20 Top Things to Do in Diverse India

India is Such a Diverse Country with So Many Options

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

The options for a vacation in India that reflects the beauty of this diverse country are almost endless. There are national parks, religious sites and experiences, cooking classes, and a variety of places to stay that reflect the Indian culture.

While there are interesting tourist places to visit in India, these ideas may be more indicative of the culture and color of the country. When you are planning your vacation consider taking a risk, getting off the beaten path and exploring all that India has to offer. You may find yourself staying in a palace or floating in the backwaters in a houseboat. These varied destinations will give you some unusual ideas for your trip to India.

01 of 20

Cook Indian Food

200531247-001.jpg
David Sanger/Getty Images
Address
Devakottai Rd, Senjai, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu 630001, India
Phone
+91 4565 220 221

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 on places to hone your Indian cooking skills. At Saffron Palate, in Delhi, for example, they offer cooking experiences in an Indian home, featuring cuisines from all over India including popular street food. Market walks and customized classes are also available.

02 of 20

Spot Wildlife at a National Park

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 20

Uncover India's History and Heritage

Taj Mahal, India.
Elina Gathof / EyeEm/Getty Images
Address
Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
Phone
+91 562 222 7261

From the Taj Mahal to Khajuraho, India is filled 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 top historical places are a start. If you want to get off the beaten track, visit these little-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

There are beautiful places, the majority of which are located in Rajasthan, where they were built by clans of warrior Rajput rulers. The Pink City of Jaipur has a particularly large number of them. Out of financial necessity, many of them have been converted into beautiful hotels.

There are impressive historical monuments to visit and temples to take in especially in southern India.

04 of 20

Be Adventurous

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.

Some of the most popular adventure travel destinations in India include northeast India for tribes to visit, wildlife to spot, peaks to climb, caving, trekking, and jungles. Uttarakhand, bordered by Nepal and Tibet is full of unspoiled natural beauty where you can hike to see ancient holy places, forests, and valleys. The Valley of Flowers National Park is a popular place for a seasonal trek in that area. 

Continue to 5 of 20 below.
05 of 20

Be Regal

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 20

Travel on a Houseboat

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.

There are several key things to know about hiring a houseboat in Kerala. The majority of houseboats are hired from Alleppey, the gateway to the backwaters in between Kochi and Kollam. Many resorts and luxury hotels have their own houseboats as well. They offer sunset cruises and overnight trips so you can do a quick day trip or leisurely travel the scenic backwaters for a week.

Srinagar in Kashmir also has houseboats, although they're moored to the side of the lake.

07 of 20

Get an Ayurvedic Treatment

85632516.jpg
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 to people seeking Ayurvedic treatment for more serious health problems. The best time to go? During the monsoon season.

Kerala has been an important center for the development of Ayurveda. The green forests and hills are abundant with herbs and medicinal plants.

08 of 20

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 camelback 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. You can also ride double-humped Bactrian camels in Ladakh's Nubra Valley, and go on yak safaris in Spiti.

Continue to 9 of 20 below.
09 of 20

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 Indian travel industry. Buoyed by the growing popularity of homestays in India, farm stays (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 20

Meander Through the Mangrove Jungles

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 National Park, where access is limited, It's possible to go deep inside it by rowboat.

11 of 20

Visit India's Tribes

160841145.jpg
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 20

Watch the Sun Set Over the White 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.

Continue to 13 of 20 below.
13 of 20

Explore Spirituality

200158503-001.jpg
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 20

Enjoy a 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.

Diwali, one of the best-known festivals, honors the victory of good over evil and brightness over darkness. It's known as the "Festival of Lights" for all the fireworks, small clay lamps, and candles that are lit.

15 of 20

Have Fun at an Amusement Park

464741951.jpg
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.

You can even get in touch with Indian culture at an amusement park. Kingdom of Dreams is a huge live entertainment, Bollywood theater, and leisure park that brings together both Indian culture and performing arts.

16 of 20

Taste Wine at a Vineyard

sw.jpg
Sula Vineyards

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.

Continue to 17 of 20 below.
17 of 20

Catch a Wave

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 popular 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 20

Shop Til You Drop!

Shopping in India
Martin Harvey/Getty Images
Address
Chor Bazaar, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

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. There are also some fabulous handicraft stores in India with unique local crafts to offer. 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 tour in India. Want some tips for bargaining? Here's how to shop at markets in India and get a good price.

19 of 20

Immerse Yourself in Indian Culture

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.

20 of 20

Interact with Elephants

Tara the elephant at Kipling Camp.

Kipling Camp

 

Be selective when visiting a place in India where elephants are the attraction. Some do not treat the elephants well. However, there are a few ethical tourist-oriented places that focus on interaction with elephants, where the elephants are not mistreated. A positive alternative is to visit one of the rehabilitation centers that have been set up for the conservation and well-being of elephants.

One such place is Wildlife S.O.S., a non-profit organization that works to protect and save wildlife in India. The center provides medical treatment to injured and sick elephants and rescues them from abusive environments.

Back to List

Top Things to Do in Diverse India