Witness the colourful Athachamayam in Kerala
Folk dances, decorated elephants and earth-shaking music mark the beginning of the ten-day festival of Onam on August 25. Athachamayam is the first day of Onam, when a grand procession marches to the Thripunithura Fort, near Kochi. The pomp of the state is on full display as floats, parasols, musicians, and costumed dancers throng the streets. Join thousands of locals and visitors who gather to watch the visual spectacle, which include some of Kerala’s most celebrated art forms, such as the elaborate Theyyam and Pulikkali.
Join a parade at the Bonderam Festival in Goa
The beaches may be out of bounds but vibrant festivals mark the monsoon in Goa. The Bonderam festival is one such, when the little-known Divar Island on the River Mandovi comes alive with colourful floats, flags, a brass band, and a fancy dress competition marching through the town. During the Portuguese era, flags were used to mark different clans’ territories and were often torn down amidst clashes or protest, and the festival aims to recreate this tradition. Festivities continue through the day, with much dancing and costumed merriment. Bonderam is held on the fourth Saturday of August.
Surf, music and yoga at the Covelong Point Festival in Tamil Nadu
Three days of surfing, live music and yoga on the beach transform the quiet fishing village of Kovalam near Chennai every year. Catch the fifth edition of the surf and music festival from August 25 to 27, hosted by the Covelong Point Surf School (the competition draws surfers from around the world) or sign up for yoga and meditation session on the beach. Every evening, you can wind down with live music performances – Kovalam has hosted indie musicians, including the Raghu Dixit Project.
Apple-picking at Meena Bagh in Himachal Pradesh
Himachal’s apple harvest season is in full swing by mid-August. There’s no better time to book a room at the newly minted, eco-conscious resort, Meena Bagh in Ratnari, 85 kilometres from the hustle of Shimla. Situated in the middle of an apple orchard, Meena Bagh is modelled on a traditional Himachali home, with mud-and-stone walls, wooden floors, rustic furniture upcycled from waste wood and plenty of lounging spaces overlooking mountain vistas. Amble among the fruit trees, go apple-picking (under supervision), and trek to the nearby deodar forests.
Monsoon at the Udaipur Monsoon Palace in Rajasthan
A breathtaking green oasis in arid Rajasthan, Udaipur is particularly charming in the monsoon when its lakes are full. Beyond the usual tourist trail lies the 19th century Monsoon Palace, Sajjan Garh. Drive through the forest-draped hillside of the Sajjan Garh Wildlife Sanctuary to access the hilltop palace, where stunning 360-degree views of Udaipur await. Maharana Sajjan Singh built the palace high above town as a place to retreat to in the monsoon and watch the rains in all their fury. Now, you too can watch dark clouds breaking ominously over the low-lying Aravallis, Fatehsagar Lake, and the plains of the city.
Trek to Stok Kangri in Ladakh
At over 6000 metres, Stok Kangri is the highest peak in Ladakh’s Stok mountain range. The challenging 11-day trek in the remote Himalayan region is best attempted between mid-August and September when the snow melts. Explore the monasteries, markets and acclimatise in Leh, before embarking on one of the many trails to the base camp. Wind through slow-paced villages, high altitude mountain passes, glacial lakes, and stunning mountain vistas, with the stars illuminating the night. The gruelling climb to the top of the peak reveals sweeping views of the Zanskar and Karakoram ranges – well worth the effort.
Birding at Malshej Ghat in Maharashtra
As the monsoon breathes new life into the Western Ghats, head to Malshej Ghat, with lush forested valleys and full waterfalls. Birders will especially enjoy early morning treks, when a wide variety of avian life is visible. Doves, bulbuls, quails and barbets are common sights but the real draw is the pink flamingo. Explore the marshy waters of the nearby Pimpalgaon Joga Dam, which draw the pink-legged visitors from Europe for around a month in the monsoon.
Explore the mangroves at Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary in Odisha
Trail the elusive saltwater crocodile in the marshy mangrove wetlands of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. Riddled with rivers and mudflats, the biodiversity hotspot is home to water monitor lizards, the King Cobra, the Indian Python, sambar, and wild boar, but it’s the immense population of the estuarine crocodile that is the greatest tourist attraction. Meandering through the water channels by boat, spot cleverly concealed reptiles and look into the branches for a variety of avifauna, including hornbills, black ibis, white-bellied sea eagles and kingfishers. The national park within the sanctuary reopens in August, after the crocodile-breeding season.
Time-travel to medieval Orchha in Madhya Pradesh
Palaces, chattris and the forgotten relics of the Bundela dynasty lend a rather wistful air to the sepia-toned city on the banks of the Betwa River. Begin your explorations at the trinity of medieval palaces that define the town – The Raj Mahal, Jehangir Mahal, and Sheesh Mahal (which is now a hotel). The palaces stand clustered together, grand sandstone edifices with arches, domes, and latticed windows dating back to the 17th century. Watch the sun set by the Betwa as the row of 14 cenotaphs turn golden in the disappearing light. August is the best time to visit, when rains provide mild respite to the parched landscape.
Visit India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City, Ahmedabad
The prestigious Heritage City tag is as good a reason as any to explore the historic city on the banks of the Sabarmati River. Ahmedabad’s 600-year old history is best reflected in the old walled city – a warren of crumbling havelis, densely packed bazaars, tombs, mosques, temples, and a blend of varying architectural styles. Explore the area around the Lal Darwaza, beginning at the 15th century Bhadra Fort, towards the intricately inscribed Teen Darwaza, the iconic Jama Masjid, and the Hathi Singh Jain temple, carved from white marble.