When Zoobie Singh set off on a holiday from Delhi, she was headed to Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. On her way, she decided to skip the popular hill station and stop at a quieter place 24-odd km away. And Singh wasn’t disappointed; instead, she got the much-needed peace at her cottage at Khajjiar, a hill station situated on a plateau with vast green meadows.
Khajjiar, one of the nondescript hamlets that had only seen tourist cars zip past over the decades, is now a holiday destination for travelers seeking places that are not thronged by tourists. A recent report by travel portal Holiday IQ listed 2,300 such destinations in 2015, a four-fold increase from 685 in 2011.
Gandikota in Andhra, Gorumara in West Bengal and Kaas plateau in Maharashtra are also on the list.
The spots have been selected from the new destinations created by the tourism department of state governments and reviews posted by travelers.
Many of these spots are yet to appear on travel brochures. “While evergreen favourites such as the Golden Triangle, Rajasthan, Leh & Ladakh, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala top the chart, there is growing interest in taking the road less travelled,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head, leisure travel, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.
According to Kale, Kaas Plateau and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh saw over 15% (season-on-season) growth in tourists from families to ad-hoc groups of friends. “Gandikota and Valparai (Tamil Nadu) presently rank low on tourists’ preference list, however, the queries at Thomas Cook India show a slow but steady increase in consumer interest. A section of travelers are constantly on the lookout for adventure, including trekking, self-drives and off-roading. There is also a demand for local/village stays,” Kale said.
State tourism boards have also recognised the charm of these relatively-obscure places. “Popular hills stations such as Mahableshwar and Matheran are saturated. So we are developing new spots such as Kunkeshwar in Konkan and Sarareshwar wildlife sanctuary in Sangli,” said Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary), travel and culture, Maharashtra, adding a MTDC resort would soon open at the beach destination this year.
Gandikota located in Kadapa district is also being converted into a tourist hotspot, said RP Khajuria, IFS, Commissioner Tourism, Government of Andhra Pradesh. “The village has an ancient fort and a scenic view of the deep gorge created by the Penna River. Our aim is to introduce adventure tourism facilities such as rock climbing, ropeway, boating among others,” said Khajuria.
Travel operators however, said infrastructure at these places needed a drastic overhaul to attract more visitors. “Destinations such as Horsley Hills have immense potential owing to its proximity to Hyderabad and Bangalore. As for Gandikota, called the Grand Canyon of India, the number is not very huge, but it attracts people who want a day-long excursion. These destinations will only get popular when tourism infrastructure is put in place,” said Karan Anand, head (relationships), Cox and Kings Ltd.
The absence of tourists, however, is what attracts travelers like Singh to places like Khajjiar. “At sunrise, there was nobody around. I could only hear a small stream close by and the sound of horses grazing in the pastures. After sunset, there was pin drop silence around. Isn’t that the idea of holiday for people like us, who want to get away from the hustle bustle of a metro city,” asked the 35-year-old human resource professional.
The trend of exploring new destinations is witnessed even in those travelling abroad. HT recently reported that Indian tourist arrivals in small unknown central African country such as Rwanda had increased 30-fold in 2015 over the previous year. The same period saw Indians traveling to Israel rise by 11%, visitors to Bhutan by 17% and those to Oman by 17%.