While the iconic Taj Mahal, incredible Amber Fort in Jaipur and holy River Ganges in Varanasi easily find their way to the top of every traveller’s wish list, there is so much more to see and do in India that often gets forgotten. In this week’s photo showcase we have highlighted ten incredible off the beaten track experiences and hidden gems in India that are just waiting to be explored, from the fascinating tribal communities of Orissa to serene Dal Lake in Kashmir and the snow-capped peaks of Ladakh.
Start planning your off the beaten track adventure to India now and discover these gems for yourself.
1. Meet the tribes of Orissa
Located on the north eastern coast of India, strewn with meadows, forest and terraced valleys; Orissa is home to a number of colourful tribes. Meet the members of these communities and discover the diversity of race, language and culture that each tribe possesses. Learn about their fascinating customs and browse their wares at tribal markets selling local handicrafts.
2. Cruise Dal Lake in Kashmir
Located at the foot of the Himalayas in the north western part of India, Kashmir has only recently reopened to tourism and is just waiting to be explored. Here travellers can live aboard a houseboat on serene Dal Lake, where they can discover the beautiful terraced Mughal Gardens that line its shores, barter at floating markets and learn about the unique way of life that still prevails here.
3. Go tiger tracking in Ranthambore
With very few places left in the wild where you can still catch a glimpse of this endangered species, Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan is one of the best. Venture down dirt trails onboard a safari canter keeping an eye out for a flash of stripes through jungle foliage, while also spotting some of the park’s other inhabitants along the way.
4. Explore the tea estate of Darjeeling
Sitting against the backdrop of snow-capped Himalayan peaks and surrounded by verdant tea plantations, the scenic hill-station of Darjeeling in West Bengal offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Discover the region’s acclaimed tea estates, producing some of the world’s finest chai and explore its picturesque landscape and many Buddhist monasteries.
5. Explore the snow-capped peaks of Ladakh
Bordering the Tibetan border in the far north eastern reaches of India, Ladakh is a fascinating place to explore. Much of the area has remained untouched for centuries and traditions of Tibetan culture are still practised. Spend your days hiking through otherworldly landscapes, splashed with ancient palaces, mountain-top monasteries and Tibetan gompas, and keep your eye out for the elusive snow leopard that inhabits the region.
6. Wander the sandstone town of Jaisalmer
Set deep within the Thar Desert, the medieval walled sandstone town of Jaisalmer is as exotic and beautiful as it is remote. The old fort city rises up just like a giant sandcastle, its ancient streets and alleyways still preserving a traditional way of life. Explore a tangle of alleyways and streets, taking in ancient temples and palaces, or opt for a camel safari into the surrounding desert.
7. Uncover the delights of Kerala's backwaters
The picturesque backwaters of Kerala are made up of a series of intertwining waterways, lakes and estuaries along the south west coast of India. Spending a night or two onboard a traditional houseboat, travellers can cruise these scenic backwater, gliding past local villages and observing the scenes of every day rural life that take place on its shores.
8. Unwind on the Lakshadweep Islands
Set off the coast of Kerala in south western India, the Lakshadweep Islands are a wonderful hidden gem, akin the beauty and tranquillity of the Maldives. These sparsely populated, idyllic tropical islands offer crystal clear waters, power white sands and pristine coral reefs. While away the days sunbathing on the beach or opt for a number of water activities, from snorkelling to canoeing.
9. Journey to colonial Shimla
While the largest and most famous of the British hill stations and former summer capital of the Raj, the town of Shimla still remains relatively off the beaten track. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas along a crescent-shaped ridge, arrive into Shimla by toy train and explore its main street, lined with stately English-looking houses retaining much of the British flavour that once prevailed here.
10. See the changing of the guard in Wagah
Located in the northwest part of India in the State of Punjab, Amritsar is the holy centre of the Sikh religion. While the glistening waterfront Golden Temple is by far Amritsar’s star attraction, a drive to the Wagah border crossing – connecting India and Pakistan, offers a truly unique experience. Here travellers can witness the fascinating sunset ritual of the changing of the guard.