Bound by oceans and the mighty Himalayas, India is an astonishingly diverse country. We have the scorching desert of Rajasthan in the west and the lush mangroves of the Sunderbans in the east. In the south, there are sunny tropical shores with shimmering ocean views, and in the north and northeast of India, snow-covered peaks and lakes of deep, piercing blue.
Each landscape is unique, and no matter which part of the country you live in, chances are, you have access to some of these natural wonders. Adventure Nation, which organises adventure holidays in India and abroad, showcases India’s stunning sceneries through activities such as camping, skiing, rafting, scuba diving, and motor biking holidays. Here are seven memorable ways to experience Indian outdoors, for first-time adventurers and more seasoned travellers.
Take to the skies during the Pushkar Mela, which happens in November each year, for aerial views of undulating sand dunes, and crowds and camel at the festival. Photo: SastyPhotos/SastyPhoto/Dinodia Photo Library
A gentle introduction to aerial adventures, a balloon safari requires no specialized prowess. Each flight accommodates up to eight people, who stand in a wicker basket as the pilot navigates the propane-fuelled balloon over stunning landscapes. Even if you’ve explored the corners of Jaipur’s Amer Fort or spent many weekends in Lonavala, a hot air balloon flight is still an exciting excursion. The experience starts as you watch the colourful balloons being inflated. Rides generally last about an hour and provide unforgettable views, especially at sunrise or dusk.
Visit the town of Bir (about 2hr/65kmby road from Dharamsala) for a more adrenaline-fuelled aerial adventure. Bir is a Tibetan settlement situated in the shadow of the Dhauladhar Mountains and home to the Deer Park Institute of Buddhist and other religious studies. Recently, it has also carved a name for itself in the international paragliding circuit. In 2015, Bir hosted the AAI Paragliding World Cup, where more than 100 pilots from around the world competed for the title. Getting a paragliding license requires a good deal of training, but Adventure Nation’s tandem paragliding flights—where newbies are accompanied by professionals—require no special skills. Flyers take off from a meadow at Billing (just above Bir) and glide for around 30 minutes before landing in a meadow in Bir. The views, of spindly treetops, looming peaks, and glinting pagodas, are stupendous.
Between March and May, the rhododendron forests of the Singalila Mountains come alive with crimson blooms. The Singalila mountain ridge extends from West Bengal to Sikkim’s border with Nepal, but the part in western Sikkim with its lakes, high-altitude meadows,and views of the mighty Kanchenjunga, is ideal for trekkers. Make your way through the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary—the habitat of the native red panda—before ascending slopes blanketed with coniferous forest. The highest point of the moderate seven-day trek is the Singalila Pass at 12,150 feet. Views along the route are majestic, and on a clear day, you might catch a glimpse of Mount Pandim, Kabru, even Mount Everest. The best season to do the Singalila trek is between March-May and October-December.
Malavika Bhattacharya is a freelance journalist who writes about travel, culture, and food. She travels for the outdoors: to dive deep in the Indian Ocean, crawl through caves in Meghalaya, and hike through the Norwegian fjords.