Camping isn’t for everyone. But for those of us who don’t mind roughing it out every so often, there are few things more enticing than the idea of waking up to a sight so heavenly, you don’t want to go back to your mundane city life. We asked Abhirup Paul, founder of Eka Experiences that organises treks in North and Northeast India, and Rakesh Pant, co-founder of Trek the Himalayas, to share their list of favourites.
1. Mulling Campsite on the Pin Bhaba Pass Trail, Himachal Pradesh
The Pin Bhaba trail takes you through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Himachal Pradesh, and the magic begins pretty much on your first day. Some 10 km from the village of Kafnu in Kinnaur district is Mulling where trekkers set up camp for the first night. Hugged by dense greenery, Mulling looks like a fairy tale, especially when it gets misty and foggy in the mornings, Paul says. The great thing about Mulling is that you need not trek too far up the Pin Bhaba trail to get here. You could do a single-day trek or return the next day.
2. Dawar in Gurez Valley, Kashmir
As easily accessible camping sites go, Dawar in Gurez Valley ranks right on top, Paul says. You can drive up to this campsite, around 127 km from Srinagar. Set up camp by the lazy river and take in the stunning views -mountains towering around you and a view of the grand pyramid peak of Habba Khatoon.
3. Dhanderas Thatch Campsite on the Rupin trail, Uttarakhand
This one requires some trekking. “The Dhanderas Thatch Campsite comes on Day 5 of the Rupin Pass Trail,” Paul says. “On Day 5 of your trek, you will camp at a massive thatch or meadow that’s surrounded by jagged peaks and criss-crossed by the River Rupin.” The highlight of this campsite is, of course, the Rupin Waterfall whose sounds you sleep and wake up to, before you continue your trek.
4. Gangabal Campsite, Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
Depending on the route you take, you will reach the Gangabal campsite either on Day 7 of your Kashmir Great Lakes Trek or on Day 1 (if you start your trek from Naranag). “In any case, you will be welcomed by the sight of the two stunning alpine lakes of Gangabal and Nundkol known for their trout,” says Pant.
During the summer and monsoon months, the campsite looks especially beautiful, with wildflowers growing on the shores of the lakes. This campsite is truly a delight for the naturalists.
5. Ruinsara Tal Campsite, Bali Pass Trek
It takes four days to reach the Ruinsara Tal Campsite on the Bali Pass Trek.
Located in the Har Ki Doon Valley, at the foothills of the Black Peak, the tal (lake) water reflects the Himalayas, creating a surreal environment. The inhabitants of the Har Ki Doon Valley consider the lake sacred and the lovely lake is surrounded by rhododendrons and lush meadows. On one side of the campsite is the Ruinsara Lake, and on the other side, flows the Supin River.
From the campsite, you can also get sightings of mighty Himalayan peaks like Bandarpoonch, and Dhumdhar Kandi as well as Black and White Peak. This campsite is a great respite from the arduous days of trekking, and you can just simply sit around and bask in the immense serenity it offers.
6. Thansing Campsite, Goechala Trek
A part of the Goechala Trek, Thansing is a meadow on the banks of the Prekchu River. Located at the foot of Mt Pandim, it offers a captivating view: from the tent, you can see Mt Pandim from the base to the summit. You can also spot the Kanchenjunga and Singalila Ranges, and at sunrise, these snow-capped mountains are covered in an alpenglow which makes the peaks look like they are made of molten gold.
7. Sam, Rajasthan
Your trekking buddies will not stop about how #mountainsarecalling them and extol virtues of camping in the hills. But there is something to be said about camping in the desert. For centuries, the desert around Jaisalmer served as a trading route with caravans ambling up and down the dunes, setting up camp for the night before going forth the next morning. Today, Sam is home to several camping sites that recreate the experience, complete with traditional music and meals, camel rides, heck even an ATV joyride thrown in. Admittedly, this is vastly different from the kind of camping your #trekkerforlyf buddy has been selling you. But let's face it, isn't it also a lot more convenient?
8. Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
If you'd rather not rough it out, glamping is the way to go. While there are several glamping sites around the country, some of the best ones are run by hotel chains. The Oberoi Vanyavilas remains one of the most sought-after properties in Ranthambore. Each over the two dozen tents have polished hardwood floors, bathtubs, and are complete with four-poster beds. Ditto for Shebagh that also offers similar amenities. All you need to do is check in.
9. Palghar, Maharashtra
Beaches in Maharashtra tend to not get their due. This is especially true of Palghar, a beach town on the outskirts of Mumbai that is overlooked for that world-famous beach destination, Goa. Expect basic tents with mattresses and shared toilets, but full meals, outdoor games, live music, and barbecue at some of the camping sites here.