Sail down the Sunderbans, West Bengal

Photo credit: MN Gaurav/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]
Photo credit: MN Gaurav/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]

November to February is the best time to explore the Sunderbans – the largest mangrove forest in the world, and the only one that is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. Located in the Ganges delta, the region is riddled with waterways, home to endangered Irrawady and Gangetic river dolphins. Saltwater crocodiles lurk amidst the mudflats and swampy estuaries, and the thick swathes of forest thrum with wild boar, spotted deer, monkeys and more than 200 species of bird life. Navigate the primeval landscape by boat – if you’re most lucky, you might glimpse the reclusive Bengal tiger.

Attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in Shillong, Meghalaya

Photo credit: Wedding Sutra/Facebook
Photo credit: Wedding Sutra/Facebook

India holds its very own sakura festival in November when Shillong’s cherry trees burst into bloom. Meghalaya’s picturesque capital is even prettier with its avenues draped in pink and white cherry blossoms. This year, from November 8 to November 11, travellers can experience the magical season with guided walks, live music, local food and wine, regional crafts, and nightly strolls amidst illuminated cherry trees. Attend events around Ward’s Lake, Tara Ghar, Polo Ground, and JN Stadium. Don’t miss the unplugged western music sessions and the rock concert on the last day.

Celebrate Ganga Mahotsav and Dev Diwali at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Photo credit: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP
Photo credit: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP

Thousands of earthen diyas floating down the Ganga make for a magical sight from Varanasi’s ghats. On the full moon night two weeks after Diwali, Varanasi celebrates Dev Diwali, when the gods are believed to descend for a dip in the river. The day marks the end of Ganga Mahotsav – a festival celebrating arts and culture with classical music and dance performances along the river. The ghats come alive as thousands of devotees gather to bathe in the river, watch cultural performances, light lamps, and witness the captivating Ganga aarti every evening. From November 1 to November 3.

Cultural explorations at Bundi Utsav, Rajasthan

Photo credit: Friends of Rajasthan/Facebook
Photo credit: Friends of Rajasthan/Facebook

The sepia-toned town of Bundi comes alive from November 6 to 8 at the annual Bundi Utsav. Expect Rajasthani folk music and dances, local arts and crafts at the fair, processions, and sporting competitions. On the sidelines of the festival, explore Bundi’s many storied spots: the intricate carvings and statues of the 17th century stepwell, Raniji ki baori; the dominant feature of the skyline – the 14th century Taragarh fort; the 84-pillared cenotaph; and the crumbling Bundi Palace. Stop by at the town’s lakes, including Jait Sagar and Nawal Sagar.

Watch cinema in the hills at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

Image credit: Dharamshala International Film Festival/Facebook
Image credit: Dharamshala International Film Festival/Facebook

Independent cinema in the lap of the Himalayas is as good a reason as any to make your way to Dharamshala this month. In its sixth edition, the four-day Dharamshala International Film Festival presents Indian and international movies in English, Japanese, Assamese, Nepali and a host of other languages. Visitors have a chance to interact with directors at Q&A sessions. Directors attending this year include Konkona Sen Sharma, Rima Das and Yoshinori Sato, among others.

Admire art at the India Art Festival, Delhi

Photo credit: India Art Festival/Facebook
Photo credit: India Art Festival/Facebook

Now in its seventh year, the India Art Festival is a platform connecting eminent Indian artists, galleries, collectors and enthusiasts. The festival makes art accessible to even the casual enthusiast or the curious onlooker. With free entry and a massive display of paintings, installations, sculptures, ceramics, photography and digital art at the Thyagaraj Stadium, the event is a great way for students, upcoming artists, and the public to engage with different creative mediums. Expect exhibits by more than 400 artists and 50 galleries. From November 23 to November 26.

Yoga and music at a festival in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Photo credit: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP
Photo credit: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP

Occupying a prominent position on the world yoga map, the mountain town on the banks of the Ganga brings together yoga teachers and practitioners from around the world at the International Yoga and Music Festival. Attend free classes and sessions on Ayurveda, or Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar and other forms of yoga, conducted by renowned yogis. Evenings are for live music – Indian classical, kirtans and experimental tunes by global musicians. The festival is conducted by the Nada Yoga School from November 1 to November 7 every year.

Experience the tea planter’s life at Wild Mahseer, Assam

Photo credit: TourBuddy.lk/Facebook
Photo credit: TourBuddy.lk/Facebook

Live out the lifestyle of British-era tea planters at the Addabarie Tea Estate, located on the fringes of Tezpur. Colonial-style bungalows with blazing fireplaces, high roofs and rustic wooden furniture dot the expansive property. Spend days sampling fresh, estate-grown brews, taking walks through the tea bushes, or cycling through the nearby villages. Indulgent meals include both Indian and Anglo-Indian specials – hearty meat stews, pies, local Joha rice and freshly grown spinach. Spend evenings by the fireplace with a book from the library, or lay back on your cottage’s front lawn, savouring the clear view of the stars.

Spot migratory birds at Chilika Lake, Odisha

The flamingos have arrived at Odisha’s Chilika Lake. November to March is the best season to visit this expansive saltwater lake, when nearly 200 species of migratory birds descend to its mudflats and islands. Navigate the lake by boat, as informed guides point out the many species of avifauna. Nalabana Island has bird-watching towers, while Mangalajodi village offers a good opportunity to spot herons, egrets, pelicans and storks. Train your eyes on the brackish water to spot Irrawady dolphins. The greatest draw, however, remains the pink flamingo, which migrates here in winter.

Drive through western Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang Gate. Photo credit: Dhrubazaan/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]
Tawang Gate. Photo credit: Dhrubazaan/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]

A road trip in November offers a chance to experience the varied landscapes and cultures of western Arunachal. Days are crisp and clear, offering unfettered views of mountain vistas. In the higher reaches, snow covers the barren landscape. At Bomdila, visit the Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Ling gompa, where the monks’ gravelly chanting is a must-see affair. Drive through the picturesque Monpa settlement of Dirang, scattered with kiwi orchards and ancient gompas, and make your way to Tawang – India’s final frontier and home to the country’s largest monastery.