India - Local Knowledge
Insider tips for India: go where the locals go
India is a majestic country blessed with a vastly diverse landscape. This great peninsula is called a "subcontinent" for good reason. The mighty Himalayas grace the north, evergreen forests cool the east, a formidable desert stands out in the west and stunning beaches dot the entire southern coast; Tourists flock to the famous hot-spots of India, the world wonder Taj Mahal in Agra, Jaipur for architecture, Rishikesh for yoga retreats and Goa for beaches.
Apart from these usual suspects, there's so much to see and enjoy when traveling to India. Here's my list of the country's secret gems.
Beat the crowds, enjoy these wonderful destinations while they are still in their pristine state, and start planning for a trip in 2018.
Meghalaya literally translates to "the abode of clouds" and Cherrapunji is a captivating town in this beautiful state. The numerous root-bridges around town add to its wonder.
Don't miss the Cherrapunji-Mawsynram Reserve Forest. This natural reserve is a wonderful conglomeration of scenic waterfalls, evergreen forests and awe-inspiring limestone caves.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Spanning the floodplains of the river Brahmaputra in the Assam districts of Golaghat and Nagoan, Kaziranga National Park is a jewel in East India.
This protected park is home to the world's largest population of one-horned rhinos and is also a World Heritage Site.
Plan ahead: visitors traveling to India are allowed in the park from November to April only.
Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
Floating in white, powdery clouds, Kodaikanal is a little-known Indian gem. Colorful forests, mysterious caves, a beautiful lake, and gorgeous valleys make Kodaikanal a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
2018 is the right time to visit Kodaikanal: the blooming of the Kurunji flower, so rare that it happens only once every 12 years, will happen next year.
Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh has many popular tourist spots: Kullu, Manali and Shimla are standouts. But the relatively unexplored Dalhousie beats all them.
Don't miss Chamera Lake. Trekking enthusiasts should also visit Kajjar and Dainkund Peak for breathtaking views.
Great wall of India, Rajasthan
The Great Wall of India, the second-longest continuous wall in the world, is perhaps the country's most secret hidden gem.
This wall was built to protect the majestic Kumbhalgarh Fort: there are numerous mystic temples inside this massive fort.
Located close to Udaipur in Rajasthan, you're also not far from the Bhangarh fort which is known as the "haunted mansion" in this state.
This eco-friendly tourist spot in Maharastra is yet to be discovered by the crowds. Matheran adopted sustainable tourism practices early on, maintaining its pristine beauty.
No vehicles are allowed at Matheran, so practice your equestrian skills before visiting!
This little village in Karnataka is a treasure of south India.For an unbelievable sunset, overlooking the Arabian Sea, Agumbe is the place to be.
The village's roaring waterfalls are absolutely gorgeous and the rainforests are breathtaking; the surrounding forests are full of medicinal plants.
Last: while in Agumbe, stop off at Kudremukh National Park.
Bekal, a small coastal town in Kerala, isn't known to many people. It has scenic greenery, stunning white sand beaches and a stately fort that's popular with filmmakers.
This town is hard to get to, even by train, which helps maintain its untouched beauty. Its gorgeous beaches are empty and all up for your enjoyment.
Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu
Pichavaram is in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. This small town near Chidambaram houses the world's second-largest mangrove forest and is home to many rare species of birds and fishes.
The pristine mangroves nestle graciously between two huge estuaries and the resulting backwaters are used for kayaking, rowing and other water activities.
Priyadarshini Rajendran is a travel, food and books blogger at Glorious Sunrise.