I am somehow naturally drawn to hippie hotspots and always make it a point to stopover at one of these wherever in the country I am. I just love the relaxed vibe, tiny nondescript cafes and restaurants that churn out amazing world cuisines, tripped out backpackers, cozy no-frills guesthouses, shops that sell all the funny paraphernalia in the world and most importantly, marijuana. Here are my favorite hubs from across the country. I have covered all, except Hampi, which is still on my to-go list.
Perched atop a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea, Varkala is just perfect for lazy beach bums. The beach is perfect for a dip and even surfing, since the waves here go really high. Ample amount of time can be spent strolling along the lively walkway and plonking yourself in one café or the other.
The stony ruins of Hampi are not only a delight for history buffs and temple enthusiasts, but for peace-seeking hippies too. The vibe of this place is nothing like you’ll find anywhere else – atleast that’s what I’ve been told.
Chariot and Vittala temple
Kasol, Himachal Pradesh
This one’s my latest discovery and I must say, the place could easily pass off as mini Israel. Eat, drink, me merry and smoke up some Malana Cream by the gushing riverside – that’s all you got to do here. Find a detailed account of Kasol here.
A magical little town built around a holy lake, Pushkar abounds in legends. Home to the only Brahma Temple in the world, the city attracts pilgrims from all over the country. If you time your visit well, you may be able to catch the annual Camel Fair which is a once in a lifetime experience.
Camel in desert
Vashisht, Himachal Pradesh
If the buzz of Manali is too much to take, head a few kilometers out into the small village of Vashisht, which is popular for its hot sulphur springs and a German Bakery. The place is tranquil, away from the maddening crowd and there’s a pretty waterfall a short trek away.
Hippies or no hippies, no true-blood traveller can ever have enough of Ladakh’s otherworldly landscape and warm-hearted folks. There’s something about the air here that puts the soul right in its place. Take a rigorous trek into the Himalayas or find your peace at one of the monasteries. If Nirvana was a place, it would be this.
If you want inner peace with a little bit of outward chaos thrown in for kicks, head to Rishikesh. A bundle of contradictions, Rishikesh will have you meditating by the Ganga while fending off conmen doubling up as sadhus. With touts claiming to be experts at time travel, palmistry, astrology at what not, this is an ideal place to get your dose of crazy.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
This place has a certain mystical charm about it, even for the non-religious people. The bustle of the city is strangely juxtaposed with the tranquility of the ghats where aarti is performed every evening.
If you are looking for a more obscure beach escapade, Gokarna is your place of choice. The three popular beaches – Om, Paradise and Kundle – are everything that a backpacker destinations are made of, with their vibrant cafes playing trance and dreadlocked hippies loitering around aimlessly. The place is also famous for a Shiva Temple, which draws devotees from far and wide.
Goa is one of the mainstream hippie spots and excessively commercialized, which is why I’ve placed it at the bottom of the list. It is nice for the beaches, food and Portuguese architecture, but try and visit during the off-season to escape the holiday rush. Explore the weekend flea markets for interesting knick-knacks and rent a scooter to ride through the quaint bylanes of Old Goa.
Shuchi is the author of two romantic comedies – ‘Done With Men’, and ‘I’m Big. So What!?’. She freelances as a writer, editor and blogger, and runs a writing firm called the Pixie Dust Writing Studio. When she’s not writing, Shuchi likes to travel, read and bake awesome cakes. Find out more at http://www.shuchikalra.com. You can also tweet to her @shuchikalra.