Five off-beat destinations next-door for Indians

Near-by and uncrowded, two parameters for post-pandemic tourism
/ Kolkata
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Travel overseas, once it is allowed by the government will be very different for Indian travellers who may prefer to start exploring next door first before going on long hauls.

It is evident that overseas travel for leisure will pick up slowly once the government removes the ban on international flights coming to India. But even after the ban goes, most people would perhaps begin by venturing out in India’s immediate neighbourhood.

Here are five absolutely stunning, off-the-beaten-track locations in five neighbouring countries that Indian tourists may consider while picking their next holiday destination. They are less expensive, easy to travel to and, most importantly, nearby.

Dolpo, Nepal

A mountainous region in the upper part of western Nepal, despite its challenges of transportation, Dolpo is a popular destination for trekkers. Its extraordinary natural beauty was exquisitely captured in the Oscar-nominated film Himalaya/Caravan (1999). Having opened up for tourism only in 1989, these high mountain valleys remain unexplored and largely unseen by the outsiders. Isolated by the difficult topography, people in this region have preserved their culture and live a life untouched by the trappings of modern society.

As one of the restricted areas of Nepal, trekkers require a trekking permit from the Department of Immigration in addition to the TIMS card (a basic trekking permit you need for all treks in Nepal) to trek in this region. One of the most delightful moments during the trek is the sight of long yak caravans that even today endure immense hardships negotiating the harsh, icy terrain, crossing high mountain passes, carrying goods for barter to the other side of the mountain into Tibet. Lake Phoksundo’s shimmering turquoise water never fails to fascinate visitors, making it one of the major attractions of Dolpo. There are 130 Gompas (Buddhist monasteries) in Dolpo which speak volumes for their religious fervour.

Merak, Bhutan

A settlement in the eastern Bhutan, Merak is under Sakteng Dungkhag district, and its people are widely known as Brokpa, meaning the highlander. Earlier Merak could only be reached by a two-day hike. In 2012 a new road was constructed that shortened the hike to one day and made the place more accessible by all. Local legends say the surrounding valley is inhabited by the Yeti.

The quiet valley offers a visitor to experience a unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture and vernacular in one of the most scenic pastoral valleys in the protected area of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary where nature lovers can also camp. The campsites have been designed in a way to blend with the local architecture and ambience. Enclosed by a stone-wall with a gate to bring in the ponies to unpack the trekking paraphernalia, the campsite is equipped with facilities such as tenting sheds, toilets, kitchens, dining area and water supply. Overall, it is a new place for families to enjoy a holiday retreat.

Rangamati, Bangladesh

Famous as the lake city of Bangladesh, Rangamati in the Chittagong district is also well known for its hill tracts and is popular with the tourists. Karnaphuli River and the adjoining hydroelectric power plant using the river water made a water reservoir named Kaptai Lake which is one of the most beautiful blue lakes in the world giving an amazing view of Chittagong hill tracts, forested trees and ceaseless flow of water together.

One of the main attractions of Rangamati is the Hanging Bridge, an absolute must for all visitors. At the end of the city, the 335-feet-long bridge on Kaptai Lake is one of the most picturesque places in Bangladesh. It is also very interesting to see the decadent growth of indigenous life at the tribal villages situated on the other side.

Ratnapura, Sri Lanka

Famed for the sacred Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada, and hundreds of waterfalls, Ratnapura in Sri Lanka is also called the city of gems. Adam’s Peak, the tall conical mountain and the rock formation near the summit, which in the Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of Buddha and in Hindu tradition that of Hanuman or Shiva and in some Islamic and Christian traditions that of Adam, or that of St. Thomas, making it a classic example of display of religious harmony.

Ratnapura is the main source of precious and semi-precious stones (including rubies, sapphires and cat’s eyes) mined in the valleys by River Kalu Ganga. Considered as Sri Lanka’s treasure chest of jewels and wealth and the centre of its gemming industry, the place is thronged by stone-lovers from all over the world, especially Indians. On Colombo-Ratnapura Road, many gem-mining operations in the paddy fields can be seen beside the road. Making Ratnapura a convenient transit base, some of the other popular attractions like Sinharaja Rain Forest can be explored as well.

Addu City, Maldives

From the sky, it looks like a heart, not only tailored for the honeymooners but also loved by the backpackers from all over the world. Addu City consists of the inhabited islands of the southernmost atoll of the Maldivian archipelago. Tourist development in Addu itself had been slow to start, but with the rapid development of excellent resorts, guesthouses, hotels, diver and water-sports centers, it’s now easy and pleasant for the tourists to get around and experience the unmatched opportunities of the atoll.

Comprising six sandy beaches surrounded by a beautiful lagoon, tropical weather, all kinds of popular activities from island-hopping to bird-watching,scuba-diving to sky-diving, it still remains a non-typical Maldivian tourist place where travellers can spend their time in a local environment and can explore the Maldivian way of living.


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