeets, Golden-Backed Woodpeckers, Blue-Throated Kingfishers and Indian Whistling Ducks.
Winters, especially the months of January and February make for an ideal time to visit this beautiful park when it gets teeming with sights and sounds of Palearctic migratory guests too including the Siberian Cranes, Dalmatian Pelicans, Openbill and Painted Storks, Brook’s Leaf Warblers and a variety of Ducks and Buntings. Needless to say, if you love being in company of the birds, you are surely going to have an amazing time in the sanctuary, watching the vibrant friends chirping and playing around; for a much overwhelming experience, go for a bicycle tour around the park or hire a cycle rickshaw with a trained guide who will keep you well acquainted about the birds and other resident animals of the region.
Dwarkadheesh Temple, Mathura
If some religious outing is on your minds, the coming long weekend, head to the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, just a 3 hours’ drive from New Delhi via Taj Yamuna Expressway. One of the most important pilgrimage centres for Hindus, associated with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna, needless to say, a visit here is sure to leave you with an unmatched spiritual experience. Start your pilgrim tour in Mathura by first paying reverence in the sacred ‘Krishna Janmabhoomi’ and ‘Dwarkadheesh’ Temples; later in the day, make a visit to the enigmatic ‘Kansa Qila’ where the folklore of Kansa-Vadh speaks of its intriguing saga from every nook and corner of the fort’s ruined walls. Being a prominent religious site, Mathura is dotted with number of low and mid-budget hotels where you can easily spend a comfortable night immersing your souls in the city’s divine aura.
After a good night’s sleep, wake up early in the morning and make your way to Mathura’s sister city of Vrindavan where folk legends of Krishna and his beloved Radha seem to come alive in every temple and house lined through its alleyways. And when you are here, before the sun gets any brighter (yes! sometimes the winter sun can be harsh too), straightaway head to ‘Govardhan’ to circumambulate the holy hill. Once you are done completing the circumambulation, pay your homage in the region’s most visited and revered shrine, the sacred ‘Bankey Bihari Temple’; Lord Krishna is worshipped here in the form of ‘Nand Gopal’, his childhood manifestation. An interesting legend associated with this temple says that one cannot have continuous darshans of the lord in this appearance as anyone who will see him longer will lose his consciousness; following this belief, curtains are drawn before the deity every few seconds. After the darshans, if you wish, you can go for the Vrindavan city tour, visit its beautiful gardens, take a trip to Barsana – the childhood village of Sri Radha Rani or simply head back to your homes taking some wonderful memories of Lord Krishna along.
Yet another of the most popular weekend destinations near Delhi, is by far the historical city of Agra. Located 210 km. via Taj Yamuna Expressway, the city known for its monumental beauty, the iconic ‘Taj’, truly makes for an ideal vacation spot, inviting hordes of couples and families to bask in the captivating glory of this world heritage site. Needless to say, while in Agra, ‘Taj Mahal’ definitely steals the show, providing everyone an enchanting spectacle veiled in the rosy hues of the early morning sun, especially during winters, there are many more interesting sites in the vicinity to explore, and where historians and art lovers are sure to have an experience of their lifetime; visit the magnificent ‘Agra Fort’ or head to yet another splendid city steeped in deep Mughal charm and grandeur, the famous ‘Fatehpur Sikri’. And when you get tired of all the historical explorations, take a break in one of the city’s local dhabas or restaurants and treat your taste buds with some authentic and delectable Mughlai flavours.
A trip to Agra is incomplete without indulging in a memorable shopping spree at one its vibrant local markets teeming with marble handicrafts, fine inlay carved items and rare leather stuff; do pick some as a remembrance of your trip here. Keep a separate full day in hand for city exploration; get off the beaten path, explore the old town’s narrow alleyways, visit the ancient shrines or simply walk into an era of Urdu poetry by taking a trip to ancestral home of legendary poet, Mirza Ghalib.
Needless to say, with so much sightseeing and things to do in Agra, you will not get to know when your three to four days of holidays would come to an end, again asking you to get ready for the same old routine of life.
Located at a distance of around 270 km. by road, Jaipur makes for another one of the popular places to visit near Delhi. A historic city steeped in magnificent past, opulence, bravery and valour of the Rajputana kings, a visit to Jaipur is sure to leave one with a fascinating experience, walking through its age-old monuments and stunning forts & palaces. The most famous tourist attraction of this capital of Rajasthan is its splendid ‘City Palace’. Built in 19th century, a tour through its intricately carved gates and brilliantly designed halls, surely gives one a deep insight into rich royal grandeur and splendour. ‘Hawa Mahal’ is yet another iconic site in Jaipur, the exceptional architecture of which has left even greatest of the architects and designers gasping in great awe. For those with a photographic eye, just cannot miss the captivating sight of the beautiful ‘Jal Mahal’ floating in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake with majestic Nahargarh Hills to add to the overall picturesque scenery. And needless to say, if you are one of those who love exploring forts and castles, you simply cannot forget to take a visit to the gorgeous ‘Amer Fort’. Built in 16th century, the fort is a brilliant masterpiece of Rajputana architecture and is sure to mesmerize you with its artistic charm; go around the ‘Diwaan-e-Khaas’ marvelling on its delicate mosaic work or take a trip to enticingly beautiful ‘Sheesh Mahal’ where the spell binding work of glass would completely hypnotize you. End your trip to Amer with an elephant ride which is sure to add that royal charisma to your holidays in Jaipur.
Well! that is not all to do in Jaipur; though the city is considered a history lover’s paradise, it gives a nice experience to casual holiday seekers and shopaholics too; its vibrant markets and colourful bazaars lined with shops selling Rajasthani print fabrics to local footwear and ornamental jewellery, are a real treat to stroll through. And if you are foodie, feasting over delicious Jaipuri Kachoris at ‘Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar’ makes for your birth right.
For those who want to spend their weekend holidays immersed in unprecedented royal experience, must definitely plan a trip to the Neemrana Fort Palace. A 15th century old palace converted into a heritage resort and located just few kilometres off Delhi, it provides for a nice opportunity to break free from city chores and spend few days with your kids and family, basking in the lap of luxury and nature. With more than 70 rooms dotted across the resort, you can choose the one which best suits your budget and requirements. Needless to say, each room comes with a high-class décor, exquisite interiors, antique furnishings and to top it all, an unmatched royal hospitality to provide you the best ever holiday experience.
What further adds to the charm of your stay at Neemrana Resort is its splendid natural beauty flanked by the majestic Aravallis and ornamental gardens where peacocks can occasionally be seen dancing and calling out the peahens. As you enjoy your holidays here, do indulge yourselves into hell lot of activities that include but are not limited to spa & holistic treatments, Ayurvedic massages & rejuvenation programmes and yoga & meditation therapies. For those who are more of outdoor fans, can go and enjoy rustic camel cart rides, hop onto a vintage car to drive around the Neemrana village or have a thrilling zip-lining and flying-fox experience. All in all, for those seeking a good indulgent break combined with fun, shopping, dining and adventure, all under one roof, Neemrata Fort Palace definitely makes for the best choice for them.
How about turning your holidays into an exciting wildlife excursion the upcoming weekend? If the idea sounds interesting, pack your bags and get ready for an adrenaline-pumping adventure at the Jim Corbett National Park. Located at a distance of 250 km. from New Delhi, the park makes for one of the best wildlife getaways in the region and provides for an excellent opportunity to wildlife enthusiasts spot the royal Bengal tigers amidst serene wilderness of nature. Needless to say, during your visit here, the best way to experience an unmatched tête-à-tête with these majestic cats is through an open air jeep safari; with thick forests soaked in a mystical silence all around and anticipating a sudden rendezvous with the king of the jungle any moment, in the open jeep, you are bound to feel your hearts pounding and the adrenaline rushing through the veins at immense speed. Be informed that in Corbett, the jeep safaris are organized twice daily; the morning session runs through 5.45 AM to 9.15 AM and the evening session commences from 3.00 PM till 6.15 PM. If you too wish to embark on this enthralling safari during your trip to Corbett, it is always recommended to get your seats booked well in advance. Same goes for the accommodation; while there are many hotels and resorts in the vicinity of the park, if you seek a stay right in the heart of Corbett, there are only one government run lodges- Dhikala Forest Lodge, which also tend to remain fully occupied, especially in peak season. So, make sure you check for the availability well before, to avoid any last moment hassles.
And before I end this post of mine on Corbett, I would like to throw some more light on few additional enthralling activities other than tiger spotting that one can engage into during his trip here; needless to say, the park is a paradise for bird watchers too, so, if you are amongst those with some interest in bird watching, can definitely take a walk along the tree-shaded trails to have frequent glimpses of woodpeckers, parakeets, sunbirds, kingfishers, ibis and ruby-throats playing hide and seek amidst thick bushes and leaves. And if trekking is something that puts you ON, a trek through few designated buffer areas is sure to leave you with a fascinating experience witnessing the captivating natural vistas and sights of other jungle residents including few reptiles and mammals.
Nainital Lake, Photo: https://goo.gl/Aj38MM
When planning for 3-4 days of vacation, the “not-so-far-located” hill stations make for an obvious choice. And well-fitting to this category are the beautiful hill towns of Nainital, Pangot and Dhanachuli, all nestled in the lap of Kumaon Hills in Uttarakhand. Blessed with enchanting natural splendour and an unspoilt old world charm, these little towns make for perfect hideouts for people looking for ultimate peace and solace. Needless to say, while these captivating hill resorts offer an enticing scenery dotted with greenery and luxuriant foliage all around in summers, the lush landscape takes a 360 degree turn in winters.
So, when planning a trip here in February, expect to feast your eyes with gorgeous snow-covered views of not only the Himalayan range but, also of the town’s pear-shaped beauty, the lovely Naini Lake. The best part is, being a low season you will get good resorts and hotels at quite cheaper rates. 45 km. from Nainital lies the serene and laid-back hamlet of Pangot. A popular birding spot in summers, this tranquil village converts into yet another winter paradise in months of January-February and makes for an ideal spot for the brave hearts who wish to see and experience fresh snowfall. Needless to say, you can book yourselves a cottage here and spend few days just relaxing and unwinding from the noise of cacophonic city lives. For a much splendid experience steeped in deep mysticism, you can also choose to go off the beaten path and travel to Dhanachuli after spending a day at Nainital. Located at a height of 2300 metres, this sleepy village is another winter wonderland from where the panoramas of snow-blanketed Himalayas take you in a state of trance. And if you plan to spend here a couple of days, ‘Te Aroha’ resort is the best bet.
Nek Chand Rock Garden, Photo: https://goo.gl/zd22X0
If planning a family outing the coming weekend, even the Chandigarh-Parwanoo road trip will leave you with some fun-filled lifetime memories. With highway being in pretty good condition and lined with numerous Punjabi dhabas, needless to say, you are surely going to relish your entire journey till Chandigarh; ‘Sukhdev ka Dhaba’ is the most famous eating joint enroute and where stopping the car has become like a ritual for countless foodies. Don’t be surprised to see hundreds of cars parked outside this roadside restaurant and people gorging on piping hot stuffed gobhi paranthas served with dollops of fresh white butter. A winter morning chill will convince you too to have these delectable paranthas along with a cup of hot masala tea.
Hopping and breaking in between the journey, once you reach Chandigarh, spend a day in this lovely town visiting its popular tourist attractions – the beautiful ‘Rock Garden’ and ‘Pinjore Gardens’. If time permits, enjoy a boat ride in the serene ‘Sukhna Lake’ before heading to your next destination, Parwanoo. The idyllic hill town, besides its enchanting scenic beauty, is famous for its beautiful ‘Timber Trail Resort’. Perched at an elevation of 5000 ft. above sea level, the resort is a true scenic heaven surrounded with awe-inspiring greenery and captivating sights of the Himalayas. A cable car run by this resort is its most eye-catching attraction and which provides for an amazing experience to all the tourists, navigating them through layers of clouds and mist in the air. Needless to say, an overnight stay at Timber Trail is an absolute must, especially for nature lovers and the love birds. From Parwanoo, Shimla is not too far away; if you have a day to spare in your kitty, do visit this alluring hill station that again, will not leave any stones unturned to mesmerize you with its pristine natural charm.
Jehangir Mahal, Photo: https://goo.gl/DNLQKb
If you are a passionate art lover and hold a keen interest in seeing and exploring the magnificent remains of art and architecture from the bygone times, why not take the opportunity of the upcoming long weekend to go and explore the medieval town of Orchha, which truly is a treasure trove of historic sites basking in the glory of artistic grandeur and architectural excellence gifted by the erstwhile Orchha rulers. An 8 hours’ road journey via Taj Yamuna Expressway should lead you to this historic city and when you are here, carefully plan out the itinerary that must include a visit to the 16th century ‘Orchha Fort Complex’ that further gives you a rendezvous with the splendidly beautiful ‘Jehangir Mahal’ and artistically brilliant ‘Raj Mahal’. Go around the town and pay your homage in some of its ancient temples that are no less than architectural masterpieces; the ‘Chaturbhuj Temple’ will instantly take your breath away with its heavily ornamented exteriors and ‘Ram Raja Temple’ will leave you with a matchless spiritual experience for the lifetime. And when in Orchha, you just cannot miss taking a trip to its 14 mysterious Chhatris that loom over the skyline of this ancient city.
To end your quest for the architectural exploration, head to Khajuraho, a mystical city known for its groups of temples adorning exquisite carvings of erotic figures dating back to 10th and 11th centuries; visit the ‘Kandariya Mahadeva Temple’ that stands as a testimony to brilliant artistic skills of the artisans and craftsmen in the bygone times. Ornamented with sculpted carvings of celestial nymphs and mithunas that are depicted to celebrate womanhood, these temples are sure to take you in great awe. If you are left with some time, witness the marvellous extravaganza of light and sound show that will give you a brief about the town’s glorious history.
For all the trekking enthusiasts, this holiday weekend again gives you an opportunity to set out for another challenge in the heart of lofty mountains. With so many alluring treks to choose from, the one that entices many experienced and beginner trekkers is the famous ‘Triund Trek’ hidden the lap of Dhauladhar ranges. The best part is, it can be easily covered in a short span that includes both, the travel time to/from the base camp at McLeodganj and a further hike & descent from there. Needless to say, when you are venturing on this trek in winters, be ready to face some challenges. With that being said, the entire journey would be totally worth the effort. From snowy mountains and milky white trails to dark winter skies with dazzling little stars and twinkling lights from twin cities of Dharamshala-McLeodganj; you will be treated with many such endless mesmerizing sights. Just as a point of advice, do not forget to carry stiff soled boots that can bear the walks on snow-laden pathways.
Without a second thought, weekends are a great opportunity to break free from monotonous work lives and spend some quality time with your friends and family at a nice vacation spot. This coming weekend, do plan out your holidays at one of the destinations listed above and do share your experiences with us.