India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.
India was the mother of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages. She was the mother of our philosophy, mother through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics, mother through Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, mother through village communities of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.
The above two quotes by two prominent personalities of the world sum up the reason for this blog post. Since the time immortal, people from all races, geographies and beliefs have dreamt of traveling India for it offers something incredibe to every kind of traveler and life-seeker. From Megasthenes, Marco Polo, Fa-Hien, Hiuen Tsang, Al-Beruni, Ibn-Batuta, Mark Twain, to all the great rulers of the world such as Great Alexander, Timur The Lame and Nader Shah to Beatles and Steve Jobs to all the leading travelers and seekers of the world, India has always been an fascinating and amazing proposition.
Some wanted to experience it, some wanted to explore it, some wanted to plunder it and some wanted to live it. In every era, allure for spirituality, wealth, natural beauty, vibrant culture, spices and moksha brought people to India. The Aura of India was such that no adventurous and restless soul could live without dreaming of India.
No other country in the word can boast of so much variety as India. India has Desert, Himalaya, Coastal Line, River Fronts, Beaches, Snow-slopes, Rain Shadow Regions, Rain Forests, Islands, Ancient Cities, Archaeological Sites, Imposing Forts, Religious Places, Tribal Life, Wild Life, Lively Festivals, Vibrant Fairs and list, truly goes on and on.
So, as we wait for year 2017, there is no better time to redraw our goals to explore India. Holiday-list for 2017, would be out soon and this list of 34 offbeat place will motivate you to plan early. These incredible India Destinations are recommended by top travel writers/bloggers and awesome travelers from India and abroad. I am thankful to all of them for their kind consideration for suggesting their favorite offbeat destinations which truly present an incredible image of India. For everyone’s ease, i have categories all the destinations in four broad categories.
- Fascinating Himalayan Destinations
- Alluring Coastal Destination
Breathtaking Natural Destination (Non-Himalayan / Non Coastal)
- Engrossing Historical, Archaeological and Cultural Destinations
Now let’s start the journey called India and choose the place(s) for 2017.
Fascinating Himalayan Destinations
1. Chandrataal, in Himachal Prdesh by Alka Kaushik of Life In Transit
Travelling from Losar to Kunzum pass in Spiti, amid the desolate, barren, bewitching landscape, we moved. Not a person in sight, just the sound of the gravel hitting the tyres and the song of the wind. The last groves of apricot, plum, apple left far behind, somewhere in Kinnaur. We were in another side of Himachal – in Spiti, above the tree-line, heading for the mythical blue lake – Chandrataal.
4200 meters above sea level, fed by the melting glaciers and probably some underground source, Chandrataal is almost inaccessible for eight months in year. Only in summers, when the snow softens around the mighty Kunzum Pass at 15039 feet, when the formidable glaciers shrug off winter’s white blanket, can motorists and trekkers cross to reach the crescent shaped lake.
Each year, as the air warms up, the glistening ice melts and trickles down to meet the gushing river Chandra below, on her journey towards the neighbouring district of Lahaul. There amid the snow capped mountains at Tandi, daughter of the moon – Chandra and son of planet Sun – Bhaga merge in a rush of tumultuous white and emerge as the Chandrabhaga.
Buried under the snow in Lahual-Spiti are many such stories. As the sun melts the ice to reveal a rocky road for travelers each year in these mountains, speak to some travelers about Spiti and stories tumble out like a Spitian river coming to life in spring.
Go discover another mythical tale about the rivers snaking this surreal enchanting land. Embark on a journey to Lahaul-Spiti this summer. Who knows what you might learn?
2. Ladakh in Winter by Shubham Mansingka of A Boy Who Travels
It can be heart-stopping and heart warming at the same time. A trip to Ladakh in the winters is all about the cold, and your whole sojourn will depend on your ability to adapt to it.
It turned out to be the most epic adventure of my life. From getting stuck in a snowstorm at Khardung La to finding a homestay where none existed in Biamah past the green waters of the Indus; enjoying masked dances at the Spituk Gustor to walking on a frozen Pangong Tso, narrowly missing spotting the snow leopard deep into Markha Valley and stumbling onto history in Turtuk – and much much more; all alone and on a budget.
Whatever happens, life will never be the same once you are back from this unforgettable journey.
3. North Sikkim by Johann Kuruvilla of Escaping Life
Up in the high mountains of the Himalayas, a small Buddhist state now part of India offers you a glimpse of the ‘Abode of the Gods’.
Only a few hours from the state capital Gangtok, the roads to North Sikkim diverge to the villages of Lachen in the Tsopta valley taking you up to the serene Gurudongmar Lake and to Lachung up to Yumesamdong in the Yumthang valley. Tall mountains can be found everywhere till the eyes can see.
You can wake up to snow white clouds in the skyline, the sound of rushing waters of the rivers and view towering peaks of the Himalayas from here. The magnificent Gurudongmar Lake lies at an altitude of 17000 ft. from sea level and is more than breathtaking if not ‘breath reducing’ and the view down to the valley from Zero point at Yumesamdong will induce vertigo in you leaving you amazed and perplexed at the raw beauty of this region.
Sikkim is sure to give you the pure excitement of the Himalayas and an entirely different experience to everyday India.
4. Zanskar Valley, Jammu & Kashmir by Swati Jain of Buoyant Feet
The trip happened to me like a dream and the sole look at Zanskar was enough to captivate me. I could clearly feel the embrace in air. Zanskar made sure to tune me up with its melody and make me fall in love with its virgin beauty.
My fondest memory in Zanskar is the way it hosted me. The guesthouse where I opted to stay took charge of my entire trip and made sure that I get to see even the tiniest part of Zanskar. Well I didn’t shell out much. I was treated like a family member. They didn’t cook Non vegetarian for days till the time I was living with them, when they learnt Iam a vegan. I still remember how I was not allowed to sleep without Dinner at the guesthouse when I returned from a Trek and felt tired. All this just put your faith back in Humanity.
Zanskar Valley is the most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys which falls under Ladakh District, which is surrounded by Himalayan and Zanskar ranges. Due to heavy snowfall, the proximity to the area in winters remains limited for 6 months and can be accessed only through Chadar Trek, which means trek on frozen white river sheet While at Zanskar, you can opt to visit the Old castle of Zangla which has a nunnery and a far away village. Stongdey which is the second largest Monastery in Zanskar, Zongkhul Monastery which designed as a Nest, Karsha Nunnery. Phugtal Gompa which is also known as Cave monastery and requires a two day Trek from Anmo Village.
5. The Goat Village in Uttarakhand by Shraddha Gupta of Street Trotter
A 10 cottage homestay sits calmly in the hills of Garhwal, Uttarakhand. The kitchen staff prepares a simple and authentic meal with ingredients that are locally produced in the farmlands all around. Often you will hear the bells of the grazing goats and cows, while you sit by the huge windows of your room that open up to an infinite view of the Himalayan mountains. There is no electricity to charge your gadgets so you can happily bid a goodbye to technology. A solar lamp will come your way in the night, while the mornings are an early start with the first ray of sunshine.
This is THE GOAT VILLAGE – a green people initiative that promotes all this local – local stay, local food, local produce, local lifestyle in a hope of a reverse migration of the Himalayan farmers of Garhwal. So if you have been looking for an offbeat location for trekking, peace of mind and some mountains – my instant suggestion would be to hop onto a bus to Musoorie or Dehradun and take a cab right to the village for an authentic farm-based homestay experience. Bonus – the homestay is situated right next to the famous Nagtibba trek.
6. Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh by Jitaditya of Travelling Slacker
Mechuka is a remote, high altitude valley in Arunachal Pradesh which is expected to be the next big thing in the state’s underrated tourism scene.
The dominant community here are the Membas who follow Tibetan Buddhism and framed photographs of Dalai Lama adorn every home and every shop. In fact their trading routes across the border were only closed after the 1962 war due to security reasons. On other hand, it had minimal links with the mainland India till 2007 when finally this motorable road was completed. Till then, they had to trek for days to reach any of the bigger towns. However, the place seems to be expanding now and the value of tourism has been realized. I noticed that several homestays, just normal homes turned into lodges, have cropped up all around in order to cash in on the tourist influx.
7. Rupin Pass Trek by Umang Trivedi of Travelmax
Every year, I prefer going for one high altitude trek in the Himalayas. The blanket of snow and clear skies makes me feel rejuvenated. I either opt for climbing a peak or a cross over trek with a high altitude pass. Rupin Pass belongs to the 2nd category in which trekkers cross the pass located at an altitude of 15,250 Feet. This crossover trek starts in Dhaula, Uttarakhand and ends in Sangla, Himachal Pradesh. Given the high altitude and a strenuous trek of 9 days, Rupin pass is not frequented by tourists but only mountaineering enthusiasts making it perfectly offbeat.
The trek to reach Rupin pass is full of delightful surprising. From alluring grasslands to dense forests, from hidden villages to a wide blanket of snow, It surprises you almost every 2 hours as you trek. Once you cross Rupin pass, the dramatic change in landscapes will make you wonder how can Nature be so diverse after every 2 KMs.
8. Gondola Ride at Gulmarg by Surbhi Bagri, A Contributor to EverythingCandid
There is one piece of land, in Kashmir, you should not dare to miss. And that is Gulmarg. Literally known as meadow of flowers, the journey from Srinagar to Gulmarg is a treat to the eyes in summers, as much as in winters. Winters, may be challenging but exciting as I can decipher project Gulmarg as coming across less accessible roads from Tangmarg to Gulmarg, fresh white snow coupled with an impeccable zest to conquer the journey.
Gulmarg is not complete without Gondola, the cable car journey. A blanket of snow, gushy winds & amazing landscapes in sight, Gondola ride made us ready to experience something, never seen before. We were told by locals there are 2 phases to this adventure. (Phase 1 from from Gulmarg to Kungdur- mainly for tourists & phase 2 from Kungdur to Apharwat peak- mainly for skiers). Extreme weather allowed us to have the pleasure of a round trip of Phase 1, which took approximately 8 minutes. This took us through a truly snow garnished valley, playing hide & seek with fog & clear blue skies, watching skiers effortlessly navigate through the smooth snow lands below us.
Simply a memory for life.
9. Deoria Taal in Uttarakhand by Arnav Mathur of Eat Travel Live & Repeat
Deoria Taal also known as Devaria Tal is an emerald lake at an altitude of 2440 mt surrounded by pine and rhododendron forests. A 3 km uphill trek from village Sari is taken by travelers to witness the sheer beauty of this place. The mighty Chaukhamba peaks are visible from the area and if one’s indeed lucky they get to view the reflections of the surroundings in the lake.
The lake is surrounded by lush green meadows and trees which makes the grounds an ideal one for camping for the night as well as a a delight for the bird watchers. One can even do a parikrama sort of thing around the lake and finally reach the watch tower to enjoy the beauty from even a higher altitude. On clear nights, the grounds are perfect to capture a star trail as well.
The traveler has an option of either trekking all the way to Chandrashila peak (Deoria Tal – Rohini Bugayal – Dalkhudi – Chandrashila) or a simple up and down from Sari village via the designated trail.
The lake and the surrounding mountains make for an amazing sunset and sunrise picture frame and considering the picturesque surroundings, overnight camping is highly recommended.
10. Kheerganga in Himachal Pradesh by Nidhi Joshi of Coins And Maps
That is what travel does to you – it inspires you. My trek with my husband, friend and partner to Kheerganga was one such trip that will be etched in my memories forever; one for the company and two the destination is a place that tests you (incase you are a city dweller and not much into trekking like me) and then rewards you and you feel like a child again who has been rewarded for good work.
One thing I have always maintained is that travel besides many things makes you humble. A visit to Kheerganga will reiterate this feeling even more. Those vast ranges of mountains some covered with snow, some not; sky so blue that you wouldn’t have seen such a hue and the air fresh and sweet that will connect you with God, your inner self. When you see that vastness and such acceptance of yourself into Nature you only bow down with reverence, when you realize what an iota of a thing you are in front of God’s other creations you bow down with respect, when you realize this earth is only a miniscule part of the cosmos, you bow down with admiration for the Creator.
The huge coniferous trees, the numerous springs and waterfalls, the fresh and sweet smell of grass and the sound of breeze; we both were spell bound and while we trekked sometimes hand in hand and sometimes alone while being together and every time stopping to drink fresh and sweet water from each and every waterfall we were like kids again who found happiness in the little but precious joys of life. Sometimes we would laugh for no reason and sometimes we would walk in silence; in our laughter and silence we discovered a new meaning of love, togetherness and friendship. I touched all the trees on my way up and can still feel the bark of the huge coniferous trees. So much those trees could talk about; yet it was good they were silent; there was a music in that silence that only if you were calm from inside you could hear.
11. Sursingdhar in Uttarakhand by Aditi Mathur Kumar of Aditi’s Monologue
Sursingdhar in New Tehri is one of the lesser explored and one of the very best Offbeat Himalayan Getaways, and I absolutely love my time here. Sursingdhar is nestled between lush green Himalayan peaks in the New Tehri district of Uttrakhand. Sursingdhar offers an array of beautiful things that makes for a super fun weekend. The drive is stunning as well, with great views of picturesque valleys and cloudy peaks.
About a 110 km from Dehradun, Sursingdhar is somewhere you can relax and unwind. Himalayan Eco Lodges in Sursingdhar is a good place to stay, soaking in the winter sun, enjoying the local delicacies cooked especially for you, and marveling at the view of the Tehri Lake below and on a clear day, of the majestic Nanda Devi peak. There are options to go for small hikes (2 to 8km) around the lodge and you can climb up an nearby hill to watch a exquisite sunset as well. So, if offbeat travel is your things, do check out Sursingdhar.
Alluring Coastal Destinations
12. Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India) by Sonal of Drifter Planet
Thousands of kilometers away from the mainland, India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands are perhaps the most remote spots on the planet. Out of the 600ish islands in the group of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, only 9 are open for international travelers after they obtain a permit. Out of those nine, Havelock and Neil are the most visited ones.
I have visited many islands but nothing compares to the beauty of Andaman’s snow white sand beaches, clear blue water and colorful marine life. Needless to say, these islands are very popular amongst scuba divers. The best time to visit the Andaman Island group is between November to March.
13. Diu by Priyanka Mukerjee of Speaking Aloud Magazine
At a stone throw’s distance from Gujarat, Diu is a very popular weekend getaway destination among the bhais and bens. It would take around half a day of a road trip, to reach this island town from the city of Ahmadabad. Prior to its annexation in 1961 by the Government of India, it was a Portuguese territory whose deep influence can be seen throughout the island.
One of its major tourist attractions is the Diu Fort, which was built back in 1535 by the Portuguese settlers. This lime and mortar fort, although now in a sorry state of ruins attracts thousands of visitors every year. Those who have a penchant for photography and some knack for historic forts, it is a haven for them. While a majority of the fort is managed and controlled by the Archaeological Survey of India, a small portion of it houses the sole jail of this island. This island is said to be one of the most peace-loving places of the country and the fact that the jail has only two inmates at the time of our visit seems to be a solid proof of that!
So, if you want to enjoy some alone time on a beach, with a majestic view of the Arabian Sea to look upon, some historic remnants of the erstwhile Portuguese rule and enjoy a bottle of Cashew-liquor Feni or two, then make a trip to Diu.
14. Bekal in Kerela by Ankita Shreeram of Trail-stained Fingers
Bekal is a tiny coastal town in Kerala’s Kasaragod district. It is best known for Bekal Fort, which is the largest fort in Kerala. Dating back to the 16th century, the fort is spread across 40 acres including a beautifully landscaped garden and several observation towers offering panoramic views of Bekal Beach. At the fort, you will be treated to a variety of fascinating sights like little boys dragging miniature boats on the coastline, waves crashing against gigantic rocks into millions of soap suds and couples nestled in the gaps of the walls.
The town is ideal for a quintessential Kerala holiday complete with boating on the backwaters, eating food that is plump with Malabar spices and enjoying serene walks by the ferocious beaches. Bekal is dotted with beautiful temples and mosques but the most breath-taking one lies en route to Mangalore Airport. Ananthapura Lake Temple, whose principal deity is Lord Vishnu is a magnificent structure in the middle of a lake, surrounded by lush green woods and still ponds. Lurking in the undergrowth is the legendary crocodile guardian Babia, known to be vegetarian and the descendant of several others before its time. Surviving solely on the offerings of devotees, Babia is worshipped by the priests of the temple every day.
Breathtaking Natural Destination (Non-Himalyan / Non Coastal)
15. Mainpat in Chhattisgarh by Dipanshu Goyal of Dunia Dekho
Mainpat, small hill station in Chattisgarh is a perfect place to escape from all the hustle bustle and chaos of city. Mainpat’s beauty is so far untouched and has numerous cultural and natural sites to satisfy one’s inner need of calmness. For its picturesque hill slopes, Jungles and waterfall, it is also called as “MINI SHIMLA OF CHATTISGARH”.
Mainpat is on a Plateau with the area surrounded by mainly Sal jungles. We all know about the large Tibetan Settlement in Mcleodganj in Himachal Pradesh, but Mainpat too has a Tibetan Settlement that not many of us know about. Indian Government as settled many Tibetan Refugee’s here in 1960s that gave this place another nickname – “MINI TIBET”. There are 7 settlements with Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in most of the Camps.
Mainpat also has many beautiful waterfalls like Tiger Point and Fish Point. Tiger Point remains one of the most attractive waterfalls which is situated near the Tibetan Camp number six and is a perfect place for relaxation. Fish Falls too is a wonderful place to see and enjoy. This waterfall has got its name from a kind of a fish which was found here.
Have you ever heard of a land where if you jump, you can very strongly feel its bouncy effect? Well, Jaljali is a place in Mainpat which offers this strange feeling to you. It gives a strange tremor effect if you jump on this land.
Apart from all these, you can find well crafted Buddhist Monasteries which are standing high to tell about the history and struggles of Tibetans. One of the prominent Monasteries is Dhakpo Monastery. So if you want to explore a place for its beauty, culture and history, Mainpat is a place for you to go.
16. Kaas Plateau in Maharashtra by Ruby Singh of Life And Its Experiments
Kaas Plateau or Kaas Patthar (local name) is located in the Satara district of Maharasthra. Kaas Plateau is a biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats. Not just this, it also boasts the coveted title of UNSECO Natural World Heritage Site. Kaas Plateau houses unique varieties of fauna. This site is also known as Valley of Flowers of Maharashtra, not to be confused with the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand.
The best time to visit Kaas Plateau is either September end or October beginning. This is the time when the monsoon become less ferocious and flowers bloom with the best of their colors. During the season when the plateau is on full bloom the site looks as if it is carpeted with colorful flowers. Kaas Plateau is a paradise for nature lovers. One gets to spot varied varieties of flora and fauna. To know more about Kaas, read here.
17. Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh by Claudia Tavani of My Adventure Across The World
One of my favorite places in India is Pachmarhi, and its gorgeous surroundings. Located in beautiful Madhya Pradesh, at about 7 hours by bus from the main city Bhopal, Pachmarhi is one of the few hills stations in India. In fact, I hardly knew this before getting there and realizing it was pleasantly chilly as soon as the sun set. What I enjoyed the most about Pachmarhi is the feeling of tranquility – something actually quite rare in busy, bursting with life India.
The surroundings of Pachmarhi are beautiful. It is an excellent starting point for hiking, and to further explore the Saptura National Park – which is famous for its tiger reserve. Another place that can be visited from Pachmarhi is Chauragarh Mandir, one of the local peaks and a place of pilgrimage as there is a temple located at the top. The stunning views make the 5 hours hike completely worth it. Other places of interest in the area are Rajah Prapat, from which there is a lovely view of the gorge and of the tallest waterfalls around Pachmarhi – but there’s lots of naughty monkeys around; and Jatashankar Mandir, which is both a natural cave and a Hindu shrine dedicated to God Shiva.
18. Dudhwa national Park in Uttar Pradesh by Abhinav Singh of Soul Window
Dudhwa National Park near Lucknow is known for its tigers and rhinoceros. Nestled in the unique terai region, it is one of its kind national park. Not caring to spot the big mammals, I had a memorable early morning drive in the mist laden forest in last winter. I spotted many migratory and local birds en route and missed a tiger by only few minutes. Katarniaghat near Dudhwa is famous for alligator spotting. This region is blessed with a unique geography. Chitwan National Park in Nepal has similar character thanks to the terai wetlands.
Post our safari in Dudhwa, we planned to drive to Dhangadhi from the national park. Dhangadhi is a small town in Nepal. The drive to Dhangadhi was spectacular. We stopped near a natural pond. I spent hours just watching the antics of otters and birds. A local lady offered me fresh sugarcane from the field as tens of cattle passed by me. The yellow mustard fields throughout our journey made it a sunshine trip for us.
19. Nelliyampathy Hills in Kerela by Svetlana Baghawan of Maverick Bird
Kerala is as green as it gets and Nelliyampathy in the picturesque district is no different. Except that it also has emerald green paddy fields, water falls, orange groves, coffee plantations, tea gardens and lush tropical forest. Rows of betel nut and rubber plantations mark its approach and blue misty rolling Western Ghats envelop you. Once a region, belonging to the local indigenous community, British officers had cultivated spices, tea and coffee there and their old fashioned bungalows can still be seen perched here and there amidst the dense green. Wild animals had roamed there once freely and now they have become rare sightings. The dwindling shola grasslands can be found there too and sight of the historic Palghat Gap on clear days is simply breathtaking.
How to reach – Nelliyampathy is easily reachable from Cochin by taxi (around 153 kilometres). The other alternative is to reach Palakkad by train and take a local bus or taxi from there to Nelliyampathy. Go there in monsoon to witness glistening green hills and gushing waterfalls.
20. Chambal Valley in Central India by Manjulika Pramod of Pendown
Until last year, I only knew the legendary Chambal valley for its ravines and hideout of ‘Bandit Queen’ but my visit to this reclaimed woodland changed my perception about it forever. I came back impressed with its unembellished expanse. In fact, I loved exploring Mela Kothi, Bateshwar Temples, the cursed Chambal river aka Charmanvati (the river on the banks of which leather could be dried), the severely eroded river banks and adjacent ravine lands. 80 KMs South of Agra, Chambal provides for a comprehensive eco-tourism experience.
The folklore says that after the dice game, Queen Draupadi had cursed everyone from drinking from the river or using it for anything. In the years that followed, this valley earned its infamy for the legendary bandit tales and dacoit hideouts. Today, as it flows through three states- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the region has been identified as the land of vibrant diversity and unique eco-system.
The valley is still raw, rustic and untamed but at the same time it has lots to tap in our interest. While the bird lovers have always known it, it has actually graduated into a haven for migratory birds. The International Bird Festival that has been taking place for last two years has made it a famous bird watching destination. The National Chambal Sanctuary (since 1979) is also listed as an important bird area and is a riverine sanctuary stretching approximately 425 km length of the Chambal River. It also happens to be the largest breeding center for Ghariyals in India.
Of all the things, I was delighted to know that the curse has acted like a boon to this pristine Chambal River. Humankind has kept away from it for years and thus it stands to be one of the cleanest rivers in the country.
21. Pollachi in Tamil Nadu by Supriya Agarwal of The Humming Notes
Nestled in the temple town of Tamil Nadu, Pollachi is a small town and is yet less explored by tourists from other parts of the country. Located about 40 km to the south of Coimbatore, it is the second largest town in the district after Coimbatore. Due to its proximity to the Western Ghats, Pollachi has a pleasant climate throughout the year. It is one of the very few places in India to enjoy both North-East and South-West Monsoon seasons significantly. This is where the paradisaical images of green hillsides draped in neatly lined tea bushes, coconut trees stretching towards the blue sky and the air thick with rustic charm converge into making vivid memories.
Temple of Consciousness in Pollachhi
Derived from the Tamil expression, ‘PozhilVaichi’ or ‘land of prosperity’, Pollachi lies on the cusp of the Annamalai hills and the plains of Coimbatore. Dominated by a rich cultural, religious and natural lineage, the destination is sure to delight travellers with diverse sensibilities. The charm of discovering ancient temples, walking through the million shades of green that surround coconut and banana plantations and being a roar away from the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary never withers away. Sway to the rhythm of simple village life and lose yourself to the luxury of nature’s marvels.
Engrossing Historical, Archaeogical and Cultural Destinations
22. Amritsar in Punjab by Mar Pages of Once In A Lifetime Journey
Amritsar is a mystical peaceful city in the Punjab region of India, right by the border with Pakistan. As the host city to the Sikh’s holiest shrine, The Golden Temple, Amritsar is a spiritual pilgrimage place where even the busiest most stressed visitor will find tranquility. Wander the temple’s grounds and the many buildings around it and get lost in the quiet noise of thousands of visitors circumambulating around the Golden Temple and pond.
If you are a foodie, Amritsar is also the capital of the mouth-watering kulcha and of centenarian restaurants like Kesar da Dhaba which serve the same delicious curry dishes, lassi and daal as they did decades ago. Some Indian cities can be chaotic and stressful but Amritsar’s pedestrian only renovated heritage center will make sure you leave in harmony and peace.
23. Majestic Chitrashala of Bundi in Rajasthan by Jayanti Pandey of And So i Felt
Descending from a hill to the narrow streets of Bundi (across the Chambal from Kota, in Rajasthan) the first sight of the blue roof tops is breathtaking. The piece de resistance is obviously the Garh Palace of Bundi which rises high on a sloping hill.
Rudyard Kipling wrote of Bundi, ‘Jeypore Palace may be called the Versailles of India; Udaipur’s House of State is dwarfed by the hills round it and the spread of the Pichola Lake; Jodhpur’s House of strife, gray towers on red rock, is the work of giants, but the Palace of Bundi, even in broad daylight, is such a palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams – the work of goblins rather than of men.’ Rudyard Kipling, ‘Letters of Marque’, (1899)
The Garh Palace is reached via a series of gates and each level of the monument is rich in sculpture and painted walls and ceilings. Paradise is found in the Ummed Bhavan or the Chitrashala, which epitomises the Bundi style of miniature painting., intermingling the Rajput with the Mughal style.
Each square mm is painted in rich indigo, soothing emerald or a brilliant turquoise – mingled with white.
Krishna Ras Leela, Krishna lifting Goverdhan Parbat and Krishna stealing the clothes of the Gopis are panels which take up an entire wall. Scenes of women playing chausar, dancing and even hunting are very pleasing to the eye. War accounts, societal anecdotes and scenes from the Ramayana are also clearly identifiable.
Visit Bundi for a walk back in time. The town has not lost any of its old-worldly charm and seems lost in a time warp. But do not forget to keep at least a better part of the day to absorb the Chitrashala and other similar Mahals in the Palace.
Bundi – because some places have to be felt, not just visited
24. Orchha in Madhya Pradesh by Jon Algie of Jon Is Travelling
Orchha isn’t far from Agra and its tourist magnet (The Taj Mahal), but few foreigners tend to make the five hour journey. This small town, home to less than 10,000 people, is teeming with stunning examples of ancient architecture. From the grand palaces in the centre of town to the riverside chhatris (memorials to former rulers) and the crumbling temple ruins found scattered throughout the countryside, you could spend days exploring Orchha. The laid back pace of life and the lack of hassle makes Orchha the perfect place to visit after the bustle of India’s bigger cities — don’t miss it!
25. Kanam Estate in Kerela by Karilyn Owen of No Back Home
There is an overwhelming amount of things to see and do in the popular tourist centers of India, however, there is just as much to experience outside of these areas. Serenity at Kanam Estate is one of our family’s favorite places in India. This 1920’s era bungalow aka hotel is located on a small hilltop in the middle of no where in Kerala. The house is surrounded by picturesque rubber tree plantations and beautifully smelling spice gardens.
With only 5 rooms, this is the perfect retreat for a friend and/or family gathering. The house is furnished with beautiful period furniture, eclectic pieces of art in all forms and provides numerous nooks and crannies to hide yourself away in. With custom menus and personal staff catering to your every need, you will feel like you are in the lap of luxury even tucked away in the middle of the jungles of Kerala!
The bungalow also has a beautiful refreshing swimming pool, a cool rope swing (for all ages!) and numerous verandahs to sit out and watch the day pass before you. As an added adventure you can request a visit from Lakshmi the local elephant. You can ride Lakshmi, or just walk with her to the river for her bath. She is a wonderfully gentle giant that will fill you with peace, just as a visit to Kanam Estates will.
26. Mandu in Madhya Pradesh by Shilpa Shinde of ASPIRITBEDOUIN
Some places are like pockets stuck in the realm of time, inhabited and yet quite secluded. You walk through them and can’t help but feel you are witnessing some huge exhibition space, quite and sparse and very highly engaging. MP is full of such spaces, where the modern mingles with the priceless past. Mandu is one such fascinating expression of the 14th century kingdoms .The architecture here bores beautiful expressions for both the Hindu and Persian kingdoms. Huge palaces,tombs,mosques stand as mute testimonials to the likes of Baz Bahadur and Ghiasuddin Khilji. The gems like Jama Masjid, Asharfi Mahal, Roopmati pavilion and the beautiful Jahaz Mahal all welcome you to peep into the glorious past of this fortified town.
Post the rains the magic of Mandu would leave you speechless as you walk into the ruins strewn across the green carpets of this hill terrain and watch with bated breaths the stone beauty unveiled by the parting mists. This is a place stuck in a time lapse waiting for you to find it.
27. Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh by Alexandra Lattek of Traveling the World
When we parked the car in front of the gates that lead to the old part of the town, I was full of excitement. So much had I read about Maheshwar, this beautiful city on the banks of the holy river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh, that is mentioned in the Mahabharata und Ramayana and whose history is closely linked to an extraordinary woman – Ahilya Bai Holkar. It is thanks to the Maharani who ruled the city of Maheshwar from 1765 to 1795, that visitors who come here find more than 100 picturesque temples, most of them at the foot of the palace hill and along the ghats.
The Maharani’s palace is the first sight that visitors would usually stop at – a simple, white garden palace, representative for the modesty that Ahilya Bai Holkar was famous for. From the balcony of the palace I caught sight of some other gems of Maheshwar – the fort that stems from the 16th century and also houses a beautiful temple which has been added under the reign of Ahilya Bai Holkar. Although I have been visiting many temples in India, but this one captivates me with its Shiva Lingams, the Nandis and the vivid and at the same time devout atmosphere.
With a short stop at a silk manufactory where the famous Maheshwari saris are woven, I found my way down to the ghats. The life at the holy rivers of India never stop to mesmerize me. Pilgrims who take their ritual bath mingle with chai wallahs and women who sell chana masala. I passed women doing their laundry and children playing in the river. I could have spent hours and hours here. And would have loved to stay in one of the lovely heritage hotels in the old city. But it was my last day in beautiful Madhya Pradesh so I had to leave. But I will return to also visit the nearby places such as Mandu, the city of love, and Omkareshwar, that are easily reachable from Maheshwar.
28. Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh by Parnashree of My Travel Diary
As I stepped inside the giant rock formation of Bhimbetka, located in the foothills of Vindhya Range in Central India, it gave me the mirror resemblance of the famous Petra of Jordan. Tucked in the rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs, Bhimbetka will take you to the pre-historic era of human civilisation and introduce you to their lifestyle through the rock paintings. Discovered in 1957, Bhimbetka was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site only in 2003. It was Mr. W S Wakankar, an Indian archaeologist, who happened to be travelling in the region and stumbled upon the rock formations and discovered this hidden treasure.
Bhimbetka consists of 700 shelters, out of which only 133 shelters contain rock paintings. The great repository of pre-historic art, Bhimbetka depicts not just art, but the human evolution stories of different civilisations through these paintings. The paintings give a glimpse of the early lifestyle that includes scenes like hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant rides, wedding, royal procession, animal fighting, war, decoration of bodies, masking and household scenes. The dominance of animal paintings is prominent in the rock shelters. Animals such as Elephants, Bisons, Tigers, Wild boars, Antelopes are evident in these pre-historic paintings. Interestingly, these paintings are mostly found in two colors- White and Red. The age of these paintings can be classified in seven different periods in history such as Upper Paleolithic , Mesolithic , Chalcolithic, and Early Historic and Medieval period.
I was blown away by the history behind these rock paintings. How each painting narrates a different story of those cave dwellers, who used to paint these rocks, to entertain during these times, was simply enriching. The impression of their thought process is so vivid that it takes you to a new journey of exploration of human civilizations.
29. Bastar Dusserah of Chhattisgarh by Stephanie Langlet of Tribes And Minorities
Did you know that the World’s longest festival was celebrating in India? And did you know it was a Tribal festival? These two facts can only make Bastar one of the most tempting destinations in India.
When I arrived in Jagdalpur, the main town where the 75 days long Bastar Dussehra is celebrated, I didn’t know what to Expect. The Tribal district of Bastar was and is still an offbeat destination, one of my favorite ones in India. During Bastar Dussehra, the tribes of the area and their Maharaja perform some rituals that didn’t change since the XVIIth century. You will see the fascinating Bison Horn Marias, the horsemen Dhurwas, the flowered Murias, the Maharaja in his most beautiful attires, the witch doctors and mediums in a trance.
In 2017, you will have to arrive in Jagdalpur before the 21st of September to enjoy the most interesting part of the World’s longest festival. For more information to prepare your trip, check my article about Bastar Dussehra.
30. Basant Utsav At Shantiniketan by Ayandrali Dutta of Gypsy Feet Travelogue!!
The cultural breeding ground and the pilgrimage for art, music and dance – Shantiniketan, meaning “abode of peace” was previously known as Bhubandanga, but Maharshi Devendranath Tagore renamed this place as Santiniketan. It was last year during Basanta Utsav (or Holi as we know it) I happened to visit this land of Rangamati and music.
The serenity of the place is gives you a chance to meet, greet and interact with the artsy community who call this area home. In this culturally intoxicating place, each season is celebrated in its own way. Winter marks the Poush Mela (a local fair of art and craft), followed by Basanta Utsav where abeer (gulal) smeared faces greets one other. Where nature is footloose, where Kopai River romances with its banks and love is free and happiness is all you can smell – Shantiniketan thy name it is.
31. Bithoor in Uttar Pradesh by Natalia Shipkova of MyTripHack
Uttar Pradesh rarely gets tourist attention beyond Agra (Taj Mahal) and Lucknow. I believe UP is one of the least discovered states in India from the tourist point of view. Thanks to a few of my friends whose hometown is in UP, I had a chance to see this state from a different perspective: from visiting beautiful sites in the villages to staying in a traditional Indian family and experiencing the local culture.
Bithoor is a small town in UP, known mainly for its religious places. It lies on the banks of the Ganges River, which adds the scenic touch.
The picture is taken in Dhruv Teela stretching along the Ganges River. This is a nice place to relax, meditate and take a boat ride to enjoy the nature. Though I would love to keep the authenticity of this place, I also wish more people experience this view.
32. Khurja in Uttar Pradesh by Akanksha Dureja of Direct Dil Se
I had always seen Khurja from inside a train compartment during my travels from Delhi to Kanpur.Except the green fields visible from the train window, I thought there was nothing more to Khurja. Thanks to a few fellow travelers who shared their interesting stories of this small town tucked away between the agricultural and industrial belt of Uttar Pradesh, I realized what Khurja really is and I set out to explore the town of blue pottery.
Nothing could have prepared me for Khurja beyond the railway platform. It took around three hours to reach Khurja from Delhi and I was pleasantly surprised.Lush green farms with ripe crop of corn, rice and countless summer bounties lead the way to a string of chimneys as we approached Khurja. Soon, we entered the town and a boring landscape turned into colorful ceramic artifacts lining the narrow streets. Thanks to an incorrect location set on Google Maps, I had skipped a big, fancy ceramic shop by the highway and had landed straight inside the town. That meant, this was the real deal. We stopped at a shop which looked like a small one from outside. As I went inside, I realized this was not just a shop, it was almost a warehouse. Walking through three floors of pretty pottery, I shopped my heart out! Talking to the people around, I realized that these artisans have been involved in the art since centuries. Some of them claim that their forefathers came to India from Afghanistan who migrated here for prosperity. Honestly, their stories were as intriguing as the beautiful pottery they make.
33. Badami in Rural Karnataka by Avanish Maurya of Solo Backpacker
Badami looks like a sleepy, small town in one of the most rural area of Karnataka. However, between the two high rock cliffs of Badami lies some glorious milestones of the Indian History. The testimony of powerful Chalukyan Empire is scattered all around, the beautiful Agastya Tirtha Lake, Bhootnath Temple Complex, Badami Fort and
Archaeological Museum near the Northern Cliff , The famous four cave temples of Badami near the Southern Cliff on other side of the lake. The first three cave temples are famous for the carvings of Hindu God and Goddess -all cut out of a monolithic (single) rock of sandstone , and the fourth cave is dedicated to Jain Tirthankars.
Going slightly beyond the town of Badami, just 22 kms away, one can visit the Temple Complex at Pattadakal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient temples at Aihole are further 12 kms away. Add the Gol Gumbaj of Bijapur and the vast open air archaeological museum of Hampi in a 4-5 days itinerary and it guarantees one of the most memorable experiences of the ancient Indian History.
34. Mandawa in Rajasthan by Rituraj of Travel Genes
Shekhawati Havelis of Mandawa – also known as World’s largest open-air art gallery because of flawlessly painted frescoes on the walls of elaborate havelis in the area, Shekhawati—around 160 km (100 miles) from Jaipur or 200 km (124 miles) from Delhi—makes a charming day trip.
Influenced by the Persian, Jaipur, and Mughal schools of painting, these Mandawa frescoes, huge numbers of which go back to the mid-nineteenth century, represent subjects running from fanciful stories and nearby legends to chasing safaris and scenes of ordinary life. Exploring Havelis in Rajasthan qualifies as a must to do.
Once part of the trading route to Arabian Sea from northern plains of India, Land of Shekhawati is home to the biggest centralization of frescos on the planets. Arranged in the north-east of Rajasthan, Region saw a brilliant period of high income through outposts for caravans which resulted to mass construction of ornately decorated mansions (Havelis), showing Shekhawati’s craft. In Shekhawati, Havelis were built by enterprising trader group (Marwaris) to symbolize their prosperity and to give sanctuary to their more distant family when they were away working together. Just a modest bunch of the havelis have survived time—some have been restored by their holders, and a couple have been changed over into the finest luxury hotels.
35. Bhainsrogarh in Rajasthan by Rishabh Shah of Gypsy Couple
Bhainsrorgarh is a fortified outpost of the Kingdom of Mewar, east of Chittorgarh in Rajasthan. Coveted because of its location, it has been owned the same family since 1741.
The Bhainsrorgarh Fort is a small living fort perched on a cliff overlooking the Chambal River with roughly about 5000 people living inside the fort walls. The fort was in a state of disrepair before being gradually and sympathetically restored by the owners and converted into a boutique luxury heritage hotel. More of a homestay given the personal attention and the fact that the owners live in the same fort albeit in a different wing. The fort itself is flanked by two rivers, the smaller river Bamani moves at a sluggish pace depositing its load into the ferocious river Chambal when they merge. The region abounds in farms and meadows growing over hilly outcrops and resembles the Scottish moors in the monsoons with the heavy mist and green cover.
36. Kurukshetra by Arvind Passey
Kurukshetra is not on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway though a short detour of around two and a half kilometres from Pipli takes you there. When you go to Kurukshetra, you are literally hopping from a modern day circus to a place where the Gods, the zodiac, cows, and a lot of stories come together in myriad ways. So you may be dazzled, confused, horrified, impressed, or even remain detached depending on what you are actually seeking.
The ghats like Arjun ghat or Yudhishtra ghat, the Kurukshetra Panorama Science Centre, and the Sannehit Sarovar revolve around Indian Gods and Goddesses like Krishna, Laxmi, Laxmi Narayan, Ganesh, and Kuber in ample space and sometimes air-conditioned environs. The cramped bazaars with their destiny of dust and traffic fumes effectively coat the excitement of rural shoppers, giving them a strange glow that seems to say, ‘I’m not bothered about what the pundits here say. I’m busy living my life.’
This place is full of formulas to appease every sort of grihas and gods… for instance, you are asked to offer water to the moon, salt or jaggery to the sun, yellow chanadal to the Guru, and then feed fresh green grass to the cows to appease Buddhgriha. It is also believed that anyone who performs shradh the right way at Sannehit, is freed of any debt to the ancestors.
This place is great for photographers as the place has thrilling opportunities where even rickshaw pullers love to pose as sadhus. This place is also full of stories if the writer within wishes to explore our link with all sorts of myths. Kurukshetra is for anyone who is a traveler and not a mere tourist.
Now, i have an interesting place, Majuli – The Biggest River Island in the world, to share with you all, which is being presented to us by Dr. Navina Jafa. Although I could not find an appropriate category for this but found it too tempting to miss. So here comes, natural wonder from India, The Majuli Island on Brahmaputra.
37. The River Island of Majuli in Assam
Looking at other geographical spaces and responses of humans manifested in tangible and intangible heritage and living cultures reflecting spiritual, economic, political or sociological impulses provides traveler to discover themselves. As an illustration of this I seek to introduce Majuli one of the largest river islands in the world in Jorhat district of the North Eastern State of Assam on the mighty Brahmaputra.
Ideally, one boards a ferry from Neemati Ghat in the morning and takes a return last ferry back at 4 pm. The island communicates a slow tempo of life’s rhythm and eyes encounters the hypnotical green environment of agricultural fields, swaying grasslands, waterbodies, sandbars and alluring houses on stilts.
The idea of retreat is highlighted with a visit to one of the 22 Satras. The Satra an organic socio-economic spiritual institution was initiated by the 15thc religious Vaishnav activist Shankerdev and his disciples like Madhavdev. The sanctum carries not an idol but a beautifully wrapped scripture of Bhagwat Gita. The hierarchically organized monks are endowed with a host of traditional knowledge skills of painting, wood carving, mask making, agrarian culture, boat making, sculpture, drama, music, dance and cuisine. Most Assamese families consider Majuli their cultural spiritual nucleus and are affiliated to one Satra. The Satra performances with drums and cymbal bells draws the traveler to retreat within and hear the rhythm of oneself.
From the Satra, the traveler visits a Meshing village. The Meshings one of the largest indigenous groups in Assam are fascinating. On the religious front they worship both the sun and the moon, however, many of them today practice Christian and Hindu rituals. Apart from their fishing, boat making skills Mishings are master weavers whose textiles are defined by vivid colors and symbols from their myth. An ideal step into their culture is to have a meal with them which is as exotic as their persona incorporating ferns, banana flowers and fish cooked and served in bamboos.
The reality that Majuli will soon disappear because of flooding and bank erosion looms large, and so does the overwhelming energy of the Branhmaputra River. Man seems so helpless, and this comes out clearly in two wonderful examples in Majuli, the initiative of the boat clinics by Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research which cater to inhabitants in sand bar islands on the river, and the story of the forest Meshing man Padma Sri awardee – Molai, or Jadav Payeng who believes Majuli can be saved by afforestation and has planted trees all his life such that a forest is called Molai.
While our senses at home are mesmerized by materialism and caught in an existentialist mode, such travels renews our souls looking at alternatives to life. Travelling to Majuli makes us realize that travel is among other things about personal renewal and transformation.
I am certain, now you have many more reasons to visit India 2017. Go Offbeat!
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