With 29 states and 7 territories, India is rich with possible holiday destinations to visit. We suggest you avoid the popular spots with their share of overcrowding and overpricing. Step off the mundane tourist traps and an undiscovered side of India opens up.
Here are the best alternatives for 6 overdone destinations in India.
Instead of: Ellora, Maharashtra
Visit: Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh
Belum caves of Kurnool district remains unknown to most people, but if you are fascinated by caves, this is one you shouldn’t miss. At 3,229 m, it is the second-longest natural cave in India after Krem Liat Prah caves in Meghalaya. Formed by groundwater flow, these caves are rich with speleothem structures and stalagmite formations. Archaeologists have discovered a plethora of earthenware dating back to 4500 BC here. Patalganga, the subterranean stream that flows through the caves and Dhyan Mandir, a chamber of prayer relating to Jain and Buddhist monks are some of the drawing factors here. The caves are situated merely a drive away from Gandikota (the grand canyon of India). The Yaganti temple and Oravakallu Rock Garden are other major attractions to visit.
Instead of: Mussoorie, Uttarakhand
Visit: Wayanad, Kerala
If you are looking for a refreshing break in the middle of nature, but want to avoid crowds and paying over the top for hospitality, try the unexplored green valleys of Wayanad in Kerala. Surrounded by the Western Ghat mountain range, the place remains chilly round the year. Often called the spice garden of India, Wayanad is rich in plantations alongside its wildlife sanctuaries and forest reserves. Banasura Dam, Chembra Peak, and Edakkal Caves are the major attractions to visit. You can also try rock climbing and rappelling here.
Instead of: Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Visit: Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu
The great salt marsh at Rann of Kutch is a stunning natural spectacle. However, we suggest you visit the ghost town of Dhanushkodi. Located around 20 km away from Rameshwaram, at the southern tip of Pamban Island, Dhanushkodi literally means the ‘end of a bow’. At a length of just 50 yards, this is one of the smallest towns in the world. With the Bay of Bengal on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other, this long stretch lies just a 15 km swim away from Sri Lanka. The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, Pamban Bridge, and the historic Ram Setu are the major attractions here.
Instead of: Varanasi, UP
Visit: Ujjain, MP
Varanasi, mentioned in the scriptures as Kashi, is less of a city and more of an experience. However, one could always choose against being stuck between the hordes who visit the holy city and opt for Ujjain. Situated on the banks of the Shipra River, Ujjain is one of the holy ancient cities of India. The temples here are associated with several mythological legends. The religious processions are chaotic yet fascinating, much like the architecture. The small eateries here serve the most authentic tastes of Madhya Pradesh, and the hotels are cheap. Take a boat ride at Ram Ghat during dusk and witness the evening aarti as the sound of chants and bells, along with the vibrant colours of the evening sky calm your soul.
Instead of: Alappuzha, Kerala
Visit: Valiyaparamba, Kerala
Alappuzha and its backwaters is one of the busiest tourist destinations in India. But what if I say that you can enjoy all that’s on offer at Alappuzha minus the hassle of crowds? Valiyaparamba in Kasaragod district is the third-largest stretch of backwaters in Kerala. The beautiful coastal island, thankfully, still remains unexplored, and the serene backwaters here is a reminder of what Alappuzha used to be like, a couple of decades ago. The boat ride here takes you to Valiyaparamba island where one can enjoy nature, instead of street vendors. The secluded beach of Valiyaparamba lies nearby. November to May is when the backwaters are at their best.
Instead of: Hampi, Karnataka
Visit: Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
The architectural marvels of the Chola dynasty that date back to the 9th century at Thanjavur is a must visit for any fan of history. The royal castle complex and the ancient temples here take you back in time. Check out the art gallery which has numerous interesting sculptures, alongside bones of a 92-foot whale – probably the quirkiest out-of-place exhibit anywhere in the country! The heritage hotels here will make your stay worthwhile. And don't forget to pick up exquisite works of local handicrafts and artists.