Do you find traditional hotels and resorts uninteresting when out on a vacation? Avid adventurists and nature lovers will say ‘yes’ to this question, and this attitude is the reason why the camping culture around the world is on rise. Camps help you to experience nature at close quarters. Be it on mountains, in deserts or be on beaches, camping is an ideal way of exploring the beauty of nature. India and its diverse geography offer a variety of camping sites where you can spend the night under a moonlit sky, sitting with your friends around a bonfire enjoying the beauty of nature. HoliDaze picks from the top camping sites in India include:
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh is a tourist place with deep spiritual connection where tons of adventures await. The place is one of the most sought after camping sites due to its awesome natural beauty and various adventure destinations. Living by the banks of the River Ganga is a great experience for anyone. July to September is the best time for enjoying camping in Rishikesh and perfect for adventure lovers.
Located in the Trans-Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley is described as “a world within a world” by the famous English poet Rudyard Kipling. Camping here gives you a wonderful opportunity to get close to nature and explore this stunning valley. Spiti Valley is also a well-known adventure destination amongst Indians but has yet to truly catch on with foreign tourists -- all the more reason to visit now, before it does! Camping here in May or June gives you relief from the heat of late summer.
Adventure lovers and campers gather in Mussoorie to enjoy the thrills of camping and return home with memorable experiences. You will feel like you are in a different world soaking in the splendid views of the white capped Himalayan peaks from the comfort of your camps. Mussoorie, also known as the gateway to Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines, is the favorite spot of trekkers due to its rugged terrains and scenic beauty. March to June is the ideal time for enjoying camping in Mussoorie.
Camping near to the Sam Sand Dunes in Jaisalmer gives you the opportunity to enjoy local Rajasthani food, cultural dances and more. The camps are lit by Mashaals and campfire to provide a truly royal feel of the bygone era. If you are yet not satisfied, watching stars at night from the deserts of golden city is an experience of a lifetime. You can also enjoy camel safaris in Jaisalmer. Needless to say, winter is the best season to enjoy camping here.
Camping is truly an exciting experience in the land of high passes. Enfolded by the arid mountains, Ladakh offers a variety of camping sites for campers of all types. The banks of Pangong and Tsomoriri lakes are ideal camping sites where you can explore the beauty of Ladakh. Of course some other travelers prefer camping in Markha Valley, another favorite destination among trekkers. July and August are the best months to enjoy camping in Ladakh.
Also dubbed as ‘the lake of moon’, Chandertal Lake is an ideal camping site. Located at an elevation of 4300m (14,107 ft) in Lahaul and Spiti Valley, Chandertal Lake offers you a great camping experience right in the lap of nature. A stay in the camps here will surely mesmerize you and bewilder your senses. However, altitude sickness may be an issue.
Known for its beautiful beaches, Goa offers campers a variety of camping sites. Spending a night at a camp on one of the Goa’s most popular camping locations allows you to experience the happening culture and nightlife of Goa. Agonda beach, Ashwem beach, and Anjuna beach are a few of the best camping sites here. You will get to experience something new with a beach party while camping in Goa. And be honest, who doesn't love beach parties?
Arguably the best way to enjoy the serenity of nature, camping is one of the best outdoor activities that anyone can enjoy without intense training or practice. It allows you to escape the city and modern life, and provides an opportunity to explore the unexplored countryside. The next time you are in India, be sure to take some time off the beaten tourist trail to enjoy a little camping.
Exploring Bhutan is an opportunity to discover a nation who are proud of and have retained their cultural identity. It is a place like no other and visiting it feels like stepping into a magical vortex frozen in time.
Bhutan is a peaceful and spiritual oasis lying in the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, dwarfed by its neighbouring giants China and India. It has a reputation for being an expensive and exclusive destination but visitors to Bhutan are offered breath-taking scenery, a strong national identity, a significantly different culture, a unique and interesting history, the opportunity for entertaining local interactions and a thought-provoking and memorable experience.
If you are willing to forego your modern luxuries and Western influences you will be rewarded with a thought-provoking and enlightening experience in a country that believes Gross National Happiness is more important that Gross Domestic Product.
You will have the opportunity to hike amongst some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, interact with locals who wear a National Dress but are starting to gain exposure to outside fashions and influences, learn more about a deeply imbedded Buddhist religion and discover the meaning of the colourful phallic symbols painted on doors of houses.
Whilst parts of the world are in turmoil with blood being shed in countries fighting for democracy, you will be visiting a nation that peacefully introduced its first democratically elected government in 2008. Bhutan had been governed by a much loved monarchy since 1907 and not only was the change to democracy instigated by the Throne itself during a time of peace, stability and development, but it was initially opposed by the people before being reluctantly accepted as necessary for the country’s future.
Don’t leave Bhutan before taking your time to soak up one of the most unique arrivals you will ever experience. Adventures in most countries begin when you have passed through immigration and left the airport but this one starts with an incredible landing through the Himalayan Mountains. It continues on the tarmac as you exit the plane to take photographs of the imposing and surreal backdrop of the small Paro airport, with airport staff patiently pointing you towards the immigration hall with an insiders’ smile that silently says ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’.
As you wait in the immigration queue you are likely to experience an incredible feeling that is a cocktail of excitement, peace, calm and anticipation. As you watch the immigration officers calmly stamp each passport attractively attired in their National Dress, take the time to look around at the large framed photographs of Kings from the much loved Wangchuck Royal Family who had successfully governed the nation since 1907. Also look for the many references to Gross National Happiness, a Bhutanese phrase you will learn a lot more about during your stay and a warning sign reminding you that the sale of tobacco and smoking is illegal.
Don’t leave Bhutan before hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a sacred pilgrimage site that clings to a 900 metre cliff. This steep trek is best done at the end of your trip when you’ve had time to acclimatise. A Cafeteria provides a well –timed break for those not in peak condition before attacking the final part of the trek which culminates in one of the most spectacular sights you will see in Bhutan. The dirt track transitions to cobbled steps and the pot at the end of the rainbow is a monastery that rewards you with an incredibly spiritual and peaceful atmosphere and intriguing history.
Photo courtesy of High Asia Tours
Don’t leave Bhutan before taking your time to explore the many religious structures in the country where your pre-conception of monks will be both enhanced and changed. If you arrive during one of their prayer or education sessions you will be invited to stay and be captivated by their hypnotic and disciplined chanting. You may also notice naughty novice monks struggling to maintain concentration, monks on mobile phones, monks performing daily chores and monks that may be happy to practise some English with you.
Don’t leave Bhutan before seeking out the location of the Sunday afternoon regional archery competition. Locals will be more than happy to explain the national sport to you and may even teach you some of the football-like chants being sung to the opposing team.
You will be impressed by the speed and accuracy of the shooters, charmed by the teenage girls holding hands whilst singing and dancing a circle and entertained by the banter of supporters on the sidelines.
See More! You Know You Are In Bhutan When...
Don’t leave Bhutan before taking a casual stroll around Thimphu, ‘the capital city with no traffic lights’, pausing on the main bridge to enjoy your picturesque surroundings, and returning the shy smile from passers-by with the local greeting ‘kuzo zangpo la’. If you are craving some Western food, search for one of the two bakeries that sell scrumptious cupcakes and enjoy it as you wander pass the National Stadium. If you are lucky you may be able to join supporters of a local football game being played outside the stadium where Bhutan’s national team once defeated Montserrat 4-0 in a game between the world’s two lowest ranked teams. This game was played on the same day Brazil and Germany competed in the 2002 World Cup Final!
Don’t leave Bhutan before enjoying a conversation with friendly locals in the Punakha Valley. Bhutanese people may appear shy at first but a friendly smile and greeting will almost always instigate an entertaining conversation. Children giggle at the sight of themselves on your camera viewfinder, the older generation with little English will laugh at your attempt to learn local words, and as you describe the concrete jungle you live in back home you will see a wistful look in a young girl’s eyes who dreams of visiting a country so different from her own.
My time in Bhutan reminded me how irrelevant the concept of time can be. Magical moments can happen in minutes, hours or days and can manifest themselves through shared conversations and laughs with locals, admiring unique architecture, showing a photo on your digital camera to giggling children, being mesmerised by stunning landscapes, feeling satisfied at the end of a seemingly impossible trek, letting your mind wander into a pond of reflection and contemplation during a long bus ride, laughing with your local guide one minute and having an insightful conversation with him the next that sheds light on the locals’ lifestyle, taking ten minutes to buy a bottle of water from a vendor who doesn’t speak English and so many more.
There are so many things wrong with the world. There are so many countries in turmoil. There is a growing power-struggle between the superpowers of the east and west. There are countries suffering violence and bloodshed to achieve a democratic, corruption-free and fair existence.
And then there is this little country called Bhutan, which many people haven’t even heard of, that seems to have got so much right. It has a much loved Royal Family, a newly elected and respected government and experiences a relatively peaceful existence.
A monarchy that spent the first half of the last century maintaining its culture and national identity has recently begun to open its doors to the outside world, which inevitably raises some questions. Does Bhutan have something the rest of us can learn and benefit from? Will it benefit from the positive aspects of modern technology and development? Or has it created a gateway through which the negative aspects of the outside world will creep through to challenge the peace, culture and national identity that this country is so proud of.
Only time will tell.
Find me at Destination Unknown for more Bhutan photography
A question I am commonly asked is “what is your favourite country to visit”? Having been to nearly 50 countries makes this a difficult question to answer but there is one country that will always be in my top three.
A peaceful and spiritual oasis lying in the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is simply magical. Hidden between its neighbouring giants China and India, Bhutan is a similar size to Switzerland with a population of 700,000.
Exploring Bhutan is an opportunity to discover a nation who are proud of and have retained their cultural identify. It is a place like no other and visiting it feels like stepping into a magical vortex frozen in time.
1. You are thankful for a window seat on a plane with the only airline that flies to Bhutan (Druk Air) after getting up close and personal with the Himalayan Mountains on the descent into Paro Airport.
2. You are not only allowed to stay on the airport tarmac to photograph the stunning Himalayan backdrop, you are actively encouraged to by local airport staff
3. You’ve organised your pre-booked tour, the only way to gain entry into the country
4. You’ve paid over $200 USD a day to enter the country but hardly spend a penny once you are there
5. You are greeted at the airport by a sign stating “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”
6. You stand with monks watching a local football game outside Thimpu Stadium, the site of “The Other Game” played at the same time that Brazil and Germany competed in the 2002 World Cup. In this game, the two lowest ranked teams in the world competed with Bhutan defeating Monserrat 4-0.
7. You find yourself eating boiled rice three times a day because you don’t like spicy food
8. You spend an afternoon in an unplanned meditative state, listening to the mesmerising chants from the monks at Punakha Dzong
9. The only interruption to your picnic by the river is the ‘whooshing’ sound of an arrow shot from a local archer practising nearby
10. You spend entire days not seeing any other Westerners
11. You feel you have stepped back in time as you join locals at the Sunday afternoon regional Archery event, Bhutan’s national sport. A magical scene evolves as teenage girls hold hands and sing on the sidelines, opposing teams chant football-like banter at each other, monks and older men stand deep in conversation and a “woosh” past you signifies an archer’s attempt at hitting the wooden target from 140 metres away.
Thimphu, the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan
12. You take a leisurely stroll around the world’s only capital city without traffic lights
13. You purchase some local sweets and water through a window below a wooden “General Store” sign
14. You realise the locals don’t all have the same fashion sense, but are wearing the National Dress (gho for men, kira for women)
15. Are in a country whose altitude ranges from 100 to 7,500 metres
16. You face 3-5 years in jail for smoking a cigarette, and can only legally smoke by purchasing a monthly permit for those with a ‘smoking addiction’.
17. You discover local hair salon’s don’t need four walls and modern equipment as ladies queue for a trim in the grounds of the Memorial Chorten
18. You immerse yourself in people watching at the Memorial Chorten as local’s cling to prayer beads as take the clockwise walk around the Chorten
19. You have that feeling of insignificance that a powerful natural scene like the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains creates
20. You learn to greet locals with the Bhutanese word for hello, “kuzuzanpo-la” See More: Destination Bhutan
21. You encounter the strange looking Takin, Bhutan’s National Animal
22. You realise the inadequacy of your fitness levels as you are overtaken by a small child on a hiking trail
23. You spend your evening sitting around a fire, following a traditional story narrated via music and dance.
24. You meet locals who had to be convinced by the much loved Royal Family that the introduction of a democratically-elected government in 2008 after a century of monarchy rule, was the way forward for the nation
25. You travel through a countryside decorated with prayer flags, chortens, dzongs, stupa, monasteries…and colourful penis’s painted on doors
26. You share the road to Gangte with the little black-faced Langur Monkeys
27. You find ear plugs an essential ingredient to a night’s sleep in Paro, the town where dogs only bark at night
28. You stand with locals on the side of the road in the Punakha Valley as a car with the license plate “BHUTAN 6” transports members of the much-loved royal family through the village
29. A pile of rocks in the middle of the road represents a round-about, one of two traffic control mechanisms in the country
30. You observe the other traffic control mechanism in Thimpu with amused interest – a white gloved and suited traffic controller
31. You see a field containing nothing but wooden goal posts, a reminder that whilst archery may be the nation’s favourite sport, football is not far behind
32. You feel you are on top of the world, both physically and spiritually after surviving the trek up to Tiger Nest Monastery
33. You learn more about a Buddhist belief that is imbedded in all aspects of daily life
34. You are entertained by naughty little novice monks who cannot hold their concentration during prayer time at a monastery
35. You feel uplifted as you listen to the chatter and laughter of happy school children skipping along the road, girls holding hands and boys playfully wrestling with each other
36. You are admiring the picturesque Punakha Valley as a local girl tells you she would love to see the grey, concrete underground network in London
37. You learn that Gross National Happiness is more than just an inspiring quote, it is a way of life
There are so many things wrong with the world. There are so many countries in turmoil. There is a sense of a growing power struggle between the superpowers of the east and west. There are countries enduring violence and bloodshed to achieve a democratic, corruption-free and fair existence.
And then there is this little country called Bhutan, which many people haven’t even heard of, that seems to have got so much right. It’s not a perfect country it has the advantage of having a small population and a strong Buddhist faith, but it has a much loved Royal Family and a newly elected and respected government and experiences a relatively peaceful existence.
A monarchy that spent the first half of the last century maintaining its culture and national identify has recently begun to open its doors to the outside world, which inevitably raises some questions. Does Bhutan have something the rest of us can learn and benefit from? Will it benefit from the positive aspects of modern technology and development? Or has it created a gateway through which the negative aspects of the outside world will creep through to challenge the peace, culture and national identity that this country is so proud of. Only time will tell.