The Adventure Traveler's Brief Guide to India

Five times the size of Texas, the country offers a stunning array of options for getting lost. Here are eight of our favorite escapes.

Soul and Surf, Varkala (Alejo Archaval)
India

Get There

Before 2014, the process for procuring a tourist visa to visit India was a bureaucratic nightmare. But now there’s a streamlined system in place: simply fill out the application online, then upload the first page of your passport and a recent photo. The 60-day visa arrives via e-mail in as little as four days ($75; e-visaindia.org.in).

Surf

(Alejo Archaval)
Soul and Surf, Varkala (Alejo Archaval)
Soul and Surf, Varkala (Alejo Archaval)

Head to the excellent breaks of Varkala, a town 85 miles northwest of India’s southern tip, where Soul and Surf India set up shop in 2010. In addition to lessons, this clifftop oasis offers rooms with verandas, daily yoga classes, and a full menu of holistic food and therapies (rooms from $61; soulandsurf.com).

Bike

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(Courtesy TDA Global Cycling)

Ready to get really crazy? Sign up for TDA Global Cycling’s January 2019 Hippie Trail ride, a 40-day, 1,839-mile trip from New Delhi to Goa. You’ll ride past the Taj Mahal, through the Thar Desert of northwestern Rajasthan, into the bustle of Mumbai, and onto the beaches of Goa’s Konkan Coast, with stops at guesthouses, forts, and palaces along the way. Thankfully, there are ten rest days built in. If that still sounds too hardcore, there’s an option to follow a shorter segment of the trail—usually 600 miles over the course of 14 days ($8,800; tdaglobalcycling.com).

Wander

Siang River valley, Arunachal Pradesh (Leah Wollenberger)
Siang River Valley, Arunachal Pradesh (Siew Hoon)

Few Westerners go to Arunachal Pradesh, an underappreciated region in the northeast corner of the country. With India-based Greener Pastures, you can embark on a 25-day trek in the Himalayas that takes you through rhododendron forests, past tribal villages, around chains of high-alpine lakes, and across the Siang River valley, home to a holy Buddhist site (from $2,400; thegreenerpastures.com).

Eat

(Indian Accent)
(Indian Accent)

If there was a James Beard Award in India, it would go to New Delhi’s Indian Accent, where chef Manish Mehrotra reinvents the country’s classic dishes with global flair. Tasting menus feature a duck khurchan cornet and black dairy dal with fresh water chestnut and wasabi raita (from $53; indianaccent.com). 

Heal

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Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Havelock Island (Florian Stern)

Yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda are part of daily life in India, and there are thousands of ashrams, wellness centers, and specialized hospitals across the country. For a slightly hedonistic version, hop a flight to the Andaman archipelago, in the eastern Bay of Bengal, site of Havelock Island’s new 75-villa Taj Exotica Resort and Spa. Opening in March on the white sands of Radhanagar Beach, the property offers excellent scuba diving, stunning sunsets, and an eclectic mix of spa treatments. For rates visit taj.tajhotels.com.

Join

India
Soul and Surf, Varkala (Alejo Archaval)

Despite misconceptions, women who travel alone are safe in most parts of India. But for those who prefer the comfort of a group, Wild Women Expeditions has a new 11-day itinerary that hits three major wildlife preserves in the heart of the country: Pench and Kanha National Parks, the latter of which is said to have inspired Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and the Satpura Tiger Reserve ($3,995; wildwomenexpeditions.com).

Trek

greener-pastures38-paddy-fields-on-steep-mountainsides-in-the-siang-river-valley_h.jpg
Siang River valley, Arunachal Pradesh (Leah Wollenberger)

Mandip Singh Soin has traveled 280 miles by camel across Rajasthan, made the first Indian ascent of 21,160-foot Meru North, and walked the frozen 85-mile Zanskar River. In 2018, Soin’s New Delhi-based outfit, Ibex Expeditions, will lead a 15-day yoga and meditation journey in the Himalayas ($3,850; ibexexpeditions.com). “Adventure travel in India is more expansive than ever,” says Soin. “This country is still the greatest show on earth.”

Earn Your Stripes (and Spots)

tiger
(Frida Bredesen/Unsplash)

In Hindu mythology the tiger is sacred, which is why the elusive animal roams free in 50 reserves throughout India. Catch a glimpse of two big cats—tigers and snow leopards—on Outside GO’s new Ultimate Indian Conservation Safari (from $10,675; outsidego.com). The 17-day expedition runs from November to March and stops in Ladakh at the Snow Leopard Lodge, a rustic nine-room Himalayan hideaway, then heads south to Pench National Park and Jamtara Wilderness Camp.

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