More a continent than a country, India is extremely varied and diverse, in its people, cultures, history and incredible natural beauty. While we knew this when we set out on our discovery of the country, we were, and remain, constantly amazed at what we experienced on our journey; whether it was what we saw outside the window of a bus in the middle of Tamil Nadu or standing on top of a mountain in the Himalayas looking at the valley below or driving amongst the endless dusty shrub land of Gujarat.
Here are some of our favorite locales of this country, where every corner has unique natural beauty and landscapes that leave you awestruck. All of them are beautiful for different reasons from the stark mountains to the lush forests, and all of these are places we would happily return to.
Check out the sights below and if you are looking for more, TraveLibro, a cool travel based social networking site we stumbled upon recently, is a great space to find more options for the intrepid traveller.
The Nanda Devi, Uttarakhand
The sight that started it all. Many years ago we were on a road trip around Uttaranchal, and were determined to see the Nanda Devi in all her glory. A bit foolish given that it was August and in the midst of the monsoons, but we are rather persistent people. After days of chasing the second highest peak in India, she finally revealed herself to us on the last day we were there. In the wee hours of the morning, bleary eyed we waiting for the clouds to part, and as they did the sun slowly lit the sky around and we saw the Nanda Devi in all her pristine glory, proud and imposing. It was a truly magical sight, one we will never forget, because it was what brought to us to where we are today.
Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Driving around Gujarat was an absolute pleasure. It has some of the best roads in the country and we were happy to drive for hours around even though it was hot and dusty. On one such day we drove from Mandvi, by the coast, all the way up north to the Rann of Kutch. We stopped at villages along the way and reached a little before sunset. After hours of shrub land, we entered the protected Rann area and parked our car to walk on the salt desert. It was brilliantly white for miles around, the colours of the salt changing ever so slightly to reflect the changes of the setting sun. The salt felt strange under our shoes, crunchy and hard in places, and soft in others, where the soil was still marshy from the winter months. As summer approached the soil would get firmer underground, making the desert drier and easier to cross. It was one of the coolest experiences we had had, quite unlike anything we had seen till then.
Havelock, The Andaman Islands
When we started out on our journey with the small budget of Rs. 2500 per day, it was difficult to do some of the stuff we wanted, and luxury travel, safaris and other expensive stuff was set aside for later. However, going to the Andaman Islands and diving was something we didn’t want to miss out on, and tried to hack our way to Havelock. And how glad we are we did. The water was colours we had never seen before in India, aquamarine and teal, beaches with soft white sand, with abundant greenery the way the world was meant to be. Apart from a few dives, we spent most of our time taking in the beauty all around, swimming in the still waters and experiencing pure bliss.
Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
Imagine lying on soft green grass that stretched for miles, listening to an impromptu jam session, the sun on your face, blue skies above and towering mountains in the distance. Last September we found ourselves in this exact place, at the wonderful Ziro Valley Music Festival, replete with gorgeous surroundings and some versatile music produced by people in this country. It was a near perfect setting for a music festival; reminiscent of stories we’d heard about the rock festivals of 1960s America. Artists and musicians drew inspiration from the surroundings of the valley, which was gentle and green all around, ringed by rice fields and a forest of pine trees. It is one of the prettiest places we have seen, where music, beauty, friends, laughter and lots of rice beer all came together harmoniously.
Munroe Island Backwaters, Kerala
Commonly known as a paradise on earth, Kerala is an incredibly beautiful state, from its rolling tea gardens, wide beaches and blue rivers and lush green backwaters. We were not expecting any less and we were not disappointed. However what surprised us a little was the serenity that the backwaters bring, as you slowly float along in your little canoe, surrounded by tall palm trees and moss filled river banks. The rivers are narrow and not very deep and all along the banks are quiet signs of life of the fishing villages that inhabit the lake we were floating through. The only noise came from the buzzing of insects and wind as it floated through the trees and the occasional snippet of information from our guide. It was one of those lovely afternoons spent in the lap of nature, where everything is just right.
Hunder, Jammu & Kashmir
Set in the the Nubra Valley, surrounded by the peaks of the Karakoram range, Hunder is a place which defies imagination. Falling in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, Ladakh is technically a high altitude desert, with stark mountain sides and barren landscapes. However, we truly understood what this meant only when we got to Hunder. We stood outside the jeep, jackets pulled tightly around us, in the midst of miles of gently undulating sand dunes, completely awestruck, as the blue pre-dawn glow gave way to the first yellow rays of the sun, illuminating the surreal landscape around us. Seeing the soft sand flanked by high peaks in the distance was a sight that truly defied imagination and challenged everything we knew.