10 Best Adventure Destinations in India
India may not be the first country you think of when it comes to adventurous holiday destinations, but its diverse landscape actually makes it the perfect playground for intrepid travellers.
Don’t believe me? India’s natural environment ranges from the snowy Himalayas in the north and sandy deserts in the west, to mangrove forests in the east and a gorgeous coastline all along the southern end. These natural settings are not only beautiful to look at, but they also provide daring holidaymakers with activities that are bound to spike their adrenaline levels.
Depending on your rush of choice, I highly recommend including some – or all! – of these 10 adventure activities and destinations in your itinerary when you next visit India.
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#10. Scuba diving at Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Scuba Diving at Havelock Islands, Andamans.
Located off the south east coast of India, the archipelago of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a must-visit for those travellers who are looking for unique dive sites in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
These offbeat islands are a treat for the eyes - their colourful coral reefs are simply teeming with shoals of vibrant sealife – with clownfish, parrotfish, octopus, barracudas, turtles and sting rays calling for the more than 15 unexplored dive sites home.
The islands also offer a plethora of water sports for vacationers to engage in, including kayaking, snorkeling, water scootering (jet skiing) and underwater walking.
So how do you get to this magical place and when should you visit? There are plenty of flights from Chennai and Kolkata on the Indian mainland to Port Blair on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. From here, I recommend taking a ferry to Havelock Islands as this area has the most dive sites in the one place. The best time to visit is between October and May.
#9. Surfing in Tamil Nadu
With a coastline that covers 7,500km, it’s not difficult to find amazing surfing spots in India. However, the two most popular tourist hotspots are in the state of Tamil Nadu: one is a fishing village called Kovalam located close to Chennai; the second is at the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mahabalipuram.
With swells that measure between 3 and 5 feet through the year, both of these locations are well suited to beginners. However, during the monsoon months (usually around May), the waves can rise up to 8 feet, making them perfect for the skilled and professional surfers. The rain also adds an additional thrill to surfing these high waves during the monsoon season, making an unforgettable experience.
Getting there is relatively easy: Chennai has an international airport with relatively good connectivity to most popular cities across the world, and Kovalam and Mahabalipuram can be reached within an hour from the Chennai airport.
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#8. Hiking in Kashmir
It is hard to pick one top destination for hiking in India – the country offers a plethora of trails that’ll take you through dense evergreen forests to pristine lakes, and across fast-flowing rivers to snowy peaks and beyond.
The best way to experience a sample of the beautiful scenery is to pick a trail like the Great Lakes of Kashmir. This week-long expedition takes you across rolling green meadows to a pine forest and alpine lakes that mirror the mighty mountains around them. The picturesque settings offset the moderately difficult trek and most certainly give you a taste of what a paradise on earth truly is.
If you’re embarking on the Great Lakes of Kashmir hike or any other trials in Kashmir, I recommend flying into Srinagar airport and completing them anytime from June to September.
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#7. River rafting in Uttarakhand
The state of Uttarakhand in North India is deemed a rafter’s paradise - thanks to the plethora of rafting expeditions the area offers throughout the year. You can thank the various tributaries of the mighty Ganga (Ganges) and Yamuna (also known as the Jamuna) rivers for this – they’re overflowing with challenging rapids of various intensities.
If you’re a beginner, you can pick the stretch that goes up to a grade 3 level only, or if you’re a seasoned rafter or feeling brave, you can zip down the option with grade 5 rapids.
These gurgling rivers won’t only give you an adrenaline rush – they’ll also take you past the mountains of Uttarkhand, and through important religious centers such as Rishikesh and Devprayag. You can even pick an expedition that takes you through the land of Kumaon along the border of Nepal! The options are truly endless.
Most of the river rafting activities in Uttarakhand are available throughout the year. I recommend using Dehra Dun – the capital city of Uttarakhand - as your base as it’s connected by road, rail and air to Delhi.
#6. Paragliding in Himachal Pradesh
Is soaring like a bird over beautiful green fields surrounded by the mighty mountains on your bucket list? It’s high time you visit the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh! This area contains the three most popular paragliding destinations in India: Kangra Valley at Bir-Billing, Kullu Valley, and Solang Valley.
You don’t have to be a professional to enjoy the stunning views from the air – paragliding is for all skill levels here. Even as a beginner, you’ll be able to enjoy jumping off a cliff and feeling the misty air surrounding you at a height of 3,500m above the sea level.
These paragliding hotspots are a short road trip from the airports in Himachal Pradesh. I suggest planning your paragliding adventures in these valleys for dates between March-June and September-December.
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#5. Caving in Meghalaya
Home to the longest and deepest caves in India, Meghalaya provides its visitors with a thrilling experience of the underworld. The adrenaline pumping journey through narrow crevices, low ceilings, white limestone pools and underground streams leads tourists to striking hidden caverns that are filled with mystical shapes and many living creatures including bats.
During your visit to the area, you can choose to explore the tourist-friendly Mawsmai caves in Cherrapunji or opt for a rustic experience through the offbeat Arwah Caves. For those travellers who like a little more thrill, a walk through the longest natural cave of India – the Krem Liat Prah – is highly recommended.
The closest airport to Meghalaya is located in Guwahati. To reach these caves from there, you’ll need to drive around 3-5 hours. (But the road trip only adds to the adventure, right?!) Most of the caves are unlit, which means you’ll need to wear proper caving gear including a helmet with a headlamp while in the caves. It also best to explore the caves with a guide – so don’t opt to go alone!
Narrow passages of Arwah Caves in Meghalaya
#4. Kayaking in Sikkim
There are various ways to experience to wonders of kayaking in India. You can choose from the placid backwaters of Kerala, opt to paddle over the waves in the Arabian sea located in Goa, or even battle the raging rivers in the north.
However, if you head over to Sikkim, you’ll experience a blend of all three as you expertly guide your kayak along the River Teesta. Uncrowded and pristine, the kayaking experience Sikkim offers allows you to take in the glacier-fed river with its gentle waves and misty mountain air. For those who desire a little more action through the entire ride, I recommend heading to the Rangeet River, which has mighty rapids.
The best time to experience kayaking in Sikkim is between October and April. The closest airport that gives your access to Sikkim is Bagdogra, but you’ll need to jump in a cab to get to your chosen place in Sikkim.
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#3. Rock climbing in Karnataka
If water-based activities are not your thing, why not hit up the rocky hills of Karnataka in South India? The large, striking red and brown boulders found in this state make for a fun – but challenging! – rock climbing adventure.
Rock climbers should head over to the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Hampi, which is considered the bouldering capital of India. Precariously scaling its naturally stacked, irregular-shaped boulders is truly an exhilarating experience – especially when you discover the hidden caves and ruins that lie around them.
Badami – found 3 hours from Hampi – is yet another rock climbing haven that allows rock climbers to experience a dose of history as they climb thanks to the ancient cave temples found on top of the rocks.
Hampi is easily accessible from Bangalore by road and rail, however, there is an airport at Hospet with limited flights located 12km from Hampi. And although rock climbing can be done any time during the year, it is best enjoyed during winter in India.
Rock Climbing in Badami, Karnataka
#2. Mountain biking in Ladakh
Fun fact: Ladakh is not only the most northern part of India, it’s also contains the highest land levels in the country. This makes it the ultimate destination for those who love mountain biking - but its high altitude means it’s also not for the faint-hearted.
There are various cycling trails in this mystical region, which zig zag through the beautiful Buddhist monasteries and pass landmarks such as Khardung La – the highest motorable mountain pass in the world. Cyclists can traverse through the cold desert valley of Nubra while they’re in the area, or follow the path of the ancient river Indus. Despite the challenging ride along the arduous terrain, cycling past the prayer flags around Ladakh does create a calming effect.
India’s cycling trails in Ladakh are best enjoyed between May and September, however, make sure your fitness levels are adequate for the high altitude paths. You can reach Ladakh by air or road, with Leh – the main airport in the region – offering plenty of flights for visitors.
Mountain Biking trails in Ladakh
#1. Zip lining in Rajasthan
Most ziplining lovers visit the states of Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Maharashtra and Karnataka to indulge in the heart-racing activity, but with its gigantic mountains and vast valleys. However, with its historic palaces amid the sandy desert, ziplining in Rajasthan is an incredibly unique experience.
The two most popular ziplines in the area are based at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and Neemrana Fort in Alwar, with each line giving you the rare opportunity to feel like you’re scaling the impregnable walls of the forts and also fly high over the desert dunes and lone lakes.
Thankfully, Rajasthan is one of the most well-connected states in India - you can access the state by air, rail and road. You can book ziplining activities online for dates all year ‘round.
Ziplining at Mehrangarh Fort, Rajasthan
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Ami Bhat is a marketing post-graduate by qualification who’s now a full-time travel writer and blogger. Besides being a travel enthusiast, Ami also loves sports, photography and dancing with an equal level of passion. She strongly believes in planning a getaway for every long weekend that comes up throughout the year, and when she cannot physically travel, she travels virtually through her words on her travel blog, Thrilling Travel. Keep up with her adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More India.