For the gap year traveller, India has long been the one to beat. It’s not just a country but an entire (sub)continent, and it has the star attractions to match, from the deserts of Rajasthan to the mountains of the Himalayas, the beaches of Goa to the Taj Mahal. And that’s barely scratching the surface: you could spend your whole year travelling here and still not see it all.
India has a vast range of adventure travel opportunities. There’s hiking and trekking, camel safaris in the deserts of Rajasthan and Jeep safaris on the trail of jungle cats in Kanha. You can take a boat down the Ganges to the sacred city of Varanasi, rent a houseboat in Kashmir or even go white water rafting in the spiritual centre of Rishikesh.
India is well set for student travel. It’s easy to negotiate, the infrastructure is there, everyone speaks English and there’s a strong link with the old colonial power. You’ll find that days and nights spent on trains and buses are a huge part of the experience, and that you don’t even have to try to soak in the history and culture. It’s everywhere, not just in the temples and palaces, colonial forts and municipal buildings, whether it’s a colonial monument in the middle of cosmopolitan Mumbai or an intricately carved shrine on a beach in Kerala.
India may be an emerging superpower, but there are still vast differences of wealth and opportunity here. You can help by making volunteer work part of your trip. There are opportunities to help deprived children and adults in the Himalayas, Jaipur or Goa, and to join social and labour projects in villages.