Travel Today is World Tourism Day and we bring you five offbeat locations in India that definitely warrant a visit

More than just houseboats: Srinagar

Think of Jammu and Kashmir and your mind automatically conjures up images of political disturbance, violence and unrest. Sneha Vachhaney, however, has a different view. “It is only when you reach Srinagar that you realise it is a beautiful and peaceful city. The old city markets and mosques, the golden sunrise and sunsets at the Dal, floating markets, learning about the art of pashmina shawl making, feasting on Kashmiri food in people’s houses and the Kashmiri kahwa, all made our trip memorable. The best time to experience the city at leisure would be August and September. April is good for the tulips and for those who want to see snow and ski, December to February is the best. There is nothing like booking a houseboat but not the ones on the Dal Lake, instead pick one on the clean and quiet Nigeen Lake.”

Inner peace, inner place: Masinagudi

If you don’t have the time or money to travel too far from home, there are plenty of places quite close to Bangalore that could make for a rejuvenating weekend escapade. Prashanth Wesley, a teacher and travel fanatic says: “We have always read/heard stories about stepping into portals that open into another world, a better world. The one place that gives you exactly this experience is Masinagudi. Surrounded by a sea of trees, it is blanketed with pristine air. This quaint town welcomes you with the Nilgiris on the right. Masinagudi is home to all kinds of animals – elephants, spotted deer, sambar deer, jungle foul, bison, leopards, tigers – the list goes on. To top it all the people there are as warm as the morning sun! Masinagudi is at its best during winter.”

Himalayan odyssey: Lahaul and Spiti Valleys

Road trips are always exciting and there’s nothing as thrilling as driving from Manali to Shimla via the Lahaul and Spiti valleys. “These valleys are unsurpassed in mountainscape,” says Sneha. “The sheer vastness, snow capped mountains, glaciers along the roads, monasteries, apple orchards, Himalayan flower bed, etc, make these places a must see. Here’s where you can visit Kibber, the highest village in the world and see the beautiful monasteries of Kee, Kaza, Dhankar and Tabo. Trek up to the spectacular Chandra taal for some gorgeous scenery. You get a chance to drive on some of the most dangerous roads in India, the Marling Nala being the most perilous.” While June-September is ideal for road trips, Sneha says: “Don’t expect to stay at a fancy place. Most hotels are not listed online so bookings may have to be made only once you get there.”

Living wild and free: Little Rann of Kutch

If you think the West of India is nothing but desert and barren land, a visit to Little Rann of Kutch would open your eyes to a world you never knew existed. Ashish Bhatia, a travel blogger says: “The place sure is desolate but it’s here that you witness nature in a rather different form. Little Rann of Kutch is home to Khur, the Asiatic wild ass and has come to be known as the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary. The vast saline desert, parched grasslands, thorn scrubs, lakes and marshes add to its landscape. This is a good place to see different types of cranes, flamingoes, pelicans and sand grouse. A must visit for the wild ones!”

Top of the world, looking down on creation: Meghalaya

If the only two things you know about Meghalaya is that it is one of the Seven Sister States in the North East and that Cherrapunji holds a record for the highest amount of rainfall in a calendar month and year, you obviously know nothing about the place. “Cave exploration is fun in Meghalaya,” says Dushyanth Kumar, a software engineer and travel junkie. “From walking through winding passages and stalactite - stalagmite formations, a trip to this part of the country is adventurous and informative. It is wonderful to interact with the locals. One of the sights you should not miss is the Living Root Bridges.”

NEETI SARKAR

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