As life slowly returns to normalcy amidst the pandemic, people are once again thinking about travelling. But this time they are looking for destinations where they won’t run into a gaggle of tourists.
Right now, it’s not even about the destination, people are just looking forward to escaping their mundane everyday life under lockdown. Our lives have drastically changed over the last few months and our systems are in a dire need for a reboot. What could be better right now than spending a few days in remote lands, letting nature heal you?
Here are five offbeat places you can visit for a restorative experience.
Garli Village, Himachal Pradesh
Give Shimla, Manali and Kasol a break. No, really. They deserve it, and so do you, from the burgeoning crowds of selfie-taking Instagrammers in the Parvati and Solang valleys. Moreover, this is not the best time for jam-packed mall roads. Which is why you must visit Garli, a quaint village steeped in history and traditional architecture. A four-hour drive from Chandigarh, this untrammeled hamlet was declared a heritage village in 2002.
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Taking a walk through Garli is akin to an open-air museum visit. Scenic lanes flanked by thick foliage lead you to incredible heritage mansions. The village once served as the bastion of the Sud clan, prosperous timber merchants who built grand homes here during the early 20th century. From Portuguese and Italian to Islamic and Rajasthani, the buildings in Garli showcase an incredible amalgamation of architectural styles that will impress every lover of art and good aesthetics. If you are looking for a place where you can immerse yourself in history and culture while unwinding in the lap of nature, look no further than Garli. This is Himachal’s countryside at its picturesque best.
Getting there: Ambala is the nearest railhead at 25km while Kangra’s Gaggal Airport lies at a distance of 55km. The road route from Chandigarh is through Kiratpur, Ambala, Kaloha and Pragpur. You can also take a bus for Dharamshala, get down at Nehran and take a taxi to Garli.
Nestled amidst thick evergreen forests dotted with fruit-laden orchards and breathtaking views of the magnificent Himalayas, the peaceful village of Sitla is a great option if you are looking at spending some quality leisure time with your BFFs. Driving through wispy clouds and lush environs to reach this beautiful village will take away your lockdown weariness in a jiffy. From sipping countless cups of hot adrak (ginger) chai in the morning to getting wasted on gin and tonic in the afternoon to dancing your heart out in the night below a canopy of stars, Sitla will be a notch better than perfect to reconnect with your friends.
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If birding interests you or if you are in a mood to burn some calories, you may fancy a nice walk or trek around the village. On your way through the forest trails, you’ll come across barn swallows perched atop poles, spangled drongos darting between branches, and many other feathered beauties. While in Sitla, you mustn’t miss out on a guided hike in the reserve forest. The village is also home to a few shops selling an assortment of Kumaoni products from handwoven woollens to apricot-based skincare products.
Getting there: Katgodham, the nearest railhead at 85km, is well-connected from Delhi. The nearest airport is Pantnagar at 120km. Buses are available from Anand Vihar ISBT to Haldwani from where you can rent a taxi to Sitla. The road route from Katgodham is through Ranibagh, Bhimtal, Bhowali and finally on the Ramgarh Road.
An hour away from Kohima, this over 700-year-old village is famous as India’s first green village. Hunting and deforestation is illegal here. Reaching Khonoma is a bit of a task, and requires you to climb hundreds of steps but the beauty of the valley makes your effort well worth it. The stunning landscape is dotted with terraced rice fields, with the spectacular Naga hills as the backdrop. The locals here are mostly involved in agricultural activities for a living while some also weave baskets and shawls.
A walk through the village will take you through traditional morungs or youth dormitories, which once served as temporary abodes for young girls and boys who used to learn about their tribe’s customs and traditions. Today, these morungs are used to house weavers and craftsmen. There’s no better way to discover the culture of a place than sharing a traditional meal with a local and this is exactly what you should do, when you visit Khonoma. And don’t forget to try the lipsmacking and spicy bhut jolokia chilli chutney.
Getting there: Taxis are easily available from Kohima, which is only 20km from here. To reach Kohima, you can either take a flight or train to Dimapur. Regular buses also ply to Kohima from ISBT Guwahati.
Located in the picturesque region of Thekkady, in Idukki district, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve in 1978. Stretching across vast swathes of Pandalam hills in the southwestern Ghats, the topography here ranges from hills and plateaus to grasslands and waterbodies. Home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna, the reserve offers an opportunity to indulge in a number of activities like nature walks, border trekking, tiger trails among others.
Go bamboo rafting in the scenic Periyar Lake where you will spot various species of cormorant, heron and egret, along with kingfishers, storks and eagles. The spice plantations are famous here in Thekkady. You can also go on a scenic mountain trail or simply loll around doing nothing but soaking in the serenity that the place offers.
Getting there: Kottayam at 110km, is the nearest railhead while Cochin International Airport is 190km. From here, you can hire a taxi to Thekkady.
If you live in Mumbai or Pune, you would have made several visits to Lonavla and Khandala. But not many would have been to Kamshet. Dotted with mud-thatched houses, Kamshet is known as a paragliding and trekking hub. However, there’s so much more to this blissful haven. .
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The Vadivali Lake surrounded by hills is a habitat for a variety of birds. Those looking for spiritual solace can visit the isolated Kondeshwar Temple, which stands among wildflowers with a gurgling stream behind. The trek from Jamboli to Kondeshwar Temple is easy, and good for beginners. Then there are the Bedsa Caves. Located in Bedsa village, these Hinayana Buddhist caves are believed to date back to the 1st century BCE. The sculptures of animals and dancing figures here are really impressive while the majestic pillars in front of the main chaitya look almost Roman. The best time to visit Kamshet is monsoons and we suggest, you plan a trip real soon. Just be cautious of the slippery terrain, take along practical shoes with a good grip.
Getting there: Lonavla, 17km away is the nearest railhead. The road route from Mumbai is through the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Once you exit Lonavla, take the old highway towards Pune to reach Kamshet via Karla.