Skip the mundane, head to somewhere exotic

Mumbai Mirror | Nov 29, 2011, 12.00AM IST

Skip the usual suspects this year, head to exotic and quirky destinations that promise a richer and more diverse experience

Neora Valley:

On the border of Sikkim, Bhutan and Darjeeling, the valley, situated in the Kalimpong sub-division in Darjeeling district, is among one of the richest biological reserves in the North East, says Gaurav Punj of Connect with the Himalayas. This is the land of the Red Panda and a variety of animals can be found including the Himalayan Thar, Himalayan black bear, tiger, goral, wild boar and clouded leopard. The valley is also well known for wild orchids. Due to its geography and wide range of altitude variation (600 ft to 10600 ft), climatic conditions vary from tropical to temperate.

Gushaini in Tirthan Valley, HP:

Gushaini is a small town located in the Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Away from the clutter of city life, the town is peaceful and serene. With pristine rivers gushing through the town, it is a good getaway for a short break. Homestays are quite popular here among visiting trekkers.


In the land of Incas, Machu Picchu is the obvious draw. But if you're looking to go off the beaten path, you are spoilt for choices. The Amazon rainforest has its share of secrets, the Andes with their snow-capped mountains are a photographer's delight. Tropical birds, volcanoes, lakes - there's a whole variety of experiences waiting to be enjoyed in Peru.


Mongolia opened up its doors to the world after the fall of Communism. Tourism as a big source of income, and much of its wonders remain intact despite the assault of the West. You could watch birds on horseback at Ugiinuur Lake, visit the Flaming Cliffs in the Gobi desert where the first dinosaur eggs were found or simply enjoy a Bohemian night out in its capital Ulaan Baatar. From mountaineering to fishing, Mongolia has it all.

Rupin and Supin Valleys:

The two valleys are located on the border of Garhwal and Himachal Pradesh. Situated between the two valleys, the Baraadsar Lake is considered one of the loveliest spots in the region. The green alpine valley is full of multi-colored flowers. The place also has a temple dedicated to Duryodhan, the eldest brother of the Kauravas of the epic Mahabharata.

Madhya Pradesh:

MP has been threatening to arrive for decades. May 2011 be its true calling. Go tiger spotting at Bandhavgarh, visit Khajuraho and check out Bhimbetka (46 km south of Bhopal), a rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs with over 600 rock shelters belonging to the Neolithic age.


For right-wingers too, it is quite the haven. There is a magic to Havana that you can't quite spell out, but the palm-fringed, hub of a faraway rebellion makes it quite the destination. Getting there is a pain, but it's worth it - an affordable Caribbean paradise with lots of Latino soul. White sandy beaches, the best cigars and mean Mojitos. What more can we ask for?


With a stunning coastline, Croatia is charming and timeless. With rocky coves, stunning islands, diving opportunities, medieval castles, historic towns and a taste of the good life, do you really have to think twice before booking your tickets?

Poovar, Kerala:

Head south of Kerala for a more virgin backwaters experience in Poovar. There are a few (pricey) island resorts to choose from, and one has floating cottages with a pretty view of the spot where the backwaters meet the sea.


It's the closest you can get to Africa, while retaining Asia. Madagascar is in many ways the best of both continents. With world-class safaris and beaches and fairly decent value-for-money (even if more people are picking up on this) Mad's the way to be in 2011. Apart from spending quality time staring at the coral reefs, explore the forests for their exotic flora and fauna.