There are thousands of tourist places in India and hundreds of less frequented ones. Here are a few that we have ridden/driven to in the recent past that have blown our minds.
The tourist visa queue is getting longer by the day. The Travel Agents Association of India recently said visas to Europe are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain as some Schengen embassies are not working at full capacity. VFS Global, which manages visa services for many countries, said it was experiencing extended processing times for visas from India. The US Embassy will resume appointments for B1-B2 visas for tourists and visitors to India from September after the student visa rush has ended.
If you want to travel abroad just to explore some unexplored places (and which will also look good on your Instagram or Facebook page), there are enough and more in India. Many of these are fairly accessible – close to major cities so hiring a vehicle will be easy and there are plenty of hotels nearby. These places also have beautiful and secluded roads to travel on. Remember that tourism stimulates the economy and supports local jobs, so do something good for your fellow countrymen.
Gangotri and the Mahabharata: A 500km drive from Delhi (can easily be covered from dawn to dusk thanks to the smooth NH34 in Uttarakhand) brings you to Harsil, a sleepy town near Gangotri. In one image, the peaks you see here are Bandarpunch (where Lord Hanuman put out his flaming tail), Swargarohini (stairs to heaven followed by the Pandavas), and Kalanag (looks like a black cobra).
Hotels: Harsil and Barzu.
Osian and the Windmills: This small town, about 70 km from Jodhpur and 560 km from Delhi, is famous for its Hindu and Jain temples from the early Middle Ages. If you enjoy driving, the area offers off-road roads and beautiful views of majestic hilltop windmills.
Rainforests of Goa: Goa lives by the sea, but if you want to see a Goa that hasn’t been featured in movies or party songs, head towards the Karnataka border. Dudhsagar Falls is famous, but a detour takes you to the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, where the rainforests are so dense it can be haunting.
Hotels: Panaji and by the sea.
Gudibande Fort: Move over Nandi Hills. Almost 90 km north of Bengaluru lies a gem called Gudibande. The area is so unfrequented by tourists that you won’t see any plastic waste (so keep it as pristine as you find it). Here there is a 17th century fort built by Chief Byre Gowda and the beautiful and blue Bhairasagara Lake.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary: Most eastbound road trips departing from Kochi end in Munnar, but just 50km further is the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (175km from Kochi). This place is the habitat of the near-endangered giant grey-haired squirrel. You can contribute through awareness and money.
Jawai Bandh: About 650 km from Delhi and 850 km from Mumbai, in the southwest of Rajasthan, lies the Jawai Bandh (dam). While Jawai is famous for its wild leopards and crocodiles, and sightings are almost confirmed during jeep safaris organized by local operators, it’s the home of these carnivores that sets the geography apart. Here you will find the oldest surface rocks in India.
Hotels: Sumerpur, Ranakpur, Udaipur.
White ran: This place attracts a good share of tourists thanks to the annual Rann Utsav Festival (December to February) near the village of Dhordo in Gujarat. But if you have your own/rental car, you can explore the frighteningly beautiful and yet uncrowded countryside.
Hotels: Bhuj and tents in Rann.
Sea hopping in Western Ghats: Forget the Lake District in England or the Finger Lakes in upstate New York or even Como in Italy, a two hour drive east of Mumbai (in Mulshi and Vehle tehsils) there is a beautiful Lake District. The roads are exceptionally good, mostly empty, and take you to lakes such as Pawna, Mulshi, Temghar, Hadshi, Salter and numerous others.
Hotels: Resorts on these lakes.
Deep in Uttarakhand and Himachal: As the government focuses on building highways, places like Munsiyari in Uttarakhand and Kalpa in Himachal, which used to be more than two days’ drive from Delhi, are now a day and a half away.
Konark to Satapada, via Puri: It is a 90 km, 2 hour drive along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The best time is early morning when you can literally see the sunrise from under the sea. At Satapada, you can see Irrawaddy Dolphins jumping in the waters of Chilika Lake.
Hotels: Konark and Puri.
(This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it shows that India offers far more than what you see on the map.)