It's already the end of the year, and when I look back, the traveller in me can't help but wish that I had explored more. If only I had taken the last minute trip to Mashobra to watch the snow fall or extended my weekend getaway to Goa into a workation, I'd be over the moon! I did unlock a number of travel milestones, but in this world that's so big and beautiful, no amount of travelling is enough. So, to keep my travels more streamlined, I've shortlisted 23 unique experiences in India that I need to have next year and so should you.
1. Stay in an Igloo
Where: Sethan Village, Himachal Pradesh
Saying that Sethan village gets blanketed in snow during winter is nothing but a massive understatement. The village receives more than 7ft of snowfall which has led to the creation of an Igloo village where travellers can experience living in a real Igloo! Now there's no need to spend a fortune to visit Norway since you can get the igloo experience just an overnight bus ride away!
2. Meet a head-hunter tribe
Where: Mon, Nagaland
The Konyak tribe of Nagaland has long been infamous for their tradition of head-hunting. Known to be fierce warriors, the tribe men took pride in slashing off the heads of enemies and hanging them in Morungs as a symbol of pride. You can meet the tribe and are sure to be left fascinated by their tribal jewellery as well as facial and hand tattoos.
3. Drive between an ocean and a river
Where: Kundapura, Karnataka
The village and beach of Marvanthe is a destination that needs to top your bucket list especially if you are a road-trip enthusiast. The place offers a unique experience of driving in the middle of a vast blue sea on one side and a river on the other. The Edappally Panvel highway stretches all along the Marvanthe Beach and makes for a memorable drive.
4. Spot a Snow Leopard
Where: Kibber, Spiti Valley
This is one of the most elusive creatures in the world, and a winter trip to Spiti will bring you closer to this beautiful beast. Most Snow Leopard spotting expeditions begin from Kibber, and it can take anywhere between one to infinite attempts to spot the leopard. The experience is sure to be as overwhelming as it is difficult.
5. Try the world's spiciest chilly in Assam
Where: North-east Indian states
The Bhut Jolokia, the 'ghost chilli' or the Naga Jolokia has been named after the fierce warriors of Nagaland, and rightly so. The hottest chilly in India is said to be 400 times hotter than tobasco sauce! If you dare to test your taste buds, then visit Assam, Manipur or Arunachal to give it a try.
6. Live inside a 12th Century fort
Where: Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan
This is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan, dating back to 1156 AD. It is also one of the very few living forts of the world. A significant population of the old city's population still resides within. The fort is so huge that you will even find hostels and hotels located inside! If you have ever wanted to experience the life of royals, this is the best place to do it.
7. Visit the waterfall that flows upwards
Where: Naneghat, Maharashtra
Situated just three hours away from Mumbai, the Naneghat Waterfall is a beautiful haven where a strange phenomenon takes place. The cascading waterfall does not fall down, like it should, instead it zooms upwards! This phenomenon takes place during monsoon when the speed and pressure of water are so high that it sends the water zooming upwards!
8. Go kayaking and watch the sea glisten with streaks of silver
Where: Havelock Island
If you're in Havelock during the right time of the month, you can opt for a kayaking experience after sunset where you can watch nature's most stunning phenomenon – bio-luminescence. On a dark night, the phytoplanktons light up the water and it is a sight to behold. The silver water against a starry night sky is the stuff that dreams are made of!
9. Demolish an entire Rajasthani Thali
Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan
Rajasthan is known for its rich cuisine and that is evident in its delicious thali. Complete with delicacies such as dal baati churma, kadhi, gatta-saag, ker saangri, kachori, laal maas, finished with a sweet such as ghevar, the thali is the ultimate gourmet experience.
10. Witness live exorcism at this temple
Where: Mehendipur Balaji Temple, Rajasthan
What's India without its belief in all that is supernatural? The Mehendipur Balaji Temple in Dausa District of Rajasthan, dedicated to Lord Hanuman is flocked by travellers and devotees from all around the world. It is believed that the temple is bestowed with the power to relieve its visitors of black magic, ghosts and evil spirits. There is a separate section in the temple where only the supposed possessed are treated. If you want to visit this section, be prepared to witness people shrieking and banging their heads on walls.
11. Explore this village known for black magic
Where: Mayong, Assam
This village in Assam is known as the Land of black magic and is infamous for being the residence of witches and magicians! There are a host of stories about people disappearing into thin air, being transformed into animals, and magic and sorcery being transfered from one generation to the other. Legend has it that the village also witnesses human sacrifices.
12. Go space-ship spotting
Where: Chandratal, Spiti Valley
The moon-lake situated in Spiti Valley may be a challenge to reach, but once you're there, there's much more than just its enchanting landscape to marvel at. Legend has it that the lake is home to fairies who tend to steal things for every visitor to Chandratal. Apart from this, there have been numerous reports of people spotting a space-ship-like object hovering over the mountains surrounding the lake.
13. Stay in a tree-house
Where: Jibhi, Tirthan Valley
Staying in a tree-house is everyone's childhood dream, and this dream finds fruition in reality at The Hidden Burrow in Jibhi. Book a room in the tree-house and cozy it up as you sip on a mug of hot chocolate and watch snow flakes descend slowly to cover everything in a blanket of white.
14. Watch the milky way shoot up in the sky
Where: Nako, Kinnaur
Do you love star-gazing but get to see nothing thanks to the smog and light-pollution that suffocates our cities? You must visit Spiti Valley, where clear skies give way to not just shooting stars but also the milky way, galaxies and even planets! Head to a secluded spot, grab your telescope and simply watch the sky put on a magic show!
15. Get high on chhang
If you want to taste the local flavours of India, you must try chhang, a millet-based Tibetan alcoholic beverage. While it is served cold during the summer, it is during winter that having this drink is a real treat! This fermented drink is served in a huge wooden mug and sipped through a bamboo tube.
16. Learn to conquer the mighty waves while surfing
The freedom of working from home affords us the privilege of indulging in travel that is immersive in nature. So why not use this time to opt for week-long surfing lessons in the beautiful ocean of Pondicherry? Check into Kallilay Surf School where you can unleash the adventurer in you. Surf waves by the day and by night, explore the whimsical little town and interact with wonderful people!
17. Watch the sky light up in a million lanterns
Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan
One of the most romantic cities of the country, Jaipur becomes even more dreamy during the kite festival, Makar Sankranti that is held on January 14 every year. While the skyline of the city is dressed in colourful kites by day, it is at night that it really springs to life. Every household lights up lanterns and releases them into the sky. To witness this view, the best seat in the house is the Nahargarh Fort.
18. Cruise on a house-boat
A network of lakes and brackish lagoons located parallel to the Arabian Sea, the Kerala Backwaters offer a luxurious experience in the wild. Rent a luxury house boat which is complete with bedrooms, living area, kitchen and bathroom, and enjoy exploring the rural, untouched Kerala that otherwise remains concealed from the eyes of tourists. This experience is ideal for honeymooners.
19. Scuba-dive to explore the Coral Reefs
Where: Andaman Islands
If you're travelling all the way to Andaman Islands, you might as well experience a standout experience that it offers – scuba diving. With beautiful coral reefs and marine life to explore, the scuba diving experience here is like no other. You can scuba dive at Neil Islands, Havelock Island, Port Blair and North Point in Cinque Island, and I'm sure you'll fall in love with the mysteries of the underwater world.
20. Experience a farmstay in the interiors of Leh
The Phyang and Phey villages offer farmstays that are open to travellers, guests and volunteers from around the world. Run completely by Ladakhi women, the farmstay allows you to help the women with fieldwork. Enjoy authentic Ladakhi culture in these remote villages and experience life in its purest form.
21. Visit India's highest frozen lake
Where: Gurudongmar Lake, North Sikkim
The treacherous, high altitude roads of Sikkim will take you to the stunning Gurudongmar Lake that is situated at a whopping height of 17,800 ft! This lake is one of the sources of Teesta River that supports life throughout the state. If you're visiting during winter months, you can witness most of the lake frozen. Take a walk around the lake and prepare to be astounded by this marvel of nature. Remember to not step on the frozen lake, not only because it might be unsafe, but also because Gurudongmar is considered holy.
22. Go cliff jumping in dense forests
Known widely for its vivacious beach parties, there's a quiet side to Goa that is revealed to only those who venture out to seek it. These are hidden destinations of Goa that have recently come into the limelight thanks to locals who are now offering immersive, conscious travel experiences in their beloved city. We recommend that you book a day trip with The Local Beat to explore waterfalls, cliffs, natural pools and quarries. No matter how many times you have travelled to Goa before, I assure you that there's so much in Goa that you haven't yet discovered!
How many of these unique experiences have you already ticked off your list? How many are you yet to experience? Tell me in the comments below!
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