There’s no much to see, so much to do in this beautiful country of ours. Here are 9 magical travel experiences which Miss Wanderlust believes should definitely form part of your Great Indian Bucket List.
1. Biking to Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
Zoom away from civilization and the craziness of life—biking through Ladakh is the trip of a lifetime. Admire the sweeping landscape and stunning views of snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes and untamed streams as perfect settings come alive right before your eyes. Biking through Ladakh is a journey on many levels. As you disconnect from civilization, you will find yourself closer to nature and closer to yourself.
Tip: The recommended season to bike to Leh-Ladakh is June – September. Popular starting points for the ride are Delhi and Manali.
2. Celebrate Durga Pujo in Kolkata, West Bengal
You may have been to Kolkata before, but visiting Kolkata during Durga Pujo is a completely different experience. The city comes alive like never before—colour and chaos collide as the city’s streets are converted into one large carnival setting. Hundreds of beautiful pandals dot the city, each with a fascinating theme and setting—make sure to spend some time ‘pandal-hopping!’ The party goes on all night, as the pandals come alive with lights and decorations. Food lovers should note that there’s no better time to gorge on authentic Bengali cuisine than during the festival!
3. Meditate with the monks at Bylakuppe, Karnataka
Bylakuppe is Karnataka’s best kept secret. This tiny town, located on the fringes of beautiful Coorg, is the second largest Tibetan settlement in the country (after Dharamshala). Bylakuppe’s sprawling monastery buildings with towering Buddha statues are beautiful. Wander right in, you are most welcome. Chant along with the monks as they go about their daily prayer rituals or peep into their learning sessions (conducted in a classroom-like setting). Enjoy a few moments of thoughtful tranquility before you dig into some delicious Tibetan food.
Tip: Bylakuppe is located 200kms from Bangalore on the Mysore Road. It is easily accessible by road. Please dress modestly as it is a Buddhist Monastery.
4. Experience the ceremony at the Wagah Border, Punjab
The lowering of flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border (a one hour drive from Amritsar) is performed every evening at sundown by the border security forces of India and Pakistan. As the sun sets, the flags of India and Pakistan are lowered simultaneously, folded and taken away. Interestingly, this ceremony has been performed every day since 1959. For many, the highlight of the ceremony is peering into Pakistan and catching a glimpse of ordinary life—or posing with the stern-faced Border Security Guards.
5. Witness the rural Olympics in Kila Raipur, Punjab
Forget the Olympics—this is a far more exciting alternative! The Kila Raipur Rural Olympics is a rural sports festival that’s grown over six decades, to become a three-day event. It is held annually in January at Kila Raipur, on the outskirts of Ludhiana. Competitors from all over the world participate in the event along with the local farmers. The thrilling bullock-cart race is the star attraction, while other noteworthy events include the tractor race, tent pegging competition horse dance and camel race.
6. Diving in the Andamans
Jump right into the stunning blue seas! The Andamans offers numerous diving sites, with most located around Havelock Island and Port Blair. Divers can pick sites based on their skill level and what they’d like to experience on their dive. Explore a capsized fishing boat or an underwater reef poised outside a scenic lighthouse—the choices are plenty. The adventurous ones can opt for a dive with Rajan, the last of the swimming elephants in the Andamans.
Tip: The best time to go diving in the Andamans is from December to May. Visibility is the best in the months of February to April.
7. Live on a houseboat in the Backwaters, Kerala
It’s not for nothing that the Backwaters of Kerala are referred to as “The Venice of the East.” This extensive chain of lagoons, lakes, canals and rivers is fringed with stunning landscapes and swaying coconut trees—a spectacular setting. Tiny villages and floating markets dot the backwaters, creating an interesting setting of real life among the panoramic beauty. Look out for unique marine life and flora as well. Sip on a coconut as you watch the sun set, as the marine landscape is glitters in the stunning golden light.
Tip: The Backwaters houseboats are best accessed from Alleppey (near Kochi. The best time to visit is from November to March.
8. Experiencing the Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan
Revel in the colour, spectacle and carnival of one of India’s largest traditional melas—the Pushkar Fair. Held annually in Pushkar, Rajasthan in November at the time of Kartik Poornima (full moon), the fair is truly extraordinary. It is also the world’s largest camel fair. The golden sand dunes of the desert come alive during the festival, as thousands of farmers, traders, villagers, artisans and livestock arrive here from all over the state. Tourists flock here from all over the world.
Tip: The Pushkar Fair 2015 is slated for late November. Pushkar is located at a distance of about 100 kms from Jaipur.
9. Crossing Meghalaya’s Living Bridges
Welcome to the heart of Meghalaya—where bridges aren’t built, they’re grown. Located in and around Cherrapunji, one of the wettest places in the world, the Living Bridges are a natural wonder. The Living Bridges form from the secondary roots of the Rubber Fig tree. Over a span of over fifty years, the roots form an intricate and bridge-like network. These are strong enough to spanning rushing rivers and withstand deafening rapids. Visit these fascinating bridges to experience an alternate world in a surreal setting—with a plethora of flora and fauna as well.
This article was first published in the ‘Jetwings’ in-flight magazine in April 2014.
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