Rural tourism and development takes centre-stage this World Tourism Day, and India has a lot to offer on that front. We bring to you five options to explore the Indian heartlands in its truest forms on your next trip. By Bayar Jain

1. Pipili, Odisha


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Pattachitra, a cloth-based scroll painting native to Odisha, has admirers all over the country, but few know of its origins. On most accounts, the small town Pipli can be credited for these colourful offerings. Set up as an artisan’s village in the Somavamshi dynasty—roughly in the 10th century—today, the art here celebrates this age-old traditionality. Stone crafts, appliqué works (ornamental needlework) and pattachitra come to life here. From wall hangings to lanterns, bags to bedspreads… all don the artisan’s exquisite works. In fact, so loved are the handicrafts of this region that the annual Ratha Yatra also features these works on Lord Jagannath and his siblings’ chariots.

2. Hodka, Gujarat


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Derived from a Gujarati word hodi—which translates to the boat— the village’s location makes the name seem ironic. Surrounded almost entirely by Kutch desert, the village is believed to have formed roughly 300 years ago after the Halepotra clan settled here. However, the village itself is a stark contrast to the white expanses that surround it. When here, colourful embroidery, chain-stitched mirror works, patchwork clothes and leather crafts find a space in each of the thatch-roofed mud huts called bhunga. The locals of the region are so deeply involved in their crafts that one can find it donning the exteriors of their homes too.

3. Thembang, Arunachal Pradesh


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Home to a 12th-century-old fortified village, Thembang is largely overlooked by tourists, despite it being in the running for the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site tag. Locals of the region claim that the village itself dates back to the 1st century, making it the most ancient village of the region. It comes as no surprise, then, that aspects of its history permeate through the space as well. Think stone masonry, wooden architecture, etched murals and paintings. Adding to the beauty is the presence of rolling hills, ancient ruins, deep gorges, and mighty mountain peaks, all of which are dotted with rare animal species like red pandas, snow leopards, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, and more. Our favourite part, however, is the nature-loving and extremely ecological communities that seek refuge here.

4. Kokkarebellur, Karnataka


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Named after the painted stork, known as kokkare in Kannada, the village truly lives up to its name. Situated between Bengaluru and Mysuru, Kokkarebellur is a haven of birds. Although not an officially recognised reserved bird sanctuary, many feathered friends flock to this village every year. Apart from painted storks, spot-billed pelicans, black ibis, and grey heron, many other species of birds are found here in abundance. What truly sets the village apart, however, is the locals’ long-established bond with the birds. Locals believe that birds bring with them good luck and prosperity. Moreover, the villagers also use the phosphorus and potassium-rich bird droppings in their manure.

5. Kuchaman, Rajasthan


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While all of Rajasthan boasts of culture and history, Kuchaman brings marvellous architecture and engineering into the mix as well. Replete with Hindu folklore, the architectural works dressed in regal Shekhawati style are sure to leave one spellbound. The 9th century Kuchaman Fort here beams with tales dating as far back as 1250, while the Sambhar Salt Lake prides itself in being India’s largest inland salt lake. Other notable attractions here include Meera Mahal, a space honouring poet Saint Meerabai; Sheesh Mahal, literally translating to palace of mirrors; and Sunehri Burj, a gold-painted fort room with old frescoes.

Related: These Eco-Friendly Indian Villages Will Inspire You To Go Green