Cool, cool summer

Summer’s here! It’s time to embrace the sunshine. Beaches, hills, cruises... options are aplenty. Preeti Verma Lal suggests a few destinations worth checking out this summer...

A picturesque sunset at Kirkjufell Mountain, Iceland

When spring gets tired and summer hurries in, do not count your Celsius. Rely on cricket, instead. No, not the cricket that nimble-footed men play on 22 yards with a red twine ball and wooden bat. Look for cricket of another kind. The one with the cylindrical body, round head and long antenna. The one that chirps real loud. Focus on its chirping that is consistent with air temperature. To know how hot summer is, try this trick. Pick a stopwatch and set it to 25 seconds. Now count the number of times the cricket chirps in 25 seconds. Divide that number by 3, add 4, and that is what the temperature is in Celsius. 

Do not hit me with a cricket bat if your cricket is dozy, dopey or plain lazy on that summer day. He can get your Celsius wrong. Ignore the insect, then. There is always the temperature metre to rely on this summer. And when the mercury soars and sweatdrops start gathering on the skin, pack your bags and head to a cooler clime. There are countless never-seen never-heard-of summer destinations. Here’s a quick pick:

Iceland

Hear this from the Institute for Economics and Peace: Iceland is the safest country in the world. And probably the nicest in summer. The average temperature in summer is only 10°C and the absolute warmest it gets is 20°C. June, July and August are the ‘official summer months’, but May and September are splendid, too. You can hike, swim, and take a long road trip. Dipping into geothermally heated swimming pools might just be the most local thing to do. Go on food tours and bar crawls. Do glacier hiking & climbing, skiing or snowmobiling. Or camp under the white midnight sun (there is sunlight at midnight).

Seychelles

This one is a dot on the world map. And scattered, too. Exactly 115 islands neatly divided into tall granite, Inner Islands and the low-lying coralline cays, atolls and reef islands of the Outer Islands. Everywhere there is silken sand and azure waters to wash away the summer woes. In the hot months, the sooty terns nest; swimming, snorkelling and especially diving are superb during April/May; and hiking walks/trails are the best between May and September. Walk around Victoria, the world’s tiniest capital; take a ferry to La Digue island; go bonefishing on the flats of some of the Outer Islands which is considered to be among the best in the world.  

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt is pretty. The adjectives start running into superlatives when holidayers reach the town that sits in the middle of an enormous hiking and ski region, making it one of the world’s most attractive vacation villages. In the highest ski area of the Alps, summer can be enjoyed by hiking, mountain biking, summer skiing, and 400 km of hiking trails that lead through and out of the Matter Valley, including the mule traders’ trails, which date back to the 13th century. 

Matterhorn, Switzerland
Matterhorn, Switzerland

Whistler, Canada

Whistler freezes in winter but when summer comes, it offers a  mile-long list of summer activities. The official website says: “Adventure differently in Whistler, where rugged nature meets mountain culture and you’re guaranteed to leave with more than selfies.” Go on a zipline. Not one. Not two. But five ziplines that go back and forth from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb, including one that descends 30 stories and another that is 2,400 feet long. Snowmobile, snowshoe, ski powder, jump in a lake, or stick to the tradition of après. Here, you can après any way from playing family games to vodka-tasting in an ice room.

Montenegro

Called the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’, Montenegro is situated in the south of the Adriatic Sea. Nowhere else can one find so much natural beauty, mild beaches, clear lakes, fast rivers and gorgeous mountains in such a compact area as in Montenegro. Kotor has tales to tell; Budva, the country’s busiest tourist destination, comes alive in summer; Perast, a little place in Boka Bay, looks like a piece of Venice that has floated down the Adriatic; go birdwatching in Skadar, renowned as one of Europe’s top bird habitats.

Munnar

If cities in south India could pick a cool dude, it would be Munnar. Once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India, Munnar has sprawling tea plantations, picturesque towns, winding lanes and enough cool breeze to enthral the soul. Even in summer, the temperature never jumps the 20-degree Celsius mark. Make sure to pack a light jacket — the summer wind chill might catch you unawares. 

Shillong

It is not easy to reach Shillong — there is no airport and it is not a railhead. But if you are ready to bear that four-hour drive from Guwahati to Shillong, summer can unfold beautifully in the capital of Meghalaya. There are orchids, lakes, pork dishes, everyone strums a guitar, and if you do not want to do sight-seeing, just walk around the green, undulating landscape. That itself is worth a happy summer. 

Auli

Perched 8,200 ft above sea level, Auli (Uttarakhand), one of the highest hill stations in India, is surrounded by coniferous and oak forests, with a panoramic view of the peaks of the Himalayas. The adventurous come here for the snow-rush, but there is much more to do. Head to Auli Artificial Lake, the highest manmade lake in the world. Cross Joshimath, which is home to Shankaracharya Math and Tapovan Natural Hot Springs. Trek to Gurso Bugyal, which is decked in pine, oak, rhododendron and conifers.

Bara Imambara, Lucknow
Bara Imambara, Lucknow

Lucknow

I know, I know, Lucknow’s heat is sweltering, its streets crowded, its bylanes waif-thin. You know the goodness of Lucknow — Imambara, Rumi Darwaza, Hazratganj, chikankari, galouti kebab, tunday kebab, tokri chaat — is available throughout the year. Why go in summer? Because Malihabad, the mango capital of North India, is barely an hour’s drive from the airport. Famous poet Josh Malihabadi lived here, Umrao Jaan was shot here, but in summer, no one thinks of poems or begums. The air of Malihabad is heavy with the whiff of mangoes — the town grows nearly 800 varieties of mango. And if you can beat the heat, go to Dusseheri village where the 400-year-old original Dussheri mango tree still lives.

Go on a cruise

If you want to spend the laziest summer, pack a few pyjamas and motion sickness pills and set sail on a cruise liner. You can be on the sea for days together, hop off at ports for a quick spin around town.

Or, just stay onboard away from the sun and the din. Most cruise liners have everything on board — restaurants, music, magic, swimming pool, concerts and day-trips from the port. One of the best options is Norwegian Cruise Line’s 8-day cruise on the Baltic. 

Happy Summer!

 

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