India is known for her incredible landscapes. But away from Goa’s gorgeous beaches and the majesty of the Himalayas, there are locations that feel alien, strange and surreal. All the more reason to pack your bags and visit!
Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
When you imagine scorching deserts, you will rarely envision white sand. However, this seasonal salt marsh is a brilliant, bright white and seems more suited to the surface of the moon. Found in western Gujarat, it is one of India’s most otherworldly landscapes and draws parallels with Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s stunning salt flats.
The best time to visit is during the RannUtsav Festival which is held from 14th December till 18th March. During the festival you can enjoy all manners of activities, such as hot air ballooning, camping, camel safaris, folk dancing and full moon bathing. For a dish to match this hot location, chooseHandvo, a succulent and savoury teacake made from buttermilk, flour, coriander, chillies and rice.
Sundarbans, West Bengal
Seeing the magnificent mangrove tree in person is always special, but the Sundarbans is the biggest mangrove forest in the world. Coupled with a high population of both Bengal tigers and crocodiles, this beautiful destination is also dangerous.
West Bengal is famous for its love of maach (fish) and bhaar (rice). Incorporating these two components into any meal will help you to eat like a local. We recommend trying SorsebataIlish Mach to distract you from the hungry critters on land and in the water. It is made with hilsa, a locally caught fish, turmeric, mustard poppy seeds and a five spice mix known as panchphoron.
Loktak Lake, Manipur
As the largest fresh water lake in India, you would expect Loktak to be beautiful. But Loktak is special for more than just its size – it is its floating islands (phumdis) that make it so unique. The strange scene was made by resourceful fishermen. After needing to both fish and live on the land, they met half way. The circular structures are actually homemade fish farms and they built their homes on the floating land.
It is now a source of hydroelectric power generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. To celebrate this lake-based delight, try this fresh water dish: Nga Toithong. Made with Catla fish steaks, this stew is mixed with a wonderful blend of fresh herbs and spices, including: cumin, turmeric, green chillies, fenugreek, asafoetida, mustard, salt and coriander.
As you can tell from the range of spices, Manipur’s curries are very different to elsewhere in India. But when you can catch and cook a fish on your very own floating island, why would you want to go anywhere else?
Of course there are so many places in India worthy of being mentioned. From the great Ghats mountain range, the Spiti Valley and Nubra Valley (literally known as Moon-Land), India is as varying as it is huge. If all this talk has got you hungry, why not visit one of London’s best fine dining Indian restaurants?