Rising above Joshimath, 14km by road – and only 4km by the gondola-style cable car – Auli is India’s premier ski resort. Visit in winter to enjoy the awesome views of Nanda Devi (India’s second-highest peak) from the top of the cable-car station. As a ski resort, Auli is spectacular, with gentle 5km-long slopes, one 500m rope tow that runs beside the main slope, and an 800m chairlift that connects the upper and lower slopes. The snow is consistently good and the setting is superb.
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Goa’s biggest draw is undoubtedly its virtually uninterrupted string of golden-sand beaches. This shimmering strand stretches along the Arabian Sea from the tip to the toe of the state, and each of the various beaches have developed their own personalities and reputations since the hippie days of the sixties. But the pint-sized state is more than beaches and trance parties. A kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, sweetened with sun, sea, sand, seafood and spirituality, there’s nowhere in India quite like it.
Spectacularly jagged, arid mountains enfold this magical Buddhist ex-kingdom. Picture-perfect gompas dramatically crown rocky outcrops amid whitewashed stupas and mani walls. Colourful fluttering prayer flags share their spiritual messages metaphorically with the mountain breeze. Prayer wheels spun clockwise release more merit-making mantras. Gompa interiors are colourfully awash with the murals and statuary of countless bodhisattvas.
Alappuzha or Alleppey- is the hub of Kerala’s backwaters, home to a vast network of waterways and more than a thousand houseboats. Wandering around the small but chaotic city centre and bus-stand area, with its modest grid of canals, you’d be hard-pressed to agree with the ‘Venice of the East’ tag. Float along and gaze over paddy fields of succulent green, curvaceous rice barges and village life along the banks. This is one of Kerala’s most mesmerizingly beautiful and relaxing experiences.
Beside shimmering Lake Pichola, with the ochre and purple ridges of the wooded Aravalli Hills stretching away in every direction, Udaipur has a romance of setting unmatched in Rajasthan and arguably in all India. Fantastical palaces, temples, havelis and countless narrow, crooked, timeless streets add the human counterpoint to the city’s natural charms.
A mighty gash in the earth fringed by hulking mountains, Tawang Valley works a special magic on the minds of travellers. The valley is a gorgeous patchwork of mountain ridges, vast fields and clusters of Buddhist monasteries and Monpa villages. The setting is more beautiful than the town itself, but murals of auspicious Buddhist emblems and colourful prayer wheels add interest to the central Old Market area.