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Most underrated summer destinations in India

The scenic green meadows of Doodhpathri

As the mercury threatens to escalate to unbelievable heights, it’s time to start planning your next outing to keep summer blues at bay. But, instead of the usual cooler climes such as Shimla or Mussoorie, how about exploring some of the country’s hidden gems? Here’s a list of some of lesser-known, unexplored places across India that would be perfect for a summer holiday.

Doodhpathri, Kashmir

Doodhpathri or the ‘Valley of Milk’, located about an hour’s drive away from Srinagar, is sure to enchant you with its gorgeous landscape — green meadows, pristine beauty and serene environs. And not to forget, the pretty little river that cascades playfully along over brown and white-hued pebbles of all shapes and sizes. There are options to camp in a scenic secluded area against the backdrop of snow-clad mountains and pine trees kissing the sky. And as wispy clouds waft past, you can sit back sipping a hot cup of kehwa (aromatic green tea beverage) and forget the madness of city life.

Zanskar, Ladakh


Zanskar View
Rugged mountains and the sparkling river at Zanskar.
Image courtesy: ©Pradeep Chamaria/Lonely Planet

Straight out of a picture-postcard, Zanskar, with its rugged snow-capped mountains, sparkling blue rivers and majestic locales dotted with homes of Tibetan Buddhists, is truly alluring. Adding to its mystical beauty are the age-old monasteries at Karsha, Stongdey, Sani and Phuktal. A must-see is the quaint King’s Palace in Zangla. Other than trekking, options for a range of adventure activities like paragliding and river rafting are available. Your itinerary must also include a drive down Baralacha La, the highest motorable road in the world lying along the Leh-Manali highway. It is usually open in the months of May or June.

Lunglei, Mizoram

From Aizawl airport as you drive past steep hills and deep gorges, clusters of whispering pines and traditional villages, Lunglei charms with its simplistic beauty and quaint charm. With a name that means ‘bridge of rock’ – yes, there’s one like that here — the town offers a host of activities for a relaxed holiday, be it trekking, bird watching or just driving around. Do take time out to visit the Khawnglung wildlife sanctuary, located at a height of 1300 meters above sea level where you are sure to spot wild boars, hoolock, gibbon, and the sambar deer. Check out the activities at Saikuti Hall where you just might catch an interesting celebration or a concert by a visiting artiste.

Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh

The Apatanis are known for their facial tattoos.
Image courtesy: Wikipedia/Doniv79/CC-BY-2.5

Against the backdrop of towering pines, gently undulating blue hills and picturesque rice fields, lies Ziro. Besides a visit to Hapoli, the town centre, also look out for the Apatanis — the charming tribals famous for their facial tattoos. Wildlife enthusiasts must visit the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, home to several endangered animals including the clouded leopard and barking deer. Take a picnic basket along to the 5,000 year-old Meghna Cave Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva that boasts of splendid architecture. Also spend time strolling around the pine-tree forested area called Midey.

Triund, Himachal Pradesh

Triund, Himachal Pradesh
Trekking to Triund is worth the effort for the stunning views.

About 10km from McLeodganj, nestling at a height of about 2,828 m, this little jewel of the Dhauladhar Range is a must for both seasoned as well as amateur trekkers. Climbers often say they forget their fatigue once they reach the top as they encounter the breathtaking, pasture-like vistas that Triund offers. And in case you are thirsting for more, there’s another hike – up to Kareri Lake where there are some ancient rock-cut caves.

Jalori Pass, Kullu

View of the snow peaks of the Himalayas from the top of Jalori pass, Himachal Pradesh, India
View of the snow capped Himalayan peaks from Jalori Pass.

Among the most picturesque getaways in the mountains is Jalori. At a height of 10,800 ft, in Himachal Pradesh’s Karsog Valley, it is the nearest mountain pass from Delhi and, incidentally, the first to open for visitors every year. Jalori is high on the list not just for those who enjoy trekking in the mountains but also for those looking for peace and quiet because other than the ancient Mahakali Temple and a couple of dhabas, it has only serenity to offer – something that will work like magic on the frayed nerves of cityfolk.

North Sikkim

Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the country.

If you prefer being on the road less travelled, then start your journey from Mongan, that lies about 65 kms away from Gangtok. A pristine breathtaking landscape opens up at every turn – and against the backdrop of the high mountains you can see monasteries with colourful prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. These include Lachen at the pretty Lachung village and the Phodong monastery that stuns with its unique architecture. Another must-see is the Gurudongmar Lake, one of the highest lakes in India and Yumthang valley that offers not just a variety of rhododendrons and other alpine flowers but also a hot spring – a veritable paradise for nature lovers. However, first things first, you will need to contact a local travel agent who will help you explore this fascinating region.

Mararikulam, Kerala

Sunset from the beach at Mararikulam.

The bracing air of this beach village in Allappzha district, will entice you right from the time you set foot in it. Walk past charming homes under a canopy of tall coconut trees that stretch indefinitely along the beach, enjoying breathtaking silhouettes that unfold at every step. Watching frolicsome waves play on the surface of the ocean waters along the sun-drenched beach is a delight. Walk barefoot on the wet sands collecting seashells – a simple yet delightful activity that will prove to be a therapeutic experience. Don’t forget to try out an invigorating ayurvedic massage that will drive all your stresses away.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Life's come full circle for Purnima, who started out as a travel journalist. And now, after more than 20 years in mainstream journalism, she is once again packing her bags and putting on her travelling boots to pursue her first love.