In a country full of colors, blue is, in fact, the warmest.
When most travelers think about planning a trip to India, certain activities immediately come to mind. You may want to sample the city's famous street food, practice yoga with a guru, or see a Bollywood movie (if you're lucky, you may even find yourself cast in one: read a first-person account, here). If you're visiting Chennai, you'll want to bring back hoards of spices, and see as many temples as possible. But many in-the-know travelers will tell you that the beach culture in India is very much alive—and thriving—thanks to its vibrant temperate, tropical beaches, ancient Hindu temples, and the fantastic, spicy cuisine (more on that here). Read on to find out which beaches you should head to absolutely change your perception of the country, and don't forget to check out these six books to inspire some serious Indian wanderlust.
Puri Beach: Puri, Odisha
Located on the Bay of Bengal, Puri Beach is one of India’s best kept secrets. It hosts the Puri Beach Festival, in November, where tourists and locals come together to witness over-the-top sand art. Odisha (formerly Orissa)—is one of India’s 29 states—and is famous in itself for its abundance of historical temples and ancient relics. On the beach, you can ride camels and horses, and eat a wide variety of international cuisines—but skip the pizza and opt for traditional Indian instead. Women and men peddle locally crafted products and foods of all types throughout the shore, but take a walk in either direction down the long stretch of sand and you’re likely to stumble upon a less inhabited—and much cleaner—area.
Chowpatty Beach: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Chowpatty Beach is a must-visit for tourists visiting Mumbai, especially during Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival celebrated in honor of the deity Ganesha. The festival, which usually occurs in August or September and lasts ten days, draws thousands to the beach, where beautifully crafted statues of the god are submerged throughout the water.
Om Beach: Gokarna, Karnataka
The tiny temple town of Gokarna boasts a handful of beaches worth visiting, but Om Beach—named due to its natural resemblance of the Om symbol—makes our list thanks to its remote location and relative lack of tourists. A variety beach huts offer quaint lodging, and you can find plenty of eateries along the shore. Other highlights include dolphin sighting, water sports, and scenic boat rides that will take you around Gokarna.
Varkala Beach: Varkala, Kerala
Varkala, in Kerala, is home to Papanasam Beach (also known as Varkala Beach), which is one of the most spiritual destinations in India, as legend says that one dip in the water will wash away your sins. But more than that, this beach—which is located below the cliffs of the Arabian Sea—offers everything you’d expect out of an Indian beach. Gorgeous stretches of orange sand? Check. Secret staircases that lead inland? Check. Clear blue waters? But of course. On the cliffs overlooking the beach lies a strip of quirky stores, cheap massages, and restaurants serving up fresh seafood and cold drinks. Don’t forget to check out the nearby town of Edava—only a ten minute drive away—that has many isolated beaches, as well as a blue lagoon.
Agonda Beach: Canacona, Goa
Locals will probably tell you this is Goa's most unspoiled beach, as it has somehow managed to avoid the crowds that other famous beaches, like Baga and Candolim, have been overrun with. Don’t be afraid to haggle with local fishermen to take you out on their boats for dolphin watching. This beach is known for the colorful huts that line the shore, but the lack of bustling shops and masses of visitors amp up its charm. Agonda Beach is also one of the main sites for Olive-Ridley turtle nesting, which normally occurs in the high season, from October to May—so please, watch where you walk!
Radhanagar Beach: Havelock Island, The Andaman Islands
There are countless beaches on Havelock Island, but Radhanagar Beach, or Beach No. 7, takes the cake. Here, you’ll find the clearest blue waters, and might even bump into a wild elephant or two. Beach No. 7 is also often touted as one of India’s cleanest beaches. Explore the lush, green jungle that enshrouds the shore, take a stroll on the truly white sands, and come back just before night falls to witness one of the most memorable sunsets of your life.