Off the beaten track... together
Why travel? I have always met this question with an incredulous expression, like life has just been sucked out of me. My answer to that question is why not? Travel is the most important thing there is and for me, it’s the solution to all problems. You meet new people, make friends, strengthen a bond and reconnect with someone... travel is the perfect way to find yourself and your soulmate. We have, thus, listed five destinations to evoke the traveller, adventurer and the lover in you.
Trek in Ladakh
Even though it is situated at a height of 3,500 metre, Ladakh is one of the most popular destinations in India. With its breathtaking Himalayan beauty, high passes and picturesque monasteries, it is on the list of every traveller. The region attracts almost two lakh tourists on average, which is increasing by 30 per cent every year. However, most of the tourists are usually stuck in the circuit of Leh-Nubra Valley-Pangong (made famous by film, 3 Idiots), even though the region has so much to offer. Ladakh has the highest concentration of 6,000 metre+ peaks in the world. There are treks of all grades. The best part? It gives a traveller the much-needed break from the hustle of a city life. And as we said, there is something for everyone. For the less adventurous, there is Balti Polo match, archery competition, a private audience with the Rinpoche, the head Lama of a monastery and attend monastery festivals such as the Hemis Monastery Festival, which takes place in the first week of July. Leh has a lot of options for accommodation and food to fit every budget point. What are you waiting for? Get away from the routine trip and customise your trip with a dash of adventure, culture and luxury services in the remotest corner of the region.
Best time to visit: July to September (avoid May and June as there is a heavy inflow of tourists)
Activities: Morning prayers at Thiksey Monastery, birdwatching in Shey, road trip to Turtuk and Chushul
Adventure activities: Climb a 6,000 metre+ peak (Stok, Mentok and Kang Yatze), trek from Rumtse to Tsomoriri on the Changthang Plateau
How to get there: There are direct flights from Delhi and Bombay to Leh
Celebrate festivals in Nagaland
Nagaland, one of the eastern most states in India, borders Burma and is home to 16 different tribes that are divided into sub tribes. Each tribe is unique in its character, culture, food and customs making this a cradle of colour and festivities. It is one of the few states with a majority of Christian population and mainly has agriculture as its main economy. Since 2002, in the first week of December, all the tribes gather at Kisama village, near Kohima, to celebrate the diversity of the state at the Hornbill Festival. This 10-day-long extravaganza showcases different customs, dances, sports and foods of each tribe. A heaven for any amateur photographer or someone who is even remotely interested in photography. Since, it’s a long festival, you can head out to Dzkou Valley, which is covered with bamboo stalks, to camp for the night. The sunset at the valley is sight that will stay with you for a long time. If you crave for even more adventure, then you can attempt to climb Mt. Japfu, the highest peak overlooking Kohima at 3,048 metre. A rugged steep climb through rainforest and a little bit of rock climbing just before the summit is what you will be in for. You can also make a two-day trip to the Mon region, home to the Konyak tribe, the last of the ‘head hunters’. Nagaland will awaken the adventurous streak in you, we assure you.
Best time to visit: December
Activities: Food and drinks at the ‘morungs’ at Hornbill Festival, night carnival and a visit to War Cemetery in Kohima
Adventure activities: Trek to Dzukou Valley, climb Japfu Peak
How to get there: Fly to Dimapur, take a private or shared cab for a three-hour journey to Kohima
Touch the clouds in Meghlaya
Northeast India has long fascinated an average traveller. Only in the past few years, has there been a steady inflow of keen backpackers and adventure seekers, who have made it to one of the most stunning regions of India. Meghalaya provide something to every wanderer. Nicknamed ‘Scotland of the East’, by the British imperial authorities, it does live up to the name with its rolling green hills covered by mist almost throughout the year. Not to mention the fact that the state receives the highest amount of rainfall in the world that keeps its waterfalls and water bodies brimming. There are natural wonders such as living room bridges (roots of rubber tree roots are trained to cross stream and rivers, a process which can take generations), caving and crystal blue ponds. Shillong and Cherrapunjee along with Mawlynnong and Dawki are some of the places that should be on your list.
Best time to visit: September to March (Avoid the summer months due to heavy rainfall)
Activities: Attend a rock concert in Shillong, visit Nohkali kai and Seven Sisters Falls in Cherrapunjee, Mawlynnong (claims to be Asia’s cleanest village), boating in Dawki
Adventure activities: Caving in Mawmluh cave and trek to living root bridges in Cherrapunjee, canyoning in Mawlongbna, camp next to Rainbow Waterfall, Cherrapunjie
How to get there: Fly to Guwahati, make a three hour journey to Shillong via road; Cherrapunjee is another two hours away
Jam in Jordan
Jordan is one of the most underrated destinations in the world. It has some of most stunning landscapes, architecture from ancient civilization and the friendly local population, but suffers due to its proximity to Syria. But, anyone who has travelled and explored Jordan will have only the most positive opinion about this warm and peaceful country. A mixture of old and new, the capital, Amman, exemplifies the country best. A mixture of Greek and Roman ruins with old souks and markets, it is easy to lose yourself in history. But the city also has a vibrant modern nightlife such as the Rainbow Street, which is thronged by tourists and locals alike. You can head 30 miles north to witness one of the most well preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy in the city of Jerash. The golden sunsets in Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage protected desert, will leave you wanting for more and the ancient civilization at Petra, will take you back to 5th century B.C. The Dead Sea and Mt. Nebo (from where Moses saw the Promised Land) are also places you could visit during your trip.
Best time to visit: September to April
Activities: Spend the night in Bedouin tents at Wadi Rum, visit Petra, Jerash and Dead Sea
Adventure activities: Trek from Dana Biosphere Reserve to Petra, Canyoning in Wadi Mukheries, Climb the Burdah Bridge in Wadi Rum, Skydive next to Dead Sea, Snorkeling and diving in the Red Sea,
How to get there: A number of international airlines including Emirates, Etihad and Jet Airways have flights to Amman, Jordan. There are no direct flights from Delhi to Amman
Climb the roof of Africa
One of the seven summits on the planet, at 5,895 metre, Mt. Kilimanjaro, is the highest point on the African continent. This trek is the ultimate experience for couples interested in adventure, who would like to spend time together walking in the clouds and gazing at some stunning sunsets and landscape. Not to forget, the trek through montane forest, moorland and alpine desert, is a challenge worth taking on together. The local guides and staff are warm, friendly and helpful. It is essential to research about which company to trek with on the mountain. It is best to avoid this region during the wet months i.e. March, April and November. After a gruelling trek, you could either head to the luxury lodges in the big National Parks like Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangine to spot wildlife or fly out to the island of Zanzibar, well known for its nightlife.
Best Time to visit: December to March, June to October
Activities: Experience safari in Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangine National Park, visit nearby villages
Adventure activities: Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro through Lemosho or Machame route
How to get there: Fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport which serves the town of Arusha and Moshi; connecting flights can be found through Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Doha. The National Parks are three hours from Arusha and the operator will pick you up from your location
About the writer
Aatir Ansari, Chief Explorer, Ultimate Frontier Outlands (ufoadventuretravel.com), is passionate about mountains and outdoors. An alumnus of Welham Boys’ School, Dehradun and former sports industry professional, he has climbed Mt. Stok Kangri twice, hiked 100 km in the Wadis of Jordan, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro and explored the rain forests of Meghalaya and Nagaland.