Arts + Culture

Mind–Altering Vacations

by Barbara Cleveland


The buzz: During the annual Holi festival of color in March, people all over India get stoned on bhang, marijuana buds and leaves that are ground into a green paste and cooked with milk, clarified butter, and spices in traditional drinks such as thandai and lassi. Bhang also gets cooked into pastries and cakes, if you're not down with drinking butter.

Where to score: Bhang beverages are available at street carts, local shops, and restaurants during the festival. Marijuana is technically illegal, but because Holi is a religious event, authorities turn a blind eye.

Where to chill: By far, the best place to bhang is in the town of Barsana, located between New Delhi and Agra. There, Holi includes a mind-boggling ceremony in which women beat men with sticks and attempt to capture them—and the poor suckers who get caught are forced to dress in drag and dance around. In retaliation, the men throw buckets of colored paint on the women. It's a completely gorgeous, other-worldly, and once-in-a-lifetime experience that goes with bhang like peas go with pods. Don't worry—the men wear hockey-like padding, and the women don't hit very hard.

Where to come down: There are hundreds of tour operators across India that will take you to experience the festival, but the well-respected Artisans of Leisure won't let your bhang-addled head rest on anything less than a four-star pillow in nearby Agra. They'll organize a private chauffeur to bring you to and from the festival and a guide to show you all the sights.

Next: Desert drama

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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