f you don’t like sharing space, these undiscovered (relatively) and unspoiled beaches and hill stations are for you.
Hidden and little known hill stations are the stuff of fantasies. They combine the joy of discovery with the appeal of having something special all to yourself.
A hideout located 15 kilometres away from the tourist-magnet Nainital, Pangot is a small village in Uttarakhand. Travel to this sleepy hamlet if you’re looking for solitude, serenity, and of course, birds. Keep a pair of binoculars ready at all times and don’t miss the sightings of Khalij pheasants, lammergeier, koklas, and woodpeckers. Other than gazing down at the valley with a cup of tea in your hand and listening to murmuring of nature, you can go for a three-day trek to Corbett National Park. A less strenuous walk is to Cheena or Naina Peak, the highest peak in Nainital.
Stay: Jungle Lore Birding Lodge (pangot.com) or Ashoka Naini Chalet Resort (Uttarakhand-tourism.com).
An off-beaten path will take you to this charming hill station in the Amravati district of Maharashtra. Situated at an altitude of 1,118 metres above sea level, Chikhaldara is a party to the ‘good trumps over evil’ moral, since this is where Bhima killed the evil Keechaka. This only coffee-growing area of Maharashtra invites visitors to explore its bountiful wildlife panthers, sloth bears, and wild boars are sighted here. Moreover, the Melghat Tiger Project, which has 82 tigers, is also located nearby.
Observe the verdant valley from Devi Point, Prospect Point, and Hurricane Point. At a distance of one-and-a-half kilometre is Bhimakund, the waterfall where Bhima is believed to have taken a bath after his win. Other points of attraction include the botanical gardens, the Tribal Museum, and Gavilgad Fort. stay: Satpura Retreat (satpuraretreat.com) or Harshawardhan (harshawardhan. com).
There are two things that Champawat is famous for—it’s religious significance and historic temples. According to Hindu mythology, this small town is where the Pandavas spent their 12 years of exile. The legend also has it that Lord Vishnu made his appearance here as Kurmavtar (his turtle incarnation). Coming to its recent past, Champawat was the capital of the Chand Dynasty. The stone-carved Baleshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is their ‘We Were Here’ sign. Also worth a visit are the hilltop Kranteshwar Mahadev, the historic town of Lohaghat (14 kilometres from Champawat), and Ek Hathiya Ka Naula, located 5 kilometres away.
Stay: Hotel Cedar Valley (Ihotelcedarvolley.com).
Like the rest of Kerala, Ponmudi is covered with a blanket of lush green trees. Perched at an altitude of 945 metres, vacationers can easily drive to this hill station from Thiruvananthapuram. A part of the Western Ghats, it is lush with tea estates, small streams, and exotic flowers and butterflies. What pull adventure-seekers to this place are its trekking paths, shaded by dense forests, and vistas of tea gardens. Take a walk to the deer park or Ponmudi falls, or visit the Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary. Close to Ponmudi are Kallar falls and the Golden Valley.
Stay: Golden Peak (ktdc.com).
HMUIFANG TLANG MIZORAM
This place is just a short drive away from Aizawl. A picnic at the mighty Hmuifang Mountain is something few locals can say no to. Carpeted with verdant forests, the majestic peaks of Hmuifang Tlang make for an ideal trekking landscape. For an insight into the lives of locals, you can visit nearby villages and get a taste of their culture by attending the harvest festival of Thalfavang Kut in November.
Stay: Hmuifang Tourist Resort.
CHITKUL HIMACHAL PRADESH
Untouched, unspoilt, secluded Chitkul is one of the most isolated areas in Himachal with a population of no more than 600 people. It’s quiet enough to hear your own heart beat. Don’t be surprised to see a sign of Hindustan Ko Aokhree Dhaba India’s last Dhaba) because it is, in fact, true.
Located on the Indo-Tibetan border, Chitkul is India’s last inhabited village. A tiny, hardly visible dot on India’s map, there is not much to see here apart from the Buddhist monastery, the flour mill, and the Baspa river. Should you decide to visit this hill station to see snowcapped mountains in the chilly winter season, you’ll need to find lodgings in Sangla Valley. stay: Banjara Camp Resorts (bonjorocomps.com) andKinner Camps (kinnercomps.com).
YERCAUD TAMIL NADU
No matter what time of the year it is, you can pick up your carry-ons and drive to the idyllic Yercaud from Tamil Nadu—it has a pleasant climate throughout. Coffee plantations and fruits such as banana, pears, and oranges dominate the expanse of the town. One of the major attractions here is the lake, where you can go boating and explore the nearby Anna Park. For a panoramic view of the town—especially at night when it’s shimmering with lights climb up to the Lady’s Seat. Don’t miss the chance to go trekking or dirt biking on its meandering roads.
Stay: Sterling Holidays Rock Perch (sterimgholidoys.com) and Hotel Shevaroys (hotelshevoroys.com).
KHAJJIAR HIMACHAL PRADESH
Why go to Dalhousie when you have mini-Switzerland mere 23 kilometres away? A pasture covered with deodar forests and surrounded by towering Himalayan peaks, Khajjiar welcomes you with a sign that says ‘Switzerland of Himachal Pradesh’ (it is one of the 160 places in the world that resembles the Swiss landscape). Go on treks in the forest to Dalhousie or Chamba, and visit the lake in the middle of this cup-shaped meadow. There is also a 12th-century Khajjinag temple with life-size wooden images of Pandavas dedicated to snake worship located here. The Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary is a good place to spot leopards, bears, and langurs. You don’t want to miss snowy mountains in the winter season, even if it means bracing yourself for the biting chill.
STAY:The Devdar, Khajjiar (hptdc.nic.in).
LAKSHADWEEP An uninhabited island, Bangaram beach presents a wallpaper setting of powdered white sand flirting with azure water. This beach peppered with swaying palms is called the jewel of Lakshadweep.
A special note to couples: it is a secluded island, where nothing will break your romantic moment. Read a book under the shadow of an umbrella, lounged on a hammock or explore marine life you’ll realise that the beach is as laidback as it is adventurous. Another thing to sway you in its favour—this is the only place in the Lakshadweep where you can indulge in alcoholic beverages, so yes, bring an icebox.
Stay: SPORTS (lakshadweeptourism.com).
RISHIKONDA BEACH VIZAG
Rishikonda is about eight kilometres away from Visakhapatnam. The effect of golden sands meeting crystal water conjures the picturesque setting. For those who won’t be satiated with just the atmosphere, it also offers water sports such as surfing and boating.
stay: Haritha Beach Resort (optdc.gov.in).
KAUP BEACH KARNATAKA
A little village tucked away in South Karnataka, Kaup (Kapu) is famous for its ancient Krishna temple, a fort commissioned by Tipu Sultan, and its splendid beach. Other than students from a nearby town, this beach sees few occasional visitors, which means it’s a lovely place to take a pause. After digging into local cuisine at the shack, leave your mark on sand as you wander towards the 100-foot lighthouse rising above the coastline. Built in 1901, it still brings boats safely to shore and visitors can climb up here to see the stretch of the golden beach. stay: The Blue Matsya (thebluemotsyo.com)
COLA BEACH GOA
When it’s Goa, you should go expecting crowd. Just a handful of spots have managed to stay off the radar and one of them is Cola beach. No hectic nightlife, no messy line of beach shacks (just one), this part of South Goa is delightfully unexpected. Splash around all day in the fresh water lagoon and share a private moment as you watch the setting sun. You’ll have to hop on a scooter and scurry to this cove; no public transport reaches here.
Stay: Cola Beach Resort (colabeoch.com).
RADHANAGAR BEACH HAVELOCK ISLAND ANDAMAN
Sometimes, you have to escape to an island to find solitude but this isn’t exactly a Robinson Crusoe-like situation. Oddly known as Beach number 7 on the popular Havelock Island, it casts a spell on you with its silky sand and turquoise waters that invite you in for a dip, and a row of coconut trees breaking the blue and white with emerald. It is not as unknown as you might think it was named Asia’s best beach by Time magazine in 2004. But thankfully, it’s still less frequented.
Stay: Barefoot at Havelock (borefoot-ondomon.com) and Symphony Palms Havelock (symphonypolmshovelock.com).
PARNAKA BEACH MAHARASHTRA
Stop at the quiet Parnaka beach on the 17-kilometre stretch, where a queue of fruit orchards, chikoo being the most dominant one, stands in salute. Listen to the hushed sound of waves hitting the shore, there is little else to do here. Go on to explore the coastal village of Dahanu and its numerous temples. Revered by Zoroastrians, there is a fire temple in Udvada, a town in Gujarat close to Dahanu, where the sacred fire has been burning for almost a millennium.
Stay: Pearline Beach Resort (peorlinebeochresort.com).
CHIVLA BEACH MAHARASHTRA Close to Malwan town, Chivla beach is nice little discovery. True-blue beach lovers who flock to Malvan to get away from the hippie crowds in Goa have made Chivla a favourite choice. Sit by the rocks fencing the waves at the Rock Garden, or give your regards to Lord Ganesha at the nearby temple. Malvan has more attractions up its sleeves (Tarkali, Tondavali, and Kolamb); or you can head to Tsunami Island at Devbag to try your hand at banana boat riding, jet skiing, and kayaking.
Stay: Hotel Chivla Beach (zontyehotels.com) and Rosary House (rosoryhousemolvan.com).
MARARI BEACH KERALA
The village of Mararikulam, not far from Alleppey, has a secret spot where vacationers are met with fresh air, rushing waves, and skilled fishermen. Surrounded with coconut groves, Marari is also famous for its healing Ayurvedic treatments. When there, consult a physician at Marari Beach Resort to set up a table at the Ayurvedic centre for you. Pedal through the sleepy lanes of the village, and laze on the beach that offers much more privacy and exclusivity than Kovalam.
Stay: Marari Beach Resort (cghearth.com)