National tourism day was on 25th January. I am sharing my top 8 favourite places in India. The list is diverse, in terms of geography, terrain, culture, but tied through my personal experiences. So here we go –
1. Chitkul, Himachal Pradesh
Chitkul is one of the last villages in the Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh before the Tibet border. You can visit this small village with less than 1000 population during the summer months. But the winter wonderland shows up during December, when the snow fills the village in the most beautiful way, with temperature touching -15 degree Celsius at ~3500 metres. You can do a day trip from Sangla, or stay at hostels or basic homestays. While there, do not forget to take a walk around and spend some time by the amazing Baspa River. Zostel runs a hostel with an amazing view here.
2. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Known as the holy place on earth for thousands of years, Varanasi is much more than a pious place. Buzzing with people and animals, cafes and local snacks shops, foreigners and Indians, this place is an assault to the senses in the most positive way. Taking a boat ride during the sunrise is a must, so is sitting by its many ghats as the life by the Ganges river unfolds. During Dev Deepavali, the ghats become the prettiest, decorated with zillions of lamps. There are many cute hostels with an easy access to the ghats.
3. Palolem, Goa
Goa has been a go-to-place for party-lovers around the world for a very long time But recently, people have started giving it the due credit of being a place to just soak in. My personal favourite is Palolem, 90 minutes to the south from the Dabolim airport. Rejuvenation is an obvious outcome here because of the calmness, shacks with delicious food and unknown roads to explore. Do visit the butterfly cove and Sundowner restaurant if you are there. For a holistic rejuvenation, you will find beautiful resorts here.
4. Jog Falls, Karnataka
India’s second highest plunge waterfall, Jog falls, is a magnificent view to experience during the monsoon months. Karnataka government has lodges with all arrangements to visit and enjoy this place with kayaking, trekking and bird watching. You can enjoy that and homely food back in the lodges with you loved ones.
5. Kottayam, Kerala
Kerala’s backwater is no more a secret. But if you are up for reading a book through out the day, while waking up to an unreal sunrise, and may be, taking a boat-stroll through the canals and the river, you can head to Kumarakom, near the Kottayam city. This is much quieter than the popular Alleppey. The bird sanctuary is hardly visited, but a hidden gem. Take a boat to get there and walk for half an hour. You can also visit Malarikkal to have a coracle ride among the water lilies. Find a homestay to relax and have the delicious Kerala food.
6. Vagamon, Kerala
Vagamon is a hidden paradise in the Idduki district of Kerala. While people have been flocking to Munnar for its beautiful landscape, Vagamon was hardly known until a film was shot here recently. Once in Vagamon, you can find yourself hiking in the unknown hills, doing the windy trek, paragliding or off-roading. Limited but nice resorts and hostels are there, and you can enjoy yourself there throughout the year. To know about a more popular hill destination in South India, but find out the off-beat experience opportunities, you can check my blog post on Kodaikanal here.
7. Chidiya Tapu, Andaman
There is no doubt about Andaman islands being one of the most deserved destinations in India. You can visit Andaman Islands, and explore the corals, white sands and changing colours of the waters. Take out just half a day in the beginning or at the end of your trip, and ride to this place after lunch, just 40 minutes away from Port Blair. You will be in for the most beautiful sunset of your life, while having tea in the roadside shop and watching locals take traditional boats to go home to another island.
8. Maidan and River ghats in Kolkata, West Bengal
Kolkata is not an offbeat place, neither is it considered on the map of Indian tourists. You can find about the multi-cultural sides of Kolkata here. But if you land up there, or plan to visit this place, dedicate your winter mornings to the Maidan area in Kolkata. The largest urban park in the middle of the city during winter mornings turns to be the most mystical place, with fog creating a cinematic atmosphere. Locals come for morning walks, army prepares for parades and boys play football. In the afternoon you can visit the ghats by the river Hooghly, and choose from many of them, based on your location and interest.
If you are looking for truth of travel, do check out my blog post on how I bust the myth of travel here.