things to do in india

India. The name conjures images of ancient temples and palaces, aromatic markets, colourful saris, curries and oh yes, the Taj Mahal. Dig deeper and one will quickly discover that India has much more to offer to visitors. With its amazing breadth and depth of attractions and experiences, it’s very easy to visit India and only just skim the surface. These days, with so many flights to India with a number of airlines, it’s become a lot easier to head off on an adventure in India and immerse ourselves in the wondrous sights, sounds and scents of the land. Of course you will want to see the sights – what’s a trip to India without the obligatory photograph outside the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort? However, if you want to get a glimpse into the real India, here is a list of some of the alternative things to do in India for visitors.

alternative things to do in india
Taj Mahal

1. Experience a colourful festival

There are almost as many festivals in India as there are number of Gods. And each festival is more colorful than the other. This makes visiting a festival one of the best things to do in India. While every festival in India is worth participating in, there are some you just cannot miss.Some of the most colourful festivals include Holi and Diwali but other festivals like Dussehra and Ganesh Chaturthi are just as lively and colourful!

holi festival india
A riot of colour at the Holi festival in India.

2. The Old Delhi Food Trail

Explore the narrow lanes and bazaars of Old Delhi whilst sampling arguably some of the most fantastic food you will find in the whole country. Your guide will encourage you to sample delicacies such as kulfi, chat papri, dahl and chai tea. The trip also allows you to visit a haveli – a traditional four-storey home with a central courtyard flanked by 58 doors.

Old Delhi food trail (image courtesy of Aileen)

3. Chandipur Beach

It may seem like your typical beautiful Indian beach but twice a day a strange phenomenon occurs which will be worth the wait. When the tide goes out, it recedes up to 5km leaving the shore awash with driftwood, beautiful shells and thousands of tiny red crabs and horseshoe crabs foraging for food. It’s a phenomenal experience to watch the sea recede into the horizon, then slowly fill up the empty coast several hours later.

4. Experience Gandhi’s Delhi

Follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and learn about the message of non-violence and truth that he tried to spread to the masses. You will travel on public transport to see all of the sites associated with ‘the Father of the Nation’ including the National Gandhi Museum.

5. Kerala backwaters

Step aboard a luxury kettuvallom and sail down the narrow canals and streams into the vast lagoons of this breathtaking region. Being on-board is an experience in itself and you will find it hard not to be completely won over by the lip-smacking cuisine, the aromatic plantations and the vibrant culture that surrounds you. Kettuvalom literally means ‘boat with knots’, a translation that is spot on considering the boats are made with coir knots only and not a single nail is used. Check out this 7-day Kerala beaches and backwaters tour.

Kettuvalom houseboat (image courtesy of Christian Haugen)

6. Yoga retreat

Although increasing in popularity, a lot of travellers don’t even think to take the time to realign their chakras at a relaxing yoga retreat. Allow yourself to push your troubles away, improve your yoga practice and relieve your aches and pains with any number of healing treatments. If yoga isn’t really your thing, choose from a variety of relaxing Ayurvedic treatments.

Yofa retreat in Dharmsala (image courtesy of Vivek)

7. Palace on Wheels

India is famous for train travel but the Royal Train is in a completely different league. Enter a bygone era as the train, one of the top-ten luxury trains in the world, dashes through the countryside. Along the way, it passes medieval fortresses as it chugs into the heart of Rajasthan.

8. Meet a real life Maharaja

There are a number of heritage hotels dotted around the country. Some have been transformed by members of the Royal Family. Enjoy an evening listening to tales of the past and decadence you can only imagine.

City Palace Udaipur (image courtesy of di_pappa)

9. Witness the inexplicable

Visitors to the Sufi Qamar Ali shrine near Pune can witness, or take part in, what many people consider a miracle. 11 people are asked to stand around a large boulder and place their forefingers lightly on its surface. After repeatedly chanting ‘Qamar Ali Dervish’ the stone rises. If one person moves away the rock will fall. The levitating stone of Shivapur is an amazing, if not surreal, sight.

10. Yak safari

Climb on to the back of an enormous yak and trek the ancient grazing ground of the yak herdsmen in the Himalayan region of Sikkim. You will trek along the Singelila Ridge past lakes, glacial valleys and plush forests. You’ll soon find yourself in the shadow of the imposing peaks of the Himalayas.

Yak herdsman in Sikkim (image courtesy of WHL Travel)


17 Responses

  • If you want to meet a real life Maharajah i would recommend you should visit Umaid Bhawan Place to meet Gaj Singh ji in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. It is one of the largest royal residences in the world.

  • I did a Spice Market Tour in Old Delhi and it was amazing. It was a private tour and my guide took me up into one of the old storage houses and we watched the wholesalers haggle over their merchandise, drank chai with the guys carrying the bags of spices, and cried our eyes out because of the potent smell of the chilis in the air. Can’t wait to go back.

  • No doubt India has many historical and natural places for tourists and their own people…
    thanks for sharing Keith

  • Awesome article….I love Kerala backwaters and old Delhi food. I always visit old Delhi and enjoy different food every time like Eat Prantha in Pranthe wali gali in old delhi, Enjoy Chicken Biryani on Karim etc.Also you can enjoy historical past of India.

    Thanks for sharing such great type of article.

  • Thanks for sharing useful informaton about India. However, there so many other tourism attractions of India like spiritual tourism, lakshdweep beaches, Kerala Hill stations, Uttarakhand Adventure, Imagica Park, Essel World and many more !!!

  • Journey through the Kerala backwaters is a wonderful experience. Excellent recipes also makes the trip an everlasting experience for all. I really enjoyed the trip.

  • Would love a post on trance parties on Goa beaches. Above & Beyond played there and even made an album track about it it was so great.

  • Great post! We are planning on spending 6 weeks in India and this is a great list of things to do. The Delhi food trail sounds awesome and I’ve heard tons of good things about the backwaters of Kerala!

  • Great list, gutted I never made it to Kerala. One day maybe.

    I recently read ‘Hot Tea Across India’ which is a great read for anyone interested in motorbike tours. Its a short, fun read and I believe the author is on twitter also, useful contact to have.

  • Ohh, India looks amazing 🙂 It’s still on my to-do list, but I’ll get there soon!

    I love that houseboat and the Indian food……in fact maybe I should just go to India right now.

  • Hi Keith! Do you happen to have a link to the food trail and Gandi tours in Delhi? Thanks!

  • The old Delhi food trail sounds amazing. Can’t wait to experience India someday. I’m sure it’s magical!

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