A warm welcome to Amit Thakur, a new addition to our Sodha Travel team in Delhi! Amit specializes in custom tour programs and has over 12 years of experience in the travel industry. He is an avid explorer who has extensively traveled throughout India, including many national parks and wildlife reserves. Amit also has a passion for photography and has contributed many snapshots of festivals, wildlife, and local treasures.
I recently asked Amit to share his 5 favorite India destinations. His answers were so detailed, personal and vivid. Read on to learn more:
Satpura National Park (03 hours from Bhopal) - I traveled here last year and highly recommend this park for tourists looking for a relaxed holiday in the lap of nature, with a plenty of activities. Since it is relatively a new place to explore, there are hardly any crowds or running of jeeps in the park racing with another to spot the animals. It is a good spot for bird watching in winters, exploring the quiet countryside on foot, and meeting and interacting with people who will be happy to share with you. The elephant safaris in morning are recommended, and if lucky, you can see the leopard or the marking being left behind on the trees by tiger and leopard, which is generally missed while driving in jeeps.
Chhatra Sagar / Nimaj (02 hours from Jodhpur) – Chhatra Sagar has developed into a lush green oasis near a man-made dam. With it’s wide open spaces and enchanting views, it is a must for anybody looking to explore the countryside in style. Here the stay is in the luxury tents, which are pitched over the dam. It is so peaceful with the evening sky full of shining stars. The descendants of the people invited here by Thakur Chhatra Singh still live in settlements around Chhatra Sagar. Predominantly farmers and shepherd and they live a self-contained and harmonious life which has changed little in the last century. Here you will love the silence, the bird-watching, the isolation, the bats who fly over the dinner tables at dusk, the fresh pomegranate juice being served on the terrace, the organic farms managed and maintained by the Royal family and the home cooked food being served to pamper you all the time.
Chettinad (02 hours from Madurai) - Chettinad, located about 2 hours from Madurai, is the land of palatial houses, enormous temples and excellent cuisine. As a visitor, when you ramble through the narrow streets, you will stumble - literally - on stones and worn out roads, and figuratively in stupefaction that there is so much untouched by tourism. Today, there is a curious mix of old stately mansions, English-styled bungalows, partially ruined homes, wedding halls, shops and schools. Nestled between will be the temples, with its towers in colors varying from washed-out to recently painted tomato red, cobalt blue, parrot green and sunflower yellow. The main streets hum with activity in some villages and others only glimpse an occasional bus off-loading or picking up villagers. There is so much here for everyone to see, and the highlight of the town is the local market. A stroll through the rustic market will give you a close-up of a cross-section of village life which the next generation may not even experience. It is big but yet so peaceful and different from the rest of the cities in Tamil Nadu.
Munnar / Kerala (04 hours from Cochin) - If there is heaven on earth, it is Munnar. Misty mountains, thick forests, hills covered in a quilt of tea plantations, deep valleys and sparkling streams and waterfalls. Munnar has a beauty and a charm that is unsurpassed in any southern hill station. It is a place where you open your eyes to birdsong. Little visited by tourists, in the early morning with the mist covering the higher ranges, it has a surreal beauty. Munnar offers many activities for the nature lover and for the keen hiker. You can carry a picnic lunch and explore the high hills of top station with fabulous views across the plains. In Ervikulam National Park, where vehicular traffic is banned, you can walk in the hills looking for the rare Nilgiri Tahr. The bird activity is stunning. You can also spend time at a tea plantation and visit the factory to watch the process of the leaf being converted into the more recognizable form we buy in the supermarket. Tea is like wine. Everything lies in the process, the age and the tasting.
Sardargarh (02 hours from Udaipur) - Sardargarh is one of the best kept forts/palaces offering large suites along with good views from the terraces. The owners themselves take care of the guests and are glad to spend some time with them sharing the stories of the past. The other highlight is the massive Kumbhalgarh Fort and magnificent white marble Jain temple complex at Ranakpur. The drive around the area takes you across the Aravalli Hills, considered the oldest mountain range in the world. The scenery along the way is superb and you will see many vignettes of Rajasthani rural life. Among them are colorful villages, farms where an ancient system of irrigation using bullocks and a Persian wheel are still in practice, outdoor schools and the sartorially vibrant people who add a spectrum of color to the countryside. Indeed, a photographer’s delight! In the evening, opt for the night safari by jeep with big spot lights to look for leopards and other small animals in the nearby areas.