If you go beyond the guidebooks, beyond the main tourist attractions, you will discover a part of India that isn’t publicised frequently. Instead of just visiting Kerala, explore the backwaters that locals live on. Instead of just heading to the beach in Goa, take a day trip to Hampi and touch their ruins. Instead of staying in Mumbai, travel to the Ajanta and Ellora caves for a piece of history you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s all off the main road, and some things are hidden, but if you take the time to travel and find them, you will be shocked by the history, architecture and sights you can appreciate in India.
While the name “backwaters” may not conjure up images of lush palm-fringed landscapes and vibrant, picturesque communities that is exactly what you will find as you wind your way through the backwaters of Kerala, India, a complex network of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals that run from the Kerala coast inwards to Cochin and to Kollam.
Locals use the backwaters for transportation, fishing and agriculture, but hop on a houseboat and cruise through the Kerala waters in comfort. It is one of the most tranquil and relaxing things you can do. Let go of the stress of daily life as you feast on freshly prepared Indian dishes. There are options for budget travellers and those looking for a more luxurious experience but regardless of your budget, look to the Alleppey Tourism Development Co-Operative Society for a plethora of backwater cruise packages.
Located an hour outside of Mumbai, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves rank among the greatest wonders of the ancient world. Both locations are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and for good reason; they are some of the finest examples of centuries-old rock-cut temples and cave paintings in all of India.
Ajanta is home to famous frescoes that were once bold and vibrant with natural colours that have since faded. Ellora has incredible cave architecture that is hard to believe exists until you see it in person. To get the full experience and exposure to the stunning artistry and dedication that created Ajanta and Ellora, spend at least one full day per site. Keep in mind Ajanta is closed on Mondays and Ellora is closed on Tuesdays.
A destination for adventure junkies, the Manali-Leh Highway is a high mountain road that spans 479km through the Himalayan mountain range. It passes through some of the highest mountain passes in the world and its highest elevation is 5,328m at the Tanglang La Mountain pass.
The road is constructed almost entirely out of dirt gravel roads and the journey from Manali to Leh takes about one full day by jeep or two full days by bus as any vehicular movement is slow and cautious. Strong nerves are needed to negotiate the path but if you do, you’ll be deeply rewarded by the sights along the way. There are stunning mountain landscapes where their points touch the sky and things you won’t be able to glimpse anywhere else in India, or in the world for that matter.
Hampi is located near the coastal hotspot Goa, but its draw is totally different from the beachy-vibes you get in Goa. Here, you can see unreal and abandoned ruins that lie across a spell-binding landscape of immense boulders, and rolling, rocky terrain. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hampi is a place where you can lose yourself among the ruins, or marvel at the colourful and beautiful sights all around you.
Gaze upon the majestic Virupaksha Temple that towers over the Hampi Bazaar full of lodging, shops and restaurants for you to enjoy. The Temple, which was built in 1442, is the centre for a number of annual festivals and draws locals and tourists alike year-round.
Pack your bags, pick your adventures and get off the beaten path on your holiday in India. While the adventures in India may call your name, be sure to protect your holiday and your health with an adventure travel insurance plan from Cover-More Australia.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Nagarjun Kandukuru.
Disclaimer: Please exercise caution while travelling in India and always be sure to check Smarttraveller’s website for the most up-to-date precautions and travel advice.