When planning a trip to the Indian sub-continent, some urban cities and major attractions spring to mind: the beach city of Goa, the bustling Delhi and Mumbai, ‘God’s Own Country’ of Kerala, the Taj City of Agra. But India’s heart and soul lies in its small towns and villages that boasts an authentic, rural way of life, with raw beauty, old-world charm, serenity and a rich cultural heritage, making them worthy of recognition. For those planning their next trip in India, step away from the big smoke and explore the beauty of these towns and villages.
Nestled at an elevation of 2133.6 metres in South Sikkim is the quaint town of Ravangla. It offers stunning landscapes with the backdrop of the snow-laden peaks of Kanchenjunga and the environs of the lush Himalayan forest and rolling valleys. This town is known for its diversity of flora and fauna, picturesque tea gardens and the ancient Ralan and Bonn monasteries. You can spot a wide range of Himalayan birds here – blue-fronted redstarts, green-backed tit, verditer flycatchers, white-browed fantails and blue-whistling thrush, thus making it a bird-watcher’s paradise. Being located at a hefty altitude, it makes a perfect place for thrill-seekers to boot. You could spend an extra day or two exploring its neighbouring villages of Bhutia and Lepcha that are equally beautiful, and devoid of modern noise.
Located in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, Tarkarli is a seaside village with sprawling coastline and pristine ecosystem. This village is known for its white sandy beaches and azure waters, and the shuru vegetation adds to its charm. The major attractions are the Tarkarli beach and backwaters of Karli river. Visitors can indulge in water activities, like scuba diving, zorbing and snorkelling. It is among the best destinations for scuba diving in India, where you can see marine life up to 20ft.
If you want to experience an organic way of life, look no further than Munsiyari; a tiny village in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Surrounded by snow-laden Himalayan peaks, this picturesque village offer a perfect respite from the chaotic city life. Wedged between the borders of India, Nepal and Tibet, breathtaking mountain trekking trails abound in this village, such as the Namik, Milam and Ralam glacier treks. The region is also home to a variety of bird species. The short jaunt outside the village will put you amid the spectacular scenery of the surrounding villages of Sarmoli and Darkot.
Mawlynnong is primarily famed for its cleanliness and greenery, and has even received the accolade of ‘Asia’s Cleanest Village’. Located in the East Khasi hill district of Meghalaya, Mawlynnong is a charming retreat full of natural beauty. The inhabitants are warm and amiable, and follow eco-friendly ways of living. The village is home to several attractions that allow people to be at one with nature in solitude. The worth-checking spots are the 1,000-year-old Living Root Bridges made out of the roots of the rubber tree, the 85ft-high Sky Walk made from bamboo, the waterfall and a 100-year old Church of Epiphany.
Lying in the lap of Himalayas, Chopta is unspoilt by urbanisation and offers a perfect retreat to relax in the nature’s midst. Rich in diversity of flora and fauna, fresh mountain air and a plethora of trekking trails, this tiny hamlet is a must-visit. If you love the snow, visit from December to February, as the village is usually wrapped up in sheets of snow.
Often referred as a ‘hippie heaven’ or ‘backpackers’ paradise’, Kasol is brimming with international expats, mainly Israelis, who now call this hamlet home. The hamlet is a mix of laid-back vibe with a plethora of charming cafés, natural beauty and trekking trails.
Located in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, Mandawa is famed for its colourful and gloriously standing forts and havelis, complete with mirror work, exquisite carvings and spectacular frescoes. The town takes you back to the ostentatious era of the Maharajas of Rajasthan.
Gokarna is one of the seven Hindu pilgrimage sites, full of temples. Besides, there are pristine palm-clad beaches and stunning landscapes that draws hordes of travellers to its shores to revel in sun, sea, sand and nature. There are many restaurants and resorts, too.
Lachen is one of the most picturesque villages in North Sikkim, with lush vegetation, snow-white mountain peaks, pine-laden valleys and trekking trails. The must-visit is the Lachen Monastery that is set atop the village offering stunning views of the village. You can reach this village either by a two-day trek from the Yumthang Valley, or via road from Gangtok.
Set at an altitude of 1,495 metres, amidst the hills of Darjeeling, Mirik is known for its relaxed vibe and classic English architecture that transports you back to bygone days. This town is brimming with natural marvels, such as the Sumendu lake that has pine groves on one side and a verdant garden on the other, and a rainbow bridge connecting the two.
Renowned for its 14th century Diskit monastery that houses 106ft tall image of Maitreya Buddha, natural scenic beauty, mountains and serenity, Diskit is a beautiful village in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. After spending a day or two here, you can head to the Nubra Valley that is known for its sand dunes, monasteries and Bactrian camels – do take a ride on one!
Filled with paddy fields, pine hills, scenic ridges, abundant of flora and fauna, enchanting caves and copious trekking trails, Ziro beckons to lovers of nature and adventure. This quaint town is also home to the Apatani tribe, who possess distinctive special characteristics and culture, so you can experience authentic tribal life. Visitors need an Inner Line Permit to reach this village.
Poovar is a small town, whose historic and natural beauty remains untainted, which makes it a perfect place for those looking for peace and quiet. Visitors can ride in a houseboat on the emerald backwaters of Poovar and soak in the stunning vistas of the surroundings filled with tropical green forests.
Zuluk is a tiny village, located on the ancient Silk Route. This small hamlet does not have a hotel, but homestay options abound. Besides the abundant natural beauty, this village is known for its route that involves 32 hairpin bends, an engineering marvel. Be sure to visit the famous cave-like Nag temple and the Thambi View Point that offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas. You can also catch a glimpse of Himalayan flora and fauna. After spending some time in this village, you can explore the other hamlets lying on the Silk Route.
Located in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand, at an elevation of 7,500 ft, Kalap is an untouched beauty where you can breathe in pollution-free air and bask in nature. Surrounded by fragrant deodar and pine forests, you can go hiking along its charming terrains, indulge in organic farming, wander around the village and meet locals, and relish the authentic locally grown food.
Muttom is a fishing village dotted with scenic shorelines, caves and rocky terrains. This village is devoid of mass tourism, thus keeping its beaches pristine and natural beauty intact. So, next time you’re down south, be sure to visit this village to simply relax and rejuvenate.
Sitting pretty on the banks of the Nubra River amid the snow-clad peaks, the Panamik is known for its hot spring that is said to have therapeutic properties. There are monasteries and plenty of trekking options available in and around the village.
Nako is an undiscovered realm of beauty. It is a lakeside hamlet, set on India-China border. The snow-covered mountains, lush greenery and pristine lakes make it one of the most beautiful villages in Himachal. Visitors can go boating on the Nako Lake. And, when the winter sets in, it transforms into a magical wonderland wrapped in sheets of snow, making it perfect for skiing.
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