This is the third article (S No: OP.4.03) of the series “Stunning Offbeat Places In India”. It’s an endeavor initiated via a series of articles to familiarize you about the abundance of stunning places in India that you might not have heard much about and which you must visit in your lifetime.
In this concluding piece, we take you on another exhilarating journey across the length and breadth of this beautiful country of ours, visiting locales that a huge number of people have been unlucky in not hearing of them, what to say of witnessing their beauty!!!
As usual, we begin from the extreme northern region of our land and will finish at the north-east region. So, let’s begin:
21. Phugtal Gompa, Ladakh
Located in a mountain cave in the Lungnak Valley in remote south-eastern Zanskar region of Ladakh is the Phugtal Monastery (Phugtal Gompa).One has to trek for a day or two to reach the monastery from villages Khangsaar or Cha as the road from Padum ends at these two places.
Though the monastery was built in 10-11th century, the available evidence suggests that the cave had been visited by monks, sages, scholars and translators throughout the centuries. As you climb up the mountains to the monastery, stunning views of the wild Tsarap River welcome you. You also have to cross the mountain pass of Penzi La at 4,200 metres, where you descend into the Suru Valley and are welcomed by spectacular views of Nun-Kun mountain massif, Drang Dung glacier (the largest glacier in Ladakh) besides the ubiquitous fruit orchards.
The ideal time to visit is between June to September as rest of the time, snow and ice cut off the region from the country.
22. Hemis, Ladakh
Located 45 km south from Leh and on the western bank of river Indus is the stunning Hemis village which is surrounded by breathtaking landscape. As not many tourists visit the place, the village is an ideal place for a peaceful voyage of discovery. The beautiful and the biggest monastery of Ladakh, the Hemis Monastery is located here. Colourful flags, fluttering in the stiff breeze, surround the monastery on all four sides and send prayers to Lord Buddha.The annual Hemis festival, commemorating the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhavais held for 2 days in June-July.
Located close to this monastery is a quiet and tranquil place called Gotsang Monastery. One can trek from Hemis to reach it. On the left bank of the river Indus and on top of a small hill, which looks like a tiger’s nose, is Stakna Monastery. From the monastery, one gets to see never before scenery of Indus and the surreal surroundings.
For wildlife lovers, the region offers Hemis National Park that covers an area of around 4,000 sq. km and is home to snow leopards,langurs, red foxes, marmots, wolves and deer.
Visit the place from April to July to take in the beauty and spirituality of the region.
23. Kanatal, Uttarakhand
The small hamlet of Kanatal in Uttarakhand is around 40 km from Mussoorie and around 250-260 km from Delhi. It’s a quaint little hill station with stunning 360 degree views of the majestic Himalayas. As the tourists mostly not heard about it, let alone visiting the place, you feel as if the place has been created by nature just for your sensual pleasure.
With an average elevation of about 2,600 metres, the highest point of the place is Surkanda Devi Temple, dedicated to Sati.
Use the place as your focal point and check out the beauty of the surrounding places like Mussoorie, Chamba and Dhanaulti, all of which are close by. Built on the confluence of rivers Bhagirathi and Bhilangna is the Tehri Dam which can be visited for a peaceful and lazy picnic.
Visit Kanatal between the months of April and June as the temperature ranges between 10-20 degrees Celsius but in other months, it experiences high winds and receives heavy snowfall.
24. Mainpat, Chhattisgarh
Moving onto central India, we introduce you to another unheard of and unseen picturesque place in Chhattisgarh called Mainpat. Enriched with natural bounty of dense green forests, deep valleys, rolling pastures, gurgling streams and rivulets and rolling pastures, it is a gem waiting to be discovered.
Often called Mini Tibet due to a large Tibetan settlement, Mainpat has a confluence of diverse traditions and cultures.Thakpo Shedupling Monasteryis the main Buddhist gompa. It is decorated with a number of old thangkas, and wall murals.
The surroundings are replete with stunning places like Fish Point, Tiger Point waterfall, Mercury Waterfall, Bhutahi Waterfall, Daroga Jharna, Mehta Point and Parpatiya Sunset Point. Adventure lovers may indulge is sports like trekking, rappelling and zorbing. Visit this mostly unheard of place between October to March as the weather is just lovely.
25. Velas, Maharashtra
In the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra lies the tiny village of Velas, home to endangered Oliver Ridley Turtles. Every year, thousands of newly hatched and tiny Oliver Ridley Turtles commence their life’s journey as they take their initial steps and move into the sea. A Kasav or Turtle Festival is hosted by the local conservationists of the village from February to May to celebrate this event and to raise awareness.
Besides, the serene beach and the verdant hills along with swaying palm trees and delicious seafood provide for a complete relaxing holiday package.
While you are here, you may as well visit Ganesh Gully, Bagmandal, the square Bankot Fort andHariheshwar Beach.
26. Halebidu, Karnataka
Halebidu town in Hassan District, Karnataka, India is the Dwarasamudra, the famous town of medieval Indian history that was forgotten by time. Once capital of the Hoysala Kings, who claimed descent from Lord Krishna, the town is a treasure trove of ancient monuments and magnificent temples, acting as a powerful magnet to history buffs and tourists alike.
Frozen in time, the town has some of the best examples of Hindu and Jain temples. At places, the same temple complex has deities of Vedic, Vishnu, Shiva and Devi traditions, all together, with inscriptions in North Indian and South Indian languages and display a fused diversity of various regional heritages. Such Hindu temples also have Jainreliefs in their ornate panels.
The famous sites which are to be visited include the highly ornate HoysaleshwaraTemple, the Kedareshwara Temple besides the Jain Basadi Temples and the Hulikere Kalyani step well.
27. Moodbidri, Karnataka
Located 37 km from Mangalore in Karnataka is Jain Kashi or Jain Varanasi, as it is dotted by a large number of Jain temples, which goes by the name of Moodbidri. This temple town has an unexplained and weird connection with the number 18 as it has 18 Jain Basadis (temples), 18 lakes both big and small and 18 roads.
The most prominent Jain temple in the town is the magnificent Saavira Kambada Basadi, also known as Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani Basadi or the ‘crown jewel of the three worlds’. It is famous for its thousand pillars, none of which are identical. The main deity of the temple is Jain Tirthankara Chandraprabhu.
Other Basadis of the town are Leppada Basadi and Ammanvara Basadi, besides the Guru Basadi that houses the famous Dhavala text.
The town is also famous for the Kambala or buffalo race that are run in water-filled paddy fields. Tourists can also visit the world famous Gomateshwara Statue of Bahubali located on Vindhyagiri at Shravanbelgola. Nature lovers will simply freak out on Kanchi Bail Waterfalls and Durga Waterfalls.
28. Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh
Located on the banks of the River Tungabhadra is the “Gateway to Rayalseema” or Kurnool.The town has a rich history as it was ruled by the Cholas and the Kakatiyas dynasties in its past and later came under the sway of the Vijaynagar Empire among others. The town abounds in natural spots such as thickly forested slopes and cavernous caves. It has many places to see like ancient monuments, forts and other temples. Srisailam, a temple dedicated to Lord Mallikarjuna, is located on Nallamalai Hills. Once you climb up here, the beautiful sight of surrounding countryside is to be seen to be believed. The Manchalam Temple is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra.
The Vaishnavite temple, Sri Yaganti Uma Maheshwara Temple or Yaganti is another temple that is worth visiting for its rich history and wonderful architecture.
The splendid Kurnool Fort, located bang in the middle of the town, has beautiful architecture. The Konda Reddy Buruju or prison transports you to the time of British India.
The Kurnool or Belum cave complex is known for its intricate passageways, waterfalls, wells, siphons, fresh water galleries, chambers besides the natural formations of stalactite and stalagmite. You may also arrange for a family picnic at the picturesque Srisailam Dam.
29. Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
Located 115 km from the capital Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, amidst the north-eastern hills is the laidback town of Ziro, home to the unique Aptani tribe. The town has a hypnotizing natural charm and its scenic mesmerizing beauty comprising of lush bamboo forests, tall green and blue pine trees, picturesque trails and terraced rice fields makes it a virtual magnet for nature photographers, both amateurs and professionals. The weather here remains pleasant throughout the year.Besides, the adventure lovers can have their fill of trekking, jungle camps and explore the rich flora and fauna.
The Talley Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the elusive clouded leopard, is another added attraction of the place.
The Ziro Music Festival was organized for the first time in 2012 and since then has made a name for itself. It is visited by prominent folk artists, besides the regional, national and international music bands and provide the ultimate trip for numerous music lovers. It is an annual fixture that is organized in September. The warm hospitality of the local populace and the delicious local delicacies leave one pining for more.
30. Lunglei, Mizoram
The town of Lunglei or the ‘bridge of rock’ is located 165 km to the south of capital Aizawl, in the state of Meghalaya. The place is rich in astounding scenic natural beauty. It is filled with spots where one may indulge in trekking, other adventure sports and bird watching.
Places worth visiting around this serene and peaceful town are Kawmzawl Park, a park on the top of a hill from where one can ogle at the surrounding beauty; the Saza Wildlife Sanctuary which is called home by animals like leopard, rhesus monkey, barking deer and different birds;the Thorangtlang Wildlife Sanctuary which abounds in wildlife like the tiger, leopard, elephant, Indian bison or gaur, sambhar, hoolock gibbon, wild dog, sloth bear, baFrking deer, leaf monkey etc.
With this, we reach the conclusion of this series but this is not the end as it can never be…So pick up your hiking boots, pick up your backpacks and leave immediately, to explore your land.. the WONDER that is INDIA (with due respects to eminent Indologist and historian, the late A.L.Basham)