Travel

India’s hidden jewels: Three cities for your next getaway

These secluded paradises are among India’s best-kept secrets

Kolkata. New Delhi. Agra. Mumbai.

These cities are among the 'jewels' of India; brimming with natural wonders, cultural splendour, rich heritage, and of course, culinary delights.

Yet, if you go beyond these well-known destinations, you can discover even more of the riches India has to offer.

Read on to learn about three of India’s lesser-known, but no less beautiful cities — and the treasures they hold within.

Thiruvananthapuram, the Evergreen City of India

Kerala is a state already renowned for its idyllic landscapes — so when people say that Thiruvananthapuram is exceptionally beautiful for a Kerala city, you know it has to be outstanding.

Thiruvananthapuram’s many parks and surrounding green hills have earned it the title, Evergreen City of India. But it is evergreen in other ways – there’s always something new to be discovered there.

The Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple shows architectural influences from both Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
The Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple shows architectural influences from both Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu.PHOTO: ISTOCK

Marvel at the wide variety of wildlife at the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, the oldest zoo in India. Or be entranced by the eclectic architecture of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which is uniquely influenced by both ancient Kerala and Tamil architectural styles.

The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is the oldest zoo in India
The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is the oldest zoo in IndiaPHOTO: ISTOCK

While you’re in Kerala, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay in a houseboat. These distinctive boats have thatched roofs and are constructed without the use of a single nail.

While they were previously used as a way of transporting spices, textiles and other goods, Kerala houseboats (known as kettuvallam) primarily survive today as tourist attractions.

Any visitor to Kerala shouldn’t miss the opportunity to stay on a houseboat, and relive the experience of old Kerala royalty.
Any visitor to Kerala shouldn’t miss the opportunity to stay on a houseboat, and relive the experience of old Kerala royalty.PHOTO: ISTOCK

If you have the opportunity, don’t pass it up, because staying in a kettuvallam and watching the world go by as you lazily drift down the river is an experience unlike any other.

But the beaches surrounding Thiruvananthapuram hold plenty for adventure seekers too. Get up close and personal with Kerala’s marine wildlife by snorkelling, hopping in a kayak, or taking a backwater cruise. As the evening draws near, the weather gets cooler, and you might even get the chance to catch a truly spectacular sunset.

The silky sands of Varkala Beach are perfect for both thrill-seekers and beach bums alike.
The silky sands of Varkala Beach are perfect for both thrill-seekers and beach bums alike. PHOTO: ISTOCK

But you can’t visit Thiruvananthapuram without going to the region’s most iconic seaside attraction. The red-and-white striped Vizhinjam Lighthouse in the southern town of Kovalam will provide a striking backdrop to all your beach photos and function as a picture-perfect memento of your time in this beautiful region.

The distinctive white and red of the Vizhinjam Lighthouse is sure to stand out on your Instagram feed
The distinctive white and red of the Vizhinjam Lighthouse is sure to stand out on your Instagram feedPHOTO: ISTOCK

Coimbatore, the Manchester of South India

Coimbatore is often referred to as the Manchester of South India due to its long history as one of the largest textile exporters in the region.

But this beautiful city has so much more to offer than industry. As you wander its pastel-coloured streets, pick up some traditional idli from a street vendor — and make sure you enjoy the savoury rice cake with a healthy dollop of coconut chutney, as the locals do.

When you’re in Coimbatore, don’t miss Sree Annapoorna’s idli, a popular street snack made of steamed rice and fermented black lentils
When you’re in Coimbatore, don’t miss Sree Annapoorna’s idli, a popular street snack made of steamed rice and fermented black lentilsPHOTO: ISTOCK

Feeling the need for speed? Coimbatore is renowned for its history of motorsports. Off-road rallies take place all year round around the city, and Formula 3 races at the legendary Kari Motor Speedway are sure to get the blood pumping.

A large number of hill stations are scattered throughout the mountains around Coimbatore, providing breathtaking views of the Western Ghats mountain range.
A large number of hill stations are scattered throughout the mountains around Coimbatore, providing breathtaking views of the Western Ghats mountain range.PHOTO: ISTOCK

Just as its central location between Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka served it well as an export nexus during the boom of its textile industry, that same attribute also gives it immense value as a tourist destination — it is arguably the best base from which to explore all three states.

You could be enjoying the view of Ooty Lake’s glittering waters one day, and the next, picking Nilgiri tea leaves in the mountains around Coonoor. The day after, you could be snapping a picture with Krishna’s Butter Ball, a massive round boulder that’s resisted any and all efforts to move it.

Visakhapatnam, Jewel of the East Coast

Similar to Thiruvananthapuram, Visakhapatnam is both a major financial hub and an extremely popular tourist destination.

It is also incredibly beautiful. In particular, its brilliant greenery and miles of unspoilt beaches attract flocks of tourists.

Visakhapatnam’s unspoilt beaches are far and away its most popular attraction
Visakhapatnam’s unspoilt beaches are far and away its most popular attractionPHOTO: ISTOCK

You’re sure to find a beach to love here: Lawson’s Bay is the place for long, romantic walks at sunset, while high-class hilltop dining above sparkling emerald waters is Rushikonda’s main draw. Want to be an extra in a movie? Try your luck at Gangavaram, one of the most popular shoot locations for filmmakers all across India.

A secluded location bordered on all sides by hills, Yarada Beach is the perfect place for a romantic seaside getaway.
A secluded location bordered on all sides by hills, Yarada Beach is the perfect place for a romantic seaside getaway.PHOTO: ISTOCK

Alternatively, escape into the surrounding wilderness for an adventure of a lifetime. Descend into the heart of the earth itself at the Borra Caves, one of the largest and deepest cave systems in India.

Hundreds of thousands of years of limestone deposits have resulted in some of the most spectacular stalagmite and stalactite formations to be found on — or rather, inside —  the planet.

The Borra Caves are among the largest and deepest caves in India.
The Borra Caves are among the largest and deepest caves in India.PHOTO: ISTOCK

Emerge back above ground to the dazzling sight of the Araku Valley’s waterfalls, ranging from the gentle wash of the Chaparai falls to the magnificent cascade of the Katiki falls. Don’t hesitate to take a dip: the locals definitely won’t.

The call of the wild

Is it time to make your great escape? You’re in luck: Scoot’s flights to Trivandrum commence May 7  and to Coimbatore and Visakhapatnam from October 27, all for prices that are hard to beat.

Flying to over 60 destinations across the world, and with exciting new cities to join the network soon, Scoot is passionate about enabling people to embrace travel and seek new experiences. With more choices available at fantastic value airfares, there’s no better airline to kick-start your adventure.

So what are you waiting for? Head to flyscoot.com/exploreindia  to get your tickets now.

 

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