From daring endeavours in the wild to soft escapades well within humanity’s reach, there’s something in India for adventurers of all ages and experiences. So take your pick from an exhaustive range of hilly hikes, watery splashes and trundles in the jungle.
1-Manali–Leh Road Trip
If you haven’t done this, you aren’t an adventurer at heart. The long drive from Manali to Leh–almost 500 km– packs in the best mountain scenery possible. A precariously narrow road across five dizzying mountain passes puts your driving skills (along with patience and determination) to test. Weather can be treacherous, adding drama and challenge to this two-day drive. The end result of the road trip, however, justifies all the hype around it. And that sweet ending comes in the form of the stunning lunar valley of Leh.
2-Skiing in Auli
Gliding down snowy slopes with ski poles in hand is certainly not just for the world’s most debonair detective. You can do it too. Auli offers every possible kind of snowy thrill. But skiing is what draws people to Auli, and it doesn’t matter if you have never tried your hand at the sport ever before. Paid guidance is easily available. Apart from skiing and other winter sports, Auli is also known for its fantastic scenery and sweeping hill views all around.
3-Jaisalmer Camel Safari
Golden sand dunes, a fort, romantic pavilions, haunting music, a thousand folk tales… the picturesque town of Jaisalmer is all this and much more. And nothing quite brings out its ‘desert’ appeal like a camel safari. It’s not just a ride to the dunes on camelback. The experience includes camping in the desert at night. The camel drivers turn both cook and entertainers by night, belting out one folk song after another. The food is rustic, the flavours simple.
4-Forest Safari, Kanha & Bandhavgarh
The forests and wildlife sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh have lovingly nurtured and protected the majestic tiger, India’s national animal. And it’s very rare that tourists have returned from Kanha and Bandhavgarh without spotting the striped cat. Jeep safaris are the best way of exploring the forests that are also home to many other species – leopard, wild boar, langur, gaur, sambar and barking deer. Kanha has more than 300 varieties of birds. Bandhavgarh also boasts a crumbling fort.
5-Kutch Jeep Safari
Much has been said, written and sung about the golden sands of Rajasthan. Not far from that state lies a blindingly white desert. Instead of sand, it is covered with salt. That’s the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. You may think it has little other than just salt pans. Not many know that the Little Rann is home of the last remaining population of the chestnut coloured Indian wild ass (also called khur), as well as bluebulls, blackbuck and chinkara. There’s also a huge bird population from October to March. Like most trips related to wildlife, a jeep safari is the best way to go about the Little Rann.
6-Konkan Road Trip
If smooth, charming and easy is your holiday motto, a drive along the Konkan coast fits to the tee. The beauty of the coast will remind you of seaside sketches from childhood storybooks. Tourist infrastructure along the route is almost absent – it’s a price you pay for enjoying nature in its primal form. The incredibly delicious Konkani food is somewhat rustic.
7-Bastar Tribal Tours
No heights, no waves, no rockfaces, no offroading… A trip to the heartland of India’s tribal belt is an adventure in its own league. Jagdalpur, the capital of the Bastar region, is an ideal base for exploring tribal Chhattisgarh. The best place to start is a haat (village market) on a Sunday. This is where you will see adivasis buying, selling and bartering their wares alongside town travellers. For some more vignettes of adivasi life, move outside Jagdalpur with a knowledgeable local guide.
8-Dzongri–Goecha La Trek
Towering over the skyline of Sikkim and visible from almost every major town in the state, Kangchenjunga is best viewed from the high-altitude pass of Goecha La. Yuksom is the starting point for this classic long trek Goecha La, with jaw-dropping views. A shorter version of this trek can be completed in as little as four days, going only about midway to the rolling meadows of Dzongri and grabbing great views of the mountain from the nearby viewpoint of Dzongri La.
9-Kaziranga Forest Safari
Home to around 1800 rhinos, Kaziranga boasts the world’s highest population of the endangered creature. That apart, Kaziranga is known to house the highest density of tigers among all designated parks and sanctuaries around the world. And the list goes on: elephants, swamp deer, water buffaloes, leopards and several species of resident and migratory birds. Encounters with the rhino and the elephant is more than certain in Kaziranga.
10-Sundarbans Boat Tour
A wildlife experience of a different kind awaits you at Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, home to one of the largest concentrations of royal Bengal tigers on the planet. Tigers lurk in the impenetrable depths of the mangrove forests, and also swim the rivulets of the world’s largest delta. Cruising the waterways through the world’s biggest mangrove sanctuary (now a Unesco World Heritage Site) and watching wildlife is thrilling.
11-Diving in Lakshadweep
The pristine coral islands of Lakshadweep have some of the best dive sites in the country. Kadmat Island is one of the most popular haunts for divers – with dive sites at North Cave, the Wall, Jack Point, Shark Alley, the Potato Patch, Cross Currents and Sting Ray City. The Thundi Beach in Minicoy offers world-class shipwreck dives as shallow as 8m into the sea. If diving is too hardcore for you, you can always settle for the smaller thrills of snorkelling, or plain swimming in the ultramarine waters of placid lagoons.
12-Adventures in Hampi
Hampi and heritage are words synonymous with each other. The same Hampi is also an adventure sports hub, courtesy of its boulder strewn landscape. The most popular (and fairly easy) adventure activity in Hampi is the dawn trek to the summit of Matanga Parvath, a giant rocky outcrop. The 570-step hike up Anajanadri Hill in Anegundi (Hampi’s neighbouring village) is another popular activity. For exploring the landscape at leisure, the best activity by far is a bicycle ride. For some light aquatic adventure, try a coracle ride.