England is smothered by an ash cloud, Bangkok by protesters and Greece by debt. Have these events sent your holiday plans flying? So now you’ve decided to look within the country – and are bored of the same old places. Worry not. We present four seriously offbeat destinations to make tracks for this summer.
Like hiking or motorbiking? If you do, the quaint little town of Lachung (loosely translated as ‘small mountain’) nestled among the snow-capped peaks of the middle Himalayas might just be the perfect choice.
Located at the confluence of the rivers Lachung and Lachen (both tributaries of the Teesta), Lachung was described as the ‘most picturesque village of Sikkim’ by British explorer Joseph Hooker in his definitive The Himalayan Journal (1855).
It lies about 125 km from Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital, and shares a border with China.
“Lachung is so untouched that when my husband and I went there last year, it looked almost unreal,” says Pragati Bhate, a Mumbai-based trekking enthusiast. A mere 25 km from the town is the Yumthang Valley, home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary that has over 24 species of the rhododendron, the state flower.
The best way to get to Lachung is to take a train or fly to Gangtok and then hire a cab to take you to the village. Keep in mind that accommodation facilities are basic – there are only three hotels, a few bed-and-breakfasts and a lone resort.
Ever heard of Ganpatipule? If you’re familiar with Maharashtra, the name will bring up images of a famous 400-year-old Ganesha temple and a beach brimming with crowds. But chances are you’ve never heard of Tarkarli, which lies just south of Ganpatipule.
“Imagine being Robinson Crusoe,” says Sharat Dhall, managing director, tripadvisor.com. “That’s exactly what being at Tarkarli beach feels like!”
Tarkarli lies in the Konkan region, famed for its natural beauty. “From the town of Malvan, close to Tarkarli, you can take a boat cruise down the Karli river that meets the Arabian sea at this point,” says Dhall. “You can also buy alphonso mangoes if they are in season.” But the best part about Tarkarli? “Definitely the seafood!” exclaims Dhall. “You will be thoroughly spoilt for choice.”
The nearest railway station from Tarkarli is Kudal (about 40-45 km away), from where you will need to arrange for your own transport. Once there, there are many affordable accommodation options to choose from.
Yercaud (Tamil Nadu)
There’s more to South India than Kodaikanal and Ooty. Situated near Salem, Tamil Nadu, in the eastern ghats is Yercaud, a hill station covered in greenery.
The town gets its name from the lake located at its centre. The sprawling coffee plantations and orange groves are a must-see. Yercaud also has an orchidarium run by the Botanical Survey of India.
“Think of Yercaud as a sleepy little place where you want to leave the children home and go traipsing through the dense jungles with your partner,” says Dhall. “And unlike Ooty and Kodaikanal which have been heavily commercialised, Yercaud is much cheaper, quieter and cleaner.”
Yercaud boasts of the beautiful Yercaud Lake, which is surrounded by woods and on which you can go boating. You can also visit the 300-foot-tall Killiyur waterfall and the temple of Shervaoyan. The weather? A pleasant 25 to 30 degrees at all times of the year!
Yercaud boasts of plenty of budget and luxury facilities for accommodation and is well-connected to major cities like Salem (about 33 km away), Bangalore and Mysore.
Pench National Park
You might scoff at us for recommending Madhya Pradesh as a summer destination, but if you’re a wildlife enthusiast, there is no better time to visit Pench. Spread over 275 sq km, it has gaurs, sambhars, macques, langurs, wild boar, bears, deer, leopards, tigers... they all come to the waterholes to drink in summer, so if you’re lucky, you might spot a lot of wildlife. It is also less crowded than other sanctuaries, always a good thing. Since Nagpur is only a two-hour drive away, accommodation is not a problem, but be warned – temperatures shoot through the roof at this time.