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10 Overrated Indian Destinations

June 14, 2024 10:15 IST
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IMAGE: Key Gompa, overlooking the Spiti river from a hilltop, is the largest monastery and most iconic landmark of the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

India, with its immense splendour and diverse landscape, offers oodles and oodles to see. How do you choose where to go and what to skip?.

While the most sought after tourist destinations may boast unique natural beauty, sadly, some of them are on the verge of losing their charm, mainly due to too many visitors and a lack of proper tourist infrastructure to support the burgeoning numbers.

We have listed 10 such places that don't really match up to their hype anymore, unless the authorities get their act together and prevent their ruin, like how, uniquely, the Tamil Nadu government is issuing for e-passes for those wanting to head to Ooty.

Meanwhile, the good news is: We have one or two clever substitutes or alternatives for each of these places.

IMAGE: Tourists and devotees flock to the Hatu temple, perched on a hill, in Narkanda. Photograph: himalayanlens/Wikimedia Commons

Not Shimla but...

Perennially overcrowded, expensive and constantly under repair, the capital of Himachal Pradesh no longer offers one as grand a trip as one would hope for. The difficulties of taking a decent photograph without being photo-bombed by an intrusive tourist tells you a lot about the sorry saga around there.

Worry not. For a lovely Himalayan getaway, without the crowds typical to Shimla, head to the nearby town of Narkanda, which is barely a few hours' drive away.

Folks can easily, unhindered by the multitudes, walk around a town full of greenery and dream-like snowy scenes during winter. Exploring ancient temples and apple orchards further adds to the enjoyment.

How to reach: Narkanda is 60 km away by road from Shimla, the nearest airport and railhead.

IMAGE: Basing yourself in nearby villages is one way to avoid the crowds in Manali. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Manali but...

If you're looking to have a peaceful time in the company of barf-clad mountains, Himachal Pradesh posseses heaps of attractive hamlets that are better than a lot of the not-off-the-beaten-track places.

There's no earthly reason to burn a hole in your pocket on those costly stays or waste you trip waiting in long traffic queues in Manali.

Solang Valley, Rohtang Pass, Atal Tunnel... These are some of the popular and equally avoidable tourists haunts near an avoidable town that's always packed with taxis, not to mention the pollution levels during the peak season. Instead of having a pleasant break you will end up feeling cranky.

Instead, take an excursion to the villages of Sethan or Naggar that offer plenty of activities possible in a more serene locale. The hotels and homestays are cheaper and you will get a taste of real pahadi hospitality.

How to reach: Naggar is 22 km by road from Kullu, the nearest airport and also 22 km by road from Manali. Sethan is nearly 15 km by road from Manali.

IMAGE: Witness panoramic vistas at every corner while making your way up to Matheran. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Lonavala but... 

As the monsoon arrives, Lonavala is flooded with day-trippers from the neighbouring cities of Mumbai and Pune. Sure, the scenic hill station offers alluring views of the Western Ghats. But what about the traffic snarls, extreme commercialisation and so little bang for your buck, with not enough activities.

Aati hai Khandala? Nahin, nahin.

Don't let Lonavala be a dampener to your vacation mazaa. Cross this destination off your list and instead go to Kolad or Matheran, where you can spend your time enjoying a variety of outdoorsy stuff.

Matheran has many enchanting waterfalls and thrilling trekking escapades. And you know what you won't miss? The mud, keechad and ruts created by tyres in this four-wheeler-free green zone (two-wheeler and six-wheeler free too).

Kolad, on the other hand, has ops for river rafting, ziplining, canoeing that will add adventure to your monsoon sabbatical.

How to reach: Matheran is 83 km by road from Mumbai. Kolad is 121 odd km by road or train from Mumbai.

IMAGE: A leisurely walk across Vagamon's sweeping tea gardens is a memorable affair. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Munnar but...

Known near and far for its sprawling tea plantations, mist and super hilltop lookouts, Munnar draws both backpackers and lots of noisy families. But the sad reality is that this popularity has led to loads of commercialism, excess traffic on every road in town and an environmental degradation of the surroundings.

Munnar suffers too because the local infrastructure is inadequate to cope with the exploding tourism.

Vagamon, another pretty hilly Kerala town, in Idukki district, 75 km from Kottayam, has similar foggy, breathtaking countryside around and you pay less for a more authentic and gratifying travel experience, including a peek at India's longest glass cantilever bridge.

Not many journey to Vagamon and it is wonderfully bereft of selfie-takers, rowdy sightseers and crass commercial mistreatment.

How to reach: Vagamon is 100 km by road from Kochi, nearest airport and railhead (at Ernakulum).

IMAGE: The all-knowing Buddha regally surveys Langza village and much of Spiti. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Leh but...

Enjoying the rugged gorgeousness of Leh has always been on top of many travellers' bucket lists. The skyrocketing visitor arrivals and unplanned development in the region have dented its magic.

Each year, the videos of irksomely serpentine lines of cars/SUVs/jeeps etc, waiting to enter Leh and Ladakh, surface online raising concerns about the unruly tourism in the high Himalayas.

Spiti would be an awesome replacement to Leh, thanks to a similar terrain and less jostling. There are abundant attractions in the Spiti Valley area worth visiting. Key Monastery and Chandra Taal, for instance, are a few of the top spots for taking in the majesty of this beauteously barren land.

How to reach: Spiti is 235 km away by road from Shimla, the nearest airport and railhead.

IMAGE: Tall mountains, milky-white rivers, lush meadows, shepherds with goats make up the dreamy setting of Kashmir's Gurez Valley. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Gulmarg but...

From afar, Gulmarg looks charming. The rolling green meadows and snow-capped peaks are plenteously picturesque. But most visitors are not as impressed with the tourist facilities. Pony rides, snow adventures are overpriced. Food as well as stay options are limited and pricey.

Ditch Gulmarg and travel to other sundar regions of Kashmir like the Bangus Valley and Gurez Valley. Tranquil. Extremely enthralling. These parts will offer better pics for your travel albums and social feeds.

How to reach: Bangus Valley is 100 km from Srinagar, the nearest airport and railhead. Gurez Valley is 125 km from Srinagar.

IMAGE: The Dhanaulti Eco Park, Uttarkhand, is the place for nature walks. Photograph: Arup1981/Wikimedia Commons

Not Mussoorie but...

Crisp mountain air and enticing hill-station vibes might be the main raison d'etre for choosing Mussoorie for a holiday. Memorable environs you will find. But serenity not. 

Try nearby Chakrata or Dhanaulti for true quietude. They are steadily becoming favourites amongst the really ardent travellers. Water, mountains and evergreen forests together are the perfect formula for finding your 'me-time' in nature.

How to reach: Chakrata is 81 km by road from Mussoorie. Dhanaulti is nearly 59 km by road from Mussoorie. The closest railhead and airport from Mussoorie is at Dehradun 36 km away.

IMAGE: In the midst of a thick pine forest, Manebhanjan is a treat for peace-seekers. This village is also a gateway for the Sandakphu trek to Phalut, where you can have a once-in-ten-lives chance to view five of the most precious Himalayan peaks, including Everest (Sagarmatha). Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Darjeeling but...

Everyone has heard of Darjeeling and the fun you can have. Tea estates. The toy train. Rangeet Valley ropeway. Shopping on Chowrasta. Happy Valley Tea Factory. Streetside momos. Snow leopards in the zoo...

The fame of these sites is precisely why locals give the town a wide berth, especially in summer when it's chockablock with what seems like every tourist in the world. Most areas of the town are dirty and unmaintained and it is also overpriced for no good reason.

For a better feel of the neighbourhood, head to Kalimpong to savour the Gorkha heritage and Buddhist culture. If you are looking for calm, relaxed surrounds, then Mirik or Manebhanjan (also spelled Maneybhyanjang), which are within 40 km radius of the bustling town of Darjeeling, are ideal picks.

How to reach: Kalimpong is 51 km by road from Darjeeling and 77 km from Bagdogra, the nearest airport. Manebhanjan is 81 km by road from Bagdogra and 25 km by road from Darjeeling. Mirik is nearly 40 km by road from Darjeeling and 45 km by road from Bagdogra.

IMAGE: Away from the madding rush, Kumarakom is a tiny piece of paradise for backpackers and parivar alike. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Alleppey but...

Massive crowds, high-priced houseboats and pushy street vendors often easily destroy the lure of this Kerala hotspot.

Give it an ekdum miss and check out Kumarakom, some 30 km away from Alleppey. The place has a don't worry-be-happy mood and a rustic delightfulness. Do you know what its SP is? Kumarakom is not a tourist trap unlike its counterpart and you get to absorb a one-of-a-kind backwaters ambience.

How to reach: Kumarakom is 73 km away from Kochi, the closest airport and railhead (at Ernakulum)

IMAGE: Sit idle and watch the clouds flying from one hill to another above Chikkamagaluru's stunning jungle. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Not Coorg but...

If you have never been to Chikkamagaluru, you might believe that Coorg is the queen of Karnataka's hill stations. It's undoubtedly magnificent. But there's a small, actually large problem -- it's swarming with raucous holidaymakers, almost all year around.

Press the Operation Flee button and, eyes closed, without hesitation, book your passage to Chikkamagaluru. Home to the state's highest peak, Mullayyanagiri in the Chandra Dhrona hills, this cutesy town is also far-famed for its coffee plantations and touch-me-not saundarya.

How to reach: Chikkamagaluru is a railhead and it is 150 km by road from Mangaluru, the nearest airport.

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