Contrary to popular belief, our vacations plans don't have to start from the mountains and end at the beaches. Its time we ditch the norm and head to destinations that promise desert festivals, lush safaris, and rocky caves. In short, head to one of these locations instead:
1. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Nicknamed 'the Golden City', Jaisalmer is one of the most famous desert destinations among national and international tourists. With the grand Jaisalmer Fort (a World Heritage Site), a rich heritage of breathtaking Jain temples, and exotic village remains like Kuldhara, Jaisalmer totally lives up to the hype of a desert mystery.
It only helps that every year in February, Jaisalmer hosts the most awaited cultural event in Rajasthan - the Desert Festival.
2. Udaipur, Rajasthan
This 'Lake City' is ideal for those who want to explore more of Rajasthan than just deserts. Home to a sophisticated lake system combining 5 lakes, a gorgeous Lake Palace that redefines luxury, and the breathtakingly beautiful Jag Mandir, Udaipur is well worth a visit.
It only helps that the famous Kumbalgarh Fort is only a 2-hour drive away, there are numerous rustic cafes in the old city with a scenic view of the lakes, and the local Sukhadia circle is a street food heaven for foodies.
3. Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
The oldest national park in India, Jim Corbett National Park is the place to be for nature lovers and adventure-seekers. Home to the Bengal tigers, Sambar deer and elephants, Jim Corbett National Park has seen a steady rise in tourists over the years.
In fact, the lush beauty of the forest has made it a favored spot for destination weddings. There are options to stay in the forest or choose a more luxurious stay in the surrounding areas.
4. Sunderbans National Park, West Bengal
A haven for the Bengal Tiger, Sunderban National Park is also home to gorgeous mangrove forests. A UNESCO world heritage site, the park is also home to multiple kinds of dolphins, the saltwater crocodile, Jungle cat, Flying fox and other indigenous species.
5. Pushkar, Rajasthan
Though famous as a pilgrimage site, Pushkar is also the small town ideal for a staycation. With gorgeous properties spread across the town, like the Westin Pushkar Resort & Spa, Pushkar offers luxury and spirituality combined.
So spend your morning immersing yourself in a religious fervor, and enjoy the calm on the banks of the Pushkar Lake in the evening. The local craft and culture is best displayed during the 5-day long Pushkar fair, that definitely makes for a fun visit.
6. Kutch, Gujarat
Comprising of salt marshes, Rann of Kutch is a white desert - the beauty of which is hard to put into words. Suffice to say, it is a once in a lifetime experience. With the annual Rann Utsav, tourists have a chance to enjoy the pristine beauty of the white sand under the luminous moonlight.
Add to it, pretty tents, a plethora of local art and culture at display, Rann Utsav becomes a must visit festival.
7. Shillong, Meghalaya
The capital city of Meghalaya is a traveler's delight. Technically it may be considered a hill station, but there is much more to fall in love with than just the pristine beauty of hills. Like the multi-tiered Elephant waterfalls, that look straight out of a fairy tale.
Or the hot springs of Jakrem, that are only 2 hours away from Shillong, and said to have medicinal properties. Even Cherrapunji, which was the wettest place in India for the longest time, is only an hour's drive from Shillong. Other than this, the border town of Dawki, known for it annual boat race, and the sacred forest of Mawphlang, famous for the Rudraksha tree are also nearby attractions and definitely worth a visit.
8. Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
If you truly want to immerse yourself in the tribal culture, then Ziro is the place to go. About a 3-hour drive from Itanagar. Home to the Apatani tribe - one of India's rare non-nomadic tribes - Ziro is famous for its pine-clad hills and rice fields.
But most importantly it is home to 'India's Greatest Outdoor Music Festival' - the Ziro festival of music. A 4-day festival showcasing local and national talent, the festival also gives a chance to sample local cuisines, and truly enjoy the delights of the valley.
9. Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Home to two-thirds of the world's one-horned rhinoceroses, this World Heritage Site is a must visit for animal and nature lovers alike. Guided tours of the park give a chance to the visitors to observe the lush scenery and spot tigers, wild water buffalos, and leopards among other animals.
From the Golden Langur to Rose-ringed parakeets, the abundance of a wide variety of wildlife is what makes Kaziranga Park a favorite among animal lovers.
10. Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Despite being the largest tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, the Kanha National Park actually has another claim to fame - to have been the inspiration for the forests described in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. In fact, a 'Mowgli trail' was also introduced post the 150th birth anniversary of the book.
11. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Khajuraho is proof that our ancestors had far more progressive ideologies than we do. The Khajuraho Group of Monuments - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - are renowned for the detailed erotic sculptures.
However, apart from the famous temple art, the small town is also famous for the mythologically important and naturally beautiful Pandav falls, the Panna National Park, and the Raneh Falls, famously known as India's mini Grand Canyon.
12. Jorhat, Assam
One of Assam's most important urban center, Jorhat is most famous for hosting Assam's annual tea festival. Jorhat's extensive tea gardens and the presence of the Teklai Experimental Centre make it the ideal spot for hosting a tea festival.
Jorhat is also home to the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary - evergreen forest reserve; and even the beautiful river island of Majuli (the largest island on Brahmaputra river) is only a 2 hour drive away.
13. Hampi, Karnataka
If you're a fan of adventure and history then Hampi is the place to be. A UNESCO world heritage site, this place is also an Instagramer's delight.
But more importantly this small village will convince you of the charm and beauty that even ruins can bring. With temples that were constructed roughly between 1336 and 1570 CE, the site is a beautiful look into Indian history and its wonders.
14. Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur
Yes there are many national parks to visit in India, but you should visit Keibul Lamjao National Park because this is the only floating park in the world. The park is home to the endangered species of brow-antlered deer and characterized by floating mass of vegetation.
Since the park is part of Loktak lake, year-round access is available via a water way through the park.
15. Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh
The Belum caves hold the distinction of being the largest and longest cave system accessible to the Indian public. A natural cave system, Belum Caves have as many as 16 different pathways, are made of black limestone and have deposits of quartz.
The caves also have religious importance as Buddhist relics were discovered in the caves - which are now placed in a museum.
16. Hogenakkal Falls, Tamil Nadu
At times referred to as India's 'Niagara Falls', this gorgeous waterfall located in the Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu is a gorgeous site.
With areas set aside for bathing and boating, the Hogenakkal Falls are a major tourist attraction, and rightfully so. This is one natural marvel you have to see to fall in love with
17. Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh
Gandikota is a village that houses ancient temples, majestic canyons and ruined forts. Although efforts are being made to turn Gandikota into a cultural and tourist hub, it is still one of the lesser known heritage sites in India.
However, the Gandikota Fort, the Gandikota Penna River view, and the ancient temples of Madhava and Ranganatha make this quaint little town worth a visit.
18. Aurangabad, Maharashtra
Famous for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves, Aurangabad is truly a hub of historical monuments. While Bibi Ka Maqbara, Tomb of Aurangzeb and Daulatabad Fort are other famous historical monuments, the city is also home to the Salim Ali Lake & Bird Sanctuary.
In addition to this, the Aurangabad caves famous for the Tantric influences (as evident by their design and iconography) and the 17th-century water mill, Panchakki, are also popular tourist spots.
19. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Situated on the banks of Ganga, this is considered as the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. Thus, a visit to Varanasi is bound to be colored by a heady dose of religious fervor.
But beautiful temples like the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, sunset strolls across the ghats, and settling peacefully to watch the majestic evening aarti is a unique experience. You can also head to Sarnath, which is only 12 kms away from Varanasi.
20. Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan
There is no shortage of gorgeous forts and temples in Rajasthan. But what makes Sawai Madhopur special is its close proximity to the Ranthambore National Park (only 7 kms away), and the Rajiv Gandhi Regional Museum of Natural History. The local art and craft complex of Shilpgram only adds to the charm of the city.
21. Mysore, Karnataka
Nestled in the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, this royal heritage city is famous for its silk sarees, breathtakingly beautiful Mysore Palace, and the famous 10-day long Dasara festival.
The city is also home to the The Mysore Zoo, natural sanctuaries like Bandipur National Park and Mudumalai National Park, and The Sand Sculpture Museum.
So the next time you are planning a trip, look out for vacation spots that are different than the norm!