10 offbeat must-visit spots in India

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Dras, Jammu & Kashmir, is a beauty worth exploring (image courtesy: kashmirhills.com)

Touristy places are incredibly convenient as they boast infrastructure and amenities for the comfort of visitors. But if you are someone who prefers to take the road less travelled and cannot be too bothered with amenities or the lack thereof, India has some fabulous offbeat places to visit. Check out these 10 destinations that every traveller with a thirst for adventure should put on their bucket list.

Malana in Himachal Pradesh – a culturally unique town with a distinctive identity (image courtesy: thelandofwanderlust.com)

Malana, Himachal Pradesh
Isolated and culturally unique, self-governed Malana seems to remain untouched by technology and other things that for many of us are part of life. The people here speak Kanashi that no one else seems to understand. The deity Jamblu Devta governs the administration of the village and his word is final. The Malanis believe they have descended from Alexander although there is no evidence of this. Still, it adds to the mystery of this remote village. Visitors are free to wander around – just do not touch the walls of the temples or the residents’ belongings unless you want to incur a fine!

There are several trekking opportunities around Malana such as the trek to Chandrakhani Pass. The journey is easy and the low-altitude trek offers lovely views of the Deo Tibba peak. Owing to its isolation, there aren’t many places to stay in Malana. Your best bet is to camp or book a room at Dragon Guest House. Click here for more info on where to stay: https://bit.ly/2SAqaJ2

Interior view of Raj Mahal, Orchha Palace Fort Complex, Madhya Pradesh

Fort Complex, Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
Orchha Palace Fort Complex offers history buffs a chance to see ancient monuments, temples and palaces built by the Bundela kings of Orchha State. There’s much to explore here like Chaturbhuj Temple, Raj Mahal, Jehangir Mahal, and Sheesh Mahal, the last of which is now a hotel and gives you a chance to live like royalty of old. You can make reservations at www.booking.com and www.makemytrip.com.

The ethereally beautiful Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in Sikkim (image courtesy: Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation)

Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, Sikkim
Hikers and nature lovers, this piece of paradise is for you! Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is a national park in Sikkim with beautiful trails framed by rhododendrons overhead. Buddhist shrines dot the paths. On clear days, the mighty Kanchenjunga can be seen, lending surrealism to the experience. There are several homestays near the sanctuary that organize hikes such as Okhrey Homestay https://www.okhreyhomestays.com/. If you prefer a hotel, you can opt for Bodhi Villa. https://bodhivillahotel.business.site/

For more information on visiting the beautiful state of Sikkim and exploring this Himalayan wonder, please click here.

Gurez Valley, J&K
About 120 kilometres from Srinagar lies Gurez Valley, an idyllic destination for those looking to get away from it all. It is also the gateway to the famed Silk Road. The valley was closed to tourism for several decades and only recently reopened. As such, there’s an untouched beauty that’s hard to find in today’s accessible world. You can hike and fish and camp by Kissar Lake. There aren’t too many accommodation choices in Gurez but Kaka Palace offers homely rooms with several amenities. Click here for details https://kakapalace.000webhostapp.com/

Enjoy the calm and serene Yarada Beach at Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh (image courtesy: Vizag Tourism)

Yarada Beach, Vishakhapatnam
India has quite the long list of beaches but many are crowded, which can take away the sheen of being on the coastline. Yarada Beach, located about 20 kilometres from bustling Vishakhapatnam, is another matter. Though not completely off the radar, it is far quieter, calmer, and cleaner. You can visit the lighthouse at Dolphin’s Nose nearby, so named because the hill resembles a dolphin’s nose. Yarada is a private beach and does not have facilities like water sports. However, it is the perfect picnic spot.

You can take a bus from Vishakhapatnam to Yarada Beach or book a taxi for a more comfortable ride. The harbour and vessels in the middle of the sea make for interesting vistas. Try to take in the lighthouse at Dolphin’s Nose, which is located on a hill and offers sweeping views of the water.

For more information, check out the Vizag Tourism website by clicking here.

The beautiful and serene Lonar Lake in Maharashtra

Lonar Lake, Maharashtra
Lonar Lake sits within large crater caused by a meteor impact around 50,000 years ago. It is the biggest basaltic impact crater on the planet. It is also simultaneously saline and alkaline and supports a diverse range of life such as chinkara and peafowls. The surrounding jungle does so as well and if you are a bird-watcher, nature lover or hiker, you will not be disappointed here. Over a dozen old temples fringe the lake. Be sure to visit the Gomukh Temple and Vishnu Temple, the latter of which is built in the Hemadpanthi style. You can find details of the lake here: https://bit.ly/2Hsbri5. If you want to stay close by, you can do so at the MDTC Holiday Resort. Details can be found on clicking here.

Hoysaleshwara ancient Hindu temple built by the Hoysalas at Halebid, Karnataka, India

Halebidu, Karnataka
The Hoysala Empire had its capital in Halebidu in the 12th century. While that rule has long since passed, there are remains that showcase Hoysala architecture. They include both Jain and Hindu basadis and temples that still stand strong and proud. Exquisite carvings, sculptures, pillars and ornate lintels are some of the things to see. You can get to Halebidu by bus from Hassan city, which is about 28 kilometres away. You can stay at Hotel Mayura Shantala, which is opposite the Hoysaleshwara Temple.

Kyllang Rock in the West Khasi Hills in Meghalaya (image courtesy: flickr)

Kyllang Rock, Meghalaya
A little over 50 kilometres from Meghalaya’s capital of Shillong in West Khasi Hills is a huge dome-shaped granite rock known as Kyllang. Climb to the top and you will be greeted by a panoramic view of the surrounding hills. It is believed that a magnetic field keeps you from falling off although we advise you do not test the theory! Legend has it that the rock comprises a father, mother, and child. While travelling, a stone pierced the foot of the mother and she could no longer carry her child. The father then carried them both. When they stopped to rest, they turned into stone.

The easiest way to get to Kyllang is by booking a taxi from Shillong. There aren’t many accommodation choices near Kyllang so the best option is to stay in Shillong, which has plenty of hotels (bookings can be made on Airbnb, MakeMyTrip or booking.com – all of which offer good deals).

Bristly Smithia, Smithia setulosa, Plateau of flowers, Kaas, Satara, Maharashtra

Kaas Plateau, Maharashtra
Also known as Kaas Pathar, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to hundreds of plants and flowers, many endemic and rare. It’s open to 3,000 visitors each day to preserve the biodiversity so if you plan to visit, you need to register yourself at http://kaas.ind.in/kas-plateau-registration/. Fees are INR 100 per person for three hours on weekends and government holidays and INR 50 for other days.

Dras, Jammu & Kashmir
If you fancy colder climes, Dras is for you. It’s located between Kargil town and Zoji La pass. It’s believed to be the coldest inhabited place in India with winters averaging lows of about -20oC. Zoji La pass opens in summer when the weather gets pleasantly warm and life resumes after months spent indoors during the cold. While here, you can stay at White Mountain Hotel and Restaurant. Bookings can be made here: https://bit.ly/2T4TjB9.

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