India is varied, magical and massive, with so much on offer to the adventurous traveller, but we’ve still managed to select our top five experiences…
1. White water rafting the Ganges
On the banks of the Ganga, the holy city of Rishikesh is India’s white water rafting capital (along with Shivpuri, just to the north). Mix adrenaline bursts with glorious scenery and finish the day by trickling into town to the sacred chant of Om Namoh Shivaya. There’s everything from half and full-day trips to longer expeditions, camping on the shore along the way. And, as ever, we love the names of the rapids, like Golf Course, Three Blind Mice and the ominous sounding Return to Sender.
Southern India is an excellent place to explore by bike. From the glittering city of Mysuru (formerly Mysore), with its world-heritage palace and ancient market, head for the tea plantations, tiger reserves and hill stations of the Western Ghats. Then drop down to the coconut-palm-lined coastal roads of Kerala: explore the bazaars and old harbour at Cochin, ride past old Portuguese houses and sleep on a houseboat.
Ever wanted to tackle a 6,000m-plus peak? Check out Stok Kangri (6,153m), recommended as a good first Himalayan peak as it is technically straightforward, with easy-angled scree and snow lopes, while being both challenging and interesting, not least because of the effects of the altitude. Flying into Leh, the ancient capital of Ladakh, acclimatise by trekking through the beautiful Markha Valley and towards base camp, with views towards Tibet and the eastern Karakoram. A cracking expedition.
4. Go in search of tigers in Pench National Park
If you prefer jungle to mountain, and walking at lower altitudes to hitting heights, head to the plains and undulating hills of Madhya Pradesh, known as the heart of India, whose winding rivers and teeming forests inspired Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Call in at village communities and look out for leopards and tigers in the Pench National Park. Reach the area via sleeper train from bustling, colourful Mumbai… and after that expect tranquillity.
Motorbike travel is part of India’s soul, but if you aren’t brave enough to hire your own, in Goa, India’s smallest state with endless beaches, you can ride pillion and hire a driver who will take you around on the back of a bike or Vespa. Most drivers are also good tour guides; spot them at the Two Wheeler Taxi Stands. Cheap, fun… and probably still a tad scary.