Do you fancy an idyllic but different break in India? Did you know that there are a host of unique holiday destinations in India that are just a few hours away by flight or road from the tourist traps in major cities?
Here is our take on five unique holiday destinations in India where you will find ample opportunities for everything from quiet getaways to rejuvenation to hectic activity. What’s more these destinations score high on accessibility and exclusivity too!
Dalhousie – Himachal Pradesh
Fly to Jammu or Amritsar or take a train to Pathankot and then drive to Dalhousie, a picturesque locale on NH 33-35 which can be reached from many cities by bus or private tour vehicles. Built in the 1850s on five hills of the western Dauladhar Range, Dalhousie is a hill station established by the British Empire in India as a summer retreat for its troops and bureaucrats. It is a green destination in more ways than one. Blessed with the refreshing climate and warm sunshine its length and breadth are covered with cedar, oak, rhododendron, pine and a variety of shrubs.
Walk and trek to explore Dalhousie which is dotted with English-style cottages, bungalows and churches that emanate the charm of a bygone era. Start exploring the place from Tehra Hill, the centre of the town surrounded by a level walk called The Mall on day one and trek up to the Thandi Sarak and Pangi Hills where panoramic views of the undulating landscape await you on day two.
If trekking is something you enjoy then there are many trek routes on the Dalhousie – Khajjiar – Chamba triangle. If you enjoy leisurely walks then the nearby towns of Khajjiar and Chamba are replete with pine fringed paths, snow fed streams, lakes and temples.
Panchpula is a great picnic spot where small streams flow under five bridges and Jandri Ghat is excellent for a day trip and was once home to the palace of the former rulers of Chamba. You could also choose to stay at the forest lodge at Kalatope Wildlife Sanctuary, 8 kms from Dalhousie, which is home to the Himalayan black bear, barking deer and many species of birds.
It is best to visit Dalhousie from October to May as this avoids monsoon season when the roads can be difficult to traverse.
Rann of Kutch – Gujarat
A short flight from Mumbai to Bhuj and a two and a half hour drive later you arrive in the Rann of Kutch. A safari in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary is the best place to begin your journey into the Rann. Spread over nearly 5,000 square kilometres, it is the largest wildlife sanctuary in India and is home to a variety of animals like the desert fox, desert cat, jackal, wolf, nilgai, and the Indian Wild Ass which is only one of the three surviving species of Wild Ass in the world and figures high on the list of endangered species.
For bird lovers the sanctuary offers the opportunity to see over 350 bird species. The flamingo, pelican and Common Crane vie for the bird watcher’s eye together with foreign avian visitors during the winter such as the Siberian Crane, the Egyptian Ceraneous Vulture, the European Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Houbara Bustard from neighboring Iran and Iraq. More winged delights await you at the Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, 64 kms from Ahmedabad.
The Rann is inhabited by a number of local tribes like the Kolis, Rabaris, Bajanias, Bharvads, Kutchis and the Gujjars and a visit here is incomplete without a closer look at their vibrant lifestyles.
There is a lot more to explore in the vicinity like Modhera which is famous for its beautiful temples that have been carved out of stone. Zinjuwada, an 11th century fort structure, located on the periphery of the Rann houses one of the area’s largest salt works. A stop in the historic city of Rajkot (famous for its association with Mahatma Gandhi) or at Patan (known for its Patola sarees and fabrics) is a good way to wrap up your trip to the Rann.
Ladakh – Jammu & Kashmir
If trekking and exploration are high on your travel agenda then Ladakh is one of the best places to visit. Fly to Leh (Ladkah’s largest town) to begin your journey into the challenging and exciting destination of Ladakh. Making Leh your base camp to acclimatize to the high altitudes is ideal.
The trek from Spituk to Stok takes 4-5 days during which you can explore remote villages, enchanting monasteries and wildlife at the Hemis National Park. If you are looking for an authentic stay in Ladakh then the Himalayan Homestays programme gives you the opportunity to stay with a Ladakhi family and explore the park with experienced guides.
Other treks like the Lamayuru to Alchi trek through the Kongske La Pass at 4,900 metres and Stakspi La at 4,950 metres give visitors a glimpse of the stark, undulating landscapes and some ancient monasteries like the Alchi Chos-khor known for 11th century murals.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands – Bay of Bengal
For those of you who are water babies the colour blue will take on many hues at the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The islands are a great place to unwind and spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
You can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling in the blue-green visage and swim alongside colourful marine creatures during night dives. Take a glass bottom boat ride to get a glimpse of the diverse marine life and corals along the Havelock Islands coast in the Andamans and the Lakshadweep.
The best way to get around the islands is on a bike so you can drive around and discover the place and sample local cuisine along the way.
The Backwaters of Alappuzha and Kochi – Kerala
The tranquil backwaters of Alappuzha and Kochi are accessible by flights (the Cochin International Airport is the nearest one), by train from major cities like Kochi, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Chennai or bus from Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Coimbatore to Alappuzha.
A house boat with a butler, oarsmen and cook to wait on your every need of course while you enjoy the tranquility of the sylvan settings and navigate 900 kilometers of the water kingdom is the best way to enjoy some quiet time. You can also relax, rewind and rejuvenate as you surrender to the goodness of Ayurveda at the Keraleeyam Ayurvedic Resort, 70 kms south of Kochi or the Coconut Lagoon and Kumarakom Lake Resort. Medicated oils and herbal concoctions work their magic on you as experienced masseurs get on the job.
If you want to grab a slice of hectic activity in Alappuzha, then the Snake Boat Festival in August is the best time to go. You could also visit during the temple festivals of which the Ambalapuzha temple festival is particularly impressive. Five elephants carry the Krishna idol from the temple amidst great pomp and splendor to the accompaniment of music. The temple is famous for its rose palpayasam, a traditional very sweet milk-based dish as an offering.
All in all, depending on what you’re looking for India has a lot to offer in terms of quiet retreats and destinations that are replete with frenzied activity. Here’s to a wonderful Indian rendezvous.
Images reproduced from en.wikipedia.org
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