Some of the oldest civilizations had roots in India, a country rich with culture and scenery that has no rival. However, due to the crippling poverty and how generally underdeveloped the country is, many people often overlook the country. That needs to end now. Anything from a romantic getaway to a search for the snowy Himalayan mountains – India is the place to go. To get you started, here are 4 of our favourite places in the country.
1. Kerala Alleppey Backwaters
Down south on the west coast of India, the state of Kerala is often coined the best state in the country. Known for its good living conditions, Kerala shines with clean roads, lovely people and delicious south Indian food. However, the thing that makes Alleppey special, is the chain of brackish bays. The backwaters of Kerala consist of natural canals that stretch 1500km long, with 5 big lakes and 38 rivers.
When in Kerala, never settle for a simple hotel when you can stay in a boathouse. The concept of a boathouse brings together the comfort of being in a hotel and the serenity of being in a boat on still waters. The ideal length of stay would be around 2D1N, so it’s perfect for a weekend getaway. The calmness you feel as the boat cruises around the lakes and canals is unparalleled. Moreover, the boats always dock at the bank at night so it doesn’t rock when you sleep. All the food on the boat will be cooked by top notch cooks, so you don’t have to worry about the quality. In fact, the food in the boat houses is known to be better (and cleaner) than anywhere else in the state.
2. Taj Mahal
Next on the list is one of the most overpopulated wonders of the world, the Magnificent Taj Mahal. After you have decided on a right time to visit and have purchased your tickets, you can begin your journey into the past; after successfully avoiding all the people who try to trick you into buying photo packages, of course. The Taj Mahal would be a great place to visit with your loved one, as the building itself stands in a testament of Shah Jahan’s love for his favourite wife. The construction began in 1632 and stands strong till this day. The more you look at the Taj, the more beautiful it is; the white marble with engravings is so detailed. You can also get a tour inside the Taj, and learn more about its history.
Capital of Rajasthan, the land of the kings, and the city of pink stands with a rich history and many interesting palaces. There are a lot of historical sites to visit in Jaipur, to name some:
The City Palace
The City Palace is full of lavish history and beautiful architecture. It is a definite must see in Jaipur in order to understand the mix of the Mughal culture, European influence and Shilpa Shashtra. Additionally, the museum contains an amazing collection of pashmina shawls and royal costumes, including the clothings of Sawai Madho Singh, who was 2m tall, 1.2m wide and 250 kg in weight.
Hawa Mahal, also known as The Palace of the Winds, is a wonderful building that stretches 5 storeys high and consists of multiple little windows. It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh for the ladies of his royal household to watch the life of the city. With magnificent views and a small museum full of paintings, the sandstone building is another must see in Jaipur.
Amer Fort or Fort in Amber
Amer Fort or Fort in Amber in English, is a glorious fort made of yellow and pink sandstone. With courtyards and a royal palace, it is definitely worth the 10min walk up the road. Of course, if you’re really lazy – you could always take an elephant up.
As if they didn’t have enough palaces, there’s one more located in the middle of the water. Used as a summer resort for the royal family, it’s beautifully situated in the middle of the Old city.
4. Ladakh (India’s Little Tibet)
Known as the land of high passes, you’ll get spectacular views of the Himalayas and witness the natural beauty of lakes and plains.
This is definitely a must see for anyone visiting Ladakh! It’s a great stop for your first or second day. Leh rests at an altitude of 3524m, meaning anyone who comes has to be ready to fight the possibility of altitude sickness. Therefore, it is advised for beginners to take it easy for the first two days. As for the second day, you can go for the sunset at the Leh Palace. You can see the sun setting from the mountains in the distance, and the golden light hitting everything around you.
Whilst in Leh, you should also check out the scientific magnetic hill phenomenon (a car can move uphill without the engine turned on), and the Thiksey Monastery. With so many beautiful places to visit, the Leh area is not to be missed!
In addition to that, Nubra Valley offers wonderful sceneries of fields, mountains and sand dunes. Taking the Khardung La pass is very much like taking the Chang La pass, so be ready for the adrenaline rush of sharp turns and slippery roads. Once in the valley, there are many monasteries and temples. Furthermore, there is a large plain with sand dunes where they offer camel rides. Without a doubt, Nubra valley is the perfect scenery to accompany you for the long drives.
To reach Pangong lake from Leh, one must embark on a journey to the highest motorable pass in the world. At 5359m, the Chang La pass is not for the light hearted. With the infamous Indian driving, the drive will not be one of the safest things you’ll do in your life, but the views are worth the risk. It’s also a long drive but fret not, there are many stops the drivers make for food. Though simple, the food will leave your taste bud longing for more.
Be sure to roll your windows down and let the chilly wind hit your face as you drive around mountains, valleys and plains. Let yourself feel on top of the world, as you can almost literally see the clouds. The long drive is worth the hassle the moment you see Pangong lake.
Sitting at 4250m, the lake is like an oasis in heaven. Additionally, you also get chilly winds from the huge valley that you’re in. It stretches vast into the horizon, but more than 60% of it lies in Tibet. During the winter, it freezes completely so be sure to check the lake conditions if you plan to travel Pangong Lake!
With only about 20 different varieties of camp-like hotels, there isn’t much competition. However, be sure to pick places with a built-in heater or those that provide really thick blankets because with the freezing night winds, you want to be able to sleep comfortably. We suggest to just spend one night in Pangong, as there isn’t much else to do there. Though, the lake offers such serene beauty, often described as magic, heaven on earth and just surreal; so make sure this lake is in your bucket list if you ever visit India in the future!
By R Dhavinya Saba