Ten years ago when I started Tales of a Nomad, not in my wildest dreams did I think that my personal travel diary would turn out to be my bread earner one day. I never thought that it would take me to some of the most amazing places and offer surreal experiences. But it did, and thank you a million times for that, Tales of a Nomad. Happy Birthday to you!
Whenever, I had written about travel blogging in general, the focus has always been on blogging. Yes, I still reiterate the fact that in travel blogging, writing comes first and travel is secondary. However, this time am focusing on travel. Below is my list of favourite destinations that Tales of a Nomad has taken me to in the last ten years.
Kannur has always remained tucked away from the curious eyes of tourists and that is probably why it is never mentioned in the same breath as the tea estates of Munnar or back waters of Alappuzha. This is also one of the reasons why I love Kannur as it attracts lesser crowds. The beaches such as Ettikulam, Palakode, Chootad, Chaal, Meenkunnu, Ezhara, Kizhunna and Thottada are some of the most pristine ones I have ever seen in Kerala. The other reason I love Kannur is because it is the land of Theyyam, a ritualistic form of worship. From December to April, the sacred groves and temples witness Theyyam performances late at night. Decked up with facial paintings and attires, the Theyyam performers metamorphose themselves into deities and bless the people.
I had been to Varkala in 2009 before it became quite popular on the tourist map. I love the setting here with the natural cliff and the beach way down. This is an absolute stunner and definitely an unexpected landscape along the coast. There are numerous shacks and hotels serving the day’s fresh catch atop the cliff. A walk along the cliff with sea breeze and setting sun is undoubtedly an ideal way to end a day. Varkala was apparently the first destination that I wrote about on Tales of a Nomad.
Gokarna is probably my favourite beach destination in India. Though it is a temple town, the beaches of Gokarna are equally popular. It is a nice trek over the connecting hillocks to reach each of those beaches. The views are magnificent all along and the trails are beautiful. The protruding rocks of Om Beach have an encapsulating charm. The numerous shacks on Om beach and Kudle beach are where one can unwind.
There are different reasons to love Hampi, such as its landscapes and hippie vibe. However, what I adore about the place is its history. I have been to Hampi twice and each time I have felt that I have been walking alongside the legends of Vijayanagar empire. Every time I find the wonderful structures and exceptional sculptures come alive. I can sit in any corner of Hampi and envisage a bygone empire and their great achievements.
The little village of Kanadukathan in Chettinad blew me away with its numerous criss-cross lanes lined up with magnificent mansions or nattukottais (land fortresses). There were very few visitors and very few locals. It seemed like I had the whole village to myself. Large colourful mansions stared at me from all directions and I happily gazed back at them. Built more than 100 years ago by Chettiar community, who were traders and financiers, these grandiose mansions are huge and extended from one lane to another. With extensive décor, sculptures and carvings inside the mansions and on the the outer façade, these structures are absolute stunners. One can visit some of these, stay in some of them and just gaze at the others.
While Thanjavur is popular for its paintings and music festivals, what left me awestruck was the spectacular Brihadeeshwarar temple. This magnificent temple built in the 11th century during Chola empire has extensive carvings and sculptures all across, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. I could gaze at this amazing creation forever in oblivion. The large entrance gates with sculptures and numerous other shrines make up the complex apart from the thirteen storeyed gopuram of the main shrine.
I was absolutely at peace as I cycled through the island of Divar and later through Chorao. A ferry ride across river Ribander took me to the island of Divar in Goa. Away from the maddening crowds of the beaches, Divar island welcomes visitors with open fields, mangroves, birds, colourful houses and roads winding around them. The island has a laid back feel, is serene and perfectly explains the word- susegad, the Portuguese word that Goa is so much associated with. Chorao, the neighbouring island is another ferry ride away, and is known for the popular Salim Ali bird sanctuary.
Ratnagiri left me wonder struck with magnificent vistas of its beaches. The ride on the meandering road that runs along the coast of Ratnagiri offers spectacular views from vantage points. Ratnagiri is known for its gorgeous beaches such as Ganeshgule, Bandarpule, Kajir Bati and Aaare Ware. The twin beaches of Aaare Ware are probably the best on this stretch. I also love Ratnagiri for its unending mango orchards and the fresh mangoes one can buy during the summer months.
Transported to a different era, Mandu was a story teller and I became the keen listener. Every dilapidated structure had stories to say about kings and queens. The lush green landscape and the voluptuous water bodies further accentuated the charm of the place. I fell in love with the beautiful structures which were a few centuries old and still withstood time and attacks over the years to tell its tales. The tall and weirdly shaped Babobab trees are another attraction in Mandu.
Jaisalmer fort is probably the biggest attraction in this desert town and I definitely second that. The vibrancy of the fort with its colourful shops and numerous alleys is every visitors delight. However, what I loved more about Jaisalmer are its sand dunes and the ride into the Thar desert. It introduced me to camels, nomads and life in the desert. The sun setting over the sand dunes was a delightful visual. The moon rising and stars glittering over my bed was another mesmerising one. Ain’t it wonderful to gaze at the darkness of the night and doze off under an open sky?
Bundi is one of the most nondescript villages in Rajasthan, but which is abound with art works. The magnificent art works on the walls of Bundi left me stunned. Depicting stories from mythology, the works are colourful and delightful. The best of these works can be seen at the Chitrashala near Taragarh fort. Pillars, walls and ceilings here are covered in colourful paintings and art of various gods and figurines.
The first frame that comes to my mind when I think about Binsar is the view of blue misty mountains from zero point. Walked up early in the morning to witness this view and I was left flabbergasted seeing the amazing frame of endless mountains juxtaposed and mist rising amidst them. Binsar is a land where snow capped mountains and forested hill terrain beautifully blend into each other. The place is also known for its rich flora and fauna.
I love Landour for its tranquility, and it is probably the most serene hill station I have ever visited. Nestled amidst oak, pine and deodhar trees, the quaint charm of Landour is an absolute eye soother. The narrow alleys, old churches, stone structures all add to the beauty of the place. Landour is where I can spend many days without absolutely any itinerary. Just walk around, gaze at the beautiful views and take in a lungful of fresh mountain air.
Everyone loves Varanasi despite its chaos and crowds. I love Varanasi for its narrow alleys and ghats that lead down to river Ganga. It might be chaotic, dirty, full of people who are always in hurry, but this also where you would find people praying, sadhus (monks) meditating, people enjoying a boat ride on Ganga, visitors watching Ganga aarti and where the dead get burnt to attain salvation. Considered to be one of the holiest places in Hinduism, Varanasi is where visitors get a glimpse of real India.
A big reason to go to Kinnaur is that you get to ride on Hindustan- Tibet road (NH-22) which is considered by many as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. It was no different for me, but the colourful landscapes that Kinnaur threw up made it all the more magical. Engulfing mountains, gorgeous valleys, apple orchards, ogla fields and gurgling Baspa river makes every frame in Kinnaur picturesque. The pretty villages of Sangla, Rakcham and Chitkul left me absolutely encapsulated.
I would go back to Spiti just to gaze at its surreal landscapes. The brown mountains, turquoise blue rivers, blue skies and isolated villages make Spiti a mesmerizing land. Away from civilization and other modern amenities, Spiti is a landscape lover’s paradise. My ride to Pin valley in Spiti is one of the most memorable moments in my life. It was the only time I cried out of happiness looking at a colourful mountain. All that I did was stop my bike and gaze in happiness at the rainbow mountain that stood tall before me. Monasteries perched atop mountains which are home to hundreds of Buddhist monks are equally inviting.
Pangong Tso might be the most popular lake in Ladakh. However, for me the most beautiful lake is Tso Moriri. Located in Changthang plateau and surrounded by mountains which are more than 18,000 feet tall, the lake has wetlands which are a breeding ground for black necked crane and bar headed goose. This plateau is also home to wild kiangs and the Changpa nomadic tribes. I loved my stay at the small Korzok village which offered views of the magnificent Tso moriri lake.
I find Nubra Valley to be the most beautiful part of Ladakh. Located ahead of Khardung La and closer to Siachen glacier, Nubra falls on the old trade route between Central Asia and India. The meandering Shyok gleams as it flows through this low lying valley. The major attractions here are the double humped bacterian camels, sand dunes and hot springs. The contrasting landscape despite being a part of Ladakh makes Nubra valley a charming land.
Home to the wonderful Galo tribe, Basar in Arunachal Pradesh is my favourite land in north east India. I had some of my most memorable days in Basar when I stayed with the locals, had meals with them, played with their kids, danced to the local music, listened to their stories and went on short trails with them. I even learnt a few words in Galo and they made sure that I was always a part of them. Galos are one of the friendliest people whom I have ever met during my travels. I would love to go back to Basar for its people and Poka, a local beer.
Mechuka’s landscape always reminds me of Scandinavian countries. Engulfed by mountains, the valley of Mechuka is a delight for every discerning traveller who would love to soak in the beauty of nature. The snow capped mountains in the back drop, the azure waters of Siyom river, horses grazing in open lands and pine forests make this valley a surreal one. What I love the most in Mechuka are its numerous hanging wooden bridges, which are an absolute delight to walk on.
While Maldives has over the years been known for its island resorts, the country has recently opened up a few islands for tourism. Maafushi is one such island which is brimming with serenity, and I strolled around the whole island to take in its exquisiteness. Though a small one, the island is self contained with school, medical care, mosque, cafes, restaurants and all other basic requirements. The sea here showcases multiple shades of blue and the world beneath the water offered a mesmerising experience with colourful fishes, turtles and corals. I just did not want to come out of its blue waters.
Florence is a city I fell in love with as I strolled through its cobbled streets. One of the prettiest cities in the whole of Europe, Florence took me back to the renaissance era with its red tile roofed buildings, numerous art works and magnificent churches with stunning work. This is the city where art and artists thrived during the renaissance era. The spectacular works are still on display and all I did was gaze at them as I languorously meandered through its alleys.