Going through a financial crisis is normal. But that shouldn’t stop us from exploring the beautiful country we are blessed to live in. Growing up comes with its own share of challenges and costs. We’ve all experienced the end-of-the-month vow at some point. If you’ve been looking forward to a much-needed escape from your everyday routine, we’ve compiled a list of cheap trips in India you can take from metro cities. By Karan Kaushik
Budget travel in India for your next adventure
Abhaneri (Distance: 237 km)
Abhaneri is a fantastic impromptu budget trip from Delhi. Board a bus from ISBT Kashmere Gate to Dausa in Rajasthan for a day trip to remember. If you start your day early, you can reach Abhaneri before the day gets too hot. Book a taxi from Dausa and go straight to Chand Baori. Try your hand at hitchhiking if you don’t want to pay for a cab. The stepwell of Chand Baori, the Harshat Mata Temple next door and the cute little traditional handicrafts market at these monuments are all Abhaneri has to offer.
But the stepwell and its fascinating architecture leave you mesmerized and how. The stepwell was built by King Chand Raja of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty. It has 3,500 narrow steps that descend 20 meters to the bottom of the fountain and 13 floors. Its geometric pattern is unique and hard to find nowadays. The staircase is surrounded by water on three sides and a three-story pavilion on the fourth side carved by beautiful jharokhas and galleries on two columns and sculptures on the balcony.
Agra (Distance: 246km)
Visit Agra is always a good idea. Agra bus and train tickets are pocket-friendly. You can take a day trip and explore prominent monuments. Begin your explorations of the historic city with its best gift to the world – the legendary Taj Mahal. The architectural marvel was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Empress Mumtaz Mahal.
The Taj Mahal continues to be a global symbol of love and a tourist magnet for India. From here drive to Mehtab Bagh. Sample a hot Bedai Kachori along the way. Spend some free time in the garden and marvel at the Taj Mahal in all its glory. End the day exploring the red sandstone wonder that is Agra Fort. Its beautiful terraces offer breathtaking views of the wonder during sunset.
Lonavala-Khandala (distance: 79 km)
Regulars from Mumbai and Pune can’t be happier visiting the twin hill stations of Lonavala and Khandala. Perched at an elevation of 2,041 feet above sea level in the majestic Sahyadris, these adjacent hill stations are best visited during the monsoons.
Lonavala derives its name from the Sanskrit word lonavli, meaning caves. The hill station is blessed with magnificent caves such as the Karla Caves and the Bhaja Caves. You can also visit Lohagadh and do a trek or just go to Lohagadh Fort for a picnic. Other popular spots are Pavana Lake, Tikona Fort, Lion’s Point, Tiger’s Leap, Duke’s Nose and Bhaja Caves.
Matheran (distance: 83 km)
maheran is proud to be the only pedestrian hill station in Asia. Perched at an elevation of 2,636 feet above sea level in the Western Ghats, Matheran rewards travelers with its dense blanket of evergreen forest making the hill station a hiker’s paradise.
The scenic hill station was discovered in 1850 by Hugh Poyntz Malet, Collector of Thane District. Enjoy the beautiful views after a refreshing hike to Panorama Point, take nature walks to Hart Point and Monkey Point, watch the sunsets from Porcupine Point, go hiking and enjoy some Chikkiland, a caramel confection.
Mysuru (Distance: 143 km)
A scenic bus ride from the Majestic Bus Stand in Bengaluru takes you to the city of silk, sandalwood, palaces and horse-drawn carriages. Mysuru is the cultural capital of Karnataka and has lent its name to some iconic products over the years. The city can be visited on a day trip. Start with the Mysore Palace, which was built in 1897 and remains the city’s most enduring landmark to this day.
Head to Nazarbad and treat yourself to the legendary Mylari Dosa. Pick up some Mysore Pak from a nearby shop and head to St. Philomena’s Church. If your budget allows, you can also shop for Mysore Silk Sarees in the shops across from the church. Your last stop may be Brindavan Gardens. Built on the banks of the River Cauvery, this garden also offers boating opportunities.
Ooty (distance: 265 km)
Set against the backdrop of the highest peak of the Nilgiris, Doddabetta, Ootacamund or Ooty as it is popularly known, is an all time favorite hill station of the Indians. In Ooty, Raj-era buildings combine with traditional homes to offer an unparalleled old-school charm. Ooty will enchant you with its incredibly blue skies, green hills, rolling green valleys and dense forests of eucalyptus, conifers and pines.
Lush, mist-shrouded coffee and tea plantations also bless Ooty’s majestic landscape. The best way to explore the former summer residence of the British is with the popular Ooty Toy Train. A budget itinerary for Ooty may include Government Rose Garden, Government Botanical Garden, St. Stephen’s Church, Ooty Lake and Kalhatti Falls.
Distance (182 km away)
I can’t afford a trip Darjeeling or soon Sikkim? Give the unspoilt beach town of Digha a chance. This seaside destination will satisfy all cravings for a tropical vacation and is budget-friendly. Digha has a coastline that stretches for up to seven kilometers and is dotted with She Oak (Casuarina) trees.
Both sunrise and sunset here are a sight to behold, and a typical itinerary includes swimming, leisurely strolls on the beach, spotting sharks and sea snakes at the Marine Station, and exploring Amarabati Park. Beach hopping from New Digha Beach to Udaipur Beach, Shankarpur Beach and Talsari Beach is also recommended.
Mandarmani (171km away)
Another cheap trip you can take from Kolkata is to Mandarmani. Roads lined with rice paddies and ponds and the rushing views of rural Bengal lead you to this tranquil beach, hailed as “India’s Longest Motorable Beach”.
While there are plenty of fun activities to do here, one option preferred by many is to sit back and soak up the almost evocative atmosphere of this oasis. Mandarmani or Mandarmoni As the Bengalis pronounce, it is the appropriate place to witness the sunrise on the horizon.
Feature and hero image courtesy Shutterstock