Are things slowly returning to normal, or are we slowly getting used to the new ‘normal’? Either way, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say, travel is what was missed the most during the lockdown! As our lives gradually flow back into the same old bustling routine, to be able to travel again is a blessing, and something we would all love to do. But is it viable, is it wise?
Not necessarily wise, but surely viable – if necessary precautions are taken, sure! So if you plan to travel soon, solo or otherwise, make sure you’re well equipped wherever you go. In terms of the current scenario, solo trips are actually good, since it ensures automatic isolation. The negative connotations of quarantine detach themselves if you enjoy your own company.
Hotels may not be back in full force in most regions around the country, but villa rentals sure are. Many people have made the most of their holiday homes during the lockdown, which makes sense – if one needs to stay at home anyway, why not stay at their weekend house away from the city?
With hostels and budget hotels not being viable, villas seem to be the best way forward. The solo traveller may have to wait a bit longer till you can enjoy your hostel vibes again. Until then, stay solo, stay safe. Going to generally crowded places like Goa may not be the smartest thing to do yet, so here are some off-beat places for you to explore:
In Himachal Pradesh, Shimla is the most popular destination, while Manali and Kasol are the most popular backpacker destinations. This makes Chail a good, off-beat option in the state. Not too far from Shimla and home to the highest cricket field on the planet, Chail also offers great treks for beginners. If you’re in the mood for camping, Chail makes for an ideal spot. If you’re not in the mood to rough it up, live it up at Ekam Villa. Apart from the luxury it offers, it also offers a unique organic experience – thanks to the fruit plantation, herb garden, vegetable farm and more.
Similarly, Nainital, Dehradun and Mussoorie are the most popular destinations in Uttarakhand, making Ranikhet a great find and a pleasant surprise. Primarily a cantonment, it comprises two ridges, and is at a comfortable elevation. Apart from the variety of plant and animal life that Ranikhet hosts, it is also home to one of the highest golf courses in the world. Offering the finest views out there, Morning Bliss is the perfect option. If you manage to step out from the games section of the house, the outdoor lawn area is perfect to relax, meditate and do some yoga.
While Nainital remains the more popular one, Bhimtal offers just as much. While Bhimtal may be older to Nainital, its population is just a sixth of Nainital’s. Just 22 kilometers away from its sibling, it also has a lake with an island at its center. The Bhimeshwar Temple is a must-visit, in addition to the dam, aquarium and other lakes in the area. Properties like Estate 15 are conveniently located for you to explore the hill station. It also offers a handful of indoor and outdoor games.
Apart from Manali, Naggar is the best place to experience the beautiful Beas river. Famously known for Naggar castle, this quaint place offers many activities to indulge in, including trekking, fishing and shopping. Places like the Uruswati Himalayan Folk Art Museum and Dagpo Shedrupling Monastery are also worth a visit. As the name suggests, The Orchard House is nestled among orchards and offers a direct view of the gorgeous mountains. You will find yourself juggling time between the snugly living spaces and the beautiful outdoor sit-out, as well as the fireplace.
While Ooty, Coorg, Munnar and Kodaikanal remain the most popular destinations in the south, Wayanad is often overlooked. The region offers the best of both worlds, from paddy fields to hill forests. Hermas Villa is located in the misty rainforests there and is a charming retreat situated right opposite a hilltop. Enjoy beautiful views of the mountains from the terrace or head to the deck to see the freshwater stream that runs through the property. An open bathroom and rooftop kitchen only sweeten the deal.
Another place overlooked like the one above, the ‘City of Spices’ is a fine one along the coast. Formerly Calicut, it was very popular for its trade. Now, it has more than enough for every tourist – beaches, waterfalls, dams, museums, temples, bio parks, bird sanctuaries and more. Nestled in the heart of Kozhikode, Toya Toya is an amalgamation of traditional Kerala houses with a modern aesthetic and comfort added to it. Vibrant colours, thatched roofs, wooden furniture and luxuriant décor make up the house that looks out to a serene view of charming backwaters and swaying coconut trees.
Hampi may have gained popularity of late, which makes Badami the next best thing. Much like Hampi, Badami is also a heritage city, has temples, caves, ruins and a lake too. You can enjoy the similar landscapes it has, while taking in the views from Agastya Villa. Enjoy drinks at the terrace lounge with some homegrown food, or head out for treks and heritage walks in the vicinity. Badami’s red sandstone cliffs are popular amongst local and international climbers, making it a great location for free sport climbing and bouldering.
Just an hour away from Gangtok – Sikkim’s capital, Samdong is an under-explored town in one of the country’s most beautiful states. Enjoy your complimentary breakfast, while taking in the views of the mountains, at La Ipsing Farm. Here you can cherish the thousands of orchids in bloom, and the chirps of birds across various rare species serenading you, while you bury your nose in a book borrowed from the little library. Warm up by the bonfire, play board games or outdoor games such as badminton or basketball. Step out for a walk through the forest and explore, because that’s what solo travel is all about.
Please make sure that wherever you visit, you have figured out the logistics beforehand instead of leaving it for the last minute. The spontaneous explorer in you might need to be prepared this time. Not much longer until we’re truly free spirits again. Until then, stay smart, stay safe!