Travel Desk

Top 10 holidays in April: Trek in Sikkim, watch tulips bloom in Kashmir, listen to ragas in Banaras

A list of places to go and things to do this month.

Baisakhi in Amritsar

Credit: Angad Pal Singh Kingra/Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Angad Pal Singh Kingra/Wikimedia Commons

An eternal favourite destination for the gorgeous Golden Temple and its glorious street food, Amritsar in April is extra special with the added festivities of Baisakhi. Partake in that famed Punjabi hospitality, as Punjab celebrates the festival on April 14 with much revelry and fervour. It’s a day when farmers celebrate a good harvest, the calendar heralds the beginning of the Sikh New Year, and that marks the founding of the Khalsa in 1699. Devotees pay their respects at the Golden Temple, take a dip in the holy water tank, and feast on a volunteer-prepared, communal langar. Also visit the new Partition Museum, which documents the story of over 14 million people affected by the division of India.

High-Altitude Treks in West Sikkim

Credit: Proxygeek/Flickr
Credit: Proxygeek/Flickr

Between Sikkim’s snowy winter and wild monsoon, a short summer season between April and May reveals rhododendron-laden trees, clear skies, and the best chance to spot the elusive Kanchenjunga from West Sikkim’s Khangchendzonga National Park. Vast tracts of cherry and oak provide a habitat to wildlife such as the tahr and red panda. The long road journey into this untamed high-altitude region is best now before the rains hit, and April also marks the beginning of the short summer trekking season on the popular Dzongri and Goeche-La routes through the park. Both trails take around 10 days, but shorter, easier day hikes are possible from Yuksom.

Road Trip to the Tirthan Valley

As summer rolls around in North India, the time is ripe for a road trip in Himachal Pradesh, as the snow melts away to reveal lush valleys and forest-draped peaks. In Kullu district, the roaring Tirthan River carves out the Tirthan Valley, far removed from the bustle of the state’s other popular summer getaways. Stay in traditional wooden pahari homes in quiet settlements such as Gushaini and Nagini, camp under the stars in a flower-studded meadow, and try angling in the cold streams. Gushaini sits on the fringes of the Great Himalayan National Park, where the best season for day hikes and longer trails through the UNESCO World Heritage Site has just begun.

Witness the Darjeeling Tea Harvest at Sourenee Tea Estate

For endless cups of tea and plenty of quiet time, head to Darjeeling’s Mirik Valley, where the Sournee bungalow sits within an expansive 100-year-old tea estate. Watch tea pickers as they practise their delicate art, and indulge in tea-tasting sessions, where estate-grown varieties of the famed Darjeeling Orthodox tea are on offer. The advent of the spring rains in early March denotes the beginning of the tea season in the Darjeeling hills. Experience the season of the First Flush, or the first plucking, which yields the very best of Darjeeling tea and lasts until the end of April.

Track Rhinos in Kaziranga National Park

Credit: Himanish Dutta666/Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Himanish Dutta666/Wikimedia Commons

On the southern banks of the Brahmaputra, within the tall elephant grass of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, lurks the endangered one-horned rhino, alongside an abundant population of deer, water buffalo, and the rather elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. Look up into the branches to spot pelicans and kingfishers. Jeep safaris go deep into the park, while elephant safaris offer a better chance at spotting animals hidden in the tall grass. Head into this thriving landscape before it closes for the rains, usually in May, only to reopen in November.

Go River Rafting on the Ganga

Add a little adventure to your next family holiday with a spot of river rafting on Ganga’s whitewater rapids. Stay at a tented riverside camp on the white sands of Devaprayag and Shivpuri near Rishikesh. Reserve your mornings to navigate a series of rapids and bodysurf in the shadow of forested peaks. Spend the rest of your days taking forest walks, lazing by the river with a book, and sitting by a bonfire under the stars. The rafting season lasts until early May and starts again only in late September.

Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh in Varanasi

Credit: Sankatmochan-Sangeet-Samaroh/Facebook.com
Credit: Sankatmochan-Sangeet-Samaroh/Facebook.com

Every April, Varanasi resounds with the strains of Indian classical music and dance as the five-day Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh takes place within the compound of the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple. Free to attend, the annual festival has seen some of the biggest names in the industry over the years, including Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, and L Subramaniam. Performances last all night, and the air is festive as the audience flits in and out, sharing tea and snacks. (From April 15-20)

Unwind at Aranyakam in Wayanad, Kerala

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Cradled between the Nilgiri Hills and the Nilambur Forest, Aranyakam offers a homestay experience within the lush coconut groves, coffee, tea, rubber and cardamom plantations of Wayanad. Choose to stay in the main house – a grand, wood-lined heritage Kerala home – or independent tree house huts, with sweeping valley and forest views. Meals consist of authentic, home-style Kerala cuisine. Days here are best spent taking lazy walks through the surrounding plantation and savouring the glorious absence of city sounds.

Experience the Tulip Season in Kashmir

Credit: Abdars/Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Abdars/Wikimedia Commons

April signals the start of the tourist season in Kashmir, as cool climes and spring blooms beckon. Plan a visit to coincide with the 15-day Tulip Festival, on until April 15, in Srinagar’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden – Asia’s largest tulip garden. The summer capital comes alive with colours as 20 lakh tulip bulbs, spanning 46 varieties, bloom in the garden overlooking the postcard-perfect Dal Lake. On the side, expect poetry recitals, handicraft stalls, and traditional Kashmiri cuisine.

Kasauli Rhythm and Blues Festival

Courtesy: Kasauli Rhythm and Blues Festival
Courtesy: Kasauli Rhythm and Blues Festival

Head to the hills this Easter weekend as the sixth edition of Kasauli’s annual music festival returns from April 14-16 at Baikunth Resorts. In the foothills of the Himalayas, the outdoor festival will see acts across a span of genres, including fusion-jazz, sufi, folk, indie, and Bollywood. Up-and-coming young acts such as the Kamakshi Khanna Collective are slated to play alongside Neeraj Arya’s Kabir Café, Nasya from Delhi, the Jonita Gangdhi Band, and Late Too Soon, among others. Proceeds from the festival go towards treating critically ill children with heart disorders.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.