Travel Desk

Planning to escape Delhi’s noxious air during Diwali? Here are six pollution-free places to go to

These destinations are the perfect antidote to Delhi’s smog-choked streets.

Last Diwali, the air quality in the national capital deteriorated to alarming, hazardous levels. In the days that followed the festival, Delhi woke to blankets of smog and gloomy news reports of toxic pollution and of being among the cities with the worst air in the world. Rising pollution had far-reaching effects on city life: visibility on the streets was hampered, schools were closed down, construction work was halted, and residents’ health was affected. Unable to bear the torment, many residents escaped the city for greener, cleaner climes.

It is unclear if this Diwali, Delhi will witness a repeat of the depressing past. The Supreme Court has suspended the sale of firecrackers during the festival, calling them as a major contributor of pollution in the capital. “Let’s try out at least one Diwali without firecrackers,” one judge said.

But if you’re still considering leaving the city, and avoid obvious health complications from the noxious pollution, here are six places you can escape to.

Explore the mansions of Churu and Ramgarh, Rajasthan

Malji ka Kamra

A four-hour train ride away from Delhi, Churu is a sleepy, 400-year-old Rajasthani town on the fringes of the desert. Spend a few days at Malji ka Kamra – a flamboyant mint green, century-old haveli, now restored as a hotel – exploring Shekhawati’s intricately frescoed havelis. Churu is dotted with the remains of once-grand structures. Some, such as the twin havelies of the Surana brothers, date back to 1871 and still boast paintings and intricately carved doorways. Drive to neighbouring Ramgarh, with over 300 havelis and a cluster of cenotaphs with patterned roofs. Sample hot kachoris on the street, and at night, lie back on the open-air terrace of your hotel, looking up at a clear sky of stars, unobstructed by city smog.

Experience farm life at Punjabiyat, Punjab

Photo credit: Punjabiyat/via Facebook
Photo credit: Punjabiyat/via Facebook

Set in the lush farmlands of Punjab, Punjabiyat is a farm stay that offers a much-needed reprieve for city slickers. An hour away from Amritsar, four rustic, comfortable cottages with mud-plastered walls look out onto the wheat fields of a working farm in the Saidowal-Gunopur village. Take long walks through the fields, cycle through the village, ride the tractor and let the children try their hand at various farm activities. Days can be as active or laid back as you choose. Take excursions to the gurdwara or Amristsar, or just lounge with cups of ginger tea on the porch. Like everywhere in Punjab, meals of creamy lassi, stuffed parathas, veggies and kebabs are hearty, with the added bonus of being farm-fresh.

Hike trails beyond McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh

Cloudy Triund, above Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-2.0
Cloudy Triund, above Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-2.0

Dharamshala and McLeodganj remain popular getaways from Delhi for their monasteries, cafés and curio shop-lined streets. Beyond the main market stretches, trails cut through the forested mountains to quieter enclaves. Trek through pine forests to the nearby village of Dharmkot, where the many cafes offer a good hot beverage before further walks to bucolic meadows and small waterfalls. The Tushita Centre offers courses on Buddhism as well as drop-in guided meditation sessions. Half an hour from McLeodganj, explore traditional Tibetan arts and the doll museum at the Norbulingka Institute. Sometimes skilled artists are at work here creating thangka paintings.

Take in the colonial charms of Landour, Uttarakhand

Char Dukan in Landour, Uttarakhand. Photo credit: Vishal Poswal/via Facebook
Char Dukan in Landour, Uttarakhand. Photo credit: Vishal Poswal/via Facebook

A quiet cantonment town just five kilometres away from the tourist traps of Mussoorie, but with cafes serving pancakes and plenty of outdoor trails to keep children engaged, Landour is the perfect antidote to Delhi’s smog-choked streets. In a throwback to the Raj era, colonial bungalows and churches define the town’s narrow streets. Take long walks through trails of deodar and pine, trek to the popular view point Lal Tibba, and visit St. Paul’s Church. When hunger strikes, head to Char Dukan, where a clutch of cafes serve pancakes and ginger lemon honey tea. With its cheery façade adorned with Tibetan motifs, Doma’s Inn is hard to miss, and offers a comfortable stay in cozy wood-lined rooms. Make the steep climb to Sisters Bazaar – a little market selling a handful of yak hair products and local produce such as apricot and gooseberry jams and preserves.

Try a Himalayan homestay at Jilling Terraces, Uttarakhand

View from The Kumaon in the Nanda Devi range. Photo credit: The Kumaon/via Facebook
View from The Kumaon in the Nanda Devi range. Photo credit: The Kumaon/via Facebook

Getting to this 80-year-old cottage in Kumaon involves a steep two-kilometre trek from Matial village that winds along mountain paths, through forests of oak and rhododendron. What lies at the end is well worth the labour: a rustic home shielded within acres of forest, expansive views of layered Himalayan peaks, including the Nanda Devi – India’s second highest peak. Rooms, like Kafal and Buransh, are named for berries and flowers found in the region. Spend days hiking through the wilderness with views of the South Gola range, dine on locally-sourced produce, and keep an eye out for the local variety of bird and animal life. In the evenings, retire by the fireplace with a book and, in a welcome respite from city noises, enjoy the sounds of the wilderness.

Relish the mountain vistas and art at Naggar, Himachal Pradesh

The Naggar Castle, Manali. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons  CC-BY-SA-4.0
The Naggar Castle, Manali. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0

While Manali is likely to be overrun during the holidays, nearby Naggar, where the Beas flows in the shadow of Himalayan peaks, offers plenty of quietude. Russian artist Nicholas Roerich immortalised the mountainscape in his paintings, and made these peaks his home from 1928 until his death in 1947. Set high above the village, reached through forests of pine, the Roerich Estate is the family’s preserved double-storey home. Browse through Nicholas and his son Svetoslav’s paintings displayed in a little gallery, and visit the memorial within the estate. Wander the grounds, taking in the Himalayan views and bracing mountain air. Naggar lends itself to lazy days spent by the riverside and on meandering walks. Explore the 15th century Naggar castle, built in typical pahari style with stone and wood, when the town was the capital of the Kullu Valley.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.


To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

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