There are few places left in the world where travellers can truly experience a complete and utter culture shock but India is surely up there with the best of them. Traditional, mystical, unique, exciting: if you’re looking to really get away from the grey UK then set your camera to stun and head for one of the most colourful and vibrant countries on the planet.
For starters: If you can tear yourself away from the beaches of Goa then you’ll discover a rich variety of locations, further north, that offer a much deeper understanding of what really makes over 1 billion Indian residents tick.
The north of the country presents some superb contrasts and from trekking in the home of the Dalai to haggling in Delhi’s Dilli Haat market, you’ll never find two days alike.
For me, this is what travelling is all about: experiencing new adventures every day and learning more about the country that you’re visiting. The north of India encourages you to dive in and take the plunge before you resurface smelling of foxtail orchids and covered in swallowtail butterflies.
As with any adventure, knowing a few basics can help you get more from your trip and below are a few suggestions for things to do in the north of India that will introduce you to an exceptional and fascinating way of life.
Trekking in the Himalayas
Wonderful wildlife, remote villages and mountain railways all feature heavily along the Tibetan border however; the highlight of any trekking adventure is nearly always that first glimpse of early morning sunrise. Treks can be as relaxed or as challenging as you wish and sticking close to your Tibetan guide ensures you’ll be safely led through an extraordinary series of landscapes. So, don your best yak wool hat, fill your flask with sweet tea, stash a bottle of Chang and put your best foot forward on the trek of a lifetime.
Volunteering your services
As a land of contrasts you can expect to be left in awe of not only the spectacular scenery but also the remarkable resilience of the people too. As you’d expect, some of the life-affirming experiences that you’ll encounter are unfortunately the result of great poverty and mind-blowing living conditions. This is where you come in. Volunteering your services will mean the world to the underprivileged communities of northern India and from childcare centres to building sites, pitching in and helping out is the essence of giving something back as you travel.
Practising the stretchy art of yoga
Loved by celebrities, athletes and deities alike, yoga is an art that’s as synonymous with India as curries and Bollywood. Practising yoga in the land where it originated doesn’t get any better and learning some of the history and philosophy allows you to start to understand an altogether more meditative approach to your travels. Of course, you don’t have to devote your entire being to the discipline: a weekend or a few one off lessons will give you a good grounding so you can start to practise in your own time.
Spending a night under desert skies
There can be few experiences that match spending a night under the stars and as the north-western state of Rājasthān is home to the awesome Thar Desert you’ll find opportunities literally in sandy bucket loads. When in Rome do as the Romans and when in the Great Indian Desert get yourself a camel. This is simply an amazing experience and as your noble steed plods ever-deeper across the dunes in search of exotic oases, your mind will undoubtedly drift as effortlessly as the myriad grains of sand. Telling stories around the fire, watching hesitant lizards scuttle for cover and listening to faraway sounds in the black velvet night will no doubt ensure that this is an awesome highlight of any trip to India.
If you’re considering taking the plunge into the romance and adventure of northern India then check out our India Experience which promises a remarkable journey that will never be forgotten.
Written by Dave Holloway