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India, the land of the heritage structures, religious places and many cultures, has no dearth of places to visit. The country has so much to offer to locals as well as tourists. Every part of this country is different from mountains in the north, desert in the west, beautiful lakes and deltas in the east and beaches in the south. The mystical rituals and spirituality of this land have always intrigued the west and every year thousands of travellers from around the world visit India. Rajasthan, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra and Delhi are some of the most popular destinations with foreigners but every corner of this land has its own story and uniqueness. Here is our list of 10 of the most beautiful places in India that you must visit. Also Read - Himachal Pradesh Trip: Your Complete Itinerary For a 5-day Solo Journey
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Nubra Valley is famous for Bactrian camels, monasteries and its beautiful landscape. Also known as the Orchard of Ladakh, Nubra is located at a distance of about 150 km from Leh. You can reach Nubra Valley by crossing Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass. The valley lies between Kashmir and Tibet and is surrounded by the majestic Himalayas. Although the land may appear dry and parched from a distance, the wide and flat Nubra Valley is a fertile land with intersecting channels of the Nubra and Shyok rivers. The valley has mainly farmland and is full of greenery during summer.
Apart from its picturesque landscape, the valley also has beautiful Buddhist monasteries. Most people in this valley follow Buddhism and there are many centers of Buddhist learning here. Some of the popular monasteries are Hunder, Diskit, Samstemling and Ensa. Another tourist attraction are the sand dunes that lie between Diskit and Hundar. Tourists visit this cold desert to enjoy a ride on the Bactrian camels and to watch the sun ripping on the sand dunes. The Bactrian camels, which are only found in Hunder, have two humps as compared to other camels found in India, which have only one hump. At one time, these Bactrian camels were the primary mode of transportation, and Nubra was an important stopover on the ancient trade route. The village of Baigdandu is also situated in this region and it is famous for its Pashmina goats.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN NUBRA VALLEY
Diskit: Located on the Shyok River, the village of Diskit is the administrative center of the Nubra Valley. You can reach this village by road from Leh. It is famous for the 350-year-old Diskit Monastery. This dramatically positioned monastery is the oldest and largest one in Nubra. The main feature of the monastery is the 32-meter Maitreya Buddha Statue.
Panamik: Known for its curative hot spring, Panamik is one place you should not miss.
The water from the hot spring, which is located at an elevation of 10,442 feet above sea level, is said to cure rheumatism and contains a high concentration of sulphur. Panamik is also known from its Pashmina goats and Bactrian camels. Situated around 150 km from Leh, Panamik is located close to Siachen glacier, which is the world’s highest battlefield.
Ensa Gompa: Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Ensa Gompa is known for its Buddhist scripture and murals. You can reach Ensa Gompa via Khanrdung La Pass.
Hunder: In the middle of Nubra Valley’s cold desert, Hunder village is known for its sand dunes, the natural beauty of its barren landscape and Bactrian camels. The village is located at a distance of about 160 km from Leh. Here you will find forests full of Leh Berry (sea-buckthorn), which is a medicinal plant rich in nutrients, vitamins and bio-molecules. While here, go for a fun two-hour camel safari on a Bactrian camel. The village is also popular for Hundur Gompa, a Buddhist Monastery, located near Diskit Monastery.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN NUBRA VALLEY
There are not many options for staying in Nubra Valley but there are several hotels in Jammu.
HOW TO REACH NUBRA VALLEY
The nearest airport is Leh and the nearest railway station is in Jammu. You can take a bus or hire a cab to reach Leh and then Nubra Valley.
One of the most stunning parts of the Ladakh region, Leh tends to put a spell on those who visit. Once the capital of the kingdom of Ladakh, Leh is situated at an elevation of 3,524 meters and is also known as the Land of Lamas or Little Tibet because of the strong influence of Tibetan Buddhism. The barren land is dominated by Leh Palace, which is the former palace of Ladakh’s royal family. It is similar in style to Tibet’s Potala Palace, which was the Dalai Lama’s residence until the Tibetan uprising in 1959. The Old Town of Leh has been included in the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 most endangered sites. The place is endangered due to climate change and a change in pattern of settlement.
When you reach Leh, you will be welcomed by fluttering prayer flags and brightly colored gompas. The Indus River meanders through there and sets a beautiful scene along with the rocky ridges and tiny mud-brick houses. Tourists visit Leh to see the Buddhist study centers and monasteries like Sankar Gompa and Shanti Stupa. The place also attracts adrenaline junkies, as it is preferred by many for adventure sports. Leh is famous for river rafting in the Zanskar and Indus rivers as well as high-altitude treks. It also an important trading center and you can buy the best Tibetan jewelry, woolen clothes, handicrafts and beautiful carpets here.
PLACES TO VISIT IN LEH
Shanti Stupa: Located at an elevation of 4,267 meters, Shanti Stupa offers a sweeping view of Leh city and the surrounding mountains. You can reach the stupa via a drivable road and is just five kilometers from Leh city. A flight of 500 steps leads you to the stupa, which is a two-level structure. The first level has a Dharmachakra that features an image of the lord and two deer on each side. The second level depicts the life of Buddha, from birth to death, along with other images of meditating Buddha. The images are very vibrant and colorful. Constructed on a steep hill, Changspa, the white dome looks magnificent in the night. It was constructed by Japanese and Ladakhi Buddhists to promote prosperity and world peace. The stupa is visible from every corner of the city of Leh. For more details, call 1982 252 297.
Namgyal Tsemo Monastery: Known for its three-storey high solid gold idol of Maitreya Buddha, Namgyal Tsemo Monastery was founded in the early 15th century. The monastery is located on top of a mountain and offers panoramic views of the Zanskar mountain range, Indus River and the surrounding area. Founded in 1430 AD by King Tashi Namgyal, the gompa is a mark of respect to Buddhism. The architecture of the gompa is remarkable. Paintings, frescos and statues of Buddha adorn the monastery, which is also known for its one-storey high statues of Avalokitesvara and Manjushri. The place has a temple and assembly hall, and you can visit the monastery only during the morning and evening. The Namgyal Tsemo Palace in the region is another tourist attraction.
Magnetic Hill: This is one of the most interesting places on Earth due to the anti-gravity phenomenon observed in the region. The place has become a major tourist attraction and is located on the Leh-Srinagar national highway. The magnetic hill is at a distance of about 27 km from Leh. You will see your vehicle moving up the magnetic hill, defying the laws of gravity, even when the engine is turned off. Some of the vehicles have gathered a speed of about 20 km per hour on this hill. Not just the vehicles on the road, helicopters and airplanes have also observed this magnetic effect while passing over the hill. According to scientists, the phenomenon is an optical illusion. The exact cause behind the phenomenon is not yet known and this mysterious place continues to attract tourists.
HOW TO REACH LEH
Leh is at an altitude of 3524 metres (11,562 feet) and is connected via National Highway 1D to Srinagar in the southwest, and to Manali in the south via the Leh-Manali Highway. The nearest airport is Leh airport. You can hire a taxi from the airport to your destination.
Located in the northern district of Sikkim, Yumthang Valley is a picturesque grazing pasture surrounded by Himalayan peaks. The place is at a distance of 150 km from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, and at an elevation of 3,564 meters. With colorful Himalayan flowers, a gently flowing river and tree-covered slopes, the extremely beautiful valley has been rightly nicknamed the Valley of Flowers and will leave you enchanted. Each season the colors in the valley are a different shade. In summer, the valley is covered in green velvety grass. Locals take their cattle to graze in the valley and the practice is called yaylag pastoralism. During spring, the valley resembles a huge bouquet with primulas, iris, poppies, rhododendrons and other beautiful flowers bursting into bloom. The monsoon brings in other types of tiny flowers like primroses, cinquefoils, louseworts and cobra-lilies. The valley remains shut during the winter season, which is between December and March and is home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, a must-visit for nature lovers.
Majuli is the world’s largest river island, located on the Brahmaputra River in Assam. It is at a distance of 1,100 km from the mouth of the Brahmaputra. The island has an area of 875 sq km and is home to many migratory birds. Since the 16th century, Majuli has been the cultural capital of the Assamese civilization. The main village here is Naghmar, which hosts all the main festivals, events and prayers. This is also where you should head if you want to learn about neo-Vaishnavite philosophy. A total of 22 Vaishnava Satras are present in the city. The father of Assamese culture, Sankaradeva, established the first center in the 15th century. These centers are a major tourist attraction.
Tourists also throng to Majuli during its festival. People from all over Assam come to visit Majuli to witness the special events held during the festival. Raas Purnima is another festival that is famous among tourists. This festival falls in the Hindu month of Karthik.
PLACES TO VISIT IN MAJULI
Dakhinpat Satra: This socio-religious institution was established in 1584. The center has an ornate gateway with engraved flowers, animals and religious motifs.
HOW TO REACH MAJULI
The nearest airport is in Jorhat and it is well connected to other major domestic airports. From the airport, you need to take a ferry to reach Majuli. There are two ferry rides, one takes an hour to reach the island and the other takes 10 to 15 minutes.
Best-known for Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur is a popular destination in Rajasthan, especially if you want to experience how royalty lived. The second-largest city in Rajasthan, Jodhpur was formerly the capital of the Marwar kingdom. The citys popularity has increased in recent times after the majestic Mehrangarh Fort was featured in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises. Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City, because if the large cluster of blue-painted houses near the fort, and Sun City because of the fact that it is always sunny here. Jodhpur has many magnificent forts, palaces and temples. Apart from heritage sights, the city is a shopper’s delight. Pick up some brightly colored handicrafts, traditional jewelry, Rajasthani textiles, clay figurines and much, much more. The city is also a great place to buy the beautifully tailored Jodhpur jacket. Visit Jodhpur during the famous Marwar festival to see the city in its full glory. The best time to visit is from October to March.
PLACES TO VISIT IN JODHPUR
Mehrangarh Fort: This fort has almost become symbolic of Jodhpur. Located at an elevation of 400 feet, Mehrangarh is named after the sun deity and it is a reflection of Rathore glory. The fort was the seat of the Rathore rulers of the house of Marwar. Rao Jodha, a Rathore ruler, laid the foundation of the fort on May 12, 1459. The fort has 125 feet-high towering battlements of stone. A museum inside the fort gives a glimpse into the golden age of the Rathores. It has a collection of furniture, paintings, musical instruments, palanquins and cannons. There is a gallery called Daulat Khana, which is home to one of the finest collections of Mughal miniature paintings. The popular World Sufi Spirit Festival and the Rajasthan International Folk Festival are held at this fort.
Umaid Bhavan Palace: One of the largest private residences in the world, Umaid Bhavan Palace is divided into three sections, a museum, a heritage hotel and the royal residences. Designed by Henry Vaughan Lancaster, the structure is a cross between a British town hall and Angkor Vat’s Hindu temples. The palace is constructed from yellow sandstone and Maharaja Umaid Singh laid the foundation of the palace on November 18, 1929. The construction was completed in 1945. Built over 26 acres, the palace has two marble squash courts, a billiards room, a durbar hall, a 105-foot high cupola, and an indoor swimming pool. One of the wings was converted into a hotel in 1972 and is managed by ITC Hotels. Stay here to experience what it feels like to live like a royal. The hotel is popular among celebrities like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Eva Herzigova.
HOW TO REACH JODHPUR
The nearest airport is Jodhpur airport, which is just five kilometers from the city. The nearest railway station is Jodhpur Station. From the railway station, board a state bus or hire a cab to reach your destination.
6. Kutch, Gujarat
Surrounded by sea, Kutch is known for its salt flats and shallow wetland. The marshy salt flats look spectacular during the full moon. Kutch is also home to beautiful palaces and ancient temples. The shallow wetland in Kutch is known as the Rann of Kutch and has two divisions, the Little Rann of Kutch and the Great Rann of Kutch. Spread across 7505.22 sq km, the Great Rann of Kutch has a variety of flora and fauna. It is also home to migratory birds like the flamingo. The Little Rann of Kutch is spread across 4,953 sq km. The best time to visit Kutch is during its three-month Rann Utsav festival. Thousands of tourists throng to this amazing white desert to be part of this festival. The colorful attire, folk music and dance make this festival an experience to remember. Dont forget to pick up some clothing with exquisite mirror and embroidery work.
PLACES TO VISIT IN KUTCH
Bhuj: This is the most important city in Kutch and is known as the Jaisalmer of Gujarat. The former capital of Kutch, Bhuj derives its name from the Bhujiyo Dungar hillock, which located at around three kilometers from the city. The city is a fine example of Gujarati architecture and its most interesting feature its maze of alleys. The city is a place to purchase local handicrafts and textiles. The bell tower in Prag Mahal, the Aina Mahal and the museum are some of the major tourist attractions here. Ramkund and Hamirsar Lake are also worth a visit. The best time to visit Bhuj is in the winter.
Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary: This sanctuary is located in the Little Rann of Kutch and it is the only place where you can see Indian wild asses roaming free. Indian wild asses are locally known as khur or ghudkar. The sanctuary was established in 1972 and is home to more than 280 other animals. You can also spot more than 12 species of crocodiles and snakes. As there are no options to eat inside the sanctuary, make sure to carry water and food if you are planning to visit. There are a few restaurants outside the park that serve basic meals.
Dholavira: Located in Khadir Bet, an island in salt plans of Kutch, Dholavira is one of the five largest Harappan sites in the Indian sub-continent. The site is also known as Kotada Timba and was discovered by JP Joshi in 1967. You can see the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization here, like beads, seals, terracotta ornaments and bronze vessels. The site also has the earliest water conservation system in the world. You can visit this site any day without shelling out a dime.
HOW TO REACH KUTCH
The nearest airport and railway station are in Bhuj. You can hire a cab from Bhuj to reach Kutch.
One of the most popular weekend getaways from Mumbai, Matheran is a hill station located just 100 km from the city. Situated on top of the Western Ghats, Matheran has a scenic view of the valley and a very pleasant climate. As automobiles are not allowed in the hill station, it is free of pollution. You can reach the place by pony or horse. Matheran still retains a lot of its vintage charm. For adventure lovers, the hill station offers a variety of adventure sports like trekking, rock climbing and paragliding. Take a ride on the charming toy train that connects Matheran to Neral.
PLACES TO VISIT IN MATHERAN
Echo Point: Echo Point, as the name suggests, is a spot from where you can hear echoes of your voice. It also offers a beautiful view of the valley. The best time to visit this place is between October and November.
Panorama Point: Popularly known as Sunrise Point, Panorama Point is a famous tourist spot. The best time to visit this point is early in the morning or in the evening to witness the spectacular sunrise and sunset.
HOW TO REACH MATHERAN
Matheran can be reached by train. The nearest railway station is Matheran Railway Station and the nearest airport is in Mumbai.
Spread across 160 km, Kanha National Park is the biggest national park in Madhya Pradesh. The park is home to about 300 species of migratory and resident birds. You can also see swamp deer, gaur, chitals, sambhars, sloth bear, leopard and the Royal Bengal tiger. Other animals you can spot here include porcupine, jungle cat, fox, jackal, mongoose, python and monkey. This park is also the inspiration behind Rudyard Kiplings The Jungle Book.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN KANHA NATIONAL PARK
Kanha Museum: Located close to the Kisli gate inside the park, the Kanha museum is where you can find out about different animals. The museum is run by the Forest Department of Madhya Pradesh.
Bamni Dadar: Known as Sunset Point, Bamni Dadar offers a spectacular view during sunset and is the most beautiful region in the park.
HOW TO REACH KANHA NATIONAL PARK
Jabalpur has the nearest airport and railway station. Regular buses from Jabalpur to the national park are available.
Located at the confluence of three rivers, Kundaly, Nallathanni and Madhurapuzha, Munnar is known for its pleasant climate and pristine beauty. The hill station is located in the Idukki district at an elevation of 6,000 feet. The extensive cardamom and tea plantations are the major tourist attraction here. Munnar is the perfect destination for honeymooners, nature and wildlife lovers and adventure enthusiasts. The hill station is particularly famous for the Neelakurinju flower, which blooms once in 12 years. When that happens, the valley and hills are blanketed by the blue flower. The tea estates, waterfalls, valley and rolling hills are enchanting to behold. For adventure lovers, the place offers boating, paragliding and mountain trekking.
PLACES TO VISIT IN MUNNAR
Rajamala Wildlife Sanctuary: Part of the Eravikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajamala Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Idukki and is 15 km from Munnar. The sanctuary is famous for the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. It is also a good place to indulge in rock climbing, rappelling and trekking.
Kanan Devan Tea Museum: Covering an area of 24000 hectares, Kanan Devan Tea Museum is the only tea plantation in Kerala that is accessible to tourists. It is one of the largest plantations in south India and the museum is open between 10 am and 5 pm.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary: Described as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary is Kerala’s first bird sanctuary. Covering more than 25 km on the north side of Periyar River, the sanctuary offers guided tours organized by forest authorities. Take them up on this offer as a trek through the dense forest will be an experience to be remembered.
HOW TO REACH MUNNAR
Cochin International Airport is the nearest airport. You can hire a cab from the airport to reach Munnar. The nearest railway station is Aluva.
Located at the southern-most part of Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu, Dhanushkodi is a ghost town. It is also one of the pitstops on the way to Rameswaram. It is believed that Rama while returning to Rameswaram, crowned Vibhishana here as the king of Lanka. Vibhishana requested Rama to destroy the bridge once his people reached the island safely. So Rama broke the bridge with the end of his bow (dhanush), hence the name Dhanushkodi. However, Dhanushkodi was hit by a cyclone on December 23, 1964, which submerged the town. Soon the town was declared uninhabitable. Later, this place became a tourist spot with its hauntingly beautiful ruins of houses, temple and churches.
HOW TO REACH DHANUSHKODI
The nearest station is Rameswaram. You can reach Dhanushkodi by private vans or cars.