On World Tourism Day, I pay tribute to the world of travelling by sharing the most special moments I spent, the best experiences I made while travelling India. My travel tales include the places I visited, the people I met, the places, cuisines, smells and culture I encountered. As the UN celebrates World Tourism Day today (27th September), I am doing my bit by sharing my experiences. Tourism is a great way to know about each other’s culture and tradition, a way to implement harmony and peace. As the UN states in its 2015 #WTD theme, tourism has the potential for creating a better world for all.
India is a land that is full of surprises and is a treasure trove for travellers who want to explore. For a country having the mighty Himalayas, the cool Western ghats, the blue oceans, the sandy deserts and the forests, India can entice any traveler. Besides the varied culture and traditions are also attractions for tourists and travelers alike.
As I travelled India, I bring before you the best and the rarest of my experiences – 21 things to do in India.
# 1. The romantic ride at Darjeeling Himalayan railways
A ride through the Darjeeling Hills in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways with the Kanchenjunga beside you. What can be more romantic than that? Declared as a world Heritage site by UNESCO, a ride from Darjeeling to Ghoom station through the Batasia Loop is going to be an unforgettable experience.
# 2. Double humped camel ride at India cold desert – The Nubra Valley Ladakh
The Nubra Valley is the only cold desert of India. Also, double humped Bactrian camels can be found only at Nubra Valley. After a tryst with the serene Distik monastery, a ride on the Bactrian camel will surely leve you happy and wanting for more.
# 3. Visiting India’s cleanest village – Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
Mawlynnong is the cleanest village of India. This quaint little hamlet will make you realise that cleanliness is a practice to be started from your own home.
# 4. The Amarnath Yatra
This comes to my list not because it is pilgrimage, but for the sheer beauty of the way. Also, Amarnath Yatra teaches that people of two communities can exist peacefully helping each other.
# 5. The trans Himalayan safari at Leh-Manali Highway
This trans Himalayan road safari is for pure adrenaline rush. Take your bike or SUV, this 490 km has surprises at every nook and corner. Once taken this road, you will be totally addicted to it.
# 6. Frolicking the waters at Neil Island, Andaman & Nicobar Island
Neil Island is the more peaceful and serene cousin of the busy and more famous Havelock Island. A small island with virgin beaches and very friendly locals, it is a must see for the Andaman travelers
# 7. Walking over water, Chadar Frozen river trek
Ever imagined that you can walk over the water! This is exactly what you do at the Chadar Frozen River Trek at a temperature ranging from -5 to -35 degrees. Sounds daunting? But it is doable with some preparation. Walk over the ice hearing the river flow below your feet. The traditional trek route is from Tilat Sumdo to Tibb and back. Stated as one of the most glamorous treks by the National Geographic Channel, Chadar is simply fascinating.
# 8. Dinner at German Bakery, Leh
Dine at German Bakery in Leh. It has a variety of menu starting from Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai and local food. The sizzlers are its specialty. The food and ambiance makes it an awesome place, and the friendly boys at the German Bakery make it a sure winner.
# 9. A wonderful stay at Rock-end-manor at Panchmarhi, Madhya Pradesh
Experience hospitality at its best at Rock-end-Manor, Panchmarhi. A hotel made in the British era and still having the charm of that period, it provides one of the most comfortable and memorable stays in Panchmarhi.
# 10. Marveling at the Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat, Jabalpur
The Marble rocks are a wonder. A boat ride through the Marble Rocks is going to leave you mesmerized. The icing on top is the Dhuandar Falls.
# 11. Divine touch at Auroville, Pondicherry
If there is one place where I can stay for my entire life, the place has to be Pondicherry. A beautiful town with French influence, the beauty of the place is unique. There is no more peaceful place as the Matri Mandir at Auroville. Leave all your baggage behind and enjoy the serenity of the place.
# 12. Watching the sunset from Ratnagiri Fort
The Ratnagiri Fort is a horse shoe shaped fort and is surrounded on three sides by the Arabian Sea. The unruly waves splashing across the fort makes for a bewitching sight. There is a hillock directly opposite the fort. During the sunset watch the sun drowning in the sea at the backdrop of the majestic fort. Indeed a royal sight!
# 13. Watching the sea play hide and seek at Chandipur, Orissa
The sea plays hide and seek here. At one time you the sea is near you, while during the low tide the sea recedes by 1 to 4 km! Chandipur can be reached from Baleshwar by rail or road.
# 14. Camping at Asia’s vastest meadow – Ali Bugyal
Ali Bugyal and Bedni Bugyal are camping sites on the way to the Roopkund Trek. Ali Bugyal is a vast stretch of alpine meadows at about 3300 metres ASL. Wherever you look around, see the green meadows. The mighty Trishul and Chaukhamba peaks add to the grandeur of the place.
# 15. Remembering the heroes at Sela Pass, Arunachal Pradesh
Sela Pass is the gateway to Tawang. Legend has it that a sepoy of the Indian Army named Jaswant Singh Rawat fought alone against the Chinese soldiers near the pass during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. A tribal woman named Sela who had brought food and water to him is said to have killed herself upon seeing the dead body of Jaswant Singh. Singh was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his courage and devotion to duty. Sela Pass thus stands as a symbol of courage and love. At a height of 13700 ft, Sela Pass has hardly any vegetation. There is the beautiful Sela Lake or Paradise Lake nearby which is considered holy by the Buddhist.
# 16. Walking over a living tree, the Living Root Bridge at Meghalaya
The Living root bridge of Meghalaya is unique. The bridges are tangles of massive thick roots, which have been intermingled to form a bridge that can hold the weight of several people at a time. Khasi people have been trained to grow these bridges across the raised banks of streams to form a solid bridge, made from roots. These bridges are alive and still growing!
# 17. Enjoying under water wonder – Scuba Diving at Andamans
Enjoy the underwater marine life by Scuba Diving at Andamans. Scuba Diving can be done at Havelock Island, Neil Island and North Bay Island. Watch the colourful corals and the fleet of fishes move beside you. it is going to be an experience of a lifetime!
# 18. Watching the Goddess come alive – Kumortuli, Kolkata
Kumartuli is traditionally the place where the artisans live in Kolkata. As the Durga Puja approaches, the place is busy with the making of Durga idols. You can see how the Goddess becomes alive from a mound of clay by the sheer craftsmanship and brilliance of the potters. These idols of Gods and Goddesses are supplied to various Pujas in Kolkata and outskirts. Some of them are even exported.
# 19. Homestays at Buxa Fort and Lepchakha
The homestays at Buxa Fort and Lepchakha have the friendliest hosts you can imagine. They are always smiling and ever ready to help you. The wooden houses have basic amenities, but the surrounding beauty of the place and your host will make your stay worth remembering.
# 20. Visit the Breakfast island, Chilka Lake, Rambha
The name sounds intriguing. The breakfast island is a small structure in the middle of the nowhere in Chilka lake near Rambha, a brackish water lagoon on the eastern coast of India. The quaint yellow structure stands lonely amidst the vast water stretches. A boat ride from Rambha will take you to the Breakfast Island and the nearby islands.
# 21. Trek to the Dudhsagar waterfalls
Dudhsagar is one of the tallest waterfalls in India. The trek starts from the Dudhsagar Railway station and traverses the forest trail to reach the gushing waterfall. An added delight is the Konkan railway track that trails through forests and tunnels. Imagine a train moving beside a gigantic waterfall! It is absolutely spellbound.
These are a few of my experiences while travelling across India. As we travel more, additions will be made to this list.