The beaches of Sindhudurg, Konkan coast – Mitbhav in Devgad
When you dream of sun and sand, the most obvious destination that comes to mind is the vibrant beaches of Goa. However, if you would like to go to a virgin beach with only a handful of fishermen for company, then travel a bit north of Goa. The Konkan coastline, dotted with the forts of the Marathas, presents itself to you through the beaches of Sindhudurg. I visited most of the beaches here – Tarkarli, Devbag, Malvan, Niveti, Sagareshwar and Kunkeshwar. But my personal favourite is Mitbhav in Devgad. White sands, blue waters and a lonely temple make this beach special.
Velneshwar beach, Konkan coast
Velneshwar beach is about 26 km from Guhagar. You reach it by twisting and turning down the green Western Ghats. The first view of Velneshwar beach is pure magic as you see it from a distance while coming down the ghats. The water is clean and sparkling and since there are only a handful of people about, you can have a really great swim in the Arabian Sea. After that, just relax and listen to the sound of the waves. You have plenty of time to do nothing...
Gopalpur on Sea, Orissa
It is idyllic, uncluttered and clean. There are no fancy food stalls or nagging hawkers – this is where you can find sea, sun and sand for as long as you want.
Hills & mountains
Valparai – Tamil Nadu
Valparai, dotted with tea estates, is not just another hill station. Located in the Annaimalai Range of the Western Ghats at 3,500 metres above sea level, the forests at Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary here are alive with rare species of fauna such as the lion-tailed macaques, the Nilgiri tahr, and the Great Hornbill. Getting there from Coimbatore is a scenic drive – the route is laced with several stunningly beautiful spots. Dams, waterfalls and temples make it a nature lover’s paradise.
Ilaka Glacier, McLeodgunj
Ilaka is utopia! It takes an arduous trek from Triund to get there, and it is located in the midst of loneliness. But it is filled with natural wonders, greenery and steep rocks. Ilaka is the last point of the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh. Facing it is the Moon Peak (a 15,000 ft mountain range). There’s just one cafe / dhaba / hotel / whatever you may call it, that’s run by a young boy called Ajju. It serves Maggi noodles, pancakes, omelettes and an occasional lamb curry dished up only when they find an occasional lamb to slaughter.
This is a little mountain top retreat on the way from Rohru to Theog. On the way is the Jubbal Palace. I like it because the drive on this road is stunning. And in winter there is a always a chance of snowfall.
Rivers & Lakes
Poovar – Kerala
A blue sky, an island, a sandy beach, a river, an estuary, a stretch of coconut trees, a lone boat and the blue-green backwaters. And of course, birds, fish, the boatman and you. This is Poovar, lost somewhere near the tip of South India, tucked into God’s own country, Kerala. The coconut trees stretch out, kissing the waters, as you sail on the River Nayyar. And you see two horizons. One separating the sky from the sea, the other – a sandy beach – separating the sea from the backwaters. The estuary connects to the sea at high tide.
Amravati, Krishna River
Amravati is a glimpse into spiritual India a century or two ago. It shows (like Orchha) how a river’s water and the fertile plains around it have brought prosperity all around. The inhabitants never tire of thanking it for the same.
Tani Jubbar, Kotgarh
Like a blue gem amidst pine trees this place is an idyllic retreat from the hustle bustle of the Shimla-Narkanda road. In winter the lake freezes (not enough to walk on, please be warned) and in summer there is no stopping anyone from pitching a tent and camping here.
Wildlife & nature reserves.
Daroji, near Hampi
Hampi with its historical ruins has many secrets tucked away from the past. One such secret is a sloth bear wildlife sanctuary located hardly 15 km from there in Daroji. The rocky terrain is home to around 100 sloth bears and you can see the bears roaming freely around the rocks. Come December-January, bear cubs join them and that is probably the best season to visit. Daroji is a day trip from Hampi and although access into the forests is limited, you can watch the bears from a tower.
Kalatop Bear Sanctuary, Himachal
Because you actually have a chance of seeing bears! I’ve seen footprints but no bears, but locals assure me that bears are frequently seen. Besides it is a lovely trip from Dalhousie to Khajjiar via Kalatop.
Adventure & camping
The Kali river or Kalinadhi flows through the state of Karnataka though Karwar and has several offbeat tourist destinations around it – dams, caves, forts, wildlife sanctuaries and even rock formations. The town of Dandeli, with a wildlife sanctuary, is located on the banks of this river, and adventure tourists throng here for an adrenaline rush via white water rafting, rapelling and kayaking. Camp here on the banks of the Supa dam or trek into the wildlife sanctuaries looking for hornbills if you are not into water sports.
Pindari Glacier trek, Kumaon
Near the Pindari Glacier, the wind sings its own tune and the hills seem to orchestrate the entire melody. The rocks lie cold and bored, with wrinkles formed due to years of wear and tear. The icy peaks stand proud and upright, defiantly waiting storms and anything else that may happen. They await the next brave people who will attempt to cross their icy path...
I went there because I found the name very musical. Two rivers – the Gori and the Kali (talk about opposites) – meet here and the views are stunning from this little town on the border with Nepal, approachable from Munsiyari. Once again there are meadows to camp in and stunning walks to take.
Historical & religious
Gangaikondacholapuram – Tamil Nadu
Gangaikondacholapuram, the long-lost capital of Rajendra Chola I of the 11th century has mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind just the mammoth Brihadeshwara temple. This was the town that once ruled all of India up to the Gangetic plain and also Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia. The towering 180-foot tall Vimana seems to touch the sky. When Rajendra Chola defeated the rulers of the Gangetic plain, he founded this capital town and legends say he made the defeated rulers bring water from the Ganga here. Hence the town was called Gangaikondacholapuram. Even today, a reservoir and a lion-shaped structure called Simhakinar stand testimony to the same.
An area of rich culture and art that has not yet been sucked into modern India. The practices of reliving the lives of dear ones through memory stones, making a spicy pickle with red ants as ingredient, and drinking mahua – a drink that packs the kick of an incredibly stubborn mule – make this place worth visiting. Before you go there, though, check the political situation.
Triloknath temple, Manali-Keylong
There is a turn on the road from Manali to Keylong just before Keylong, and this goes to the Triloknath Temple perched on a hillock in a little valley. You will love this because you can pitch a tent and camp or stay with dopey babas.