Ecohunters Solo

9 Experiential Solo Travel Destinations In India under 30k

Posted By : Faisal Rabbani/ 574 0

Solo travel destinations offering a different perspective and diverse experiences to suit your soul and your pocket too!

One of the things of beauty about Solo travel ~ no fuzzy logic here!~ just pick a place and go without having to bother about heavy duty logistics, location access, weather pattern or type of food available~ hence picking a destination comes with better calibration of judgement such as , experience the place provides, the local culture one can experience ,kind of community one can interact with, so on and so forth.

So lets explore some awesome solo travel destinations offering a different perspective and diverse experiences to suit your soul and your pocket too!

Here we go Seekers!

Dharamshala ~ Mcleodganj

Dharamsala has the monastery of the Dalai Lama and is home to the largest Tibetan temple in India.  The upper part of Dharamsala, known as Mcleodganj is the one more famous with travellers. Bir is located southeast of Dharamsala and Biling is on the way to Thamsar Pass. It’s a trek of 14kms which can be done on foot from Bir to Biling. Biling is also a paragliding destination with some of the best services in the world. Kaereri lake, which is a high altitude fresh water lake, is in the northwest of Dharamsala and a trek can be made out of going there.

Access – Easiest to reach by a flight to Dharamshala, taking a bus or train is a better option to get a feel of your trip. The hotels are cheap with the best time of visit being March to October. It’s ideal even for a weekend getaway.

Stay – There are lots of budget and luxury hotels and cottages to choose from. Spend two days here and combine it with a trip to Dalhousie or McLeodganj for another two days to make it a longer one.

Lahaul ~ Spiti

Mountains monasteries, magnificent landscapes and a parched soul longing to quench its thirst welcome you here You can either make a long road-trip of these two places while passing Manali, Rothang Pass and Leh, or choose to visit them later.

Access – This is strictly a road trip. Some of the highest motor-able roads in the world await you here. Best time to visit from May to October.

Stay – Stay with locals , the people are warm and friendly who will let you stay with them as well as monasteries where you can spend the nights. Give yourself a week or ten days for this crazy road trip of a lifetime!

Rishikesh

This is one place which never gets too old to get back too.Its a popular weekend destination for urbanites around,most  travel here for rafting. The place is filled with Ashrams offering Yoga and meditation If you feel spiritual after visiting one, Haridwar is just one hour away from Rishikesh. Haridwar is also one of the stops of the “Chaar Dham Yatra” and plays host to the maha Kumbh Mela.

Access – Going by bus and train are popular options but if you want to fly there, the Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun is the nearest to Rishikesh.

Stay – There are various camps and hotels to stay in at Rishikesh while in Haridwar there is the Swami Dayananda Ashram to stay at. A three day trip is ideal, to break the monotony of life and it can be done even over a long weekend.

Zanskar

The most isolated of all the Himalayan valleys, Zanskar is to be explored by those who want to experience untouched, pristine beauty in India. The frozen waterfalls and the Chadar trek along with the frozen Zanskar River is a must-do while visiting here. Buddhist monasteries are also worth the visit here. The best time to visit is April to August.

Access – This is a destination which you must cover on a road trip to Leh-Ladakh. A bus or on a motorbike is the best way to get here.

Stay  Pitch tents in the valley or stay i at Leh.  Ideally, three days or more are required to visit here. Preferably, take a whole tour of the popular places of the Himalayan region in a two-week expedition if you’re feeling adventurous.

Varanasi

Regarded as one of the holiest cities for Hindus, it is known for more than just the Benarasi silk. Replete with ghats and temples, it is  hard to imagine that a lot of them were destroyed in the middle ages. The most intimate rituals of death take place in the open so it is not a destination for the faint hearted.

Access– The best time to visit is October to March. You can fly here with the Lal Bahadur Shastri airport being 24kms away from the town, or take a bus or car directly.

Stay – Spending three days here is sufficient to explore the city and what it has to offer. Most of the budget hotels are located at the banks of the Ganges River. One can also stay at one of the many backpacker’s hostels.

Bodh Gaya

Spiritual, historical or just a curious Buddhist, a trip to Bodh Gaya is a must. Essential to Buddhism and the place where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment, Bodh Gaya attracts a lot of seekers  who come here for meditation and study.

Access -The best time to visit is November to March while high season is December to January when his holiness Dalai Lama visits. Well connected by air, rail and road, with Gaya being the closest point of access of all three from where you can take a bus to the monasteries.

Stay – The Bihar State Government runs 3 hotels, along with private hotels and bungalows available as accommodation. Try spending four days here , theres a lot to be uncovered.

These Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples have exquisitely carved, erotic sculptures. They’re a part of the tantric mysticism which regarded sex as an important part of the rituals. Carefully preserved even after all these years, these temples are a definite must visit.

Khajuraho

Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples have exquisitely carved, erotic sculptures. They’re a part of the tantric mysticism which regarded sex as an important part of the rituals. Carefully preserved even after all these years, these temples are a must visit.

Access – October to February is the best time to visit with the temperature dipping to 4 degrees almost, with quite some activities to be done. Monsoon has its own charm when the lush green landscape makes the temples stand out even more. There are trains that go directly to the Khajuraho station as well as a new airport that connects it to the major cities of India.

Stay – There are budget hotels and hostels as well as five star hotels so it’s really your pick! 3 days is more than enough here. Brass sculptures available here are something worth picking up.

Majuli

Majuli is the world’s largest river island, located in the Brahmaputra in Assam. Given the abundance of rainfall and water, much of this island is submerged during monsoon. With over 100 species of birds, this place is ideal for bird-watching and for neo-vaishnavite culture and tradition. The local art and culture is quite a spectacle here and can be seen in the Satras.

Access – From Guwahati, Jorhat is a 7 hour bus ride away. There are also ferry rides to Majuli everyday, twice.

Stay – There are no hotels here but there are guesthouses and guest rooms where tourists can stay. An ideal visit would be of two days to just unwind in the scenic beauty of the place. Best time to visit is post November, once the monsoon is through.

Meghalaya

The ‘Abode of Clouds’ as it literally translates to, Meghalaya is one of the Seven-Sisters you can’t miss. As the name suggests, it has two of the wettest places on Earth, Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram where most of the rain falls between June and September. The water has carved out some of the longest caves of Asia. One of the main attractions in Cherapunjee is the Living Root Bridge.

Access – Guwahati is well connected by trains and air but for the rest of the state, the road network is to be relied on.

Stay – In Shillong, most hotels and accommodations are in the Police Bazaar area. Given the shortage of water in the state the rest of the places are harder to stay in but can be still visited. Five days here are ideal though you will really have to plan if you want to visit Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram, given the rains there.

Hampi

UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Karnataka, this place is a must visit especially if you love some art and history. There are more than 500 monuments to see here, strewn across the gorgeous backdrop of hills, so make sure you devote enough time to this trip! The political, royal centre of the Vijayanagara empire, temples and even the quarters of Muslim officers in the royal army are all here in a harmonious setting, located just a few miles from each other.  The river Tungabhadra also adds to the beauty of Hampi, with coracle boats and stone-hills.

Getting There – The closest town to Hampi is Hospet and you can take a train here and then a short bus ride. If you want to fly down, Hubli is the closest airport located about 160 kms from here.

Where  and How Long to Stay – Winter is the best time to visit Hampi with the temperature not dropping below 12 degrees. There are a lot of nice guest houses to stay at here and also some hotels if you want a luxurious trip. There are also heritage resorts with Ayurvedic massages to offer. An ideal trip should be of 2-3 days to really see what Hampi has to offer.

See you there!

Dark Tourism

Posted By : Faisal Rabbani/ 589 0

Scholars have been mulling over the reasons why death attracts so many and just as many scholarly-sounding theories abound. Read on to see my personal nugget later in the post.

Dark Tourism

Tina Enghoff, a photographer from Denmark, has a peculiar practice. She visits houses, in Scandinavia, of people who have recently deceased and takes pictures of their place. Her photo albums, and even one exhibition, is constituted completely of eerie portraits of lives of people who lived until recently, told entirely through their furniture, walls and personal belongings. If you ask her why, Tina will tell you ‘…because you can tell a lot about a person’s life by seeing where they died. ‘

This may sound too morbid a pursuit to be of your taste but do not dismiss it as dominion of the artistically eccentric and the hopelessly existentialist. If the numbers on Dark Tourism are to be believed you may very well be a part of this tradition without outright acknowledging it.

‘Dark tourism (also black tourism or grief tourism) has been defined as tourism involving travel to sites historically associated with death and tragedy.’
(Wikipedia)

To begin, let’s first demystify the nomenclature. The connotations that the term dark tourism comes with can simply be set aside by considering the alternates – thana-tourism (after the Greek Death god Thanos), grief tourism, tragedy tourism, phoenix tourism. It is just a collective term for travelling seeking fascination of death and the dying.

Scholars have been mulling over the reasons why death attracts so many and just as many scholarly-sounding theories abound. Read on to see my personal nugget later in the post.

The popular scholarly views:

  • Cultural entertainment
  • Repressed sadism
  • Dealing with eventuality of human mortality

…and my favourite coming from the director of Institute of Dark Tourism Research (real entity, honestly)

”People feel anxious before – and then better when they leave, glad that it’s not them,”
– Dr. Philip Stone

Simple enough, right? Of course not.

We are dealing with the metaphysical conundrum of death with something as modest as travelling. You may have guessed that there is more to it than meets the eye and you would be correct.

This fascination with dead people’s places is not a modern invention. Early examples of dark tourism may be found in the patronage of Roman gladiatorial games and public executions in medieval times. The Roman coliseum has been referred to as the first Dark Tourist attraction while public executions whetted the appetite of an entertainment starved masses.

With such a brilliant idea having been around for so long it is no surprise that there are ‘best of’ and ‘top 10’ lists for best Dark Tourism spots.

One thing I love about these lists is how clear they make the reason for the charm of Dark Tourism. All the places, owing to their past, now have a rich history and a great story. Travelling is all about great stories and the places they are made. Maybe dark locations are just that – locations; with effective backdrops and great merchandizing potential. Is that a bad thing? We will see in the next section. Read on.

You may have noticed the lack of Indian representation in the lists above. But that only shows India is not a top destination, but India was built on war and politics. There is enough Dark for the tourism here. Sample a few.

  • Jallianwala Bagh massacre site
  • Taj Mahal – the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal
  • Rajghat – the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi
  • 26/11 attack sites in South Mumbai – Taj hotel, Gateway of India, Nariman House
  • The UCIL plant – Bhopal gas Tragedy site

An important question here would be about the lacking initiative by Tourism department to milk these cash cows, which nicely opens us up the ethical and moral problems that Dark Tourism faces.

 Challenges with Dark Tourism:

Commercialisation v/s Memorialisation

Turning a place of disaster into a tourist attraction overtly has a tone of beneficence – informing people on the plight of the affected and keeping the memory alive; maybe even avoid a future disaster. But the line between consciousness raising and raising capital soon begins to blur and becomes just another victim of disaster at the place.

Add to that the media attention and the glamorising that comes with it. Very often we see the plot getting out of hand. Not always is the story about tour operators making obscene amounts of money out of tragedy. Sometimes it’s a tragedy of its own.

Take the case of Alicia Esteve Head (aka Tania Head) who claimed to be a survivor of 9/11 attacks. Investigation later showed she had only witnessed those events on television in her native Spain. She travelled to New York and attended survivor’s meetings in Manhattan. Eventually she even became their very prominent spokesperson. All the while, lying about herself.
What motivated her? Was it attention? Was it need to be part of the tragedy?

If only she could answer the question of commercialisation v/s memorialisation.

One-sided affair

Tourist destinations like any location of history are subject to the shortcomings of history – written by the victors.

Unsuspecting, unread visitors who are willing to the accept the text on the memorial plank as canon partake in much graver crimes that just being misinformed on the number of soldiers who lost their lives.

Take these two cases:

Black history: After slavery was abolished in America, the cotton plantations which were a hotbed for exploiting the African American community became Dark Tourism spots, with tourists of all colours flocking to either commend on how things have changed for the better or comment on how things have hardly changed. Such plantations were known by the wooden planks that detailed the history of the supposedly benevolent white family that owned and housed, rather than exploited the blacks. The African-Americans obviously knew the other side of the story and after a bitter legal battle it became necessary to include both histories – the white and the black – at such locations.

Gays of Auschwitz: You may think that having survived the Nazi Holocaust as a Jew would mean the end of all travails for a lifetime. But you haven’t taken the homophobic zeitgeist into account then. Gay Jews had to fight for right to be represented on the international stage about the persecution they faced in Nazi Germany. No concentration camp tour wants to mention ‘gay victims’ as a special category.

 A great backdrop for pictures

This may sound frivolous but it’s not. Take the case of Toshifumi Fujimoto – the world’s most extreme tourist

Now see this tumblr blog

 

Dark tourism is not always damaging, but neither is it always helpful. Still, whether or not you approve of the practice, the essence of the ethical debate surely revolves around one key question: who’s really benefiting?

The Summation

If you are a believer in the theory that all time exists together – that there is no separate past, present and future but one simultaneous – you can easily marvel at the slapstick macabre in juxtaposed images of European backpackers in shorts and tight fitting t-shirts carrying massive bags eyeing attentively the hordes of Tutsi tribe kids being slaughtered in the Hotel Rwanda genocide at Murambi, Africa – now a world famous museum with table displays of children skulls and mummified remains.

The fact is Dark Tourism is an ‘after the fact’ activity. Like with any such undertaking it is necessary to take into account the fact and be mindful of a few things.

The Dark Tourist Commandments:

Read beforehand

Respect the location

Respect the history

Dress right

Travellers have tasted the spectrum of human experience. The more you travel more you come to terms with the impermanence of human life. This revelation may in some trigger the desire to visit places which have become monuments to human endings. Dark tourism deftly combines beginnings and ends into a single trip like no other trip can.