Tag Archives: Offbeat travel to India

Best places to visit in India
Best places to visit in India

One of the first questions you ask yourself when planning a trip to India, is simply: where to go and what are the best places to visit in India? It’s hard to give a brief answer to that question due to the sheer vastness of the county. In the following article we want to give you a good understanding of your options. It will hopefully help you understand which regions are popular, which are not as touristy and all the many delights and challenges of the said regions. With this all in mind you can make a decision on your preferred travel destination. If you rather want to discuss this with our travel magicians, plan your trip with us and we can help you find out where you can go.

What can you expect from India?

India is the seventh largest country in the world. We are blessed with some stunningly diverse geographical terrain. A desert holiday, a beach holiday, an island holiday, a mountain holiday, a wildlife holiday, a lush green plains and backwaters holiday or a combination of them all are possible when you visit India.

Add centuries of history under different reigns, their architectural influences, India’s deep religious and spiritual culture and your holiday can be have layers of depth and understanding the Indian story.

Most of the trips we plan include one, two or even sometimes three geographical elements. You can rarely escape history/culture and places of worship in India. Indeed, almost all our trips include regular forays into the same.

Even if your trip is short and you do not visit multiple regions you will still have hugely different experiences within the same holiday. 

Which regions are the most popular?

The popular (but, rightly so) regions are the following:

Rajasthan with stunning forts and palaces, national parks offering tiger safaris, the endless beautiful desert and charming (but often very affordable) heritage hotels.

India Someday recommends a minimum of 7 nights for this region and up to 14 nights at most. Visiting Agra and/or Varanasi would be an add on to a Rajasthan tour

Kerala, rolling hills blanketed in spice and tea plantations, lazy backwaters, thriving rainforests, balmy beaches and fabulous food all in one small state. Lovely traditional hotels, houseboats and innumerable homestays make these holidays incredibly intimate.

India Someday recommends a minimum of 5 nights for this region and up to 10 nights at most. You can combine Kerala with Karnataka (Hampi, Mysore), Tamil Nadu (Madurai, Tanjore, Pondicherry) or Goa. 

Goa is lined with bustling beaches that stay warm all winter long. The Portuguese influence means great food and architecture and the lush green countryside provides a ton of alternate routes. There’s delicious Indian and International food (lots of seafood) and a vibrant nightlife for those who seek it.

Goa is one of the most tourist-saturated regions in India, but India Someday can dig out places to stay that are miles away from the maddening crowd. Lovely beach front properties, beach huts, boutique hotels and luxurious resorts are all on offer in Goa.

India Someday recommends a minimum of 3 nights and up to 7 nights stay. Visiting Hampi for 2-3 nights can be an add on to Goa

Where can you go if the mountains are more your thing?

India boundaries hold in thousands of kilometers of the Himalayan mountain range. We love the mountains; and have successfully arranged several week long trekking trips in different parts of the Himalayas. You can look either plan a serious trekking holiday or just enjoy few days in the Himalayas

Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are easily reachable from Delhi. Both states have innumerable multiple day trekking routes. You can also look at relaxed mountain stays, soaking the surroundings and going on daily hikes.

India Someday recommends a minimum of 4 nights, and up to 10 nights for the Himalayas. Look at between 6 to 10 days if you wish to do a multiple day trek, criss-crossing idyllic Himalayan villages. (India Someday helps you organise the logistics for multiple-day treks)

Leh and Ladakh, accessible only between June to mid-October, are a part of the high Tibetean Plateau. One can do a trekking trip or just a sight-seeing holiday.

We recommend a week to 10 days to include a visit to this region. One can take up to three days to reach Leh and Ladakh from Delhi.

Sikkim is another tiny, but beautiful Himalayan state in the North-Eastern part of India. It boasts strong Buddhist influences with remarkable monasteries. We recommend allocating a week to nine days to include a visit to Sikkim.

What are some less touristy and interesting regions to visit?

Tamil Nadu, a state in south India sharing a border with Kerala receives a lot less tourists than its neighbour. Home to stunning temple complexes (tens of centuries old), it also shares the hills with Kerala and has lovely hill stations and national parks. Pondicherry (a  coastal former French colony) is a convenient stopover while traversing Tamil Nadu. India Someday recommends a minimum of 6 days and upto 12 days for Tamil Nadu

Karnataka is a state above Kerala. It is home to the Unesco World Heritage town Hampi, endless coffee plantations and forest stays. Mysore, city of palaces, is a convenient drive from Bangalore. India Someday recommends a minimum of 6 days and upto 10 days for Karnataka. See a trip across South India through Hampi here

Gujarat is just south of Rajasthan and receives a fraction of the number of tourists that Rajasthan receives. Once can easily tack on a few days in Gujarat while visiting Rajasthan. It is dotted with temples, has a vibrant handicraft industry, pretty coastal stops and is home to the only National park in India that features the Asiatic Lion. India Someday recommends 3 days to upto a week for Gujarat.

Madhya Pradesh in the very centre of India is a large state with a lot of interesting architecture and home to some of the finest National Parks in India. If you are willing to endure longer travel times, Madhya Pradesh is the ideal destination to plan a wildlife holiday. Khajuraho (home to the famous erotic temples) and Orchha (a quaint temple town) can be conveniently included when planning a North India i.e. Delhi – Agra – Varanasi – Rajasthan trip. India Someday recommends allocating a minimum of 4 days and upto 10 days for Madhya Pradesh.

Where to go to be even more off-the-beaten-path?

Yes, there are states like Orrisa and Chattisgarh, unfortunately we do not know these states well and do not plan trips there. The Himalayan state of Kashmir is often avoided by tourists due to security concerns, but it is a breathtakingly beautiful region and we are happy to plan trips for our guests there (though we cannot take responsibility for their safety).

The North East (seven states called the seven sisters like Meghalaya, Assam or Nagaland) is a gorgeous remote region of India. We plan trips to this region with the help of a like-minded travel agency.

Where should you go if you only have two weeks in India?

We usually recommend either just a North India trip, or just a South India trip. For a North India trip, a short visit to the Himalayas is a possible addition. 

If you love beaches, you can add a few days in Goa to a South India or  a North India trip.

If you love hiking or just want to be completely away from other tourists then look an exclusively trekking holiday or an entire two weeks in one of the less touristy states.

A trip across the highlights of both North India and South India is possible. We usually ask our guest to aim for at least a two and half week holiday to include both regions but that would be pretty fast-paced. 

Click here to look at some of the two week long trips our guests took.

Where should you go for three weeks or more in India?

Your options would now be an extensive North India or South India trip, or a combination of both. You can also consider seeing the spiritual cities or trek in the Himalayas plus a visit around Rajasthan.

You can almost always allocate some beach time, or look at two weeks in the popular regions and a week in the not so popular regions. Or check out our blog for some four weeks trip ideas. 

In a nutshell, you will need to decide how long you want to travel for and if you are more of a history and culture geek or rather a nature person. If you want to see as much as possible in less time or rather have a relaxed time. If long distance travel is okay for you or you rather prefer short travel times.

We hope this information serves as a starting point to explore your options for an Indian holiday deeper. We usually exchange multiple e-mails with our guests as we plan their route, so a lot of the route discovery will happen over the course of e-mail exchanges. If only one, all or none of these regions appeal to you, plan your trip with us and let us know where you want to go and we’ll make it happen. Also check out all our tour ideas


Offbeat Tours in India
Offbeat Tours in India

Offbeat Tours in India

While travelling to India most people already have their must-visits ilke Agra, Delhi and Jaipur (the golden triangle), the beaches of Goa, the backwaters in Kerala, or even the romantic  Udaipur and the bustle of Mumbai. But India is so vast (I describe it like Europe, each state can actually be a country) that you can find places which are not yet a part of the tourist trail, and I hope they never are. So here is a list of our favourite offbeat routes

Lahual Spiti – the lesser known Himalayas

Everyone knows of Leh and Ladakh and the British summer capital Shimla, but the Himalayas have some wonderful lesser explored regions which are a must to visit at least once. The region of Lahaul – Spiti is a part of northeast Himachal, the roads and infrastructure are not the best and that means that travelling here is a little hard but the views and locale ensure that a 8 hour drive passes in the blink of a eye.

Himachal – Offbeat Route

Delhi/Chandigarh – Shimla – Thanedar/Kotgarh – Sangla – Kalpa – Tabo – Kaza- Kullu (Manikaran) – Chandigarh/Delhi

Start your trip in Delhi and head first to Shimla (yes a touristic start!). Shimla has expanded and grown into not such a pretty hill station, but still has an old world charm about it. The next stop would be Kotgarh, a small quaint village around 2 hours north of Shimla,

The next stop, Sangla, is what I call heaven on earth. A gushing noisy river with the Himalayan mountains surrounding you on all sides, as you sit in apple orchards and watch the world go by. The next few destinations are a part of the snow desert and with terrain similar to that of the famous Leh and Ladakh. The road journeys are long and open only from July – September, but the effort is completely worth it with striking monasteries and perfect blue skies along the way. You should end your trip in the hippie region of Tosh or Parvarti Valley, with Bob Marley posters, peace signs and the vices that go along with it.

Stay and Travel Find the perfect blend of home stays, guesthouses and some fantastic boutique hotels. See the other side of Shimla by staying at either Sunnymead or Aira Holme Stay and experience hospitality like never before. Then head to the lovely home in Kotgarh (Seetalvan homestay) where you can see range after range of mountains while sitting in a veranda sipping a cup of chai. The Banjara camps in Sangla are just brilliant and you can try Ecosphere in Kaza and Tabo. In Tosh you should get there without a plan and find the place you like most.

In terms of travel it would be best to hire a chauffeur driven car for the entire trip, but you could also take local buses if you are on a tight budget.

Best time to travel Number of days needed Ideal for
July to September 15-18 days Couples | Families | Friends

Rishikesh and the Kumaon region – Spirituality, the Mountains and a Tiger National Park

Uttarakhand is known as the land of gods. The fresh air, snowy winter, larger than life mountains, the small villages and simpler people make this a great destination. Known for its adventurous side with River Rafting, Trekking, Skiing, Camping, Rock Climbing, Rappelling, Uttaranchal also has some unbeliavble boutique hotels with just the right amount of luxury. Combine a trip to the Jim Corbett National park with the Kumaon hills and the touristy Rishikesh  for the full experience.

Uttarakhand – Offbeat Route

Delh/Dehradun – Rishikesh -Jim Corbett – Nainital/Nagar – Itmenaan – Kathgodam – Delhi

Start your trip in Delhi and head first to Rishikesh (yet another touristic start). Rishikesh hit stardom when the Beatles spent a few months there with their spiritual guru, and ever since you’ve had lots of yogashala’s and courses for tourists wanting that calming and spiritual experience. That aside, it’s a nice small town on the banks of the mighty Ganga (where you can river raft), with great places to eat.

The next stop would be Jim Corbett National Park. A dense forest with the chance to spot a tiger in the wild, it’s exactly like Ruskin Bond describes it in his books. if you are not fortunate enough to spot the elusive tiger, you will definitely see a host of other wildlife. From here you could make your way into the Kumaon Hills and the beautiful hill station of Nainital, and then to a lovely property called Itmenaan tucked away in the mountains.

As you make your way back down to Delhi via Kathgodam, you can add a few more places to your itenerary like Munsiyari, or Ramgarh if you have time. One thing we can promise is that not too many people would have already travelled this route.

Stay and Travel Again you can combine guesthouses or home stays with boutique hotels. In Rishikesh you can find a place in your budget, though we recommend staying at Seventh Heaven Inn  or Glass House on the Ganges for a more luxurious experience. In Jim Corbett you must stay in the Dhikala forest lodge. The stay is simply out of this world, you cannot beat the experience of living in the middle of a forest. Once in Kumaon you have a range of boutique hotels which you should stay in like White Peaks, The Retreat, and Itmenaan Lodge. We can go on with options, but  if you just let us know the number of days you have available, we can plan the trip for you.

In terms of travel it would be best to hire a chauffeur driven car for the entire trip.

Best time to travel Number of days needed Ideal For
February to June 12-15 days Couples | Families | Friends

 


Travelling to North East India
Travelling to North East India

North East India is one of the most remote regions of India and relatively untouched by the overbearing tourism industry. It consists of the seven states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The North East is a part of the second largest biodiversity hotspot in the world, with more than 60% of the area under forest cover. Although the cultures of this area are often banded dismissively together, they are in fact incredibly diverse and very well worth discovering.

The red panda  (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/djGs2F) The red panda (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/djGs2F)

How to get around in North East India?

Being a remote and hilly area, infrastructure is not well developed. With the exception of Assam where they have 4 lane cemented highways, the roads can be pretty bad. In Arunachal and Nagaland roads are continuously winding and poorly maintained restricting top speed to 30 kmph, making journeys between two places long and arduous. Having said this, the views are spectacular and will keep you spellbound almost all the way.

North East India Himalayas (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/hUwXnC) North East India Himalayas (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/hUwXnC)

Accommodation in North East India

Accommodation is pretty basic in most places. Hotels often do not have geysers or showers so hot water for bathing is provided in buckets. Some places may not even have western style toilets so be prepared to squat. Assam, Sikkim and Gangtok do have some extremely comfortable places for travellers, and a growing interest in the area promises newer options.

Who is it for?

North East has a very raw and rugged beauty, bearing a closer affinity to South East Asia than to the general perception of India. If you like to travel rough and honestly experience the lives of other cultures then this is the place for you. Expect the unexpected when travelling in this region. Despite the idea most people have of the North East being incredibly primitive and and backward, they have the most widespread rock music scene in all of India. Look up college festivals and local concerts and competitions to get a chance to experience something terrific. They also play host to quite a few music festivals that draw in crowds and bands from across the country.

 

There are very few luxury hotels in the North East and those which exist are found only in selected places like Kaziranga, Shillong, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. So if you are a luxury seeker and like to be pampered on your vacation then you might want to look elsewhere.

Cost of travel in North East India

Being a remote area the cost of trips to North East works out nearly 20% higher than a similar trip in any other place in India. The main reason is the transportation cost which is quite high due to roads being steep and in poor condition. Hence it is most economical to travel in groups of 4 or above. Hotel charges are also higher than other places in India. A big bonus is that the cost of living is low, and you’re unlikely to come across touts whose only aim is to fleece foreigners.

Seasons in North East India

Generally speaking November to May is a good time to visit the North East, but depending the the kind of trip and places you would like to visit certain months might be more favourable than others.

Food in North East India

While sticky rice is the staple diet of almost all the tribes in the North East, they compliment it with a dazzling array of meats, pickles, vegetables and beans cooked in endless variety. They love meat; pork being the favourite but vying among several other contenders ranging from chicken and fish to snail and smaller game. The residents of the North-East are famous for cooking anything that moves, a topic you should probably not bring up directly if you don’t want to offend your host but definitely something to look forward to if you really want to dive into a new culture.

 

Alcohol goes well with all the meat they eat. Rice and millet make the base for delicious local brews.

Glimpses of North East India (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/ko5oRz) Glimpses of North East India (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/ko5oRz)

Permits for North East India

Foreigners do not require permits to enter any of the North Eastern states besides Arunachal Pradesh. For visiting Arunachal foreigners need a PAP (Protected Area Permit) which costs US$100 for 2 people and is granted for a duration of 30 days. The permit has to be applied for through a tour operator recognised by the Government of Arunachal.

In conclusion we at India Someday would recommend that you keep at least 10 days for a trip to the North East since the region is pretty remote and has so much to discover, but with slow internal travel. Road journeys are long and tiresome so it is best to have more days at hand to see the region in a more relaxed manner. Most circuits in Nagaland and Arunachal would need around 15 to 20 days if you wish to properly experience the varied culture.

Hong Village Arunachal (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/9Fwyfc) Hong Village Arunachal (photo credit https://flic.kr/p/9Fwyfc)