Off late, have you been cancelling your holiday plans because everyone around you is too busy to accompany you on the trips? Then, it is high time that you stop postponing your plans and do what you have only imagined in your thoughts all these years – solo travelling. At first, the whole idea of travelling alone might give you a few jitters, but trust me, as you start thinking more about it, all the doubts and negative thoughts would simply fade away. And, once you clear that stage, you are ready for the adventure called Solo Travel. But before you embark on such a trip, first you need to decide on your destination. So, read on and know about some of the top destinations in India, where you can travel completely on your own.

The desert mountain valley of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh is as much an ideal destination for adventurers as it is for the solitude seekers. Nestled high up in the Himalayan Mountains, the scenic Spiti Valley presents wonderful opportunities for moderate to difficult trekking expeditions as well as Jeep safaris. However, those who wish to stay away from such adrenaline-pumping activities and spend their time peacefully exploring the region should opt for a homestay experience. This can be done at any of the six villages of Spiti, namely Demul, Langza, Dhankar, Kibber, Lhalung and Komik. On an average, each of this village has up to three homestays with each having one guest bedroom that can accommodate one or two people. These homestays are basically village homes, with one of their portions converted into comfortable guestrooms. These have been developed by the locals to generate an alternative and sustainable source of income for themselves.

If you know a bit of history, then you would be aware of the fact that India has been ruled by numerous dynasties. Many of these were not from the subcontinent, but from Central or West Asia. And back then, there were no proper roads, cars, aircraft or any other contemporary means to travel. Now, look at the geographical map of India for a while. You will realise that all those, coming from the north or northwest of the Indian subcontinent, had a natural barricade in their way in the form of the mountain system of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush. In the absence of modern transportation means, the question arises, how did they cross the mountains?

In the words of the famous Greek storyteller, Aesop, “Adventure is worthwhile”.
When it comes to holidaying, I guess most of us become a little too mainstream. We go where everybody else is going and do what has already been done by many before. The true adventure is when you take the road not taken; step into the unknown, without having an idea about what might come next.In the book of India, Arunachal Pradesh is a chapter which is skipped by most readers. The north-easternmost state in the country is still a virgin territory, waiting to be discovered by adventurers, who dare to do something new, something different.

Did you know tea drinking in India was prevalent since 750 BC? However, it was not tea per say, but more of a vegetable dish that consisted of tea leaves, oil and garlic. Technically, India was introduced to tea by some officers of the British army, who started tea cultivation here with seeds brought from China. This led to a revolution, and by the end of the 19th century, tea produced in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam were exported to different parts of the world, especially Britain. Slowly and steadily, this revolution spread across the entire Himalayan foothills and other parts of the country.

Ask any 20-something about what they cherish the most and see them talk lovingly about weekends. Yes, weekends are truly the best! From extroverts who love to socialise with just about everyone to introverts who prefer to stay back in the familiar comfort of their home, weekends are fervently awaited by each of us. They are after all the only two days in a week when we can ignore work-related mails and focus on ourselves and our loved ones. It is that magical period of time which makes us feel that we were not born to just work, pay taxes and leave the world without having lived at all. Whatever our idea of a good time may include, a weekend is when we indulge ourselves in what we love.

What comes to your mind, when I say “adventure in the Himalayas”? I am quite sure your answer would include things like trekking, skiing, hiking, mountaineering, river rafting and paragliding. But there is more to excite you in the Himalayas than these; and that is the scintillating road trips, which are undertaken by thousands of people, year after year. There is a certain charm about riding through the Himalayan regions that beckons adventure seekers from across the globe. The challenges that one faces during these road trips are innumerable, but everything gets compensated by the satisfaction of successfully completing it.

Don’t know about you, but 2016 was amazing for me. I started the year with a bang, and that’s how it ended. Doesn’t it feel great when everything falls into place and all your dreams are realised just as you wanted them?! I hope it does not sound like I am bragging, but I get excited just thinking about it. Some moments that I had been longing for ever since I can remember, happened in the past few months. Here is an account of things that I checked off my bucket list this year:

What goes in your mind, when you read about someone else’s adventurous trekking expedition, especially in the Himalayas? Do you hear an inner calling? Does your heart and mind tell you that someday, you too should do this? Then, what is stopping you? Every year, thousands of amateur trekkers go on their first expedition into the Himalayas. All that one requires is a basic physical fitness level, necessary trekking equipment, a bit of mental strength and loads of zeal. We have listed down a few trekking trails in the Himalayas that are perfect for beginners like you. Read on to know about them so that you can start planning your impending desire to trek in the Himalayas.

Bestowed with dense forests and charming tea gardens, the town attracts thousands of tourists round the year, not just from parts of India but abroad as well. A place that promises a perfect escape from the hustle bustle of the city, the town of Bir offers numerous outdoor activities and thrilling sports; thus making it equally popular among tranquillity seekers, adventurous souls and nature lovers.

One has different shades of blue and snowy peaks to allure you and the other takes you close to the world’s highest peak. Still wondering which teahouse trek to go for first? Everest base camp is a dream for anyone who gets into the flavour of trekking, Everest being the world’s highest scalable mountain peak. Annapurna main of the mighty Annapurna range is the 10th highest peak in the world. Not many know that the toughest peak to scale is also The Annapurna main and not K2.

  • Where is Muktinath?

Muktinath overland tour is a thrilling journey that brings one closer to nature as well as God! Muktinath Temple is located in the Annapurna Region in the Mustang District of Nepal and is considered to be of spiritual and religious significance to Hindus as well as Buddhists. This Lord Vishnu Temple is situated at about 12000 feet, and to get here one has to undertake an overland journey by jeep, a 4 KM trek and an ATR ride! It is quite an adventure and ultimately leads one to a spiritual tryst with the Lord!

Muktinath Temple in the snow
Muktinath Temple in the snow

In addition to visiting the temple, this trip also gives one the opportunity to discover and explore the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara, soaking in the many marvels of these places.

How beautiful would a place be, the name of which translates into the Abode of Clouds?! I am talking about Meghalaya, one of the seven states in Northeast India. The Northeast is arguably the least explored part of the country, and this is perhaps why it is not as chaotic and commercialised, and also as polluted as the rest of India. If you are anything like me, then you would want to stay in such a place, rather than concrete jungles. Now, I know it is a bit exaggerated as it is not possible for us to leave our job and comfort of city life to go live in the middle of nowhere. But, at least we can take a trip to a place like this; just to see how amazing nature looks, undisturbed by human influence.

Freedom is a feeling, which cannot be expressed in words. I know we have left monarchy far behind, but sometimes I feel like we are still not liberated. The chains of responsibilities have kept us from doing what we love. When these bonds get too heavy, we need to break them off and escape. Live life like a nomad and see the treasures of the world; do something adventurous and feel what it really is to be free. I guess there is no better way to feel free than being on a motorbike trip. They say life is about the journey and not the end, and isn’t that exactly what a motorbike trip is? You pick up your bike, get the tank full, and then see where the path takes you; leaving behind the mundane.

Not only for the youth, but a motorbiking adventure is also for the ones who are young at heart; people who are passionate about riding endlessly. Freedom is what they seek and are ready to travel hundreds of kilometres just to get that feel. Na, I haven’t been on a bike trip yet, but I plan to and which place could be better for it than India – the land of different terrains. Here is a list of some of the best biking routes in the country that are just waiting for the daredevils.

Delhi to Rajasthan: A Ride through the Land of the Kings
Rajasthan is a place that everyone must visit at least once in their lifespan, be it to see the opulent palaces, or estimate the strength of the erstwhile rulers with the mighty forts they got constructed.

A bike ride through the different cities of Rajasthan is a brilliant way to explore the landscape of the state and see its hidden gems. Just make sure you have ample time to enjoy the Rajasthani hospitality to the fullest. After beginning from Delhi halt at the small town of Mandawa, your first step into the Rajasthani heritage. It is a 250 km journey. What follows is a trip through Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Pushkar, and finally, Jaipur. The journey will let you explore Junagarh Fort, Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan Palace, the City Palace of Udaipur, Monsoon Palace, Saheliyon Ki Bari, Brahma Temple, the City Palace of Jaipur, Hawa Mahal and Amer Fort. The complete venture, ending back in New Delhi, is around 1800-km long.

jodhpur

Guwahati – Tawang – Zemithang – Nameri: A Scenic Trip through Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh was hidden from the eyes of the globetrotting crowd for a long, long time. Since its awe-inspiring natural splendour and cultural heritage has been unveiled to the world, it has become a major tourist destination. A bike trip in the state will give you a glimpse of the quintessential Himalayan landscape. Riding on its winding roads, along the gushing rivers and through dense national parks, you will forget about the stress of the city life.  

The 10-day long, 1200-km journey begins from Guwahati and brings you to Tezpur. After which, you can drive for about 325 km over the course of two days to reach the Tawang town, crossing Sela Pass en route. Needless to say, if you are in Tawang, you must visit the namesake monastery and admire its murals. The sojourn also introduces you to the beauty of Zemithang, and Dirang – better known for its hot springs.

arunachal-motorbike-ride

Delhi – Manali – Leh – Kargil – Srinagar – Delhi
I believe it is a sin to not mention a DelhiLadakh trip when talking about the best motorbiking routes in India. A favourite of many is the Leh via Manali segment and then return via Srinagar; hence, completing a full circle. The journey is about 2250 km, but if you add trips to Pangong Tso and Nubra Valley, it rounds at about 2800 km. Now, this is some way to spend two weeks.

Begin the trip with a thrilling 250-km journey from Delhi to Chandigarh, followed by a 310-km road adventure to the hill town of Manali. Between Manali and Leh, there are two pit stops, namely Jispa and Sarchu, where riders can relax after a long day of conquering winding roads. On your way, you will pass numerous passes like Khardung La, Nakee La, Tanglang La, Lachung La and Rohtang La. One of the most thrilling sections of this trip is the Gata Loops – a series of 21 hairpin bends. You will never know what will come your way till you reach the turn.

The majestic Pangong Tso and the ever-beautiful Nubra Valley are only a day’s drive from Leh. Many people choose to return via the same route that they took to get to Leh, but I do not see much fun in that. If you head to Kargil, you can return via Srinagar, and get to drive on a few other high passes like Zoji La and Fotu La.

Ladakh

Kanyakumari – Alleppey – Munnar – Ooty – Gokarna – Goa: Beaches, Backwaters, Hills and More
While thinking of a bike trip in India, only the above-mentioned places come to mind. But why? The southern coast of India is undoubtedly beautiful and who says exploring it on a bike is a bad idea. The journey can be started from the southernmost town of Kanyakumari and you can travel towards Goa from there. There’s a lot to see, do and admire between the two destinations. If you choose to travel with an operator, you get to start your adventure from Bangalore, and reach Madurai before Kanyakumari. The backwaters of Alleppey will win your heart just as much as the sight of snow-capped Himalayas does. A visit to Alleppey will be complete only with a night stay on a houseboat.

Like Alleppey is the realm of scenic backwaters, Munnar is synonymous with misty hills and sprawling tea and spice plantations. One breath in its salubrious environment and you will forget every hardship you might have faced during the excursion. In two days, you can reach Goa, the ultimate party destination in the country.

munnar

Bangalore to Coorg
It is a short scenic drive to unveil the beauty of the Western Ghats. Being dominated by misty, rolling hills, Coorg or Kodagu makes for one of the best weekend getaways from the bustling city of Bangalore. A perfect escape, the 270-km ride takes you through lush forests of teaks and coffee plantations. The district in itself is quite large, precisely 4102 sq km; therefore, there are aplenty points of interest to explore here. Riders can take the adventure a notch higher by visiting the famous Nagarhole National Park. The 643-sq km wildlife park is home to animals like the Bengal tiger, deer, Indian leopard, Indian elephant, gaurs and wild boars.

coorg

Kolkata – Gangtok – Ravangla – Yuksom – Darjeeling – Bagdogra: A Ride in the Eastern Himalayas
You have to come to Sikkim at least once to see the generosity that nature has bestowed upon it. Its mountain peaks inspire you to aim high, and its welcoming people never let you feel uninvited. The route takes you from aromatic tea gardens and peaceful monasteries to quaint hamlets. On this route, you will pass numerous settlements of the Sikkim’s tribal population, like the town of Yuksom. The historical place also holds immense religious significance among locals. The bike excursion should ideally take around 9 to 10 days to complete. Since it takes place in the Himalayas, riders here obviously have brilliant photo opp.

snowedout_route

Salem – Rasipuram – Kolli Hills: A Tryst with 70 Hairpins Bends
If you live in or around Tamil Nadu, you have got to visit the Kolli Hills. The small mountain range, which reaches about 4663 feet at its highest point, is the realm of scenic views. However, if you are a rider, its geographical features and the 12th-century Shiva temple may not lure you as much as the 70 hairpin bends. While here, you can click pictures with Akasa Gangai falls. A sight of this 300-feet landform will definitely leave you speechless. The round trip between Salem and Kolli Hills sums up at around 120 km; a perfect weekend escape with the lads.

Kolli hills

Chennai – Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry – Chidambaram -Rameshwaram – Tuticorin
East Coast Road or State Highway 49 is undoubtedly among the best places in India to go for a long ride. Stretching along the Bay of Bengal, it connects Chennai with Cuddalore, but has extended up to Kanyakumari, making it a riders’ paradise. You can begin your trip from Chennai and travel to Pondicherry via Mahabalipuram. While in the Union Territory, use your time exploring the world-famous Auroville. The quaint town of Rameshwaram will take your breath away with its beauty. It would be a mistake to not to visit the revered Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram. Some sculptures here date back to the 2nd century; how many times do you get to see something that old.  

pondicherry

Thus said, above are the best options to go for an exciting bike trip. Just get your Bullet serviced and embark on the journey.  

Whenever I ask someone if they like winters, most answer me in the negative. And I think it is justified to some extent as the season, especially in North India, brings with it coldness, smog (not fog or mist) and sometimes strong and chilly winds. The sun seldom shines, and most of the times it does, it is shadowed by the light haze, which sometimes persists for many days. At least, this is what happens in Delhi. I have been patient up till now, letting winters pass as I lay curled up in a blanket or underneath layers of clothes, but no more. Enough is enough, I say. Let us get up and go out there  even in the season, when everything seems gloomy.

Contrary to our belief, winters, and specifically winters in India, are not a cause for that much worry. Compare the season in our country to some other places like the Baltic, Siberia and northern Canada, where nothing grows and temperatures of –40 degree Celsius are regular. Does any such thing happen here? No, right? Winters here are much more bearable, and we still cry about the season being too cold. And, what if it is cold?! We have thermals and woollens. So, let us put them on and head out so we can live life to the fullest, leaving the so-assumed dullness of the season behind.

Here is a description of what you could do and see in the country during the winter season.

Visit the Hill Stations of the North
India has no dearth of hill stations, and these are the kind of places I love the most. Nainital, Srinagar, Shimla, Dalhousie, Munsiyari, Manali, there are so many in the Himalayas. All these lie between elevations of 5000 feet and 10000 feet, making them ideal for a relaxed vacation. It snows in all these places, but not as much as it does higher up in the mountains. For me, this is the perfect altitude range to have fun and not be frozen by the cold. All these places have coniferous trees that are all covered with snow. I just love such sights; it is the quintessential mountain scene.

Manali Leh Highway during winters
Manali Leh Highway during winters

You could walk around the towns, admiring the vistas, and visit the popular places of interest there. Also, remember to try some local delicacies that would make your experience even better. If you go during Christmas, there may be some celebrations going on, especially on the Mall Road of Shimla, where the famous Christ Church is located. The Dal Lake in Srinagar is completely frozen during the season, resulting in an astonishing sight. Another such scene to admire would be of fresh snow, falling on the waters of Naini Lake as you take a walk on the quiet Thandi Sadak.

Go Trekking
Aah…trekking, a good way to explore mountains and be close to nature. Most consider trekking as a summer activity, and rightly so as the paths are clear then. But those, with an adventurous soul, can also try hiking in winters, when the landscape would be white with snow. There are numerous sites within the Himalayas, to where trekking tours are organised in the winter season. While no trek would be easy in winters, they all promise loads of thrill; is it not why we would trek in snowy conditions? For the challenge? Some of the places you could trek to in the Himalayas in winters are Naggar, Brahma Tal, Dalhousie, Kasol, Kheerganga, Tirthan Valley, Triund, Kedarkantha, Prashar Lake, Tungnath, Chandrashila, Kuari Pass and Indrahar Pass.

Winter trekking has its own charms
Winter trekking has its own charms

For those of you, who cannot summon the strength and courage to go trekking in snow, there are loads of hiking trails in the Western Ghats as well, where the cold will be nowhere as much as in the Himalayas. Even in the height of winters, the weather here remains cool and pleasant. The hills are not even as rugged as the Himalayas, making it is easier to hike here. So, if you are considering this option, you can go on a trekking tour to Mullayanagiri, Antaragange, Durga Hill, Ramanagara and Kodachadri.

Explore the Northeast
If you want to see primitive cultures and learn about warring peoples, then the north-eastern part of India is perfect as it is home to hordes of tribes. The summers here can be quite warm, and the rains are like a pestilence; hence, the winter season is perfect to come here. There is so much to see and do in the region that one trip will never be enough. Among the best things to do in the Northeast is taking a walk through the lush tea plantations of Assam and learning about the different types of teas produced in the state. A mystical place in Assam is the village of Mayong, where a large number of occultists, who claim to have spells to cure various diseases, live.

Sikkim during winters
Sikkim during winters

I’m personally planning to head to Meghalaya to explore astonishing caves, many of which have a river. But, what I’m most interested in is trekking to a Living Root Bridge that the locals make by letting the branches of rubber trees entwine around the trunks of betel nut trees. Nagaland is where I would be heading in order to meet the indigenous and eponymous Naga people, who have a rich warring culture. One great way would be to take trips to villages deep in the hills for a chance to stay with the tribesmen and get a first-hand look at their customs. If you don’t have that much time, then do attend the Hornbill Festival in December, where people from all Naga tribes display their dances, music, customs and food.

For those, who want to learn about the Buddhist faith, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are the best places to visit in Northeast India. There are so many monasteries or gompas in these states like those in Tawang, Rumtek, Taktsang (different from the one in Bhutan), Urgelling, Bomdila, Pemayangtse and Phodang. Natural ponds like Sangetsar Lake in Arunachal Pradesh and Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim, and the town of Lachung in Arunachal Pradesh are also great destinations to explore in winters. The town, with snow-covered spruce trees, and typical mountain homes with sloping roofs, might remind you of a hamlet from a fairytale; it is that pretty!

Dare to go to Ladakh
Ladakh, the northernmost region of India, is arguably one of the best places for an adventure lover. Only the bravest venture there in winters as the season is characterised by heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures for 4-5 months at a stretch. Just reading about it gave me shivers, but I am determined to push myself to the limit, let me see what I’m made of. Though Ladakh is a summer destination, it is so famous around the world that it gets clogged with tourists during this time also. If you want a quiet retreat and desire to come face to face with its true magnificence, then winters are perfect for a visit.

Chadar Trek
Chadar Trek

The essential thing to do here during the season is the famous Chadar Trek on the frozen Zanskar River. It takes you past numerous frozen waterfalls and lets you spend a night in a cave.  You could either head to Naerak Pullu and head back to Chilling or go all the way to Lingshed, tracing the ancient route, taken by the locals of Lingshed to transport wooden logs to Leh, every year. There are so many monasteries here; many built on hills overlooking rivers. As the entire landscape would be covered in snow, the monasteries would look amazing, like something right out of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies.  

Try Skiing
One reason, which is desperately making me wait for the arrival of winters, is so I can go skiing. I just love watching people come down snow-covered slopes on skis, twisting right and left. I had followed the recent Winter Olympics religiously and am now determined to do it at least once. I earlier thought that the sport is only tried in places like the Rockies and Alps, but to my pleasant surprise, the Himalayas have no dearth of ski resorts. There are so many I could pick from; Gulmarg, Kufri, Narkanda, Solang Valley and Auli. Another plus about trying skiing is that many ski tops are reached by cable cars, something I really want to ride. As all these are popular destinations, they are well connected to major cities and towns; therefore, reaching them is not a problem.

Auli Skiing
Auli Skiing

Go on Wildlife Safaris
The incredible geographical diversity of the country blesses it with an astonishing variety of animals. As the summers are quite warm and monsoons are a strict no-no for tourism in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, winters give you the perfect chance to see India’s biodiversity. Head up North to see animals like Himalayan wolves, Tibetan wolves, black bears, Himalayan brown bears, Himalayan tahrs, bharal and yak. If you go to the Spiti Valley or Hemis National Park, then get a chance to spot the snow leopard, the Himalayas’ most celebrated predator. Peninsular India, on the other hand, is known for its wide distribution of tigers, ranging from Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand all the way to Eravikulam National Park in Kerala, which is also home to the Nilgiri tahr.

Sunderbans
Sunderbans

Gir Forest in Gujarat, the only home of the majestic Asiatic lion, is another must visit. If you, by any chance, like snakes (like me), then I suggest you head to the forests of Agumbe in Karnataka. Winters are when migratory birds come to India, and the Rann of Kutch, Keoladeo National Park, Chilika Lake and Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary are the best places to see them.

With so much to do and see, winters will never seem boring to you again. I for one have always loved the season for this particular reason. So, wait no more. Welcome winters with a smile, and pack your bags for a wonderful time.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” – Lord Buddha

We would probably have to read Buddhist scriptures to know exactly what the deity meant with the quote, but one thing is for sure, the sight of flowers has the power to bring an instant smile to our face. You gift somebody even a single flower, and their mood changes at once. Imagine what seeing millions of flowers would do to you. It would not only lift your spirit, but also fill you with love and respect for nature. Flowers make even the bleakest of places colourful, vibrant and great to look at. And, the scent they radiate stimulates our senses like nothing else. Imagining standing in a vast field of flowers has made me want to go to such a place; hence, I have come up with a bucket list of such destinations around the world.

The Everest is undeniably majestic! The world’s highest mountain overlooks the world from an altitude of more than 29000 feet above sea level. This is the highest you can get without your feet leaving the ground. I have been fascinated by it, ever since I saw it first in my general knowledge book, when I was in school. At that time, I didn’t really know the true magnificence of the giant, but over the years, as I have learnt about Everest and the Everest region, I have become more and more intrigued by it.

How many times have we seen birds soar across the sky, and thought to ourselves, “Man, wish I could fly like them.” And, during one such instance of thinking about flying, it struck me…I can actually do it. No, I wasn’t all of a sudden going to sprout wings and fly like a bird. But, what I was going to do was go for paragliding, and that is exactly what I did recently. Now, before I start telling you about my experience, let me just give you an overview of the activity.

Nowadays, we hear people, especially youth, talking about travelling and exploring new places. But, what do most do? They go to places like Ladakh, Goa, Kasol and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, making these places somewhat of a tourist cliché. What I mean is that these places have become so popular that many people visit them and there is almost nothing new left to explore. Whatever there is in such places, the tourist guide books have in their pages. So, what are we really ‘exploring’ by going to places, where already so many have been.

Little did I know that my short adventure trek to Chopta will turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime! I could so much relate to a quote that I read recently by Lin Yutang, “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow”. But for me it was more like an adventure which I survived and at that moment all I wanted to do was to go home and be warm and comfortable!

The only reason that this trek is so close to my heart and I will remember it forever is because I remember how I almost gave up! I gave up on walking further, to save myself from all the pain. It’s good to travel in a group sometimes. If I was on a solo trek I would have been stuck somewhere in the mountains. Not that I mind that, but I would have been surely hopelessly lost!