During 60s when someone asked the long-haired hippies on an overland bus where they’re going, they said, ‘We’re going to India’. These words defined the classic hippie trail to India from Europe via Turkey, Afghanistan over Khyber Pass. With Beatles’ visit to Rishikesh giving them their most creative period, the hippie trail in India became the road to liberation for many. While the original India hippie trail of places like Goa and Varanasi has been overwhelmed by commercial tourism, there are other quieter towns that have maintained that laid-back vibe of self-discovery and alternative consciousness.
Though geographically and culturally contrasting, these five offbeat destinations spanning the length of the country are today’s hotbeds of hippie culture, holding the promise of easy living and the ever-elusive shanti.
These hippie tours put some of the best destinations on the travellers’ map over the years. Here’s a list of stunning spots across India following the classic hippie trail.
1. Kasar Devi, a Himalayan Hippie Hometown
A magical view of the Himalayas gives an answer to the quest of the mystic east to every traveller. Away from the towny chaos, Crank’s Ridge, a hippie hill near Kasar Devi, became a popular since Timothy Leary, an American writer and psychologist streaked on the ridge in 1960s. Alfred Sorenson (Sunyata), the Danish mystic and writer lived at the Crank’s Ridge for years. Remains of the Sunyata cave can be seen in the photograph below.
2. Kasol, The Mystic Valley of God
Kasol is the mini Israel of India with fluttering hebrew banners all along the Parvati River. The town is a hub for backpackers and also a base for SarPass, Yanker Pass, Pin Parbati Pass and Kheerganga trek. The disappearing travellers have been an unexplained mystery of Kasol. Many foreign visitors choose to live with the tribal locals at far-fetched villages in the Parvati Valley while some choose to camp at Manikaran, a sacred site for Hindus as well as Sikhs. The Parvati Valley should be your hamlet if you want to be a part of the rave circuit. Babas smoking ‘pot’ in chillums is a common sight here. Bus up to the hills, enter any cafe, put on your favourite EDM and trance beats and bring the place alive. Oh, and don’t forget those herbs! Try visiting Tosh if you have an extra day or two.
3. Manali, The Hippie Hermitage
Another Goa for the Hippies in North India, Manali becomes a hub for long haired, free thinking, drum circle loving hippies from all across the globe. Some in search of liberation and others in the quest of ‘black gold’ (Malana cream), the hippies of Goa turn to this town in the lap of Himalayas when monsoon hits Goa.
4. Varanasi, A Call of The Holy
Varanasi has been inhabited by Hippies since so long that they are the real historians of this town on the bank of the Ganges. The hippie road to enlightening liberation leads them to Varanasi once in their life.Benaras is the city to die for devout Hindus and a spot to celebrate the good riddance of possessions for travellers who come here from all walks of life.
5. Rishikesh, A Road to Liberation
Away from the organized religions of the world, travellers are often the seekers of wisdom. The Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh is literally a shrine for hippies that has witnessed the creative boom in the life of the acclaimed artists and traced the hippie trail to India for many.’You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.’ And yes, they were the real dreamers who paved the way to liberation for many who followed.
6. Gokarna, A Goa of Bygone Years
A hedonistic holiday is a guilty pleasure of many. At the four beaches of Gokarna, a secluded holy town, you get all the serenity you wish a seaside can give you. With sunny beaches and sounds of reggae echoing through the sea, Gokarna gives an authentic feel of what Goa used to be like to the hippie travelers at present times.
7. Hampi, Where Happiness Sits on Ruins at Sunset
Hippie hangout teepees can be spotted all across this small town. The ruins of Hampi are a spot for endless jam sessions and drum circles for the hippie community of late.With more restaurants serving international food than local, Hampi is an unavoidable destination in the Indian hippie trail. You’ll get all sorts of ‘drinks’ and ‘smokes’ along with likes of Nutella pancakes. If you’ve reached a ghost town where you can hear Bob Marley somewhere in the background and maybe an elephant too, then you’re probably in the right place.
8. Varkala, Nothing Beyond Its Beaches But Joy
If you see the sun dive down the Arabian Sea at the Varkala Beach, there’s nothing more beautiful you’d ever wish to see. Shops selling hippie gears all around the beach, can tell about the bustling hippie culture in this beach town in Kerela. So, find a corner on the spectacular beach, maybe under one of those tall palm trees and drift away in your own world while listening to some serene trance music.
9. No it’s Not Vatta. Its Vattakanal.
The hippies turn to Nilgiris for solace at the village of Vattakanal near Kodaikanal. Seeing the flock of Isreali travellers coming here each day, some people say that this South Indian village will be speaking hebrew in some years.When few years back hippies decided to believe that Goa was just a hoax, they turned to this small village. Laughingly, the people of Vattakanal talk about the Isrealis and say, “They came, they saw and rest of the Israel followed.”
10. Goa, An endless End to the Hippie Trail
Goa comes as a final destination in the hippie trail. It seems as if the beaches of Goa chooses its inhabitants and sends a call to the wide-eyed travellers from all across the world. The end of the trail is also a spot for endless celebration of the life of dreamy travellers. Turning hippie here comes naturally no matter which beach you’re on; though the Anjuna and Vagator beaches are known for their night long raves. Now, you’ll know why they say that old hippies don’t die. They just pack their bags and come to Goa.
From a destination of joyful hippie celebration, Goa is now also a commercial hub for international music festivals and events. If you’re a flower child with a rock and roll heart and have an immense love for travel, share with us your own amazing travelogues.