Move over tourist destinations, niche holidays are the way to go this season. Here’s a sample of some hidden spots from across the country.
Bored of travelling to the staple holiday spots of India? Try taking off to a lesser known destination this time. An increasing number of Indians are opting to give a skip to mainstream destinations like Shimla, Manali, Kovalam or Agra.
According to MakeMyTrip, a travel website, 10% of the total bookings this year by Indians were to offbeat destinations closer home.
“Indian traveller is maturing. It’s all about having an unique experience and what better place than an off the track get way destination,” says Nikhil Ganju, country manager, Trip Advisor.
A report from FICCI on domestic tourism says that ‘increasing disposable incomes, modernised lifestyles and better life quality’ are some reasons behind the rise in domestic tourism — a number estimated to be over 850 million.
With a plethora of opportunities available in smaller towns and cities, weekend getaways are on the rise. “People are exploring destinations which are easy on the pocket too.
Also, instead of taking one long vacation per year, people are opting for multiple short vacations,” says Rajiv Malhotra, marketing head, Hotels.com.
Travellers make sure to choose a place that is not mainstream. “There is an increased interest in places like Spiti Valley in Himachal, Chopta or Tungnath in Uttarakhand, beaches like Ganapatipule in Maharashtra, or forest getaways like Vythiri in Kerala,” says Mohit Gupta, chief business officer, MakeMyTrip.
Even packages offered by start-ups like India Untravelled or Getoff Ur Ass that claim to take you off the beaten path, are finding many domestic takers. “80% of our clients are Indians,” says Shivya Nath, co-founder, India Untravelled.
Himachal Pradesh: Shoja
Sprawling meadows nestled in lush green valleys and between these vales a small but beautiful lake makes this place an unforgettable memory.
It is for those who are looking for tranquillity and relaxation. Located in the Seraj Valley, Shoja is a small village with a very small population in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. A 45-minute hike takes one to a waterfall near Jalori pass.
The popular pass is a scenic place located at an altitude of 3,134 meters. A 6 km trail from here leads to the Serolser lake.
One can also trek to Raghupur Fort that overlooks the Tirthan Valley. The fort rewards the travelers with a 360 degree view of the Himalayas, Dhauladhar and Kinnaur ranges.
How to reach: The nearest railway station is Shimla (180km). It is also well connected with roads from Shimla and Mandi (70km)
Nearest airport: Bhuntar, Kullu (50 km) — Gaurav Bisht, Kullu
This sun-kissed elusive beach is considered the largest motorable seashore of the country. The golden sand here is not overcrowded and bikini-clad sights are rare.
Motorists can enjoy a smooth drive of almost 6 km on the beach. A beach festival is celebrated every year in April.
How to reach: Nearest railway station is at Thalassery (10km), and buses can be availed from there.
Nearest airport: Kozhikode (80 km)
It is a misty jungle getaway tucked in the hilly Wayanad of north Kerala. Wrapped in the lush tropical rainforest the air here is thick with spicy aroma.
A tourist's day begins with the sweet melody of Malabar Whistling Thrush in one of the famous tree houses, perched atop huge fig trees — at least two dozen of them. Vythiri is also famous for its spices like black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon.
How to reach: Nearest railway station is at Kozhikode. Well connected by road via the nearest town Kalpetta
Nearest airport: Kozhikode (65 km)
—Ramesh Babu, Thiruvananthapuram
The beach town is home of the famous Ganapatipule Ganesh temple that is located right next to the beach. Acco-rding to folklore, the temple deity is four centuries old and is very popular among Ganesh devotees.
Velneshwar beach, Jaigad Fort, Ratnagiri town, Pawas are some of the other places one can visit.
How to reach: Take a train to Ratnagiri and proceed in a bus or take a direct bus from Mumbai (325km)
Nearest airport: Ratnagiri (50 km)
Tarkarli in the picturesque Malvan taluka of Sindhudurg district is fast becoming a favourite among tourists. The 8-km long beach with white sand and clear blue sea puts it in a different league compared to others in the state.
Tourists can indulge in snorkelling, scuba diving and dolphin sighting here.
How to reach: Kudal (40km) and Kankavli (50km) are the closest stations
Nearest airport: Dabolim, Goa (130km)
—Nikhil Ghanekar, Mumbai
Arunachal Pradesh: Menchuka
Menchuka, in West Siang district, is said to be more idyllic than Tawang and half the adventure is in reaching Menchuka by a scenic yet treacherous road.
It is a Buddhist destination, known for the 400-year-old Samtem Yongcha monastery overlooking a high-altitude natural lake.
How to reach: Take a bus or cab from Silapathar station in Assam (335km from Menchuka)
Nearest airport: Dibrugarh, Assam (380km)
Located northeast of state capital Itanagar, Ziro is like a gem adorning a ring called Apatani Valley that Unesco declared a world heritage site for its ‘unique’ way of preserving ecology. Mainly inhabited by the Apatani tribe, Ziro is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal.
Apart from viewpoints such as Army Putu — a hillock that housed a cantonment until the 60s — the things to do for tourists include exploring the traditional tribal irrigation system that marries paddy cultivation with fish culture.
How to reach: Take a bus or cab from nearest station at Tezpur, Assam (300km from Ziro)
Nearest airport: Tezpur, Assam (380 km)
Like Menchuka, Mayudia in Upper Dibang Valley district of Arunachal, is close to the Tibetan border. The place derives its name from Maya, a Nepali girl who disappeared in the snow years ago. Trackers failed to locate her but came back with stories of an out-of-this-world place.
The scenic attributes contrast with the area’s remoteness. Mayudia does have a state-run tourist lodge, but it is advisable to carry the needful from Roing.
How to reach: Take a bus or cab from nearest station at Tinsukia, Assam (231 km from Roing, nearest town)
Nearest airport: Dibrugarh, Assam (267 km)
—Rahul Karmakar, Guwahati