10 Offbeat Tours to Take in India

India Beyond the Usual Tourist Attractions

If you're not satisfied with just seeing the usual tourist attractions, these engaging offbeat tours to take in India provide something different and will expand your knowledge of the country.

  • 01 of 10
    Kathakali dancer doing his make up in Kerala.
    ••• Kathakali dancer doing his make up in Kerala. Martin Siepmann/Getty Images

    The Blue Yonder is one of India's most well-known responsible travel companies. It began in 2004 as an initiative to preserve and restore a river ecosystem in Kerala. The company has grown to offer a huge range of informative day activities, short stays, and destination trips. These are designed to provide meaningful encounters with locals and share what's unique about each place with travelers. The Blue Yonder's first Musical Trail, along the River Nila in Kerala, won more than 10 international awards. Got children? Take them on one of the company's bespoke family vacations! A life changing experience awaits.

    • Where: Kerala, Pondicherry and Auroville, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Delhi, Agra, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Northeast India.
    • Tours: Heritage and market walks, temple visits, handicraft workshops, interaction with folk artists and musicians, gastronomic trails, farm visits, wilderness and the great outdoors, sabbaticals.
  • 02 of 10
    Hindu pilgrims touching the ground at entrance of the Kapaleeshwarar Temple located in Mylapore, Chennai.
    ••• Hindu pilgrims touching the ground at entrance of the Kapaleeshwarar Temple located in Mylapore, Chennai. Marjorie Lang/Getty Images

    India exists in her stories, and Story Trails gives you the opportunity to be part of them. If you're interested in local life and customs, you'll love hearing the stories that make places come alive. The tours range from 2 hour walking trails to day trips that combine the best elements of multiple trails.

    • Where: Chennai, Pondicherry, and Madurai in Tamil Nadu.
    • Tours: Visiting a potters' village, exploring the Chennai countryside, learning about mysticism, discovering Pondicherry's French heritage and Chennai's Colonial heritage, spices and cooking, food walks, markets, jewelry crafting, dancing, and rituals of daily life.
  • 03 of 10
    Block printing in Jaipur.
    ••• Block printing in Jaipur. Stuart Freedman /Getty Images

    Immerse yourself in Rajasthani culture by taking one or more of Vedic Walks' offbeat tours. This boutique upmarket travel company focuses on innovative, experiential experiences for curious travelers. You won't find these experiences in usual tour itineraries!

    • Where: Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar.
    • Tours: Block printing workshops, painting and art workshops, food walks, heritage walks, desert camping, crocodile safaris, a day with elephants, yoga and meditation, cycling, village safaris, and attending a traditional Indian marriage.
  • 04 of 10
    Nomadic shepherd in Rajasthan.
    ••• Nomadic shepherd in Rajasthan. Chris Caldicott / Design Pics/Getty Images

    This inspiring responsible travel company provides experiences that enable deep connections with local communities. It was created following the memorable time its founders spent in some of India's villages and the realization that more opportunities are needed for village youth to make a living.

    • Where: Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Northeast India.
    • Tours: Seven to 13 day trips, staying with families in various villages. Seven day Golden Triangle trip (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) focusing on heritage, food, and spirituality. 
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Urban Safari.
    ••• Urban Safari. Khaki Tours.

    No doubt you've heard of wildlife safaris. But what about an urban safari? Khaki Tours, an organization on a mission to rediscover and popularize Mumbai's heritage, has introduced a novel new way of seeing Mumbai in an open-top jeep. The tour brings buildings alive with stories that are otherwise untold -- and it's fascinating!

    • Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra.
    • Tours: Various historical districts including Fort, and Colaba.
  • 06 of 10
    Weaving a sari in India.
    ••• Weaving a sari in India. Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

    Break Away is a boutique travel company dedicated to providing travelers with "journeys beyond the map". Both immersive short and long "breakaways" are offered. You can choose from customized trips, or group ones with set itineraries.

    • Where: Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Hyderabad, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Kashmir, Ladakh, Northeast India.
    • Tours: Textile and handicraft tours are a specialty. Other tours include farm stays, culinary and tea experiences, nature, painting, and festival tours.
  • 07 of 10
    Village in Uttarakhand.
    ••• Village in Uttarakhand. Anil Shevante/Getty Images

    Fancy an unforgettable walking holiday in the Himalayas, guided by villagers? Village Ways has partnered with remote villages in India to provide travelers with authentic village experiences, based on sustainable tourism. You'll stay in the heart of the village, in a comfortable guesthouse owned by the community, and be served delicious wholesome local food.

    • Where: Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh.
    • Tours: Three-day short escapes, as well as longer eight to 22 night multi-destination group trips are available. Settings include jungles, desert, mountains, beaches, and backwaters.
  • 08 of 10
    Daily life in Dharavi slum, Mumbai.
    ••• Daily life in Dharavi slum, Mumbai. Bethany Clarke / Getty Images.

    Reality Tours and Travel was founded in Mumbai in 2005, with the goal of establishing insightful (and positive) slum tourism to benefit local communities. The company successfully pioneered the concept in India. 80% of the profits from tours are channeled into their charity, Reality Gives, which undertakes educational and development programs in the slums. The company has since expanded to provide a range of other offbeat tours with surprising hidden gems (such as the volunteer kitchen of a Sikh temple), which aim to give travelers a fuller understanding of each place.

    • Where: Mumbai and Delhi.
    • Tours: Festival experiences with the slum communities, village tours, bicycle tours, tours using local transport, street food tours, night tours. Multi-day tours beyond the typical sights of the Golden Triangle, Rajasthan, and south India are also offered.
    • Mumbai Dharavi Slum Tours: Options and Why Go on One

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Seller at Kolkata flower market.
    ••• Seller at Kolkata flower market. WIN-Initiative/Getty Images

    Riding around Kolkata on a classic Royal Enfield motorcycle is exhilarating way to see the city sights, and effectively dodge the crazy traffic! Feel the wind whip through your hair, as you have an unrestricted view of everything around you. There are a couple of reputable companies that offer motorcycle tours.

    • Where: Kolkata, West Bengal.
    • Tours: Calcutta Walks runs a 4 hour morning trip through the old city, starting with tea at a biker's stop and ending with lunch at an interesting Kolkata food joint. Tour de Sundarbans has a longer, albeit cheaper, 7 hour trip that visits many of the city's major attractions and includes a Bengali lunch.
  • 10 of 10
    Tamil Nadu, Tiruvannamalai, Arunachaleswar temple
    ••• Tamil Nadu, Tiruvannamalai, Arunachaleswar temple. Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Getty Images

    If you're after an authentic healing or spiritual experience, Tiruvannamalai is one of the top spiritual destinations in India, and Ashok from Bougainvilla Tours is a remarkable guide and artist. He has extensive precious ancestral knowledge of the area, including holy Mount Arunachala, and will enable you to deeply connect with the sacred sites.

    • Where: Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
    • Tours: Meditations in healing caves, stone healing, temple tours, mountain trekking, kolam (floral arrangement) making, pottery workshops, traditional painting workshops, basket making, and bullock cart rides.