A decade ago hamlets like Dharamshala and Ziro were the offbeat destinations where only 'real' travellers ventured to. These palaces were not on the regular maps and only a few people wanted to explore these off the path getaways. However, with the rise in travel and tourism, hardly any places are really 'offbeat' anymore. From the last village in Indian Himalayas (Chitkul) to the tip of Indian subcontinent (Andaman islands) no place is unconventional anymore. We have gone to all corners of our country and have had the good fortune of visiting every place in this vast country.
So, what is offbeat anymore? How do we enjoy a place without the usual influx of tourists crowding the sights and roads and hotels? How do we get a place, all to ourselves, without the crowds? Your answer lies in a term that has been around for really long, but never utilised - off season!
Reasons to travel during off season
Before 'online' became the norm, off season was something that a lot of people depended on to manage budget travel. Flights were cheaper, hotels were cheaper and the crowds were fewer. But with online booking platforms and offers on stays and modes of transport, people stopped looking at doing anything off season. But I believe it's time to look again at this trend and cash in on it in the best manner possible.
Yes, there are options of Airbnbs and hostels and other cheap accommodations but you have to agree with me that in peak or high seasons even the local homestays charge higher than usual. When I went to Ziro in September, at the time of Ziro festival of music, the most popular thing to do in that town, a simple homestay with one bed in a room and a shared bathroom was also charging ₹800 - ₹1,000 a night. In contrast, when I travelled to Gwalior, in June, it was off season and a room in the Taj Usha Kiran Palace (5-star Taj property) costed me only ₹4,000 a night for double occupancy, with breakfast.
Over-tourism is a genuine problem that disrupts the life of locals and it can lead to resentment towards tourists. Imagine being a local in Ladakh during the month of June, when every person you can imagine is visiting your small town, wanting to click a picture of you for Instagram likes and then just moving on without giving you a second thought? During off season it's easier to connect with locals because you are not disrupting their routines and they are also happier to share a slice of their life with you.
Shorter lines and fewer crowds
If you are visiting places like Paris or Udaipur, where you wish to go see the Eiffel Tower and click a picture of the city from the top of City Palace in Udaipur, peak season is definitely not the right time. The popular tourist attractions are full of, well, tourists and getting a picture might just be the biggest adventure you tackle. Off season guarantees lesser crowds at famous places, no irritating and unasked for photobombs and a calmer atmosphere at attractions.
Traveling during peak season usually means you have to plan ahead and book buses, trains, tours, and even popular restaurants beforehand. Additionally, tickets to popular sites like museums, temples, cathedrals, and tours can be fully booked. When you travel in off season you have the freedom to change your schedule on a whim and not suffer the consequence of paying more for a bus ticket or having to take a 2:00 am train because of lack of availability.
Visiting destinations outside of high season means you’re more likely to see a side of that location that many travellers don’t ever get to see. Whether it’s experiencing a tropical storm in Koh Rong, Cambodia in August, or a misty morning in Halong Bay in Vietnam, you are bound to see something most tourists never will. This doesn't necessarily mean that you are missing out on things, it just means that you get to have an offbeat experience in a popular tourist spot.
So when’s the off season for some popular Indian destinations?
January to March
January to March are some months when almost all of India is perfect to visit. From the snowy mountains of Gulmarg to the pleasant seaside towns of Pondicherry and the royal vistas of Rajasthan, almost all of India is overwhelmingly covered with tourists. It's during these months that you may find it difficult to have a vacation without the crowds.