Days of throwing colored water balloons and spraying water guns on unsuspected targets is here, knocking on your doors and leaving a trail of colours in its wake. Planning your Holi hideout already? Pack your duffel bag, throw in your adventure gear and make it an epic chillathon getaway.
We have an incredible vacation all planned out for you. Take your pick from any of the following 10 destinations from across the world:
Vietnam: Good Morning, Vietnam!
A land the world insists on understanding through the periscope of Vietnam war, possibly the most untalked of all wars, Vietnam will leave you delighted, heartbroken and enchanted with its multi-layered marvelosity. While Jim Morrison was crooning ‘the war is over..’, Vietnam has been living its changed reality with its hallmark resilience and esprit. So duck the guidebooks and be prepared for a magic carpet ride where the old world revels and seamlessly blends with doi moi and spicy noodles (pho) are as traditional and at home as french croissants.
Way to go
You could head south to north or vice versa, but preferably base yourself out of either Ho Chi Minh city or Hanoi. If you begin from Hanoi, then the way to explore is from Lao Cai to Sapa, then Bac Ha. From Hanoi catch the flight to Hue, then drive over to Hoi An and finally Ho Chi Minh city or Saigon as it has always been known.
Not to miss
- Walk around Hanoi’s old quarter and get mesmerised by Hoan Kiem lake’s pristineness with the Ngoc Son temple afloat in its center, explore Hanoi Citadel including the One-Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and Museum of ethnology and the temple of literature.
- Sapa is where you change gears and slow down to enjoy Vietnam’s verdant and wild countryside.
- Halong Bay – Vietnam’s crowning glory. Filled with karsts and threaded with beaches and incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations, Halong Bay’s surreality evokes images of lurking sea dragons and loch ness monsters, perfect for a fantastical voyage.
- Hoi An is where you can immerse yourself in Vietnam’s beach culture and get a glimpse of Vietnam’s cultural heritage from China and Japan at Old Town, listed in UNESCO World Heritage.
- War Remnants Museum, the Reunification Palace and of course, the Cu Chi tunnels are places where time comes to a standstill fighting to keep claustrophobia at bay.
Chettinad-Tiruchirappalli: Temple Run
Ever had nostalgic bouts perusing through black-white photographs, wishing you had a time machine to just once go back in time and live the old world life? Wish granted! Turn back the clock a century or two and walk down Tamil Nadu’s memory lanes in Chettinad and Tiruchirappalli where ‘history’ is as alive as the present.
Famed for its spicy, aromatic cuisine, Chettinad is a region in southern Tamil Nadu, around 109 km from Tiruchirappalli, widely known for its culinary heritage and lesser known for its equally rich architecture and cultural heritage.
A city that measures its history in millenias, Tiruchirappalli is a city suspended between past and present. You can sense the parallel universes that course through it; of centuries old temple shrines and state of the art roadways and flyovers. Tiruchirappalli has quite a few places to give you a sense of heritage.
Way to go
Fly down to Chennai and take the connecting flight to Tiruchirappalli. 2-3 days are optimal for experiencing Tiruchirappalli and then drive down to Chettinad 109 km away
Not to miss
- Rockfort, Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, Srirangam, Thiruvanaikaval, Lourdes Church are just some of the sacrosanct sites that are must visits in Tiruchirappalli or Trichy as it is called. Trichy is actually great for trekking trails and shopping, be sure to indulge in both.
- Scattered all over Chettinad are temples built by Cholas and other Tamil dynasties like Vairavan Kovil temple, Kundrakudi Murugan temple and others. Grand and majestic, every temple has its own water lily filled water tank, ooranis, that are sites for holy and temple rituals. Equally awe inspiring are the 18th century palatial mansions spread over the city.
Sri Lanka: Sisterhood of the travelling cuisines
A land that was once called ‘teardrop of India’, Sri Lanka has long drawn not only people from India but also the inevitable comparisons. While mythological threads from the epic Ramayana weave the cultural tapestries of these two countries together, yes, Sri Lanka was Ravana’s abode, Sri Lanka has as a colony of first the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and then the British and then a thirty year long civil war, today come to stand for what it was always destined to be, ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’.
Way to go
With the International Airport being 29 km away from the national capital Colombo, it would be ideal to begin at Colombo, then drive down to Unawatuna. Next up is Yala as a days or twos stop over point with Nuwara Eliya 160 km away as the final stopover from where Pinnawala can easily be accessed.
Not to miss
- Kalutara’s lagoons and churches, Hikkaduwa water sports’ center, Masks Museum at Ambalangoda and the Sea Turtles Sanctuary and Research Center at Kosgoda, all enroute to Unawatuna from Colombo.
- Unawatuna is where you can catch on Sri Lanka’s beach culture, catch sight of gigantic blue whales flipping about in water and sink your teeth in incredible seafood.
- Galle fort and Dutch Reformed Church, both Dutch inheritances, are must visit sites in Galle. Be sure to pay a visit to the Maritime Archaeological Museum at Galle.
- Yala is where Sri Lanka’s wild side is truly revealed and Yala National Park where you can head on for a thrilling jungle safari. At Yala be sure to visit the Buddhist complex where a huge statue of Buddha atop a rock fills the skyline.
- Enroute to Nuwara Eliya are the Ravana falls at Badulla. Seetha Amman temple at Eliya is where Sita was held captive by Ravana. Nuwara Eliya is where Sri Lanka’s colonial past still lingers in its English cottages, gardens and names bound to make any British stand tall with pride.
- Gregory lake is perfect for an evening of horse rides, boating and some laid back dining in at the restaurants and pastry shops lining the lake’s bylanes.
- Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and the Department of National Zoological Gardens indulge in your elephilia with the resident pachyderms of different ages and sizes.
Himachal Pradesh: Of Apples, Peaches and Country Roads
The quintessential weekend getaway of North India, welcome to Himachal Pradesh, Devbhumi, Land of the Gods. Engulfed in the folds of deodar and pine forests, speckled with apple and strawberry orchards and threaded with rivers that cascade on the other end of a hill in waterfalls, Himachal Pradesh seems to have been sung into existence out of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’; almost heaven with blue ridge mountains and yes, life is old here, older than the trees but younger than the ancient Himalayas.
Way to go
Take the offbeat route and head up to Shoghi, spend 2 days and then continue on to Chail on NH 22, which is 46 km away. Kufri is just 34 km away from Chail and perfect for a day’s trip
Not to miss
- At Shoghi trek up Paughat and Taradevi through pine and deodar forests and then hike up Shail tibba and Churdar peaks. Be sure to explore the sublimely beautiful villages of Anandpur, Goro and Mohri and experience the unique folk culture of Shoghi.
- In Chail, Chail Palace, Chail Sanctuary, Sidh Baba ka Mandir and Kali ka Tibba are few of the must visit points but Chail and Kufri like Shoghi are ideal for trekking, exploring nature trails and simply picnicking your days away.
Turkey : Quintessentially Exotica
Custodian of sacred sites held in veneration by Jews, Muslims and Christians, with a Greek and Roman heritage possibly richer than that of Greece and Italy, Turkey is where the razzle-dazzle of the fairytale fantastical Middle-East comes alive. With minarets silhouetting the skyline, land speckled with castles and threaded with copper and gold tinted crowded bazaars and air pierced with the prayer calls of the muezzin five times a day, your childhood yearning of visiting Aladdin’s land will finally come true in Turkey.
Way to go
In a country whose most attractions are scattered to its four corners, the way to explore and experience Turkey in five days is to base out in Istanbul and explore its length and breadth and then head out to Bosphorous and finally Cappadocia from where you can travel towards Ankara that leads back to Istanbul.
Not to miss
- Explore the old town of Sultanahmet and beginning with the Hippodrome. Be sure to visit the Blue Mosque and walk through the stately and slightly intimidating Ayasofya, the first imperial mosque of Istanbul. Then there is the ancient underground Yerebatan cistern. For a glimpse of
- Turkey’s Byzantine artworks, visit St. Saviour in Chora church.
- Topkapi Palace along with its Treasury, Harem and the Archaeological museum are simply must visits. The palace gates lead onto Sogukcesme Sokagi where time seems to have frozen at 19th and early 20th century and remnants of Ottoman empire can still be found along with other reminiscences of Turkey’s past.
- At Bosphorous, the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Rumeli Castle and Military Museum at Bosphorous are some of the must visit sites. Drive down to Ortakoy, a seaside village, where you can indulge in Turkey’s trendier side.
- At Cappadocia, a city known for its rock formations and rock based creations, be sure to visit Zelve Valley’s rock cut monastery and Goreme, known far and wide for its fairy chimneys and churches, in particular, Tokali Kilise and Elmali Kilise (Apple Church). Uchisar, a city carved entirely out of rock, is perfect for catching stupendous aerial views of the region. Next up are the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. Avanos and Urgup are perfect for souvenir hunting and shopping.
- Finally, Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian civilizations, the restored Cengelhan, Rahmi Koc Science Museum and Çikrikçilar Caddesi are other stop over points.
Hampi-Bellary: Lost Kingdom of Vijayanagara
Put on your leather jacket, angle your carlsbad or fedora if you will and get prepared for the Indiana Jones adventure of your lifetime; please note bullwhip not required. A medieval metropolis laid waste by the Deccan sultans, such was the magnificence and grandeur of Vijayanagara empire that its creations outlasted the ravages of a vicious invasion and time. Translating to the ‘City of Victory’, while today it includes only Hampi, back in the 14th century it consisted of Kamalapura and Hospet, making it the world’s largest city with a population of 500,000.
A ghost of its former self, mostly because it was never rebuilt or reoccupied, there are close to 500 ruins, mostly palaces, temples, stables, ramparts, etc scattered across the ancient city with only 60 of them having been given the World Heritage status.
Couple your rendezvous with Hampi with a visit to the nearby, equally historic, rock-cut city of Bellary whose past is threaded with that of Hampi’s in the pages of Ramayana and later during the reign of Vijayanagara kings.
Way to go:
First head down to Hampi, spend 3 days there and then drive down to Bellary 67 km away.
Not to miss:
With 5 days on your hand you can have your leisurely way with Hampi and Bellary and explore each and every historic site that there is. Be sure to go on a coracle ride across Tungabhadra river.
Bali: Bohemian rhapsody
Bali- your destination for a bohemian escape, island style, where you skip out on standard urban smog for sunshine, breezy ocean air, and rustic, rice paddy esque digs. Called the last paradise by the yesteryear hippie culture long before Julia Roberts did, even today Bali is as close to paradise a place on Earth can get. A stunning member of the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is tucked away within the Indian Ocean, lying in the South Pacific.
Way to go:
Your flight will, regardless of the city you take off from, have a layover at Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong or Singapore, from where you will then take the connecting flight to Bali.
Not to miss:
- Sanur beach and Jalan Danau Poso in Sanur, where the Prasasti Blanjong temple is situated are must visit sites. Ubud, Bali’s cultural capital, is your first stop after Sanur. Begin with a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest, which has three fascinating sacred temples and well, monkeys. Then make a stop at Puru Gunung Kawi, a sacred site, where ancient royal tombs are lined in 2 rows, located on the banks of holy Pakerisan River.
- Visit the ARMA Museum and Sika Contemporary Art Gallery for tracing Bali’s brilliant artsy past. Drop in at the Puri Saren Agung (Ubud Water Palace).
- In Kuta, pay your tributes at Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Visit Pura Besakih in Bangli, Bali’s largest and holiest of holy temples, located on the slopes of Mount Agung and then head over to Pura Luhur Batukaru.
- Put on your trekking shoes and venture forth to Jatiluwih, a village in Penebel, Tabanan regency. Head over to Seminyak beach for a quiet, romantic time. Shop at Kuta and Legian where you can pick items from Mas woodcarvings to Kamasan paintings to Gianyar textiles.
Pondicherry – French getaway
With an infectious appetite for art and music, Pondicherry is a vibrant crossroad, celebrating itself and life round the clock. Quiet, intimate streets and medieval alleys are jumbled together with major arteries like White Town and Promenade, giving the city a texture so rich that mingling through it all is the only way to soak it in and experience its true character.
Way to go
There no direct flights to Pondicherry and the nearest airport is at Chennai, at a distance of 160 km. From here you can take a train or cab to Pondicherry, which will take you around 2.5 hours through NH 32.
Not to miss
- Take an early morning or late evening walk along the promenade (Beach road or Goubert Avenue as it is known) to the background reverberation of the Bay of Bengal. Your search for means to spiritual solace will end at the doorstep of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville. Jawahar toy museum, Mansion of Ananda Rangapillai and Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswarar Temple are just some of the must visit sites.
- Do go on river cruises and indulge in pottery classes at potter Ray Meeker’s Golden Bridge Pottery center.
- Paradise Beach is a must do for those looking to hook some fish in the high tide waves
Tasmania: Australia’s Down Under
Beyond the mainland of Australia and past the cold stretch of Bass Strait lies the wild surreality of Tasmania, long known by its star resident, the Tasmanian devil. The down under to even Australia’s down under, Tasmania wild, yet bucolic beauty belies its tragic past and even as Tasmania is beginning to become a part of the mainstream tourism circuit, locals have long begun to take responsibility for this sweeping, yet unspoiled landscape that has an incredible story. Ancient and largely uncharted, exploring Tasmania is a thrill ride that will take you through dramatic landscapes, sprawling white beaches you will have all to yourself and one of the world’s most divine cuisines.
Way to go
Hobart is where your flight lands and post exploring its bounty, hop on to Bruny Island and Mt Field, both day trips from Hobart. Next up is Coles Bay and then Bicheno from where Bay of Fires is next the stop. Launceston is the next big city stop where much of Tasmania’s natural and culinary spread can be enjoyed.
Not to miss
- Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and Salamanca Place at Hobart are must visit sites as is Mt Fields National Park and the Russells Falls there. Bay of Fires, Tasmania’s north eastern coastline, is sure to take your breath away with its dazzling white beaches and gigantic orange boulders lining its front, appearing like a witches’ cauldron. Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay are other stop over points.
- Bicheno is where you catch, sight of that is, Fairy Penguins that reside on Diamond Island.
- Do not miss Cataract Gorge Reserve, Queen Victoria Museum and Marakoopa Cave complex at Launceston. Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake out there are musts on your Tasmanian itinerary.
Uttarakhand: Eternally Spring
Now before you groan in despair and say not the ubiquitous Nainital again, hold on, we agree. Time to head a different road or rather time to take the fork in the road to Uttarakhand and head straight towards Sattal, Mukteshwar and Pangot. Some of the best places in North India to spot winged beings of all sorts, birds, butterflies and moths of all varieties, Sattal and Pangot are where you can live out all the spring-life cliches.
Way to go
Take a train to Kathgodam Railway station and then drive down to Sattal, 11 km away. Spend 2 laidback days at Sattal, also ideal for trekking, river crossing and rappelling. Then drive down to Mukteshwar, 44. 5 km away. Spend a perfect idyllic there and then drive up to Pangot 42 km away.
Not to miss
- Forget the real world, walk on pine trails and go on forest drives. Clean and relatively unpolluted, Sukha Tal and Bharat Tal at Sattal, are where you can spot the antsy Himalayan Bulbul, fretful yellow bellied fantail and many more birds.
- At Mukteshwar, while Chauthi Jaali and Shiva temple are some must visit sites but the only way to experience Mukteshwar is to amble along its unspoilt, pristine hills and landscape.
- Go on walks leading up to villages of Vinayak and Kunjakharak at Pangot and be sure to carry your binoculars to spot an astonishing array of birds.
So this Holi immerse yourself in the colours of the world and make others naturally turn blue and green with your epic travel stories.