Unseen passage

By: | Published: December 13, 2015 12:07 AM

Did you know that Maharashtra has its own Mount Everest? Or that a quiet little corner of the north-east is home to India’s largest river island?

Did you know that Maharashtra has its own Mount Everest? Or that a quiet little corner of the north-east is home to India’s largest river island? From national parks and hill stations to pristine beaches and quaint hamlets, here are 10 unseen and unexplored locations from across India for your year-end break. Compiled by Nitin Sreedhar:

YUSMARG, J&K

Picture this: acres of green land, a small lake and pine trees. And to top it off, a spectacular view of mountains covered with snow. That is Yusmarg for you. Approximately 47 km from Srinagar and located in Badgam district, Yusmarg is one of the lesser-known attractions of Jammu & Kashmir. In Kashmiri, Yusmarg means ‘the meadow of Jesus’. No wonder then that the picturesque locations and a peaceful environment give the place a heavenly feel.

How to reach
You can fly down, or take a train, to Srinagar. From there, the best way to reach Yusmarg is to hire a taxi.

Things to enjoy
Yusmarg is renowned for its adventurous trekking routes and horse-riding. You can visit the Doodh Ganga lake and the Sang-e-Safed valley. Other activities include fishing, skiing, etc. It is also a perfect picnic spot.

Accommodation cost
Rs 2,400-Rs 7,900 per night

CHITRAKOOT, Madhya Pradesh

When you arrive in Chitrakoot, be ready to be engulfed by mythology, religion and culture. It is said that Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman spent more than 11 years of their 14-year exile period here. Also called the ‘hill of many wonders’, Chitrakoot is where the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh incarnated. Today, this peaceful town, located north of the Vindhyas, attracts visitors seeking solace and inspiration, and the temples, shrines and ghats here provide just that.

How to reach
The nearest airport is Khajuraho (185 km), which is connected with Delhi and Agra, and the nearest railway station is Chitrakoot Dham (Karwi). Or you can travel from Lucknow by road, which takes around five hours. There are also regular bus services from Allahabad, Jhansi, Varanasi and Kanpur.

Things to enjoy
A visit to Ramghat, the collective name of the ghats along the Mandakini river, is a must. You can also go boating on the Mandakini. Another spiritual place near Chitrakoot is Janaki Kund, a serene stretch of the Mandakini river surrounded by trees on both sides.

Accommodation cost
Rs 1,200-Rs 2,500 per night

TARKARLI, Maharashtra

Located in the Malvan taluka of Sindhudurg district, Maharashtra, the serene and unexplored white sand beach of Tarkarli is renowned for its spotless waters and long coastline. Despite being close to Goa, Tarkarli has its own charm, owing to warm Malvani hospitality and a calm atmosphere. Located at the confluence of Karli River and the Arabian Sea, this place is famous for its Ramnavmi Utsav, which is celebrated every year in the Mahapurush temple.

How to reach
The nearest airport is Dabolim, Goa. If you prefer travelling by train, Sindhudurg and Kudal are the nearest stations. You can also drive down from Mumbai or Pune.

Things to enjoy
Apart from usual sightseeing, you can relax on the beach and indulge in a bit of sailboat-spotting. Adventure junkies can take part in water-sports on the beach. If you are a marine life enthusiast, a visit to the nearby dolphin reef is a must. Malvani cuisine is also a big highlight.

Accommodation cost
Rs 870-Rs 7,000 per night

MAJULI, Assam

Nestled in the Brahmaputra river, Majuli, India’s largest river island, is located in Jorhat district of Assam. It is inhabited by the Mising tribes from Arunachal Pradesh, which immigrated here centuries ago. Saint-scholar Sankardeva, who preached a monotheist form of Hinduism called Vaishnavism, established many monasteries and hermitages here, known as satras.

How to reach
You will first have to reach Jorhat, which is 20 km away, and from there take a ferry ride to Majuli. To reach Jorhat, you can take one of the daily flights from Shillong or Kolkata. If travelling by train, you can reach Guwahati and then catch another train to Jorhat.

Things to enjoy
You can visit the satras—the prominent ones include Auniati, Kamalabari, Dakhinpat, Garamur and Natun Kamalabari—which house many religious and cultural relics and artefacts.

Accommodation cost
Rs 1,191-Rs 3,538 per night

HORSLEY HILLS, Andhra Pradesh

Horsley Hills—named after WD Horsley, the collector of Kadapa district in the 1800s—is a charming hill station in Madanapalle taluka of Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh. With mesmerising views and thick vegetation, the best thing about Horsley Hills is its weather, which remains pleasant throughout the year, with temperature mostly hovering in the 15-25 degrees Celsius range.

How to reach
The nearest airport is Tirupati and the closest railway station is Manapalle. You can catch the state transport buses from these places to Horsley Hills. You can also drive down from Bengaluru, a distance of around 165 km.

Things to enjoy
Relax and enjoy the view. If you want to head out, nearby locations include Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary, Mallama Temple and Thimmamma Marrimaanu, which, the locals claim, is the world’s biggest banyan tree.

Accommodation cost
Rs 900-Rs 2,500 per night

ABBOTT MOUNT, Uttarakhand

On the eastern side of the Kumaon hills is Abbott Mount, a tranquil hill station that offers astounding views of the snowcapped mountains of the Himalayas. It is named after John Harold Abbott, a British businessman. The cool climate, beautiful cottages, trails and surroundings of deodar and pine forests lend an old-world charm to this place.

How to reach
The nearest airport is Pantnagar (180 km), which is well connected with Delhi and Chandigarh. Tanakpur (80 km) and Kathgodam (163 km) are the two closest railway stations. If travelling by road, buses are available up to Lohaghat, around 122 km away, from where you can hire shared taxis.

Things to enjoy
The woods and thick forests offer an excellent opportunity for activities like trekking, photography and
bird-watching. Even a simple walk through Abbott Mount can be a pleasing experience. A nearby attraction is Vanasur ka kila, considered to be demon Vanasur’s capital, whom Lord Krishna defeated in a battle.

Accommodation cost
Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000 per night

BHANDARDARA, Maharashtra

With green hills, gushing waterfalls, paddy fields and a dam, Bhandardara is a preferred destination for anyone looking to get away from the chaos and noise of the city. Located to the north of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, Bhandardara is tranquil and peaceful. In fact, legend has it that saint Agasti meditated here for a year, surviving only on water and air.

How to reach
The nearest airport is Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, 185 km away. The nearest railway station is Igatpuri. If you are travelling by road, you can drive down from Mumbai or Pune.

Things to enjoy
One of the biggest attractions in Bhandardara is Wilson Dam, considered one of the oldest of its kind in the country. Another option is to trek to Mount Kalsubai, known as the ‘Everest of Maharashtra’—its summit is situated at an elevation of 5,400 ft, the highest point in Maharashtra . You can also visit the Amruteshwar temple in nearby  Ratanwadi.

Accommodation cost
Rs 1,470-Rs 9,350 per night

FAGU, Himachal Pradesh

Hidden between other, more popular destinations and valleys of Himachal Pradesh, Fagu, around 22 km from Shimla, is a small yet beautiful hamlet along the Hindustan-Tibet road. The town is peppered with clusters of fruit gardens, terraced fields and apple orchards. The surrounding hillside is mostly covered in fog because of which, it is said, the place is so named. About 1,000 ft higher than the crowded Shimla, Fagu offers a perfect getaway for those who love the countryside.

How to reach
Jubbar-Hatti, 45 km away, is the closest airport. The nearest railhead is Shimla. If you are planning to reach by road, you can drive down from Chandigarh (139 km) or Delhi (392 km).

Things to enjoy
This small town is not overcrowded and is close to many major attractions. Kufri, for instance, is just 6 km away. There are also many spots amid the snow-clad mountains, orchards and forests that make for ideal picnic locations.

Accommodation cost
Rs 1,800-Rs 17,000 per night

SIMLIPAL NATIONAL PARK, Odisha

If you want to sit amid thick green forests and spot a bit of wildlife, then pack your bags and head to Simlipal National Park. Located in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, Simlipal is home to royal Bengal tigers, wild elephants, gaurs (Indian bison) and chausinghas (four-horned antelope), among other wildlife. The park remains open for visitors from the beginning of November till the onset of monsoons. However, since this is a wildlife location, it is important that you take necessary precautions.

How to reach
The nearest airports are Bhubaneswar (270 km) and Kolkata (240 km), and the nearest railway station is Balasore (60 km from Baripada, the district headquarters of Mayurbhanj). By road, you can drive down from Baripada.

Things to enjoy
A jungle safari is a must, of
course, to enjoy the abundance of flora and fauna that the park is famous for. Then there are the two scenic waterfalls at Barehipani and Joranda. But more than anything else, just enjoy the fresh air and silence, and the chirping of the birds.

Accommodation cost
Starting from Rs 1,214 per night

ZIRO, Arunachal Pradesh

Rice fields, pine hills and intricate village architecture—these are the words you can relate with Ziro, a quaint little town in the lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. One of the state’s oldest towns, Ziro, situated at an altitude of 1,500 m above sea level, is home to the Apatani tribe. From Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary to the Kile Pakho ridge, Ziro has some beautiful places to visit.

How to reach
By air, the best option is to reach Tezpur, the closest airport. Tezpur is also the nearest railway station. Government buses are available from the state capital Itanagar.

Things to enjoy
Trekking through Ziro will take you to various paddy fields and pine groves. You can also visit New Palin, a bustling town in the nearby Kurung Kumey district.

Accommodation cost
Rs 1,032-Rs 3,325 per night

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