When you travel next, skip the crowds and head to these incredibly offbeat Indian destinations.
Towering peaks and endless skies: Nubra Valley, Ladakh
In a far-flung part of northern India, nestled amid rugged mountains and uninhabited lands, is the stunning Nubra Valley. It is located in a sensitive region, as it is near the Siachen Glacier, the site of the world’s highest military conflict.
Getting here is an experience in itself, for you will journey through the Khardung La, on a route that is claimed to be one of the world’s highest motorable roads. In Nubra — which offers a taste of winding lanes, ancient monasteries, charming houses, spectacular valleys and terrific views — the opportunities to simply stand and gaze are plentiful. While you’re there, don’t miss the characteristic Bactrian camels — they are easy to spot as they have two humps!
A slice of paradise: Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand
The colourful Valley of Flowers is located in a setting that is beyond beautiful, with the majestic Himalayas as the backdrop. Home to exotic flora and fauna, this national park seems almost untouched by humans.
A vibrant and vivid mix of flowers such as orchids, poppies, daisies, and many more can be found here. While it is covered in snow in winter, the place bursts into full bloom in the hotter months. Add streams, paddocks, peaks and waterfalls to the scene and what you get is the stuff of fairy tales indeed.
Roof of the world: Sandakphu, West Bengal
An adventurous trek with a stunning reward at the end, that’s Sandakphu for you. The highest peak in West Bengal, Sandakphu is located in the Darjeeling district on the India-Nepal border. If the spectacular scenery of snowy vistas and the thundering River Teesta don’t appeal to you, the view from the summit surely will.
Imagine seeing four of the five highest peaks in the world (Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu) from a single spot. What’s more, trekkers are also treated to an amazing view of the Kangchenjunga range in its avatar as the ‘Sleeping Buddha’. No wonder then that Sandakphu is said to truly be a trekker’s paradise.
Living wonders: Cherrapunji, Meghalaya
The fact that it is one of the wettest places in the world is not the only reason to consider a trip to Cherrapunji. In this region located in the depths of Northeast India and a stone’s throw from the India-Bangladesh border, bridges are not built but grown. A species of Indian rubber tree grows here, and it is known for having a supremely strong root system.
These powerful roots can stretch across rivers, and they are known to even hold fifty people at a time. These living, breathing bridges can be extraordinarily strong and they actually gain strength as time goes by. The Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge is considered to be Meghalaya’s most famous one. A bonus sight is the breathtaking Nohkalikai Falls, the tallest plunge waterfall in the country.
Bountiful blue: Gulf of Mannar, Off Tamil Nadu
Coral reefs, colourful fish, clear blue waters and beautiful beaches can be found in what is the country’s biologically richest coastal belt — the Gulf of Mannar. Off the coast of Tamil Nadu, the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park hosts three aquatic ecosystems — coral reef, seagrass and mangroves.
The region comprises a group of 21 breathtakingly beautiful islands and around 3,600 species of flora and fauna including dugongs, turtles, dolphins, seahorses, sea cucumbers, barracuda and so on. Exploring the area in a glass-bottom boat is an exhilarating experience indeed.
Land of legends: Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh
This quaint village is a treasure trove of history and architecture. The famous temple here features impressive frescos, idols, pillars, paintings, carvings, and several other artistic marvels.
The site is a brilliant example of the Vijayanagara style of architecture. Of particular interest is the curious case of the Hanging Pillar which does not rest on the ground at all. Another awe-inspiring feature is a colossal structure that is said to be India’s biggest monolithic Nandi. Visit this village and marvel at its many timeless wonders.
Astronomical adventure: Lonar Lake, Maharashtra
More than 50,000 years ago, a meteorite crashed into the surface of the Earth in present-day Maharashtra. What it created was an intriguing geological feature — an oval-shaped crater that is today a lake.
Lonar Lake is the Earth’s only hyper-velocity impact crater in basaltic rock. Its unusual ecosystem is home to a host of microorganisms that are rarely found anywhere else on Earth. A glass that is formed by high-velocity impacts, maskelynite, has been found at the site. And, get this, it is also said that compasses don’t work near some parts of the crater. Curiouser and curiouser!
Endless expanse: Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
On the edge of India’s westernmost state is a landscape like no other — the country’s largest salt plain, the Rann of Kutch. With a blinding white surface that seems to go on forever, the vast area is proof that even nothingness can be beautiful.
Photographs do not do justice to the size and scale of this location. It comprises two regions – the Great Rann and the Little Rann. The former is characterised by amazing landscapes while the latter is known for its rich biodiversity. A visit to this unique place is truly a humbling experience.
Haveli heaven: Churu, Rajasthan
Rajasthan is so popular among tourists that it is hard to find an unexplored part of the state. The town of Churu, however, is almost like an unpolished gem waiting to be re-discovered. Visit this region to explore astonishingly beautiful havelis, the sprawling homes of merchants decorated with flamboyant frescos and paintings.
Churu does not have palaces and forts like the more popular tourists attractions in the state do, but these havelis are a sight to behold. The lanes abound in domes, arches, terraces, antiques, doors and other structures, giving the visitor a visual experience like no other. What’s more, a short drive from here takes you to the very heart of the Thar Desert.