As the editor of a travel magazine, I often meet men and women from other lands who come to India in search of the exotic, the mystic, and perhaps above all, peace. I observe that a great many travelers head toward Rishikesh and Haridwar, Varanasi and Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra. All of these are culture-rich and beautiful, but if you are looking for a deep sense of serenity, let me point you to some places that the crowds often miss, but that are worth placing on your India itinerary.
Nubra valley, Ladakh
Almost on the edge of the Indian map, this quiet valley has only recently become accessible to tourists. It can be reached only by crossing one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world: the Khardung La. The world’s highest battle-field isn’t far from here. Even so, the Nubra valley and its villages are serene and peaceful, with sprawling pasture lands, fields, flowers, and friendly people. You need a permit to stay here and it is given for a maximum of 7 days, but if you make the trip, you will experience deep serenity.
The Backwaters of Kerala
Offbeat or not, it is impossible to strike out God’s Own Country from a list of most serene places in India. Nature has blessed this part of the nation with an abundance of beauty. Summer, winter or monsoon – the canals and waterways never fail to impress you. Rent a houseboat, and sail into the quiet backwaters. Taste local cuisine as you soak in the lush green surroundings. Watch the tiny islands and villages move by. Make friends with the locals and enjoy the simple and peaceful life.
India’s coffee country is fragrant with tranquility. Blessed with mountains, spice plantations, estates, charming villages and home stays run by local families, this is where you could actually do nothing and feel fulfilled. Just a few hours away from Bangalore, this is a gentle stretch of mountain-studded terrain, thick with coconut trees, vanilla, pepper vines, cardamom, orange groves, and yes, coffee. Waterfalls abound, and some homestay resorts are located in the middle of lush plantations, taking you far away from the madding crowd!
Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh
Far from any major towns or cities, amid dense pine forests, Khajjiar is a peaceful paradise indeed. Often referred to as the “mini Switzerland of India,” this tiny hill station in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh is one of the lesser-known but most charming retreats in India. Three ecosystems meet here: lakes, forests and pasture lands. Put on your walking shoes, and stroll along…
Malana, Himachal Pradesh
Yet another gift from the mountains, Malana was untouched by modern civilization for a long time. Known as the “little Greece in Himachal,” the people of this tiny but unique village with about 100 houses believe that they are the descendants of “Alexander the Great.” They are considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. Situated to the north-east of Kullu Valley, isolated from the rest of the world, the village is nestled close to the majestic peaks of Chandrakhani. If you are looking for something totally out-of-the-box, this is your place.
Andretta, Himachal Pradesh
The Kangra valley has always been known to attract artists. Around 200 years ago, it was one of the creative hot-spots. In the modern times, this tradition is being carried on by Andretta, a tiny village home to many artists, 14 km south of Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. It is a potpourri of culture that can definitely inspire you. Tucked away amongst the plains of Kangra valley, it is blessed with an exclusive panorama of the mountains.