From Rajasthan to Himachal Pradesh, our pick of the most romantic short-break ideas
How can the ultimate symbol of love not make it to this list! Posing at the Taj Mahal is a cliché, but one that you must allow yourself at least once in your lifetime. For a truly romantic experience, catch the Taj by night. The UP Tourism website (http://www.up-tourism.com/taj_mahal.htm) has a list of dates on which this is permitted. There are several lovely hotels nearby and some, like the The Oberoi Amarvilas, will even arrange a Hindu ‘blessing ceremony’ if you want to renew your vows.
The Pink City lives up to its reputation of being one of the country’s, and even the world’s, most favoured honeymoon destinations. It’s a rare city where India’s heritage melds seamlessly with urban life. As a result, you have a city full of ancient palaces and havelis, which are now luxurious, romantic hotels. Besides the ornate Hawa Mahal and Jal Mahal, you can check out the Amber Fort in an unusual manner–try a hot air balloon ride over it.
Another honeymoon favourite, Mussoorie, is full of lovely hotels. Ilbert Manor, built in 1840, is an English manor converted into an eco-friendly boutique hotel, where the rooms are named after people who helped establish the town. The Amber Vermont Estate is 100 years old and now a beautiful heritage hotel. Mussoorie also has stunning picnic spots. Trek up to the Clouds End Private Wildlife Estate for a cheese-and-champagne picnic with exotic birdcalls in the air.
Ananda in the Himalayas
For a decadent, indulgent weekend, wind up the hills from Rishikesh and head to Ananda in the Himalayas. The award-winning spa is a lavish sprawl and you must book your treatments in advance because they’re in high demand. You can schedule yoga classes with their instructors or you could do nothing at all. Take long leisurely walks, eat and drink on a wooden terrace on a cliff, or pamper yourself and your partner with a Tibetan massage.
Bir and Billing
Close to Dharamshala, Bir and Billing are where adventure junkies head. Paragliding in Bir is a magical experience as you soar over tea gardens set in the Dhauladhar Mountains. You can choose to do a ‘short’ 40-minute tour or sign up for paragliding lessons. If it’s the former you’re eyeing, we recommend the fall from Billing to Bir, a 30-minute flight that lays out Dharamshala below you as you soar across the mountains.
Honeymooners descend here by the hordes, and with good reason. Shimla has perfect weather and breathtaking sights. Or it might just be its quaint walkways through green avenues. Quiet monasteries, manicured parks, a plethora of restaurants, and spots full of stories and histories make Shimla a perfect getaway. There are several charming properties to stay here, and a room with a fireplace is the classic setting to rekindle the romance.
In Dalhousie, at Kalatope, a dense spread of pine and cedar forests suddenly opens out into a meadow. It’s this contrast of deep, cool interiors of the forest and the sweeping wide space of the grasslands that turns the place into something magical. You can ditch Dalhousie’s touristy areas and stay at the forest rest house at Kalatope. There’s a golf course, a lake and a temple around the area, giving you enough options to unpack the picnic hamper.
Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj
Dharamshala draws visitors from around the world, lending the place its ‘global village’ atmosphere. You can sample some of the most authentic Italian food at Oogo’s Café Italiano, as well as excellent Tibetan thukpa (noodle soup) and ting mo (bread) at small Tibetan stores on Jogiwara Road. Maybe it’s the weather or the happy vibes, but in Dharamshala, even sipping coffee by the fire is an experience you will cherish for long.
Imagine feasting on hot, freshly made muffins and cookies in front of a fireplace, amid five acres of a green pine tree forest. Baikunth Resorts at Kasauli is an eco-friendly resort that helps create the cosiest and most romantic weekends. They have a good spa and if you’d like to burn off the calories from your feast, they can arrange badminton games and golf on the property.
For a well-off-the-beaten-track destination, try Pangot. The hill station lies close to Nainital, but with a population of around 200 people, is a lot less crowded. The green slopes beg for long walks, short treks, and the few people who do drop by come for Pangot’s massive collection of birds. Three hundred species have been recorded here, including a large variety of woodpeckers, and the Himalayan Griffin. Definitely makes for a memorable weekend.