Top 10 Cleanest Destinations Of India
This session, we take you to the cleanest destinations in India. As they say, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. Make it a clean break this session. Leave smog-veiled cities and litter-strewn beaches behind and head for India’s cleanest, least polluted places. While you go trekking, traipse through museums or soak in local culture at these destinations, you’ll also marvel at how they manage to be the bright spots in Swachh Bharat.
When the words ‘cleanest village’ and ‘India’ are uttered together you cannot help but think of Mawlynnong. This little village—population 500—in the West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya earned the tag of ‘India’s Cleanest Village’ over a decade ago and still wears it proudly; its streets remain free of litter, its water sources pristine. Travellers go to Mawlynnong to see what appears to be a little miracle in a country struggling to stay clean. They come away having fallen under the spell of a picturesque little hamlet within easy reach of the famous living bridges and whose inhabitants, belonging to the Khasi tribe, preserve their ancient traditions and live in complete harmony with nature.
Clean mantra Even if Mawlynnong’s clean ways only came to the notice of the rest of the country in 2003, its people have been practising them for a century and more. A cholera epidemic in a place that had no access to medical care prompted the village to scale up cleanliness and hygiene standards. In Mawlynnong, keeping the village clean is everyone’s business. Bamboo dustbins outside homes and along streets collect garbage that is composted. Even children know the cleanliness rules.
Getting there Shillong is the nearest airport, and it’s a 90-km drive from there to Mawlynnong. You can hire cabs at the airport.
Stay There are comfortable homestays in the village which also give you a glimpse of the local lifestyle.
Tip Remember you are in the cleanest village in India. Be a responsible tourist and do not litter.
- Tour the village Walk through the clean streets and well-kept gardens of Mawlynnong.
- Cross the living bridges These fantastic structures are a short distance from Mawlynnong. The living bridges have been created by the locals by weaving the roots of trees to cross streams and rivers.
- See a waterfall The Mawlynnong waterfall, en route to Dawki from the village, is a lovely stopover.
- Get a view of Bangladesh From Mawlynnong head to Thangkharang Park, 12 km from Cherrapunjee. It provides a super view of Bangladesh in the plains below.
- Taste local In Mawlynnong, you can eat hearty meals of rice, dal and chicken.
Himachal Pradesh’s Spiti Valley is not just breathtakingly beautiful, it’s also admirably clean. The rugged Himalayan terrain is snowbound for more than half the year, but in mid-summer, you can get an adrenaline rush from hiking, cycling, biking and camping in Spiti. It’s also the perfect place to breathe in the unpolluted Himalayan air and let go of all that stress. Challenging routes, ancient monasteries and unspoilt villages are all high points of a Spiti sojourn.
Clean mantra The fact that Spiti has only been attracting travellers since the early ’90s could have much to do with how pristine it is. The locals have long had highly efficient waste management systems in place and sewage is turned into manure. The government and social enterprises have done award-winning work to keep Spiti clean. Stringent measures are in place in this fragile zone; for instance, vehicles are not allowed in the vicinity of Chandra Taal.
Getting there The best way to get here is to drive from Delhi (733 km), passing through Manali (196 km).
Stay There are many homestays here, especially in Keylong, which give you the opportunity to get a taste of local hospitality.
Tip Stay safe while trekking. Wear proper trekking gear and trek in a group or with a guide.
- See a gorgeous lake Make the trip to Chandra Taal, a stunningly beautiful expanse of clear water.
- Go trekking For a challenging experience, do the Pin Parvati trek.
- Make a monastery visit The Key Gompa, situated on a hill by the Spiti river, is a major attraction here.
- Gaze up at stars With its unpolluted air and high-altitude location, Spiti is perfect for studying the night sky.
- Eat local There’s unique fare here, including yak meat and goat sausages.
This summer, give much-done Mussoorie a miss. Head, instead, to Landour, a gorgeous Himalayan hamlet known for its clean, bracing air, colonial legacy and spectacular scenery. Landour is named after Llanddowror, a Welsh village, and it was here that the British set up a military sanatorium in the early 19th century after they arrived to intervene in the Gurkha conquest of Kumaon-Garhwal. Now, it’s all about gabled cottages with evocative Scottish, Welsh and Irish names, mountain walks and a quaint café or two.
Clean mantra If the British, moving up from Dehradun, chose Landour to set up a sanatorium on account of its clean, crisp mountain air, the place has continued to keep pollution levels low. This is mainly because Landour belongs to the locals—writers and artists have made it home—and not to the tourists. Soak in the fresh air of the hills here.
Getting there You can drive the 300 km from Delhi to Landour, via Dehradun. Alternatively, fly into Jolly Grant Airport, it’s a 90-minute drive from there.
Stay Check into the heritage Tabor Cottage, poised above the Doon Valley.
Eat Try the Tibetan specialities here, especially the momos at Kalsang Friends Corner.
- Take a walk One of the best ways to explore Landour is on foot, taking in its atmospheric houses such as Mullingar, Rokeby Manor and Sir George Everest’s home.
- Unwind The park at Char Dukan is the perfect place to spend some quiet time.
- Visit Happy Valley This is one of India’s oldest Tibetan settlements and worth a visit.
- Chill at a café Stop at Anil’s Café for ginger-lemon-honey tea and bun omelette.
- Shop for food Prakash’s store at Sister Bazaar is known for its peanut butter made in-house, yak cheese and jams.
The small town of Gokarna on Karnataka’s northern coast is known for its temples and its long stretch of beach. Less touristy than Goa, these also happen to be some of the cleanest beaches in the country. Once a backpacker haven, Gokarna is now attracting a more upscale crowd and families as well. With its laid-back air, unspoiled beaches and opportunities for swimming and surfing, Gokarna makes a great short break from both Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Clean mantra Gokarna’s clean status is largely on account of it being a little off the beaten path. Despite the beach shacks and guest houses, it’s not overly commercialised either. Visitors will also notice that shopkeepers and shack owners are fastidious about keeping the place clean and litter-free.
Getting there Gokarna is an eight-hour drive from Bengaluru. You can also fly into Mangalore and take a taxi from there to Gokarna. The town is also connected by the Konkan Railway.
Stay While the cheap and cheerful guest houses are what most Gokarna regulars opt for, Om Beach Resort is for those who want a luxury stay.
Tip Most beaches here are safe for swimming, but you should follow the signs and instructions. Venturing into the sea during the monsoons is a no-no.
- Just chill One of the best things to do in Gokarna is to simply slow down and take it easy. So, hit the beach, find a quiet spot and unwind.
- Go on a beach trail Gokarna boasts of a string of beaches and you can walk from one to the other—starting at Kudle and walking through Om Beach, Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach.
- Get adventurous Om Beach has plenty of water sports on offer. Try your hand at parasailing or snorkelling.
- See the temples Gokarna was originally a temple town. Feel the serenity at the Mahabaleshwar temple. The Aadi Gokarneshwara temple and Ganpati temple also draw a huge number of pilgrims.
- Practise yoga Beach yoga is fast catching up in Gokarna and resorts like the Namaste Yoga Farm offer classes close to the water.
Visitors to Pondicherry or Puducherry, as it’s now known, don’t need the Urban Development Ministry’s Swachh Bharat rankings in which the Union Territory is at Number 23 to tell them it’s one of the cleanest places in South India. Pondy’s distinct French air is enhanced by the fact that its boulevards are litter-free, its promenade clean and its beachfront a showpiece. A fascinating colonial heritage and vibrant Tamil culture meld here, making it an utterly enjoyable destination, offering the prospects of exploring the architecture, beach time, spiritual activities or savouring some French cuisine.
Clean mantra Pondy earned its clean city label thanks to the sanitation and cleanliness standards here. The municipal authorities have managed to tackle solid waste and sewage management, roping in the public to adopt garbage segregation at source. To motivate the population to keep their localities clean, Lt Governor Kiran Bedi recently announced an award for the cleanest village.
Getting there Pondy is a six-hour drive from Bengaluru and two hours down the East Coast Road from Chennai.
Stay The beach-facing Promenade is a popular upscale hotel here. There are also pleasant homestays in the French-style villas.
Shop Go to Auroville where the visitors’ centre has a range of exquisite handcrafted products from stationery to soap, candles and cosmetics.
- Tour the city Puducherry’s tidy grid of streets lined with French colonial buildings is well worth exploring. Do it like the locals, hire a bicycle.
- Hit the beach Serenity Beach is one of Pondy’s nicest stretches of sand and surf. Spend a day here, just enjoying the ocean.
- Deep dive Pondy is one of the diving locations on the east coast. Sign up for a session and explore the wonders of the sea.
- Get adventurous Chunnambar Boat House on the river offers boating, kayaking and other water sports, all of which are great for a family outing.
- Enjoy eating out Foodies are guaranteed a good time here. There are old favourites such as Satsanga and Rendezvous serving French-inspired cuisine. In the Tamil quarter, there are lots of good South Indian restaurants.
6# GANGTOK & PELLING
Gangtok is now the eighth cleanest city in India. But there are lots more reasons to go to the Sikkim capital. Cosmopolitan Gangtok has plenty for the traveller—from the natural splendours of Khangchendzonga, in whose shadow the city lies, to an array of interesting restaurants, plenty of shopping and a vibrant nightlife as well. Every May, Gangtok becomes the venue for the Sikkim Summer Festival. It encompasses flower shows—made vibrant by the orchids, rhododendrons and primulas Sikkim is famous for—cultural programmes, exhibitions and interesting competitions. Gangtok is also the hopping-off point for Pelling, which takes you within touching distance of Khangchendzonga.
Clean mantra Gangtok manages a fine balance between its natural beauty and urban planning. The pollution control department is known for its efficiency and its initiatives such as banning plastic and the move towards zero garbage. Gangtok’s main thoroughfare, MG Road, is free of traffic and also sees no littering.
Getting there Take a flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra, which is about 120 km from Gangtok. You can cover this distance by taxi.
Stay For a luxury experience, check in to the WelcomHeritage Denzong Regency or the Mayfair Spa Resort & Casino where you can also try your luck at the gambling tables.
Shop Make a trip to the Directorate of Handicraft & Handloom. Here you can buy hand-crafted folding tables, carpets and shawls.
- Ride high One of the must-do’s in Gangtok is to ride the ropeway from Deorali to Tashiling Secretariat. From there, walk to the Ridge Park and visit the flower festival that opens every summer.
- Head to Pelling With Gangtok as your base, drive to the pleasant little town of Pelling 120 km away. This is possibly as close as you can get to Khangchendzonga.
- Go trekking Pelling offers plenty of opportunities for short, pleasant hikes through fields of rhododendron and forests.
- Take a lake trip Go to see Kechopalri lake, considered sacred by Buddhists. Amazingly, its surface is always clean and free even of leaves.
- See ruins & monasteries Take the trip to the Pemayangtse Monastery and go on to the Rabdantse ruins, from where you again get some superlative views.
The capital of Gujarat is not only a clean city, it’s also one of India’s greenest on account of its 32 lakh trees. Situated on the banks of the Sabarmati, Gandhinagar is famous for its Akshardham temple, museums and the Sarita Udyan. It’s also the gateway to Bhuj, the capital of Kutch and a city rich in history and with a unique culture. It makes the perfect getaway for those who enjoy peeking into the past.
Clean mantra Gandhinagar is a planned city, just like Chandigarh, and its massive tree cover is part of the plan. Both air and noise pollution is controlled, thanks to the trees, and that’s what makes Gandhinagar seem like a breath of fresh air. Government initiatives have also begun to emphasise the need to shift to solar power.
Getting there Ahmedabad airport (26.5 km) serves Gandhinagar and is well connected with major cities.
Stay In Gandhinagar, the Fortune Inn Haveli is a good place to stay and comes well recommended. There are options aplenty for various budgets in Bhuj.
Eat Tuck into the foods that Gujarat is famous for. In Bhuj, taste pakwan, dabeli and vadapav. The Gujarati thali here makes for a delightful meal as well.
- By the Sabarmati Make the trip to Sabarmati Ashram, and relive moments of our freedom movement.
- Take off to Bhuj Begin by visiting the Aina Mahal with its famous hall of mirrors.
- Visit the museums The Kutch Museum is among the oldest in Gujarat.
- A day by the lake Visit Hamirsar lake, a sprawling water body in Bhuj.
- Go shopping The local markets are worth exploring for their array of products and so are the stores selling local handicrafts such as bandhni textiles and leather work.
Capital city Bhubaneswar is the gateway to Odisha’s many splendours, located at one corner of the famed triangle that includes Puri and Konark. It’s on our list of clean getaways because it has been named the cleanest city in eastern India. Bhubaneswar has its many attractions, including the temples and shrines, are known for their grand architecture, its monuments and parks. After taking in Bhubaneswar, you can head out to explore the state, a rich tapestry of natural beauty, architecture, art, craft s, culture and cuisine.
Clean mantra Bhubaneswar’s coveted position as the cleanest city in eastern India can be attributed to sustained effort. Private agencies have been entrusted with collecting garbage in a majority of wards with solid waste management being closely monitored. The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation not long ago developed an app, ‘My City My Pride,’ and receives complaints from citizens through the app and within minutes a ward officer swings into action.
Getting there Bhubaneswar is connected by air to all major cities.
Stay There are lots of reasonably-priced digs in Bhubaneswar, such as Hotel Grand Central and the Crown.
Eat Never mind the debate about who invented the rosogolla, try Odisha’s sweet creations such as chhena gaja and kheersagar.
- Traverse the town Bhubaneswar has plenty to see. There’s the Mukteswar Temple and the Lingaraja Temple.
- Explore Puri The magnificent Jagannath Temple witnesses the faith of thousands. Spend time at Puri Beach where sand artists show off their creativity.
- Worship the sun See the fantastic Sun Temple, created to symbolise the cosmic chariot of Lord Surya.
- Chill by Chilika This vast brackish water lagoon is a must-see in Odisha. It’s excellent for bird-watching and there’s always a chance you might spot dolphins.
- Shop for craft Pipli artists’ village lets you take a close look at Odisha’s famed embroidery.
For two years in a row, the city with its royal associations has been named India’s cleanest city in the Swachh rankings. Once the capital of Mysore state, the city reveals its rich legacy in its lavish palaces, temples and other monuments. Mysuru, which keeps its many traditions alive, is also instantly associated with fine silk and sandalwood and is now a destination for the practice of Ashtanga yoga. Plus, the prospect of eating masala dosa in its birthplace brings foodies here.
Clean mantra Mysuru’s clean city status has much to do with how it has managed its sanitation. The authorities can take credit for an efficient door-to-door garbage collection system, recycling practices and for building individual, community and public toilets. Besides putting in place infrastructure, they’ve also managed to bring about essential behavioural changes amongst the public with an excellent communication strategy. Also, several NGOs in the city are dedicated to keeping Mysore clean and their initiatives enjoy public support and participation.
Getting there Fly into Bengaluru. Mysuru is a two-and-a-half-hour drive away.
Stay In the royal city, why not have regal digs? Check out the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel.
Eat You must eat the South Indian fare, especially the masala dosa, when you’re in this town. Vinayaka Mylari comes highly recommended.
- Peek into a palace The Mysore Palace is an extravagant, even over-the-top-edifice built in the Indo-Saracenic style and the top attraction in the city. Ascend a hill Take the drive up nearby Chamundi Hills, and enjoy the views from there.
- Escape into the wild Mysuru is the hopping-off point for the wildlife reserves of Mudumalai and Bandipur.
- Go shopping The Cauvery Emporium is a good place to look for silk and sandalwood artefacts.
- Set aside yoga time There are several yoga schools in Mysuru.
Le Corbusier’s city, sprawling at the foothills of the Shivalik range, is best known for being India’s most planned city. All that planning has paid off, for Chandigarh has also been named India’s second cleanest city after Mysore. An easy getaway from Delhi, it makes for an excellent city break. Tidy streets, graceful buildings, sprawling parks and gardens, and a lake, plus a vibrant eating out and nightlife scene all add to Chandigarh’s appeal.
Clean mantra Chandigarh has successfully tackled what was once a challenge—collecting the 370 tonnes of solid waste the city generates every day from the sectors. It also has an efficient and sufficiently large workforce cleaning the city’s streets. There’s a concerted effort by the authorities collaborating with The Energy and Resources Institute to make Chandigarh environment-friendly, which includes using natural construction material and lowering overall energy consumption.
Getting there Drive from Delhi to Chandigarh, it’s an easy 250 km.
Stay There’s a wide range of accommodation options—from budget to five-star. The Altius is a boutique hotel and gets good ratings.
Tip From Chandigarh you can get away to several summer destinations, including Shimla and Kasauli.
- Explore the city Start at the Capitol Complex, the administrative quarters and a grand expression of the French architect’s work.
- Walk in a rock garden Chandigarh’s must-see attractions include the Rock Garden, scattered with figures and sculptures created by Nek Chand.
- Unwind by the lake Visit Sukhna lake, where the city gathers in the evening.
- Go on a museum tour Chandigarh’s museums and galleries are as well-organised as the city itself. Take a tour of the Government Museum and Art Gallery.
- Rock the night Spend an evening in Sector 17, which becomes one big outdoor club every night. There are drinking and dining options aplenty here.
Let’s wrap up Top 10 Cleanest Destinations Of India article. Read also: Top 10 Emerging Destinations Of India
If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!
— Sunil Nain