India is a very interesting country, that’s getting more and more international arrivals every year. In the past ten years, the number of international tourists has increased by a whopping 97%. I spent a year in India and I met a lot of expats and travelers. But most of them were doing more or less the same route: Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kasol, Rajasthan, Taj Mahal, Varanasi… A few of them would have gone to Kerala or the Indian Himalayas, but that’s about it. My point here is that there are a lot of hidden gems in India that often get forgotten by tourists. And they’re even more beautiful and worth visiting than the above-mentioned ones. Here are 9 off-the-beaten-track places in India you probably didn’t know existed.
9. Tadoba, Maharashtra
This is one of the surprisingly unexplored places in India, taking in consideration the wildlife here. The main attraction of Tadoba is the National Park, which is the oldest national park of Maharashtra, and of course, the tiger reserve, which is one of the best-kept and preserved tiger reserves in India. A jeep safari costs only around $90 USD and the best time to visit is from October to March because the rest of the year, it’s either too hot or it’s the monsoon season.
8. Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Sitting at 3048 meters above sea level, Tawang is one of the most charming towns that lie off the beaten track in India. It’s home to several amazing monasteries and it’s also the birthplace of the Dalai Lama. That’s a fact many people don’t know. Getting to Tawang can be a bit challenging because the nearest airport is 6 hours away. The nearest train station is also a bit far and the mountain roads are in a pretty bad condition. However, Tawang is worth it. The best time to visit is between the months of March and September. The other months of the year are really cold and it’s possible that the roads will be covered in snow.
7. Nubra Valley, Jammu and Kashmir
This amazing cold desert geographically belongs to the Tibetian Plateau but it’s part of India and its state Jammu and Kashmir. The most notable attractions are the sand dunes, the Bactrian camel only to be found in three other places on Earth and Turtuk- a village that feels like a slice of heaven. The best time to visit Nubra Valley is between the months of June and October. The rest of the year is too cold and the bad mountains road can be quite challenging.
6. Shillong, Meghalaya
The capital of Meghalaya, known as ‘The Scotland of the East’, is one of my absolute favorites in Northeast India. The blue mountains, lush forests, streaming waterfalls, and the wonderful rituals and traditions make Shillong a must-visit place, that for some reason often gets skipped by travelers. And the mist that circulates around the city during the monsoon season makes the city even more magical.
5. Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
The capital of Jammu and Kashmir is an amazing city. A lot of its charm comes from its three pearls: Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, and Wular Lake. Moreover, Srinagar looks like the winter version of Venice and it also has probably the biggest floating market in the country. You can literally find everything there, including hash and weed. Srinagar can be visited throughout the year as it has its own airport. However, I would suggest visiting in the winter because the city looks absolutely stunning with its winter clothes on.
Related: why should you visit Srinagar?
4. Varkala, Kerala
Varkala in Kerala is the ultimate little paradise and a home to one of the most underrated beaches in the country. The beaches are clear and pristine, surrounded by lush hills and forests. The main attractions here are Varkala Beach, Papanasam Beach and the breathtaking Kappil Lake. It’s also a great paragliding spot. The best time to visit Varkala is between September and April.
3. Nicobar Islands
There’s a place in India that has more breathtaking beaches than Goa: it’s Nicobar. The untouched nature, dense forests and dreamy beaches make this place the most beautiful island in India. And for some reason, the island isn’t very popular among international tourists. To add to that, there actually are tribal people living on the island, but the access to their village is forbidden for visitors.
2. Gangtok, Sikkim
Gangtok is built on a hill and it’s one of the most mystical and breathtaking cities in the country. Sikkim used to be a separate country and it joined India back in 1975. That’s why things are really different here and this just adds to India’s already rich diversity. A fun fact is that you are forbidden to smoke on the street and cigarettes can only be found in a few places. Buddhism is the main religion here and there’s a lot to see in Gangtok and its surrounding.
Just driving on the bus around Sikkim was magical. Sikkim has an amazing nature and I won’t lie if I say that driving around Sikkim was my favorite journey so far despite taking a very uncomfortable bus ride. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try crossing the border and visiting Bhutan. It’s not recommendable but a lot of locals do it. However, they have visa-free entry to Bhutan. For the rest of us, it costs $250 USD per day.
Related: 15 most unusual festivals in India
1. Akshai Chin, Jammu and Kashmir
Number one goes to another place in Jammu and Kashmir: Aksai Chin. This paradise sits comfortably at the ceasefire line between India and China. That’s why it is known as ‘one of the most dangerous places in the world’. However, when I arrived in Aksai Chin, I saw no one. It was just me, the heavenly lakes, breathtaking mountains, and the cold desert. The main attraction is Pangong Lake, at the Indo-China border at more than 4,200 meters above sea level. To this day, this remains one of my favorite places in the world.
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Have you heard about any of these hidden gems in India before? Do you know some other hidden places in India? Share your thoughts in the comments.