1. Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh
A pilgrimage site for Hindus, Amarkantak is the source of the Narmada and Sone rivers. Picturesque ponds, hills, forests and waterfalls make the village a very sought after destination for tourists. The story of the ashes of Shiva’s destruction fell on the village that magically transformed into thousands of shivalingas. One such idol still stands today at Jwaleshwar.
Amarkantak got its name from the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, who called it Amrakoot due to the abundance of mango trees.
Despite several pilgrims visiting it every year, accommodation is limited to state run guest lodges and ashrams.
2. Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Located 3048 metres above sea level, Tawang is located in the northwestern edge of Arunachal Pradesh and shares a border with Tibet. It is well known for the Tawang Monastery which was founded by the Mera Lama Lodre Gyasto in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso. It belongs to the Gelugpa sect and is the largest Buddhist monastery in India.
The gilded roofs stand majestically with the background of the Himalayas, and the 8-m-tall statue seated Buddha is a grand image to be seen.
3. Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu
The origins of this town lies in Hindu mythology where Lord Rama was crowned the King of Lanka after defeating Ravana. He was asked to destroy the Rama Setu which he had built in order to cut off the island and he did so with his bow and arrow. Hence the literal translation of the name is “Bow’s end” (Dhanush for bow and kodi means end).
Today on the southern most tip of Pamban island and the closest point of India to Sri Lanka lies an abandoned ghost town. A cyclone in 1964 destroyed it and several people lost their lives. Today, visitors and pilgrims to nearby Rameswaram (18 km away) visit the ruins and remains of the town.
4. Punsari, Gujarat
This is sometimes called the model village as it has embraced modernity by adopting technology in every aspect. Every household has access to wi-fi while CCTVs have been installed for the security of all residents. Some of the facilities provided by the panchayat include local mineral water supply, sewer & drainage projects, a healthcare centre, banking facilities and a toll-free complaint reception service.
The scenery is not the highlight but the astounding development that we could never imagine for an Indian village is top-notch.
5. Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
Sanchi houses various Buddhist memorials and historic sites which belong to the period ranging from 12th century CE (Common Era) to 3rd century BCE (Before Common Era). The Sanchi Stupa is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage centre in India. The area has won the honor of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several pilgrims come here to visit the memorials as it played a significant role in the rise of Buddhism in the country.
Other than the stupas, there is an archaeological museum in place which houses a number of amazing relics and works of art. These works of art truly reflect the culture and background of this famous pilgrimage site. Stunning carvings and implements made of metal as ancient as 2000 years would instill a sense of that period in you.
Sanchi is 46 km from Bhopal.
6. Tanot, Rajasthan
This village is close to the border with Pakistan and has a connection to the Kargil War. In 1965, the Pakistani army tried to bomb the Tanot Mata Temple but none of the bombs fell directly on it or damaged any of the property. Today those bomb shells are housed in the army museum of the temple which is run by the jawans. Tanot is a sea of dunes and is the best place to admire the beauty of the Thar desert in winter.
For all you Bollywood fans out there, the movie Border was shot here.
7. Chaukori, Uttarakhand
Sandwiched between the Indo-China and Indo-Nepal borders, Chaukori offers views of the Greater Himalayan peaks of Nanda Kot, Panchchuli, Nanda Khat and Nanda Devi. There is no physical spot in Chaukori that is a sight to see, except for the abundance of nature that instills a calming effect as you take a walk through forests of deodars, rhododendrons, spruce, oaks and pine trees,with chirping birds and invigourating fresh air.
Chaukori also attracts several nature sports enthusiasts who loving river rafting, trekking and rock climbing.
8. Ajabgarh, Rajasthan
It is said that visiting the site of Bhangarh fort is prohibited after sunset and before sunrise due to the presence of tigers (Sariska Tiger Reserve is not very far away) and other supernatural entities. Ajabgarh, a dusty village, and Bhangarh, a ruined city, were both abandoned after they were said to be cursed by a sorcerer.
However visiting in the daytime will reveal that the remains tell a story of beautiful architecture despite the harsh climate of the region.
9. Gavi, Kerala
Kerala is not all about beaches, backwaters and riceboats. Near the Periyar National Park lies Gavi which is one of the best places catered to visitors inclined towards eco-tourism. Endangered species including the Nilgiri Tahr and lion-tailed macaque are often seen at the outskirts of Gavi. Keralas very own treasure elephants can be spotted abundantly. Bird watchers are in for a treat here, with more than 260 species of birds, including the great pied hornbill, woodpecker, and kingfishers.
10. Harsil, Uttarakhand
Nestled in the Kumaon Himalayas, this sleepy hill station is everything you need to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Wake up with the chirping of birds, smell the wild flowers and watch the rays of the sun paint this little hamlet with its own hues.
A 7-km-trek away from Harsil is Sattal which is a cluster of seven lakes amid breathtaking scenery. The religious site of Gangotri is a further 24 km away.
11. Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh
Called the mini Switzerland of India, Khajjiar sits on a small plateau with a small stream-fed lake in the middle that has been covered over with weeds. The hill station is surrounded by green meadows and dense forests. It is about 6,500 feet (2,000 m) above sea level in the foothills of the Dhauladhar ranges of the Western Himalayas and snowy peaks can be seen in the distance. It is part of the Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary.
12. Dindigul, Tamil Nadu
Dindigul is believed to be an ancient settlement. It has been ruled at different times by the Early Pandyan Kingdom, the Medieval Cholas, Pallava dynasty, the later Pandyas, the Madurai Sultanate, the Dindigul Sultanates, the Vijayanagara Empire, the Madurai Nayak Dynasty, Chanda Sahib, the Carnatic kingdom and the British. Dindigul has a number of historical monuments, the Rock Fort being the most prominent.
13. Kuldhara, Rajasthan
Just like Ajabgarh and Bhangarh, the village of Kuldhara was abandoned overnight but the remains of the village are still there. Most prominent is the temple and the various little houses that people lived in. The village is said to be haunted and many supernatural activities have been reported. If you do get a chance to visit before sunset and after sunrise, the beauty of this once-flourishing village is well worth it.
14. Longkhum, Nagaland
Longkhum has breathtaking views of mountains and valleys surrounding it and is home to a precipice of eagles who are believed by local people to be spirits of the dead.
Major tourist attractions include the Mata Yimkong – the top of the hillock where once stood a fortress and the students’ Jubilee Tower, the highest point of the village. The footprints preserved on a rock surface, believed to be of Chenna and Etiben the Romeo and Juliet of the Ao Naga tribe, is another interesting spot worth visiting.
15. Dharali, Uttarakhand
The village of Dharali is 2 km away from Harsil, across the Bhagirathi river. Views are said to be better of the mountains and valleys as well as of the turbulent river. The hustle and bustle of Yatris headed towards Gangotri is also less in comparison.
In winter, the idol of Goddess Ganga is brought to Dharali as a winter retreat.
16. Tumling, border of West Bengal and Nepal
On the way to the popular trekking destination, Tumling is a small hamlet inhabited by a few Nepali families and is right on the border of West Bengal and the Himalayan nation. Indian citizens and foreigners do not require a visa.
At the center of Tumling, there is a view point where you can get magnificent views of the Kanchenjunga snow peaks. On the left is the Sandakphu peak. There is a signboard here pointing towards the Singalila National Park ahead. Entry to the park is about 1 km from Tumling. There is also a trekking trail towards Tonglu.