Are you an impulsive traveler or a planned traveler, do you seek experience or luxury, is the sight merely a structure or a view or is it much beyond !! narrating a story that stirs your soul. If you are a soul traveler seeking to experience the infinite dimension through nature and people who inhabit the land then read on. This list of 15 Soul Travel Experiences is purely my view and not in any order of priority but a clockwise round trip starting from the north of India. Some I have experienced and others I am yet to experience.
1. Leh and Ladakh Chadar Trek: While the best time to visit Ladakh is from May to September, if you are seeking the real essence of the land then the best time is to experience the Chadar Trek between Mid Jan and end Feb which a 8 day trek on the frozen Zanskar River braving temperatures between -10 to -20 degrees. Extreme weather unveils the hidden beauty of the rugged terrain which in turn unlocks the music of the soul
2.Kashmir Great Lakes: A week long trek through high cliffs and meadows is a taste of paradise. It is an ideal route to stop by now and then to count the stars with rippling mountain streams for company. Somewhere in all of us there lies a poet waiting to be let loose and express and this might as well be the moment. The best time is between June and September.
3. Spiti Valley Trek: As the name suggests, it is the middle land between India and Tibet with climate, culture and vegetation very similar to Tibet. Often cut off during winter season, Spiti can be reached through Shimla or Manali. Trekking through the dry arid land, the harsh realities of life present itself with the realization that life is an experience, a vacation that has to be enjoyed with a smile.
4. Along the Ganga in Rishikesh: Located at the foothills of the Himalayas, where Ganga touches the plains Hrishikesh is the lord of the senses. Popularly known as the Yoga Capital of the world, there is something in the air that instantly calms the body mind and soul. Walk also the rippling Ganga, watch the evening arati (lamp ceremony) and feel the awakening of the inner light. This is the gateway to the upper echelons of the Himalayas
5. Exploring the Valley of Flowers: Every year a valley tucked away in the Himalayas comes alive with colour and fragrance. If there was a garden of Eden on Earth, it had to be the Valley of Flowers in the Puspavati Valley which can be reached after a long bus journey from Rishikesh to Ghangria through the mountains followed by a day long walk. Every moment of the ardous journey is worth what the valley has to offer and paradise is the state of ultimate bliss which requires focus and dedication.
6. Kumbh Mela in Allahabad: Held once in 12 years in the month of January- February, this is one of the largest human gathering in history. A dip in the cold waters of at the confluence of the 3 rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati on a chilly morning of a new moon day is cited to be a passport to salvation. Well, in reality it is a call to stop, look inward and take a dip into inner consciousness.
7. Boatride in Varanasi: The oldest city of India on the banks of the Ganga is an experience by itself. While walking through the narrow lanes, sampling lip smacking street food is appealing to most people a lazy boat ride along the Ganga presents the colours and flavors of the city from ghat to ghat. You may notice the celebration of life and death in the ghat where people sway in devotion to the chants of the evening prayer and side by side a physical body is consigned to flames with a prayer on the lips.
Read: Boat Ride in Varanasi
8.Under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya: Sitting under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya where Buddha attained salvation you might be just lucky with a leaf falling on your head as a blessing. feel his guiding touch at every step while you are on the journey.
9. 48 hours in Majuli, Assam: The best of unexplored India presents itself in the North East. The ride to and from Majuli – the largest river island in the middle of Brahmaputra and the ecology of the place will leave you wanting for more. Come home to Majuli with the birds at sunset, cycle around, have simple food at the Vaishnav Satra and soak in the earthiness of the land. You will find your answer to that eternal question as to how much is required to live life?
10. Stillness of Namdapha, Arunachal Pradesh: Plan a 5-6 day trek through the untouched rainforest of Namdapha national park through dense jungles, gurgling streams, rocky patches, enjoying the sight of hornbills, greeting the wild within the dense foliage and the warmth of the local tribes. You are sure to effortlessly surrender your ego and be on the path to cultivating infinite patience after this journey.
11. Date with mighty Kanchenjunga from Sikkim: Standing face to face with mountains is perhaps the most humbling experience. The best views of Kanchenjunga is from Goecha La View Points in Sikkim. Standing face to face with the snow capped mighty Kanchenjunga, all our worries, troubles and issues melt away all you want to do is to count your blessings for this life on earth. Goecha La is about 8 day trek from Yuksom and is not for the faint hearted. Alternatively Sandakphu Trekker offers some breathtaking views and is motorable too.
12. Bathing in 22 wells in Rameshwaram: While for most people it is a pilgrimage to surrender to the lord, they often miss out on the experience of taking bath from the 22 wells around the complex. Compared to the 22 arrows in Lord Rama’s quiver, the taste of water in these wells are of varying degree of sweetness though located within 500 metres of the sea. It is no ordinary bathing ritual since you are bound to experience a spiritual awakening of some degree.
Read: One Day, 23 Baths
13. Journey through the Western Ghats: A train journey from Mangalore to Bangalore through dark tunnels, gushing waterfalls and mostly sturdy bridges and sometimes rickety noisy ones. It will definitely leave you in deep thought urging you to look at life with the same enthusiasm as it weaves through moments of happiness and darkness. This is a long stretch and a drive in the ghats in the Maharashtra side is equally breathtaking as it will take you through picturesque hill stations of Lonavala, Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar.
14. Full Moon in Great Rann of Kutch: Rann of Kutch is the white Salt Desert which is visited in winter and early spring. Sit on the white virgin sand on a full moon night, bathing in the moonlight and allowing every cell of your body to be cleansed and charged by the moon light.
15. 24 hours in Thar Desert, Jaisalmer: Just might be the most memorable 24 hours of your life as you travel out from Jaisalmer into the Thar Desert visiting abandoned temples, local villages and sighting migratory birds. Ride into the sunset on a camel and then comfortably settle down on the sand under the sky merging yourself into the wide expanse while local musicians continue with soul stirring music that reverberates around.
How many of these have you experienced? Tell me of others that I can add to my list on this post as well as on my must visit list…