March signals the start of high season in national parks, and booking a safari in places like Ranthambore can be hard. Beat the crowds and plan ahead for a weekend of spotting tigers, leopards, and striped hyenas—all well camouflaged by the park’s thick forests and golden grasslands. While a tiger sighting is thrilling, the beauty of the forest, with its fiery flame of the forest trees and ancient banyans, is no less enjoyable. More here.
Uttar Pradesh’s week-long Holi celebrations begin in Barsana (pictured here), believed to be the birthplace of Krishna’s wife, Radha. Photo: iStock.com/Prabuddharay
For an over-the-top Holi, plan a visit to Mathura and Vrindavan. The temple towns and surrounding villages have a strong association with Krishna, and celebrate the festival for almost a week. Temples shower sweets on devotees, and lay out large trays of dry colour for visitors to throw on each other. Lassi and thandai vendors dress as Krishna and Radha to add to the carnival-like atmosphere. Instagram quotient: off the charts.
When: Thur March 9–Mon March 13, 2017.
Dotted with old idols, pots big and small, and tanks of lotuses, the courtyard at Ahilya Fort is a great place to curl up with a book. Photo: Panoramic Images/Panoramic Images/Getty Images
For a quiet heritage escape, spend a weekend at the lovely Ahilya Fort hotel in Maheshwar. Set along the banks of the Narmada, this fort-turned-hotel was once the home of the much-loved Maratha queen, Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled this area in the 18th-century. Gnarled neem and tamarind trees stand sentry in the courtyard; black-and-white photographs of the Holkar family line the walls of the courtyard, along with artefacts from their collections. Explore the fort or walk around Maheshwar: there’s a small museum outside the hotel dedicated to Ahilya’s life, and a local NGO centre where famous Maheshwari saris are woven. Don’t forget to feel time slow down on a gentle boat ride on the Narmada. More here.
Buddhist chortens and shrines are often found in the middle of the trail and trekkers must walk past respectfully keeping them on their right. Photo: Rishad Saam Mehta
Rhododendrons bloom alternately, bright red one year and white the next. Rarely, the whole lot blooms together transforming the canopy into a chequered masterpiece. Photo: Rishad Saam Mehta
Spring transforms Sikkim’s Barsey Sanctuary into a riot of colour, as the rhododendron trees come into bloom in shades of pink, white, and red. Take a five-day hike in the butterfly-shaped sanctuary, through grassy trails, rocky mountains, and forests. The paths are carpeted with flowers from the overhanging rhododendron trees. Snow-clad Himalayan peaks, including Kanchenjunga, watch over visitors. More here.
When: Until April 2017.
Bhakti Kutir’s stripped-down aesthetic and laid-back atmosphere makes for a relaxed holiday. Photos courtesy Bhakti Kutir
For a holiday that’s all about you, check into Bhakti Kutir in south Goa. The tranquil resort is located on a hillock 200m above Palolem beach. Its 22 cabanas are made from locally sourced rice straw and bamboo and scattered over a two-acre coconut grove—an ideal setting for unwinding from the bustle of city life. Bhakti Kutir has an Ayurvedic and naturopathy clinic that offers massages. Days begin with hatha yoga classes, and end with cocktails and bountiful meals at the cafe. The restaurant serves healthy vegetarian and vegan options, but also serves fish. More here.
When: Yoga class until April 2017.
Tranquilitea’s farm stay makes for a cosy pit stop while driving through the Nilgiris. Photo: Sandeep Subramani
Escape the summer heat by retreating to the hills. Tranquilitea’s top-notch farm stay comes with splendid views of the Nilgiris and cosy nooks that are perfect for curling up in with a fat novel and a fine cup of chai. The emphasis here is on exclusivity: The bungalow hosts only one family at a time, and each bedroom opens out onto its own garden. The property, situated about 22km/55min from Ooty, is great for unwinding over a long weekend, or as a pit stop if you’re road-tripping through south India. More here.
Earth’s oceans are home to a dazzling array of marine life, from tiny sea horses to whales the size of double-decker buses. Get up close to them with a scuba lesson. Photo: iStock.com/VitalyEdush
For a deeper ocean experience, get a scuba diving certification this summer. Havelock is the ideal place to get acquainted with the underwater world, with its warm, clear waters, good visibility, colourful fish, and funky-looking corals. Beginner lessons include introductions to the breathing apparatus, first-aid responses, and a little theory. If scuba diving seems too intense, snorkel in the aquamarine waters, or just float on your back and stare at the blemish-free sky above. For those who prefer dry land, there are postcard-perfect beaches where you can nap, lulled by the sound of waves. More here.
An atmosphere of revelry prevails as the devout flock to see the procession of Lord Perumal during the annual celebration of Masi Magam. Photo: IP-Black/Indiapicture
The quiet colonial settlement of Pondicherry comes alive during the Masi Magam, an annual festival of spiritual cleansing. The Tamil Quarter is a riot of colour and sound, at the centre which is Lord Perumal, the deity of the Ranganatha Perumal Temple, who is carried to the sea for a ritual bath. Devotees often also take a dip in the sea to cleanse their sins. The accompanying parade includes naadai and nadaswaram players, with their drum and pipes. Hawkers sell stickers of Tamil gods, both celestial and celluloid. Women with gajras in their hair fry up fresh vadais, providing sustenance to the thronging masses. More here.
When: Sat March 11, 2017.
The International Yoga Festival, now in its 28th edition, draws practitioners from across the world. Photo courtesy International Yoga Festival.
The annual International Yoga Festival brings yoga students, teachers, and enthusiasts from around the world to the banks of the Ganga in search of inner peace and physical fitness. From 4 a.m. to 9.30 p.m., participants imbibe all things yoga at the Parmarth Niketan complex in Rishikesh, exploring forms from ashtanga to Iyengar and beyond. There are also talks, chanting, and meditation sessions. Passes are available online—day passes begin from $75/₹5,096 and festival tickets for Indians cost $265/₹18,006 inclusive of meals, classes, lectures and performances. Participants can also explore Rishikesh and nearby Haridwar, and enjoy local rituals like the daily Ganga aarti on the river at dusk. More here.
When: Wed March 1–Tue March 7, 2017.
Amateur birder Ramana Athreya, who works as a radio astrophysicist, discovered the Bugun liocichla. He chose to name the bird after the Bugun community that lives in Eaglenest. Photo: Bhanu Singh
March is the last month for birders to catch a glimpse of migratory birds before they head back to their homelands, which is why Arunachal Pradesh’s Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-visit this month. The remote sanctuary houses around 500 bird species including Ward’s trogon, red-headed trogon, red-faced liocichla, slender-billed scimitar babbler. Eaglenest was such a well-kept secret that it only drew attention as a birding hotspot in May 2006, when a new bird species, Bugun liocichla, was discovered here. Also look out for red pandas scurrying along the branches of conifer trees and Himalayan bears lumbering through the forest. A motorable road runs through the sanctuary and comfortable tented accommodations are available along the route.
Surfing isn’t an easy hobby to pursue, but it can be very rewarding. Once you find your feet, riding a wave is an exhilarating experience. Photo: The Shaka Surf Club/Facebook
Swimming in the ocean is so passé. Why not try riding the waves instead? India’s vast coastline affords ideal surfing conditions somewhere or the other pretty much throughout the year, and there are many surf schools along both coasts for beginners. March is a good time for newbies to visit one of Karnataka’s many surfing outfits, such as the Mantra Surf Ashram or the Shaka Surf Club. Most schools provide guests with a rash vest and a surf board and can often help with accommodation too. While picking your school, make sure to speak to the staff and ensure that the trainers have all done a lifeguarding course. More here.
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