India has more than just the Taj Mahal. This incredibly diverse country offers some of the most phenomenal outdoor adventures. From varied landscapes with majestic mountains, serene beaches, gorgeous seas, lush forests, and dune-filled desserts to its rich history and ancient structures, India offers outdoor lovers marvelous options for adventures. Read to the end for a bonus list of unforgettable hikes in India.
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1. Hike Over India’s Frozen River
Chadar Trek, known as Zanskar Gorge in Ladakh or the Frozen River, is the most thrilling hike in the Himalayas. Known as one of the best hikes in India, Chadar Trek translates to “white sheet hike,” as you hike along frozen ground. You can walk over this glassy river in late January to late February or sometimes in March, if the cold holds out. From the incredible, frozen scenery to its unusual campsites, this memorable hike attracts outdoor lovers who like a challenge.
2. Scuba Dive with the Water Giants in the Andaman Sea
Tucked in the Bay of Bengal, this beautiful scuba diving area in the Havelock Island or Swaraj Deep is well known in India as a place to swim with “giant” things—not just giant coral reefs but also dugongs, also known as “water giants” or sea cows. The biggest land arthropods, the hermit crab, are also residents of the Andaman Islands. Also called palm thieves or robber crabs, these giant crabs can weigh up to 4 kilograms and have a 3-foot leg span.
While scuba diving in India, watch for scorpion fish, octopus, angler fish, sharks, and huge coral reefs in crystal-clear water. Jacques Cousteau even said it was like diving in paradise. Popular places include Elephant Beach with its coral reefs, crescent-shaped Radhanagar Beach for watching the sunset, and dive sites include The Wall, Cinque Island, and Fish Rock. The best time of year for diving in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is from November to April.
3. Bash Some Sand Dunes in Jaisalmer
Feeling angry? You just need a good bash. Take a 4×4 into the desert and destroy sand mounds in the Sam Sand Dunes. Hit the sands and feel all your troubles disappear in Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert, part of the Desert National Park wildlife sanctuary. Just 45 km from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, embark on other sand-focused adventures here as well, including desert camping and camel safaris.
It’s worth a stop in Jaisalmer to see Gadisar Lake, just outside of the city, and the fort believed to have been built by a Bhatti Rajput called Rawal Jaisal in 1156 AD. Legends say that the king constructed the fort after a local mystic said that the site was blessed by Lord Krishna himself.
4. Relax (Or Don’t) On the Beach in Goa
India’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches, and one of the best is Goa. Relax on the beautiful beach or get your thrills jet skiing, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and more. Calangute, the longest beach in North Goa, offers some of the best water sports and charming shacks for tourists. Anjuna Beach, also called a paradise for hippies, is popular for its nightclubs, flea markets, beach shacks, and full-moon parties. Butterfly beach, or Honeymoon Beach, is also a less-crowded choice for those looking for a more private swim.
5. Go Bouldering in Hampi in Karnataka
Beautiful Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its many monuments. Towering nearby are the boulders of Hampi. Rock climbing in Hampi can include extreme heat, so it’s worth going in December or January, if this is your preferred activity. Characterized by extremely sharp rock, this unforgettable rock-climbing destination is almost a perfect mini-boulder world, full of everything any outdoor lover needs—gorgeous views, a climbing shop, bouldering pads you can rent, and ancient culture just a short journey away.
6. Ski the Slopes of Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir
At nearly 13,000 feet, Gulmarg in Kashmiri is the world’s third-highest ski resort and known around the world for its powdery winter snow runs. Its majestic Apharwat Peak is the longest ski slope in Asia. This hotspot for skiing in India gets covered in snow every winter season and beckons some of the best power skiers and snowboarders. Located in the Indian Union state of Jammy and Kashmir, the ski season runs approximately between January 1st and March 31st, with the best conditions being in January and February. A ski pass can cost between Rs740-Rs950, which is $9-$11.50 (yes, $9), so it may well be worth the visit. It is also home to Asia’s longest cable car, the Gulmarg Gondola, which is the second highest and longest cable car in the world.
7. Backpacking the Western Ghats
There are multiple incredible treks in the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Also known as the Sahyadri mountain range, the Western Ghats stretch to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, traversing the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. A “ghat” translates as a set of stairs leading to a river or a range of mountains. The Western Ghats rest parallel to the Malabar Coast of the Arabian Sea, and they represent a biodiversity hotspot, where at least 325 globally threatened species live. Famous for monsoons, the Western Ghats are characterized by steep slopes that rise abruptly and have deep canyons.
Popular Hiking Trails in India
- Chembra Peak for panoramic views
- Kodachadri Trek from South Kanara Forest to Maravanthe
- Tadiandamol Peak, Coorg for an unforgettable view
- Dudhsagar Falls, Goa
- Harihar Fort Trek
- Uttari Betta Trek
- Mullayanagiri Trek, the tallest peak of Karnataka
- Rajmachi Fort, a forest paradise
- Trekking on the forest trails of Kudremukh
- Anamudi Trek, the Everest peak of South India