My days of being a full-time wanderer, are behind me for now. Now that I am back in a corporate job, I try to find exciting vacations, while saving up for my next long travel. And one important factor when taking these vacations, is time. I do want to travel cheap, but I also want to maximise the time in any new place. So logically, the best option is to take a direct flight. Thus minimizing any transit time, and maximising your vacation period.
Wondering where to go with an Indian passport? Click here to check out my list of top 10 countries where we dont need to apply for an advance visa!
While AirIndia flies a lot of direct flights to both Europe and United States, there is nothing unique about these destinations. On the other hand, I did a little research and found some really exotic destinations, where a direct flight is available from India. Some of them are so unique, that I can guarantee you will be searching for them on google maps.
1. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Direct flight from: Amritsar (2hr 40m), New Delhi (3hr 40m)
Airline carriers: Turkmenistan Airlines
Ash, whatt?? Well, you may be shocked to know that a flight from Amritsar or Delhi takes just 3 hours to reach Ashgabat, the capital city of the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan. Thats 30 minutes faster than the time taken to reach Colombo, which is our neighbouring country! Why aren’t we visiting this place yet?!
Ashgabat is magnificently architectural. There was no attempt to hide the fact that the capital was designed to showcase the achievements and glory of Turkmenistan, while making comparison from nearby Astana in Kazakhstan. And the city is home to some very unique architectural buildings.
2. Kunming, China
Direct flight from: Kolkata (2hr 45m)
Airline carriers: China Eastern
There are plenty of direct flights from India to Beijing and Shanghai. But Kunming? Well, only Kolkata gets that honour for now, with a direct flight to the “city of eternal spring”
At an altitude of 6600 ft, Kunming may not be the warmest city in China. But it is a great hub to explore the majestic province of Yunnan. Yunnan borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, apart from being a gateway to Tibet.
Apart from a few historical temples (Tanhua and Yangtong), Kunming is also home to the Kunming flower market, the Guandu old town and the magnificent Dianchi lake which is still home to the traditional fishing boats. But yes, avoid the winters here, as it tends to get a lot of snow.
3. St. Denis, Reunion Island (France)
Direct flight from: Chennai (6hr 10m)
Airline carriers: Air Austral
So, in case you are one of those nut jobs who want to experience France, without ever stepping foot in France, this is for you. France has a few overseas territories, scattered around the world, and Reunion is one of them, with St. Denis as it’s capital.
Note: While Reunion is considered as part of the Eurozone, note that they are not part of the Schengen Area. So, you need a special visa to go to Reunion. The application procedure, fees etc, are the same as a normal Schengen visa, but the entry port is only Reunion. I just completed my application for one of these visas myself, so will write a post about that soon.
A perfect mix of islands and beaches, Reunion is a bliss in itself. And St. Denis is a great entry point to the rest of the island. Make your way to St. Gilles on the west side to get all the beach action.
4. Almaty, Kazakhstan
Direct flight from: New Delhi (3hr 50m)
Airline carriers: Air Astana
Borat may have given quite a bad rep to Kazakhstan, but the world’s largest land-locked country, perfectly sandwiched between 2 massive continents, is anything but boring. While the capital may be in Astana, Almaty being the largest city is the gateway to discover this mysterious country.
To search for Borat. No, wait. I am kidding, of course. Almaty is becoming a great skiing destination, thanks to the ski resorts in Chimbulak and Tabagan. Within the city itself, one can check out the presidential palace gardens, or the blue-roofed national museum.
5. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Direct flight from: Mumbai (5hr 5m), New Delhi (6hr 30m)
Airline carriers: Ethiopian Airlines
Widely considered to be the place where the homo sapiens started migrating to the rest of the world, Ethiopia is older than time. And the human connection is not lost on it, as it has eventually become the second most populated country in Africa, and the most populated landlocked country in the world. Yep, it is landlocked, I had to take a closer look on google maps to confirm that.
Addis Ababa itself is not fascinating. But it is a gateway to the historic wonders of Ethiopia. You could take buses going to the north, to visit the ancient tombs of Aksum. Or head east to visit Harar, an ancient walled city. Or head to nearby Adama, just 100 kms away, which is the weekend destination for the people of Addis Ababa, and climb some of the local mountains. Or for a completely colourful experience, you could head to Omo Valley to click the many tribes, who have become part of many-a-facebook shares over the years thanks to some of the amazing photographs taken there.
6. Manchester, United Kingdom
Direct flight from: Goa (11hr)
Airline carriers: Thomas Cook Airlines
Ok, so United Kingdom would not be a choice that I would have originally expected in this list. I mean, there are multiple direct flights from almost all the major cities in India to London. And there is even a direct AirIndia flight from New Delhi to Birmingham. But Manchester? How did we get a direct flight to “the capital of the North”? (I know, that makes it sounds like a Game of Thrones line). And that too from Goa, and not any of the other metros?! The answer lies in an often-mistaken airline company called Thomas Cook Airlines.
Based in Birmingham, Thomas Cook Airlines serves leisure destinations around the world. And their only destination in India, is in Goa. Most people in India think of Thomas Cook Airlines as a chartered airlines. But the fact is, any customer can do a direct booking on their website. And you have to look at their fleet to believe that they have much more than Chartered flights.
Lets assume that you are not visiting Manchester because you are a fan of ManU, ManCity, or you just want to relive the cricketing glory of Old Trafford. (Who am I kidding? If you are an Indian, you are definitely heading there for one of these!) But ignore the sporting opportunities, and you will find that Manchester also has plenty of historical and cultural sights to visit. Like the castle field, a well-preserved Roman settlement. Or the colourful Gay Village, which is open to anybody regardless of their orientation. Or if you are a typical Indian, the 800-metre long Curry Mile street, full of Indian restaurants and jewellery/Sari shops.
7. Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Direct flight from: Amritsar (2hr 30m), New Delhi (3hr)
Airline carriers: Uzbekistan Airways
Seriously, we have all these direct flights to so many Stan countries? (And Bishkek in Kyrgyztan came honourably close to getting on this list). And why do so many of them fly to Amritsar? Can anybody shed any light on the Punjab connection here?
Imagine the silk road influences hitting against soviet socialism and related architecture? That sums up Tashkent for you. Moderate islamism merging with a changing global lifestyle, can also explain it. But culturally, the old town in Tashkent has plenty to offer for tourists. This includes many bazaars, mosques and museums.
8. Yangon, Myanmar
Direct flight from: Gaya (2hr 15m), Kolkata (2hr)
Myanmar? Seriously? I mean, it is our neighbouring country, so there should be direct flights from Mumbai and New Delhi, right? Wrong! There are only 2 cities in India which fly direct to anywhere in Myanmar. Kolkata, and surprisingly Gaya international airport (which also has a direct flight to Colombo in Srilanka). And only to Yangon.
Myanmar just opened itself to the outside world a few years ago, and it is a fascinating country to visit. Yangon is just the entry point. Soak yourself in the many temples that dot the landscape of Bagan. Or visit the charming Inle Lake for some old-school fishing techniques.
Direct flight from: Mumbai (3hr 45m), New Delhi (3hr 30m)
Airline carriers: IranAir, Mahan Air
You’d think that there would be many direct flights between India and Iran, given that Iran gave us the most positive rating among all the countries in the world in a 2005 BBC world service poll. But nope. There are only 2 direct flights between Iran and India. One from Mumbai via Iran Air, and another from new delhi via Mahan Air, a private airline company in Iran. (Mahan Air used to fly Tehran-to-Amritsar before, but that route seems to have been terminated)
Iran is a fascinating country, and Tehran is only an entry point for you to start exploring it. Make no mistake, Tehran is definitely a beautiful capital city. But like all capital cities, it is subjected to some heavy pollution and traffic. So, head to other parts of the country to enjoy a little more breathing space. Like to the south, where Isfahan proudly showcases why it is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Or further south, to Yazd, an ancient city dating back to 200 AD. Or even further south, to Shiraz, a previous capital of Persia, or the current cultural capital as many call it.
10. Mahe, Seychelles
Direct flight from: Mumbai (4hr 30m)
Airline carriers: Air Seychelles
This was the most surprising entry for me on this list. Given the geographical location, I had expected that there would be a direct flight from Seychelles to one of the Southern Metros of India, like Chennai or Bangalore. Or to the national capital. But no, Air Seychelles, chose Mumbai to be the destination of their only direct flight to India.
You gotta be kidding me!! Are you wondering why to visit to visit Seychelles? I got 3 words for you.
Life’s a beach!!
(Actually, I have much more than 3. I wrote an entire poem for Seychelles!)
Did I miss any other obvious ones in my list? Comment below – or on my facebook -, and let me know