What are the best (which mostly means safe) Indian destinations for solo women travellers? Is India safe to travel alone for a woman
These are the two questions that frequently keep pouring in my inbox. Almost every week, there’s an email asking me to help women pick a safe Indian destination for travelling. Though there’s no place that I can label as safe/unsafe, I thought of writing down about the places that I’ve been to and feel are safer to visit.
So here’s sharing my picks for the safest Indian destinations for solo women travellers.
Gangtok, Sikkim – This is a weird place. Weird – because there would be nobody staring at a woman, who’s seemingly travelling alone. No raised eyebrows, no catcalls, no gaping at you. While the crowd around has plenty of rockstar-like people – guitars slung over shoulders, coloured, spiked, gelled hair and a general air of bonhomie, it’s one of the places where I’ve felt safest in India.
Quite good. Right?
Stroll around the gleaming clean MG Road, wave hello to the monks, talk to the school kids playing around with their pups (yes, almost everyone at Gangtok seemed to have a dog around); Gangtok is bliss for solo women travellers.
Varkala, Kerala – If you’ve been to Mcleodganj and Dharamsala, have fallen in love with them but wished there was a beach around, head off to Varkala. This is an equally (almost) Tibetan place, on the rocks. Good hippie crowd, a lot of cafes and stay places that range from budget (really budget) to luxury, book cafes and more make Varkala a gorgeous place, luxuriantly safe and great for any solo woman traveler.
Oh yes, gorgeous sunsets too.
Spiti, Himachal Pradesh – This one will woo you with its fascinating landscapes. More so, with its warm, always smiling people who’ve opened their homes to tourists, and have made Spiti a perfect destination for any woman who wishes to travel alone in India.
While some might compare it to Ladakh, I prefer Spiti for the lesser number of tourists flocking to it. And though you might be the only one on the road for miles, you would never be unsafe. For one, there are the high Himalayas guarding you. For two, there’s always a HRTC bus coming around. That, if you haven’t fallen in love with the idea of biking across Spiti valley.
Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh – Ahh.. those green caps. I mean the folks of Kinnaur. Once there, you’re in one of the safest places in India. Kinnaur district is one of the least untouched lands of Himachal Pradesh, with only the most ardent of travelers and hippies finding their way to the star-studded skies of Kalpa, the meadows of Chitkul, the mythical temples and fort of Sangla or the green water desert lake of Nako.
There’s nothing to harm you here. That, if you don’t mind getting giddy with hours of star-gazing.
Dzongu, Sikkim – At around 2.5 hours from Gangtok, Dzongu is one of the many lesser famous places in Sikkim. While most of the crowd flocks to Yumthang, Lachen and their likes, it’s only the self-confessed nature lovers that land at Dzongu. Home to the Lepcha tribe, who, by the way, are lovingly friendly, Dzongu sits at an almost cliff-side position. River Teesta skirts Dzongu from the other side. One of the safest and gorgeously beautiful places, Dzongu might even give you rare peeks of Mt Kanchendzonga.
Hike up the short (and long) trails, find hidden monasteries, play a soccer game with the monks, dive in the hot water pools, go picking mushrooms, cardamoms or tea, or do nothing, Dzongu is an open and very appealing invitation to all the solo women travellers.
Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh – Okay, so you’ve already heard of this one. But then, with Mcleodganj being my second home (I end up bunking in this Tibetan community for months every year), it deserves a mention here.
A good crowd, specially in winter months, gorgeous location in the Indian Himalayas, ample of volunteering opportunities, movie screenings, treks, waterfalls, cafes, art and music workshops, cooking classes and a very Buddhist feel (remember it’s HH the Dalai Lama’s home in India), which is very well-evident from prayer flags that adorn almost every house, monasteries, monks flitting prayer beads and chanting while crossing streets and more.
Diu, Daman & Diu – Diu deserves a mention in this list of my favourite Indian destinations for solo women travelers, for its very earthy feel. Some of the most solitary beaches that I’ve found in India make it all the more gorgeous.
Take a bicycle, flit across the tiny town, explore Portuguese remnants in this Indian town, gorge on Portuguese cuisine, visit the Lighthouse and the Diu fort, sunbathe on one of the beaches, walk around the fresh tarmac roads, hop aboard a ferry to touch the waters of the Arabian Sea, go fishing or stay reading at one of the book cafes, which you’ll find in the residential area of the city. Constant patrolling on the streets by Diu Police ensures safety to a good extent.
Kochi, Kerala – Oh yes, I love Kochi/Cochin. Partly because of the many silk sarees that I bought from here! I’ve strolled the streets of Kochi without the customary glances that are a norm in much of Kerala.
Stay around Fort Kochi and you have the best of food, art, architecture, museums, history, markets and a very vibrant culture around you. One of the must visits if you aren’t against visiting crowded cities.
Rishikesh, Uttarakhand – Some 15 years back, my relatives would come and take me along as their guide to Rishikesh, which is more like a picnic spot to me. I was barely 12 then and would get pretty tired of visiting the same temples again and again, with a different set of relatives though. Thankfully, Rishikesh has now turned into world’s yoga capital, inviting a crowd that’s more than just religious.
Brimming with a good set of yoga centres, Rishikesh now has a good line-up of cafes, the not so well-maintained Beatles Ashram, adventure sport centers, treks and trails, biking opportunities, river-side camps, river beaches and so much more. A cycle or scooter is my preferred mode of transportation here, and like Varkala, there are little chances of people staring at a woman who’s travelling alone. Make it a start point for your voyage into Uttarakhand and you would be amazed to see the wonders of this state.
Signing off on this travel note for the safest Indian destinations for solo women, I’ll be off for a short trip now. Write down your comments, suggestions or anything that has got something to do with travel. And, keep sharing the posts!