Wishlist for Deepavali – Five places to escape the fireworks

Five getaways for Diwali in India

There are two kinds of travellers . Those who love festivals, colours, glitter, noise and all the tamasha that come with it and those who want to escape from it all and hide in the refuge of nature and spend a few moments in its pristine beauty. Personally, am a bit of both and I have my mood swings. There are days when I want to immerse myself in the festive atmosphere and there are days when I want to seek some quiet and solitude. And this Deepavali, it looks like I am going to head towards forests or oceans and lose myself. If you are thinking along the same lines, here are five offbeat, hidden destinations in South India that takes you far away from the madding crowd and the fireworks .

Deepavali greetings, Diwali greetings, memories of Deepavali

Deepavali greetings

Birding – Thattekadu

Would you like to be in a forest and wake up only to the call of the birds ? Then head to Thattekadu, one of the most pristine birding sanctuaries located on the banks of the river Periyar. Barely an hour’s drive from Kochi , the Periyar river is bathed in fog as I take in the view. This tropical evergreen and deciduous forest is home to over 250 rare and endemic species of birds and the sanctuary is named after the ornithologist Salim Ali, who stumbled upon it almost 80 years ago.

A pair of malabar hornbills in Thattekadu

A pair of malabar hornbills in Thattekadu

Elephants roam here rather freely says my guide , but we luckily do not spot them as we go birding. The forests soon come alive with colors and calls, as we see a pair of Malabar grey hornbills. There is the much-awaited brilliantly coloured Malabar trogon which is the prized catch of the day. But Thattekadu is not just about birds. It is  all about the lush greenery around, the tip toeing of the mist and the silence that echoes throughout the jungles.

Wildlife – Daroji

Head to a wildlife sanctuary that was once upon a time one of the gateways to the Vijaynagar empire. The destination is Daroji, located near Hampi , which was called Darwaze meaning gate and the locals tell me that this was one of the gateways that was forgotten.

Sloth bears in Daroji

Sloth bears in Daroji

As boulders give way to the shrub jungles, fowls and francolins rush past us. We see termite mounds and we finally reach a hillock where sloth bears roam around freely amidst the rocks. Anegundi across the Tungabhadra river was believed to be the mythical Kishkinda, the monkey kingdom of Sugriva who was Rama’s ally in the war against Ravana. And if myths were to be believed,  there was one bear in the army called Jambhavan. Today, Daroji Wild life sanctuary that includes the Bukkasagara range of mountains near Hampi and Anegundi is home to several sloth bears . You can also find leopards, foxes, jackals, hyenas ,pangolin along with several mammals and a variety of birds and reptiles. This is an ideal destination to lose yourself , far away from the madding cloud.

Beaches  – Om Beach

The mystical OM Beach

The mystical OM Beach

If you like a wave of mysticism, set amidst virgin beaches, ringed in by mountains, then you can chant OM at the beach here. The Om Beach is so called as the waves create a pattern of their own in the form of the mystical “OM “symbol. Tales from Indian mythology lie entrenched in this small temple town of Gokarna as  the temples here are very ancient and are located very close to the beach.The Western Ghats overlook the Arabian Sea and you will often find trekkers discovering new paths along the coasts or higher up in the hills.Chalk out your own path, or lose yourself in a spiritual wave or party hard at the other beaches here – chances are that you will not miss the fireworks.

Heritage – Vattakottai

Located very close to Kanyakumari is the sea fort of Vattakottai which offers one of the most stunning views. The seas surrounding us is calm as it gently caresses the shore. A lone tree stands ; its dead branches almost touching the sky. In the distant horizon, one can see windmills dancing to the tune of the breeze. This circular sea fort built on the coast opens into the picturesque view of the Western Ghats encircling the oceans – the Bay of Bengal on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other.The coconut trees grace the shore, as some parts of the wall jut out into the sea .

The beach from the Vattakottai fort

The beach from the Vattakottai fort

As we enter the granite fort, the outer walls greet us with the symbol of two elephants with a conch shell, but the fort itself is neither imposing nor formidable. A huge open courtyard, probably a parade ground leads us to a flight of steps with a ramp. We look down from the walls , built at a height of almost 25 feet and the sea greets us. Stand here and you can gaze at an endless fabric of blue for hours.

Mountains – Nilgiris

Nothing can be more exciting than taking a journey up the Blue Mountains . How about a tryst down the hills on the mountain railway ? As the train huffs and puffs along in its own little pace, you can soak in the fresh air and the mist. Get off at any station and explore the surrounding environs. If I were you, I would choose the quaint and quieter ones, but if you like a bit of crowd around, then head to Upper Coonoor or Kotagiri . Walk by the lakes, stroll by the shola forests and take a deep breathe and enjoy the natural scenery around or explore the ancient cultures of the Todas who live here

A house of the Todas in Nilgiris

A house of the Todas in Nilgiris

So where are you headed this Deepavali ? If your wishlist is not in this list of destinations,, then do not fret. All you need is to close your eyes and sit on a magic carpet that will take you to the most exotic lands, far far away. That magic carpet is Lufthansa Airlines. Participate in this contest and you can fly away to a destination of your choice this Deepavali with your partner. All you have to do is to Make a Wish and tell Lufthansa about it. Light a Heart, Light a Life or Illuminate a plane – your wishes will not just fulfill your own desires, but bring happiness to a child. Go ahead, close your eyes and Make a Wish now.  

This post is written in partnership with Lufthansa India


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