Some journeys are so full of adventure that the destination itself is an afterthought. It is the act of travelling that makes these journeys so full of promise. India’s Vivek Express, which spans the breadth of the country from Dibrugarh in the remote north-east to Kanyakumari at the tip of our southern border, is one such journey. Covering 4,233km over 80 hours, India’s longest rail route is one of the best journeys for anyone who loves travelling by trains.
However, we understand that staying cooped up inside a train for over four days can be a gruelling task, so we’ve drawn up a list of places where you can hop off to see a side of India that would otherwise elude you.
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital city, sees the most foreign tourists in India these days (sorry Goa and Delhi). Lying equidistant from the coast and Western Ghats, the city is a major gateway point for both places. Thiruvananthapuram itself has a wealth of art galleries, museums, bazaars and, of course, the Sree Padmanabha Temple, one of the oldest temples in India. Please note, however, that only Hindus are allowed entry into the temple.
Surrounded by endless paddy fields, fertile valleys and enchanting rivers, Palakkad is located on a low pass of the Western Ghats that divides Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It’s a place of great contrast, where you will find more vegetarian Tamilian dishes than Malabari cuisine. From the remains of Tipu Sultan’s fort to breath-taking mountain views from Kanjirapuzha Dam, Palakkad won’t disappoint the adventurer in you.
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Coimbatore has a wealth of interesting temples, including the Lord Ganesha temple in Puliakulam which houses Asia’s largest statue of the elephant deity. Known for its textiles, the Manchester of India is a worthy stopover to pick up sarees and other Indian dresses.
Nellore, Andra Pradesh
Head for some beach therapy to the lesser-visited Kolur and Mypadu beaches at Nellore to feast on the unique Nellore Reddy cuisine. The city is also a major hub for gold and there are numerous shops vying for your business. Sriharikota, from where India’s satellites and rockets are launched, is another easy drive from Nellore.
Vijayawada, Andra Pradesh
Located on the banks of the Krishna river, Vijayawada is well-known for temples, forts and caves, such as Undavalli and Mogalarajapuram. The Buddhist caves of Amaravathi and the unique Bhavani island are some other must-visit places while in Vijayawada. The city is a major transport hub and finding connections from Vijayawada to other parts of the country is a breeze.
Rajahmundry, Andra Pradesh
Get away from the hustle and bustle of cities with a quiet cruise down the Godavari river from Rajahmundry. Founded in the 11th century, the city is known for its cultural heritage.
Visakhapatnam, Andra Pradesh
Visakhapatnam has some of the best unspoilt beaches in India, along with some great places to soak in the city. Head to Ramakrishna, Rishikonda, Gangavaram and Yarada beaches; also take a ropeway tunnel up the hillock from where you can look down upon the beaches that make up Visakhapatnam. The Submarine Museum and Buddhist sites, as well as nearby Araku Valley and Borra Caves, are also worth visiting.
Known for its architecture and ancient temples, Bhubaneswar is an important destination for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims. The 10th-century Lingaraja Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the most revered temples in India, while the Kalinga War that transformed King Ashoka into a peace-lover is also located here. The ancient cities of Puri and Konark are a couple of hours’ drive away.
Siliguri, West Bengal
Siliguri is the gateway to the hill city of Darjeeling, the green state of Sikkim, and the happiest country in the world – Bhutan. The Coronation Bridge is the most-photographed attraction in the city and it also serves as the gateway to the wondrous Dooars region. While there, you can also visit tea plantations and the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.
The end of insurgency in Assam has seen Guwahati emerge as one of the premier destinations in the North-East. The city is the gateway to the more inaccessible north-eastern parts with bus and taxi connections to almost any place in the region. And if the idea of reaching Dibrugarh on the Vivek Express sounds tedious, take an air-conditioned ferry from Guwahati while passing through Kaziranga and Tezpur. It’ll be the ride of your life!
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