Taking on the elements of wind, water and earth (let’s set fire aside for the less sane) is more accessible than ever, with this great mix of adventures for all levels of enthusiasts
Compiled by KANIKA GUPTA
Discover a new world
THE ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS
With pristine beaches, primeval jungle and remote tribes completely cut off from civilisation, it’s hard to remember that the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a part of India. Adding to the sense of mystery is the intriguing world that exists underwater – brightly-coloured coral cities inhabited by the most fantastical and eye-catching marine life darting here and there. While you can’t discover all of the Andamans’ secrets, you can certainly get better acquainted with what lies underneath sparkling waters: Havelock Island has world-class scuba-diving and snorkelling sites, with the option of becoming a certified diver too, if you want. And when you decide to come up for a breather, there is also sea kayaking, speedboating, and treks into the jungle that help you fall in love with the Andamans, just a little more.
Explore the underground
Meghalaya is one of the wettest places on earth, which, while a total pain for its inhabitants, has helped develop an impressive network of caves in the East Khasi Hills. One such cave is Krem Mawmluh, which, at 7.1km, is the fourth-longest in India, a veritable Aladdin’s cave for those interested in spelunking. You’ll be squeezing through the narrow opening, wading through bracing water and climbing up the sides of the cave as you go deeper underground, but the experience is well worth it, with gardens of stalacmites and stalactites, glow-in-the-dark shrimp, underground waterfalls and a completely different yet breathtaking landscape just waiting to be discovered.
Fly like a bird
If you’ve always envied the birds for their ability to glide on the air currents, Bir and Billing in Himachal Pradesh is the place for you. Billing, 14km up from Bir, is the take-off point for some of the best paragliding to be had in the world (going by the number of gliders in the air, if nothing else!). Flights last from 15 to 45 minutes, but you’ll be able to see Dharamshala looking pretty as a picture, have an up-close view of the snowy Dhauladhar mountains, and feel as avian as you’re ever likely to feel in this lifetime. Land gently in Bir, close to the Tibetan colony with its stupas, momos and cappuccinos, catch your breath, and do it all over again.
Go camping in Ladakh
JAMMU & KASHMIR
If you have a Facebook account, you know by now that Ladakh has some of the most scenic and serene lakes to be found in India… god knows there are enough selfies with them floating around! Tso Moriri is one such lake, though its distance from Leh and basic accommodation make it less likely to be found in any album. The waters here are a vibrant blue, made even more so by crystal-clear reflections of the sky, and offset by the stark mountains in the background. Once you’ve managed to tear your eyes away, you can explore Korzok, home to Changpa nomads, and try your hand, or, in this case, eyes, at spotting the endangered black-necked cranes and other avian species that make this a bird-watcher’s haven. Retire to your tent at night, cold, cramped, but deliriously happy.