Travelling to the Beautiful Mountains- Manali

Manali Town

The tall mountains and luscious green forest surrounding this quaint town are the most colourful hotspot for tourists and nature lovers. The breathtaking view of Manali tucked in the upper Himalayas is a fabulous place to spend time away from the humdrum of the cities. The town, a prominent location on the hippie trail of Himalayan bohemians, has laid back to be a part of the vibe.

Picture Courtesy: Google

The divine beauty has been luring travellers to its forbidden slopes. Rightly to be praised, the Valley of Gods by idealizing its tranquil landscape. Manali is a complete go-to-vacation having some hide and seeks with the flavour of romance on a canopy. 

After exciting trails of adventure, I halted at Rampur Bushahr, unplanned, as my next trip to Sikkim was postponed. I took it as an opportunity and started gathering details to reach Manali. The fabulous hill station is a go-to vacation spot for leisure seekers on a budget with active night events and festivals. The state has already intrigued me with its beauty and solace.

Picture Courtesy: Google

I was fortunate when I reached Manali as the surrounding mountains had already experienced snow which makes the breathtaking view of tall distant snow-capped mountains. The buzzing Beas river with fairytale-like fog surrounding the small hidden cottage and the lingering sweet scent of pines put me under the magic spell. Let’s bask in the blissful weather in a paradise of mountains with your backpacks. 

Short Tale of Manali

Picture Courtesy: Google

The history of Manali is quite a mythical story that dates back to when Manu recreated human life after the Holocaust. The presence of temples and shrines is associated with evidence of mythological stories. During ancient periods it was surrounded by dense forest and the home of nomad hunters. Later, shepherds came to settle in Kangra Valley and gradually adopted farming as an occupation. The town flourished during the British era when they established it as a hill station. They introduced apple, pine tree and trout fish to the grandeur of this hill station. 

Checklist of Things To Do in Manali

Manali is a popular tourist destination beckoning travellers from all over the world. The Beas river giggles down the gorges surrounded by snowy peaks of the Himalayas, striving to touch the sky. All the backpackers and tourists use it as a base to loosen up at the plethora of funky cafes, restaurants and bars to hang out. The place was ideal for me to take a break and enjoy the solitude in peace with seeking some adventure. The endless options suit the needs of people from all walks of life, having a travel mindset. Here is a travel guide to probe the activities suitable for newly-wed couples, adventure-loving friends, families with kids and solo wanderers to plan a comfortable and happy trip.

Stroll around Mall Road

Picture Courtesy: Google

Mall Road, the heart and soul of Manali, is a perfect place to purchase souvenirs and handicrafts for your loved ones. The Tibetan shops with shawls, rugs and woollen caps offer plenty of prospects. I moved around to taste some local cuisines catching the pulse of Manali. The ambience provides a more westernized and hippie setting with colourful cafes, restaurants and food corners.

The cobblestone streets of Mall Road are precisely different as there are two parts to the world of Manali. The place buzzes with tourists, backpackers and locals in the evening. If you are looking for a budget alternative, then Tibetian Market is better to buy handicrafts – shawls, prayer wheels, and Buddhist paintings. 

Jogini Waterfalls

The Jogini waterfalls is a 160-foot cascade located near Vashisht village in Manali. As I love to walk around mountains and the waterfall is well-marked on GPS, I opted to enjoy a roadside view with mesmerizing surroundings of shops and traditional houses. I bent in front of the Vaishist temple for the blessings before starting the trek to the Jogini waterfalls.

The route passes through the alley of the village crossing a few fenced apple orchards and finally through the forest. It is the only way to reach one of the best waterfalls in the area. The refreshing view of the natural pool with the beautiful rainbow created by Nature adds splendid beauty to Jogini waterfalls.

Hidimba Temple

This 15th-century temple is associated with the narrative of Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. Hidimba and her son Ghatotkcha are two important characters of Mahabharata. The temple devoted to Hidimba Devi is fascinating and rare as she is praised only in this town. A walk through the forest to the temple gave me a vibe of an oasis of tranquillity surrounded by towering groves of Deodar trees.

Picture Courtesy: Google

The unique style of architecture resembles Japanese pagodas – roofs shaped as shingles with beautifully carved out wooden doors and the base made up of whitewashed stone. Inside it is an enormous rock worshipped as Devi Hidimba with a small 3-inch-tall brass idol.

Timing: 8am – 6pm.

Rohtang Pass

The stunning Himalayas, pristine white snow into the Eastern Pir Panjal lies Rohtang Pass, a beautiful place at 50 km to the north of Manali. The pass connects two valleys of Himachal Pradesh – Manali and Lahaul & Spiti. Fans of Bollywood must have spotted this place on the screens as Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Jab We Met, Highway, and the list continue.

The moment for its mind-blowing landscape with snow-covered mountains is the perfect place for a vacation. I felt the real pleasure of having a hot beverage in the cold weather with people who wanted to explore snow in a spell-binding nature. Sledge ride, snow scooter riding, skiing and tyre drop are a few of the most famous activities in Rohtang Pass.

Solang Valley

Picture Courtesy: Google

One of the adventurous places lies between Solang village and Beas Kund. The beautiful valley is lavished with a sports institute that conducts various courses on adventure sports. The steep slopes of the valley are perfect for skiing during winters and as the snow melts in summer, one can enjoy paragliding, parachuting, and horse riding.

I took a cable car to reach the top of the hill at the cost of Rs.650 to witness the beautiful panoramic view. It was a pleasant place to walk around with the crowd buzzing along with the hawkers. The valley has gained popularity over time more for its adventure sports activity surrounded by stunning and mystical hills.

Timing: 9am – 6pm

Best Time to Visit?

Classic mountain weather with chilly and snowy winters and pleasant, warm summers remains packed year-round with tourists. April to June is when tourists from most Northern parts of India invade this place. If you plan to hit for skiing, December to February is the best time. Heavy rainfall and floods are witnessed in July and September, causing landslides and roadblocks. The spring-summer months are better to enjoy all outdoor activities when the temperature is very conducive.

Trek to Chandranahan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass

trek in Chandranahan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass in Shimla

“May your dreams be larger than mountains, and may you have the courage to scale their summits.  

– Harley King

Trekking is perhaps the only activity that gives you a glimpse of a world full of surprises. An adventure sport is as good for your soul as it is for the body. The trails that pass through the different sections of some regions are mostly beautiful, but some parts grudgingly admit the imperfections. However, the shepherd trail of Chandranahan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass trek is hard to spot a moment where you are disappointed. It seems as if the best parts of the Himalayan treks entwine to make them a perfect trail. The experience is hard to define in words, barely in terms of memories and leisure time.

the shepherd trail of Chandranahan Lake

The purpose of visiting Himachal Pradesh was for the expedition engulfed by thrill, adventure and mystery. A few days break at Shimla with refreshing local sights recharged me for the new challenge. I solicited to explore the offbeat expedition with Hike in Himalaya. The routine arrangement for the route with a well-known guide to take you through the trail will make it memorable. The alpine zones have vast meadows, a high altitude lake and finally, one of the difficult passes in India. The emotions on the trail enlightened me about the absolute mystery of the mountains and weather. So less to talk about trekking, I try my best to explain the magic makes it a whole different adventure. 

About the Trek

an alpine lake is at an altitude of around 14,000 feet in the Pabbar valley

Chandranahan, an alpine lake flanked by high snow peaks, is a holy place for local people. It is at an altitude of around 14,000 feet in the Pabbar valley region of Himachal Pradesh. The lake is the source of the Pabbar River which later merges with the Yamuna. The expedition starts from the ancient village and bursts into the Dayara meadows on the southeastern slopes of the Himalayas. The track to the lake feels like magic, almost being part of a delightfully deep forest, which further leads to the Buran Ghati Pass. The trek is about 42kms from the snout, but every step is like an expedition as it is an arduous route. 

Trek type: Moderate to Difficult
Duration: 7 days (with a buffer day)

Winding in the Trails of Chandranahan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass

Himachal_Pradesh_Devbhoomi

The beauty of the Himalayas had already enchanted me, and the mountains reminded me of the expedition that engrossed me to Himachal Pradesh. The big day was here- a cab was waiting for me at Shimla with my other teammates for the trek. We left early in the morning for our Base Camp at Janglik village. The road was smooth till Rohru, but soon we were on the dirt road. The apple orchids cover the entire valley, and we learned a lot from our driver.

Winding in the Trails of Chandranahan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass

We reached the quaint village, inhabitant of the shepherds that boasts carpeted wildflowers, alpine forests and verdant grasslands. A lesser traversed trail for the adventurers to walk over high passes through Pabbar valley, frequently visited by local shepherds. Our team had 14 members guided by Hike in Himalaya and its associates.

Distance: 120km from Shimla to Jhanklik Village
Time: 8 hours

Day 01: Buffer Day at Janglik village

Jhanklik Village of Chandranahan Lake

The first day at Janglik village started with the glimpse of a beautiful sunrise, gradually covering the glares around the valley. Our teammates decided to take a buffer day before the expedition. So far, the journey was rough on the dirt road, reasonable to take a break at the village reminiscent of old, untouched by prelation. We utilised the day to bond among ourselves, sharing our previous trekking experiences.

trail to glimpse an ancient temple

We went through a narrow trail to glimpse an ancient temple, greeting locals with Namaste and trying a few fresh apples from their orchard. The beautiful huts with stone roofs surrounded by the backdrop of great Himalayan mountains make the entire place the fable. Shortly, we returned to the beautiful homestay for lunch and spent the remaining quality time walking around the village. 

Altitude: 9,400 feet

Day 02: Janglik Village to Dayara Thatch

Day 02: Jhanklik Village to Dayara Thatch

The whistle of our team leader indicated for us to be prepared and pack our belongings. We assembled in a circle introducing ourselves with a positive note of team leader. The most magnificent trail came alive by seducing eyes with wonders building our dreams. One can notice- the rapidly changing scenery after leaving the village as the trail climbs into an oak and pine forest. The walk into the dark, moist earth with a brown carpet of leaves takes time to soak the moment.

Almost an hour later, the view of the climbing meadows

Almost an hour later, the view of the climbing meadows and the dark shadowy tree line of the pines descends gradually with a pure blend of picturesque snow-capped mountains opposite the Pabbar valley complementing the view. We reached our tents to keep our rucksacks and roll around the beautiful Dayara Thatch.

Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 11,100 ft
Distance: 6 km
Trek type: Moderate

Day 03: Dayara Thatch to Litham

Dayara Thatch to Litham

A beautiful night with endless glittering stars was a wonderful feeling of the magic of being so calm and peaceful. Slowly, I moved inside my shelter and pulled up my sleeping bag to take a rest. Soon it was morning though the sun was yet to rise in the meadows. I moved out to witness the glamour as it soaks up the golden glow of the morning sun. After having breakfast as a great saviour, we gently ascended the trail, entering another clump of pine forest.

entering another clump of pine forest.

Across leaping the stream, we moved out of the pine forest and passed a curve to regain the sight of the snow-capped mountains of the Dhauladhar range and Gunas Pass. The scenery of the grasslands leading down from the trail folded to the first clear view of Litham. The trail dips to cross Chandranahan Lake stream before reaching the campsite worthwhile to settle down for the days.

Time: 4 hours
Altitude: 11,800 ft
Distance: 5 km
Trek type: Easy

Day 04: Excursion to Chandranahan Lake

Excursion to Chandranahan Lake

My heart was fluttering in anticipation of the great adventure of trekking to the lake and feel like being part of a big climbing expedition. Hike in Himalaya had already arranged breakfast before leaving the campsite. Chandranahan lake is a glacier tarn deep inside the alpine valley surrounded by snow flanked mountains. We continued upstream on a shepherd’s trail marked by stone cairns from where the stream emerges.

Chandranahan lake is a glacier tarn deep inside the alpine valley

It is a high moment for many trekkers to climb the top of the towering Pabbar waterfalls to get at the snout. We crossed almost five other alpine lakes that took about two hours to get to the final Chandranahan lake. The turns are arduous when you need to traverse loose boulders and muddy terrain that you trek most of this journey. We spent time near the lake, witnessing the sights of the setting before heading back to the steep descent to Litham. 

Time: 6-7 hours
Altitude: 14, 000 ft
Distance: 8 km
Trek type: Difficult

Day 05: Litham to Dhunda

Litham to Dhunda

Another refreshing morning in the meadows of Pabbar valley. We packed our backpacks after relishing breakfast. As of today, the trail will leave the green grasslands of Litham and loom over a monochrome setting of grey and white. It becomes extraordinary when the Pabbar River is no longer a gently descending stream.

The beauty of an alpine mountain zone

We crossed the virulent stream and continued to a sharper ascent until the trail got into a U shaped gorge valley to get the first view of the Buran Ghati. The most challenging part of the trek is to reach the top of the ridge following the shepherd trail. The beauty of an alpine mountain zone, Dhunda, can be enjoyed after the thrilling climb of around two hours.

first view of the Buran Ghati.

There is a clear view of Buran Ghati that takes us to a moment of the splendour of the Pass and the upcoming thrill. We enjoyed the dinner with the sunset as the temperature gradually dipped. Our team leader asked us to take as much rest as possible for the next day. 

Time: 6-7 hours
Altitude: 13,400 ft
Distance: 8 km
Trek type: Moderate

Day 06: Dhunda to Manirang via Buran Ghati Pass

Dhunda to Manerong via Buran Ghati Pass
Picture Courtesy: Hike in Himalaya

The campsite of Dhunda offers you the beauty of an alpine mountain zone among the best view with snow-capped mountains on all sides. It was already dark around, we grabbed our head torches to prepare ourselves for the pass. Our target was to reach the summit before the break of sunlight. We folded our tents and grasped our backpacks at 2 am in the night.

hopped over boulders for about three hours
Picture Courtesy: Biswajeet and Indradeep

The moon had already disappeared under the twinkling stars. We ascended the ridge and hopped over boulders for about three hours till the base of the pass at 15,000 feet. We encouraged each other along the trail for a successful summit and captured the memories of being a part of the celebration with team members. After a thrilling climb with the sun on the horizon, it was time to descend.

A narrow ledge with sharp steep on the left side
Picture Courtesy: Biswajeet and Indradeep

A narrow ledge with sharp steep on the left side was risky and took about 2 hours to get to the end. Soon we started to lose altitude, and it took us down a ridge with junipers and crested shrubs. Another hour to get to a stream that needs to be leapt over and stopped for lunch. The trail is remarkable for the variety in vegetation and diversity, is full of surprising changes in scenery that make it an absolute delight.

a lush green valley- beyond a vast range of mountains
Picture Courtesy: Biswajeet and Indradeep

As far as the eyes can see is a lush green valley- beyond a vast range of mountains the first farmer’s hut appear at Manirang. Hike in Himalaya and its associates had already pitched the tent for the night.  

Time: 8-9 hours
Altitude: via 15,000 ft to 9,000 feet
Distance: 9 km
Trek type: Difficult

Day 07: Manirang to Barua Village

Manerong to Barua Village

We celebrated our last night of the trek with a bonfire at night full of glittering stars. Surrounding the fire, we recalled all the beauties and difficulties we experienced during the whole expedition. The endearing folk songs from the locals made it memorable in the meadows of Manirang.

he endearing folk songs from the locals made it memorable in the meadows of Manerong.

The morning was waiting with a big surprise for us, the weather becoming bad as a huge black cloud started to surround us. The pass we crossed earlier, was covered with snow now, and hence we decided to move early and as quickly as possible to reach Barua village. The miracle of trail with variant nature and ardent pasture were carpeting the pathways.

The miracle of trail with variant nature and ardent pasture

We stick to the broader trail that descends rapidly through the high altitude pines to a large gushing stream. After two and half hours of walking, the first apple orchards and signs of society awaited us. It was a long descent through the village trail that came alive as the simple villagers were happy to see us.

the first apple orchards and signs of society awaited us

It pops out onto the road bridge over the Barua Khud in half an hour from the heart of the village. Hike in Himalaya had already arranged transport to drop us at the big Hydel Project of Karcham.

Time: 4-5 hours
Altitude: 6,700 feet
Distance: 6 km
Trek type: Easy

How to reach Janglik village?

How to reach Jhanklik village?

If you plan to use local transport to reach the Jhanklik village from Shimla, you move to Lakkar Bazar for buses to depart to Rohru. From Rohru you have to take another bus for Tangnu that leaves at 8 am, 1 pm and 4 pm. Tangnu is a small village which is 3 km away from Jhanklik village. You have to trek 45 minutes of descends through the broken iron bridge to cross the river with 30 mins of a steep hike to the Jhanklik village.

Contact:

Parvinder: 7018791443
Sanjay: 9816722069
Ranjeet: 7018103286

Special Thanks:

Team Hike in Himalaya- For sponsor

Ashish Negi- Team Leader
Parvinder- Founder Hike in Himalaya

Team Members:

Trek Team Members:

Sunil Kumar Tomar
Anand Singh
Sunil Yadav
Biswajeet
Indradeep
Aman
Manish G
Rohit
Riya

Trip to The Queen of Hill Stations- Shimla

Shimla the queen of hill stations India

A journey, after all, sets out an opportunity to discover the treasure of the day that never ends when we reach our doorsteps again. I left my true heart at the beautiful hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas with its trails to the backwoods of nature’s soul. The enigmatic glory of Shimla with evergreen forest, deep valleys, pleasant climate and colonial ambience- all consolidate to enfold the charm of its own. The splendours of nature with a wide range of attractions fascinate every tourist with its unique appeal form. When I planned to travel, it was tough for me to finalize the list of things to do in Shimla. So get set and gear up for an exciting trip to one of the most visited places near Delhi.

The enigmatic glory of Shimla with evergreen forest, deep valleys, pleasant climate and colonial ambience- all consolidate to enfold the charm of its own.

My tale of Himachal Pradesh starts from the capital city Shimla. When I arrived, the beautiful hill station welcomed and gave me the thrill of watching the mystical mountains with the fresh breeze. I felt found Nirvana! Fortunately, from Delhi, I got a window seat on the bus that allowed me to relish the beautiful scenes along the well-maintained road surrounded by green valleys. I decided not to book online rooms on this trip rather stay in hostels. Though there are very few hostels, I managed to find one. It was my first time staying in a capsule form of bunkers. The new exciting journey began with making a few new friends in the hostel that led to the memorable experience of the splendid natural beauty of Shimla. 

A Short Tale of Shimla

Shimla, also popularly known as The Queen of Hills, is the capital city of Himachal Pradesh.

Shimla, also popularly known as The Queen of Hills, is the capital city of Himachal Pradesh. The beautiful hill station is at the elevation of 7437feet above sea level in the hills of the Himachal region. It gets its name from Shyamala Mata, a divine avatar of Goddess Kali. The Tibetan script Arya Astha Sahasrikas Prajna Paramita of the 16th century boasts the ownership of a beautiful town. Later, the British founded it as the Summer Capital of India during its reign for its pleasant weather in summer. After independence, Shimla served as the capital of Punjab till the new state Himachal Pradesh came into existence.

Checklist of Things to Do in Shimla

Checklist of Things to Do in Shimla

Shimla is a perfect weekend getaway that offers more than elegant colonial buildings against backdrops of the Greater Himalayas. My itinerary for Shimla began with the ride of the UNESCO heritage toy train. It churns slowly up into mountains at winding tracks flanked by age-old trees seemingly playing hide and seek. The route is also famous for the popular Bollywood shooting location as Kashto maza song from Parineeta. It was fun to explore Shimla, the city of walkable distance, the village trails or stairs make the path shorter. As a popular Indian holiday destination, it provides a perfect break from the city with your travel plan, and I like to add a few things which may make your journey memorable.

Heritage walk around The Mall Road

Heritage walk around The Mall Road

Shimla boasts of preserving the charm of the old-world architecture in its original form. The Mall road is the main shopping street, makes popular for various tourists seeming for clubs, bars, eateries, shopping centres and some budget souvenir. It offers much more with its stories, legends and heritage equally exciting. Beginning with The Scandal Point, the famous narrative for its name has it that Maharaja of Patiala had an attachment with the daughter of Viceroy, eventually exiled from Shimla. 

The Mall road is the main shopping street, makes popular for various tourists seeming for clubs, bars, eateries, shopping centres and some budget souvenir.

Be prepared for the entranced by a pleasant colonial walk. Pass Christ Church fresco designed by the father of Rudyard Kipling on the ridge. The existence of General Post Office, 133-year-old, in the form of wild west Swiss-style is a souvenir. Walk past the grandeur century-old Gaiety Theatre, and you will feel the aura of its past. Take a break at the steps of The Town Hall now used by the Municipal Corporation of Shimla. Get a stopover at the neo-Gothic Gorton Castle built amid gigantic Deodars before you move to the ancient Kali Bari Temple.  

Well Preserved The Himachal State Museum

Well Preserved The Himachal State Museum

On the way, Mall Road to The Himachal State Museum, I spotted colonial architecture as Vidhan Sabha, the State Library and the spectacular Grand Oberoi Hotel. It is a pleasant walk of around 3kms. Formerly the enormous house of Himachal State Museum was the estate of the old Victorian mansion. The colonial building built in early 1860 was a small mud roofed house. Later in the 1970s, it was carefully altered to adapt to the museum surrounded by sprawling lawns. The museum aims to preserve the state’s culture and archaeological artefacts. 

the enormous house of Himachal State Museum was the estate of the old Victorian mansion.

The state museum has a decent collection of rare sculptures and beautiful paintings to old coins and exquisite handicrafts from all over the state and from other places. It is segmented into different galleries that present Indian archaeology, Himachal archaeology, Prehistoric objects, Wood Carvings, Monuments, Arms Gallery, Philatelic, Anthropological, Pahari Miniature Paintings, Contemporary Art, Wall Paintings Gallery and a lot on display. The unique section of the gallery is the collection of Himachali dolls displaying the costume of local people. 

Entry Fee: 

  • ₹ 10 per person for Indians
  • ₹ 50 per person for foreigners

Timing: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; closed on Mondays

Viceregal Lodge Presently The Indian Institute of Advanced Study

Viceregal Lodge Presently The Indian Institute of Advanced Study

A historical mystique building, a marvellous work of Scottish architecture, is now a well-known Indian Research Centre. One of my roommates from the hostel recommended I should not miss this grand architecture of Shimla. I redirected my GPS from the museum to IIAS, displaying a short distance walk of 550 metres. It’s beautiful to explore on your feet as you can take a break to adore each moment. The sudden fog covering the street, rays oozing from leaf makes the enclosure a fairy tale.

GPS from the museum to IIAS, displaying a short distance walk of 550 metres

The prestigious edifice initially was the house of Viceroy Lord Dufferin of India during 1884 and 1888. Later in 1964, it was converted to a research centre by the former president of India, Dr S. Radhakrishnan. The perfect serenity, calm, and peace amidst the mesmerizing scenic beauty of the garden in a pristine environment encircle this centre. It hoasted many historical events as the resolution to separate Pakistan from India was taken here, and the conferences for Shimla Agreement 1947. It was sunset by the time I was about to leave the place. It was spectacular and a memorable one.

Entry Fee: 

  • ₹ 40 per person for Indians
  • ₹ 85 per person for foreigners
  • ₹ 20 per person for Garden Visit- additional

Timing: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm; Closed on Mondays

What and Where to eat?

Being a popular tourist place, Shimla has an endless lineup of restaurants and cafes. One of my favourite cafes was Wake and Bake having bright yellow shutters opposite Gaiety Theatre at Mall road. The cafe is friendly for budgeteers with a nice chilled out place to relax. I will suggest trying the cafes and restaurants at Mall Road that offers varieties of Indian cuisines. If you are looking for local Himachali cuisines to try, specialities are Sidhu- a sweet dish, Patandey made from a thin paste of wheat flour served with ghee, and then the Shimla apples are always favourite for tourists.

How to travel?

Picture Courtesy: travelling_with_bars_

The hill town is well-connected by highways from the different major cities of India as Delhi, Gurgaon, Chandigarh and other regions. There are frequent state and private buses on alternative book a private car or outstation cab from any of these cities for a road trip. The nearest railway station is Kalka station, where you have to take the single-gauge rail for Shimla. The airport is at Jubbarhatti- 22 kilometres from the main town. The interconnected local buses are available for short-distance travel within the city. I will highly recommend leaving the vehicle and exploring by leisurely walking.

Places to stay?

Places to stay in Shimla
Picture Courtesy: Google

As a solo budgeteer traveller, I always look for the options of hostels or dorms and suggest the same if you like to interact with new people, make new friends and be comfortable with sharing your space with others. I stayed at a hostel near Altruist Technologies Pvt Ltd- difficult to find as it is not on google map. You may surf online to check competitive prices and call directly for cheaper rates. There are many agents on the road who will try to hitch you, be careful with them. It’s safe to have some well-done research before reaching the place. 

Exploring the Hills of Himachal Pradesh- Devbhoomi

Himachal_Pradesh_Devbhoomi

The scenic beauty of the state endures from the Shivalik range to the Greater Himalayas. The green meadows, shining rivers, broad valleys, ethnic culture, legendary rituals and thrilling peaks offer Himachal Pradesh a fabulous travel destination. The state is popularly known as Devbhoomi Himachal- The Land of Gods with the context of its spectacular landscape emphasises its essence. The gift of the natural bounty is the merge of religious significance and the origin of mythological legends. The diversity of nature and picturesque mountains is why Himachal Pradesh is the beautiful state of India. 

Why visit Himachal Pradesh?

Why visit Himachal Pradesh?

The abode boasting landscape of Himachal Pradesh also has many hidden treasures and unexplored places. There is so much to explore that every place provides you with a unique experience. Its various hill stations are magical and perpetually dressed that can fascinate any tourist. It makes Himachal Prades a destination for all seasons and all reasons. It extends a wide range of tourism potential, ranging from a family holiday to adventure, sightseeing, pilgrimage, to an escape from the busy city life, for a rejuvenating experience. Its appealing topography provides an immense number of destinations grim to keep track of and for the traveller to cover it in its entirety.

Exploring Devbhoomi- Himachal Pradesh

Exploring Devbhoomi- Himachal Pradesh

My journey to Himachal Pradesh was all of a sudden, special thanks to Hike in Himalaya for sponsoring my trek of Chandrananhan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass. It was a thrilling experience of watching unexposed nature for a lifetime attainment. I concluded without wasting any second to pack my rucksack with all necessary items and left for Delhi from Howrah Railway station. Mountains were calling for a while now and trekking always excited me. Though, the certain anxiety for travelling to a new place always makes me nervous. The magic spell of the place with friendly locals always makes the journey smooth and memorable.

Shimla

Shimla Queen of hill stations in Himachal Pradesh

The charming hill town with colonial buildings against the backdrop of the Himalayas has enjoyed the status of most visited travel destination. First, in the 1800s, the Britishers arrived and noticed pleasant summers and snow-covered winters that shaped Shimla as their favourite weekend getaway. Later they declared it as the summer capital of India. It is popularly known as Queen of North hill stations as the beauty of this place still charms as it was centuries ago. It is the perfect desired destination for all kinds of vacations. The hill town keeps its quaint exterior, grand architecture, elegant temples and remarkable churches as enchanting beauty. The fabulous shops around the streets with plenty of cafeterias provide a space to chill out.

Chandranahan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass Trek

Chandranahan Lake and Buran Ghati Pass Trek Himachal Pradesh

Chandranahan lake and Buran Ghati Pass landscape is paradise on the Earth. Its offbeat trek starts along the Pabbar river tucked in meadows with an alpine zone. The lake is the source of the Pabbar river for the inhabitants of the valley relatively unexplored. It is mythological and highly revered by devotees who consider it the sacred abode of Goddess Kali. Trek exposes the landscapes walking through a mountain range and undulated meadows with a pure blend of contrasting campsites. The serene essence of pure air and the hum of fast-flowing brooks treats nature’s music with a blending of picturesque snow-capped mountains in the backdrop.

To book your trek Contact Hike in Himalaya @ 9805203783/9816722069

Manali

Manali hill station in Himachal Pradesh

Manali is a beautiful terminus of mountains with spell-binding views, charming streams and the fairy-tale-like fog surrounding the town. Valley of Gods is a paradise for mountain lovers surrounded by little hidden cottages, a lingering fragrance of pines and freshness on the banks of Beas River. The place is a charm in itself, and the local people append enchanting to its eminence with marvellous glamour. Old Manali give lots of option for party lovers is the most active place. Temples, hot springs, some of the highest mountain passes in the World, rich culture, adventure sports like paragliding, skiing, river rafting and others make Manali remarkable. 

How To Reach?

How to reach Himachal Pradesh

There are plenty of options to reach Himachal Pradesh as several private and government buses- HRTC ply from Delhi for various regions. Even government buses have options of Volvo A/C and Non-A/C for your journey. I booked a seat at the HRTC bus service, which was a comfortable ride to Shimla. Local and private buses connect the other regions of Himachal Pradesh at a reasonable price. If you love to ride in the valleys, you may rent a bike from the major places of the state as Shimla, Manali and Kasol. 

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Exploring The Temple City- Madurai

The famous ancient temples around the state, chronicle its demeanour of being the oldest civilization.

The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

– Samuel Johnson

The quaint inheritance of Madurai beckoned me to one of the ancient cities of India. The presence of classical buildings and national heritage sites has kept the city in the global limelight. The next destination of my journey to Exploring Cape Comorin- The Tamil Nadu enamoured as if the pages of the history textbook are unfolding.

The glorious past of temples and other monuments depicts the rich cultural heritage of the region. Madurai city ensures the best travelling experience for its travellers and tourists to cherish for a lifetime. Food lovers can also enjoy the popular South Indian cuisines on the traditional banana leaves with the naive and delicious taste of recipes. 

Picture Courtesy: Google

An abrupt lurch woke me up! The certain bustling with people packing their luggage apprised me the last stoppage of the train is here. A trip of Blend of The French Colony ended with a grand celebration of a Christmas party. I left Pondicherry for Villupuram railway station by government bus which took two hours.

Picture Courtesy: Google

My train was scheduled to arrive by 12 am-midnight and reach Madurai by 5 am. The sky was dark and the pleasant weather of the city embarked outside Madurai railway station. I reserved an auto from the online app for the hostel which was pre-booked. A glance at one of the ancient cities of India took me back to the moment of that era with its meticulously designed architectures. 

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Short History of Madurai

Madurai has a long and interesting history depicted as the ancient city in old texts and the writings of Kautilya as well as by Megasthenes – the Greek ambassador in the Mauryan court. The city was a flourishing empire during the rules of the Nayakkar dynasty in the 17th century. The magnificent constructions of the era portray the heritage and culture- the national landmarks of global fame. In 1801, Madurai came under the direct administration of the British East India Company and evolved as a political and industrial network through the 20th centuries. 

Things To Do in Madurai

The city is relatively small which can be covered easily by local transport. However, there are some destinations on the outskirts, so it is advisable to hire a cab or auto. The oldest cities of India have always aspired me to perceive the cultural and historical aspect of our nation. I got my first chance in 2017 to visit Varanasi and now at Madurai in 2020. The age-old traditions and modernity co-exist peacefully in these cities. The ancient temples of Madurai reflect the Dravidian style of architecture is a hub for religious and cultural tourism. The shopping in Madurai is more exciting as there are some of the best local places for all the shopaholics out there!

Jain Cave- Samanar Malai

A quick power nap rejuvenated me for my long day plan to explore Temple City- Madurai. I moved to a restaurant around 50 years old near my hostel and was fascinated by the way they served on a banana leave. A delicious breakfast in a traditional style is a part of my experience.

Next, I hired an auto for Samanar Malai at Keelakuyilkudi village which is about 12 km away. A breathtaking view of Samanar Hill is tucked away from the bustling city. It offers an exceptional sight of the blend of nature and history. A sensation of adventure dynamized me as there is a climb of around 300 steps involved to reach the top.

Samanar hill is closely associated with Jainism which flourished here during ancient times dating back to the 1st century AD. There are several caves in these hills that are found in 2000-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions as well as Vatteluttu writings and carvings. There are a lot of flat rocks and stone beds that could have been used by the Jain monks to take rest. 

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Gandhi Memorial Museum

Following the repository of information about Jainism and trekking to the top of the hill, I moved to my next spot. I asked my auto driver to drop me off at the Gandhi Memorial Museum as my last ride. I was looking to spend more time at the museum which offers a glimpse into the aspects of Mahatma Gandhi.

The holy city of Madurai inspired him to propagate Indian clothes among other significant purposes. There are various sections in the museum each presenting a peek into the life of Mahatma Gandhi. The serene location of the museum also includes Gandhis’ Kutir which is constructed as a replica of the original hut in Sevagram. 

The historical building of Gandhi Memorial Museum used to be the palace of Rani Mangammal of the Nayakkarya dynasty. Among the other exhibits of the Museum is the blood-stained garment worn by Gandhiji when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. 

Timing: The museum opens in the morning from 10 am to 1 pm and in the evening from 2 pm to 5:45 pm. It remains closed on Friday. 

Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal

A giant leap from the life of Gandhiji it was time to move forth for my next stop. I booked a bike from the online app for the palace of a well-known king, Thirumalai of the Nayakkar dynasty. The famous Stucco artwork on its domes and impressive arches is a marvel of Indo-Saracenic architectural style. Among other attractive features are the massive white pillars that run along with the courtyard.

There is a small museum in the palace having a collection of ruins featuring Hindu gods and goddesses. The artwork on the stones dating back to the 1st century AD is spectacular to witness the heritage of India. The most amazing part of the palace is the light show which narrates the story of the great King, Thirumalai and the fortunes of the palace.

The palace was built in the 17th century, fabricated by King Tirumalai Nayaka as the grandest palace in South India. Unfortunately with lots of raids and finally stripped by his grandson to one-fourth of the propositions led to the present state. It was further restored in 1866 by Governor of Madras- Lord Napier, creating a masterpiece to survive as one of the best architectures. 

Timing: The palace opens its gate for tourists from 9 AM to 5 PM on all days of the week. The light show starts at 6:45 pm in English and 8:00 pm in Tamil. 

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Meenakshi Amman Temple

A new day in the city of Madurai began with divine energy to visit the oldest temple of India. I intended to spend an entire day to feel its intricacy of sanctity, history, and exquisite craftsmanship. The first thing that caught me was its colourful towers covered in ornate carvings. The colour, the details and the dominating demeanour make it a marvellous temple.

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

It was amusing to walk around the tiny lanes lined with shops to reach the Meenakshi Temple. There are four main gates to enter the complex, each facing the geometric directions. (You are not allowed to take any electronic gadgets inside the complex). The temple is blended by many shrines, 14 magnificent Gopurams, the Thousand Pillar Hall decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures. 

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

The Dravidian style temple, dating back more than 3500 years old is dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi, which affirms mention in the texts. The present structure is said to be built in the 14th century AD by Thirumalai Nayak. Deities and mythical creatures depicting different tales are carved in each Gopuram. 

Timing: The temple opens for visitors from 5 am – 12 pm and in the evening from 4 pm – 10 pm.  

Banana Market

With the feeling of the blessing of a delightful and divine Goddess, Meenakshi was time to move out and explore the market around. I headed towards Prithu Mandapam Market at the eastern gate of the temple to fill my bag with gifts for family members and friends. Soon I reached the city’s famed market that sells Banana of more than 16 varieties at wholesale! When I reached the market,

I spotted the workers unloading several plantains of banana bunched together inside shops. They displayed them in the same clustered form. I was pleased to taste a few bananas that were different from each other in taste, size and quality. It was a fascinating experience to observe the various activities of the marketplace right from loading to unloading of bananas.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Church

The city is relatively small which can be efficiently reached on foot. I stopped for lunch at the local restaurant to explore the cuisine of Madurai. I travelled towards another charm of the city, St. Mary’s Cathedral Church, which was built in the Roman-Gothic style. The facade of white and blue lining with two boasting 42 feet bell towers make it a fascinating architecture.

The intriguing interior of the church is counted amongst the most awe-striking attraction. The quaint ambience and pristine aura address the tranquillity of the church. The colourful shadows formed by the light of the sun penetrating the beautiful stained glass serves as an impressive artwork.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Church is one of the oldest shrines in Madurai which was built in the year 1840. It was built by Fr. Joseph Bertrand who was one of the four pioneers of the New Madurai Mission in 1841. Later, in 1912, a new church was planned in Gothic Style to make it more spacious. 

Timing: The church which requires almost an hour to explore the place opens for the visitor from 7 am to 7 pm. The best time to visit is during the festive season when it is majestically decorated. 

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Travel Guide to The Blend of French Colony

Pondicherry also known as Puducherry

The charming seaside town, Pondichery, is one of the Union Territories of India. Three main reasons made me unanimously select Pondicherry (Pudducherry) as my first stop. First, the serenity and harmony of the town with the blend of French Colonies-impressions, I was looking for a long time. It is a small town that you can reach the entire city within two days. But I extended it for my second purpose that was to celebrate Christmas at this town. One of my utmost desire for Pondicherry trip was to explore the old forts and hidden beaches. 

Auroville sea beach of Puducherry

The new journey hoisted me after a long tiring RAC train from Kolkata to Chennai. I left the hostel early morning for CMBT Bus Terminus. A remarkable bus terminus as grand as the airport with all facilities such as marked signboards, clean platforms and long waiting lounge held me spellbound. It was easy to find a bus for Pondicherry, and I was on the way by 7 am. First time in my life, I discerned a bus with a bio-washroom facility. The roads are well maintained, it took only 3 hours to reach the destination. The journey was enduring with fresh sea-breeze, the lush green scenic view and stone monuments, will not disappoint you.  

A Short Tale of Pondicherry

travel Pondicherry by road

A Greco-Roman periplus depicts navigation and trading opportunities with other coasts and mentions of one marketplace named Poduke or Poduca. The ruin of Roman architecture which is a few kilometres from the city attests that it was an important trade point for spices since the 1st century A.D. The different southern dynasties had ruled the land, the sturdy rule of the great Empire Vijayanagara was the last Southern dynasty till 1638. In 1674 the second French Colony was established at Pondicherry after Surat. Eventually, this outpost became the chief French settlement in India. A treaty of cession united the bureaucracy of two countries to organize Pondicherry as a Union Territory of India in 1963.

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My Checklist of Things to Do in Pondicherry

Pomegranate beach Puducherry

I was missing mountains on this trip, feeling a moment of uncomfortable to stroll around the towns on plains. But the serene and calm places have always attracted me. These led me to the first halt of Exploring Cape Comorin- The Tamil Nadu was Pondicherry. I planned to explore the tourist spots around the outskirts of the town. The route to peaceful beaches and crumbling forts makes the planning an awesome-sauce trip. One of the other reasons to be in Pondicherry was to look for the places in my favourite movie Life of Pi. This movie has long back pulled me of its charms. Indeed it is a place to spend your vacation as the town appears further elegant at the nights of Christmas.

Alamparai Fort

Alamparai fort Puducherry

I checked in a hostel at a walkable distance from The White Town and the cheapest way to stay here for a long period. For the first day, I planned to rent a bike and cover a longer distance. A newly made friend, my roommate, was also interested to accompany me. It is always good to have a new companion, a fresh beginning of a journey.

hovering sea gulls

It took us around one hour with small halts along the way to reach the fort. A fisherman took us in his small raft to the other part of the beach. An ancient dockyard weaved with a historical fort and clean white beaches with seagulls hovering around made a gratifying experience for me about the place. 

Mughal era fort Pondicherry

It was constructed on the Coromandel coast in the 18th century during the Mughal era. It had served as dockyard since ancient times till the Mughal Era. The docks of Coromandel coast used to export spices, Zari clothes, salt and ghee. Later it was given to French, sooner in 1768 British captured it and turned into the ruins. It has witnessed war, earthquakes, tsunami and eternal sea-waves.

raft beside fort

Now, it is decaying, and slowly its bricks are dissolving in the mighty sea. On the beachfront fishermen park their boats and assist tourists in a boating experience around it. This abandoned Fort stands as a testimony to the emigrating nature of quarrelsome empires. 

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How to reach?

The Fort is almost 50kms from Pondicherry and well accessed by roads. You may hire a bike or a taxi to reach the destination. We followed GPS to reach the place which is well-marked on the map. 

Sunrise from Rock Beach

sunrise from rock beach Pondicherry

I rented a sports bicycle for the next two days as transport for the local tour. It is the cheapest way to travel in and around the town. The plan was to start early in the morning to explore the charming town and its hidden beaches. Next day, I woke up early before my scheduled alarm, as the certain charm of sunrise has always shoved me.

Pigeons at Pondicherry

I left an hour earlier from the hostel and was well ahead of schedule to stroll on other beaches. The darkness around the seaside street was gleaming with the street lamps. The people had already gathered around for morning walk and jogging with the flock of pigeons looking for their fodder.

Gandhi memorial at Puducherry

Slowly, I moved to Rock Beach with paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru memorials. The beach is around the famous White Town filled with bright mustard and white house, pebbled street and cafes. I placed myself perfectly for the sunrise, soon the wait was over of watching the sun rising from the horizon was a sensational moment. 

Blend of French Architectures- The White Town

French Colony in India

The famous attraction of Pondicherry is White Town has the gorgeous colonial villas having vibrant yellow walls with oil lamps and leafy streets. I enjoyed just walking around the cobbled lanes alongside the dynamic blue street signs beginning with Rue. Trying to remember the names of French streets was difficult. I ditched my GPS and started having fun to move along the lanes.

Tamil quarter of INTACH

A few French Quarters have been turned into heritage hotels, cafes and art galleries. A long walk made me hungry, so I stopped for my breakfast at the quirky cafe to savour a fresh Capuchino and Garlic Bread. It is a pretty special place that intertwined the thread of India with the past of French legacy. 

Pondy streets

The architectural character of the town with traditionally styled houses form the unique and distinctive streetscape. I stopped at one of the heritage building, a beautiful Tamil House restored as INTACH office in Pondicherry. The house has well documented with information about the restoration of the old world charm of the beautiful Tamil quarters and French colonies. 

Serenity Beach

Serenity beach Pondicherry

The chaste-shoreline of the beach plays hide and seek with the shimmering waves of the Bay of Bengal. I sprang on my cycle and set GPS for Serenity Beach with an endeavour to see for less crowded places. Along the way, I caught a glimpse of the town- antique shops decorated with vintage lines, beautiful rangolis around the grand temples and incredible Gothic styled churches beside beautiful lawns.

sea wave at Serenity beach

Soon I left behind the busy streets of the main town and entered the village dotted with coconut trees. The golden sand lapped with peaceful surrounding is the best compliment for the name ‘Serenity’.  The panoramic view of the beach- fishing boats lined up, fishermen sewing and preparing their nets for the catch of the day left me to spell bounded.

Surfing in India

The waves on the shore are also appreciated for its water sports activity like surfing. If you are looking for the surfing course, you may contact the trainer for special classes they arrange for tourists. The sturdier rock lanes constructed to some distance within the sea is the most relaxing place to spend an afternoon. 

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Auroville and The Matrimandir

Matrimandir at Auroville

A universal town where people from all countries can live a life in peace and harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. It was founded by a spiritual guru Mirra Alfassa in 1968 and designed by architect Roger Anger. The purpose of the ashram is to realize the unity of the human.

Universal town in India

I hired a bike for a day tour at experimental town Auroville Ashram and the mighty golden globe of Matrimandir. The town is located in Viluppuram district, mainly in the state of Tamil Nadu with some parts in Puducherry. It is around 15kms from the White Town that took me 30mins to reach the place. The road to Auroville is much quieter and perfect to ride on. 

Auroville ashram

The first stop of a day trip was The Tourist Information Centre with a small museum and an exhibition. It gives lots of information on Auroville and, in particular, the Matrimandir which is in the middle of the community. It is around a mile from the visitor centre with nice and shaded walk marked by lots of signs and plaques relating to the township.

Arikamedu- The Roman Trade Centre

Roman Trade centre in India

The ancient Roman archaeological site gives an unforgettable experience by taking you back to 2nd Century BC. According to archaeologists, the excavated site inhabited by Tamil fishing villagers was formerly the major port dedicated for trading with Romans by Chola dynasty.

Ruins of Arikamedu

I decided to take a ride of 8kms by cycle for the site that goes through a lane of typical South Indian village filled with charm. Along the way, I was grasped by the sight of the bright colour houses with beautifully depicted rangolis on the doorsteps, children playing hopscotch on the streets and granny combing the hair of younger members.

Arikamedu Pondicherry

Almost at the end of the village, a dirt road leads to the unique excavation site. It is most difficult to cycling on the sand though it was a short distance it took more time for me. I parked it outside the gate, and first, to the ruins, I heeded two entrance pillars which are almost disintegrating against the ravages of nature.

2nd century BC Roman ruin in India

Then I moved towards the five arched doorway house, something most interesting in the wall was the huge sizes of bricks used to build. The site is under the protection of ASI, I hope a few more developments will attract the possibilities of tourists.

Veerampattinam Beach

Veerampattinam Beach

I was back in the lanes of the village having over 1000 years of recorded history. It has the pretty lengthy sea beach surrounded by extensive Palm Groves adding sublimity to the scenic beauty. It took almost 20 minutes to ride from Arikamedu for the beautiful and clean beach. The fresh breeze of Bay of Bengal lofted me to relax on the sand and enjoy the view.

Fishermen at Veerampattinam Beach

It was busy with the activities of the fishermen fixing their boats, elderly and young people working together preparing fishing nets. I moved along the shore and noticed a few fishing boats were returning from their rough journey with treasures along.

Veerampattinam Beach Pondicherry

The waves hitting the shore was so calm and time flew so quickly that I found the sun was at horizon. I moved back for my bi-cycle to make the journey back to the hostel. The peaceful day on the beach along with enjoying the lifestyle of fishermen is the speculum to our incredible India.

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How to travel nearby Pondicherry?

Bi-cycle tour Pondicherry

Pondicherry town is well accessed by local transports and its connectivity to other destinations. I planned to rent a bike and bi-cycle for my standard budget tour. If you are looking to travel in leisure then you may rent a car or hire an easily available taxi. Tuk-tuks and a few small vans are also available in the town.

Exploring Cape Comorin- The Tamil Nadu

tamil_nadu

My undaunted journey as a solo traveller had guided me to a few distant places in India. The experience of theses places is adventurous as well as charming. The journey of 2020 would have been fragmentary without a visit to the parts of Southern India. The oldest civilization of India attracted me to explore its culture and be a part of its heritage. I made a few adjustments and an ad hoc plan for Tamil Nadu. I had pre-booked my accommodations to make sure there is no issue of stay and budget. Though there were some challenges of which I was concerned, but the local people made it easy. 

Why visit Tamil Nadu?

The beautiful Indian state fascinated me with its gorgeous beaches girdled with natural splendours. The hidden beaches are pristine as they are clean, embarrass infinite sea, have pretty sunsets, and solitude. The famous ancient temples around the state, chronicle its demeanour of being the oldest civilization. The rock-carved pillars of Mandapam establish the skill of the artists and their artworks which make these temples unbelievable. The state is rich in historical sites that imply it has no shortage of natural resources and wildlife. It is home to dense forestland and a protected mountain range lauded for its biodiversity. The landscape of palm and banana plantations with rice fields, forest-clad of wildlife-prowled from the Western Ghats is all packed into a state that distinct from the rest of India. 

My Journey to Explore Cape Comorin

The charm of the state is often overlooked compared to other South Indian states. I had no prior travel arrangements for the trip and so planned to use local transport to explore. The long journey of twenty-six hours from Kolkata gave a glimpse of the natural resources of the state. I booked a hostel in Chennai for a night stay, the best price to stay in cheap. After, a long wait, my taste buds ultimately found the authentic South Indian dish in dinner. Chennai indeed is a splendour city, but I had planned to leave for Pondicherry, the next day. I was back to the hostel, preparing myself for my upcoming journey with too many ifs and buts, then slept with too many circumspect. 

Pondicherry

The next morning, suddenly I was feeling pumped-up and left early morning. My first destination was a small Union Territory almost 160kms from Chennai. Pondicherry got its independence from the French Government in 1959, the last colonial rule in India. You can still find it retains of French vivacity at the architectures around the city. The beautiful beaches, snuggling colourful constructions and a fusion of delicious French and Indian dishes make it a charming seaside town. The pleasant sunrise from its beaches with French cafes serving fresh coffee and snacks are the most remarkable moments of my life. Earlier in my semi-planned trip, I had determined to celebrate Christmas in this elegant town. The streets brightened up with colourful LED lights and the prayers at Churches to begin the celebration is illustrious. 

Madurai

My next destination was one of the oldest city of India dating back to 3500 years. The city has been exalted in ancient manuscripts of Kautilya, Greek ambassador- Megasthenes and others. Madurai have faced invasions from ancient times, but the city has rebuilt itself again and again. The pleasant weather was a perfect day to start exploring the city famous for its temples. The temples meticulously designed with intricate decoration will surely draw gasps of awe. The buzzing marketplace of the city is also famous for its silk and bronze handicrafts. It is overwhelmed with a museum dedicated to our Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi. The experience at Madurai had left an incredible mark on the quaint town different from other hustling and bustling cities. 

Kanyakumari

The next destination of the trip was the Southernmost tip of India. The small town, surrounded by three water bodies- Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabic sea has a spectacular view. The waves hitting the rocky beaches and eye-catching sunset on the horizon with moonrise on the other end mesmerizes. Kanyakumari is a picturesque landscape and small vendors peddling across the streets with a variety of sea-shell products will surely grab your attention. There are plenty of options to explore the local dishes that give choices for veggies and non-veggies both. One of the main attractions of Kanyakumari is the 133 feet high statue of Great Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar. My delightful memories have escapades that might help you to select a better destination for the trip. 

How to travel?

Image Source: Google

The destinations of Tamil Nadu are well-accessed by roads, railways and airports. The local transports make it easier and cheaper for budget travellers. Many cities and towns have the services of Ola, Uber and Rapido as alternatives. The railways operating in Southern India makes the journey even smoother. The cleanest coaches I ever witnessed with helpful staff at every railway stations and hardly running late gave me redemption. 

Trekking in the Mountains of Singalila Ridge

Sandakphu Trek

The mighty ranges of the Himalayas in the North of West Bengal offer the phenomenal viewpoints, to begin with, one of the most classical adventure treks. Darjeeling Singalila Ridge is in the middle of Eden, as you cross from one ridge to another through a narrow trail. The uninterrupted view of all-encompassing snow-topped mountains with the family of Mt. Kanchenjunga including Mount Everest makes the landscape unique and renders loveable experience.

The small trails apart from the road are better routes for a trek from Manebhanjan.
The small trails apart from the road are better routes for a trek from Mane Bhanjang.

If you find happiness in messy hair, dirty feet and chilled water falling on your skin, then you can wander and wonder at the same time! Trekking is the most inspired activity for nature lovers as the trekking sites allow you to witness the best form of nature. The fascinating aspect of this trek is to reach the summit, Sandakphu, by crossing the India-Nepal border a dozen of times. The love and affection of local people are similar for their guests irrespective of their origin. 

Best Time To Visit:

A monk in Chitrey, route from Manebhanjan to Tumling
A monk in Chitrey, route from Manebhanjan to Tumling

Best time to trek is throughout the year except during the monsoon. March and April is the best time when the rhododendron flowers add life with a blush shade to the valley. From June to September Singalila ridge National Park is closed. 

If you are looking for clear mountain and sublime sights of dawn from Sandakphu and Phalut, then September-November offers a better view. You can experience early snow in November and even may come across the slippery red panda if your luck bestows!

How to Reach?

The nearest airport is Bagdogra and railway station NJP. You have to reach Darjeeling More to get the shared taxi for Ghoom or Sukhia Pokhari. Both are relatively well-connected to Mane Bhanjang. Mane Bhanjang is the last town where you will get access to ATM and Pharmacy. No shared taxis are available for Sandakphu, so either you have to hire or trek. 

My Journey in Singalia National Park- Itinerary

The entrance of Singalila National Park.
The entrance of Singalila National Park.

The pandemic has hit harder to the travel industry and its people are changing their professions to survive. We, the travellers, can help the travel industry to revive it. My first plan was to take up a challenge to push me out of my comfort zone and second, to explore my state. A friend of mine had already implemented an idea of Sandakphu trek. It was the perfect plan to rejuvenate myself and perceived the benefits of solo travelling. 

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What makes Sandakphu outstanding?

The view of Sleeping Budha from Aal.
The view of Sleeping Budha from Aal.

Sandakphu means “Height of the poisonous plants” as aconite plants grow in abundance at the height. The other notable aspects of the trek will take you through many hidden gems. It is one of the highest peaks in West Bengal at 11,930 ft above sea level and is truly breathtaking. Once you reach the summit you will be the part of an ethereal 180° panorama view of the four highest peaks of the world. Four lofts of the Sleeping Buddha are Mt. Kanchenjunga, Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Makalu. If you are a trekking enthusiast and nature lover, you cannot miss out on the Sandakphu Trek for sure.

Day 01: Mane Bhanjang

The morning in the beautiful town Manebhanjan.
The morning in the beautiful town Manebhanjan.

I took a bus from Kolkata for Siliguri, which reached in the next morning. After a few hustle and bustle, I grasped a shared taxi of Darjeeling to pass on Ghoom at the cost of ₹300. After three hours journey from Siliguri, I was at the Queen of Hills. The chill air of the mountain welcomed me at fuzzyGhoom station. I walked down the hill to reach my next pickup point for Mane Bhanjang. A few minutes later, I hopped to the next shared taxi for Mane Bhanjang at ₹100. 

The Land Rover, an antique vehicle which is still operating.
The Land Rover, an antique vehicle which is still operating.

The journey was not smooth, the rough road didn’t matter me as I was preparing myself for the next day. It took around two hours to reach a small town divided by two countries India and Nepal. The local people were friendly, which made me comfortable making new friends. One of them was going to be one of my best friends forever and guide me for the next six days in the ridges of Singalila National Park. 

Places to Stay: Homestays are a cheap place to halt for a night. If you are looking for a cheaper place, you can book for Dormitories offered by many homestays which will cost around ₹250-₹300. Hotels are also available in the town. 

Day 02: Tumling

Beautiful monastery of Chitrey at the peak of the mountain.
Beautiful monastery of Chitrey at the peak of the mountain.

The first day in the hills with a beautiful view of sunrise at the horizon boosted me up for the rest of the day. Suddenly, I was a different person, charged up for the new challenge of 52kms trek. Before I finished my breakfast, my friend Dawa Bhutia was already at the doorsteps. Quickly I packed my bags, settled my bills and moved towards Singalila National Park Office for the pass and other official formalities. 

The excitement was at full throttle after I walked out the gates of the office. The trek began complimented by the toughest challenge of the route. The first 4kms of the trek is steep climbing to mountain till Chitrey. It took every breath away, but the beautiful monastery at the peak of the mountain reinvigorated me for the rest of 9kms trek. We took a break in the fields of Chitrey, filled up water and moved on.  

The view of Tumling village. The second-day camping spot.
The view of Tumling village. The second-day camping spot.

The small trails apart from the road are better routes for a trek from Mane Bhanjang to Tumling where nature is at its best, a layer of fog will suddenly cover-up the whole path and suddenly the bright sun will appear in the sky. The beauty of mother nature and its show bewildered me, which took us eight hours to reach Tumling, though it is six hours trek.

Places to Stay: There are many homestays in the village. They mostly provide customized package as bed charge, dinner, breakfast and tea. The total package is ₹700-₹800.

Day 03: Kala Pokhri

View of Sleeping Budha from Tumling.
View of Sleeping Budha from Tumling.

The morning in Tumbling greeted with a crystal view of Sleeping Budha. With morning prayer to Lord, “Om Mani Padme Hum”, we finished our breakfast and moved for next destination to Kalipokhri. Another steep climbing of 3-4kms made it difficult for every single step. Sooner, fatigue grasped me and my bag seemed heavier. The motivating mother-nature and my friend encouraged me to reach the next stop at Gairibas. We walked through trails of jungle leaving behind the motorable road.

We took a break for half an hour with refreshments by red tea and momos at Gairibas. We refilled our bottle and went to the check post of Singalila National Park. The total distance we had covered was 6kms. Now we had to trek more 7kms for Kala Pokhri. We took stairs from Gairibas for a few steps then we followed the road. 

The Black Lake, Kalipokhri. The second-day camping spot.
The Black Lake, Kala Pokhri. The third-day camping spot.

It took us eight hours to complete the trek up to Kalipokhri where airtel network is available at a few particular spots. The place gets its name from the Black Lake which in local means “Kala Pokhri”. 

Places to Stay: Homestays are available in Kala Pokhri also. They treat their guests with the utmost compassion. The dormitories are cheap to stay. It will cost ₹250-₹300, food is available at a reasonable rate. 

Day 04-05: Sandakphu and Aal

The unwinding trails to Sandakphu from one ridge to another.
The unwinding trails to Sandakphu from one ridge to another.

We had our breakfast and tea in the new day at Kala Pokhri and moved on for Sandakphu. We decided to move further 2kms from Sandakphu to Aal. After leaving Kala Pokhri, we moved towards the trail led by stairs. A new zeal to reach the summit charged me up for the rest of the route. We passed along the pine forest with different species of birds chirping around. 

We took long breaks during this route as it was the shortest route to cover 7kms to Aal via Sandakphu. The scene along the way is something to be cherished. The final route to the peak was quite difficult and exhausting, as the climb from here was sharp. It took us six hours to reach the summit of Sandakphu and other thirty minutes to Aal.

180° panorama view of the four highest peaks from the summit, Sandakphu.
180° panorama view of the four highest peaks from the summit, Sandakphu, the highest peak of West Bengal.

I think it is a wise decision to move to Aal, as it is a cheap place to stay, thinly populated and gives the best view of Sleeping Budha. Aal and Sandakphu are at the same altitude. The evening becomes more cherishable if you love playing football. You can be a part of the team and have fun along with the play. I was not lucky to watch the sunset due to mist, but it smiled next morning when the view of Sleeping Budha was clear and spellbound. It is indeed something to remember for a lifetime.

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Places to Stay: There are very a few homestays at Aal at ₹300. Homemade food is available. Most of them rely on solar panels. If you are planning to stay at Aal remember to charge all your electronic gadgets at Sandakphu. 

Day 06: Gurdum

Morning view of Aal.
Morning view of Aal. The fourth and fifth-day camping spot.

A thin layer of frost on the grass makes Aal as if it came out from a fairytale. The small village with a handful of people around and the panoramic vista of the entire Sleeping Budha encourages for the most exciting day of the trek. After spending a day in the beautiful village, it was time to move down. We had our tea and breakfast at Sandakphu and prepared ourself for 13kms trek down to Gurdum.

The trail from Sandakphu to Gurdum is the most isolated route that makes it perfect for the trek. The trails are in the midst of the dense forest with tall bamboo grass and no sign of human settlement. We took long breaks in the jungle, yearning to spot any wildlife. We met a few local peoples on the way with horses carrying their goods. The unwinding route to the small village, Gurdum, in the thick of the jungle guided by Buddhist flags raised my self-esteem. 

The picturesque little village Gurdum.
The picturesque little village Gurdum. The sixth-day camping spot.

The village is encircled with steep diving valleys with dense evergreen forest. The variety of flowers grown around the hamlet show the taste of its people for gardening. It was my last night in the ridges of Singalila National Park. The sky, full of stars with a comet passing over the horizon, gave me the farewell for leaving the paradise

Places to Stay: There are a few homestays available at Gurdum. Food and hot water are also available. The charge of Dormitory is ₹250-₹300.

Day 07: Srikhola

The variety of flowers grown around the hamlet, Gurdum.

The final day in the ridges of Singalila, a fine morning with a mesmerizing sunrise and fresh air elated me. The experience of adventure that revealed my limits and strong-will. We moved to the beautifully decorated courtyard of the homestay. After a delicious homemade breakfast, I tasted salt tea for the first time recommended by my friend. Soon, it was time to say Goodbye to the picturesque little village Gurdum.

Srikhola village
Srikhola village gets its name from the beautiful stream that passes through it.

I packed my bag for the last trek of 6kms to Srikhola village. The village gets its name from the beautiful stream Srikhola that passes through it. The trek route is easy from Gurdum with the tortuous trail that took us around three hours to complete. Very few transports, mostly the small carriage trucks, are available from Srikhola. We hitched from Srikhola to Rimbick at ₹40 per person. The shared taxi for Darjeeling, Ghoom and Mane Bhanjang are available from Rimbick.

An Alternative Way:

Fields of Chitrey
The fields of Chitrey, We took a long break to enjoy the view.

If you are not a trekker and looking for a comfortable way to travel, then you can travel to Manebhanjan with your personal/ hire car. From Mane Bhanjang you have to hire Land Rovers for Sandakphu. As per rules and regulations, you cannot drive your vehicle to Sandakphu. The journey is uncomfortable that may take 7-8 hours. The one-way cost of Land Rovers to Sandakphu is ₹3500-₹4000 per person. There are better hotels at Mane Bhanjang and Sandakphu. It is preferable to book in advance.

15 Exceptional Yet Underrated Destinations of India

Underrated Destinations in India

Do you feel the fatality of the monotony, about the same old hill stations and beaches in India where your relatives and friends have visited? Planning a trip to the unexplored territory where accessibility might be an issue, but the spirit of adventure acts as a tonic. India’s beautiful travel destinations are exceptional for their most magnificent region, culture, and hospitality. Some are popular and commercialized, which are saturated by tourists.

Explore Underrated Destinations of India

You need a list of lesser-known places that doesn’t imply it has anything less to offer. A little exploration and research from us will surprise you with how much this country has to offer. Here we have So, here are some of the most underrated destinations in India that have been not noticed by a lot of people, and now we want our travellers to know more about such unexplored places.

Majuli – Assam

Majuli in Assam, Gauhati

Majuli is one of the most surreal places in India with a lush green environment and pollution-free World’s largest freshwater island in the river Brahmaputra. The unmatched beauty of the place is wrapped in a unique and quite interesting culture inhabited by tribals with various migratory birds and a dose of mesmerizing sunsets. Majuli tour is incomplete without visiting the Satras (regarded as the hub of neo-Vaishnavite culture) which functions as monasteries and heritages.

How to Reach? To reach the island one has to take a ferry from Neemati Ghat in Jorhat district. The main town Jorahat has accessibility by the train which is 20km away. 

Bishnupur – West Bengal

Bishnupur Tourism (West Bengal)

Bishnupur has a glorious past, was the capital city of the Malla dynasty. The rich architecture and handicrafts such as weaving reflect its unique form. Its elegance is brilliant and detailed terracotta work as the carvings on the temples or handicrafts by the weaver are just a few examples that endured the ravages of the time. Bishnupur is also one of the principal centers of tradition in Bengal as Gharana of Hindustani Classical Music. Every year the weeklong festival “Bishnupur Mela” held in Poush(December-January) is a unique experience of the ‘Bishnupur culture’ in the West Bengal.

How to Reach? Bishnupur has several direct trains from Kolkata. It is perfectly connected by NH2, which takes 4 hours from Kolkata.

Spiti Valley- Himachal Pradesh

Places To Visit In Spiti Valley (Himachal Pradesh)

Spiti Valley is perhaps the most desirable place because of the unusual purple hue of the mountains in Himachal Pradesh. The dying explorer in you can be unleashed in the valley of the majestic Himalayan deserts. The breathtaking views of pristine gurgling rivers, scenic alpine lakes, and a rare variety of flora and fauna will mesmerize. The open-minded local community and their warm welcome are some of the features of the Spiti Valley tour. It is also home to the world’s oldest Buddhist cultural center – Tabo Monastery, Dhankar Monastery, and Key Monastery. 

TIPS: The foreigners require a pass – Inner Line Permit to travel beyond Reckong Peo. 

How to Reach? You can travel to Reckong Peo by bus from Shimla and then to Kaza. The other route, Manali to Kaza is not for the faint-hearted, which is roughly 200 km.

Gavi – Kerala

Gavi - Kerala

Gavi cast its enchanting spell that recounts the pristine forest and its wilderness. The hills and valleys, sprawling grasslands, cascading waterfalls, and cardamom plantations offer a spectacular view of the deep ravine forest. The leading eco-tourism as Jungle Camping, Wildlife Trek, and Boating has caught the attention of nature lovers and adventure tourists. Gavi makes a unique venture with the active involvement of tribals, sharing their traditional knowledge of the forest, as guides, gardeners, and cooks. 

How to Reach? There is no railroad in Gavi, the nearest major railway stations are Kottayam, Ernakulam, and Madurai. The alternate option is to travel from Kumily(40km).

Gangtok – Sikkim

Gangtok sightseeing

A beautiful hill town wreathed in clouds blended with cultural identities to urbanization. Gangtok is a dynamic part of the paradise of the northeast states of India. The town provides the perfect base to travel its surrounding regions abundant with natural beauty that offers the spectacular views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Apart from various natural attractions, it has many famous religious sites. For adventure enthusiasts, it comprises trekking and camping in the Himalayan mountain ranges. The annual Gangtok Food and Culture festival held in December attracts a large number of locals and tourists each year.

How to Reach? The capital city of Gangtok has Pakyong Airport. There is good connectivity by roads from Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Kalimpong. 

Tawang – Arunachal Pradesh

Best Places to Visit in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

The beautiful town of Tawang in endowed in the solitude of Gudpi and Chong-Chugmi ranges with mesmerizing Tawang chu River. The place is greatly significant for Buddhist monks being the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso. The Tawang Monastery is one of the gems in Arunachal Pradesh recognized as the second-largest monastery in the world. The major religious festivals “LOSAR” in February-March and “TORGYA” in January are celebrated annually. The glacial lakes in and around Tawang with crystal blue water, splendid waterfalls, and hot springs are splendid stopovers. 

How to Reach? The nearest airport to reach Tawang is Salonibari Airport in Tezpur, Assam, and the nearest railway connectivity is in Rangapara in Tezpur, Assam. 

Mandu – Madhya Pradesh

Mandu Travel & Tour Tourism Guide, Madhya Pradesh

Mandu is a city of timeless monumental structures that promises to make you travel through time. This citadel is the finest examples of Afghan architecture perched atop of a pleasantly green, thinly forested plateau. The imposing monuments with grand palaces and massive intricately designed gateways are the witnesses to Mandu’s long, rich, and varied history. The city of Mandu adorns the legendary love story of Baz Bahadur and astounding singer Roopmati. A walk through the Jahaz Mahal, Jami Masjid, Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, Baz Bahadur’s Palace, and others of these monuments can leave you spell-bound. 

How to Reach? The nearest airport to reach Mandu is Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport at Indore and the nearest railway connectivity is Ratlam Junction. Well built roads make it reachable through different parts of Madhya Pradesh.

Mokokchung – Nagaland

Mokokchung village

Mokokchung, a small but beautiful town is out of chaos, which will leave you spellbound. It is surrounded by the lush green forest with serpentine roads and dangerous slopes with a few dotted houses in the landscape. It is stated that Mokokchung has some of the oldest villages in Nagaland. This district is known as The Land of Ao’s “Mokokchung” where you will find their descendants and culture. The people greet tourists most warm-heartedly, which makes the place wonderful.

TIPS: Inner Line Permit is required for the tourist before visiting Nagaland

How to Reach? Mokokchung is well connected with other towns through National Highway with other towns of Nagaland and Assam. Nagaland State Transport buses run regularly from the main town.

Auli – Uttarakhand

Auli Hill Station Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand is renowned for bounded snowy peaks of the mighty Himalayas covered with coniferous forests. Auli is a famous hill station dotted with the apple orchards, old oaks, and pine trees. There is no dearth of the natural beauty of Himalayan views with meadows, adventure activities, romantic vistas, cable cars, and much more. The sylvan peaks with the long stretch of snowy valleys make idyllic surroundings as a popular skiing destination in India. Artificial lakes, sacred temples, and trekking spots captivate the attention of tourists.

How to Reach? If you are planning for Auli, Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest Airport, and Rishikesh railway station is situated 264kms away. It is well connected by motorable roads from major destinations of Uttarakhand.

Coorg – Karnataka

Popular Places to Visit in Coorg, Karnataka

We all look for a break from the usual monotonous life. Coorg is a lovely hill station which is often called as the “Scotland of India” and the “Kashmir of Karnataka”. It justifies itself with lush greenery, exotic and rich flora and fauna, and enduring, the colorful and simplistic lifestyle of locals. It adds a wide range of options to keep its tourists entertained with adventurous trekking routes to caves, temples, forts, and museums. Its wildlife sanctuaries and umpteen sightseeing places are Madikeri fort, Omkareshwar temple, Golden Temple, and others. 

How to Reach?  The nearest airport to Coorg is Mangalore Airport, located about 160 km away and Mysore Junction is the nearest railway station. State transport is available on a regular basis from cities like Bangalore, Mysore, and Mangalore.

Patan – Gujarat

Patan Tourism (2020), Gujarat

In childhood, we used to build a fort of sheets and pillows enclosure. The town of Patan is one of Gujarat’s historical ancient cities hugged by its fort walls and gates. The fortified city that served as Gujarat’s capital for 650 years stands as a testimony of that bygone era. The bustling bazaar of this charismatic town is tucked in the narrow lanes with Havelis. The architectural remains of Rani ki Vav, the old fort near Kalka, unique patola and mashru weavers, the snow-white Jain temples, the Hemachandracharya Jain Gnan library, etc. attract tourists from everywhere.

How to Reach? The nearest airport to Patan is Sardar Vallabhai Patel Airport at Ahmedabad and Railway Station is at Mehsana which is about an hour’s journey from the city.

Bodh Gaya – Bihar

Bodh gaya tourism in Bihar

Bodhgaya, on the banks of the River Falgu in India, is a serene township associated with one of the four holiest cities of the Buddhist faith. The life of Gautam Budha is connected with this town where he meditated, preached and attained enlightenment, under the famous Bodhi tree. The place emanates an aura of spiritual solitude and supreme peace and is revered by Buddhists all across the world. A niche of Gaya city becomes a place of convergence during the festivals that are celebrated with great fervor in Bodhgaya.

TIPS: You can get accommodation in the monasteries and a chance to come close to the day to day lives of the Buddhist monks.

How to Reach? The nearest airport and railway station is at Gaya which is 6-7km away. It is well connected by roads with other major cities of India.  

Bangaram Island – Lakshadweep

How to reach bangaram island in Lakshadweep

Bangaram is a tiny teardrop-shaped island surrounded by a shallow lagoon and enclosed by the coral reef. The island is uninhabited except for occasional visitors. It makes a perfect destination for people who want to disconnect entirely from the fast-paced world. The sparkling beach with the beautiful view of sunrise and sunset is a treat to the eyes. The serene beach of Bangaram Island includes adventure sports like scuba diving, beach games, swimming, snorkeling, and deep-sea fishing. 

TIPS: Entry permit needs to visit all Lakshadweep Islands.

How to Reach? The nearest aerodrome is at Agatti Island and from there speed boat and helicopter are available for Bangaram Island. 

White Town – Puducherry

White town, pondicherry things to do

The charming, quaint town of Puducherry is called the French capital of India and this area was reserved for the French people back in the day. The White Town of Puducherry has retained its old-world charm from perfect yellow buildings to the sunny beaches, arched gates lined with bougainvillea, and clean European-style streets, making this area surreal as if stuck in a time warp. Some of the key spots that you can visit while you are in the town are Shri Aurobindo Ghosh Ashram, Paradise Beach, Gingee Fort, Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswar Temple, Basilica Of The Sacred Heart Of Jesus, Jawahar Toy Museum, Le Club, and many other tourist attractions. 

How to Reach? It is located at a convenient distance of 379 km from Bangalore and from Chennai it is nearly 150 km. The nearest airport and railway station are located in these cities. 

Unakoti – Tripura

Unakoti Tripura | Things to do in Unakoti

A prime tourist spot in Tripura is identified for its marvelous rock carvings, murals with their primitive beauty, and waterfalls. Most of these rock carvings are huge and made on vertical walls exposed in the open atmosphere. Unakoti attracts tourists and devotees from far and away. A storehouse of India’s heritage it muses religious and spiritual importance from Hindu Mythology. It also makes a nice place for hiking, trekking, and other activities as the natural offerings of the area. A big fair popularly known as Ashokastami Mela is held in April every year.

How to Reach? Kamalpur is the nearest airport for Unakoti and Kumarghat is the nearest railway station. It is well connected by roads and transports from most nearby cities and towns. 

Read Also: 10 Holiday Destinations For Your First Post-Lockdown Escape!

11 Most Unusual Festivals of India

11 Most Unusual festival

My motherland, India is home to a diverse culture of indigenous tribes travelled from different parts of the world. Since ancient times they have created a long-lasting impact with modern theories. A deceptive world where the spiritual connection with the almighty has given rise to some of the unusual rituals and festivals. Some of these traditional rituals, despite its weirdness and crazily bizarre events, celebrated with unusual enthusiasm, leave us with a big question. In this article, it has been tried to concise 11 Most Unusual Festivals of India that are strictly followed to restore balance in religion. 

Thaipusam Festival, Tamil Nadu

Let’s start our bizarre list with the utmost devotion to revel in divine bliss. Thaipusam/Thaipoosam is celebrated to show the endurance to Lord Murugan (believed to be the son of Lord Shiva). Devotees prepare themselves approx 48 days ahead by spiritual cleansing with prayers and fasting. The festival is famous in South India and other parts of Southeast Asia like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries where the Tamil community is present. 

What is unusual?  On the day of the festival, the devotees perform the rituals and set out for the pilgrimage engaging themselves with the extreme act of religious observance. Some fanatical devotees carry burdens by one the most amazing practice by piercing the skin, tongue or cheek. 

Time: The festival starts on the full moon of Tamil month of Thai and continues over 10 days in January. 

Venue: Sri Dandayudhapani Temple in Palani

Nag Panchami, All over India

How about a festival dedicated to snakes, Creepy? Nag Panchami isn’t for the faint heart, especially which are dug out of the ground. Nag (Cobra in English) owns a great significance in Hindu mythology, which is often worshipped. The festival takes place during the month of Shraavana (Hindu calendar month) when the monsoon in India is at the peak. The rainwater seeps the hole of snakes which can harm humans on the ground by biting. According to the myth, to protect themselves Nag Panchami is celebrated. 

What is Unusual?   On this auspicious day. the fear of snakes miraculously turns into blissful devotion.  In some of the villages, the devotees indulge with the alive snake. The temple priest sprinkles Haldi-kumkum (turmeric and vermilion) and flowers on their hoods, later they are also fed milk, as the ultimate sign of good luck.

Time: It is celebrated on the fifth day after Amavasya or moonlit-fortnight in the holy month of Shraavana (July- August).

Venue: The festival is celebrated across the country, popularly observed in Bengal, Maharashtra, and South India.

Madai Festival, Chhattisgarh

Chhattishgarh is a popular tribal destination known for its major festivals of what is considered as Sanskritik Chhattisgarh. Despite Madai is a popular festival, people from other parts of the country know little about it. During this festival, ritualistic performances with folk dance, music, sacred prayers are dedicated to goddess Kesharpal Kesharpalin Devi. One can also witness vibrant fairs with bright shops having several tribal handicrafts and relish some unique cuisine. 

What is Unusual? This is one of the few festivals in our country which travels from one place to another. The festival is also marked with the sacrifice of an animal, usually, a goat which breaks into relishing lavish feasts. 

Time: December to March

Venue: This festival starts from Bastar tribal area, then moves to Kanker from where it goes to Bhanupratappur, with few stops in-between at Narayanpur, Antagarh to Bhanupratappur, Keshkal and Bhopalpattnam then finally ends in March to Kondagaon. 

Sekrenyi Festival, Nagaland

Sekrenyi is a popular festival for Angami tribe of Nagaland. This festival is celebrated for 10 days to eliminate negative energies as well as to renew and cleanse the entire village. This tradition involves a great number of rituals as well as customs respecting nature. It is a festival of purification with feasting, duet songs and folk dance that allows inter-village visits and assures human bonding. The preparations of the festival start two days prior by collecting firewood and hunting animals for the feast. 

What is Unusual? One of the highlighting features of the festival is Thekra Hie where young people of the village sit together to participate in traditional events served with the jugs of rice beer and plates of meat.

Time: Sekrenyi Festival is celebrated on 25th day of the Angami calendar month. According to the English calendar its mostly around February. 

Venue: Kohima, Nagaland

Agni Keli, Karnataka

Though fire means danger, it is also the symbol of the festival. Coming back to India’s other unique festival, here a village plays with fire every year. Devotees gather at the temple of Kateel Durga Parameswari, honouring Her, depicted as the goddess of war. It is celebrated over 8 days and features a series of themed performances including the parade of the jewel-decked goddess through the streets. On the second night of the festival, the fiery action attracts thousands of spectators. 

What is Unusual? A centuries-old tradition that involves participants throwing burning palm fronds straight at each other. Agni Keli lasts about 15 minutes with flying branches and sparks through the night sky, falling around the participants. 

Time:  It commences on the night before Mesha Sankramana Day, mostly occurring in April.

Venue: Kateel Durga Parameswari Temple is in Kateel on an island of the river Nandini, about 29 km from Mangalore city. 

Lath Mar Holi (Barsana, Vrindavan)

As we know the Holi is a festival of colours, that is celebrated in India with great vigour and enthusiasm. All this sounds so interesting and wonderful. Wait! what if some women chase you with sticks. Sounds terrifying? Well, the unique customs of Lath Mar Holi have attracted tourists and pilgrims from all over the world. In Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna playfully teased his beloved Radha on this very day and angry ladies of Barsana chased the Lord away. As a mark of this event, every year the Lath Mar Holi is celebrated.

What is Unusual? Interesting way of playing Holi, not only with colours but also sticks. As a part of the tradition, men sing provocative songs to invite the women for playfully to beat them with bamboo sticks. The folks try to defend them with a shield and usually stay under the influence of ‘Bhang’. This reflects love, fun and equality.

Time: This celebration takes place a few days before the actual Holi on the last full moon day of Phalgun as the Hindu lunar calendar month marking the spring. According to the English calendar between March to April.  

Venue: Nandgaon and Barsana towns of Uttar Pradesh, extremely popular for the celebrations.

Puli Kali, Kerala

Puli Kali is a peculiar event of the most popular Onam festival in South India. This curious activity originated 200 years back when the Maharaja of Cochin formed a traditional Kerala folk art, dance, music and drama that depicted the theme of the wild and macho spirit of the force. As the name, Puli Kali means “tiger play” or “tiger dance” that is what you can see tigers acting on the street to the beats of instruments like Udukku and Thakil. Every year it attracts people from across the State and the world to view this special event. 

What is Unusual? The striking feature is performers dress up as tiger with readymade masks, cosmetic teeth, tongues, beards and moustaches. They enact the roles of the wild beasts while dressed up in such a manner is no easy feat either! 

Time: This grandeur is celebrated every year on the 4th day of Onam ( a harvest festival, and falls on the 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam) which occurs in August–September.

Venue: The streets of Swaraj Round, Thrissur.

Hemis Festival, Leh

The colourful prayer flag of Ladakh brings an unreasonable smile on the face of everyone, from a child to an adult. The two-day Hemis Festival is a sequence of the most vibrant events you’ll ever come across. According to the legend, Lord Padamsambhav’s conquested on the Ruta demons marked the victory of good over dark forces. This festival commemorates every year as the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava who founded Tantric Buddhism in Tibet.

What is Unusual? The Masked Dance, performed by the lamas is the main highlights of the Hemis Festival. It is a slow dance and each performer wears colourful masks and costumes that depict the legends of the war. The character’s movement on the beats of cymbals, drums, and unwieldy trumpets elaborate the grotesque expressions.

Time: This festival is celebrated on the 5th month of the Tibetan calendar or June-to-July of the English months.

Venue: It is held at the 300-year-old Hemis Jangchub Choling, Buddhist monastery near Leh.

Sume Gelirak Festival, Odisha

A major festival of Bonda tribe that teaches the importance of love and friendship in one’s life. In reality, the tribe lives a very sequestered life on a hilltop, thus, aloof of the happenings outside their world. The Sume Gelirak festival helps the tourists to dive deep in the cultural richness of one of the tribes of Odisha. The celebration proceeds for 10 days includes a scenario with several ritualistic practices, folk dance and songs in their traditional attire and musical instruments. 

What is Unusual? The festival includes a unique style of celebration, a categorised fight for pairs of boys, young as well as and older men stand face-to-face and hit each other with branches of a tree on the beats of the drum. This is also the perfect time for the ladies to find their better life partner.

Time:  In the month of Chaitra, the festival is celebrated as the threshing of the rice harvest. It starts on Sunday mostly in January according to the English calendar. 

Venue: Koraput, Odisha

Karni Mata Festival, Rajasthan

Let’s drive this unusual festivals list to 600-year-old Karni Mata temple which is home to more than thousands of rat. They are considered very sacred and bring good luck. Karni Mata Fair is an interesting attraction for tourist, to get acquainted with the rich religious traditions of the place. As the name suggests, the fair is dedicated to the mystical goddess possessing supernatural powers. On the first day of the festival, special preparations are made in the temple as Goddess is beautifully decorated with the proceedings of Mangal-Aarti and bhog to the deity.

What is Unusual? The temple is also known as Rat Temple of India. Interestingly, rats are considered as “kabbas”, the souls of Karni Mata’s devotees. To seek blessings from kabbas they eat the leftovers of the rat. 

Time: The festival is held twice a year during the holy Navratras in the months of March-April (the bigger festival of 10 days) and October-November.

Venue: Karni Mata temple is located in Deshnok village of Rajasthan. 

Chau Jhumur Utsav, West Bengal

Purulia is the land of the spectacular nature, people, culture and heritage. Chau Jhumur Utsav depicts the rich cultural tradition of the region and has evolved as a major crowd-puller in the region. The festival continues for 3 days with vibrant performing folk art, nearly 3000 artists follow the tradition. The festival is aptly complemented by drums, shenai, reed pipes and other instruments. Besides attending the festival visitors can also see mask making at Chorida Village, 8th-century Jain Temple, visit the Joychandi Hills and trek at Jharnakocha Cave

What is Unusual? During the festival of Chau Jhumur Utsav, a colourful martial mask dance is performed based on mythological tales that spread moral and ethical ideals. Chhau dance is recorded in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010. 

Time: December

Venue:  It is held at the Bamnia School playground of Maldi village of Balrampur in Purulia.