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Most travellers know India as a country that thrives in chaos. While that’s absolutely true, there’s also a side to India that’s full of tranquility and almost unimaginable aesthetic beauty. On your next trip, head to these places with exquisite natural landscapes and enjoy an Indian vacation far from the madding crowd.
There are many interpretations as to what Kodaikanal means but “the gift of forest” is probably one of the most apt. There are acres of emerald forest as far as the eye can see and these are occasionally dotted by shimmering lakes and cascading waterfalls. The best way to enjoy this hill station in South India is to take early morning hikes to places like Perumal Peak and Thalaiyar Falls. You can also take a relaxed stroll along Coakers Walk, a kilometre long walking plaza which offers stunning views of Kodaikanal.
During the flowering season, which usually falls between March to June, Yumthang Valley is shrouded in brilliant colours. The purple primulas and pink rhododendrons are especially conspicuous. With snow-capped mountains overlooking the valley, tall pine trees encircling the bed of flowers, a clear blue river flowing through and furry yaks grazing nearby, the charming scene receives the perfect finishing touches. If you plan to visit Sikkim, Yumthang is one place you cannot afford to skip. Even when the blooming season is over, the valley is still a sight to behold.
While the mountains and hills instil a feeling of obvious serenity, miles and miles of barren desert tend to evoke a very different sense of calm. The unadorned beauty is almost eerie and to experience this in India, there’s no better place than Jaisalmer, a city located in the heart of the Thar Desert. This is also one of the best places in the country to watch the sunset. Take a camel safari and travel through the undulating sand dunes of Jaisalmer for an unforgettable experience.
Cruising along the backwaters of Alappuzha in Kerala in a cosy houseboat while surrounded by green paddy fields, white water lilies and tall palm trees swaying in the breeze is one of the most romantic experiences you can ever have. Alappuzha, popularly known as Alleppey, is blessed with a natural beauty that’s unlike any you’ll find in other parts of India. If you want a quiet and relaxed holiday, where all you do is put your feet up and luxuriate in nature, a houseboat cruise in Alappuzha is an ideal option.
Spiti Valley is a cold mountain desert and one of the least populated places in India. The landscape of Spiti consisting of lofty but barren mountains and deep gorges will leave anyone awestruck. Due to its close proximity to Tibet, the locals of Spiti largely practice Tibetan Buddhism and the village has some picturesque monasteries like Ki Gompa which resembles a honeycomb. When in Spiti, a trip to the mesmerising Chandra Taal or the “moon lake” is also a must. Its remarkable beauty will stay with you for a very long time.
At a height of 1115 feet, Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. It is located in Cherrapunji in the northeastern state of Meghalaya, which used to be the wettest place on earth before Mawsynram, a neighbouring village, took the crown. The giant waterfall is fascinating not only for its height and beauty but also because of a tragic legend attached to it which states that a local woman named Ka Likai jumped to her death from the top of the hill after her child was killed by her second husband.
The sprawling tea plantations of Munnar are as scenic as it can get. The hill station’s charm has even earned itself the epithet of the Kashmir of South India. The best way to soak in the breathtaking views of Munnar is from the top of Anamudi Peak, said to be the highest peak in South India. From the summit,you can enjoy a panoramic view of endless stretches of green hills and gushing waterfalls on all corners. It’s quite a meditative experience. You will, however, require a permit to trek to the peak and this can be obtained from the Forest and Wildlife authorities at the town of Eravikulam.
Valley of Flowers National Park, nestled in the lap of West Himalayas, is a verdant meadow that is covered with flowers of all kinds and colours during the blooming season. A vibrant carpet of poppies, daisies, orchids, marigolds and rhododendrons lend a stunning look to the place which is quite unparalleled. The area is also home to some endangered animals like the snow leaopard and Asiatic black bear.
Pangong Tso is a lake which lies in the exquisite region of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Only 40 percent of the lake is in India and the rest is a part of Tibet. The pristine blue water of the lake contrasting with the encircling rugged brown mountains is truly a surreal sight. You can spend hours just gazing at the lake and still not be satiated. During different times of the day, Pangong Tso changes colour going from blue to green and even red. It’s natural beauty has made the spot one of the most famous Bollywood locations.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been blessed with many scenic natural landscapes, marred only by the fact that it lies in a politically sensitive zone. Gulmarg, the top ski resort in India, is one among these many alluring places. Winter is definitely the best time to visit Gulmarg, when blankets of snow cover the entire place and there’s an array of adventure sports to choose from. However, if you’re into golfing then Gulmarg makes for a great summer destination as it is home to one of the country’s largest 18-hole golf courses.
Dzukou Valley, which borders the two northeastern states of Nagaland and Manipur, is a rolling meadow adorned by pretty flowers including the rare Dzukou Lily. This place is certainly one of the lesser known treasures of India and its beauty remains unscathed by tourist influx. A trek across the Valley, which isn’t very challenging and only takes about a few hours to complete, can be a quite inspiring and uplifting.