6 Hippie Places/Hotspots In India You Must Visit
What started as a counterculture and a coordinated rejection of mainstream ideals in the 1960s from the west, has evolved to become an entire way of being, one that is rooted in exploring, discovering, and seeking eccentric traditions. The earliest representations of this lifestyle are said to be the Sadhus of ancient India, spiritual speaker hippies who deemed the materialistic world and individualistic principles to be condemnable.
While the hippie culture has gained a reasonable level of acceptance and welcoming, it is truly surprising that the hippie movement in India, a country known for its spirituality, sense of community, and oneness, has slowly drifted further and further away from the public eye. Nevertheless, few other settings in the world can match the lazy, carefree experience of soul-searching that these Indian hotspots offer. Here’s a list of some of the best places for hippies in India:
District - Uttara Kannada
State - Karnataka
A temple town in the southern state of Karnataka, Gokarna is the new flavor of choice for all those in search of secluded serenity. Although slowly rising in popularity in the commercial tourism circles, Gokarna is isolated enough from the huge crowds and flocks of travelers that tend to cramp up cities like Goa. Ages ago, before the hippies and tourists descended to this beautiful town, the tribe called Halakkis were the only inhabitants. Perhaps it is their way of life, still deeply rooted in the past, one that does not revolve around materialism, that has shaped the hippie culture that pervades Gokarna. Other than the temples, Gokarna’s major draw, the 3 main beaches: Om (shaped like Om, a spiritual symbol in Indian religions), Kudle, and Paradise Beach, are only 6 km away from the bus stand, all easily accessible by an auto. You may even choose to make your way to one beach from another by traversing the hills and rocks that separate them, making for an experience of intriguing interactions with all things nature.
Apart from the usual relaxing and lazing around in the tranquility of the sand-filled coastlines, one can also find several Yoga Ashrams, especially near the Kudle beach, where they promote the practice of this ancient, spiritual way of being. Cafes and little shacks are abundant on the seashore, where you can stay overnight. Staying in these huts is recommended if you’re seriously looking into immersing yourself in the hippie vibe. Bonfires, dancing, and spontaneous live music are all commonplace as the night sky takes over. Pitching a tent and gazing at the falling stars, you are reminded of the sense of satisfaction that makes your spirit soar. And owing to its abundance of beaches and a laidback lifestyle, the prevalence of Gokarna hippie culture means you are sure to spot the odd pot user here and there.
The beauty of planning a trip to Gokarna is that you needn’t immediately decide how long it’s going to be. One can easily spend anywhere between a couple of days to even a month of spectacular sunrises and sunsets that will never get old.
Know more about the Gokarna experience by reading this fun blog.
There’s no way you haven’t heard of Goa, arguably the very first, and undoubtedly the most popular place for hippies in India. The 1960s saw the first hippies arrive at Goa for its cultural isolation, sense of spirituality, and more recently, nightlife. Anjuna, Vagator, and Baga were initially the target destination for these people, but Agonda and numerous other seaside landscapes have all began to share the mantle. The get-togethers of the arrivals from 1960 slowly but surely gained popularity and by the 80s, the hippies began attracting people from all over the world to their carefree, unconventional lifestyle of parties, psychedelic rock, and hallucinogenic drugs. Eventually, the concerns of the more conservative indigenous residents of Goa had their say, putting a lid on the public display of disregard of traditions and norms. Nevertheless, the hippies of Goa, while having left behind their haven, have also left behind their descendants and ideals, who spend most of their time in yoga, running, meditation, and other acts of spirituality. Everyone knows Goa for the expansive parties and its reputation as an international tourist hub, but the other side of the city remains authentic, true to its initial vibe of a rejuvenating getaway from the blinding city lights.
Some of the lesser-known and hence quieter, more peaceful locations in Goa are Keri, Cola, Patnem, and Galgibaga. These are the beaches to head to if you simply want to be left alone, far away from even the faintest hint of a crowd. While there may not be much to actively do, there are plenty of other beaches that provide an exciting mixture of shopping for hippie memorabilia among other fantastic handiwork, nightlife, and sumptuous cuisine. Arambol beach is perhaps the pick of the lot, providing the perfect balance between seclusion and an immersive hippie atmosphere. Cannabis, although technically illegal, is widespread and is consumed fairly commonly. The beach is lined with rows of cafes and shacks, where you can stay if you choose to. Grab a drink and catch the live music on display at any of the popular beaches for a more intimate affair, or hit up the (in)famous trance nightclubs that often feature internationally acclaimed psytrance DJs and artists.
Read about a day at Arambol beach here.
District - Ballari
State - Karnataka
An ancient village and the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi is a pilgrim’s delight, with its array of rock-cut monuments and temples. Hampi is around 12 kilometers from Hospet, accessible by a short bus or auto journey. More and more backpackers head to this temple town with each passing year to relish the opportunity to experience a peaceful search of spiritual meaning. The tourist and hippie scene is on the other side of the Tungabhadra river, aptly named Hippie Island, although it’s not an island in reality. Prehistoric landscapes and stretches of rice-fields characterize the more laid-back, isolated scene here, providing a break from the stressful outside world. There is an abundance of really cool murals and paintings on walls, beautiful shacks, and numerous cafes. Legend has it that the island got its name as a result of all the foreigners and other such people looking to embrace the rugged culture heading to and settling in the area.
The ferries that take passengers to Hippie Island are only 2 kilometers from the Hampi bus stand. Once you get to your destination, you are bound to find people using drugs and psychedelics, an activity that goes hand-in-hand with the lifestyle. Hippie Island is home to all kinds of fun, replenishing activities, and breathtaking landscapes sure to sweep you off your feet. Numerous temples atop rocky hills provide stunning views to witness the sunset(special mention to Sunset Point), coracles to travel around the water bodies surrounding the area, and of course, the range of cafes available in a lo-fi setting, that provide an experience so rustic and uniquely exciting.
Check out this engaging travel log of Hampi.
State: Himachal Pradesh
Situated in Parvati valley, on the banks of the Parvati River, is Kasol, an urbanized village that also acts as a gateway to the other hill towns of the area like Tosh, Chalal, and Malana. Kasol is frequented by different types of tourists and peace-seekers from India and outside all through the year. Expect to see many tourists, especially from Israel, who’ve decided to settle in this hippie abode after a shift in their military, owing to the hospitality of the locals. Cannabis cultivation and export is one of the only means of livelihood for many tribes in the region, which was relatively unknown and untouched until around 25 years ago. To no one’s surprise, the markets and the setting, interior decoration, and overall vibe of the cafes are a representation of the liberal culture on consumption, with the famed marijuana leaf and pictures of Bob Marley present on every type of merchandise and paraphernalia imaginable to man.
There are hotels located near the Parvati River, where travelers can stay and get a glimpse of the stunning water body. One can also visit the Gurudwara Manikaran Sahib, a place of worship, built on a hot spring. Traversing the various geographical inflections and mountains in the area, you will surely observe that the stunning landscapes are absolute bliss.
Trekking to the nearby villages from Kasol is an absolute delight and a true opportunity to become one with nature. Malana, an isolated human settlement, whose inhabitants refrain from contact with the outside world, is 2 kilometers from Kasol, and cannot be accessed by vehicles. The locals of this small village follow their indigenous religious beliefs and unique culture that revolves around rituals, rules, and rigorous worship. They choose to remain isolated from the rest of the world, viewing themselves as superior and above all the tribulation of the modernized circus outside. This perhaps goes a long way to explaining their embrace and welcoming of tourists and curious travelers in search of the true hippie life of solitude and peace.
The town of Chalal is a small trek of 45 minutes from Kasol. This is the place that hosts most of the infamous underground rave parties of Kasol. The other major village in the vicinity is Tosh, a 3-hour drive away from Kasol. Tosh is only accessible by a wooden bridge connecting the main roads of the hills to the village. Words wouldn’t be able to do justice to the view atop, one simply has to see it for themselves.
For a detailed trip on how to execute a trip to Kasol the right way, read this blog.
5) Kasar Devi
Kasar Devi is a quiet, peaceful backpacker destination with a mellow vibe, panoramic views, and mindblowing landscapes of the Himalayas, in the small town of Almora. There’s not much to do in Kasar Devi, but this is a great place to chill and meditate on your thoughts. The hippie movement in India probably owes its growth and inception to Crank’s Ridge, alternatively known as Hippie Hill, located on the way to Kasar Devi temple, a place frequented by artists, writers, influencers, and spiritual seekers from all over the world. This tradition of visits to Kasar Devi began as early as the 1920s, culminating in the pilgrimages of musicians Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, among other philosophers and visionaries.
Kasar Devi has now become a cult destination for backpackers and participants of the hippie movement and has strong ties to spirituality and Buddhism. One of the area’s worst-kept secrets is the fact that the slopes of Kasar Devi grow extremely potent cannabis. Timothy Leary, known for his early discoveries on psychedelics, was one of the earliest visitors, whose escapades and legend brought along with them, other hippies and eccentrics, in search of the ability of internal reflection. Several expensive hotels and a four-star resort have come up there in recent times, offering everything under the sky, from local treks to exotic Indian Ayurvedic massages and power yoga, all activities with spiritual backgrounds and influences. Local restaurants now offer pizza and burgers as part of their menu, a stark contrast to the 1970s, characterized by the lack of tourists or habitation. However, the essence and aura of Kasar Devi is said to remain unchanged and has stood the test of time. Trekking remains an exciting affair in these terrains, and photographs don't do justice to the breathtaking views of the Nandadevi, Trishul, and Panchachauli mountain peaks, not very far away from Kasar. The stunning Himalayan scenery and free-spirited lifestyle of Kasar Devi are bound to provide the experience of a lifetime.
Read more about a trip to Kasar Devi here.
Located 36 kilometers away from the capital city of Trivandrum, Varkala is commonly called the pearl of the Arabian Sea. Picturesque in every sense of the word, Varkala is isolated enough from the hectic city life to provide a refreshing experience to the backpackers and tourists who head to the area, at the same time, is happening enough to keep you on your toes. The North Cliff is directly facing the Arabian Sea, proving to be a beautiful setting for both sunrise and sunset. The views are mesmerizing, with the lines of palm trees and crashing waves.
While Varkala is a hub for the free-spirited souls in search of the perfect hippie haven, it is also a temple town, filled with numerous places of worship. Ayurvedic massages, yoga, and meditation centers are widely available too, making Varkala a hub for people from all walks of life seeking to explore their spirituality. This is a temple town, home to the 2000-year old Janardhan Temple, and its variety of beaches and scenic beauty, making it a natural retreat for hippies to settle down in.
Varkala Beach is a must-see spot without a shadow of a doubt. Shops selling inexpensive merchandise, and restaurants and cafes, fill up the shores. Varkala beach, also known as Papanasam Beach, is hippie central, the sacred waters of which are said to cleanse your very being from all your sins. Black Beach is a lot quieter, and the waters are cleaner, as Varkala Beach is usually the main tourist destination. Local sightseeing to various tourist places of interest is also a possibility, should you choose to take a break from the beaches and seawater. Varkala’s North Cliff is home to many little yoga studios and ashrams, a surefire way to rejuvenate mind and body. The cliff is also filled with beautiful cafes and restaurants offering everything from authentic Kerala cuisine to Tibetan treats. A candlelight dinner at a cliffside restaurant is a wholesome, intimate affair.
Shopping in Varkala can be a load of fun as well. One can find souvenirs, handicrafts native to the state, spices, coir products, and other local merchandise. The beaches, sumptuous cuisine, the availability of services like yoga and Ayurveda, and the overall liberal, stress-free vibe of Varkala make it a place worth visiting.
Look into this descriptive piece about an experience in Varkala.
Even though hippie culture has grown and been understood, accepted, and embraced by growing numbers of people that have come to be jaded and tired of the ways of the world, this arena is still somewhat maligned and cast aside by the majority of Indians. In a way, it adds to the exclusivity of the lifestyle, the aura surrounding the principles and ways of being that are so wildly different from the very rigid, conservative fundamentals of the rest of the country is somehow enhanced, and shines brighter than ever in these fragmented little towns and villages. The inhabitants of such places continue to choose to live in isolation and seclusion from the outside world, perhaps owing to a sense of satisfaction, contentment, and disapproval of the mainstream talking points and rules.
Being in a country like India, the values of the hippie lifestyle, like spirituality and the search for inner peace, a sense of community and togetherness, a collective idea of working towards a common goal, probably align with the more traditional values of religious Indians. If you are in desperate need of some time out of the real world, with problems, issues, and fears piling endlessly, visiting one of these places might turn out to be the exact concoction you were looking for to find a spark of energy, motivation, and hope. Hope that there is beauty in simplicity and authenticity that is sure you to give you the refresh button option that you may desire.