Colonial explorations at Fontainhas, Goa

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While summer vacations in Goa are a perennial favourite, a May afternoon might be too hot to spend at the beach. Take a detour to Fontainhas in Panjim, Goa’s Latin Quarter, where an old-world charm still lingers in the distinctly Portuguese architecture. Tiled roofs and bursts of bougainvillea drape over the pop-coloured facades of heritage homes, some converted into homestays and hotels. The narrow cobbled streets reveal unique finds around every turn: ochre-toned, century old villas; eclectic pieces at the Gitanjali Art Gallery; and tucked away restaurants such as Viva Panjim, for hearty, home-style Goan meals.

Annual Pooram celebrations in Thrissur, Kerala

Credit: Rajesh Kakkanatt/Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated

Among the largest and most vibrant of Kerala’s many temple festivals, the annual Thrissur Pooram stands out for its sheer extravagance. The festivities – a heady mix of colours, sights, and sounds – take place in the grounds of the Vadukkunnathan Temple in the town centre. Throngs of people descend to watch this age-old tradition, established in the late 18th Century by the Maharaja of Cochin. Grand processions of bedecked elephants, decorated with gold caparisons, parade down the stretch against a soundtrack of frenzied drumming and music. Don’t miss the kudamattom ceremony – a fast-changing display of colourful parasols. (Thrissur Pooram is on May 9)

Drive through Meghalaya in the monsoon

Wake up to the pound of rain on tin-roofed homes and watch clouds float beneath your feet on a road trip through Meghalaya. Home to two of the wettest places on earth – Mawsynram and Cherrapunjee – a monsoon visit to the state has its own charm, as mighty waterfalls such as the Nohkalikai, are in full spate. Though showers are intermittent, the monsoon generally arrives in full fury closer to June, leaving you with enough time to explore the outdoors. Visit Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest village. Explore the phenomenal, gnarled living root bridges around Cherrapunjee. And wander the markets and cafes of Shillong.

Mount Abu summer festival

Summer may be scorching in Rajasthan, but in Mount Abu, on the slopes of the Aravallis, moderate temperatures and a cultural festival make it a good time for a visit. The Mount Abu Summer Festival kicks off on May 9. Two days of festivities follow, with folk music, traditional Gair and Ghoomar dances, various competitions, and a boat race on Nakki Lake. Evenings resound with the strains of qawwali music under the full moon at the Sham-e-Qawwali event. Explore the white marble Dilwara Jain temples that dot the region, and work in a visit to the wildlife sanctuary, which is home to sloth bears, civets, and porcupines.

Trail tigers at Kanha National Park

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Head into Jungle Book territory, into the thick sal and mahua forests of Madhya Pradesh’s Kanha National Park, riddled with rivers and low-lying hills. Chital and Barasingha roam the wide open grasslands. In the thickets, watch for flashes of silver-backed langurs and gaur, wild boar and blackbucks. The branches rustle with orioles, paradise flycatchers, and hornbills. The region’s biggest draw, however, is the big cat. Elusive as the tiger is, the heat of the season forces them out in search of water, and chances of sightings are higher. Go now before the park shuts for the monsoon.

Learn pottery at Andretta, Himachal Pradesh

Credit:Abhishek Joshi/Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0

Tucked into the shadow of the Dhauladhars, Andretta is a quiet Himalayan village with a rich history in the arts, located just 30 minutes from Palampur. In this idyllic setting of forested slopes, dandelion-studded meadows, and traditional mud and slate-roofed homes, a local pottery school, Andretta Pottery, runs three-month residential courses, attracting pottery students from around the world. Try your hand at the potter’s wheel at a walk-in session, and visit the adjoining store to stock up on some beautiful blue-glazed earthenware. Irish theatre artist Norah Richards put Andretta on the culture map in the 1930s, and since then, it has drawn artists, potters, sculptors, and theatre professionals.

Experience the Pahadi way of life at Due North in Saur

Away from the bustle of Uttarakhand’s overcrowded hill stations, a responsible tourism initiative in the off-the-radar village of Saur is the ideal quiet getaway. Stay in a restored, traditional pahadi home – built with mud, pine wood, and stone – set within the terraced fields and pine forests of the Tehri region. At Due North, the charm lies in a slower pace of life, farm fresh food, and plenty of outdoor time. Trek to nearby waterfalls, picnic by a cold stream, sip endless cups of tea with a view of expansive green valleys, and at night, feast your tired eyes on a million stars.

Traverse the Nilgiris in a toy train

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Pack the family into the quaint Nilgiri Mountain Railway and head to Tamil Nadu’s summer-favourite getaways – Coonoor and Ooty. Lazily chugging along steep inclines, across bridges and tunnels, the century-old railway is among India’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Look out through the windows to see the lush tea plantations, jungle-clad hills, and the rocky gorges of the Nilgiri Mountains. Time your visit to coincide with the Ooty Summer Festival, when summer blooms are on display at the Botanical Gardens’ Flower Show.

Go Deeper Underground at the Kanger Valley National Park, Chhattisgarh

Explore the Kanger Valley National Park, deep within Bastar, the tribal heartland of Chhattisgarh. Thick forests of sal and teak give way to limestone rock, perforated with long and unexplored cave systems. At over 300 metres long, the Kutsumar cave is the longest. Descend into a series of dark passages peppered with stalactite and stalagmite formations. An indoor cave pool is home to a rare breed of blind fish, now sadly dwindling in number. In the park, watch out for more than 100 species of avifauna, including the rare orange-beaked Bastar Hill myna. The best time to visit is before June, when the monsoon is likely to hit.

Trek through the Singalila in full bloom

Rhododendron arboreum at Singalila National Park. Credit: Sudeep Dino/Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0

The rhododendron forests of the Singalila range burst into bloom between April and May, and the time is ripe for a moderate trek when the region is at its loveliest. A popular route starts from Maneybhanjang near Darjeeling, West Bengal, and winds past magnolia and orchid-lined trails, many times brushing the Indo-Nepal border. The highlights are the views from the 3,636-metre high Sandakphu peak, and crossing through the thriving Singalila National Park, home to many species of bird and animal life, including the red panda.