India is a land of wonders. Every corner of this country has something wonderful to offer. From the mighty snow-capped Himalayas to the lush green Western Ghats, from the golden Thar Desert to the pristine beaches of the coastal states, from the backwaters of Kerala to the living root bridges in Meghalaya; India amazes you in so many different ways.
Here’s personalized travel company un[travel]’s list of 5 places in India that will leave you in awe…
With unexplored lakes and some of the world’s highest inhabited villages, Spiti leaves you with picture-postcard memories of barren desert and precariously perched monasteries set against a backdrop of clear blue skies. Traveling through Spiti is the closest you could get to Shangri-La, albeit on some inspiring tarmac. While you’re certainly not going to be allowed forty winks on the Dalai Lama’s bed, used on his visits here; Spiti offers much more than monasteries and pristine glaciers. Impressive decorations signal the onset of festivals here in Spiti, offering an easy excuse for much song and revelry throughout the year. If you’re lucky enough to be in Spiti at the end of September, check out the ‘Chakhar Mela’ (held every three years) that ends with the Chham dance (mask) by the Llamas. The sparse population and awesome trekking opportunities offer a feeling of unexplored remoteness in an area yet untouched by tourism. At incredible altitudes with stunning landscape, often compared to Ladakh before tourists took over, Spiti makes a fantastic road-trip destination with the added bonus of spotting that ever-elusive Snow Leopard.
A slice of Goa deep south, step onto the shores of Varkala for a definitive taste of authentic Kerala with the distinct aroma of hippie culture. Spectacular red laterite cliffs loom over the shore here, seemingly dropping into the sea, as coconut palms line the lower reaches. Take a walk on the pathway by the cliffs for some unbelievable views and, quite possibly, good bargains on souvenirs and jewellery little shops on the other side. Colorful quaint cafes that face the serene coastline serve multiple cuisines, making for an easy way to spend time over a couple of chilled ones making new friends. Kathakali and Mohiniattam performances are held every evening at the Kathakali Centre, giving tourists a glimpse into Kerala culture. Backwaters near Kappil beach provide ample opportunities for a stunning sunset cruise and adventure activities like stand up paddling. The only beach in India that offers paragliding, Varkala is an adventure junkie’s paradise.
A recent addition to India’s travel destinations of choice, Munsiyari is a fascinating little town practically on the border of India, Nepal and China. Surrounded by snow-capped Himalayas, at just over 2000 feet above mean sea level, perfect temperatures and mesmerizing forests of oak, pine and deodar make this a perfect weekend retreat. Head out to the hot springs at Madkot (about 22 kilometers away) or, if the season is right, go skiing at Khaliya Top and Betuli Dhar (7 and 5 kilometers away). Stop over here at Munsiyari if you’re trekking Khaliya Top or moving on to higher mountains and glaciers as well.
A perfect little town in the midst of superb coniferous forests, Pahalgam is clearly the last word in tranquillity. Past saffron fields, apple orchards and sulphur springs, the approach to Pahalgam is a vision for eyes tired of seeing urban cities. Surrounded by the Himalayas, the Sheshnaag and Lidder rivers flowing down with numerous lakes are just a horse-ride away. Wide-open fields surrounded by thick wooded pine forests offer the kind of view that makes you never want to leave. Usually the base camp for the ‘Amarnath’ yatra, Pahalgam is at its busiest between July and September. Apart from the usual leisure strolls, make time for day trips and trekking to the valleys around Pahalgam as well for that little slice of paradise here in Kashmir.
An epitome of everything Rajasthani, from every postcard you’ve probably ever seen, the spectacular sandstone royal desert town of Jaisalmer is charming and mysterious all at the same time. Self-explanatory as a ‘golden city’, Jaisalmer’s fort is perched on a yellow sandstone ridge, keeping a watchful eye over the ever-spreading town beyond its walls. Step into the fort for a vision of medieval prosperity that meets the 21st century in the thriving bustling township within. Havelis, Jain temples, curio shops, hotels and restaurants lie beside each other on cobbled narrow alleyways. Take a walk through the streets of old Jaisalmer for glimpses into the lives of locals, cooking or hard at work in skilled craftwork, art and sculpture. There’s something new around every corner here in Jaisalmer, from spicy food to handicrafts, so expect your walk to take longer than the distance warrants as you stop for a much-needed break at one of the rooftop cafes. Get your taste of the local brew at one of the government-approved ‘bhang’ (hemp) shops outside the fort gates, but be prepared to get in line with a group of locals waiting in queue for a glass! Head over to the pristine sand dunes for a camel tour through the barren Thar outside the city.
If you’re lucky enough to be traveling in January/February every year, join in the Desert Festival revelry with dancing, folk music, camel racing and the odd turban-tying contest as well.