For a landmass stretching across diverse climates, India presents varied landscapes that are awe-inspiring to say the least.
From arid dry deserts to glacial mountain peaks, untainted white coastlines to the lush greenery and rich foliage, India is home to diverse scenes that are associated with various parts of the world. Swiss Alps, Sahara desert, Caribbean waters and Amazon rainforest have their South Asian cousins in different regions of India.
The Himalayan Range
With the majestic Himalayan range of mountains sprawled across the states of Himchal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in the north-west region of India to Sikkim in the north-central to Arunachal Pradesh. The range found in India are known as the Lesser Himalayas with no less than spectacular sight of the silent snow capped peaks. Mount Kanchendzonga and Nanda Devi are the two highest peaks in the region of India. Glacial backdrops with lush meadows and valleys leading up to the snow-clad peaks offer breathtaking landscapes, stunning sights not easily forgotten.
Backwaters – Kerala
World renowned backwaters of Kerala are snuggled between banks of swaying trees and coastal communities. The refreshing sight of greenery, accompanied by birdlife, rich flora and the busy locals are intriguing. The backwater cruises, among the weaving waterways, offer a most serene experience set among soothing waters and scenic riverbanks. These sights are complete contrast to the bustling cities in other region of India and are a welcome reprieve to any traveller who may have been overwhelmed by urban mayhem unique to India.
The lifeline for India and the religious and spiritual artery of the country, River Ganges, stretching over 2 500km, offers astounding sights along its fertile banks. Emerging from a glacier’s mouth high in the Himalaya mountains, flowing through mountain gorges in Devprayag and the confluence point of its other sacred sister rivers- Yamuna and Saraswati- in Allahabad where the world’s biggest religious festival, Kumbh Mela is held, the waters from this revered river is sacred for many Hindu devotees. The reverence can be seen clearly in Varanasi where the holiest spot of this river is believed to be. Ablutions, cremations and prayers for living and dead are common sight along the river ghats. The alluvial soil along the Indo-Gangetic plains lead to fertile fields of crops, common sights in the rural region of India, where the river continues to makes its way towards its destination in the Bay of Bengal.
Konkan coast- Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore
With the waves from Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal caressing its lengthy shoreline, India’s coastal landscapes are the epitome of picture-perfect seashores. With Goa’s beaches being the perennial favourite for seaside tours, the neighbouring coastline offer some of the best views imaginable. The Konkan Coast, starting from Mumbai and leading southwards to Mangalore is dotted with sleepy fishing villages, paddy fields, plantations and coastal dwellings sheltered by the Western Ghats in the background. The scenery along this 700km of coastline can be enjoyed from the journey on the Konkan Railway or private transport. While exploring the picturesque coast, one must travel to the pristine beaches that are worthy rivals of the southern coastline in Goa. Murud, Kashid and Srivardhan are some of the beautiful beaches to be enjoyed along this scenic coast.
Hillstations- Ooty, Nilgiri
Bolstering the Deccan Plateau, and trailing down the entire west coastal region of India, the Western Ghats is the habitat for 1 000 over species of flora and fauna. This lush abode for nature is also home to India’s popular hill stations such as Lonvala, Mahabaleshwar in the north and Ooty and Nilgiri, found in the southern Tamil Nadu, just to name a few of the ranges found along this lengthy stretch of biosphere. Their cooler climates and green valleys, where tribal communities add an enchanting touch to the lush landscape, are popular tour inclusions.
Thar Desert- Rajasthan
In the northwestern region of India, lies the Thar Desert embracing the western border of Rajasthan. With the scenic Jaisalmer as its closest airport, and fortress city Bikaner and remote desert town, Barmer nearby, Thar desert’s arid sandy landscape is easily accessible. There are camel safaris and jeep rides available to enjoy sights of sand dunes and the natives’ mud houses with traditional designs paintings. In this golden landscape of sandy waves, centres of desert handicrafts as well as picnic spots with lively night entertainment provide delightful memories.
Cave Temples- Maharashtra, Badami, Mumbai
In a country filled with magnificent temples- ancient and recently built, cave temples stand out for their outstanding architecture and carvings out of the most primitive substance- rock and sandstone. There are numerous spectacular cave temples in many region of India. Of the the oldest cave temples in India are believed to be the Ellora caves in Maharashtra- over 30 of them show the religious harmony of the ancient times. These caves, whose construction began in the 5th century AD and continued til 9th century, are dedicated to the three main religions of the ancient times- Hinduisim, Buddhism and Jainism. Ajanta caves, some distance from Ellora caves and belonging to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is another fine specimen of cave temples overlooking a narrow river gorge. With a waterfall part of its horse-shoe shaped steep slope, these mural filled caves are revered for the Buddhist art masterpieces. The picturesque caves at Badami were built during early Chalukyan reign. Their elegant architecture and rich carvings are dedicated to Hindu deities, to Jain saints and others used as Buddhist monasteries. Other remarkable cave temples set among the beautiful surroundings include the Elephanta and Kanheri caves in Mumbai region. Joining a tour to visit these primeval sites is never time spent in futility.
National parks and Wildlife sanctuaries
It seems only natural that a country blessed with such rich and diverse landscapes have dedicated sites protecting and preserving nature’s bounty of flora and fauna. The renowned Kaziranga National Park and Corbett National Park are home to astounding landscape of raw beauty inhabited by variety of wildlife. Savannah grasslands, hilly ridges of deciduous forests and lifeline riverbanks are dominant features in Corbett National Park in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrachanal. Kaziranga National Park in Assamis characterized by its tall grasslands with parcels of semi-evergreen forests, and the significantly rich banks for the Brahmaputra river. Even within less rural areas such as Mumbai region, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park celebrates the rich birdlife and fauna in the picturesque woods. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala is another fascinating river landscape, which plays the role of a nucleus to the diverse ecosystem including multitude of flower species, wildlife and birdlife harboured by deciduous forests, grasslands and tropical evergreens. The Desert National Park in Jaisalmer is another fine example of the contrasting landscapes of India.
The multitude of waterfalls found in almost every region of India will mesmerize all visitors, especially those reward-deserving trekkers and hikers. Several of the waterfalls in India are the vista destinations at the end of trek trails. One of the highest waterfalls in South Asia is the untiered Jog Falls, in Karnataka, a spectacular cluster of towering falls with uninterrupted frothy white streams pounding on the rocky bottom. Abbey Falls, near Madikeri is another popular tour attraction. Surrounded by coffee and spice plantations, with a nearby bridge at a vantage point, this roaring falls can be heard distance away while enthralling those in its presence.
There are natural and man-made lakes found in every region of India. While enhancing the picturesque surroundings, they are popular with travelers and locals. These grounds surrounding the lakes also provide excellent spots for picnics while boating is common on the calm waters. Dal Lake in Srinagar is renowned for the wooden houseboats, one of its main tourist attractions. Lake Pichola in Udaipur is the beautiful backdrop for the renowned Lake Palace as its cousin Jai Mahal in Jaipur. Besides recreation, lakes also hold religious significance for devotees. Pushkar lake, also in Rajasthan is revered as a sacred site, surrounded by numerous temples and ghats used for cleansing and bathing by the Hindus. Tulsi lake, a fresh water lake is found within the Borivali National Park of Mumbai serves as a reservoir. Its strategic location near the catchment area of the hill ranges, Powai-Kanheri allows the lake to supply drinking waters to part of the Mumbai city. Lakes in India serve a myriad of purposes while remaining a scenic part of the surroundings.