Unexplored destinations of Central India to fuel your wanderlust

Unexplored destinations of Central India to fuel your wanderlust
Bhimbetka Rock Shelters. Photo: Shutterstock Images

When planning a holiday, we usually think about going to those places that we have heard of often or have been to before. Popular tourist destinations like Munnar, Goa, Pondicherry and Coorg are the places we tend to head to time and time again instead of trying out the road less travelled. Our country has a lot more to offer in terms of a fulfilling holiday than what we are aware of.

Many undiscovered destinations and lesser-known jewels are just waiting to be explored! Read on to know about some of the relatively unknown and unexplored travel jewels in Central India.

1. Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, Madhya Pradesh
Interested in learning about human life in India from the Stone Ages? Head to Bhimbetka. Located 45 kms away from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, Bhimbetka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of seven hills and over 750 rock shelters for 10 kms inhabited more than 100,000 years ago! Some of the rock shelters feature prehistoric cave paintings about 30,000 years old. These cave paintings show animals, early evidence of dance and hunting. The Bhimbetka site has the oldest-known rock art in India, considered the oldest petroglyphs in the world.

Interestingly, Bhimbetka gets its name from Bhima (the second Pandava brother) and Baithaka, meaning seat or lounge – Bhimbetka meaning Bhima’s resting place or Bhima’s Lounge.

Bhimbetka Rock Shelters exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent, and thus the beginning of the South Asian Stone Age. Photo: Shutterstock Images

2. Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh
Located in the Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh, Gandikota is a small village and a historical fort situated on the right bank of the Penna River, which used to be the seat of power for many rulers like the Kalyani Chalukyas, the Pemmasani Nayakas and the Golconda sultanate. The fort was initially made of sand by the Kakatiya Raja in 1123 and later was transformed into a major fort with 101 towers by the Nayakas.

Gandikota Canyon. Photo: Shutterstock Images

Gandikota is also known for the Gandikota Canyon – a 300-foot-deep gorge that is said to be carved by the Penna River. The top of the gorge gives a breathtaking view of the fort, the surrounding forests and the Penna River.

3. Patan, Gujarat
Once the capital of Gujarat for 650 years, Patan (108 kms away from Ahmedabad) was founded by Vanraj Chavda - the first of the Chavda kings in the 8th century. It was considered to be the world’s tenth largest city at the beginning of the 11th century.

Patan is a city that overflows with a rich historical past and legacy. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rani Ki Vav, an 11th century, 7-storey step-well that boasts of more than 500 intricately carved sculptures and the Mara-Gurjara style of architecture.

Rani Ki Vav, an 11th century, 7-storey step-well. Photo: Shutterstock Images

What’s more? Patan is located on the banks of the Saraswati River (of what probably remains of the ancient extinct river) and is also famous for the finest hand-woven Patola sarees produced here to date.

4. Tarkali, Maharashtra
Known for its beautiful Tarkali beach, this small village is located in Malvan in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, 410 km away from Pune, at the confluence of the Karli River. The Tarkali beach has recently been declared the ‘Queen Beach’ of the Konkan region. It offers several water sports options and activities like scuba diving, snorkelling, parasailing and dolphin spotting – all following the international standards of safety and guidance. Tarkali is one of the best places to come and learn scuba diving under the guidance of some of the best trainers.

The Sindhudurg Fort stands on a small island on the Arabian Sea, just a few metres away from the Tarkali beach and is a great place to reminisce about the Maratha Empire and the valour of the great King Shivaji Bhonsle.

And that’s not all! You can even stay in a houseboat on the backwaters of the Karli River, much like in Alleppey in Kerala and also satiate your taste buds to your heart’s content with some delicious, finger-licking local Malvani cuisine. So, step aside Goa and Kerala… Here comes Tarkali!

5. Sirpur, Chhattisgarh
Located on the banks of the Mahanadi River in Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh, Sirpur was the capital of the Panduvanshi dynasty in ancient times. Sirpur (78kms away from Raipur), also referred to as Shripur, is a major archaeological site known for its temple ruins related to Shaivism, Shaktism, Buddhism and Jainism. There are currently 22 Shiva temples, 5 Vishnu temples, 10 Buddhist viharas and 3 Jain viharas. The archaeological site containing these monuments is known as the Sirpur Group of Monuments.

6th century Laxman Temple in Sirpur. Photo: Shutterstock Images

Interestingly Sirpur, or Shripur as it was known in ancient texts, was also visited by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hieun Tsang in the 7th century. According to his memoir, some 10,000 Mahayana Buddhist bhikshus (monks) lived in Shripur in some 100 monasteries, and there were over 100 temples.

6. Konark, Orissa
Konark, located 22kms away from Puri and 35 km away from Bhubaneswar in Orissa, is famous for the Konark Sun Temple, dedicated to the Sun God, built by Narasimhadeva I in the 13th century. The temple has been built to resemble a 100 ft high chariot with massive wheels – all built out of stone.

Konark Sun Temple. Photo: Shutterstock Images

Also known as Surya Devalaya, the temple is a classic example of the Kalinga style of architecture. The Konark Sun Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also a major pilgrimage centre for Hindus who gather here for the Chandrabhaga Mela in February.

7. Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh
Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh is a town that speaks of a rich past, heritage and culture. Mainly known for hand-woven Chanderi sarees, this 11th-century town is also quite famous for its fort, temples and the surrounding hills. The Chanderi Fort dates back to the famous Battle of Chanderi in 1528, whereby the Mughal emperor Babur defeated the then ruler Medini Rai and took over the city.

Chanderi Fort in Orissa. Photo: Shutterstock Images

Chanderi is also famous for its ancient Jain temples like the Shri Choubeesee Bara Mandir, built in the 11th century. The temple has 24 idols for the 24 Tirthankaras, the Parasnath Digamber Jain temple built in the 7th century and many others.

We hope that this list of undiscovered and lesser-known places has left you excited enough to visit them soon. Do include some of these places in your itinerary the next time you plan for a trip. We assure you; you will be amazed at what you discover!

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