Indulge in incredible India

Chennai, a quick trip to various parts of India or across the world, they prefer being on the move.

Published: 26th September 2019 06:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2019 06:11 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 73rd Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India has much to offer and if domestic tourism increases, international footfalls too will increase. He appealed to the citizens to visit at least 15 tourist destinations across India before 2022. From Instagrammable sunsets and pristine beaches to rustic forts and foodies’ haven — ahead of World Tourism Day on September 27, Roshne Balasubramanian gets city-based globetrotters to key in their hot list.

They have full-time corporate jobs during the weekdays. But on weekends, this husband-wife duo, Preethika Ganapathisubramanian and  Narayanan Hariharan known as the Passing Ports Couple, puts on the proverbial travelling pants. Whether it is a short trip to check out lesser-known places in Chennai, a quick trip to various parts of India or across the world, they prefer being on the move. Here are 13 places that make it to top of their list.

Amritsar: It has a good mix of history, culture, food and shopping. If the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh Memorial and the Attari-Wagah Border aren't enough, Amritsar is also a foodie’s paradise. Yummy parathas, chaas, lassi and jalebi are not-to-be-missed. Ladies, don’t forget to buy jootis and get custom-stitched patialas while you are there.

Chikmagalur: A hill station in Karnataka, famous for its coffee, Chikmagalur is the place to go for its tranquil spaces, evergreen forests and tall mountains. While you are here, you can visit Mullayanagiri, Baba Budan Giri, Jhari Falls, Hirekolale Lake and be enveloped by nature. If you are lucky, you will spot a few tigers in Muttodi Forest.

Valparai: Think of hill stations in Tamil Nadu and most people come up with Ooty and Kodaikanal. Next time you are planning a trip up the hills, head over to Valparai. Embraced in the arms of the Western Ghats, the Sholayar Dam and the forest reserves — Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Valparai offers the perfect antidote to urban life.  While you are there, don’t miss the tigers, elephants, panthers and macaques.

Tharangambadi or Tranquebar: Escape from the hustle and bustle of life for two-four days doing absolutely nothing in this quaint old Dutch village/town in Nagapattinam.

Ahmedabad: For most people, Ahmedabad is all about Gandhiji, Modiji, Sabarmati Riverbank, the ashram and khadi. For us, Ahmedabad is about the amazing food scene, especially at Manek Chowk which is a jewellery market by day and magically transforms into a food street by night. While you are there, do visit the beautiful Adalaj stepwell (also called Vav or Baoli).

Mawlynnong: Awarded the status of being the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong in Meghalaya lives up to its title. All the houses have functional toilets. Plastic  and smoking, both are banned and defaulters are penalised heavily. During our time there, we also got to see the living root bridges, which have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Spiti: The highest suspension bridge, the world’s highest post office, the world’s highest fuel retail outlet and more — that’s Spiti. ‘Breathtaking views’ is a phrase that Spiti will make you use repeatedly. Not just that, the warmth of the locals will want you to forget about your jobs and just stay there.

Gokarna: Do you think north Goa is too crowded and you are bored of going to south Goa multiple times? Here’s Gokarna. Apart from the famous Mahabaleshwar Temple, Gokarna has unending and beautiful sandy beaches. We also thoroughly enjoyed trekking, watersports and beach camping.

Kasaragod: All of Kerala is beautiful — no wonder people call it God’s Own Country — and Kasaragod is no exception. Remember the fort in the Uyire song from the movie Bombay? That’s Bekal Fort, one of the largest forts in Kerala. You will be blown away by its majestic architecture. While you are there, also check out Ananthapura Lake Temple, Hosdurg Fort and then go trekking in Veeramala Hills and 
Ranipuram Hills.

Gwalior: Only after we randomly picked Gwalior for a vacation did we realise what an excellent decision it was. We were quite surprised that the city doesn’t feature in any of the must-visit lists. History oozes from every part of the city. Jai Vilas Palace, Gwalior Fort, Sas Bahu Temple and Man Singh Palace have to be visited at least once in your lifetime.

Jaipur: Coming from south India where most of the palaces are rather down to earth, we were quite taken aback by the forts and palaces of Jaipur. City Palace, Amber Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal will leave you in awe. Do not leave Jaipur without savouring some yummy dal-baati churma.

Visakhapatnam: The Marina beach might be the longest beach in India and the second-longest in the world, but Visakhapatnam has the best sandy beaches in India. Don’t forget to check out INS Kursura, India’s only submarine museum, maintained by the Indian Navy, and Araku Valley, a backpacker’s paradise.

Puri: Puri’s golden beaches attract travellers from the world over. While the famous Puri Jagannath temple must be on your list, you must also head over to the beautiful Konark temple during sunrise, and after soaking in that magnificent view, go dolphin-watching in Satapada in Chilika Lake, the largest saltwater lake in Asia.
Check out more of their travel diaries on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @passingports

Madhu Shetty

Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, Madhu is on an extended sabbatical from her interior design practice and is on a mission to make up for the lost time. “It is curiosity that fuels my wanderlust — about the romance captured by my favourite authors and poets, the glory of a forgotten kingdom, the mystique of a lost city, incredible scenery, the habits and traditions of people and the understanding of why we are different...or not,” she says. Madhu recommends these 11 places you must travel to.

Kashmir: The Valley tops my list of most memorable places to visit in India for its unparalleled beauty, magnificent landscapes as well as for the warmth and kindness of its people...a graciousness second only to what I encountered in Japan. But in the current political climate, you might want to check for safety issues before you plan a trip. 

Hampi: Dotted with incredible ruins from an erstwhile era, the place evokes the stories of a forgotten empire that I would rate on par with Machu Picchu in Peru.

Jodhpur: A city that has to be visited as much for its lovely people thronging its atmospheric bazaars as its royal fortress and its stories.

Kabini and Bandipur forest reserves: Head here to soak in the wilderness, and to experience the beauty of wildlife, especially in the monsoons.

Coorg: Laid-back communions with nature amid misty coffee plantations and verdant landscapes...that's what you’ll find here.

Chettinad: A great culinary tourist spot with its famed cuisine (predominantly non-vegetarian) and its princely mansions.

Thanjavur: The heart of Tamil culture and home to the best examples of Dravidian temple heritage.

Lucknow: Sublime food and fascinating sepoy mutiny sights. It was, for me, a relaxing interlude between the monument overload of Agra and the overwhelming vibe of Varanasi.

The Nilgiris: Coonoor and Ooty, once beautiful hill stations, are practically shanty towns now, but the surrounding areas are stunning examples of the Nilgiri biosphere. Opt for boarding in homestays far from the main towns and visit outlying areas like Avalanche and Mukurthi.

Mangaluru: This is my ancestral hometown— an underrated place. The food here is exceptional, the beaches are on par with Goa and the outlying towns are a treasure trove of Jain and Hindu culture.

Belur and Halebeedu: These towns house impressive and breathtaking temples of the Hoysala empire.
Check Madhu's travel escapades at

Maanasa Gopal

As a traveller, I want people to know me for local trips I take, too, not just the international ones,” says Madhu. The 22-year-old figured out a way to fund herself and travel solo while having a full-time job. “A lot of people want to travel solo, but think it’s meant for the rich and go only for group trips as they are ‘safer’. I want to make backpacking more common in our country,” she says. Some of her experiences include hitchhiking in Iran, living in the Sumatran jungle, walking from Zimbabwe to Zambia in Africa, visiting the North Korean border. “It’s difficult breaking the stereotype that girls can’t do all this by themselves and fund themselves, but I want to change that mindset,” she says. Here are a few must-visits from Maanasa’s checklist.

Munnar: When in Munnar, visit the Aanai Yerangal Lake point. It is the most beautiful place I’ve seen when compared to all the countries and places I’ve been to so far. It looks surreal and pristine. I feel the air at Munnar is 
super fresh.

Sikkim: Gurudongmar lake point and the monasteries here are a must-visit for their breathtaking views, organic food, and interesting culture. They have different ethnic groups and traditional practices. Sikkim is world’s first 100 per cent organic state and that makes it unique.

Want to know how she budgets her money for travel? Visit her Instagram page @nomadonbudget

Mridula Ramadugu

At 25, Mridula has travelled all 29 states in the country in a span of 365-odd days. The freelance writer-cum-traveller is currently on a mission to traverse the globe and make her ‘world scratch map’ colourful. Mridula presents a myriad of places one must visit in their lifetime.

Varkala: It is one of the places that is closest to my heart. I’ve been on a lot of beach holidays, but three days of hanging around the cliff and eating was something else. The location exceeded my expectations and imagination because its serenity is undisturbed by commercial tourism.

Gandikota: It is India’s Grand Canyon in Andhra Pradesh. This was one of the best finds of 2019 and something people should start talking about. While you are here, also visit the Belum caves. I have travelled to places like Jordan, and the landscape of Belum caves is similar to what we find there. This is a wonderful place for people who love camping, hiking and exploring hidden gems.

Nagaland: If you are planning a trip around December, consider heading to Hornbill festival, the ‘Festival of festivals’. Held every year from the December 1 to December 10, it highlights the ancient traditions of the land. 

Bodh Gaya: The place is dotted with temples and monasteries and is perfect for heritage lovers. 
To wander with Mridula, visit her Instagram page @dulalaaland

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