All Roads Lead to India

60 ideas for slow, sensible travel across the length and breadth of the country, from staycations rooted in sustainability and conservation-centric urban excursions to riveting train journeys and spirited family vacays.

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For India’s 75th independence anniversary, team NGTI rounds up 60 trips around the country.

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On the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, it’s time to undertake explorations so that communities benefit, traditions thrive, and ecosystems cop as little damage as possible. For NGTI’s July-August print issue, we curated 60 trips for slow, sensible travel across the length and breadth of the country, from staycations rooted in sustainability and run by locals, conservation-centric urban excursions and riveting train journeys to spirited family holidays and flavour trails in bastions both forgotten and fledgling. Glance at a few snippets below.

 

All Roads Lead To India

Embark the Kalka to Shimla Railway to witness a winter wonderland. Photo by: Shailendra Kumar/iStock

22-24. Mountain Railways, Pan-India

eco-friendly travel. family trip.

With technological advances, railway travel has become faster, more comfortable and in some cases, far more luxurious. But for those who are interested in knowing exactly how significant this mode of transportation has been in the course of human history, the mountain railways of India are a fantastic way to take a trip back in time. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Nilgiri Mountain Railways and Kalka Shimla Railway, were set up between 1881 and 1908, and are operational to this day. All three routes, aside from being testament to the engineering advancements of their time, have unique characteristics that make these journeys unlike any other. The Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri route, for instance, is the only mountain railway in the world that passes through no tunnels, affording passengers uninterrupted views of the lower Himalayas in North Bengal. The Shimla to Kalka route passes over the world’s highest multi-arc gallery bridge, a record that is maintained to the day. The Udhagamandalam-Mettupalayam route is the steepest in India, and passes through historic stations such as Coonoor. It’s also one of the few routes  that still issue Edmondson-style manual tickets, a souvenir in itself. Each of these  railway routes can make for an itinerary in themselves, given  the historic towns and cities they connect in the  mountains of India.

—Samarpan Bhowmik

 

 

All Roads Lead To India

Entrance to Sri Mahaganapati Temple.

 

33. Yana Rocks, Karnataka

epic nature. heritage and mythology.

These awe-inspiring twin karst rock formations that visitors to Gokarna (48 kilometres) can drive to in just over an hour, are said to have been formed millions of years ago. During Shivratri, pilgrims circumambulate the jagged boulders that have been locally named Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and Mohini Shikhara

(legend has it that the demon Bhasmasura was vanquished by Vishnu here). The trek (visit once the monsoon is over) up to the rocks is three kilometres long, but those looking for a longer adventure may hike up to Vibhuti waterfall.

—Prannay Pathak

 

All Roads Lead To India

Spot a thriving population of clouded leopards at the Dampa Reserve. Photo by: Photo by: AmitRane1975/iStock

44. Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram

rare wildlife trail. epic nature.

In May 2021, a photo of a Bengal tiger was taken by a camera trap at the reserve, a rare exception to the honest truth that this 500-square-kilometre swathe of protected forest land is not where you go to spot tigers. Dampa is suspected to hold the densest population of clouded leopards, locally known as Kelral, and one of the densest populations of marble cats in Southeast Asia. Reportedly, the most recent population estimates at Dampa are roughly 5.14 per 100 square kilometres for clouded leopards and roughly 5.03 per 100 square kilometres for marbled cats.

—Julian Manning

 

 

All Roads Lead To India

Hazarduari Palace in Murshidabad, West Bengal.

48. Murshidabad, West Bengal

heritage holiday. royal history.  

Before Kolkata ascended the throne as the capital of a British-ruled Bengal, Murshidabad was the crowning glory of the state. The town, founded as Makhsudabad by Akbar in the 16th century, is a seat of descendants of the Nawabs of Bengal, and their presence is seen in landmarks that dot the region. The 1837-built Hazarduari Palace is now a museum that boasts armour, portraits of the Nawabs, and ivory from China. Moti Jhil, the Muradbagh Palace, and the Khushbagh Cemetery are also worth a visit. Interestingly, the town is a draw for handicrafts and sericulture.

—Pooja Naik

 

This feature appeared in the print edition of National Geographic Traveller India July-August 2022, read the complete story here.

To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.

 

 

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