Go on a walking safari in Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

A female blackbuck in Satpura National Park. Photo credit: Lovleet/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0]
A female blackbuck in Satpura National Park. Photo credit: Lovleet/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0]

As summer creeps in in March, wildlife parks hit high season. Sightings on safari are more frequent as animals begin to venture out of the tree cover in search of water. Bordered by the Denwa River, Satpura is among Madhya Pradesh’s most unique wildlife reserves, offering canoe safaris and walking safaris in addition to jeep forays into the park. Spend the days in lush sal and mahua forests, spotting sloth bears, wild dogs, and a host of smaller species, along with the big cat.

Celebrate Holi in Vrindavan and Mathura

Holi in Mathura. Photo credit: Ahmad Masood/Reuters
Holi in Mathura. Photo credit: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

Celebrate a Holi like no other in Vrindavan and Mathura, where the festival is a long drawn out, week-long affair. Believed to be the birthplace of Krishna, both towns celebrate with great fervour and draw hordes to witness the riot of colour. Temples in Vrindavan shower colour and water on devotees. In Mathura, a grand procession with colour and flowers rolls through town the day before Holi. On the day of the festival, the Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura transforms into a ground of celebration as colour-smeared hordes descend on the premises. (March 2)

Yoga by the Ganga at the International Yoga Festival, Rishikesh

Participants perform yoga exercises during the international Yoga festival at the Parmarth Niketam Ashram in Rishikesh. Photo credit: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP
Participants perform yoga exercises during the international Yoga festival at the Parmarth Niketam Ashram in Rishikesh. Photo credit: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP

Every year, yoga experts and enthusiasts from around the world congregate along the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh for a week of yoga. With its clutch of ashrams and yoga centres in serene surroundings, Rishikesh has firmly imprinted itself on the world yoga map. The peaceful Parmarth Niketan Ashram, set against forested mountains along the river, transforms into a venue for daily yoga classes, lectures on lifestyle and healing, and evening cultural performances. Spend the days practicing hatha and vinyasa yoga with experts, and experience the glorious Ganga arati in the evenings. (March 1-7)

Spot rare birds at the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh

A Whiskered Yuhina at Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0]
A Whiskered Yuhina at Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0]

With over 500 species of avifauna, the little-known sanctuary in the remote mountains of Arunachal Pradesh is on every avid birder’s bucket list. March is an ideal time to venture into the lush forest, before migratory birds begin to fly home and just before the rains set in. Rise in a tented campsite to an orchestra of birdcalls. Train your eyes on the branches as local guides point out several rare bird species, such as black eagles, warblers, fantails, and the major draw – the Bugun liocichla.

Witness the grandeur of the Hola Mohalla in Punjab

A Nihang Sikh plays Gatka or a pre-war exercise, while participating in
A Nihang Sikh plays Gatka or a pre-war exercise, while participating in "Hola-Mohalla" a Sigh festival in Anandpur Sahib. Photo credit: Reuters

A grand display of Sikh valour and weaponry takes place in the holy city of Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of Hola Mohalla. Celebrated to mark the establishment of the Khalsa Panth, the three-day festival draws throngs of devotees. Witness the Nihang – a Sikh warrior sect – perform heroic feats. Dressed in their traditional garb with elaborate, large blue turbans and carrying swords, they ride horses bareback, ride astride two horses while standing, and perform mock-battle with sticks. Partake in community langar, join the kirtan, watch the elaborate displays, and experience a grand festival with a community vibe.

Visit the rat temple in Bikaner

Photo credit: Reetu Rajesh/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]
Photo credit: Reetu Rajesh/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]

Bikaner’s famous Karni Mata temple, better known as the rat temple, draws devotees and visitors through the year, but Navratri (from March 18-26) is a special time of worship when food is offered to the goddess. The grand marble temple is overrun with thousands of venerated rats, called kabbas. Club your visit with a tour of Bikaner’s old city – a warren of narrow alleys, crumbling havelis, brick and sandstone facades, and street food stalls. The 16th century Junagarh Fort, with its embellished interiors and in-house museum, remains Bikaner’s major draw.

Experience a Harvest Festival in Mizoram

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

Chapchar Kut, Mizoram’s harvest festival in early March, is celebrated with colourful displays of local music, dance, and food. Fly into Aizawl to experience the state’s unique culture and festivities. Chapchar Kut is named for the bamboo that is cut and cleared so fields can be sown once again. Bamboo features prominently in the festivities, used as an instrument in music and a prop in dances. Dressed in traditional costumes with elaborate headgear, women perform the ‘bamboo dance’ called cheraw. Watch several tribal dance performances, accompanied by traditional drumming and music, browse traditional handicrafts ,and sample local food at the vibrant festival. (March 2)

Hit the beach in Varkala, Kerala

Photo credit: Dominique Faget/AFP
Photo credit: Dominique Faget/AFP

Before the summer really kicks in, squeeze in a beach getaway on Kerala’s tropical coast. Varkala offers a stunning blend of palm-fringed rocky shores, red cliffs, and the blue waters of the Arabian Sea. Spend days on the uninterrupted stretch of sand at Papanasam Beach, set against a towering cliff. In the evenings, settle into a beach shack to watch the sun lower into the ocean. Quieter Odayam Beach, a short walk away, is best for its palm-lined paths and secluded beach coves.

Discover the ruins of Hampi by cycle

Photo credit: Joel Godwin/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]
Photo credit: Joel Godwin/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0]

Explore the centuries-old capital of the Vijayanagar Kingdom on the banks of the Tungabhadra before summer truly sets in. Hampi is a sepia-toned city of 500-year-old architectural marvels, stubby banana plantations, and precariously perched boulders. Stone ruins are scattered through the town, and it’s well worth it to rent a cycle to cover as much ground as possible. The best-known monuments – the Virupaksha Temple, the Queens Bath, the Vitthala Temple – have put Hampi on the UNESCO World Heritage List. With intricate stone work, carved pillars and podiums, even the lesser-frequented ruins on the town’s fringes are worthy of hours’ exploration.

Learn to make cheese on a farm in Coonoor

Photo credit: Fairy Glen Coonoor/Facebook
Photo credit: Fairy Glen Coonoor/Facebook

Retreat to a family-run farmstay in the Nilgiris to learn the art of cheese-making. Stay in colonial-style cottages (named after cheeses) with valley views, listening to bird song and the sounds of nature. On a two-day course, learn the basics of making soft and hard cheeses. Choose from gouda, cheddar, haloumi, and other varieties. Dine on organic food, explore the 22-acre lush farm, and keep an eye out for the local wildlife, such as bison, that frequently wander the area.