As the world gets smaller, solo journeys become a larger trend in the overall travel picture. Myths have been broken: in spite of alarming safety reports, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation revealed last year that most Indian solo women travellers were from Punjab, followed by Telangana. New destinations for going it alone are developing fast, thanks to the attractions of personal tourism, eco-conscience and latest technological help.
The Roads Less Travelled
Well-connected by air and land, Himachal Pradesh’s towns such as Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala have long been favourites of travellers in north India. However, away from these crowded streets, trans-Himalayan places in Lahaul and Spiti have become a popular choice for responsible travellers.
Social enterprises such as Ecosphere in Spiti have drafted many programmes where travellers can explore villages by volunteering, living locally or through adventure travel. In Spiti, the most popular villages include Kaza (district headquarters), Demul, Langza, Tabo and Dhankar. Apart from this, travellers can get tailor-made journeys with the help of these enterprises. Interested in taking the road less travelled? Book a bus from Shimla’s Lakkar Bazaar bus stand to Kharapathar, about four hours away. Get a cab from the homestay or guest house and drive to Beral. This nondescript village has a vivid history and preserves its heritage in its architecture and customs. Beral is surrounded by lush forests and apple orchards, which make day hikes around the neighbouring villages an exceptional exploration.
Local homestays in villages of Lahaul and Spiti (assigned on a rotational basis).
Kalta Homestay (+919129033323/8091033323; email@example.com)
Into the Wilderness
The foothills of central Himalayas are perhaps the most sought-after by adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers. And Uttarakhand’s many towns, hamlets and villages have more than necessary to offer a thirsty traveller.
Kathgodam’s rail connectivity from Delhi has made it possible for travellers to explore touristy towns such as Bhimtal, Almora and Nanital. Take the longer road from the station to Binsar and witness different sounds of the outdoors’ silence. From Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, admire the peaks of Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot, among others, and within the sanctuary, expect to see innumerable varieties of birds—both resident and migratory. Stay at one of the charming cottages and head out with a local for some scenic village walks.
Fly into Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport
(255 km) or Pantnagar Airport (210 km) and drive through winding mountain roads, occasionally by the river, to the introverted village of Gwaldam. Gwaldam serves as a base for trekkers who pursue the Roopkund trek. A little ahead of the village market, stop at the Khamba Buddhist Monastery or shop at the cooperative society store for local pulses, grains and clothes.
A very short drive away from Gwaldam (about 24 km) is the ancient cluster of temples of Baijnath by the Gomti river. These temples go back to the 7th-11th centuries and are dedicated to Parvati.
Grand Oak Manor
or Mir Bahay
For History Lovers
One of the most underrated states in India, West Bengal offers spectacular getaways to mountains, beaches and forests. If witnessing the grandeur of eastern Himalayas are on the list, head to Darjeeling which is only three hours by road from NJP railway station and Bagdogra airport.
Darjeeling offers a host of touristic activities for solo travellers—sunrise at Tiger’s Hill, a ride in the toy train and walk around Batasia Loop. For the ones who prefer to explore the off-beaten route, check out the informative Himalayan Mountaineering Institute’s museum, try local Tibetan food on Dr Zakir Hussain Road or admire crisp views of the Kanchenjunga range beyond Mahakal Mandir on Mall Road. In a sharp contrast are the earthy plains of Shantiniketan in Bolpur. A convenient three-hour train from Kolkata takes travellers to the town where Rabindranath Tagore laid the foundation of Visva Bharati University. Needless to say that Uttarayan Complex, Ashram and Kala Bhawan are a must-visit in the town. Hire a bicycle and explore the outskirts of the town. Head to Amar Kutir that sells dhokra (metal cast work) jewellery, and traditional home decor and clothes from this region. Also visit the weekly Saturday market—Shonibarer Haat.
Nestle Homestay (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Hotel Alice Villa (email@example.com )
Choose among the many
B&Bs in Shantiniketan.
Travelling solo becomes easier in the eastern states of India. Locals have immense exposure to tourists by themselves and hence it becomes effortless to blend in.
Start with the buzzing capital city, Shillong, where Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous Cultures, Ward’s Lake and Golf Links are essential experiences within city limits. Try different Northeastern cuisine—Manipuri, Naga, Assamese and of course, Khasi—on a food trail in Laitumkhrah. Or buy typical souvenirs from Police Bazaar.
For scenic escapes, hire a cab to Upper Shillong (Shillong Peak view point and Elephant Falls) and Cherrapunjee (Mawkdok Dympep Valley, Nohkalikai Falls and Dainthlen Falls). Plan to invest a day or two in these two spots.
Visiting Mawlynnong, Riwai and Dawki can be hurried through a day. Though travelling slow along this southern side trail is recommended. Drive 73 km from Shillong to Byrdaw Falls and Rymben river in Pynursla’s Pomshutia village. Further, explore the touristy Dawki, Bangladesh border and Shnongpdeng village to return for an overnight stay in the quiet village of Nohwet. The following morning, explore the Living Root Bridge (single) of Riwai on foot from Nohwet, and stop at Mawlynnong for lunch, walk around a typical Khasi village, before returning to Shillong.
Pick any of the many hotels in Shillong ’s city centre or book a solo bed at Travellers Bed & Breakfast (firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com).
Na-I-Mei Homestay or Halli’s homestay (+918974591430) in Nohwet.