Goa – Must Visit Untouched Places

A few things that first pop in our mind when we here about Goa are beaches lined with shacks and tourists enjoying all types of water sports at the beach. But there’s an untouched and relatively unknown part of Goa that is beautiful and everyone should must visit them when on a trip to Goa.

The most known and commercialized part of Goa is North Goa and is very crowded especially in the Holiday seasons. South Goa is its polar opposite. You won’t find it crowded and the beaches there are beautiful and serene. The beach shacks are similar to those you find in Baga, Calangute or Vagator, but the view of the sea is unobstructed. And the best part, since it is less frequented by tourists, you get lovely places to stay at a budget cost.

On our recently concluded 3-day tour, we covered 5 beaches of South Goa and all our travel was done on a rented two wheeler, which is the best and the cheapest mode of transport available in Goa. We rented the scooter from a rental service called “Damodar Bike Rentals” right outside Margaon Railway Station.

They charge Rs. 300-500 per day for the vehicle depending on the model you choose. Fuel cost is to be born by you. We found this to be a steal deal as our total expense on vehicle resulted to Rs.1300 only (Rs. 900 for 3 days rent and Rs. 400 for the fuel).
Riding on the streets of Goa is quite fun. The roads are well maintained and give a cute vibe on your journey.

Exploring Virgin Beaches

The highlight of our trip was exploring the less visited but aesthetically soothing beaches. We stayed in Benaulim which is 5 km from Margaon and is well connected to all the beaches we were about to explore.

That was our journey map. Though we exactly didn’t follow this but this will give you an idea about the locations of the beaches we explored. So let us break the beach experiences one by one.

Palolem Beach

We first heard about Palolem while we were pursuing our post graduation at Manipal. Apparently, Palolem was only 6 hours drive from Manipal, but we as it happens often with Goa plans, it didn’t get materialized.

Nevertheless, 2 years hence we successfully make it to the shores of Palolem. On appearance, it looks like another beach of Goa, with a street market leading up to the main beach. A few shacks on the beach that serves good food (read: Sea Food) and cheap alcohol (read: A lot cheaper than Mumbai). The beach is spread across a wide area and the main activity on the beach is the boating rides to a few nearby islands and beaches.

We took a motor boat ride which costs Rs. 2000-2500 for the entire boat, for around 1.5 to 2 hours. It is up to you whether you want the entire boat for yourself or share your ride with fellow tourists. We shared our ride with a family since we didn’t want to spend that amount on a boat ride. So it turned out to be Rs. 1200 for the two of us for the boat ride.

Our ride started with testing our luck at dolphin spotting and luck was shining on us brightly that day as we did spot a dolphin in close proximity of our boat.

After spotting the dolphins, we headed towards two islands that were included in the itinerary. These islands go by the name of Butterfly Island and Honeymoon Island. Both these places have a small beach area and have hardly any people coming there. Interestingly, Butterfly Island gets its name because when seen from the boat, it appears to be in a shape of a butterfly. Besides, there are many species of butterfly found in the forests behind island.

Butterfly Island. Can you draw the shape of butterfly?

Honeymoon island is next to Butterfly Island, and has a rocky beach which helps a great deal if you are looking to get some good photographs. There’s nothing much to do on the beach, 10-15 minutes of the time is more than enough for it.

Back on the beach, we indulged in a king sized meal with a Kingfish Masala Fry on our table. Served with chips and salad, the fish was soft, juicy and full of flavors, best complimented with chilled beer.

Cola Beach

This was the best of all the beaches we visited in Goa. It is a perfect place to hide and stay put for a couple of days as it is off the main road and covered with forests and coconut trees. The sea and the backwaters lie within touching distance of each other and it is very satisfying spectacle to witness.

The Ocean
And the back waters..

There are two resorts adjoining each other on the beach and they have a hut and cottage kind of accommodation. Not recommended if you are on budget trip, but the visit to the beach is definitely recommended. It is one of its kind beach, something you don’t get to see very often in our country.

However, the last stretch that leads to the beach is complete off road. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition, else it will succumb to the notoriety of the route.

There are no street lights on this road and no mobile network too. Hence it is advisable to reach the beach early, enjoy the atmosphere, have some beer and leave before the sun gets down.
P.S. The view was definitely worth the 2 km off road bumpy ride.

Cabo De Rama Beach

This one was a kind of show stopper for it offered a setting similar to a Bollywood Song Location. A rocky plateau that opens up to the beautiful Arabian sea.

How beautiful can Goa get…
Bird’s eye view of Cabo de Rama

The best part about the beaches in South Goa was owing to smaller beach area, it draws lesser crowds. Also the limitation of the water based activities is a reason which draws less people here. So if you are looking for some quiet time on the beach at a budget rate in Goa, South is where you should be looking for.

Riding Experience in Goa

One of the fun part was riding a two wheeler as we mentioned earlier. We took the narrow allies and roads where we experienced an old Portuguese town that has remained still in time.

The houses were so colorful and pretty, you just can’t take your eyes off them. The architecture is also different and each house has a story to tell in itself. That’s how wonderful it was.

So, when someone tells you that Goa is over hyped, make them aware about the unexplored part of Goa, a Goa that has stood still in time and is just too beautiful to ignore.

Velas Turtle Festival

How many times it happens with you that you reach your journey destination and the first thing you do is this….

That was the 1st time ever in our life that we milk a buffalo and this marked a very good beginning of an eventful trip.

Where were we and why were we there?

We were at Velas, a rustic village situated on the western coast of India in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Velas is one of the beaches where the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles come ashore every year and lay their eggs.

Since the odds of survivals of these creatures are 1 in 1000, the villagers with support of an NGO, Sahayadri Nisarg Mitra, took up the onus of conserving this unique species.

The eggs that are laid by the mother turtle on the beach are collected by the villagers and brought to a hatchery where they are incubated under a controlled environment so as to protect them from falling prey to predators.

And hence we were present on that very location to witness these tiny little hatchlings take giant steps towards the sea, out in the unknown and on their own.

The Turtle Hatchling Experience: What to Expect

The turtle festival was started back in early 2000s, but has gained a lot of popularity in the past 3-4 years, kudos to Social Media. There are many tour operators based out of Mumbai and Pune that organize a weekend trip to Velas to experience the hatchings.

Since the footfalls on weekends tend to reach around 500-600, being punctual is the key for an unperturbed view of the turtles making their route to sea. The volunteers check the hatchery twice in a day, 6.30 AM in the morning and 5.30 PM in the evening. Hence, make sure you reach there on time.

An important thing to keep in mind here is there is a significant distance of this hatchery from the sea.

The hatchlings are carried in the jute baskets till the cordoned area before releasing them, hence it is advisable that you reach the designated area before it gets submerged in the crowd rush.

The cordoned area from where turtles are released

If you are a photographer, be prepared to get your clothes go muddy, as you’ll be sitting/sleeping on the beach to get the perfect shot of the turtles going in the sea.

When form comes to life

Trust us when we say, despite the chaos when you see the tiny little reptiles crawl their way towards the ocean, it is an out of the world feeling.

Welcome to the world, little friend

The joy of watching them inch past the spectators is beyond what the words can express.

Now my adventure begins!!

The Rural Experience

In our opinion, one must take a break in a rural setting for a day or two. The environment itself will relax you up and shed half of your worries, tensions and work load.

Your day begins with chirping of these cute birds and you can complete your day of cardio while chasing these chickens back to their sty.

As seen earlier, milking a cow/buffalo and then having a cup of tea from that very milk will charge you up for the day.

Take a walk in the beautiful betel nut farms around the village and refresh up on the cool water from the well.

As the lunch time approaches, you feast upon an exquisite and authentic Maharashtrian cuisine. Cooked on wood fire, the flavours give that “dhungar” taste as you indulge in the platter. Our personal favorite was the Jackfruit Sabzi.

One of the finest meals ever

Travel Responsibly

As a foot note, we would appeal to all to be a responsible traveler basis our first hand experience. The tourism department are doing their fare share in promoting and spreading awareness regarding the Olive Ridley Turtles.

But it is the moral responsibilty of each and every person present there to observe and abide by the rules and instructions given by the volunteers there.

We observed that many tourists were trespassing the cordon in an attempt to go near the hatchlings. Some were even entering the ocean despite repeated warnings of not doing so for 15-20 minutes after the hatchlings enter the sea.

Our learning from the incident is that though promotion of eco tourism is necessary, there should be concrete steps taken to ensure hassle free experience. This could be as simple as limiting the number of footfalls per weekend. And it also is the utmost responsibility of the tourists to respect the rules and sanctity of the place while travelling. Enjoy responsibly.

Kaas Pathar

A UNESCO heritage site, a pure natural bliss stands a mere 7 hours drive from Mumbai. In the hills of Satara, Kaas Plateau boasts a huge variety of flowers that bloom in the period just after the monsoon bid adieu in the region.

Morning is the best time to view the flowers as they are have bloomed fresh in the cooler atmosphere. The dew drops on the petals give a soothing feeling to the eyes and definitely wears off your tire from the journey. And it is also the best time as not many tourists would have reached to the place.

Now, we are not much into botany and bio life, so we do not know the names of the flowers. But their beauty is par excellence. Especially when you see an ocean of the flowers all around you. Below given are a few photos that testifies the above statement.

Flora, Flora Everywhere!
Pink Revolution
In love with the shades
Surrounded by Flora
A bed of Yellow flowers, followed by a bed of Pink ones, the green shades of trees & blues of the skies.
Icing on the Cake: A Pond full of Water Lilies

Kaas Pathar – Entry Fees & Related Details

The entry fees for the visiting the park is Rs. 300 per person and is open from 7.00 AM in the morning to 5.00 PM in the evening. We got our tickets from the entry gate itself, however it is advisable to book your tickets online on their official website as sometimes they limit the number of footfalls if the tourists increase in number.

There is a short hike of around 1-1.5 km from the parking area and the entry gate of the plateau. You can either walk or use their transport facility. They have a few Tempo Travelers to ferry the passengers to the main gate, and charge a minimal of 10-20 bucks for the same. However, you must reach early, because once the crowd starts gathering, it takes a lot of time waiting in the queue and heat will tire you up.

Snacks & Refreshment Options

There are no restaurants or tea counters within the park. However, the locals there sell some authentic local snack items like Pithala-Bhakri, Buttermilk, Lemon Juice and Cucumber salad. We tried the Pithala-Bhakri, it was heaven early in the morning and gulped it down with a glass of lemon juice.

Pithala-Bhakri with the spicy Peanut Chutney

Best Time to Visit

The flowers bloom during September-October only and you will have to rely on your luck to see the bloom we saw. But it is worth taking a shot, although it is advisable to confirm with locals or the officials at the plateau.

That being said, it is a wonderful place to witness the beauty of nature.

Udaipur: The Venice of East

Nested on the shores of the stunning Lake Pichola and surrounded by the rustic Aravali ranges, Udaipur presents you the setting unmatched anywhere in India. It is the place that offers the calmness of a boat ride along with hustle-bustle of the market. The magnanimity of the palaces with the simplicity of street food and quaint old-world feel hotels with all the modern amenities.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more By Krutarth Vashi

Udaipur’s skyline offers a pretty romantic setting, right from the time you set your foot in the city. Fantastical palaces and havelis perched upon the banks of the man made lakes makes the city stand out in comparison with other cities of Rajasthan. Here are the list of things one can indulge in on their visit to the City of Lakes.

Experience the Royal aura at Taj Lake Palace

Taj Lake Palace, as the name strikes, visuals of a grand building floating in the middle of the lake will appear before your eyes. A grand welcome with a shower of rose petals and platter of refreshments is just the tip of the iceberg of the grand treatment to be followed.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more By Krutarth Vashi

Built as a pleasure palace by Maharana Jagat Singh II in the year 1766, the palace oozes grandness from every nook and corner. Magnificent courtyards, intricate architecture and elaborate interiors leave you in awe as you walk past them sipping on the finest of wines from the hotel bar, “Amrit Sagar”.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

The restaurants Bhairo and Jharokha offer the most stunning views of the lake Pichola and the city palace as you indulge in the finest Continental and Rajasthani cuisine in the respective restaurants.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

Spend your evenings enjoying the beautiful cultural dance and music performances in the King’s Courtyard. The grace and the swirl of the performers will leave you spellbound. That’s Incredible India for you!

Enjoy the Sunset Boat Ride with Surreal Shades of skies

Known as the Venice of the East, Udaipur is home to 7 artificial lakes created across the city. The best way to enjoy the beauty of the lakes is by taking a boat ride. Boating in the lake is open from morning 9.00 AM till evening at 6.00 PM, from the city palace. The best time to take the ride is around 5.00 PM, just before the sun is about to set, as you get the best shades of the skies during that time.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

The boat ride would make a pit stop at the gorgeous Jag Mandir, the recreational palace of the king, and is also known to be the inspiration of the wonder called Taj Mahal. Of late, the palace is gaining popularity as the most sought-after “Wedding Destination.” From celebrities to industrialists to Hollywood stars, many have tied their Nuptial Knot at this very place. Besides this, Jag Mandir offers a marvellous view of the City Palace and Taj Lake Palace, shining brightly under the setting sun.

Get awed by the Grandeur of City Palace

The City Palace of Udaipur is the largest palace of Rajasthan and 2nd largest Palace of India after Mysore Palace. The construction of this humongous palace was spread across 400 years and 21 generations of rulers.

However, most significant contributions to the palace can be credited to Maharana Jagatsingh II and Maharana Fatehsingh. The quarters within the palace are interlinked through a number of courtyards and corridors and are planned in a way to avoid surprise enemy attacks.

The palace offers a splendid view of the Lake Pichola on one side and Udaipur city on the other side through the beautiful and colourful windows. And the post-sunset view of the palace is worth dying for.

Witness the amazing sunset at Sajjangarh Palace

Sitting on top of the hill, Sajjangarh Palace offers the best sunset view in Udaipur. Known as the Monsoon Palace, it was chiefly built to overlook the monsoon clouds and hence derived its name. The fort offers a panoramic view of the city’s lakes, palaces and the countryside.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

But the USP of the place is mesmerizing sunset from the top of the palace. Overlooking the gorgeous Aravali ranges, observe the skies as they change the colour with each passing moment as the sun moves down towards the horizon.

Soothe your soul with lip smacking food

Udaipur is a food lover’s paradise. Rich in taste and extremely flavorful, the food takes you to another level of gastronomical pleasure.
Start your day with the amazing Kachoris, a flattened ball made of flour stuffed with either onion or moong dal. A tasty and heavy breakfast that will give you the energy to get through the first half of the day.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

After the Kachoris you savoured in the morning are digested by the juices in your stomach, satiate your belly with the signature Dal Baati Churma. Soft and round Baatis, made from wheat flour and baked in clay oven, are served with Dal made from mixed lentils. The Baatis then crushed and poured with Dal, topped with dollops of ghee are to be savoured using your hands. It is a must try dish, recommended place in Udaipur is Krishna Dal Baati Centre.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

Enjoy the Mirchi Wadas and Bread Pakodas at Manak Lalji in the evening, while sipping hot masala tea from kullads(earthen cups). It is nothing less than Nirvana.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

After hogging all through the day, as the lights sparkle all across Udaipur, dent your teeth in the delicious Lal Maas. A spicy red mutton curry full of spices and oozing with the aroma, while viewing the lovely city glow by the lakeside, ending a lovely foodie day.

Unleash the shopping monster at local market

Just like another tourist place, Udaipur boasts a local market where you can unleash your shopping monster.

Photo of Udaipur: Lakes, Palaces and more by Krutarth Vashi

Choose from a wide range of souvenirs, clothes, artefacts, footwear, home decor items and traditional crafts work at the Hathi Pole Market. The market is so colourful, that it will tempt you to purchase everything available on sale.

With so much to offer, Udaipur is an ideal place to spend your vacation. Plan your next trip to Udaipur and get amazed by the royalty, the beauty and the calm of this lovely little place.

Neelakurinji – Must visit in Munnar, Kerala

The creator with his paint brush sprays magic on the canvas called earth time and again. And everytime you get a chance to witness that magic, you are left awestruck and spell bound. This is one such magic, which happens once every 12 years.

Neelakurinji – 12 years a bloom

The Neelakurinji, literally meaning blue flower, are a rare species of flower that have a maturity cycle of 12-16 years. When blooming at its peak, it engulfs the entire stretch of the hill in the carpet of blue. The Nilgiri Hills have thus derived their name.

Where to find?

The Neelakurinji are found in the southern part of India in the Nilgiri hills and western ghats. They are more prominently found in the valleys of Munnar in Kerala, since they require an altitude of 1200-2400 meters above MSL.

As one breezes past the beautiful tea estates in Munnar, you arrive at Eravikulam National Park, 10 km from Munnar town, one of the prime locations for the Neelakurinji flowering and is promoted by Kerala Tourism.

If you plan to go on a long weekend, make sure you book the tickets in advance online, as the National Park has a limit of 3000 people only per day. The park is open for public from 8 am to 4 pm.

When to go?

The last bloom of the Neelakurinji was recorded in 2006 and currently they are in full bloom at Munnar. As per the forest department, the flowering will remain till mid-October. So if you are planning to visit the flowers, visit them in the next 12 -15 days or wait for next 12 years.

Neelakurinji – The Experience

A worthwhile experience is on its way as you hike along the roads of Eravikulam National Park with the beautiful blue flowers blooming at your either side. As the cool winds blow through the flowers, it makes the sight even more soothing and refreshing.

Perched upon the hills, embracing in its arms, when you witness a carpet of blue, you get the feeling of Nirvana as the beauty of the place and magic of the nature makes a mark in your mind, body, heart and soul. And if you are lucky, you might be able to witness the endangered Nilgiri Tahr munching on the leaves and foliage around.

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

A must on the to-do list of nature lover, the flowers will make you feel obsessed with them.So much so that you’ll sign off from Munnar saying, “See you in 2030, Neelakurinji!”

Rann Utsav – The Oasis in the Desert of Kutch, Gujarat

Behind the dry and arid region of the desert, stands a place with rich history of arts, culture and heritage. The eerie silence of the barren lands is enough to give you goosebumps, but add to beauty of the place. I never knew deserts can be beautiful until I visited the magnificent desert of Kutch. That’s the unique charm of the place, which makes you wonder about the miracles of nature. 

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

Rann of Kutch is around 50 km from Bhuj city, hence if you visit there you must experience stay at tent city in Rann Utsav. Been there, done that, here is an account of magical experience at Rann Utsav.

The tent city is located at Dhordo village, which is located around 50 km from Bhuj city. The pick-up facility is provided by the Rann Utsav team, arranging pick-ups from railway station and airport.

After a good 1.5 hour ride, as you step down from the vehicle, you are welcomed on the sounds of the dhol accompanied by folk dance. The energy of the beats wears off your fatigue. Above all, it livens up the atmosphere.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

After checking in the tent city, you are at your leisure to explore the place. Spread across an area of 5000 sq.meters, tent city houses 500 tents and cottages, 2 dining halls, a shopping area, some photo points and one activity area. But, the good part is the availability of golf carts to ferry you around the place.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

For the shopaholic souls, there’s a dedicated area to let out the inner shopping monster. There’s a plethora of items on sale, for instance, bandhni duppattas, hand-woven shawls, metal artefacts etc. You can also try your hand at various crafts like pottery and clay modelling at nominal charges and make your stay worth. The dining experience is one not to be missed. An excellent spread of Gujarati cuisine is on offer, not once or twice, but four times a day. Enough to leave you with foodgasm.

Magical & Mystical White Rann

As the evening nears up, you grab your camera and head towards the mystical white rann to witness the beauty of the desert. A barren salt flat that extends over an area of 17000 sq. km and stretches across International Border to Pakistan. Once upon a time this area was a seashore. But owing to tectonic movements, a part of ocean dried up in the region leaving behind the huge flat salt plain. 

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

In an honest opinion, the place is worth all the hype. The white backdrop appears so beautiful that you just cannot take your eyes off them. And it becomes even more beautiful when the full moon shines at night. As long as your sight reach, everything is shining and sparkling under the beautifully lit moon. It is one experience you must have in your lifetime. It’s just like a fairy tale ending to an eventful day.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

If the moonlit desert wasn’t enough to enthral you, a captivating sunrise definitely will complete the formalities. As you notice the changing shades of the skies from black to pink to orange to blue, from the horizon, emerges an orange ball with a Midas touch, turning everything to gold. 

Captivating Kalo Dungar

Still being hungover from the magnificent views of the white desert, after a sumptuous breakfast, you head towards Kalo Dungar. Standing at an elevation of 300 m above sea level, Kalo Dungar is the highest peak of Kutch and was used as a compass in olden days while travelling. 

It takes around one hour ride from Tent City to reach Kalo Dungar. The peak is situated around 500 m from the parking spot and you can either walk or enjoy the camel-back ride to the top. Once at the peak, you have a panoramic view of the desert and the back-waters of Khari River. On a clear day, you can even see Indo-Pak border through binoculars. 

There is an interesting legend associated with the place. Over 4 centuries ago, there lived a saint named Pachmai Peer on the hills. One day a pack of wild jackals appeared in his ashram and stood expectantly in front of him. Looking into their eyes, he realized that they were famished. All that he could offer them was a spartan meal of rice and dal. And offer he did, and the jackals went back with their tummies full.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The ritual of feeding continued for months till one day when there was no food in the ashram.  Realizing that his guests will have to go back hungry, the Peer, in a gesture of unimaginable generosity, chopped off his hand and offered it to the jackals, saying ‘lo ang’, which meant ‘here, eat my hand’. The jackals, as on every other day, went back satiated. But from that day onwards, the inmates of the ashram have made sure that the jackals of Kalo Dungar are fed, not once but twice a day.And they haven’t missed it even once in the last 400 years.

Marvelous Mandvi

After witnessing the generosity of the saint, we return to base and have a lavish lunch at the Tent City. After an hour of leisure time, we set off for Mandvi Beach. If anyone asks me about my favourite beach destination of Gujarat, Mandvi beach wins hands down.

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The pristine blue waters of the sea are a treat to sore eyes. The huge windmills set at the shore add to the beauty of the shores. And the flocking sea-gulls become an icing on the cake.

A couple of kilometre towards the north of the beach stands the magnanimous Vijay Vilas Palace. The central high dome on the pillars, the Bengal domes on the sides, the windows with coloured glass, carved stone ‘Jalis’, domed bastions at the corners, extended porch and other exquisitely stone-carved elements, make the palace worth visiting.  

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The palace hosts a private beach and is home to the Royal Family of Kutch. A closer look and you can recognize the shooting spots from the movies Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Lagaan.  The topmost point offers an unobstructed view of the sun slowly setting into the Arabian Sea, ending a day full of events.

Cultural Events at Tent City

You return from Mandvi around and have a gourmet dinner ready for you, but the fun isn’t over yet. You move towards the activity area where you will get up close and personal with the colours and flavours of Gujarati folk performances. 

Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Rann Utsav - The carnival that became Oasis in Desert by Krutarth Vashi

The stand-out performance of the night is the Siddi Dhamal. The Siddis are the descendants of the indigenous Bantu tribes of East Africa, who migrated to the subcontinent during the Colonial Era. Bringing the African touch of Zumba and Haka, Siddi Dhamal is one refreshing act performed on the beats of the Bongos. It is another experience that livens up your mood and incites the inner aboriginal in you.

As the music plays in long into the night, you enjoy every moment of it and reminisce the wonderful moments spent in the magical, mystical and beautiful desert of Kutch.  

Ganeshgule – A hidden alternative to Ganpatipule

Are you looking for a secluded beach getaway but do not want to burn a hole in your pocket? Then, Ganeshgule will provide the answer to your search.

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 1/14 by Krutarth Vashi

As a working couple, we were in dire need of a break since we hadn’t had one in a while. Just as we were searching for places nearby, I recollected this place suggested by a friend. Ganeshgule ticked all our boxes since it is near to Mumbai, it is within budget and it is quiet and peaceful.

Ganeshgule is literally a small village about 30 km from Ratnagiri along the Konkan Coast in Maharashtra. But despite it’s remote location, it gives you an experience worth cherishing for a lifetime.

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 4/14 by Krutarth Vashi

Ganeshgule is in a polar opposite direction to Ganpatiphule, a popular temple town off the Ratnagiri Coast. While Ganpatiphule is a commercialized spot, Ganeshgule is its exact opposite. It is untouched, unaltered and pure. Here are the complete details from our experience closet.

How To Reach?

The best way to reach Ganeshgule is via train. The nearest railway station is Ratnagiri (30 km). All the important trains heading towards Goa and Kerala like Matsyagandha Express, Netravati Express, Marusagar Express, Tejas Express etc halt here. From Ratnagiri, you can either hire a Tuk-Tuk or board state transport bus. The frequency of the state transport buses from Ratnagiri to Ganeshgule is every 2 hours. So if you are on a budget tour, our advice would be to choose the later. Anyhow, the journey time is the same, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Staying Options

Currently, there’s only one stay option available at Ganeshgule, and we opted for the same. Oceano Pearl, a property of hospitality firm O’Nest, that gives you the comfort of a hotel at the cost of a home stay. You have options of different types of rooms, we selected a standard room that costed us around 2500 bucks for a night.

The place has its own restaurant that serves good Konkani/Malvani cuisine along with the regular North Indian food. They also have decent sea food options, we tried Pomphret Fry there and we liked it. The restaurant, however, does not have liquor serving license. Hence you’ll have to make arrangements for alcohol. The nearest town where you’ll find liquor shop is in Pawas, 6 km from Ganeshgule.

Our Itinerary

Day 1

As this was a last minute plan, we boarded a Holiday Special Train from Bandra Terminus on previous night at 11.30 PM and reached Ratnagiri in morning at around 9.00 AM. We had our check-in at 12 in the noon, so we had breakfast at Ratnagiri station before starting our journey towards Ganeshgule. We took an auto ride which costed us around 400 bucks. The auto guys will quote exorbitant rates, it all depends on how well you can bargain and strike a deal. The journey wasn’t too great, nor it was too boring. In between, you will find yourselves driving parallel to the ocean and the very next moment you will be in dense forest.

We reached the hotel at around 11.00 AM and after freshening up a bit, headed straight to the beach walking past the palm trees and betel nut trees in the property. On Google Maps, you will find the demarcation of the beach as Ganeshgule Beach. However, it serves as a private beach to the property.

We sat on the beach for some time, taking in the fresh oxygen in our face and soulful rhythm of the waves crashing on the shores before we headed for lunch. As mentioned earlier, the in house restaurant serves some good sea food. 

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 6/14 by Krutarth Vashi

There are many ways to pass your time at the property. You can indulge in board games, read books, play carom or outdoor sports like football, badminton and volleyball. The hotel staff is friendly and courteous. Their service is also quick and efficient.

Beach Experience

As the evening approached, we were again at the beach and it looked beautiful than ever before. The golden hours cast a spell in the environment like Midas Touch, turning everything to Gold. We walked up and down the beach, feeling the softness of the sand beneath our feet and cool mild breeze in hair. The experience in itself was so soulful, it felt as if the time just stands still.

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 7/14 by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 9/14 by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 8/14 by Krutarth Vashi

Sunset was at its usual best, as the skies kept on changing its shades till the moment the sun went past the mighty ocean. It was both surreal and pristine, so much so, we didn’t move away till the last bit of light faded off.

Day 2

We made an early start to the day as we decided to climb the cliff by the shore we discovered the previous day. The temperature was pleasantly cool and it helped the small trek pretty enjoyable. Once atop, the view offered was just mesmerizing. The sound of the waves crushing against the rocks of the cliff was similar to the ‘riyaz’ of musical maestro.

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 11/14 by Krutarth Vashi

And then there was this magical moment when the sun made its presence felt. It was a sight to behold as the sun emerged from behind the palm trees to awaken the mighty ocean. The sight was similar to that from a picture postcard.

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 12/14 by Krutarth Vashi

After spending some time on the cliff, we returned to our base and had fresh Neera straight from the palm trees.

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 13/14 by Krutarth Vashi

We had our complimentary breakfast at the restaurant and had a few hours in hand before the arrival of the local transport bus. We utilized the same in doing some odd stuffs like playing carom and failed attempts at climbing the palm trees.

Photo of Ganeshgule: Relax & Rejuvenate on this Remote Beach #offbeatgetaway 14/14 by Krutarth Vashi

All good things come to an end, and so did our little trip to this unexplored beauty off the Konkan coastline. In our opinion, taking these short trips to uncharted places really helps in rejuvenation of mind and soul. On that note, we bid adieu with the search of unexplored places being on.

Juley Ladakh

Juley, meaning Greetings, is the first word you hear when you enter Ladakh, India’s second largest district in terms of area, situated at an altitude of 10500 feet above MSL, is cold desert that awaits you with its own uniqueness, charm and beauty. The mesmerising Pangong Tso, the highest motorable roads, the terrific passes and the peaceful Monasteries awaits you as you go on a trip of your lifetime.

As you embark upon the journey on Srinagar-Leh Highway, you are greeted into Ladakh at Patthar Sahib Gurdwara, which will make you believe in the power of God. Legend has its say that Guru Nanakji while preaching the Sikh religion arrived at this particular place and was meditating peacefully. His glory spread in the nearby areas and people started worshiping him. It is said that a Satan or a Monster lived on a mountain across. In order to spread his fear he pushed a boulder down the mountain so as to kill Guru Nanakji who was meditating below peacefully. Call it the power of penance or call it a miracle, the stone turned to wax before hitting Nanakji. Stunned at this the Satan kicked the stone and to his surprise stone turned to wax. After this the Satan realized his mistake and became Guru Nanakji’s disciple. The impression of Nanakji’s back and the Satan’s foot are still visible on the stone. Makes you believe “God is Great!”

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 1/23 by Krutarth Vashi

Moving on, take a quick break on the road as you strain your brain on how mystical creation our planet earth is! A hill on the way to Leh awaits to pull you towards itself even though you are not willing to go. Welcome to the Magnetic Hill sign says as you reach there.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India By Krutarth Vashi

The hill has magnetic properties which pulls the metallic objects towards itself, it pulls the vehicles up the gradient. The airplanes increase there altitude while passing through the area and the cars are always parked in gear. Best way to save fuel!

After getting acclimatized to the higher altitudes, breathing in the purest oxygen on the earth and gazing the beautiful landscapes the place has to offer, you will stumble upon preaching of Lord Buddha at Thiksey and Hemis Monastries.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 3/23 by Krutarth Vashi
Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 4/23 by Krutarth Vashi

The prayer bells and the stupas brings out the positive energy within you and removes all the negative vibes. Truly a magical journey!

The trademark at the monasteries are these Stupa and the prayer flags. In a nutshell, each and every corner provides you with inner cleansing!

And after all that spiritualism, top it up with utmost peace as visit the Shanti Stupa.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 8/23 by Krutarth Vashi

Constructed in the year 1991 by a Japanese Buddhist as a part of the Peace Pagoda Mission. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa is built as a two-level structure. The first level features the central relief of Dharmachakra with deer on each side. A central golden Buddha image sits on a platform depicting the “turning wheel of Dharma.” The second level has reliefs depicting the “birth” of Buddha, the death of Buddha and Buddha “defeating the devils” while meditating.Both levels feature a series of smaller meditating Buddha reliefs.The Shanti Stupa was built to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism.It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh.

Scaling new heights can be taken quite literally here as you access various places through world’s three highest motorable roads.

And then you arrive at one of the most pristine places on the earth which goes by the name of Pangong Tso. It is situated about 140 kms to the north of Leh town and located at 14000 ft above MSL, the unique fact about the lake is that only 30% of it is in India, the rest 70% lies in China.The pristine turquoise-blue water of the lake is the main attraction. If lucky on a clear day, one can see 7 different shades of blue. Another interesting fact is that it is a salt water lake despite being at such an altitude. The reason behind it is when the Himalayas emerged from the sea, some of the sea water got displaced and it still remains there.

Image may contain: bird, outdoor and water

The seagulls flocking all over the vast lake will be a visual delight if you love birds. The place itself gives you such a pleasure and a feeling which cannot be described by words that after clicking a few photographs for memory, you just sit there on the banks and capture those beautiful moments within your soul!

The animal in the mountains are quite interesting as well. The furry marmots can be found burrowing up along the roads and the magnificent Kyangs will race you to the mountain top. Just amazing.

And just as it seemed that the journey is about to get over, you are served with Nubra Valley on your platter. This is the best example of Nature at its Peak. Nubra Valley is an amazing combination of 3 extremely different aspects of nature together! Snow, Desert, Forest! All three at one place and it is a superb journey.
The major attraction is the Sand Dunes. Once you see them only exclamations emerge from your mouth, such is the magnanimity of those dunes.

Photo of Ladakh: The Jewel in the Crown of India 21/23 by Krutarth Vashi

Enjoy a camel ride on the indigenous two-humped camels and be humbled by the blessings of the Future Buddha at Diskit.

Stayed amazed by the terrific passes, be blessed by the Buddha, get awed by the beauty of Pangong, experience the art of God at Nubra, eat, merry and celebrate and as it is said there in Ladakh, 

“If Kashmir is the Crown of India, Ladakh is the Jewel in the Crown!”

Lesser Known Karnataka

Summer of 2015, life was all set to take a new turn. A new adventure was about to begin, and I never knew that the two years I was going to spend at the student town of coastal Karnataka called Manipal, would turn out to be just magical. While juggling the rigor of the academics, the traveler in me did manage to explore almost everything within the vicinity of the place. Here I present the 15 hidden gems of Karnataka, and I would call them hidden for the fact I would have never visited them hadn’t I come to Manipal.

NOTE: Distance to all the places are with reference to Tiger Circle, centre point of the town of Manipal.

1. Arbi Falls, Behind New DeeTee, Dashrathnagar, Manipal

It rains a lot in Manipal, and a lot actually means a lot. And the hilly terrain of the place carves out a perfect pavement for the rain water to flow down hill thereby creating an eye-pleasing waterfall.

Hardly 5 km from Manipal towards TAPMI campus, these are also known as Manipal Waterfalls, and is easily accessible by road. Once at the base of the hill, you take a small hike following the water trail and sometimes you might get amused as if you have witnessed something so simple and scenic that you want to frame it and use it as your desktop wallpaper.

Entry to the falls is free, and the locals are well aware of the route. But the falls are not perennial as it is the rain water that flows down from the hill top. Best time to visit is June-August when the water level is at its peak, 2-3 hours at the place and you’d have had a great time!

2. Delta Beach, Kodi-Bengare, Kundapura

Just imagine, when while travelling through the country side, small cottages on either side of the road and towering coconut trees, like you are having a great ride and you reach a dead end! Just a foot trail leading inside the woods. Sometimes it is good to take the road less traveled! An estuary lies right behind, a place where river meets the sea, leaving behind a soothing effect.

At times some of the scenes will make you go philosophical, make you ponder about the purpose of life, the search for truth, the answer to the unknown. And who knows, you might find them as well!

Reaching Delta beach is fairly easy. State transport buses run almost every 15 mins from Udupi Central bus station, 8 kms from Manipal. If going by own vehicle, take the national highway 66, and detour for Bengare after 10-15 kms from Udupi!

3. Kaveladurg Fort, Agumbe

You have the mighty Arabian sea on one side and lovely Western Ghats just a few 100 kms apart. That’s the beauty of Manipal, as diverse is its population, similarly diversified is the terrain.

Agumbe hills, a section of the Western Ghats, lie just a 100 Km from Manipal. Dense jungle and serpentine roads, the perfect recipe for an avid traveler, will greet you on your way to the ruins and remnants of this 9th century fort.

And a 3-hour ride is perfectly worth because the trek to the fort top is equally mind blowing. It begins with a trek through the paddy cultivation, one step at a time, as you move in a single file formation for there is no other option!

Cross these and you begin your hike to the top, passing cross the ruins of the fort. The rains completely change the look of the place, and the earth just looks like a bride-to-be, adorning a covering of lush green vegetation.

After an hour of trek, a bit of slipping and sliding and a few bruises, as you reach the end point with the panoramic view of the beautiful Agumbe Ghats, all the pain and trouble just vanishes and you just jump with joy, while hogging at the site the place had to offer!

4. Jomlu Teertha Falls, Belve

Just 40 km from Manipal, a cluster of small waterfalls forming over the river Seetha, located in an extremely quiet place called Belve, over the time, have formed trenches giving a feeling of a natural Jacuzzi right next to a waterfall.

One can surely practice meditation here, for one thing is sure, there ain’t any disruptions in the middle. It is pure bliss!!

5. Murudeshwar Temple, Murudeshwar

Ever thought of experiencing fun and spirituality together? A weird combination, isn’t it? A divine feeling sets in as you approach the premises of Murudeshwar temple. Standing in between the 20-storeyed Gopura and huge Shiva idol, the heads go from right to left and back, in amazement and awe, similar to that of the audience witnessing an interesting rally between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Done with spirituality, now comes the fun part.

20-storeys above the ground, a realization occurs that the shrine is surrounded by water from 3 sides. 3 windows, 3 directions, 3 jaw-dropping views. And all three views are unique in their own aspect. Take a look at the wonderful views here.
The entry fee to the Gopura structure is Rs. 20/- The view it provides is priceless!

The legend of the temple is as unique as the view of the temple. It is one of the four places where a part of Shivlinga fell when the demon King Ravana tried to uproot the Atma-linga he received from Lord Shiva himself.

India, it never fails to amuse you!

6. Manipal Railway Bridge, Manipal

When a UNESCO World Heritage site is just a stone’s throw away from where you live, a visit to that place is must. An impeccably beautiful place, Seetha river flows underneath and the trees form a perfect canopy for the train to chug through it.

It is a visual treat, both symmetrically and aesthetically. The train emerging from the woods is a site to behold and capture in your memories, and think over it again and again till the end of the time.

And after the train passes, you are on your own to have some fun, just like we did here.

7. Malpe Beach & St. Mary’s Island, Udupi

A mighty beach, the deafening sound of the sea, the thunderous breeze and a glass of drink. Yes, it is the kind of beach where you just sit back and relax. Just 8 km from Manipal, is this beautiful beach of Malpe. So big, that you can gather 1000 students for a mega flaghip event, and still there is ample amount of vacant space on the beach. That’s Malpe for you.

A ferry ride away from the main beach, lies the St. Mary’s Island. The Basaltic Lava formation and deposition around the coast has led to creation of black vertical columns, provides a perfect late afternoon getaway.

The ferry ride ticket rates are Rs. 250/- for the return journey. There is no time limit for the stay at the island, the first ferry starts at around 11.00 am and the last one departs from the island around 5.30 pm, every 20 minutes.

8. Kudlu Falls, Agumbe Road

Hidden in the center of the forests of Agumbe, are these soothing waterfalls. But as they say, best things are not easily available. Situated at a moderate distance of 50 km from Manipal, Kudlu falls are on the way to Agumbe hills on the state highway 169A. A superb ride, every bikers dream, an empty road and beautiful surroundings.

But, just then, the good road ends and the final 10 km, which actually felt like a 100, begins and takes a toll on your arms and back. A complete off roading experience is followed by a 2 km hike to the falls. A moderate to heavy trek, make sure you carry enough water and food with you, as there is nothing you can do once you enter the premises.

And just like the light at the end of the tunnel, stands a magnificent waterfall, over a 100 feet high, falling right in to a pool.
As you stand there adulating the beauty of the place, a spectacle is served on your dish in the form a rainbow, right at the base of the falls.
The chilly waters of the reservoir are safe to swim, however one must take precautions as the rocks and pebbles beneath the surface are quite slippery.

The falls open up after the monsoon as the rains deluge the approach road to the falls. Best time to visit is from December to February and weekends are to be avoided. The area falls under forest department, and they charge Rs. 50 per person for the entry, no time limit. The entry to falls close at around 4 pm and the falls close at 5.30 pm. Ideal time, reach at 11:00 am and spend an awesome day at the falls.

9. Kapu Beach, Manipal-Mangalore Highway

A beach having a lighthouse always leaves you in an awe. It is the charisma of the lighthouses. For the ship lost at sea, a lighthouse gives it hope. When a person sees a beach with lighthouse, the tranquility of the scene has similar effect on his mind. Kapu beach is no different.

The narrow allies leading you to the main beach will itself make you fall in love with the place. And as you approach the beach, you just get mesmerized by the simplicity of it. Someone has rightly said, “Simplicity is the Essence of Beauty.” Mere sitting on the rocks at the base of the lighthouse facing the mighty ocean with cool breeze ruffling your hair is quite an experience in itself.

As the ascent to the top begins, somewhere midway a voice from within calls out, “No Further.” But then another voice subsides it saying, why did you even make it this far.

The battle within goes on and suddenly a strong gush of air blows and everything just quietens up. Nothing but the ocean. Seamless, endless, boundary less.

Kapu beach is around 15 km from Manipal, on the Manipal-Mangalore Highway. State transport buses run from Manipal and Udupi every 15 minutes. Beach is at about 3 km from highway, one can catch an auto to reach the beach. If travelling by private vehicle, follow the Google Maps.

10. Shrines at Karkala

Perks of being in a diverse nation like India, well, you get a glimpse of different cultures, all at one place. Two lovely shrines belonging to two different religions are separated by just a few meters, and they perfectly co-exist.

St. Lawrence Church, amidst the lush green backdrop of the base of the Agumbe hills stands this beautiful church with rich history and is purported to be site of many miracles.

Pleasing aesthetics and beautiful colors make this church a visual treat. Calmness of the place and serenity which surrounds that it offers, is priceless.

Bahubali Temple, a 10th century Jain Shrine situated on a hill top is an architecture marvel. The idol of Lord Gomteshwara or Lord Bahubali, as referred to in the region, is a 41 feet high and is carved from a single stone, it always makes me wonder the architectural genius that this structure stands still, rock solid, after about a 1000 years.

The greener parts surrounding the shrine have a breath taking view, so lovely, you tend to fall in love with it instantly.

The Chaturmukh Basadi, has four identical entrances on the four sides, each side with three identical idols facing in 4 directions. The sun rays used to illuminate the statues, indicating the time of the day. Some genius they were back then.

Karkala is about 40 km from Manipal and is well connected by roads. A private vehicle or hired cab is preferred to visit these shrines.

11. Sharavathi Back Waters

Perched upon the hills is quiet little village of Shimoga, a huge catchment area of the dam on river Sharavathi provides you a perfect place to relax and rejuvenate.
Sharavathi Adventure camp, a rustic nature resort, tucked snugly in the hills skirting the Talakalale reservoir, offers you the place you wish you would never leave.

You can Kayak in the the reservoir or go for a jet-ski or a speed boat ride or just sit on porch and be mesmerized by the simplistic beauty of the place.

The tariff for the resort are around Rs. 3500/- per person per night, which includes all three meals, complimentary water sports and visit to Jog Falls, which is just 5 km from the camp. A day visit to the place is around Rs. 1200/- per person, includes meals and boat rides. This is one heck of a place to visit, around 180 km from Manipal.

12. Gokarna

A hippie town with a perfect melange of beaches and forests, a place where you can trek, relax, eat, drink, celebrate and party till you drop and no one to stop you.

Om Beach, is the most famous beach in Gokarna, its name is derived from the shape of the beach in the form of Hindu religious symbol of Om. Pristine blue waters will make you fall in love with the beach at the first sight itself.

A short hike from Om beach is a beautifully hidden beach called Kudle beach, which from the top of the hill gives an awe-strucking, mind blowing, jaw dropping view, and you just can’t wait to descend through the bushes and make way to the beach.

The beach side cafes are just about perfect to sit back and relax as the waves wash the shore time and again, as one cherishes the invaluable moments with nature.

13. Sirimane Falls, Agumbe

Deep in the heart of the western ghats, is this gentle waterfall. Situated 15 km from Sringeri, an ideal place to have fun in water.

Taking a dip won’t clear your sins, but will definitely rejuvenate your mind, body, heart and soul. The reservoir is safe for bathing, a must do when you visit this place!

14. Ottinene Secret Beach, Baindoor

The joy of finding a treasure is ecstatic. Finding a secret beach is no different than finding a treasure. Through the narrow lanes and unexplored territories of the town of Baindoor, 70 km away from Manipal, lies not just a beach, but a delta point, where river meets the sea, twice the fun and joy.

An unspoiled and secluded beach, perfect for a leisure trip with family, a romantic getaway with partner or noisy outing with friends, it has everything to offer for everyone present. As the river meets the sea, a series of emotions pass through your body, with your mind thinking how beautifully the clock cycle devised by the Almighty keeps on ticking, and so do we!

15. Kudremukh National Park

Certainly not the least, Kudremukh is hands down one of the best places I have ever been on a bike ride. 40 km of twists and turns of the road, right through the heart of the forest (read: dense forest) with green surroundings on either side, it is an experience of a lifetime.

Entire area falls under the supervision of forest department and you have specified time to clear the area as encounter with wildlife are quite common. But, if the view is this great, a bit of rule breaking can surely be accounted for.

Imagine you are traveling through a forest, on a cold misty day, and a gurgling sound mixes with your engine rev up. And from behind the green shoots of the trees, emerges this visual delight.

Gushing around the bushes inside the Kudremukh National Park, this fall, dropping from an altitude of 30 m becomes a pit-stop for the passersby. And only a person not having any interest in life would not stop by at such a sight! A true feast for the eyes!!

So, there you have, 15 beautiful and unexplored gems in and around the lovely place which was my home for two years. All the places have their unique charm, each has its own flavor, a flavor that leaves you spell bound. Time and again, I can visit these places, remembering all the tiniest details associated, and then browse through all the photos over and over with a smile on face and thought in head that, “Kuch To Baat Thi Uss Jagah Ki!”