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/
Credit: Sankatmochan-Sangeet-Samaroh/

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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