With Pongal and Sankranti round the corner, it’s still holiday season for many. While snow-filled getaways are a popular theme this season, here’s another terrain to explore — deserts. You don’t have to worry about being snowed in. Add to it amazing sights, delicious food, local lore, traditional gear, contemplative camels, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a holiday with character.
Be it Dubai, Rajasthan or Ladakh, these sandy havens are a huge attraction. These once-remote locations are now facility-laden vacation spots that can cater to every type of traveller. The deserts are alive with solo travellers, starry-eyed honeymooners and big fat Indian weddings.
It all depends on what you want out of your desert vacation. For mountain lovers and bikers, Ladakh is a great option. It is a photographer’s paradise, and it served as an inspiration for avid traveller Jassi Oberai to start Light Chasers, a photo-tour company that encourages people to explore and capture cold desert climes. “Ladakh offers an unparalleled experience of sighting the snow-clad Karakoram ranges, streams gushing through silver-white sand dunes dotted by lush green patches of seasonal Leh berries, all standing in one spot,” says Oberai. Death-defying motorable roads and the arid expanses make it a biker’s favourite haunt and a popular road-tripping route. If you want more, then a-rafting you must go in the ice-cold Zanskar river, that will leave you with an unforgettable adrenalin rush. Top that up with a visit to Tso Muriri for some flora and fauna sightings.
For more adventure sports, there is Bur Dubai. Here, entertainment comes in the form of quad-bikes or jeep safaris. Dubai at dusk transforms into a magical land, with Arabic tunes and the aroma of tempting Mediterranean delicacies wafting in the air. You can learn belly dance, feast on hummus and shawarma, and enjoy the cool desert breeze as you are entertained with dance and music. It is like being in the Arabian Nights.
An option for wildlife photographers and researchers on the look out for some thrills is the Desert National Park in Rajasthan. Others can book an overnight stay at the Sam Sand Dunes near Jaisalmer, for a ‘rustic’ experience. Learn some more about the tree-loving Bishnois, the Bhils and the Meena tribes, indigenous to the area. Says Kan Singh, Manager, Ratnawali Camp in Sam Sand Dunes, “There is much more to our deserts than just safaris. There is the famous Longewala War Memorial commemorating heroes of the Indo-Pak war of 1971.” Not too far is also the Tanot Mata temple, close to the Indo-Pak border.
Get into colourful Rajasthani costumes, pose with the Thar in the background, take back a memorable souvenir. And don’t forget to sample daal-baati-churma, gatte ki sabzi, and ker sangri. The taste will linger long after your holiday has ended.