November is here, and it means only one thing in India. It marks the start of the festive season. It also coincides with the onset of winter almost all through the country.  The capital city of India, New Delhi, almost always tops this list and is rated among the most polluted cities in India. The level of pollution in the city is reflected by the AQI (Air Quality Index). The weather bureau monitors the air quality regularly and grades the air quality in the city based on certain parameters and assigns a number. 

While Delhi saw the best Diwali AQI in 8 years due to sporadic rain a couple of days prior to Diwali, the PM level has spiked due to crackers. Over the past decade or so, the worsening air pollution in Delhi has been a major issue for the local citizens and the people of nearby cities and towns. On many occasions, the AQI has gone beyond 400 marks, which is considered dangerous. In such situations, the entire city gets covered under a haze, leading to breathlessness, asthma, or other respiratory issues. 

What is AQI and its significance?

Air Quality Index is the measure of the overall air quality. It is calculated using the concentration levels of five important pollutants, namely – carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and particulate matter. 

The AQI is rated on a scale of 0 to 500. The higher the value, the worse the quality of air. There are six AQI categories which are defined based on the pollution level at the time of reading. 

AQI Category

AQI Score









Very Poor





In case the AQI reading shows 500+, it is labelled, ‘severe plus.’

The government, weather agencies, and NGOs use the AQI to inform the local citizens about the air quality in the region and help them make informed decisions. For example, the government may advise people, especially kids, to stay indoors to avoid breathing the polluted air, which increases the risk of various diseases. 

In the wake of rising concerns about the bad air quality and the imminent threat of diseases among the citizens in India, governments across the country have been trying hard to curb the pollution. For instance, because of the rising Delhi pollution level, the local government had also declared a holiday for all schools and educational institutions. 

Let us look at some of the top polluted cities in India and places with low AQI 

Top three polluted cities in India


  • Delhi


Delhi is one of the most polluted cities not just in India but worldwide. The thick cover of haze covers the entire city, making the air toxic. This has been a common phenomenon in the capital city over the past few years. Many health experts suggest that the air quality in Delhi is categorised as ‘severe’ and it is one of the major reasons for the rising cases of illnesses in the city, like bronchitis, asthma, and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). 

One of the major causes attributed to the rising Delhi pollution level and the deteriorating air quality is the rampant burning of the paddy straw. The dust and the smoke coming from the burning of the fields contain a lot of toxic substances and can cause respiratory illness or aggravate your existing condition. 

Where to go to escape the Delhi pollution?

The north Indian states are known for their pristine natural beauty and scenic landscapes. So, if you are a Delhi resident and want to get away from the air pollution, you can escape to Uttarakhand. 

You can go to Nainital or Mussoorie. Both the cities are nestled in the laps of the snow-clad mountains and are known for their peaceful and serene environment. Besides, these cities have amazing climate conditions, and you would surely love breathing the clean, fresh, and crisp air. 

You can go to these cities for a weekend trip or on a staycation with your family and make the most of your time by booking your stay at the Club Mahindra Corbett or Club Mahindra Mussoorie Resorts. The former is one of the most unique resorts in Nainital as it is located close to the Corbett Jungle. Here, you get the novelty of living in a premium tent equipped with all the modern amenities you can think of. In short, it is a place where nature meets luxury. 


  • Kolkata


Located on the eastern coast of India, Kolkata is also one of the largest cities in India, other than being one of the most polluted cities in the world. One of the most densely populated regions, the bad air quality in the region has been a cause of major worry for both civic authorities and citizens. 

Unlike Delhi, the main cause of air pollution in Kolkata is the transportation and the wide usage of old vehicles that run on petrol and diesel. Although vehicle owners in most parts of India have switched to e-bikes, e-cars and vehicles running on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), Kolkata has been seemingly reluctant to make the switch. 

Local sources suggest that the diesel-based vehicles contribute to about 95% of the population in the region. 

Where to go to escape the air pollution in Kolkata?

Kolkata is one of the four major metropolitan cities in India, and it is no surprise that it ranks among the top 20 most polluted cities in the world, along with Delhi and Mumbai. When the air quality deteriorates and reaches the ‘poor’, ‘very poor,’ or ‘severe’ level, it can be tough to breathe normally. 

Constant exposure to the polluted air can make you and your family vulnerable to many diseases. So, the best way to beat the pollution is to plan a getaway to a place where you can find plenty of natural beauty around and the air is pure and fresh. 

One such place near Kolkata is Darjeeling. Located just about 650 kms away, you can go on a road trip to this beautiful hill station to breathe in some fresh air. Tucked away quietly in the laps of the mighty Himalayas, the region is known for its out-of-the-world natural beauty. 

Here, you can find an awe-inspiring sight at every turn; the never-ending greenery and the endless slopes of tea plantations only add to your holiday experience. 

You can enjoy the best of everything that Darjeeling has to offer, including the culture, natural attractions, cuisine, and local lifestyle by staying at Summit Hermon Resort, one of the most premium resorts in Darjeeling offered by Club Mahindra. 

It is the perfect abode for all your Darjeeling adventures!


  • Mumbai


The financial capital of India, Mumbai is fondly known as ‘the city of dreams’. The quintessential modern Indian city, Mumbai is home to millions of citizens. Known for its glitz and glam of Bollywood and the fast-moving lifestyle, Mumbai has its own charm which you may not find in any other city in the world. 

As one of the busiest cities in the world, it is only natural that Mumbai is prone to be one of the most polluted cities. In fact, it ranks third on the list of the worst AQI in India behind Delhi and Kolkata. 

Every day, millions of vehicles ply across the length and breadth of the city, besides, there are innumerable commercial activities happening around, from factory production of transportation and meat industry. All these factors contribute to the rising air pollution levels in the maximum city. 

 Where to go to escape the air pollution in Mumbai?

While you cannot escape breathing in the polluted air in Mumbai, you can find respite in the nearby cities or hill stations. One of the best places to go to is Mahabaleshwar. It is a popular hill station in Maharashtra, located in the Satara district. 

Known as ‘the land of strawberries,’ the hill station produces the largest number of plump-red and utterly delicious berries. A quaint town, it is also known for its ethereal natural beauty. Whether you are a mountain person or not, you would surely love being here. 

The lush greenery for as long as you can see, the majestic hills, and the historical monuments found here make it a popular tourist destination, especially for Mumbaikars during winter months. Mahabaleshwar is one of the coldest places in the state and during winters, the temperature can sometimes drop to 10 degrees Celsius or below, especially at night. 

You can make the most out of your holiday in the beautiful hill station by staying at the Club Mahindra Saj Resort, one of the best resorts in Mahabaleshwar. Boasting spacious rooms and the most modern amenities, it redefines luxury holiday experience. 

To sum it up, now that you know about the most polluted cities and the best places to escape the pollution near you, it is high time you get your thinking caps on. Do your bookings and get set going! Enjoy a peaceful, pollution-free, and blissful festive season!

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About Club Mahindra

Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. (MHRIL), a part of Leisure and Hospitality sector of the Mahindra Group, offers quality family holidays primarily through vacation ownership memberships and brings to the industry values such as reliability, trust and customer satisfaction. Started in 1996, the company's flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’, today has over 250,000 members , who can holiday at 100+ resorts in India and abroad.

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