“Just like a seed, amazing things are always underrated, but in the end they always rise to the top.”
Tired of traveling with the crowd to the same places, and doing the same things?
Are you looking for places in India that are little known, but offer spectacular locations, magnificent cuisine, rich culture and warm hospitality?
We polled travelers about their experiences and came up with these off-the-beaten-path gems that are definitely worth a trip away from the hordes of tourists:
1. Gandikota Canyon, Andhra Pradesh – The Grand Canyon of India
Located by the Penna river, 15 km from Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh is India’s most spectacular gorge. It makes for a memorable getaway after the rainy season when there is a lot of water in the river. Gandikota derives its name from two Telugu words, ‘Gandi’ meaning a gorge, ‘Kota’ meaning a fort. The caves nearby in Belum are one of the longest caves in India & the Mylavaram Dam is just down the Penna river.
2. Bir, Himachal Pradesh – The Paragliding Capital of India
Founded in the early 1960s as a settlement for Tibetan refugees, this village is in the heart of the Himalayas. Bir almost touches the clouds with travelers from all over the world visiting to relax, meditate and experience adventure sports. The paragliding planes launch from Billing and then glide down to the Landing Site at Bir. There is an altitude change of around 800 m and the two places are together called Bir Billing. The season begins in March and May & you can engage in brief paragliding lessons or go on tandem trips.
3. Chikhaldhara, Maharashtra – An Hill station from the Mahabharata
Looking to go to the source of where your favourite Arabica coffee is grown? Head to Chikhaldhara in October – November when the fruit is harvested. Besides the plantations you can also visit the Bir Lake made in Basalt by the British, Bhimkund Waterfall with its treasures of flora-fauna & Gawilgad Fort that was the stronghold of the Maratha Empire.
4. Unakoti, Tripura – Angkor Wat of North East
Located 180 kms from Agartala, Unakoti literally means 1 less than 1 crore. An ancient wonder dating back to the 7th – 8th century, it is a site of large stone & rock cut sculptures of Hindu deities. It is also a good place for hiking, trekking and other activities given the terrain and the natural offerings of the area.
5. Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Odisha – Home of the Magnificent Mahanadi
Odisha’s natural bounty beckons you to this scenic locale to witness the spectacle of the Mahanadi gushing through a 22 km gorge & flora- fauna of the sanctuary. It is also a great location to go birding in Central & Eastern India. Home to the majority of peninsular India’s wildlife including elephants, tigers & crocodiles, it offers a fantastic experience of the great outdoors. You can hitch a ride in a small dinghy rowed by locals.
6. Udhvada, Gujrat – The heart of Parsi Culture
A sleepy coastal town of Gujarat about 180 kms from Mumbai, it is home to one of the world’s oldest religions – Zoroastrianism. The lanes of Udvada are meandering with nodes or open spaces at regular intervals. These lanes are adorned with quaint, raftered houses with typical wooden katera or railings around the social space of an otla or porch. Udvada’s architecture boasts many Portuguese elements like decorative cornices, elaborately carved grilles and cantilevered balconies. Some of the well preserved homes are a beacon of home & joy!
7. Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu – Coral Reefs in the Gulf of Mannar
The boundless cerulean waters along with wide stretches of shores are worth a visit to this exquisite place. This “lost land of Tamil Nadu” is 25 km from Rameshwaram & the best time to visit is between the months of October to March. The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park nearby is the first biosphere reserve of the country that is spread across 6.23 square kilometers. This Marine National Park comprises 21 archipelagos along with coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves, and shallow-water habitats that thrive in the Gulf of Mannar.
8. Chitrakot Waterfalls, Chhatisgarh – The Niagara Falls of India
A natural waterfall on the Indravati river, in Bastar,the height of these falls is about 29 meters. The best time to visit is between October to March. The otherwise meandering streams come together to unleash their power and completely cover the flat ground above the cliff.The view of the waterfall at sunset and the changing hues around it is a sight to remember. Right before noon time, you could get lucky and witness a rainbow on the bed of the fall. The Kanger Valley National Park nearby is a blissful escape for any nature lover.
9. Morni Hills, Haryana – The Switzerland of Haryana
Located around 45 kilometers from Chandigarh, Morni is part of the Shivalik range hills of the Himalayas.Situated 4,000 feet above sea levels. It is known for its Himalayan views, flora, and lakes. It offers myriad opportunities for trekking, rock-climbing and other adventure sports. Myth, mystery and history also have a place in Morni’s attractions. There are two large lakes or tals, which seem to be interconnected mysteriously even though they are separated by a hillock, the water level in both the tals always remains the same.
10. Dawki River, Meghalaya – The River Made of Glass
The water of the Dawki river is so clear that the boats floating on it look as if they are on a crystal glass surface. It originates from the Eastern Shillong Peak, which is located 1,800 m above sea level. Dawki can be visited all throughout the year but the best time to visit is from November to May. A swim in the river is a simple, fun & refreshing activity. You can also go fishing with the locally made fishing rods made of bamboo & string. Camping on the banks of the river is a great way to absorb all that there’s to experience.
In the words of Dr. Suess, “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”