A happy hunting ground for hardened adventurers, North India offers a melange of formidable Himalayan terrains criss-crossed with walking trails, dense Terai jungles lush with wildlife, barren deserts rife with sandy thrills and a host of adventure sports ranging from white-water rafting and paragliding to bungee jumping and skiing. There’s something for everyone here.
Top tip: if possible, combine your adventure holiday with some great sightseeing on the side.
PARAGLIDING IN SOLANG, HIMACHAL PRADESH
Get a bird’s eye view of Himachal’s fabulous mountains while paragliding down a mountainous valley. It’s a wonderful way of exploring the pristine scenery of the region. Take off from a pasture called Gulaba – spectacularly seated on a mountain ledge – and then soar through the air with the poise and elegance of a bird in flight, slowly drifting down towards the base of the Solang Valley.
Best time to go: April–October
Road: take an AC Volvo bus from Delhi to Manali (INR 1200; 14 hours). From Manali, you will find plenty of local vehicles plying the one-hour stretch to Solang Valley, commonly called Solang Nala.
CHANDRA TAAL TREK, HIMACHAL PRADESH
With a name that literally means ‘moon lake’, Chandra Taal has got to be a place of mesmeric beauty. Slip into your hiking shoes and embark on this short and sweet trek and you will find yourself surveying a fabulous high-altitude landscape, with nothing but herds of sheep and drifting clouds for company.
Located a height of 14,000ft, the trek to Chandra Taal is technically a high-altitude destination, and leaves you gasping not only at the splendid natural beauty of the place but also for breath. The good thing, however, is that the route is shorter than most other high-altitude hikes. If done at a slow yet steady pace, it can be enjoyed to the hilt without the altitude posing a serious problem.
Best time to go: July–September
Road: take an AC Volvo bus from Delhi to Manali (INR 1200; 14 hrs), and then hop on board a share jeep to Tabo (INR 1000, 6hrs). From Manali board a local bus or share jeep headed towards Leh, and alight at Bharatpur village, just short of the Baralacha La Pass. The trek begins from Baralacha La, which is about an hour’s
walk (or a 15-min jeep ride) from Bharatpur.
SKIING IN AULI, UTTARAKHAND
So what if that dream skiing holiday in Switzerland didn’t work out like you planned? Much closer home, you have a real chance at skimming over freshly snowed mountain slopes in Auli, India’s very own skiing capital.
From casually pelting each other with snowballs to gliding down mountains with ski poles in hand, Auli offers every possible kind of snowy thrill for travellers and adventurers. Of course, skiing is the highpoint of anyone’s visit to this place and most people who come here thus try their hand at the sport (if only for done-that’s sake). There’s almost 5km of fluffy white snow slopes here for you to blaze on your skis. And don’t worry, there are ski-lifts and chair-lifts to bring you back to the top of the mountain once you’ve glided down to the bottom of the slope!
Best time to go: January–March
Road: Auli lies en route to Badrinath and can be reached by driving (or taking a bus) from Delhi along NH58 via Meerut, Roorkee, Haridwar, Rishikesh and
Joshimath. The distance is about 550km and can be covered in about 10–12 hrs.
Rail: take the Dehradun Shatabdi from New Delhi at 6.50am and alight in Haridwar at 11.25pm (journey time 4hrs 35min). From Haridwar, you can charter a taxi to Auli for about INR 3000 (journey time is about 5–6 hrs).
RAFTING IN SHIVPURI, UTTARAKHAND
Nestled in a crook by the Ganga, Shivpuri couldn’t be more different from its neighbouring pilgrimage town, Rishikesh. However, it clicks well with adventurers thanks to it being a white-water rafting base.
For years, Shivpuri was just a quiet place with white sandy banks and pebbly beaches sprawling lazily by the Ganges. Two decades ago, some adventurists discovered the thrill of riding the rapids of the icy river here, and the rest is history. Add to the river experience the surrounding forests and web of hiking trails – not to mention sunbathing and bonfire nights – and you have a destination that many return to repeatedly, with a wide selection of beaches and resorts to choose from.
Best time to go: September–March
Road: take NH24 out of Delhi till Mohan Nagar and then turn off on NH58 towards Muzaffarnagar to continue past Roorkee, Haridwar and Rishikesh. Shivpuri is 15km uphill from Rishikesh. The entire journey takes about 6hrs.
Rail: the 12055 Jan Shatabdi and the 12017 Dehradun Shatabdi depart New Delhi at 3.25pm and 11.25 am respectively, taking around 4hrs 30min to reach Haridwar. From Haridwar, you can take a taxi (INR 1000) to reach Rishikesh (23km). Most rafting camps can arrange pick-ups from Haridwar and Rishikesh.
RANTHAMBHORE FOREST SAFARI, RAJASTHAN
Comprising wild jungle scrub hemmed in by rocky ridges, Ranthambhore is the best place to spot wild tigers in Rajasthan. At its centre is a 10th-century fort, scattered around which are ancient temples, mosques, hunting pavilions, lakes and chhatris.
The most famous resident of Ranthambhore is the royal Bengal tiger. Like any other forest in India actually spotting a tiger here is a matter of luck, although the odds are definitely higher given the smaller size of the jungle, the higher population density of tigers (estimated at around 32) and the relative open vegetation which increases visibility. In any case, you should plan on two or three days of safaris to improve your chances. Also remember, there’s plenty of other wildlife here too, such as deer, jungle cats, langurs, sloth bears and crocodiles, along with more than 300 species of birds.
Best time to go: November–March
Road: drive out of Delhi along NH8 to Jaipur (you can stop for refreshments at the RTDC Midway motel in Behror). Past Jaipur, get onto the Agra Expressway and drive to Basi, from where you can take SH24 to Ranthambhore. The journey can take up to 8 hrs. It’s advisable to take the train instead.
Rail: the Golden Temple Mail to Mumbai, Nizamuddin-Kota Janshatabdi Express and Dehradun Express leave Delhi at 7.40am, 1.20pm and 9.55pm respectively, taking 6–7 hrs to reach Sawai Madhopur. Request your resort for a pick-up.