Winter at Tantora

A Guide to Ancient Villages in India

by Nicole Quasté

Feb 8, 2018

Himachal Pradesh © Michal Knitl |

Tips / Destination

There are more than 650,000 reported villages across India’s 29 states and recent rural tourism trends draw more visitors than ever.

Visiting India’s lesser-known villages is ideal for those looking for old-world charm, rustic beauty and rich cultural experiences, but it’s important to always be respectful of local customs, keeping in mind the lifestyles in these villages differ from India’s cities.

From North to South, here are some of India’s most unique, beautiful communities.

The ancient village of Malana lies isolated in the northeastern Kullu Valley, offering breathtaking views. It’s accessible via a two-day trekking trip from Naggar over the Chandrakhani pass, or from Jari to Malana on a six-hour hike through scenic forests. You can also drive from Jari to Nerang, and Malana is a two-hour trek from there.

There are several small villages in the Himachal Pradesh region, and Janjehli, only one of them, is well worth a visit. Located far from commercial life, the community offers a quiet sanctuary with beautiful stepped hills and religious temples.

Ravangla offers stunning landscapes with a backdrop of the snow-covered peaks of Kanchenjunga — the third-highest mountain the world — and Himalayan forests. It’s best known for its diversity of flora and fauna, picturesque tea gardens and ancient Ralan and Bonn monasteries. The closest large city is Gangtok, and there are buses and taxis available to access the village.

On the ancient Salt Route to Tibet in the Kumaon hills, surrounded by snow-capped Himalayan mountains, dense forests and the Goriganga river, is the picturesque village of Munsyari in Uttarakhand. Get there by bus in about 24 hours from Delhi.

Nicknamed Asia’s cleanest village, Mawlynnong in Meghalaya is known for its untouched natural landscapes. There are flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Shillong, and taxis are available from Shillong to Mawlynnong. From there, via 50-minute drive or four-hour trek, is the village of Riwai, known for its living Banyan tree root bridge.

The seaside village of Tarkarli boasts a sprawling coastline and untouched ecosystem, known for its white sandy beaches and azure waters, shuru vegetation and the Karli River. About 160 miles south of Tarkarli, also along the coast, is Gokarna, a peaceful village known for religious sites like the Mahabaleshwar Temple, which has a shrine dedicated to the deity Shiva.

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