19 Top Things to Do in India

India is Such a Diverse Country with So Much to Do

Tourist relaxes as she is punted through Keralan Backwaters near Alleppey.
Orien Harvey/Getty Images

Planning a vacation and looking for things to do in India? The options are almost endless. This guide will give you some idea of what's possible.

Still confused about where to go in India? Take a look at this Ultimate India Vacation Planner and 11 Best Tourist Places to Visit in India.

  • 01 of 19

    Cook Indian Food

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    Indian spices. David Sanger/Getty Images

    These days, more and more tourists are taking cooking classes in India and learning about Indian cuisine. No matter what your level of interest, you'll find classes to meet your needs. Single day classes are a hit with beginners that have a general interest, while extended residential programs cater to those who want to go on a more in depth culinary voyage. You'll find that many homestays in India offer casual Indian cooking classes to guests. The Bangala, in Chettinad in Tamil Nadu, is one of them. Check out these 12 Cooking Classes and Cooking Schools in India for some recommendations.

  • 02 of 19

    Spot Wildlife at a National Park

    On jeep safari in Pench National Park; Madhya Pradesh, India
    On jeep safari in Pench National Park; Madhya Pradesh, India. Chris Caldicott/Getty Images

    There are almost 100 national parks and 450 wildlife sanctuaries in India, which are huge attractions. Each national park is unique in regards to its wildlife and scenery. You can see everything from tigers to rhinoceros. Many parks are known for having a particular type of wildlife, so where to go will depend on what you want to see.

  • 03 of 19

    Uncover India's History and Heritage

    Taj Mahal, India.
    Elina Gathof / EyeEm/Getty Images

    From the Taj Mahal to Khajuraho, India brims with historical monuments and heritage. Its past has seen a melting pot of different religions, rulers and empires -- all of which have left their mark. There's an extensive amount of uncovering to do. These 12 Top Historical Places in India are a start. If you want to get off the beaten track, visit these 5 Little-Known UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

  • 04 of 19

    Be Adventurous

    Rafting down the Indus River, Indus Valley; Ladakh, India
    Rafting down the Indus River, Indus Valley; Ladakh, India. Chris Caldicott/Getty Images

    Adventure travel is hugely popular in India. The Himalaya region is the setting for many adventure travel activities. However, there are plenty of options for adventure travel in India's south as well! Trekking, white water rafting, paragliding, hot air ballooning, and even heli-skiing are just some of what's possible.

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  • 05 of 19

    Be Regal

    Taj Lake Palace hotel suite.
    Taj Lake Palace hotel suite. Floris Leeuwenberg/Getty Images

    India has some opulent and authentic palace hotels that were once home to the country's royalty but have since been converted into luxury accommodations. You can stay in them and experience how royalty once lived. Most are located in Rajasthan, which used to be divided into and ruled by separate grandiose Rajput kingdoms.

     

     

     

  • 06 of 19

    Take a Houseboat Along the Kerala Backwaters

    Houseboat, Backwaters, Alappuzha, Kerala, India
    Peter Adams / Getty Images

    A trip on a houseboat along Kerala's backwaters is a quintessential thing to do in India. The lush green palm-fringed landscape, diverse wildlife, and houses and villages that line the backwaters make a journey along these waterways seem like a journey through another world. Here's what you need to know about hiring a houseboat in Kerala. Don't miss it!  Done it already? Srinagar in Kashmir also has houseboats, although they're moored to the side of the lake.

  • 07 of 19

    Get an Ayurvedic Treatment

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    Ayurveda. Jupiterimages/Getty Images

    Ayurveda is the medical side of yoga. It’s India’s traditional natural healing system, which has been practiced for over 5,000 years. Ayurvedic resorts have become popular destinations for relaxation and rejuvenation in India, while Ayurvedic hospitals cater for people seeking Ayurvedic treatment for more serious health problems. Here's what you need to know about Ayurveda in India. The best time to go? During the monsoon season.

  • 08 of 19

    Go on a Camel (or Yak) Safari

    Men resting with their camels in the desert near Jaisalmer
    Margarita Sarri/Getty Images

    One of the most unforgettable and enchanting experiences you can have in India is to ride through the rippling, windswept desert on camel back and camp out under the stars. Taking a camel safari will also give you the opportunity to witness the rustic, rural desert life of India. Here's what you need to know about Camel safaris in India. You can also ride double-humped Bactrian camels in Ladakh's Nubra Valley, and go on yak safaris in Spiti.

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  • 09 of 19

    Learn about Farm Life

    Young woman looking at tea plants in tea plantations near Munnar, Kerala
    Ben Pipe Photography/Getty Images

    Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy and agritourism is one of the latest concepts to revolutionize the India travel industry. Buoyed by the growing popularity of homestays in India, farmstays (essentially a homestay on a farm) are blossoming across the country. They provide an authentic and interactive experience of rural life, in the delightfully fresh country air. Everything from cheese to coffee is produced! You can also stay on a tea estate and tour the tea plantations.

  • 10 of 19

    Meander Through the Mangrove Jungles

    Pichavaram mangroves. Sharell Cook.

    The largest mangrove jungles in the world can be found in India. The Sundarbans near Kolkata in West Bengal is most famous. However, Tamil Nadu has a lesser-known but substantially-sized mangrove jungle -- Pichavaram. And, unlike the Sundarbans where access is limited, It's possible to go deep inside it by row boat.

  • 11 of 19
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    Nagaland tribal warriors. Peter Adams/Getty Images

    India, along with Africa, has the largest tribal population in the world. The lives of the tribes in India are closely tied to nature, and they inhabit some of the most pristine and picturesque environments in the country. Largely unaffected by the modern world, they're very simple and often curious people who have retained their rituals and customs. And many love receiving visitors!

  • 12 of 19

    Watch the Sun Set Over the White Salt Desert

    Great Rann of Kutch salt desert. Sharell Cook.

    Sublime and surreal, much of the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat consists of the world's largest salt desert, measuring around 10,000 square kilometers. What makes it even more amazing is that the salt desert is underwater during the main monsoon season in India. For the remaining eight months of the year, it's an enormous stretch of packed white salt. Any sunset is special there but more so when it's complemented with a full moon.

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  • 13 of 19
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    Rooftop yoga in Mysore. Melissa McManus/Getty Images

    India has spiritual appeal for both Indians and foreigners alike. You can attend a Buddhist Vipassana meditation retreat, join an ashram, or learn yoga.  Another moving experience is to take part in an evening aarti (fire worship) along the Ganges river at either Rishikesh, Haridwar, or Varanasi.

  • 14 of 19

    Enjoy a Festival

    Holi festival. India Photography/Getty Images.

    Being a highly religious country, festivals are at the heart of people’s lives in India. The numerous and varied festivals that are held throughout the year offer a unique way of experiencing Indian culture at its best.

  • 15 of 19
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    Getty Images
    This one's for the kids, and the young at heart! There are dozens of theme and amusement parks in India. You'll be able to enjoy everything from wet 'n' wild rides to film making.
  • 16 of 19

    Drink Wine at a Vineyard

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    Sula Vineyards

    Wine in India? Yes, really! India has a growing wine industry. Wine tourism is the new buzzword in Nashik, around four hours from Mumbai in Maharashtra. There now almost 50 wineries in and around Nashik, and excitingly for wine lovers, many Nashik vineyards now have tasting rooms that are open to the public. Head to one of these Nashik vineyards with tasting rooms.

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  • 17 of 19
    Surfing in the Andaman Islands
    Surfing in the Andaman Islands. John Seaton Callahan/Getty Images

    India has some renowned beaches for chilling out. But surfing? It seems unlikely, so you may be surprised to know that catching a wave is really catching on in India! You'll find most of the surfing spots in southern India. If you're an intermediate or advanced surfer, head to the Andaman Islands for remote spots only accessible by boat.

  • 18 of 19

    Shop Til You Drop!

    Shopping in India
    Martin Harvey/Getty Images

    It's impossible to visit India without buying something. Each region tends to specialize in a particular industry that's been handed down over generations. Have a look at this guide to shopping by region in India for an idea of what's available and where. There are also some fabulous handicraft stores in India with a difference. And definitely not to be overlooked are the top markets in Delhi and places such as Chor Bazaar in Mumbai. It's also possible to go on a dedicated handicraft tours in India. Want some tips for bargaining? Here's how to shop at markets in India and get a good price.

  • 19 of 19

    Immerse Yourself in Indian Culture

    Kathakali dancer doing his make up in Kerala.
    Kathakali dancer doing his make up in Kerala. Martin Siepmann/Getty Images

    Experiential tourism is quickly growing in popularity in India, and there are some fabulous off-beat tours that you can take in India that will expand your knowledge of the country beyond the usual tourist attractions. All kinds of activities are possible, from handicraft and art workshops to village visits -- and even attending an Indian wedding! Going on a walking tour in India is also a great way to get in touch with daily life in India.