Ever thought of traveling off the beaten path and glimpsing a side of India that few tourists see? From pristine beaches to quirky villages, hidden architectural marvels and more, there is no shortage of such unseen places in India. These pristine surroundings are waiting to be discovered. Check out these 24 offbeat destinations that are just begging for you to visit them!
Approximately 70 km from Bangalore, this unique hillside is heaven for cave explorers. It is scattered with a plethora of caves formed from small volcanic rocks. The caves are both welcoming and intimidating at the same time.
What adds to its charm? There’s a spring that emerges from a small crevice in the rock, a mysterious source. Local people believe the water of the stream to be very holy.
The small town of Umri in Allahabad, believed to be 250 years old, has perplexed researchers all over the world. Out of every 1,000 children born here, 45 are twins. In the last 80 years, the village has had 108 twins, which is amazingy. The reason for this remains unknown. But the villagers believe it to be god’s miracle.
Located about 45 km southeast of Leh is the beautiful town of Hemis. The town is popular for its Hemis monastery and a colorful festival that it celebrates every year.
Like with other haunted places, Bhangarh has no shortage of myths and ghost stories. But unlike other places this one is so haunted the government of India has made it illegal to enter the grounds. Apparently anyone who has been out past sunrise in the ruined town of Bhangarh, also known as Bhangarh Fort, has never returned alive.
About 11 km from Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in Andhra Pradesh lies Ethipothala, which is home to the spellbinding Ethipothala Waterfall. The falls are a union of three streams and are quite a sight to behold.
Sprawling over forty acres, the 300-year-old Bekal Fort is shaped like a giant key hole. It is one of the best preserved forts in Kerala. The observation tower in the fort offers a fascinating view of the Arabian Sea and all the major places in the vicinity.
This architectural marvel was built in the 18th century in Lucknow. It is a fantastic mix of European and Arabic architecture. The most astonishing aspect is the central arched hall, a whopping 50 meters long and about three stories high, hanging without the support of any pillars or beams!
Well known for its spice plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, hill stations and the gigantic Idukki arch dam, this district in Kerala truly is the epitome of natural beauty.
What makes this place really quirky? Idukki is known for the most unusual phenomenon called Red Rain. The colored rain of Kerala started falling in 2001. Since then it has become one of the most discussed anomalies of recent years.
This is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India and its banks are home to the world’s only floating National Park. The Loktak Lake in Manipur is also called the floating lake because of the floating masses of vegetation on its surface.
About 24 km from Dalhousie, this small picturesque saucer-shaped plateau is a wonderful destination. For a peaceful sojourn in the lap of the Himalayas, this is the ideal place for relaxation.
For all the tea lovers reading this, this is one place you would crave to visit. At 7,900 ft above sea level the hills of Kolkkumalai in Tamil Nadu produce tea which has a special flavor and freshness.
In the northeast of the Kullu Valley lies the solitary village of Malana. The village is considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. It is also home to the notorious Malana cream, arguably the finest quality hash ever produced.
Do you cringe at the sight of litter on streets in India? Well then you will be surprised to know about this village. Located about 100 km from Shillong is Mawlynnog, a small village in the East Khasi Hills. In 2003 it won the award of being the cleanest village -- not just in India but in all of Asia.
One of the five tallest waterfalls in the country, Nohkalikai Falls near Cherrapunji is named after the horrific tale of a woman named Ka Likai. The legend behind this gorgeous fall makes it all the more intriguing and beautiful.
Full of palaces and shrines still retaining their original grandeur, the city of Orchha dates back to 1501 and is a must for all history / culture / architecture buffs. It is located near the banks of Betwa River in Madhya Pradesh.
Situated at an altitude of 5,029 metres in the Himalayas, this lake is popularly known as Skeleton Lake. Skeletons of about 200 people belonging to the 9th century were discovered here. It was later found that a hailstorm had killed the people. To this day, visitors can still see those skeletons.
A village at about 200 km from Pune follows a frightful custom. Each house in this village has a resting place for cobras in the rafters of their ceilings. No cases of snake bites have been reported in this village despite snakes moving about freely in every household.
Tucked away in the Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, the Spiti Valley is a relatively unknown world! With Tibet in the east and Ladakh in the north, this region is scattered with tiny villages and monasteries rich in traditional culture.
Located 27 km from the district of Tamenglong in Manipur, the Tharon Cave is of great archaeological and historical importance. A visit to this cave is reportedly the experience of a lifetime.
Is the USA your land of dreams? If yes, then you simply cannot miss visiting the Chilkur Balaji Temple, which is about 20 kms from Hyderabad. People believe the 21st century god of this temple has the power to grant you a US visa.
Yes, you read that right. Every week around 75,000 to 100,000 devotees visit this temple!
About 620 km from Bangalore is the ghost town of Dhanushkodi. Not only is it famously known for its mythological importance, but also for the cyclone that hit the town in 1964, which ravaged the entire region.
Located in the Thane district of Maharashtra, Vihigaons Falls is a monsoon fed waterfall. It is the perfect place for rappelling and canoeing.
About 870 meters above the sea level, this hill station is located in the State of Gujarat. The most amazing aspect about it is the rare and beautiful sea view that guests get to see.
Located at about 148 km from Gangtok, the Yumthang valley with its scenic beauty is truly a paradise for nature lovers.
Over the next six months I will be exploring as many of these locations as possible. 1 down, 23 to go! Follow along at blog.theHoliDaze.com
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A wildlife tourism trip is always exciting and adventurous. I have covered various Tiger resevres in my previous journeys and an encounter with tiger has always been thrilling but this time I had planned a different jungle safari and intended to cover the Asiatic Lions at Gir Gujarat, the only place in the world to see the Asiatic lions in the wild.
Gir is located in the southwest portion of Gujarat and can be reached by road or air. (The nearest airport is Jamnagar / Ahmedabad.) The nearest city is Veraval in south and Junagarh in North. But in all cases to reach the wildlife you have to take the car route and SH (state highway) is the only available option.
Gir forest is spread over 1000 sq km and has various animals in it. Mainly it is the home of Asiatic lions a breed different from the African lions. You can also spot deers, wild buffalo, peacock, barrasingha, monkeys etc.
The forest department allows two daily safaris, one in the morning and other in the evening. It is difficult to spot the lion and for that reason you should always keep a margin for your second or third round. In our case we were quite lucky to spot the wild cats entire family at two different locations. The encounter with the wild cats were amazing when the cats were moving with their cubs.
The Asiatic Lions are really amazing creatures, sometimes I doubt why they are called the king. Then a second thought and realize why they are King of the Jungle. Humorously they have lot many servants working for them. Actually they live in a family where the major work is done by the lioness and the lion does not like to work. To be frank I was amazed when I saw the forest Guard moving with the lion family like they are their pet cats and was so near to them pushing them with sticks. It was amazing, it seem that he was the shepherd and the wild cats were it sheep.
Well overall an amazing experience in the Gir Forest and an equally amazing experience was the Tribal dance which we had attended later in the night at our hotel. They are the tribe people who perform there dances and customs to promote tourism. Well done by the tribe, I shall happily say.
The dance was really very amazing and interesting, there performance was terrific specially the breaking of the coconut shell by there head. It will always be a memorable performance for me to remember. Not to be missed while at Gir Gujarat. If your hotel is not arranging one, you can ask local guide for organizing such event for you.
Gujarat is one of the most aggressively marketed states in India from the tourism point of view. So when I got a wedding invite from a friend (with Ahmedabad as venue) I seized the opportunity with both hands. And Gujarat hasn't let me down. The trip itself was short but quite memorable.
We spent a day in Ahmedabad and got a taste of the famed Gujarati Thali. The meal was sumptuous and I ate more than my fill. Ahmedabad is like any another bustling Indian city. A mix of the new and the old, of the organized and the chaotic. Chaos on the roads makes me feel right at home and Ahmedabad sure felt like home!
From Ahmedabad We left for Diu via cab and after spending the entire day on the road arrived at Diu in the night. The roads were good for the most part. A portion of the road passes through the Gir National Park and we were able to spot some deer on the roadside! This stretch of the road presents some of the most beautiful scenery you will see in Gujarat. The arid landscape was bathed in a golden hue with a pure blue sky as the backdrop. I had never imagined that a thorn and scrub forest could be a thing of such beauty!
After checking into the resort, we headed straight for the beach. The beach wore a deserted look. There were only a handful of people on the beach. The sea appeared to be calm and there were no roaring waves splashing ashore. However sunrise was beautiful! Light in a thousand hues of red and orange bounced off the glimmering waters of the Arabian sea. A sunrise had never felt more captivating.
After a leisurely stroll on the beach and a quick breakfast we left for our next destination: Somnath.
Somnath is a temple town close to Veraval and is famed for the Shiva temple situated there. This temple has been looted 11 times by Afghan invaders but it has bounced back each time. Somnath is a 90 minute drive from Diu and the road isn't particularly good. Somanth is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas and is a highly regarded pilgrimage spot for Hindus. The temple itself is majestic but what struck me most was the efficiency with which it is managed. Unlike some other temples there are no VIP darshans. Everyone gets to do the darshans and it was all very well managed. The highlight of the darshan was the 'Aarti' and we were lucky enough to witness it. The Arabian sea forms the southern boundary of the temple and the view of the ocean from the temple is something that will always remain with me. Unfortunately photography wasn't allowed within the temple premises.We left for our next destination, Gir National Park, soon after collecting 'Prasad' from the temple.
The drive to Gir was the same scenic drive that we had experienced earlier. The unforgiving sun at Somnath Temple was tempered by the cool breeze from the forest. We quickly checked into our resort and then queued up for the most exciting event of the trip -- a Jungle Safari through the forests of the Girnar hills. After about an hour of queuing up we got our permits for a safari on Track #3 of the park. With high spirits and soaring expectations we entered the jungle.
Fifteen minutes into the safari my senses were totally over powered by the sights and sounds of the jungle that surrounded us. I went quiet and started absorbing the beauty of the landscape that was unfolding before us minute after minute. The diversity in the landscape was unbelievable. One minute we were passing through a lush green jungle and the next moment we would be in an arid landscape adorned by thorny scrub and bereft of greenery. We spotted a few specimens of the deer and antelope family but the big cat did not oblige us with an appearance. The disappointment of not able to spot lions notwithstanding, the jungle left us mesmerized with the sheet beauty it possesses. I will definitely be back for another shot at the lions.
Gujarat has impressed me and left a longing to return and resume my explorations from where I am leaving off.
Want to see more from Gir National Park?
Written by Abhigya Verma
To cover the entire Gujarat one require more than 10 days by road. The roads are good but distance to be covered is greater than that. Oh and just a heads-up, the best time to visit Gujarat is from November to Mid March. Anyway, on our road-trip we opted for the southern part of Gujarat and decided on the following locations:
Once I moved in Gujarat, the roads made me more comfortable and the journey of 2000kms became more pleasurable. The roads were good atmosphere was ok (too hot in days but being a Rajasthani, we were used to this) specially near the beach.
Ahmedabad, a growing city is near to Gandhinagar the capital of Gujarat state (province). we remained in the outer area called Sarkhej, dotted by various five star hotels and malls it remain overall a good experience. But if you are in Ahmedabad, you cannot miss two things for sure, One is there food and another their ice-cream parlors. Gujaratis are found of food and have various variety to offer specially in the snacks category. Just walking in any store and you have endless option. My favorite is Phaphada with Papaya and the world famous Khaman-Dhokla.
Our next stay was at Dwarka, A religious city where Lord Krishna had ruled. It was his kingdom which sunk at the time of his death. The temple is old and is counted in the four DHAMS spread over the country and is also included in seven gracious temples of ancient. Anyways, It good to be there if you are religious and follower of Hinduism, otherwise the city can be dropped out as there is not much to do and not much to see either.
The next destination thereafter was Porbandar, the city where Mahatma Gandhi was born. His house is still intact and now has been converted into museum. Well we just stayed there for lunch and did not explored the city so not much to say about the city.
From there we moved to Somnath, again a religious city (Lord Shiva) and the best part of the journey was the coastal highway and trust me it gave us some amazing views.
Somnath has a long history of being looted and rebuilt. Many rulers specially Islamic rulers have come and ruined the temple and after some decades it was rebuilt by the kings ruling the area. The temple is good and is located on the shore. a peaceful and relaxing place. The history of the temple can be known by visiting the light and sound show organized at the backyard of the temple every evening. The best place to stay in this city was the VIP guest house of the temple which is built by Kokila Ben Trust (Reliance Group) and is run by the temple authority.
Next day we moved to Gir Forest National Park – the home of the Asiatic Lion. While crossing the countryside we cam across various mango farms and were very lucky to find mangoes on the trees. We halted at one of those garden and ate the raw mangoes. The mango in this area is known for sweetness and is being exported to various countries. They were really amazing.
Gir Forest National Park is always a fantastic wildlife destination known as the only place in the world where you can find Asiatic Lions freely roaming in the jungles. Show Me More!
After Gir we moved to Diu (a union territory not in Gujarat) and relaxed, enjoying the pleasant sunset there. We also entertained ourselves with a few water sports. And debated never returning back home.
After this we returned to Ahmedabad and completed our Loop. On the way we also visited Lothal, one of the ancient cities still rich in culture. The overall experience of Gujarat was good but not great. The goverment is doing well in advertising but still needs to work on the development and execution of increased tourism.
So, you’ve been invited to a traditional Indian Hindu wedding. You are in for a treat, and also some work. What is rarely witnessed at these elaborate celebrations is all the effort, energy, and preparation that go into orchestrating the 3+ days of events, which marry colorful fabrics, robust, rich food flavors and pulsating rhythms. Then again, masters of any craft have the incredible ability of making the most difficult tasks look effortless.
>All that is required to breeze through and bask in the glow that is this stunning series of ceremonies is an open mind, the willingness to learn, and lots of (fun) practice. While it may be work, the fruit of your labor, getting an intimate glimpse into one of the richest cultures of the world, is well worth it.
Rule #1: During a first encounter with an elder (you can gauge age by comparing them to other folks around you, usually 70 yrs. + is elder status), greet him/her by saying “kem cho” (how are you in Gujarati) and reach down to touch their toes. This is done as a sign of respect.
Don’t wear red (one of the bride's colors), or white (a color worn for Hindu funerals).
Mehndi (bride's family) (very casual)
women traditional-salwar kameez with sandals.
women western-maxi dress or comfortable pants/jeans and top.
men traditional/western-jeans or shorts and shirts and casual shoes.
Raas-Garba (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual)
women traditional- chaniya cholis and comfortable dancing shoes.
women western- nice/casual dress and shoes.
men traditional-kurta pyjama (also known jabho langho) and sandals or slippers.
men western-nice slacks and button down shirts and comfortable shoes for dancing.
Grah Shanti (bride’s family) (very casual)
women traditional-salwar kameez.
women western-casual pants and tops.
men traditional-kurta pyjama/jabho langho or pants and polo shirts. Shoes can be sandals or flats.
Wedding Ceremony (bride and groom’s families and friends) (formal attire)
women traditional-saree and sandals.
women western-elegant dress and heels
men traditional-sherwani and pointed slippers.
men western-suits and dress shoes.
Reception (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual)
women traditional- chaniya choli or saree whichever will be most comfortable.
women western-nice dresses and sandals, flats or heels.
men traditional-kurta pyjama/jabho langho or sherwani and dancing shoes.
men western-nice pants and button down shirts or suits.
Mehndi (bride’s family) (very casual): This is a henna (tattoos made with special plant-based dye) party for the females, which happens the night before the Raas-Garba. The men usually hang out in a space next to where the women are getting henna-fied. They meet up with the women to help them eat (since they cannot use their hands for several hours) at the buffet-style dinner later in the evening.
Mehndi Clothing: Dress is very casual. Women wear traditional salwar kameez (skinny cloth pants and long sleeveless, cap-sleeved or long sleeved tops, a dupatta or scarf is optional). Choose clothing that will be comfortable while you sit for several hours. Maxi dresses or comfortable jeans and tops are options. Sandals are the typical footwear, although these are always left at the entryway in Indian homes. Men wear jeans or shorts and shirts.
Raas-Garba (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual): This event is similar to a Western reception. The night before the wedding, guests eat; drink, unless they happen to be in a dry state (which we were in when attending a wedding in Gujarat, India) or prefer not to for religious reasons, and dance Raas (male folk dance) and Garba (traditional Gujarat state dance). Let’s Do Garba Instructional Video
The Raas-Garba begins with a prayer and lighting of a candle by the bride and groom. Guests form different circles (the goal is to dance in the largest circle, as people congregate to the best dancer’s circle) throughout the night and dance to non-stop music. Waiters usually walk around with trays of water to keep everyone hydrated. There is a buffet-style dinner of traditional vegetarian Indian fare, including dal (lentils and spices).
Raas-Garba Clothing: Women wear chaniya (also known as lehenga) cholis
(3-piece traditional Indian dance outfit, which includes a cap sleeved blouse, skirt and dupatta, long piece of fabric, wrapped diagonally around the front to cover the exposed midriff, it is shorter than the dupatta used for sarees). Dancing can be done barefoot, or with comfortable dancing shoes that won’t slip off throughout all the turns and jumps. Closed-toed flats are usually best. Men wear kurta pyjama (also known jabho langho) (skinny pants and a long shirt with a slit neck). On their feet they can choose sandals or slippers. For Western clothing, women can wear nice dresses and nice slacks and button down shirts are appropriate for the men. Again, shoes accompanying the outfits should be appropriate for dancing.
Raas-Garba Accessories: Women wear an abundance of bungdi (bangles). Ladies select about a dozen for each arm in colors that will complement their chaniya choli. The bangles are arranged into a pattern, which must be the same on both arms. This can take up to 30 minutes to do. A ‘set’ (earrings, usually elaborate dangly ones, ring and necklace) is also worn.
Raas-Garba Hair and Makeup: These are usually done at a salon, similar to the process for Western weddings. Guests ask for a variety of up-dos or down-dos. In India, they also supply hair extensions or braid extensions (as shown in photo). Colorful flowers or similar hair adornments are worn. Makeup is done with a lot of heavy eyeliner, to accentuate the eyes and a sparkly bindi (gem pressed between the eyebrows) is worn to protect the wearer from bad spirits.
Grah Shanti (bride’s family) (very casual): This is a type of puja (prayer) ceremony done the morning of the wedding. The family of the bride and those closest to her gather to make different offerings to the Hindu Gods to ensure a blessed ceremony and union. A priest blesses the fruits, nuts and small item offerings, which the bride’s family will give to the groom’s family later in the day.
There is also a ‘grab the sweet’ game. To play, a small mound of what looks to be clay, but is actually a grey-colored sweet called kuler, is placed in the center of a circle. The eldest male protects the sweet clay-like substance from capture by the eldest aunt by swatting at the her with a large, knotted cloth as she lounges for the treat. There is drumming, impromptu Garba dancing and a buffet-style meal.
Grah Shanti Clothing: Women wear the salwar kameez or casual Western clothing and men wear kurta pyjama/jabho langho or pants and polo shirts. Shoes can be sandals or flats.
Wedding Ceremony (bride and groom’s families and friends) (formal attire): The traditional wedding colors are green, red and white. Don’t wear red, or white (a color worn for Hindu funerals).
The groom arrives at the venue with a group of dancers and small parade. In India, he will ride into the venue parking lot on a horse. He and his family are the first to take the stage. Once there, the bride’s family comes to them to present the offerings, which were blessed earlier in the day at the Grah Shanti. Guests mill around, chat, and eat at the International buffet-style dinner, which serves dishes like Waldorf salad, pastas, and even Mexican fare. The bride and groom’s immediate families do not eat until the end of the ceremony.
A cloth is placed in front of the groom to block his view as the male members of the bride’s family carry her to the stage. On the stage, the females in her family shake small, decorated cans filled with metal to ward off bad spirits. A bit of black eyeliner has also been marked behind her ear to keep the evil spirits at a distance.
Everyone pays attention to the sapta padi (walking of seven steps/vows) around a sacred fire:
As in other ceremonies, there are small games to keep guests entertained. One of which is the groom’s shoe hide-and-seek. The groom’s shoe is hidden at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. Whoever finds it, presents it to him and asks for money as a reward. The groom, if he wishes that his marriage goes well, is obligated to give the cash reward.
The marriage is confirmed after the tying of the manga sutra (sacred thread) or with the sapta padi. After that, a receiving line forms and the guests congratulate the couple and gift them envelopes filled with cash (the standard Hindu wedding gift). At the end of the night there is an emotional farewell between the bride and her family, accompanied by sad, traditional songs. The luggage she has packed to take to her new family's home (the groom's family) is blessed and she is pulled away from her parents' embraces and whisked off to her in-laws.
Wedding Ceremony Clothing (Accessories, Hair and Makeup similar to Raas-Garba): Men wear sherwani (a long coat, which can be paired with a sleeveless under-vest and pants). Pointed slippers are the shoes of choice. The groom wears this, in addition to a safo (also known as a turban) (head wrap). Ladies wear saree (petticoat in same color as the dupatta scarf, with the dupatta wrapped around the waist, tucked into the petticoat and pinned and pleated across the chest and midriff, a capped sleeve half blouse is also worn). Women wear sandals for footwear. If opting for Western clothes, men may wear suits and dress shoes. Ladies should put on elegant dresses and heels. How to Wrap a Saree Instructional Video
Reception (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual): This is the last of the events and is hosted by the groom’s family. In India, the reception is literally just a receiving line. The bride and groom, along with the groom’s family, spend several hours on a stage greeting congratulatory guests armed with envelopes of cash. All of this is filmed and broadcast on a giant screen near the buffet tables. Again, International fare is served for dinner.
In the United States, Hindu wedding receptions tend to be more Western-esque, consisting of eating, drinking and dancing. In India, they are obviously much more of a cultural affair, and can vary greatly depending upon ethnicity and local traditions.
Reception Clothing (Accessories, Hair and Makeup similar to Raas-Garba): Women can wear either chaniya choli or saree whichever will be most comfortable. For a western style, a nice dress and shoes will suffice. Men too can decide between kurta pyjama/jabho langho and sherwani. And for a western look, nice pants and button downs or a suit are appropriate. Shoes, especially for receptions in the U.S., should be made for dancing.