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Indian destinations worth visiting, sans festive-season hordes.

by Shradha Aswani

Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

By Shradha Aswani

Let me start with a confession. I hate crowds, especially when I am travelling. That’s probably why when I’m choosing places to explore, the discerning factor that filters all my choices is how non-touristy the destination is. In most cases, I have also found lesser-known corners to be more beautiful, less expensive, and reliably authentic; much to my liking.

If you are also looking for an unexplored itinerary to experience the culture of India away from fully-stacked hotels and chaotic swarming, here’s a list of substitutes for the usual renowned destinations:


Even if you are as geographically challenged as me, it’s likely that you’ve subconsciously heard of Hampi. And no wonder, since it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hidden away in the folds of Karnataka. This city of ruins, as it is famously known, gives you a glimpse of the Vijayanagara Empire, of which it was the former capital. Alongside being a religious hub and an architectural marvel due to its many temples and monuments,
the site houses many quirky cafes and fun street-shopping experiences, making it ideal for a wholesome retreat.

Owing to its size and remote location, five-star luxury is not something you will be able to find in Hampi, although a mix of heritage hotels and decent homestays are available. Vidyanagar Airport, the closest airport to fly into the city from, has regularly-scheduled flights from Hyderabad and Bangalore. You can also choose to take a train or bus from these metropolises, or arrive in a car that will allow you to explore the place more freely while you stay there.


A completely different landscape from the one listed above, Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is a hill station located significantly above sea level. The winters here are covered by snow while the summers are cool and pleasant. Tawang is the birthplace of Tsangyang Gyatso, the sixth Dalai Lama, and is lined with many important monasteries. The peaceful Madhuri Lake, Nuranang Waterfalls, and iconic Sela Pass are just a
slice of the natural bounty that surrounds the region.

Guwahati is the nearest airport accessible from Kolkata and other big cities of the country, although you could also take a connecting flight to Tezpur. The only way to reach the remote town from there on is by road. The journey is exhilarating, allowing you to experience nature in all its splendour. Hotels are as good as they can be in a town this small, but people are warm and welcoming.


When you think of visiting Rajasthan in India, the pink city of Jaipur and the lakes of Udaipur are bound to be on your mind, but the nearby sunkissed city of Bikaner doesn’t pale in comparison. The famous Junagarh
and Bandasar Jain Temple are the main tourist attractions, but many local experiences can be deeply enriching, starting with local Rajasthani ghoomer dances and puppet shows, to the camel safari. Their
exquisite embroidery and mirrorwork designs make a stop to the local market mandatory.

For meals, concentrating on non-vegetarian options might be counterproductive. Instead, indulge in delicious vegetarian Rajasthani preparations, although placing a prior request for less chilli in your food will help you be able to enjoy the local flavours better, even if your chilli metre is set to Thai standards. The nearest Airport is Jodhpur, but taking a train or car to the city, from Delhi, makes for an exciting road trip. The city has many five-star properties, alongside a bunch of well-maintained budget hotels.


Located amongst the lush green of northeastern Kerala, Wayanad is a beautiful hill station in southern India. Its scenic trekking trails, varied spice plantations, beautiful lakes, sprawling dams and pleasant temperature
make it perfectly suited for those looking to spend the winter away from the snow. Whether you prefer to visit a wildlife sanctuary, want to dwell in the historic imprints of the Edakkal Caves, take a romantic walk in a
bamboo forest, or just wish to experience the adrenaline rush of a gushing waterfall, Wayanad offers it all.

The closest airport is Calicut International Airport, although travelling to the district by road from Bangalore or Kochi is easier. You can also take a train to Kozhikode, and then take a taxi to Wayanad. There are various resorts and hill-view hotels available, but at a location like this, I would prefer a cosy homestay.


This is perhaps the most ‘touristy’ pick of this off-beat list, but the calm of resting at the foot of Gharwals, a section of the Himalayas in the state of Uttrakhand, allows Rishikesh the liberty. Popular for being the ‘Yoga
Capital of the World,’ Rishikesh has a lot to offer besides the meditation centres brought to the limelight by The Beatles’ visit to the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula along with the ghats offer a fair view of the Ganges, and the city’s many temples allow you to experience the saffron culture closely.

Known for its adventure sports, Rishikesh hosts experiences like river rafting, sky cycling, bungee jumping, and more. You must land at the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, which is the nearest airport, or take the road from Delhi. Meat and alcohol are difficult to find in the city, although there are many organic and healthy food joints that provide continental dishes. For accommodation, there are plenty of hotel and hostel options to choose from, although I would pick something by the river bank to enjoy the experience fully.

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