India is well known to be a land of enormous variety. It is obvious that we will find a lot here that is exotic, exciting and experiential. Listed below is my take on 10 places in India, which make for King of Exotic, and which make traveling to these places, a dream to fulfill. Read on, and decide if you are really game for these.
Offbeat destinations in India that you must visit
Tawang is bundled up in a corner of Arunachal Pradesh, close to the Tibetan border. It’s a 2 day drive from Guwahati (510km) or a 1 day labor from Tezpur. Foreigners will need a protected area permit (PAP) and Indians will need an inner line permit (ILP). Still, die hards and enthusiasts keep coming every year.
Tawang a place that is untouched, but at the same time you can sense that it is so vital for political as well as religious reasons. The monastery there, dates from late seventeenth century and is the place where the 6th Dalai Lama was born. Then there also are the Bomdila and Sela passes, which are museums of our 1962 war.
Dhanushkodi on the Pamban Island beyond Rameswaram is now an abandoned town. If you look up its location on the map, you won’t be able to control the urge to make immediate plans to check this out. It perhaps is part of the mythical “Ram Setu” of Ramayana. Anyways, Sri Lanka is 19 nautical miles away. While this small town was quite historical, a cyclone in 1964 swept every life away. The town ruins tell you how eerie it can be in that place.
It’s better to visit the place in groups during the day and return before sunset – high tide, no electricity and strong waters of Arabian Sea make travel risky otherwise.
The lake of Pangong, towards the north-east of Ladakh has come into limelight in India since 3 Idiots was shot. It is an ultra-beautiful lake which has a mere 20% of it in Indian control and the remaining flowing into Tibet. Depending on the sky above, you can find the lake changing colors from grey to green to pristine heavenly blue. If you have the lungs, you can stay overnight in the camps along the lake shore at Merak.
It’s an adventurous, beautiful but grueling 7 hours one side drive from Leh. One has to drive thru Changla pass – the second highest motorable road in India – and then thru the awesome cold deserts of Changthang. Just when you think you have been through all and get a glimpse of the lake from far, comes the “Pagal Nala” – a stream of water that swells too much during afternoon and beyond for cars to cross. It is advisable to cross in first half or in the evening.
Dzongri Yuksom in Sikkim is another place that awaits the courageous nature lover. It takes a 6+ hour taxi ride from Bagdogra (airport) or New Jalpaiguri (train) in upper West Bengal to reach Yuksom. Yuksom, which is part of the Kanchenjunga national park area becomes the base camp to stay and trek up to Dzongri and back. That itself is a 4 day return journey.
What you get for such labor is priceless. At a height of 4000m in west Sikkim, Dzongri peak provides unmatched and spiritual conversations with Kanchenjunga and her sister peaks. On clear days, a much larger Himalayan panorama is yours for a song.
Lakshadweep is news to most Indians. It is connected by air only to Cochin (90 mins flight), and ships from Cochin or Mangalore take 14-18 hours in the Arabian Sea. Of the 36 known islands there, only 5 are open to us and 10 are open to natives. As usual you require a permit to enter. For the uninitiated, Lakshadweep will be Maldives + Seychelles + Bali rolled into one. Great beaches, lot of water sport, corals and just peace and tranquility (sans traffic). Being there, you will know that you are amongst the very few human beings who have (and who will) visited this place.
Key Monastery in Spiti, is another place where nature and Buddhism have left us wondering agape. Made on the top of a hill at 13,500 feet, with the swirling Spiti River wrapped all around, Key is an amazing place to visit. It is also perhaps extremely old, dating back to 900 years ago from present.
From Simla as a base, it will take you 2 days to reach Key even in today’s time. You will take 9-10 hours to reach Rekong Peo from Simla and then another 8 hours from there to Kaza. From Kaza its 60 minutes to reach Kibber (15 km) and then another hour to reach Key (7km). God doesn’t come to those who do not have time or patience.
Nanda Devi National Park
Nanda Devi National Park is a journey in Uttarakhand that starts at Joshimath (10 hour drive from nearest rail head at Kathgodam or Rishikesh). Nearest airport is at Dehradun (300km away). Thereafter, it is a trek to various parts of the national park.
The park envelopes Nanda Devi peak – the highest in Garhwal Himalayas – and the entirety of it is located above 11,500 feet. You get to feast on as many as 25 peaks which are higher than 6000m as well as rapidly flowing glacial rivers like Rishi Ganga. The much famed “Valley of Flowers” and the beautiful views of Himalaya outlined first by Shipton and Tilman in 1934 are yours for free.
Amarnath is not just for the pilgrims. It’s a destination in itself. Firstly, you should admire the fact that it is less than 90km from the line of actual control. Secondly, getting there is a task – from Jammu its 180km to Baltal. Once there, it is a 2-day 16km arduous trek to Amarnath from the steeper climbs. Easier trekking routes take 4-5 days from Pahalgam or Baltal.
It’s exotic because of its location and the awesome natural formation of ice. The routes are scenic and beautiful in all seasons. Ofcourse, at the end of the road, there is God!
Kedarnath is also a place to go find God. The valley at a height of 12,000 feet in the lap of Kedarnath peak is equally sublime. The barrenness of the town, juxtaposed on the scenic valley and the majestic door of the Kedarnath temple creates a desire for a link with the almighty even in an atheist. With the limited time window to visit the place (May – Oct), you can time yourself to a place with very few people and a lot of thought.
It takes 10 hours to reach Gaurikund from Haridwar (train) or Dehradun (air). From there on, it is best done on foot with a 14km trek to Kedarnath.
Athirapally waterfalls in Thrissur, Kerala is perhaps Mani Ratnam’s favorite hunting ground (Roja, Dil Se, Guru, Iruvar, Ravan and many more being shot here). Even Bahubali was shot here. Now you get the placeJ. It isn’t as remote as the other counterparts in this list, being 55km from Kochi (airport) and 50km from Thrissur (train). Come over and enjoy the Niagara of India.