Finally, the heat wave has bid adieu and the evening breeze feels pleasant, the Sun doesn’t feel so fierce anymore and the nights are longer and cooler. Welcome, November! The most favorite month of the year just before the chilling winter arrives. In India, November is the most awaited month for travel enthusiasts, especially if someone is planning to travel with family and friends. The festive season in India more or less gets over by the end of October and this is when usually people plan to travel, and why not? after the long summer in India, one can only appreciate nature’s blessings when the skies seem more blue and clearer than before, the rains have gone and hibernated and winter is knocking on the door. Of all my travels in India over the years I have a few ‘November places’ – Best places to visit in India in November, something about this time of the year that makes these wonderful places look and feel even lovelier. Luckily this year November has a long weekend too, all thanks to Guru Nanak Jayanti.

Here are my 10 best picks to head to this November:

Bharatpur, Rajasthan

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) after bath at Bharatpur I IMG 5757

Red-wattled Lapwing at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India.

If you wish to experience waking up to the sound of chirping of birds ‘Bharatpur’ is where you should be this November. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO it is situated at 180 km from Delhi and well connected by roads and train. Bharatpur is a jackpot ticket for bird watchers. Comes November and this bird sanctuary is home to countless flamboyant and royal varieties of birds migrating for the winters, around 350 birds species start flying in all the way from Siberia and Central Asia. Look out for cranes, pelicans, geese flamingos and innumerable more; it also becomes busy with bird watchers from all over the world. The best way to move around inside the sanctuary is by foot, or bicycles that can be hired for basic charges. Cycle rickshaws are also available with guides for the ones not so fond of walking or cycling. When tired, rest for a quick nap in the middle of nowhere under a tree or visit the Government museum to know a little more about the history of the park.

Don’t miss at Bharatpur:
 Visiting:  The Sanctuary at the wee hours by foot or cycle to catch a glimpse of the rarest birds.
 Staying: at ‘Hotel Bharatpur Ashok’ situated inside the sanctuary to make the most of early morning bird watching and experience staying inside a sanctuary.

Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

Kodaikanal

Kodaikanal Hill Station in Tamil Nadu.

Known as the ‘Princess of the Hill Stations’ Kodaikanal boasts of an ever welcoming weather that feels like springtime almost all year round except for winters that get a little chilly. Kodaikanal is built around a beautiful man-made star shaped lake, and the roads are lined up with tall trees and dense mist and clouds filling in the places in between. It also has various natural waterfalls and viewpoints that can be visited during the day. The lake forms the heart of this place and a trip to Kodai is incomplete without a boat ride or row at the lake.

Don’t miss at Kodaikanal:
 Visiting:  The Kodai lake in the evenings for a lovely walk by the lake.
 Enjoying: Rowing in the lake. Hiking or Cycling can be enjoyed around the lake and surrounding hills.
 Looking: Out for the famous ‘Kurinji’ – this is a plant that flowers every 12 years and is a very rare species.

Dawki, Meghalaya

UMNGOT RIVER

View of Umngot River taken from a Suspension bridge.

Dawki is a quiet and small pristine border town situated on the Indo-Bangladesh border. It only takes 2 hours to reach Dawki by road (90 km) from Shillong and the journey to Dawki in itself is a mesmerizing experience, it passes through deep green forests with the canopy of greens covering the roads. The Umngot river in Dawki flowing across India and Bangladesh adds to the beauty of this small town and the water of the river is so clear that on a bright sunny day a boat on the river provides an illusion as if it is floating in the air.

Don’t miss at Dawki:
 Enjoying: a relaxing boat ride on the clear waters of the Umngot river.
 Staying:  in the beautiful centrally located city of Meghalaya, in Shillong.

Munnar, Kerala

Munnar hillstation kerala

Munnar Hill Station.

Munnar is an incredibly beautiful hill station in the South of India, wrapped in sheets of green; the tea gardens of Munnar are like a medicine for the sore eyes, endless stretches of green they soothe eyes and render breathtaking views. The beauty of Munnar is both mysterious and mystical; the emerald hills and the foggy weather together amalgamate to build up an ambiance which sometimes feels spooky and at times romantic. The fog and clouds play hide and seek all day long and as they clear out they reveal 100 shades of green. One can spend the day visiting the tea gardens or meeting the Nilgiri Tahr in the Eravikulam National Park, or maybe try a hand at fishing out a few trouts from the Sita Devi Lake.

Don’t miss at Munnar:
 Visiting: The centuries old tea factories that allow seeing the tea making process in action, along with tea tasting of the finest kind.
 Enjoying: a stroll through the aromatic tea gardens.

Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

An elephant herd at Jim Corbett National Park

An Asian Elephant herd at Jim Corbett National Park. Uttarakhand, India.

Jim Corbett National park is your calling for a wild November. It is India’s very first national park and boasts a healthy population of tigers, it can be easily reached via road from Delhi in 5hrs  (250 km). The morning and the evening jeep safaris are the most popular apart from the elephant rides. Be aware that the elephant rides get booked way in advance and it is advisable to get yours booked much in advance of your travel to make sure you can enjoy this joy ride on an elephant back. Mornings are the best time for safaris as the tigers could be seen quenching their morning thirst by the river. This time of the year also sees a lot of globetrotters from across the globe drop in at the National Park. Divided into four vast zones, the reserve is home to a wide range of flora and provides shelter to extensive varieties of wildlife. Jim Corbett National Park also has a lot of really good hotels in its vicinity and ample options to choose from.

Don’t miss at Jim Corbett National Park:
 Visiting: the Park on an elephant back especially in the early morning.
 Enjoying: bonfires by the Ramganga river arranged by the hotels upon request at night.
 Staying: at one of riverside hotels to enjoy watching the elephants taking their morning baths.

Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

View from Trans Point, Khadota

View from Trans Point, Khadota, Dharamsala.

‘The Little Lhasa in India’ they call it. Rich with a mix of Indo-Tibetan culture, Dharamshala is also internationally famous for being the second home of the Dalai Lama. We might have sooner or later seen the picturesque backdrop of the Dharamshala cricket stadium, no wonder it happens to be one of the most picture perfect stadiums in India. Mcleodganj at its close vicinity is famous for its music and pub culture and exceptional continental food. Dharamshala has a couple of monasteries and important places of interest for the Tibetan culture some of which also house sacred Tibetan manuscripts. One can spend the evenings enjoying the local pop culture in Mcleodganj and finish off the day with delicious desserts from the local bakeries. For the adventure enthusiasts, Bir Billing is at a mere 60 km from Dharamshala and the best place for paragliding in India.

Don’t miss at Dharamshala:
 Visiting: The Namgyal Monastery, the Kangra Art Museum or the War Memorial.
 Eating: At Jimmy’s kitchen, which serves some of the best Italian cuisines in the region.
 Staying: At Cloud End Villa, a heritage property located in the middle of serenity in Dharamshala.

Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

White Rann of Kutch

The White Rann of Kutch, a large area of Salt Marshes located in Kutch district.

If you wanted to visit a magical place that would remind you of the dreamy deserts from the stories of Aladdin ‘White Salt Desert ‘ in Great Rann of Kutch is the place for you, the silver sands of the Rann has the power to enchant anyone. The most exquisite way to discover this bounty of the desert is during the Great Rann of Kutch festival. Luckily this year the festival begins from 1st November 2016 to 20th February 2017. The festival is a perfect reflection and union of the vibrant culture of Gujarat and the stunning vastness of the desert. One can enjoy camel rides, indulge in local folk music and food, dance under the moonlit night especially when the desert starts shimmering under the full Moon, the options to indulge yourself are in endless.

Don’t miss at Great Rann of Kutch
 Visiting: Great Rann of Kutch festival starting 1st Nov 2016 – 20th Feb 2017.
 Watching: The sky set ablaze as the Sun goes down across the endless desert horizon.
 Shopping: For Bandhani sarees, mirror work on fabric and traditional ornaments.

Nainital, Uttarakhand

Nainital Lake

Nainital Lake.

The soul of Nainital lies in the Nainital Lake, it is surrounding this lake that the hill station has been built. It is a quaint haven of peace, which can be reached conveniently by road, located at a distance of 300 km from Delhi. The lake along with the backdrop of the Himalayan ranges provides a spectacular panoramic view. November in Nainital is busy with tourists dropping in from the surrounding cities, it’s the best place for a quiet, cozy weekend with bonfires in the evening. One definitely cannot miss taking a boat ride passing through the clouds parked on the lake.

Don’t miss at Nainital:
 Visiting: the Nainital Lake for a boat ride through the clouds.
 Shopping: for candles of various shapes, sizes, and colors, some of the most creative candle art can be found in Nainital.

Shantiniketan, West Bengal

Santiniketan Garden

Visva Bharati Garden, Bolpur, Santiniketan.

‘Shantiniketan’ signifying ‘Adobe of Shanti or peace’ is true to its name and truly a peace lover’s heaven. Situated at a mere distance of 160 km from Kolkata, it is an excellent weekend getaway and can be easily reached by car or by train, the nearest railway station being Bolpur Railway Station. Shantiniketan is famous for being home to the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Shantiniketan is an art and cultural paradise. Spend the daytime visiting the Nobel Laureate’s museum and art gallery. In the evenings take a lovely walk in the serenity through the ‘lal maati’ roads (the soil color is a deep brick red in color giving the name lal maati or red soil), visit the local ‘haats’ (flea markets) or enjoy the Baul singers (local singers) singing and dancing to local baul songs, it is impossible to not start tapping a foot and being a part of the merriment. The haats to look out for are especially during the weekends called ‘Shanibarer Haat’ (Saturday market), these haats are hosted on the banks of river Khoai, starts at 3:00pm and ends around 6:00 pm. They sell some of the best handicrafts in the region for very reasonable prices.

Don’t miss at Shantiniketan:
 Visiting: Khoai Haat to shop, eat and enjoy baul music in the evening.
 Shopping: At ‘Amar Kutir’ for leather goods, Kantha stitched saris, bamboo crafts.
 Eating: At ‘Shakuntala’ a village themed hut like a restaurant. Enjoy eating finger licking Bengali cuisine served in lotus leaves and terracotta utensils.

Pushkar, Rajasthan

Camel Fair Pushkar

The World famous Pushkar Camel Fair.

Pushkar is the heart of Rajasthan; it is a holy town with a concoction of old traditions, divine importance, and cultural charm. Closely located from the famous city of Ajmer, the holy lake of Pushkar is said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. The small vibrant town is full of temples, bathing ghats, chock block streets and sounds of holy chants, music, and inquisitive travelers, it also has one of the world’s few Brahma temples. With November starts the most famous Pushkar Camel Fair where few thousands of camels take part. The fair also happens to be one of its kind in South-East Asia. The camels are beautifully dolled up in vibrant colorful ornaments and clothes and are brought to take part is camel races and are traded as well.

Don’t miss at Pushkar:
 Visiting: the Pushkar Camel Fair during 8th – 14th November 2016 to witness the assembly of thousands of camels.
 Watching: the sky gets filled with Hot Air Balloons, more so take a Hot Air Balloon ride yourself.
 Shopping: For intricate Rajasthani artwork, clothes, and ornaments at the Pushkar market.