6 Destinations to discover in India before everyone else does
Perhaps you go to India to see the Taj Mahal, the ghats of Varanasi or the backwaters of Kerala. All these places are amazing and total must-sees, but India is a vast country with a huge array of cultures, landscapes and cuisines.
Chopta has lush green valleys, picturesque local villages and vibrant wildflowers in spring. Come here to hike, raft and enjoy connecting with nature. One thing you absolutely can’t miss is the hike to the Tungnath Temple, as it’s one of the best short hikes in the Indian Himalayas.
Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya State
As well as the landscapes and root bridges, the local Khasi culture is another reason why you should consider visiting Cherrapunjee. Khasi people are matrilineal, meaning the family name and property is passed down through the female line rather than the male, as is traditionally seen in cultures around the globe. This status of women is a unique thing to see in India and staying in female-run homestays or chatting with local women at the markets is a great way to get to grips with their customs and the power women have in the Khasi society.
Another hidden gem is Snake Mountain that sits behind the town. Hike to the top for views over Pushkar and the enormous Thar Desert beyond. For the rest of your days here, relish the slow pace of the town – eating local food with lake views and shopping for Rajasthani handicrafts. Pushkar is one of those places you’ll want to stay much longer than planned – but be quick, as the word about this lesser-known spot is getting out.
Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
The city is known for its impressive carved rock temples, and they are indeed unmissable, but it’s the laidback vibe of this fisherman’s colony with its painted pastel buildings that really surprised me. Venture even further south and you’ll find Pondicherry, an old French colony, and that relaxed French feel has definitely drifted up the coast to Mahabalipuram. At sunset, head to the lighthouse, where you’ll enjoy expansive views over the surrounding countryside.
Majuli Island, Assam
Stop by one of Majuli’s many satras (or monasteries), which house monks that worship the god Vishnu. Inside you can see examples of crafts such as mask making and traditional performances. Elsewhere, you’ll pass through the villages of the Mishing tribe, the island’s local inhabitants.
Often, you’ll see women weaving under their wooden houses, pottery being shaped on porches, and men setting their nets into the backwaters to fish. It’s hard not to fall in love with this beautiful island, and it’s worth getting there fast as it’s shrinking at a rapid pace because of climate change and rising river levels. Your tourist dollars can help the island put initiatives into place, like planting trees, that could save this unique habitat and its cultures from disappearing.
Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Another reason to visit is to spend time with the Monpa people, a tribe from Tibet who have their own unique cultures, customs and cuisines. Spend the night at a homestay or take a day trip to try their food, enjoy their local songs and dances, and share a drink of arra, a local wine made with millet and butter.
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