Places in India that have fascinated me for a long long time

Chandratal Lake

Chandratal Lake

Despite being an Indian who has spent almost all her life, until now, in India, there are still so many places that I have not been able to visit yet. I guess this must happen with most of us – with so much to see outside the country, we always leave our own country for later! But somehow that later doesn’t really come and so before I regret having missed out travelling in my own country, I have decided to make this list of only five places that I will hopefully be able to strike off in the coming few years.

1) Lahaul & Spiti

Surrounded by snow capped mountains, the Lahaul & Spiti valleys are located in the state of Himchal Pradesh and are known for their spectacular views, old monasteries and the prettiest lakes one has ever seen. Although located in the same region, Lahual and Spiti are quite different from each other in their landscapes. Spiti is more of a stark mountain desert with sparse vegetation, with an average elevation of 14000 ft. The Pin Valley National Park, located in this area is home to various endangered animal species like the snow leopard and the Siberian Ibex.The elevation of the park ranges from about 11,500 ft to more than 20,000 ft at its highest point! Lahaul, on the other hand, is more green and fertile. It is also known as the land of Lamas (Buddhist monks) because of the large number of monasteries in the area. Keylong is the main town in this area, and is located at an altitude of 10000 ft. Access to this region is either via the Kunzum La (La meaning pass), one of the highest motorable passes at an altitude of 14,931 ft., or via Shimla, through the Kinnaur valley. The former route is more recommended because of the stark beauty of the drive. However, during winter, the passes get snowed under and are hence closed to the public. So checking in advance is advisable. The Shimla route is open throughout the year.

Travelling in this region is not for the faint hearted and the high altitude can cause severe breathlessness and dizziness. Hence, when planning this trip, one must take into account all these factors. In addition, accommodation here is very basic but people are very warm and welcoming. So if you are looking for luxury travel, this is not for you.

House boat in the backwaters

House boat in the backwaters

2) Kerala

Indeed it’s shameful that I am yet to visit Kerala, popularly known as God’s Own Country. Every year, this state attracts thousands of tourists from within India as well as overseas. Located in the southern part of the country, this coastal state is known for its serene backwaters, beautiful beaches, the magic of ayurveda and intoxication of toddy, a local alcoholic beverage! The temperate climate makes it ideal to visit Kerala all through the year. However, the area experiences heavy rains during the monsoon months of June & July.

Whether it’s spending a night on a houseboat somewhere in the backwaters, visiting a coffee estate in Munnar or enjoying some wildlife and birding in one of the many sanctuaries, Kerala offers some of the best holiday options for luxury travellers and backpackers alike.

Decorated camels at the desert festival

Decorated camels at the desert festival

3) Jaisalmer and Bikaner

Both these cities are located in the vibrant state of Rajasthan, which is another region that is vastly popular among tourists. Jaisalmer lies in the heart of the Thar desert and is best known for the Jaisalmer fort (second oldest in Rajasthan), and the yellow sandstone architecture used throughout the city. Despite the harsh desert climate, this city has captivated many a travellers with the warm and colorful nature of its people. A camel back safari in the desert, visiting ornate havelis (mansions) built by wealthy merchants of yester years, enjoying some local cuisine and indulging in some retail therapy are some of the things one can do in this desert city.

Bikaner, surrounded by sand dunes and dotted with forts and palaces, this city is known for the best riding camels. An annual Camel festival is also organised here by the Department of Tourism and showcases the region’s folk music and dances besides hosting competitions for the best dressed camels, camel haircuts and fur cutting designs! This Rajput city has seemingly retained its medieval grandeur and calls for a visit, if one has not had enough of forts and palaces already!

Tawang Monastery

Tawang Monastery

4) Arunachal Pradesh

This state is one of the Seven Sisters of the North East of India, others being Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. In recent years, Sikkim has also joined this list. Large parts of this region are still unexplored and the region attracts the least number of tourists as compared to the rest of India. Having visited Assam and Meghalaya in the past, I cannot wait to go back and see the rest.

Surrounded on three sides by Bhutan, China and Myanmar, Arunachal Pradesh is known for its picturesque mountains, tranquil monasteries and rare varieties of orchids. This state is also home to 26 major tribes and over a 100 sub tribes, each with their distinct cultures and beliefs. One of the main attractions of this area is the Tawang Monastery, the largest in India. The Sela Pass at an elevation of 13700 ft. connects Tawang to the rest of India, and remains frozen through most of the year. Other attarction in the area are Sela Lake, Bomdilaand Gorichen Peak.

One-horned rhino

One-horned rhino

5) Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is situated in Assam, another one of the Seven Sisters. Despite having visited Assam several times, I have not had the opportunity of go to this park, which is home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinos! Some of the other animals found in the park are elephants, langurs, tigers, leopards, wild water buffaloes, sloth bears, etc. and a large variety of birds. Safaris can be done in authorised jeeps or on elephant backs. Bookings for both need to be made at the government offices. Self drive is only allowed if you have a registered safari guide in the vehicle.

DISCLAIMER: All pictures used are courtesy wiki-images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

while Lahaul is more green and fertile. The best way to enjoy Spiti is to travel via

 

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