8 Beautiful Towns You Won’t Believe Are in India
Most people tend to associate India with dirty, chaotic cities such as the capital New Delhi and other metropolises like Mumbai. However get out the cities and head into the countryside and you'll discover an incredible side to India that you'd never expect. With a number of beautiful colonial coastal towns and colorful mountain villages, there are a plethora of highly underrated urban spots around the country. Here's some that deserve a special mention for their outstanding beauty.
table of contents
High up in the Dhauladhar mountains, McLeod Ganj is the center for the Tibetan government-in-exile and home of the 14th Dalai Lama. Due to the town having a high population of Tibetans living there, it's often referred to as 'Little Lhasa' and is a great way to get a taste for Tibetan food and culture without actually traveling there. While there's plenty to do and see in the town itself, it's the beautiful surrounding area you'll want to spend longer exploring such as Bhagsu Falls and Maharana Pratap Sagar Lake.
An old French settlement on the east coast of India, Pondicherry's colonial charm is still kept intact in its beautiful French Quarter and quaint European architecture. Apart from just its obvious Franco face-lift, the people and culture still retains a part of its old rulers charm, a unique and fascinating sight to see in the midst of India. Along with walking around and admiring the colonial architecture, its coastal setting makes for easy access to a number of beautiful beaches, perfect for winding down and spending some time soaking up the sun.
Nestled between China, Bhutan and Nepal is the Indian state of Sikkim, a region full of dramatic mountain scenery and picturesque sloped valley towns. Being tucked away in the far North-east of the country, there are few tourists here apart from accomplished hikers and some hardcore tea fans who visit the nearby district of Darjeeling.
Gangtok however is a beautiful city perched up the side of one of the regions many mountains. Another of India's charming mountain towns, Gangtok is not only known for its incredible scenery but also its main street of MG Marg lined with quaint, colorful buildings hosting a range of trendy restaurants, cafes and shops.
While it might look more like an Indian city than some of the other places on this list, Varanasi seems like something out of a fairy tale land with its incredible architecture lined up stretching along the banks of the Ganges River. This fascinating city is writhe with history stemming from settlements there that date back to the 11th century BC, making it one of the oldest continuously lived in cities in the world. Seen as the spiritual capital of the country, take a river cruise and watch the livelihood of people along the Ganges before checking out some of the 2,000 temples that fill the city's quaint streets.
Situated at a height of 3048 meters above sea level, Tawang is all about a relaxed spiritual mountain spirit that freshens up the body and the soul. Home to the largest Buddhist monastery in the country and the second largest in the world, the city's spiritual aura is infectious and the perfect escape for those wanting to break free from the shackles of everyday city life.
The locals of Tawang are welcoming and the city is small enough to explore on foot. One of the highlights of a trip here is the Giant Buddha. Visible from everywhere in the town, it's a lovely place to get a bird's eye view of the surroundings that give Tawang its natural appeal. While the panoramic views will amaze you, don't miss out on visiting the temple underneath the Buddha which has a magnificent pictorial representation of his life.
High up in the mountains in Himachal Pradesh, Shimla was once known as the summer capital for British India. Head up the mountain and you'll find a number of British colonial buildings along with Victorian-style houses. As you head down, the city gets distinctively more Indian with crowded bazaars and markets. Make sure to check out the Viceregal Lodge, a living museum that gives an incredible insight into British colonial rule in India.
Forget Morocco's cerulean city of Chefchaouen, India's similarly azure city of Jodhpur is on a much larger and more impressive level than its African cousin. Apart from the colorful blue houses of the old city, Jodhpur is home to some of India's most incredible architecture such as the towering hill-top Mehrangarh Fort which gives stunning views over the city and its colorfully painted features. Be sure to also check out the beautiful Umaid Bhawan Palace, the residence of the former Jodhpur royal family which also doubles up as hotel and was even named as the world's best hotel at the Traveller's Choice Awards in 2018.
This colorful valley town nestled in the foot of the Himalayas is an underrated gem of North India. The scenery all around India's Uttarakhand region is incredibly beautiful and only usually visited by the most devout of yoga fans who travel to the nearby Rishikesh. The town is built up the side of hills of three different peaks at the meeting point of two rivers, the Alakananda and Bhagirathi that come together to form the iconic and sacred Ganges River. With one a deep blue and the other a shade of green, the meeting point of these rivers is a picturesque site that shouldn't be missed. That and the quaint idyllic hill-side setting of the town and its vibrant colorful houses make the town of Devprayag such a highlight on a visit to this rarely explored region.
There's a beautiful side to India that most people visiting the country don't tend to see. Next time you're traveling to this amazing part of the world, make sure to get out of the major cities and head to some of the stunning hill-top towns or laid-back towns along the coast.