India is a country that offers a plethora of options for travelers. With stunning beaches, snow-capped mountains, rich culture, ancient monuments and much more, India has countless destinations to add to your ever-growing bucket-list. You might have come across different “touristy” must visit destination on other websites (which are over rated IMO). But here, I’m going to recommend you some of the most interesting and yet, under rated best places to visit in India. Hope you like it.
In this article…
1. Coorg, Karnataka – Sink in the lush greenery & serenity
Best for: Nature lovers, Honeymoon, Adventure
Coorg is lovingly called “The Scotland of India”. This little paradise is located in the picturesque Western Ghats of southwestern Karnataka. The stunning coffee plantations, misty mountains, valleys & spice gardens make it every nature lovers dream getaway. Coorg is also gaining popularity for outdoor adventure activities.
Must visit places: Abbey falls, Namdroling Tibetian Monastery & Golden Temple, Raja’s seat, Talacauvery, Cauvery Nisargadhama, Mandalapatti View point, Pushpagiri Wildlife sanctuary.
Things to do/Activities: Barapole white water rafting, Trekking on Tadiandamol peak, Stay at a Coorg plantation & jungle safari, Day out at Dubare Elephant camp.
Best time to visit: November to April
Watch out for: Heavy rains during the South West monsoon season from June to August
|Nearest airport-Mangalore (90miles/135km away)
|Closest stations are Mysore, Mangalore and Hassan.
|Bus – From major cities check: http://www.ksrtc.in, www.redbus.in
- It is recommended to carry some warm clothing, as Coorg is a hill station.
- Always carry an umbrella whether you’re visiting during the rainy months or not.
- Beware of leeches and small snakes especially in wet grasses during monsoon.
- Get to know the Coorg Kodava culture by taking part in their chief harvest festival called “Puttari” celebrated in September
- Carry a pair of comfortable shoes, as there is plenty of walking and hiking involved during the course of the trip.
- Book your accommodation well in advance as the rates increase during weekends and peak season.
Do not forgot to try the lip smacking delicacies of Coorg.
2. Wagah border, Punjab – Witness the patriotic zest
Best for: Family, History & Culture trip
Wagah border is the only open-road border between India and Pakistan. The main attraction of Wagah is the majestic retreat ceremony that takes place here every evening, which includes the closing of international gates, changing of guards accompanied by the hoisting and retreat of the respective national flags. It’s an extravagant show of patriotism, pomp, and panache from both sides of the border.
Must visit places: Golden temple, Jallianwala Bagh Memorial, Harike Wetland, Maharaja Ranjith Singh museum.
Things to do/Activities: Visit the famous mustard fields of Punjab, Attend a langar (joint meal) at the Golden temple, Grab a bite at the famous Bharawan da Dhaba, Shop for traditional Punjabi juttis.
Best time to visit: October to March.
Watch out for: Extremely high temperatures during April to June.
|The nearest airport-Amritsar (21miles/35km away)
|The closest stations are Amristas and Attari,
|For buses from major cities check: www.rome2rio.com,
- There are no cell phone signals near Wagah border due to security concerns.
- The flag ceremony at Wagah border is held before the sunset, which is normally 4.30pm in winters and 5.30pm in summers. The ceremony lasts for around 45 minutes and is absolutely free for spectators.
- Wagah border is notorious for pickpockets so take extra care of your belongings.
- You can buy CD/DVDs of the entire flag ceremony from vendors around Wagah.
- Be prepared to face heavy traffic jams and delays after the flag ceremony at Wagah.
3. Gandikota Fort, The Grand Canyon of India
Best for: History, Adventure
Located in the secluded village of Kadappa, Gandikota Fort is a perfect place to unwind from the hustle and bustle of the city. The massive fort is surrounded by lush greenery and breath taking views of the mountain. Hike up to the Pennar gorge point to see the amazing view of the Pennar River flowing through the massive cliffs and rocks.
Must visit places: Charminar & the royal tank (inside the fort), Penna river gorge point.
Things to do/Activities: There are many wonderful photographic locations on the way to the fort like the sunflower fields, old villages, windmill etc.
Best time to visit: Throughout the year.
Watch out for: Summer months that can be extremely hot here.
|The nearest airports are- Bangalore, Tirupati & Hyderabad.
|Tirupati and Jammalamadugu are the nearest railway stations.
|It is at a driving distance from cities like Bangalore, Kadappa, Jammalamadugu.
- The fort is located in a remote village with very limited access to shops and restaurants. So make sure to carry necessary food & medicines for the trip in advance.
- Carry a physical map at all times, as mobile signals are weak here.
- The only place to stay near the fort is the Haritha Hotel run by APTDC. Book very well in advance to get a spot. It is also advisable to book the hotel on phone than online.
- You need to do a small hike to reach the Pennar gorge point. Take your time and walk slowly as the rocks & boulders you will be stepping on may be loose. There are no safety railings around the gorges so make sure to watch your steps.
4. Barren Island, Andaman – South Asia’s only active Volcano
Best for: Adventures
Visit the only active volcano in South Asia located in Barren Island, Andaman. True to its name, the island is uninhibited by humans. The waters surrounding Barren Islands are reputed to be among the world’s top scuba diving destinations with clear water visibility, stone formations, manta rays and underwater lava topography. The island can be visited by charted boats and seaplanes only after getting permission from the Forest Department.
Things to do/Activities: Scuba diving, snorkeling
Best time to visit: Mid-January to mid-May
Watch out for: Strong winds & frequent rain from late May to early July
- Seaplanes fly from Port Blair to offer an aerial view of the Barren Island. Click here for more details
- Infiniti live-aboard offers guided diving trips to Barren Islands from February to April from Port Blair. For details check here
- Tour packages to Barren Island are also offered by experienceandamans.com, knowandamans.com, barefootholiday.com
- Travel to Barren Island with a reputed tour operator, as the island is located in a secluded area.
- Check for the weather conditions in Barren Island before travelling.
5. Gavi, Kerala – Hidden eco-tourism destination
Best for: Family, Honeymoon, Adventure
Spread across the beautiful Periyar Tiger Reserve, lies Gavi, a quaint, quiet, beautiful and pristine forest haven located in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. It’s a splendid place to be visited once by all nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Gavi Eco-Tourism project introduced by the Government has caught the attention of tourists around the world, so visit this place before it gets too touristy and crowded.
Must visit places: Paradise Cove at Ninnumulli, Kullur, Kochu Pampa, Pullumedu and Pachakanam are some of the adjacent places that are worth going to.
Things to do/Activities: Hike to Pullumedu peak, Meenar, Chenthamara Kokka and Valley view for spectacular views of deep ravine and forest, Jeep safari along the jungle road, Gavi lake boating, Visit the animal museum, Gavi wildlife exploration, Walk through the spice gardens.
Best time to visit: September to February.
Watch out for: Heavy rain during monsoon from June to September.
|The nearest airports are-Cochin Internationa Airport and Madurai Airport.
|The closest stations are-Ernakulam, Kottayam and Madurai Railway station.
|For bus services, check www.keralartc.com. Gavi is 28kms from Vandiperiyar (on NH-212) and 51kms from Thekkady.
- Gavi eco-tourism is an ideal way to explore this nature haven. Under this program multiple tours, day trips and jungle camping are organized for tourist. For details check here.
- Leeches are found around the forest area, so it’s advisable to carry long boots for hiking and walking around.
- Carry adequate woolen clothes, as it can get quite cold in winter.
6. Thar Desert, Rajasthan – Camp amidst the sand dunes
Best for: Family, Adventure
Thar, also known as The Great Indian Desert, is located in the state of Rajasthan and extends to parts of Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat. The vast wilderness, beautiful san dunes, diverse ecosystem and the vibrant desert culture leaves every tourist mesmerized.
Things to do/Activities: Visit to Thar is incomplete without a camel safari and camping under the stars. Other must do activities include Sand dune bashing, exploring the desert wildlife, visiting desert villages and sunset/sunrise tours.
Best time to visit: October to March
Watch out for: Scorching heat during summer
|Nearest airport – Jodhpur
|Closest railway station –Jaisalmer and Bikaner.
|Nearest bus stand – Jaisalmer.
- If you are interested in adventure activities, check out this site.
- Desert festival is organized in the months of February and March. If you are around this time, you would not want to miss the folk dances, camel races and other cultural events.
- Do not forget to explore the wonderful attractions in the desert cities of Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner.
7. Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh – A mystical wonderland
Best for: Nature lovers, Family
Named a World Heritage Site for its soul captivating beauty, Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh is every peace seeker’s dream destination. A layered landscape of rice fields, crystal clear rivers and picture-postcard villages of the Apatani tribes are the highlights of Ziro valley.
Must visit places: Apatani villages, Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Meghna cave temple, visit Ziro Puto where India’s army cantonment was established in 1960s.
Things/Activites to do: Hike up to Kile Pakho to see the spectacular view of Ziro’s plateau and the snow clad Himalayan ranges, Midey is another place for hiking & trekking and to see the pine trees, Take a stroll on the Bamboo Grove, Tarin fish farm and Tipi Orchid Research Centre.
Best time to visit: February to October
|The nearest airport is at Tezpur (180miles/300km away). However, flying out of Guwahati would be the best option.
|The nearest railway station is at Tezpur.
|State Govt. and private buses are available from Itanagar, North Lakhimpur and Itanagar.
- Indian citizens need to obtain Inner line permit to visit the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
- Leeches are very common in the rain forests of Ziro. If you are planning to hike make sure you carry leech protection gears like gumboots, hat, leech guard & salt.
- Carry light woolen clothes for winter, which is from December to January.
- If you are a music lover, try to visit Ziro in the month of September to attend India’s greatest outdoor music festival -Ziro Festival of Music (ZFM).
- Ditch the hotels and stay with an Aptani family to understand their lives and culture. For traditional home stays, contact Narang Tam (+91 9402464841), Guesthouse with modern facilities, contact Kago Kampu at Abasa Home stay (03788-225561). For tour packages check
8. Sundarbans, West Bengal – World’s largest Mangrove forest
Best for: Family, Adventure
The largest mangrove forest in the world, Sundarbans is also known for the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger, meandering waterways, aquatic species and rustic village life. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sundarbans is a nature lover’s delight and every photographers dream.
Must visit places: Sundarbans Tiger reserve, Sajnekhali bird sanctuary, Netidhopani & Sudhanyakhali watchtower, Nilkamalor Hiron Point and Katka viewpoint, Tin Kona Island, Dublar char island.
Things/Activities to do: Wildlife safaris, Bird watching, Tiger tours, wildlife photography, nature walks.
Best time to visit: September to March.
|The nearest airport is in Kolkata (112km away)
|The nearest railway station is at Canning and Tezpur.
|A well-laid roadway network connects Sundarbans to Kolkata. You can also get buses from Namkhana, Sonakhali, Raidhighi, Canning and Najat.
- This place gets crowded during weekends and vacations, so try to visit it on a normal working day.
- Try to book the tour through a local tour operator to get cheaper and better deals.
- For adventure tour packages check www.wbtourism.gov.in, thewildlifeofindia.com, www.tourdesundarbans.com
9. Gokarna, Karnataka- Palm trees, Blue Sea and Golden sands
Best for: Honeymoons, Adventures, Pilgrimage
Situated on the coast of Karwar, Gokarna is a small town in Karnataka, primarily famous for the pristine beaches and temples. Unlike Goa, Gokarna is not very touristy which makes it an ideal place to unwind and relax by enjoying the nature in its purest form.
Must visit places: Kudle beach, Om beach, Half moon beach, Mahabaleshwara temple, Murudeshwara temple, Anshi National Park, Lalguli falls, Kumta.
Things/Activities to do: Hike and explore the unique rock formations at Yana, Banana boat ride, parasailing and snorkeling at Om beach, Go for a beach hiking, Enjoy an Ayurvedic massage, Explore the night life in Gokarna.
Best time to visit: October to March
Watch out for: Warm weather from May to June
|Nearest airport-Dabolim, Goa(150km)
|Closest station is at Ankola, about 20km from Gokarna.
|KSRTC and other private buses have services form major cities to Gokarna.
- Due to the hippie culture & lifestyle, it’s common to see a lot of tourists drinking & smoking in Gokarna. Though they could be harmless, it’s always a good idea to be cautious and avoid walking alone at night or after dark.
- Narcotics’ trafficking has become a serious issue in Gokarna. Hence you will find Police checkpoints in many places.
10. Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujrat- Travel back in time to witness history
Best for: Family, Photography tours
Rani Ki Vav or the Queen’s Step Well in one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture and reflects the sculpting skills of artisans of ancient era. As a latest addition to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, Patan never stops amazing people with its rustic old town charm and wonderful monuments.
Must visit places: Rani Ki Vav, Sahastralinga Talav, Khan Sarovar, Hemachandracharya Gyan Mandir, Patola Saree making units.
Best time to visit: October to March
Watch out for: Extremely hot weather from March to mid June
|Nearest airport-Ahmadabad (125km)
|Patan is linked by rail with Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mahesena. There are 6 local trains daily between Mahesena and Patan
|State Government and private luxury coaches connect Patan with other major cities in Gujrat.
- Try to visit Patan during the month of December or January to witness the extravagant Rani Ki Vav
- Opt for a guided tour to understand the historic importance ancient culture of Patan.
- For tour details check ranikivav.org, www.gujrattourism.com
11. Auli, Uttarakhand – India’s ultimate skiing destination
Best for: Adventures
Auli is one among India’s best skiing destinations with 2500 to 3000 meters high skiing slopes that gives tough competition to various international skiing destinations. Bounded by the snowy peaks of the mighty Himalayas, this hilly terrain offers the enchanting sceneries of oak fringed slopes and coniferous forests.
Must visit places: Auli artificial lake, Gorson Bugyal, Chattrakund, Kwani Bugyal, Chenab Lake.
Things to do/Activities: Visit Auli Ski Resort for skiing or enroll in ski course, Take a ride on the longest ropeway in Asis located in Joshimath, Go for a hike through some of the best hiking trails-Gorson, Tali, Kuari Pass, Khulara and Tapovan.
Best time to visit: Auli has cool climate throughout the year. However, the best time for skiing and sight seeing would be from November to March
Watch out for: Extremely cold weather during winter (November to February) with temperature dipping below -8 degree Celsius.
|Nearest airport-Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun (286km)
|The nearest railway station is at Haridwar (289km)
|Regular bus services are available from Delhi, Dehradun, Rishikesh and Haridwar to Joshimath, which is 13km away from Auli.
- For trekking and adventures activities check trekkinginuttarakhand.com, www.auliadventure.com, www.eskinoadventure.com, www.thrillophilia.com, www.uttarakhandtourism.gov
- Skiing enthusiast should not miss the Auli Skiing Festival that is held every year in February/March.
12. Chembra Lake, Kerala – The heart shaped lake
Best for: Honeymoon, Adventure
Chembra Lake is a heart-shaped naturally formed water body that is located on the way to the Chembra Peak. Travelers from all over the workd visit this place for its enthralling views, salubrious weather and serene atmosphere. Chembra peak is the highest peak in Waynad, which is also a popular trekking trail in Kerala.
Must visit places: Banasura Sagar Dam, Pakshipathalam Bird Sanctuary, Soochippara Falls, Kuruvadweep, Edakkal cave, Muthanaga wildlife sanctuary.
Things to do/Activities: Hike to the Chembra Peak, Trek to the Lakkidi viewpoint, Enjoy boating at Pookode Lake, Stay in a tree house.
Best time to visit: November to April
Watch out for: Heavy rains during South-West monsoon from June-September and North-East monsoon from October to November.
|Nearest airport-Calicut International Airport (65miles)
|The nearest railway station is Kozhikode(56miles)
|Both Government and private buses are run from Kerala and Karnataka to Chembra. You can get down at Kalpatta and travel 1 hour to Chembra.
- Chembra Peak trekking time is from 7am to 2pm. It is ideal to start trekking early in the morning as the climb-up becomes arduous in the hot afternoon.
- One needs to get permit for trekking from the forest office located in the Chembra estate. On the spot permits are given for day treks.
- You will be accompanies by a trekking guide for the trip.
- Total distance of the trek is 14kms (round trip). It would take around 6 hours including breaks.
- Camping is not allowed at Chembra Peak.
- Carry some high-energy snacks and 4 litres of water per head for the trek.
13. Kaas Plateau, Satara – The valley of flowers
Best for: Family
Kaas Plateau in Maharashtra, offers a visual treat when the entire region is carpeted with flowers of every hue, which typically blooms during August-September every year. The plateau is spread across 100 hectare with more than 450 different species of flowers, orchids and carnivorous plants. It was declared as a bio-diversity site by the UNESCO.
Must visit places: Kaas Lake, Vajraj waterfalls, Paabal waterfalls.
Things to do/Activities: Hike around the meadow to enjoy the wonderful scenery and explore the flora.
Best time to visit: Late August to September.
|Nearest airport-Pune Airport (148 km)
|The nearest railway station is Satara (30km)
|It is at a driving distance from Pune.
- Carry some light jackets as this place is pretty windy and chilly at all times.
- Apart from homestays there are no hotels in Kaas Plateau. The nearest hotels and lodges can be found at Satara.
- Be careful while hiking/walking because the meadow takes sharp dips suddenly.
- Trampling or plucking flowers is strictly prohibited.
- For details check kas.ind.in
14. Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu – The lost city
Best for: Family
Dhanushkodi is a small, sparsely populated beach town on the coast of Tamil Nadu. Dhanushkodi redefines the term “isolation” after it was wiped out by a devastating cyclone in 1946. While the rest of the country is vying to get ahead in the race for prosperity, this town seems frozen in the history, reflecting its grandeur and beauty.
Must visit places: Pamban Island, Adam’s bridge, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, Dhanushkodi beach, Church and station ruins.
Best time to visit: October to February
|Nearest airport-Madurai Airport (198 km)
|The nearest railway station is Rameshwaram (18 km)
|Regular buses are available from Rameshwaram and other major cities in Tamil Nadu
- Eating options in Dhanushkodi are very limited. Except for a few beach shacks and snack vendors, findind proper restaurants can be challenging.
- Dhanushkodi is relatively untouched by commercialization hence it lacks multiple accommodation options.
15. Udaipur, Rajasthan – City of lakes and romance
Best for: Honeymoon, Families
Proffering a perfect blend of culture, history and traditions, the gorgeous city of Udaipur makes for the perfect honeymoon destination, culture centre and face of Rajasthan. The city is known for its rich architectural grandeur, beautiful palaces, scenic landscape and beautiful lakes.
Must visit places: Lake Palace, City Palace, jag Mandir, Lake Pichola, Bagore ki Haveli, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Sajjan Garh, Shilpgram, Saheliyon ki Bari, Moti Magri, Ahar, Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum, Vintage Classic Cars Museum, Mansapurna Karni Ropeway, Udaipur Solar Observatory.
Best time to visit: October to March
Watch out for: Summer months between April to September are scorching hot.
|Nearest airport-Maharana Pratap Airport(12km away).
|Udaipur is well connected with other cities of Rajasthan as well as India.
|Udaipur had brilliant road connectivity with almost all major cities in India. The frequency of state and private buses are awesome and regular.
- If you are visiting with your family then do visit Apani Dhani Eco Lodge for variety of fun activities and authentic Rajasthan experience.
- Do go for the Camel Safari and Jeep Safaris to explore the outskirts of Udaipur.
- Make your hotel bookings in advance as Udaipur is a hot tourist spot.
16. Kochi, Kerala – Queen of the Arabian Sea
Best for: Honeymoon, Family
Kochi is a vibrant city nestled between the Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west. The history and development of this lovely seaside city has been shaped by the culture of its settlers including Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese. Kochi is a unique and charming amalgam of various cultures, historic buildings, and pilgrimage sites.
Best time to visit: October to February
Must visit places: Cherai Beach, Fort Kochi, Jewish Synagogue and Jew Town, Dutch Palace, Bolgatty Palace, Hill Palace Museum, Willingdon Island, Athirapally Falls, Vypeen Island Zone.
Things/Activities to do: Explore the colonial buildings & lifestyle in Mattancherry, View sunset at the Marine Drive, Stroll around Fort Kochi and enjoy the beautiful sight of the Chinese fishing net, Take a backwater tour, Take a ride on the City Water bus boat to explore the backwaters & village life of Kochi, Experience Ayurvedic massage, Spend a day at the amusement park-Wonder la.
Watch out for: Heavy rain during monsoon season- June to October.
|Nearest airport- Kochi Internation Airport is 30km away from the city.
|The three main railway stations in Kochi are: Ernakulam Junction(main station), Ernakulam Town and Kochi Harbour Terminus.
|KSRTC and other private luxury coach services are available to/from all major cities of South India from Kochi. Check www.keralartc.com, www.kalladatravels.com
- Expect traffic and delays if you are in visiting Kochi during the monsoon season (June to October).
- Always carry mosquito repellent or sprays as Kochi, particularly in monsoon is invaded by a sea of mosquitoes!
- Avoid Fort Kochi beach and Marine drive on weekends, as it gets really crowded.
- Jewtown and Mattancherry are the best places to buy spices and handicrafts.
- Kochi is also referred as Cochin or Ernakulam.
17. Gangtok, Sikkim – Snow-capped Mountains and Valleys
Best for: Honeymoon, Family, Adventure, Spiruality & Meditation
Gangtok-the capital city of Sikkim is situated on a ridge at a height of 5500 feet. Nestled in the clouds and surrounded by the plush greenery, deep valleys and scenic views of Kanchenjunga Mountains, the beautiful hill town is a business, political, cultural and spiritual hub of the state.
Best time to visit: October to June
Must visit places: Rumtek Monastery, Himalayan Zoological Park, Nathula Pass (Indo-Chine border), Tsomgo Lake, Tashi View Point, Phurchachu Hot Spings.
Things/Activities to do: River rafting in Teesta River, Enjoy Gangtok’s bird’s eye view from a Ropeway Cablecar Ride, Yak Safari, Kanchenjunga trek, Paraglinding, Attend the International Flower Festival in May, Meditate at the monasteries, Shopping at MG Marg, Visit the Mangyal Institute of Tibetology.
|The Nearest airport is in Bagdogra, West Bengal (124km away)
|The nearest railway station is in New Jalpaiguri, Siliguri (117km).
|Sikkim State transport buses are available between Gangtok and Siliguri. Private buses are also available from Siliguri and Bagdogra.
- Try to visit Gangtok during these popular festivals- Pong Labsal festival, Gangtok food and cultural festival, Hee Bermiock Heritage & Tourism Festival, Khangchendzonga Tourists Festival, Lampokhari Tourism Festival, Mangan Music festival, Ravangla Festival.
- Nathula Pass is open for Indian nationals on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. The visitors need to get a permit to visit Nathula through a registered and recognized Travel Agency. Foreign nationals are not allowed to visit Nathula.
- Nathula is located on a very high altitude so be aware of the reduced oxygen level as you go higher. It is also advisable to carry think woolen clothes and gloves to protect yourself.
- Do not forget to try the delicious Sikkimese cuisines such as Momos, Thukpa and Wontons.
- For tourism and adventure tours check sikkimtourism.gov.in, www.thrillophilia.com, www.paraglidingsikkim.com, www.esikkimtourism.in
Image courtesy – Manjith Babu, Bhavana, Ram, Souvik, Sandeep Sarkar, Shahnawaz Barnard, Shantanu Das, Dushyant Patel, Jasminder Singh Oberoi, Rohan Sangodkar, Sandeep Nagar, Uttam Pegu, Charls Thomas, Atul Chauhan