THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

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From a mountain pass to an angling hotspot and from an oasis to a dinosaur land, explore these nine lesser-known destinations in India this year, says Team Shubh Yatra

As we step into a new year, the traveller within us yearns to mark it with a list of new destinations to explore. Away from gadgets and engulfed by the bliss of nature, the prospect of discovering something fresh and wonderful seems like a dream. Let loose the traveller in you this New Year and get on the road less travelled. We bring you nine unexplored and unmarred locations that are worth a place on your itinerary in 2019.

Prashar lake, Himachal Pradesh

A two-hour-drive away from the hustle and bustle of Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, lies the tranquil Prashar (Parashar) lake. It is located at an altitude of 2,730 m and offers picturesque views of the Pir Panjal, Dhauladhar and Kinnauri mountain ranges. The lake is named after the pagoda-like temple situated next to it. Although there are several legends about the origin of the temple, locals say it was built by Bansen, the king of Mandi, in the 13th century, over a period of 18 years! The temple priests, however, narrate a different tale. According to them, the lake was created by the Pandavas after the battle of Kurukshetra (from the Hindu epic Mahabharata). The most fascinating feature of the lake is a small green floating island that keeps changing its position in the waterbody. Generally a green oasis enveloped in mist, expect it to freeze over in winter!

Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh

One of the oldest towns in the state, Ziro is as renowned for its natural beauty as for its music, food and hospitality. The headquarters of the Lower Subansiri district, this hill station, surrounded by lush forests and meandering rivers, is located 1,500 m above sea level. Most of the inhabitants here belong to the Apatani tribe and are engaged in agriculture. The region’s terraced paddy fields along with its picture-postcard villages make for a dreamy visual. Although it is a yearround destination, Ziro comes to life during the annual Ziro Music Festival, which is held in September.

Bheemeshwari, Karnataka

A small and secluded town on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Bheemeshwari makes for the perfect weekend gateway and has something for everybody! Situated amid Mekedatu, Gaganachukki and Barachukki waterfalls, this serene spot offers ample opportunities for adventure sports such as trekking, rafting, zip lining, kayaking and mountain biking. Bheemeshwari is also a well-known spot for angling and the prized catch is the mahseer. For the lovers of fauna, there is the Bheemeshwari Wildlife Sanctuary, that is home to several species of animals, including otters, wild elephants, deer, crocodiles and wild boars.

Close to Bheemeshwari lies the small village of Kokrebellur, considered to be one of the most prominent pelican- breeding sites in the world. A variety of migratory birds, including pelicans and painted storks can be spotted here during winter.

Drass, Jammu and Kashmir

Situated 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar (140 km away), Drass is a small town that lies at the heart of a valley of the same name. The Drass valley begins from the base of the Zojila pass (3,500 m), the lofty Himalayan gateway to Ladakh. At times during winter, the temperature here drops to as far as -20 degree centigrade! But when Drass is not freezing, it serves as a convenient base for treks to Suru valley across the sub-range separating the two valleys. This trek route passes through some of the most pristine flowery meadows which fall on both sides of the Umbala pass, which is en route. Drass also offers numerous shorter treks and hikes to the upland villages.

Chembra Peak, Kerala

Located at an altitude of 2,100 m above sea level, Chembra is the highest peak in Kerala’s Wayanad district. This picturesque location, which has recently been reopened after being closed to visitors for nine months, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and hills – covered in various shades of green. Trekking is one of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of this tranquil destination, but one has to obtain prior permission from the state forest department. The route to the peak offers brilliant views of the lush sprawling landscape, a fairytale-like heart-shaped lake and gushing waterfalls. Guided tours are available and can help in enhancing the experience.

Daringbadi, Odisha

Daringbadi, located in the Kandhamal district of Odisha, is a hill station that, owing to a very unique phenomenon, receives snowfall in the winter months. Located at an altitude of 914 m, it is locally known as the ‘Kashmir of Odisha’. But not just in winter, Daringbadi makes for a fascinating summer escape too. With pine forests, coffee plantations, scenic waterfalls, fragrant black pepper and turmeric farms and sleepy villages cloaked in mist, it’s almost unbelievable that serene Daringbadi is only 200 km away from the busy metropolis of Bhubaneswar. And if you are there, stop by at the Belghar Sanctuary, just 50 km away. The sanctuary is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna.

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