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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It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.