If you’ve traveled to India before, you must have certainly experienced the incredible diversity with the country. India is a mosaic of cultures, climates and people – which also makes it a very popular tourist destination. The Taj Mahal and the beaches of Goa (and their likes) attract a huge number of visitors each year, but being from here, I’d like to tell you about a few hidden gems which are just equally as fantastic – maybe even better.
So, here goes my list of eight off-beat destinations in India, that you should not miss.
1) The hills of Darjeeling, West Bengal
Darjeeling, a small town in the state of West Bengal is a beautiful hill station known for its lush greenery, the tea plantations that stretch across the higher plateaus and its breathtaking landscapes. Visit Darjeeling to experience the cultural melting pot of India and its neighbours Nepal and Tibet. A number of refugees from both countries have made Darjeeling their home. One can get the enthralling, panoramic view of the third highest mountain in the world, Mount Kanchenjunga, and other lofty peaks of the majestic Himalayas. This place is the base point for many trekkers heading to Sikkim, another splendid state across the border. Hire a car and drive through the wonderful tea estates to explore this fantastic hill station.
2) Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Gaya is known as the place where the Buddha attained his enlightenment. It is popular for its ancient history pertaining to Buddhism and the Buddhist temple is a renowned heritage site. This is a sacred place for Buddhists and if you are someone who loves history, then this is the place to discover some facts about the ancient days. Ideal to meet your spiritual side!
3) Udaipur, Rajasthan
Udaipur is synonymous with luxury in India. Popularly known as the Venice of the east, this city is the destination for romance literally as it is THE wedding destination. The City Palace looks heavenly at night as the colors beautify the intricate architecture of the building. The lake beside this palace imposes a serene ambience. If you want to treat yourself to indulging luxury – fem dining to exploring – this is the place for you. You won’t be disappointed! However, it is better to plan your visit well in advance as it gets very crowded and expensive during the peak season.
4) The islands of Diu & Daman
These former Portuguese colonies and present union territories are located off the coast at the southern tip of the state of Gujarat. Diu is a perfect getaway to unwind on the beaches. It is connected to the coast of Gujarat by a bridge. Diu is home to three churches with great architectural designs and also has a fort facing the sea. While alcohol is prohibited on Daman, Diu thrives on the revenues from the liquor industry. Daman is the place to explore and Diu the place to have some fun on the beach!
5) Coorg, Karnataka
Known as the Scotland of India, Coorg or Kodagu is a place that mesmerizes you from the moment you set your eyes on it. The beautiful hills in shades of brown and green, the tea plantations and the orange estates make this place so idyllic that your mind and your body will reach a state of bliss and relaxation almost involuntarily. It is a perfect getaway to spend time amidst the lush greenery. There are many walking tours to tea, coffee and other plantations.
6) Kovalam, Kerala
If you’ve already been to India’s most popular beach getaways in Goa, then head south towards Kerala to reach Kovalam – a tiny town which offers just as much fun and frolic. The town has something for every kind of a traveler. If you are looking for some spiritual insights, enroll for Yoga and meditation classes. There are also Ayurvedic spas to make you feel rejuvenated, and attractions like the light house beach close by. It is a great place to relax and unwind along the seashore in an awesome weather!
7) The former French colony Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu
Pondicherry is to date the largest French colony in India. It blends the eastern and the western ways of the world beautifully. Much of the local people speak French and other local Indian languages. It is a very popular tourist destination among Indians, and the Aurobindo Ashram in Auroville is a must visit. It lies about 10 kilometres outside of Pondicherry. As with other beach destinations, you should get accommodation right by the beach for the full experience.
8) Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu
Kanyakumari is the southernmost point of India, formerly known as Cape Comorin. Here the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea ad the Bay of Bengal meet, and create a unique sea experience. One can actually witness the variations in the color of the sand beneath the water, giving it different shades of colours on each side. The town itself is wonderful, with tall coconut palms adding to the picturesque landscape and the vast beaches. Rent a bike and definitely make sure to stick around the beach for the most mesmerising sunset. Kanyakumari is actually located about 90 kilometres south-east of Kovalam, which I recommended above, so it’s easy to combine a visit to both places!
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