Known by the sobriquet of ‘Heartland of India’, Uttar Pradesh has fascinated people with its modern outlook and at the same time has also retained its old-world charm making it a favourite destination of many. The state lives up to its reputation with the eclectic celebrations of various faiths and cultures, rising number of immigrants wanting to make U.P. their home, picturesque setting, and its rich history.

Exploring North India is a much-coveted dream of any traveller, and Uttar Pradesh is a destination that is revered by history enthusiasts, artists, foodies and nature lovers in equal measures. With historic towns that are blessed with bounteous natural beauty and cultural richness, the state has plenty to offer.

There’s no dearth of options when it comes to weekend getaways in major cities of U.P. A few of them are listed below.

Mathura-Vrindavan

The twin towns abound with temples and ashrams, closely associated with Lord Krishna, inevitably call up spirituality in you. Mathura, the nucleus of Brajbhoomi and birthplace of Krishna, is a little town on the banks of River Yamuna located at a distance of 145 km southeast of Delhi and 58 km from Agra. Like Varanasi, Mathura too is littered with Ghats that still reverberate with the enchantment of Shri Krishna, the prominent one being the Vishram Ghat. Also worth visiting are Gita Mandir, Dwarkadhish Temple, Krishna Janma Bhoomi Mandir, Kusum Sarovar, Radha Kund, and Mathura Museum.

About 11 km away from Mathura, Vrindavan is a historic little holy village that bristles with a mix of enthralling stories and fascinating lilas performed by Lord Krishna in his childhood and youth. There are many places to visit in Vrindavan that bring alive and glorify the playful pastimes of Lord Krishna in their own distinctive ways. The few among them are– Sri Ranganath Temple, Madan Mohan Temple, Banke Bihari Temple, Nidhivan, Prem Mandir etc.

Thus, a walk in the footsteps of Lord Krishna would satiate your spiritual appetite making your weekend a blessed one!

 

Imperial Lucknow

The multi-textured city of Lucknow always greets you with its warm embrace and a platter filled with food, history and culture.  Famous for its Imambaras and Safed Baradari, the iconic Tunde kebab, the exquisite Chikankari and Zardozi, the capital city ushers you back in time to an era of romanticism and cultural affluence.

Located on the northwestern shore of the Gomti River, Lucknow is a city of many riches. Once the seat of the Nawabs of Awadh, Lucknow has transformed into a city of refined culture which is reflected in its architecture, food, music and sartorial style.  The city occupies a prime spot on India’s gastronomic map, its chief contributions being galawati kebabs and the Awadhi biryani.

Chikan– Lucknow’s home grown signature style of embroidery is equally feted elsewhere. Indeed the city of Lucknow tempts the visitor to linger and fall in love with it.

So this weekend, walk the boulevards of Lucknow and embrace the royalty!

 

The picturesque Mirzapur

Situated in the middle of the Vindhyas, Mirzapur is a sleepy little town that pulls the crowd due to its rock art and carpet weaving heritage. Very few know that Mirzapur has an unexpected surprise in the form of scenic waterfalls and breathtaking natural views. Once a hunting ground for various neighbouring states, Mirzapur enchanted then and continues to enchant now. Verdant greens and chirping birds would elevate your every sense to the zenith of joy. The enthralling Ghats, River Ganga, historical structures and magnificent forts in the vicinity of this town provide a perfect getaway for nature lovers and history enthusiasts. The major attractions in this region include Chunar Fort, Tanda Falls, Wyndham Falls, Kalikoh Temple, Ghanta Ghar and so on.

Located within a walking distance is a famous pilgrimage site for Hindus known as Vindhyachal, which attracts lots of believers and tourists throughout the year.

About 67 km from Varanasi, the best time to visit Mirzapur is during monsoons (July-August). Monsoons here are a sight to behold, an experience to cherish. And what could add more thrill to the season than visiting some huge waterfalls located across the state? So plan a weekend getaway to the town with a camera and an umbrella. Explore the offbeat, a place to rediscover the joy of nature in an unhurried, unfazed manner!

 

Rediscover yourself at Shravasti

A beacon of divinity, Shravasti is a personal experience. Located around 170 kilometres north-east of Lucknow, Shravasti is believed to be the annual rainy season retreat for Lord Buddha. It is said that Shravasti played host to Lord Buddha for 27 years and is considered to be the spot where Lord Buddha performed many miracles.

Because of the sheer weight of Buddhist history as well as the numerous sights that are associated with Lord Buddha, this sanctified land draws thousands of visitors and Buddhist followers.  The beautiful Jetavana garden and a huge World Peace Bell are worth visiting here. Besides, Shobhanath Temple which is a Jain Shrine, Angulimala’s stupa, Anathapindika’s stupa, and the Anandabodhi tree in Jetavana monastery are among the major places of interest here.

So, spend some quality time with family in this land of Buddhism- a perfect place for those unplanned long weekend!


Allahabad beyond Kumbh

The spot for the historic Kumbh Mela, the holy land of Allahabad is also known for giving birth to literary stalwarts. Highly renowned as the “Literary Capital of Uttar Pradesh“, the city is a massive pool of talented brains. Located at the confluence of three of the country’s major rivers the Ganga, the Yamuna and Saraswati, Allahabad or Prayag is called as the “Tirth Raj“- the king of all pilgrimage centres. A bath here is said to wash away all of one’s sins and free one from the cycle of rebirth.

Above and beyond, Allahabad is also a delight for the history buffs.  A visit to All Saints Cathedral, Allahabad Fort, Alfred Park, Jawahar Planetarium, Anand Bhavan, just to name a few momentous structures, is indeed a tryst with history.

 

The city of Love- Agra

Agra is synonymous with the iconic Taj Mahal. To visit Agra is to have a glimpse of this majestic wonder of the world. But ahead of Taj, the city has too much for an art enthusiast or a history lover. Teemed with the historic monuments, striking palaces, and tombs, this beautiful town is a heart of Mughal architecture.

A walk in the city’s famous gardens such as The Ram Bagh, Mehtab Bagh, just to name a few would sooth your senses. The superb edifices like Chini ka Rauza, Itimad-ud-daula’s Tomb, Sikandra and Mariyam’s Tomb are the testimony to the Mughal Empire in Agra. In fact, the city has a charm of its own.

Famous for the exquisite marble-made handicrafts and stone inlay work, the shops in Agra are full of small souvenirs of the splendid monuments of the city, especially the Taj.

The Zardozi adorned cloth pieces, ittar, carpets, brassware and leather made items are other sought after commodities in Agra that make the city a paradise for the shopaholics.

Thus, the city of love is a multi- sensorial experience that can initially be a little overwhelming, but let it seep in and you fall in love with it, head over heels.

 

 

Explore the wild at Dudhwa

Saunter into this world of wildness and experience the rhythm of nature. Dudhwa is a scenic national park and also part of a tiger reserve, located near the India-Nepal border. Spread over more than 800 sq km, the national park is the perfect example of the Terai eco-system.  It is a place where one gets countless opportunities to behold a multitude of exotic flora and fauna thriving in their natural environment.

A natural habitat for over 38 mammal species, 16 species of reptiles and numerous species of birds, Dudhwa National Park is one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the country. With tigers and swamp deer as major attractions, Dudhwa National Park is a stronghold of the barasingha.

A five- hour flight from Lucknow, Dudhwa is a paradise for the wildlife enthusiasts as well as professional ornithologists. Come discover the wild wonders here and get an experience of a lifetime!

 

Embrace the nature at Nawab Ganj Bird sanctuary 

A one-hour drive from Lucknow leads you to the well-known Nawab Ganj Bird Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, a veritable heaven for the ornithologists and wild lovers. Home to about 250 species of migratory as well as resident birds, the sanctuary also houses a Centre for Interpretation of Birds, their behaviour and habitats, a deer park, watchtowers and boats.

Besides, the sanctuary is an ideal ground for gatherings and holds small motels, restaurants and eateries to lure the tourists. Since the main attraction of Nawab Ganj Bird Sanctuary is the exotic birds from Europe, Tibet and Siberia that migrate here mainly during winters, visit here from November to March to have a glimpse of these magnificent creatures.

So, to watch the peacock in full plumage, and savour the avian encounter with pintail, red-crested pochard, shoveller, Spotted Deer, reptiles and much more, come a weekend and take pleasure in this natural call at Nawab Ganj Bird Sanctuary.

 

Thus, Uttar Pradesh has got fun-fuelled breaks for families, retreats for flocks of friends, romantic getaways for love birds, city breaks for culture vultures and rural escapes for tree huggers.

No matter if you are on your own or a part of a group, U.P. has something for everyone!