Our favorite off the beaten track destinations in India

A list of our favorite places to go “off the beaten track” in India. Selected over almost a year of travel, check out these places if you truly want to dive deep and go off the beaten track in India.

 

Fact: India is massive.

Though some people make it seem as if India is a country that can be “done” in a matter of weeks, the truth is that exploring India would take lifetimes. Even after nine months—and more soon to come—we’ve only covered a small fraction of this majestic country.

With so much to see and do, it can be hard to decide where to travel in India! Although many people stick to the tried and tested destinations, such as the Golden Triangle, Goa, and the Hummus Trail, there’s so much more to see beyond the textbook tourist sights.

More importantly, India becomes much more rewarding (and much less filled with scam artists) when you leave the well beaten path, and immerse yourself in the myriad experiences it offers.

Below are a few of our favorite destinations to go off the beaten track in India, to help you travel beyond the hordes of sketchy tour touts, selfie squads, and stoned hippies.

 

After almost one year of travel in India, there are some destinations we just can't get out of our minds! These are some of our favorite off the beaten track destinations in India, from South India to Northeast India, including a map of destinations for your trip planning!

 

Lost With Purpose’s favorite destinations off the beaten track in India

 

Best off the beaten track destinations in India - Theyyam ritual in Kannur, Kerala - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Theyyam in Kannur: an otherworldy experience!

Kannur, Kerala (South India)

This dusty market town in northern Kerala does nothing to impress. But in the villages surrounding Kannur, an ancient ritual takes place for several months a year: Theyyam.

Theyyam is one of the most impressive rituals we’ve seen. Said to predate Hinduism, chosen men channel ancient deities through dance. It’s an otherworldly ritual, and certainly not something to be missed.

Post: Theyyam, a dance of gods

A night of fiery Theyyam dance in Kannur, Kerala is one of many top off the beaten track sights in India.
Wild costumes help Theyyam dancers to channel gods during their performance. Just one of many reasons Theyyam dance in Kerala is one of India's off the beaten track highlights!
A Theyyam dancer catching his breath in Kannur, Kerala, a great off the beaten track activity in India.

 

Best destinations off the beaten track in India - Ibrahim Rauza mausoleum through an archway in Bijapur, Karnataka - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The Ibrahim Rauza mosque and mausoleum in Bijapur.

Bijapur and Bidar, Karnataka (South India)

Most travelers bus it to Hampi or the coast, giving very little thought to the rest of Karnataka. But in the northeast corner of the state are two cities that are a must for history buffs: Bijapur and Bidar.

Walking around these cities is like being transported back in time. Large onion domes dot the skyline, as Islamic history comes alive in the multitudes of madrasas, mosques, and shrines lurking around both cities. Neither are particularly popular with foreign tourists, and locals are happy to have a chat or a cup of chai. By far my favorite places in Karnataka.

Post: 7 off the beaten track destinations in Karnataka

Sunrise over Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka is an off the beaten track highlight not to be missed!
A man motorbiking outside the Bahamani tombs near Bidar, a great off the beaten track destination in Karnataka state, India.
Exploring crumbling arches in Bijapur, an epic off the beaten track destination in Karnataka state, India.

 

Best off the beaten track destinations in India - Char Minar during nightly traffic in the old city of Hyderabad - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The famous Char Minar in Hyderabad’s old city.

Hyderabad, Telangana (East India)

Although most of Hyderabad’s famed royal history is now lost to the ages, the city is a heaven for foodies and history aficionados alike. A separate kingdom until 1948, whose Nawab was the richest man alive during its glory days, a stroll around its old city will reveal crumbling havelis, palaces converted into government buildings, and what is perhaps the tastiest non-veg (and veg) food one can have in India.

Post: Where and what to eat in the Old City of Hyderabad, India

A view of the buzzing market around Hyderabad, India's old city from the top of the Charminar monument.
A man making lassi on the streets of Hyderabad, India.
Women in black burqa buying bangles in one of many bazaars in the old city of Hyderabad, India, a great off the beaten track destination for adventurous and foodie travelers.

 

Our favorite off the beaten track destinations in India - Sunrise over Jain temple tops in Palitana, India - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Sunrise over the 1,000+ Jain temples of Palitana.

Palitana, Gujarat (West India)

Palitana is home to one of Jainism’s holiest of pilgrimage sites, and joining throngs of devout Jains on part of their pilgrimage was one of the highlights of our time in India. The thousand plus temples are gorgeous, the people friendly, and watching the sun rise over the literal mountain of bright temples was a sight we have yet to beat.

Post: 1% of a Jain pilgrimage in Palitana

Golden sunrise over one of the thousand plus temples in Palitana, an off the beaten track destination in Gujarat, India.
Temple doors opening to sunrise over the Jain temples of Palitana, Gujarat state, India. The perfect off the beaten track destination for your India trip!
Intricately carved details on the sides of a Jain temple in Palitana, Gujarat state, India.

 

Our favorite off the beaten path destinations in India - Rani ki vav stepwell in Patan, Gujarat - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The insanely well preserved interior of Rani Ki Vav.

Rani Ki Vav, Gujarat (West India)

Rajasthan is famous for its stepwells—wide wells constructed so people could more easily access water—but we found the stepwells of Gujarat far more impressive. Rani Ki Vav, outside of Patan town, is the crown jewel of the lot, and without a doubt one of the most impressive works of art and architecture we saw in India. Despite being 900 years old, the stepwell is in excellent condition, thanks to being lost under layers of sand for hundreds of years.

Looking for more stepwells? Check out Sid the Wanderer’s article on Adajal stepwell in Ahmedabad!

Carved details in Rani Ki Vav stepwell, one of India's most beautiful stepwells in Patan, Gujarat state.
Rani Ki Vav stepwell in Gujarat state, Western India, is a beautiful UNESCO Heritage site and must-see off the beaten track destination in India.
A well-preserved carved statue in Rani Ki Vav stepwell in Patan, Gujarat state, India.

 

Best off the beaten path destinations in India - Colorful haveli on the streets of Diu island - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Vivid havelis on the narrow streets of Diu.

Diu, Gujarat (West India)

We could probably mention all places we visited in Gujarat, from Laxmi Villas in Baroda to the Patola workshop in Patan. But Diu is something special.

This small island, technically administered from Delhi, was a Portuguese colony, and it shows. And unlike its more famous cousin Goa, very few tourists make it here. With its orderly streets and fresh sea breeze, it’s the perfect place to relax and recharge after the more hectic travels on the mainland. The fact that beer is tax-free helps, too!

 

Blue skies over a Portuguese church on Diu island, India. A great off the beaten track destination in India if you're looking for a bit of comfortable rest and relaxation, and the perfect Goa alternative.
Colorful, winding backstreets of Diu, an island off the west coast of India. Portuguese-influenced Diu is a great Goa alternative if you're looking for somewhere offbeat to relax in India.
Diu, an island off the west coast of India, is filled with colorful doors and pretty Portuguese architecture. It's the perfect place to spend a few days relaxing and getting away from the chaos of India.

 

Top off the beaten track destinations in India - A colorful temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Bursts of color in Ayodhya.

Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh (Central India)

Considered the birthplace or Ram, and made famous by the destruction of the Babri Masjid, Ayodhya holds a special place in UP politics and Hindu nationalists’ hearts. Most tourists skip Ayodhya in preference for it famous neighbor Varanasi, but I liked Ayodhya much more.

Not only is it the birthplace or Ram, it’s also the birthplace of several Jain holy men, and was part of the Mughal Empire. The narrow side streets of Ayodyha are thus a feast for the eyes, with temples, shrines, and lattice work galore. The ghats aren’t as impressive as the ones in Varanasi, but the calm and friendly people more than make up for it.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the 3 most beautiful states in India, according to The World in My Pocket!

Our favorite off the beaten path destinations in India - Pastel pink sunrise over Loktak Lake in Manipur - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Pastel sunrises over Loktak Lake.

Loktak Lake, Manipur (Northeast India)

We struggled to narrow down our favorite places in Northeast India—everything comes to mind! But through the indecisiveness, Loktak Lake quickly rises to the top.

Spending some peaceful days on the shore of Loktak Lake is a must for anyone wandering to the northeast. You can sit and watch fishermen and -women navigate between the floating islands of plants in their wooden boats, read a book to the sound of buzzing dragonflies and fresh fruit falling from the trees, or admire the seemingly endless variety of flowers growing around the peninsula jutting into the lake. The lake is also home to the world’s only floating national park, Keibul Lamjao.

Post: Why you need to visit Loktak Lake

Floating islands of phumdis on Loktak Lake, an off the beaten track destination in Manipur state, Northeast India.
Sunrise over Loktak Lake, a peaceful offbeat destination in Manipur state, Northeast India.
A fisherman boating on Loktak Lake in Manipur, Northeast India.

 

Top off the beaten track destinations in India - A fisherman and boat in Majuli - Lost With Purpose travel blog

One of many fishing boats (and fishermen!) found on Majuli.

Majuli, Assam (Northeast India)

Majuli island, set amongst the flowing waters of the Brahmaputra, was once the world’s largest river island. Unfortunately, it’s rapidly eroding due to increased floods from climate change and other external factors.

Nevertheless, the island is rich in both cultural and natural attractions. You can easily spend a few days exploring the lush island by bicycle, visiting the numerous satras (Hindu monasteries) scattered throughout in between admiring the island’s natural beauty. Each satra specializes in an art form, such as mask making or dance, so you’re guaranteed to never be bored.

Post: Majuli, India’s disappearing island

Majuli island is an idyllic river island in Assam state, Northeast India. If you're looking for a place to relax in India, Majuli island is the perfect off the beaten track destination.
A traditional hand painted mask at one of the many Vaishnavite satras, Hindu monasteries, on Majuli river island in Assam, Northeast India.
Sunset over a field of water flowers on Majuli river island in Northeast India.

 

Top off the beaten path destinations in India - Mountain vistas in Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh - Lost With Purpose travel blog

No matter where you look in Mechuka, you’ll be greeted to views like this!

Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh (Northeast India)

Mechuka was our final stop in Arunachal Pradesh, and a more fitting end to our journey could not exist. The Tibetan town is set in a perfectly green valley at the base of the mountains dividing China and India. There are breathtaking views no matter where you look, and plenty of walking paths going in whatever direction suits your fancy. Each day, we picked a direction and just kept on walking through the hills until we were too tired to continue, and that was all we needed.

Post: Guide to backpacking Arunachal Pradesh

Running through the epic vistas of Mechuka, a mountain town in Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India. One of the most beautiful and off the beaten track destinations we've visited to date!
A wobbly wooden suspension bridge over a river in Mechuka, a village in Arunachal Pradesh state, Northeast India.
Mechuka village in Arunachal Pradesh state, Northeast India, is one of the most beautiful off the beaten track destinations we've visited in India. Click through to learn more about the mountainous paradise and other off the beaten track destinations in India.

 

Map of off the beaten track destinations in India

Convinced to head out your door once more? Use this map to plan your off the beaten track Indian adventure! Click on the map to view in a new window.

Did we miss anything? Have a favorite off the beaten path destination in India? Let us know in the comments!

Feeling the love for India? We are, too! Here’s why we fell in love with India.

 

After almost one year of travel in India, there are some destinations we just can't get out of our minds! These are some of our favorite off the beaten track destinations in India, from South India to Northeast India, including a map of destinations for your trip planning!

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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21 thoughts on “Our favorite off the beaten track destinations in India

    Garhwali Nath says:

    Thnx for sharing such a great article… really helpfull.

    Sebastiaan says:

    You’re most welcome!

    Nils says:

    Well written introduction. I am sick of people, travelling South-East Asia and explaining, they have “done” a country. How arrogant. You can only get a glimps, and your destinations are a good way to start! Well done.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks a lot. Yeah we agree, we try to avoid term “done” as much as possible. As if places and people are just there for you to check of your box 🙁

    Totally agree! It’s impossible to “do” a country in a matter of weeks, especially one the size of India. I’ve spent months in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Thailand, and still left feeling as though I’d only scratched the surface.

    I’ve actually just returned from a 10-day trek in Kerala (unfortunately I’m currently working a full-time day job so I have to fit my leave around it), and one of the things I loved about it was that we hiked through a lot of rural areas where we didn’t see any other tourists. It was a totally different India to the one I experienced when I explored Agra, Delhi, and Jaipur, and it’s definitely left me hungry for more! I’ve saved your post for future reference when I come to book my next trip to India. The Assam region looks beautiful 🙂

    Aga says:

    Wonderful post! India is so diverse and there’s so much to explore!

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks a lot. And yeah, it can take a lifetime to properly explore this country.

    Simon Leroy says:

    Waiting for my train to Guwahati, before shillong and Meghalaya!
    Thanks for your posts, really helped me to spot the best places to see in NE in a limited time 🙂

    Sebastiaan says:

    Glad to hear it’s useful. Enjoy the Northeast!

    Jeni says:

    Great read on Gujarat, spending January there with our 3 kids any other suggestions on must see places would be appreciated (kids very experienced travellers and have spent more than a year in India so comfortable in all environments)

    Sebastiaan says:

    Honestly, all places we went to in Gujarat were great. Ahmedabad has just been declared a UNESCO city, so definitely worth a visit. There’s an ancient Islamic city near Bardoda, called Champaner, which is interesting if that’s your cup of tea. There are also several sun temples, which are quite elaborate, and Bhuj is interesting, especially if you like fabrics.

    Linda says:

    Thanks for sharing

    Sebastiaan says:

    You’re most welcome!

    MuhammadYusuf says:

    Well, my top 5 is like that (I dont’t rank the places, it’s just a list)
    1) Kalinjar Fort (UP) 2) Yusmarg (J&K) 3) Ayodhya (UP) 4) Nawalgarh/Fatehpur/Mandawa (Rajasthan) 5) Murshidabad (West Bengal)
    I dunno if Kinnaur valley in Himachal Pradesh is off the beaten track enough…

    Sebastiaan says:

    Cool! We’ll look into these and maybe visit a few places you mention 🙂

    farenexus says:

    Great I like your articel.great research in Gujrat.keep it up

    Alex says:

    Gujarat is still one of my favorite states—researching there wasn’t such a pain 😉

    Navbharat Today says:

    Thanks for sharing about goa.
    Awesome blog great research.
    Helpful for travelers

    Rose says:

    Please try Ladakh in Jammu/Kashmir – especially Leh, Diskit , Sarchu and Pangong lake.

    Alex says:

    I’ve spent a bit of time in and around Leh, but would happily go back to Ladakh any time! Next summer, perhaps 🙂

    tanya says:

    Heading to a wedding in Hyderabad but know nothing about it, so nice to hear it’s a cool place. After this thinking of heading towards Bangalore passing through the places you highlight in Karnataka. Thanks!

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