Four off-beat places to fill up your 2014 travel calendar. Serene beaches, verdant jungles, hip hop architecture and loads of adventure – this list has it all!
By now you have tick marked almost every homestay or hidden getaway in Manali, Ooty, Panchgani and Gangtok. In fact, you have already purchased a few acres in Coorg to grow your own coffee, and are now saving up to buy your own little island in…sshhh, don’t want everyone rushing in, do we?
So if you are tired of the same old destinations for the long weekend or the week-long holiday, here are four red hot places to fill up your 2014 calendar. Serene beaches, verdant jungles, hip hop architecture and loads of adventure – this list has it all.
These destination recommendations are courtesy research conducted by HolidayIQ, India’s leading travel planning website powered by reviews contributed by millions of Indian travelers. Happy journeys!
Seriously, how many times will Delhites and Gurgaonwalas visit Jaipur? No wonder that the erstwhile pink city has now turned into a grimy shade of brown that is the smudge of crumbling infrastructure. So the next time you’re out on NH8, take the Jaipur bypass and drive for another 100 km to reach Ajmer.
The Dargah Sharif, which houses the tomb of the great Sufi saint Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti ( also known as “Gharib Navaz” or Protector of the poor), is definitely the biggest draw in Ajmer, frequented by everyone from Amitabh Bachchan to Aditya Roy Kapoor. But it often eclipses Ajmer’s other charms. Taragarh Fort, one of the country’s oldest hill forts, is located at the summit of the Taragarh hill and provides a breathtaking view of the city below. The Ana Sagar Lake, a beautiful man made lake enclosed by the lush greenery of the Bardari Pavilions and other parks, is a great relaxation spot in the north of the city. The Ajmer Museum, formerly residence of Mughal Emperor Akbar, offers a range of unique sculptures and armour of the Mughal and the Rajput dynasties. And finally there is Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra, which is the remains of an old mosque and a superb example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Other places of interest are the Nasiyan (Red) Temple which is a well known Jain temple, the Nimbark Peeth & The Nareli Jain temple.
The best time to visit Ajmer is from October to February and it is easily accessible by air, train and road from Jaipur and Delhi. Ajmer is also just 15 km from Pushkar, the site of the world famous Pushkar Mela.
If you have been dying to go to Maldives but can’t afford it, we suggest that you visit the Indian Maldives instead. It may not be wrong to say that Lakshadweep is the final frontier in India. The name of India’s smallest and least populous Union Territory may mean “A Lakh Islands” in Malayam; in reality it is a collection of 36 breathtakingly beautiful coral islands, of which only 10 are inhabited.
With the bluest and clearest waters you will find anywhere in India, white sands and coral reefs, Lakshadweep is as much a destination for adventure seekers as it is for honeymooners and SoulTravellers. Agatti, Kavaratti & Kadmat islands are great for scuba diving, snorkeling, boating, para sailing, gliding, yachting and even fishing; while Bangaram woos the honeymooners with its pearly white sands.
The best time to visit Lakshadweep is from September to May. It is connected by air (flights depart for Agatti from Kochi) and by water (ships from Kochi & Mumbai). Travelling here needs some planning though – in a bid to protect the locals and their environment, the government requires visitors to obtain a special permit, even for Indian visitors. You can either travel on board ships run by SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism & Sports – they will also take care of your permits) or you can stay on the more popular islands like Agatti and Bangaram. The guidelines on accommodation undergo frequent revision, so do your homework before you plan your escape to this enchanting destination.
Most travellers to Orissa head to Puri to visit the world famous Jagannath Temple (part of the Hindu Char Dham or four divine sites) and then head to Puri beach & Chilika Lake for some R&R. But a visit to Puri is incomplete if you don’t head to the tiny town of Konark, situated just 35 km away from its more famous sibling along the coast (incidentally the drive is fantastic – it’s right along the coast of Bay of Bengal and rightfully called the Marine Drive).
Konark is best known for its 13th century Sun Temple (also known as the Black Pagoda), now a World Heritage site. Supposedly built by king Narasimhadeva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty, the temple is built in the shape of a gigantic chariot with elaborately carved stone wheels, pillars and walls. Even though a major part of the structure is now in ruins, it often makes it to Seven Wonders of India lists. Apart from the Sun Temple, Konark is also known for its beach, which is quieter and cleaner than the one at Puri. The Konark Dance Festival, held every December, is devoted to classical Indian dance forms, including Odissi, the traditional classical dance of Odissa.
After a day in Konark, it’s time to head to the Balukhand Konark Wildlife Sanctuary, possibly the best kept secret in Puri district. Located along the coast between Puri & Konark, the sanctuary is home to a host of wildlife species, but it’s biggest attractions are the migratory marine turtles and the blackbuck or chousingha. Of the eight species of marine turtles found in the world, five visit the Indian coastal waters at Balukhand (including the famous Olive Ridley & Green Sea). The turtle nesting site is at the mouth of the river Devi, which is also home to the second largest population of mangroves in Orissa. There is no accommodation available within the sanctuary but it can be easily reached from Puri or Konark.
The best time to visit Konark & Balukhand Sanctuary is from May to October. The hatching of the turtle eggs usually happens in March-April : you have to visit the beach at the crack of dawn for the incomparable site of millions of baby turtles crawling to the sea! Konark is easily accessible from Puri (35km) and Bhubaneswar (65 km). Bhubaneswar is well connected by flights to major Indian cities and Puri is part of the rail network.
If you are have made countless visits to Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore & Bandipur on the tiger trail, it is time to head to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. The oldest tiger reserve in the state (hunting was banned in 1935 and it was officially declared a reserve in 1955), it is often called the “Jewel of Vidharba” for the variety of its flora and fauna. Travellers can get a chance to see tigers, sloth bears, leopards, jungle cats, panthers, hyenas, bison, nilgai, barking deer, sambar deer, cheetal deer, civets, gaur, etc in the Jungle safaris. The Tadoba Lake in the Reserve is a bird lover’s paradise, with nearly 200 different species of water birds.
Overnight staying facilities are available at the Reserve in the form of 4 forest rest houses with 11 suits and a youth hostel with 36 beds. Trained local guides are available within the sanctuary, and there is a daily minibus service from the nearby town of Chandrapur located 45 km away.
Best time to visit is the summer months of February to May, when the animals come out in search of water. The Reserve is located at a distance of about 45 km from Chandrapur and about 147 km from Nagpur. The nearesr airport is Nagpur & the nearest train station is Chandrapur which is on the Delhi-Chennai line.