The best way to experience India’s soul is to stay in its villages. Walk into any village across the country, and you can feel joy in the simplicity and the union with nature. The beauty of villages will enthrall you whether it is in a village high up in the ,mountains of Sikkim/Himachal/Ladakh or in the temple towns and beaches of Tamil Nadu and backwaters connecting the coconut-grown towns of Kerala, and, from the dense forests and mountains in the seven sister states in the east to the dry desert lands of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Choosing a village destination for your next holiday is one way you can practice responsible tourism and give back to the local community whilst you enjoy yourself! Inspite of so much variety in villages across India,village tourism hasn’t picked up as much in India.Hence we have listed down a few of the best and unique rural travel experience for all our readers.
- Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu: Karaikudi and Kanadukathan in Tamil Nadu are famous for Chettiar Palaces and its hot and spicy Chettinad cuisine. If you a foodie or Architecture lover and are looking for that offbeat travel experience wherein then you must go here. Chettiar community(Nagarathars) had strong trade and business links with neighbouring countries of Asia like Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia in 18th-19th Century .They built their lavish Palaces not only with materials imported from Burma/Italy/Indonesia/Belgium but also took design inspirations from 18 Century European and French Architecture. Intricately carved teak wood doors and frames, marble floors, granite pillars, Belgian mirrors and Italian tiles add the beauty of the architecture. You can stay in one such palatial house and experience the village life first hand!
The best time to visit is November to February.
- Lachen, Sikkim: Located at 8500 ft against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks, glaciers and rock cliffs, amidst mixed conifer and Rhododendron forests, Lachen is a village that will allow you to be so close to nature that you may never want to come back.It does not have the dearth of Hotels but you will get comfortable and clean accommodation with freshly cooked simple food to comfort you.It is virgin and unspoilt, having being made accessible to tourists only a few years back. Imagine staying in a village with less than 200 houses and surrounded by mountains !
Lachen is a good start point before you start off your trek to the Green Lake and Kunchenjunga National Park or the holy Guru Dongmar and Tso Lhamu lakes.You will get to interact with the Lachenpas , who are carefree people and like to celebrate in socializing, sporting event and feasting throughout the year. Access: It is connected by road from Gangtok(120 km)
- Hodka, Kutch(Gujarat): Hodka, is one of the few rural villages near Bhuj, Gujarat located on the edge of the white desert of clay and sand mixed Rann. It is believed to have been set up by the ‘Halepotra’ clan from Sindh who were cattle herders in search of pastures. The Meghwals, traditional leather craft and embroidery craftsperson’s, from further north, have also settled in Hodka over time. Due to all these influences over time, the Kutchi Villages are renowned for its shimmering mirror-worked embroidery, appliqué, leather-craft and mud mirror decoration. You can explore the various villages, learn traditional customs, help rural tourism by buying their local art and embroidery artefacts or simply enjoy the simpleton life of a Kutchi. If you go in winters, you will get to see more than 100 species of migratory birds fly here in the Banni grasslands and Char Dhand wetlands.
You can stay in Homestays within the villages or at Sham-e-Sarhad Rural Resort set up by the Hodka community(Eco resort).While you are there, you can enjoy the tasty meal of Bajro no roti with butter and jaggery, followed by Khichdi-Kadhi. Access : Bhuj is an Airport and has fights from Mumbai and Ahmedabad and accessible direct by Train from Mumbai, Ahmedabad and most other cities of Gujarat.
- Chitrakoot, Chattisgarh: Perhaps more famous for the Chitrakoot waterfalls, also known as the Niagara of India, Jagdalpur(Bastar) is also well known for its greenery, mountains, valleys, forests, streams and caves. Predominantly a tribal region, it has become a centre of folk art and handicrafts. A glimpse of the tribal life can be found in the exuberant festivities of Goncha, where mock- pistols are made of bamboo and the fruit of Goncha are hit at each other.
The best time to visit is between October to March. Budget hotels are available for stay in Chitrakoot. Access: The closest airport to Bastar is Raipur, 300kms from Jagdalpur. Raipur airport is linked with Delhi and Nagpur by flights. Bus services are available from Raipur for all major places in Bastar. Limited railway facilities are available for Jagdalpur.
- Pipili, Orissa: Pipili, located near Orissa also known as the tailoring town because of its appliqué craft, a process of cutting coloured cloth into shapes of animals, birds, flowers leaves gods, goddesses and other decorative motifs and stitching them over a piece of cloth. You will be mesmerising to see the art being used in the form of lampshades, handbags, cushion cover and garden umbrellas!
While you are there you may also visit the Sun Temple(Konark). Since there are not many accommodation options in Pipili itself, you can stay in Bhubaneswar, where you will find a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Access: Pipili is 20 km from Bhubaneswar by road.
- Turtuk Village, Indo Pak Border, Ladakh: Turtuk is a village on the far end of Ladakh(where very few bother to go).It is located very close to the India Pak border. Turtuk(along with 5 other villages)was merged into India in 1971 after the Indo Pak war and was opened to the general public as recent as four years back! This village is inhabited by Balti people of Tibetan decent (because this area was part of Baltistan before the war). You will enter Turtuk by walking over a wooden bridge that crosses over the road and flowing stream. The village is very scenic with plenty of small colorful flowers and apricot trees all over the village and has lush green fields all around.
One thing that is very evident and makes this village of Turtuk very different from the rest of the villages in the area, is that since they are descendants of the Balti community they have very sharp features and many of them have light brown hair and colored eyes. There are very few accommodation options in Turtuk because it is non commercialized(Thankfully) and too far off for the regular tourist to come. There are lot of basic home-stays and a couple of guest houses with big rooms where you can stay while you are there. Most accommodation include basic breakfast The best time to visit this village of Turtuk is during the summer months from June to September. Access: Turtuk is a three hour drive from Nubra Valley and a 8 hour drive from Leh town.
- Komic , Spiti: Komic Village is claimed by the locals to be Asia’s highest village in Asia, with an altitude of almost 14,800 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level. Immersed in legend and folklore, the inhabitants of this village are cut off from the rest of Spiti for greater part of the year. This quaint little farming village houses a mere 13 households and boasts of having one of the world’s highest monasteries called “Komic Lundup Chhemo” . You will experience a unique insight into the life of these hardy people (their homes, cuisine, agriculture and irrigation practices) and the intimate relationship they share with their land. While you are here you can visit the nearby meditation caves, ruins of an earlier monastery and do wildlife sightings!
In the higher reaches of Spiti, traditional Tibetan food is more readily available, and typically consists of momos (dumplings) and thukpa (thick noodles in soup). The extreme winter climate practically cuts off the valley from the rest of India, making non-vegetarian food a predominant choice. In the summer months, vegetarian options are easily available The best time to visit the valley is between May and October, when days are warm, nights are pleasantly cool, and snowfall is rare. Access: You can reach Kaza and Komic villages from Manali in Himachal.
- Valwanda Village, Maharashtra: This quaint little village located on Thane(North of Mumbai) is where you should head if you want to get a firsthand experience of Warli painting. Warli is an ancient art form and also the name of the biggest tribe found in Thane district. You can stay here and interact with Warli tribesmen, dine with them in their homes, participate in their daily chores and learn a new art form.