Road trip into the Spiti Valley

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Stark and rugged, the Spiti Valley is home to cliff-top monasteries and remote villages set within its craggy peaks. Only accessible by road, the otherworldly region opens up to visitors for a few summer months when the snow melts and high-altitude passes are cleared. Though the old Hindustan-Tibet Road from Shimla and Kinnaur remains accessible for much of the year, the route from Manali, via Rohtang and Kunzum Passes, opens only for a short while, usually towards mid-June. Check the road conditions and set out on a road trip, watching the lush forests of Himachal gradually give way to the lunar landscape of Spiti. Visit the centuries-old Dhankar and Ki monasteries, the towns of Tabo and Kaza, and the sleepy settlements of Kibber and Komic.

Rath Yatra at Puri, Odisha

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Head to Puri on June 25 as the coastal city erupts in a festival of epic proportions during the annual Rath Yatra. The procession starts at the 11th century Jagannath Temple, as idols of the trinity – Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra – are wheeled out on grand chariots. Built like temples and brightly adorned with green, black, red and yellow drapes, featuring Odisha’s typical appliqué work chandua, the chariots, or raths, are pulled through the street by thousands of devotees amidst a crush of humanity, drumming and music. The idols are taken to the Gundicha Temple, where they stay for around nine days before being taken back to their home.

Watch fireflies light up the forest in Maharashtra

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Just before the monsoon, in early June, parts of Maharashtra come alive with the light of millions of fireflies gathered. As the bioluminescent insects flit and dance to attract potential mates, the forests and low-lying hills light up in gold. Nighttime treks and camping trips are a great way to introduce this wonder of nature to children during their summer break. The magical phenomenon can be seen in places like Purushwadi and Prabalmachi, where you can camp out under the stars or stay in a village home. Travel with a responsible outfit like Grassroutes, which organises The Festival of a Million Fireflies starting June 3.

Attend the Sao Joao Festival in Goa

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Time your summer holiday in Goa to coincide with the Feast of St John the Baptist on June 24 to catch a glimpse of the local culture. The Catholic festival is celebrated with much gusto in areas such as Siolim, where local men jump into overflowing wells and water bodies to retrieve bottles of feni and other such “gifts”. The day begins with prayers for a good monsoon, followed by free-flowing feni, weaving wearing of flower crowns, and generally a carnival atmosphere. Travel to North Goa to watch elaborate floats, brightly painted boats, and witness local customs.

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Karnataka

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The nesting season for birds at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary begins in June, making it the ideal time to visit the protected area on the Cauvery River. Boats are the best way to go bird spotting and get up close to the crocodiles sunbathing on the rocks. Meander slowly along the river, past lush islands of bamboo, eucalyptus, and jamun trees, and keep your eyes trained on the foliage to spot cleverly camouflaged chicks and nests. As there isn’t much walking involved, Ranganathittu is a perfect place to introduce younger children to birding, as the boatman points out pelicans, egrets, storks, white ibis, cormorants, herons, and many other species of avifauna roosting safely on the islets.

Surf along the East Coast Road in Tamil Nadu

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Take a road trip along the scenic East Coast Road from Chennai to Puducherry via Mahabalipuram, with pit stops at the crop of surf schools en route. From June to August, the east coast of India offers good surfing conditions with medium-sized waves that are easy to learn on. Surfing outfits rent out equipment and offer both single lessons and longer courses, so you can try your hand at the sport before committing to it long-term. When conditions are good, surfing is safe for kids as well.

Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand

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Track elephants and panthers in Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park before it closes for the rainy season in mid-June, only to reopen in mid-November. With wide grasslands, forests of shisham and sal, riverbeds and valleys, the diverse landscape is home to a variety of animal and bird life, including spotted deer, the black bear, sambar, nilgai, civets, and a large population of pachyderms. Situated in the same forest belt as Corbett National Park, there is a chance of spotting the big cat as well, especially during this season when animals come out in the heat in search of water.

Paragliding at Bir-Billing in Himachal Pradesh

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It’s the last few days of clear skies and good weather before the monsoon hits the Kangra Valley in July. Set in the lap of the Dhauladhar Mountains, the Tibetan settlement of Bir is among India’s best paragliding spots, offering tandem flights that require no prior training. Make the most of the season and head to the jumping off point – a meadow at Billing just above Bir – from where you will soar over monasteries, lush valleys, and forested slopes for a good 20 to 30 minutes before landing at Bir. It is the last chance to indulge in this adrenalin-pumping activity before flights resume after the monsoon in October.

Explore Hyderabad’s Old City during Ramadan

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The holy month of Ramzan begins in the last week of May and extends through June. Use this chance to explore the Islamic architecture and atmospheric local markets of Hyderabad’s Old City: the slender minarets of the Charminar, pearls and silver shops at Laad Bazaar, the ornate Chowmahalla Palace. The undisputed highlight of the month is the evening iftar, when streets come alive with feasting hordes. Sample the famed Hyderabadi haleem – a delicacy of meat, lentils and wheat, slow-cooked to a creamy paste. Essential tries on a Ramzan food trail include rich biryanis and kebabs, khubani ka meetha, peach murabba, and phirni.

Turuk Kothi Homestay in Sikkim

Photo credit: Turuk Kothi Heritage Home/Facebook

Explore both Kalimpong and Gangtok from Turuk Kothi, the ancestral home of the Pradhan family, close to Melli in South Sikkim. Stay in individual cottages set within a lush estate at the 19th century heritage home, and feast on organic, home-style food grown in the kitchen garden. Specialties include the bamboo shoot and fiery dalley chilli pickle. Visit the Lepcha Museum and Thongsa Gompa in nearby Kalimpong, and work in a visit to Sikkim’s Temi Tea Estate, also in the vicinity.