Last Updated: June 18, 2019 Nidhi Singh
India is an exhaustive land that houses rich cultures, nurture unbelievable traditions and preserve glorious history. Travelling to such a country is nothing less than a joyride, as there is something or the other waiting on each corner that will blow your mind completely. Adventure, wildlife, heritage, festival, food, art and craft, you name it and India will offer you the best of each. Since, the country is so vast, we had trouble compiling this list of things to do in India for you. BUT as we are your sincere guides, we took up this challenge and bring to you a list that if not completely but partially covers all the aspect of India’s diversity: Check it out below:
Go Moustache Watching in Rajasthan
AND why you think you should do that? Because Moochh or Moustache is the pride of the Indian men. In some of the states moustache is the symbol of high caste, and in some states keeping a moustache is a part of rituals, whereas, in a few other states moustache reflects virility; the bottom line is moustache is the connotation of being Desi and masculine in the country. In Rajasthan, you would find a sizable population of men with a moustache and it is the kind of place where you will be stunned by the obsession among the men with growing a moustache. I am sure, you have heard about Ram Singh, who holds the Guinness Record of cultivating 14 feet long moustache NOW that’s what we are talking about! So, if you are in India and you haven’t yet been wooed by it, Rajasthan is the place you should hit!
Get Mehendi Done
Yes! It is our Indian version of getting a tattoo done, well the temporary ones of course, BUT it is truly worth it. The ancient Hindu scripture mentions Henna or Mehendi as a means to decorate women’s palms and with the experts in your court you shall be able to get any desired design drawn on your hands and feet. I remember Madonna’s elegantly done Mehendi in the famous track ‘Frozen’ and to be honest it was better than any tattoo in the world, Elegant and what the heck less expensive! So ladies, Mehendi is one thing that you must get done if you are in India. There are Mehndi designers sitting in every big and small market and you can recognize them from the signboard next to them with a design of Mehendi on it.
Take Ayurvedic Spa in Kerala
What better place to go for an Ayurvedic spa treatment than the place of its origin. An ancient Hindu medicinal practice, Ayurveda has attained world recognition. Although, Ayurvedic spas are available in almost each state in the country, I would suggest that you land in Kerala for the best experience. If boasting isn’t the sin, Kerala is the orchard of Ayurvedic spas, where different forms and methods bloom in harmony. My personal places for Ayurveda treatments in Kerala will be Palakkad, Kovalam and Trivandrum.
Visit Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Your trip to India is incomplete without visiting the Taj Mahal. This white-marbled symbol of love has wooed many and promises to flatter many more in the years to come. The best time to visit the Taj Mahal will be between the October and March, when the sun is merciful. Also, if you can make it to the Taj Mahal during the Taj Mahotsav it shall be icing on the cake. Taj Mahotsav takes place in the month of February for 10 days, in which one can enjoy cultural events.
Visit Wagah Border, Amritsar, Punjab
We all have seen India and Pakistan clashing on the border and the hysteria that it creates is quite disturbing. BUT here at Wagah Border, a little outside the city of Amritsar, a different scenario can be seen. Every evening, Wagah Border closing ceremony or Beating Retreat takes place, in which parades by the soldiers from both the countries is followed by the perfectly coordinated lowering of flags of the two nations. The enthusiastic crowd from both the ends cheers for their country. The flags are then folded and the ceremony ends with the shaking of hands between the two countries. WHAT a lovely site it is. Nobody gets hurt, nobody dies and everyone goes home cheerfully!
Practice Yoga at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Did you lose your cools when you landed in India? Yes, well here is the perfect place to get it back: Rishikesh!! If you ask me, Rishikesh should be made the national capital of health. Located in the Devbhoomi Uttarakhand, Rishikesh is a healing process. You go out there with a disturbed mind and you come out feeling like Lord Buddha! Seriously, no kidding, this land has some magic, which you can only feel when you visit here. A perfect place to practice yoga, Rishikesh is a must visit destination in India. I mean where else can you enjoy this age old science of self healing than in Rishikesh, where the rolling hills and the emerald River Ganga are your companions.
Play Holi in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
AHA! That’s one thing that no one should miss out on (Unless you have allergy to powdered colours or you are not gutsy enough to take up). A popular festival, Holi is celebrated in the spring season between February and March. People throw colour and water at each other and enjoy sumptuous delicacies. One of the best things to do in India is to play Holi and that too in Vrindavan. Located in the North Indian state,Uttar Pradesh; Vrindavan is famed for being an important pilgrimage in India as it was where the Hindu God Krishna spent his childhood. It is also believed that here is where the tradition of playing Holi began, so you can very well understand the importance of this place. Like many parts of the country, Holi is played with lots of colors here, while adding to it the feel of playing in the land of Krishna and the spiritual ambiance!
Enjoy India’s very own Kushti in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh
You thought WWE was the best arena for wrestling, well you need to rethink when you come to India and go watching the DESI version of wrestling called Kushti. It is an interesting experience to see the burly men wrestle in the mud arenas with crowd cheering and whistling like crazy. One of the best places to witness Kushti in India is in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh.
Rendezvous with Tribal India
While you enjoy the urban and off beat destinations in India, taking a tour to tribal India is something that you cannot miss out; after all, India has its custom and traditions anchored in these culturally-rich tribes. The best places for tribal a tour in India would be Northeast India, where states like Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim and Mizoram will take you on a timeless journey to a land of rich culture and tradition. In Gujarat, the Vadi tribe will help you realize why India is called the ‘Land of Snake Charmers’ as they are the oldest tribe that keeps alive this occupation (there are children that are no more than 5 years old and they have already become trained snake charmers). Another great place to witness the rich tribal culture is Odisha. Observe their strange beliefs, rituals and their immense love for Mother Nature and you will be compelled to applause the richness that India has been nurturing for so long.
Note: These are a few of the tribes that are found in India, and there is still plenty more to explore. You can check out the link for the details:
Night Camel Safari in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
During Rann Utsav which is held between the months of December and March each year in the Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, one can enjoy night time camel safari. On the occasion of Rann of Kutch, special tours are organized that give visitors the opportunity to learn about the rich culture of Gujarat including their folk dance, music, cuisine and handicraft. The highlight of this event is the night camel safari on the white desert that too on a moonlit night. Now isn’t that the perfect Indian holiday!
Boat Ride in the World’s Largest Mangrove Forest Sunderban Delta, West Bengal
Most of us fancy a boat ride in Kerala’s backwater or in Dal Lake in Srinagar but have you thought of sailing through the Sunderban Delta on a boat? Well, if you haven’t then you should BECAUSE it is totally worth it. Imagine yourself faring through the world’s largest mangrove forest on a boat. Each time you turn your head from left to right or vice versa you are bound to see exotic bird species. A boat ride in the Sunderban Delta is one of the best activities that you enjoy during your India tour and it is truly worth it!
Visit Asia’s Cleanest Village Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
Yes, a place like this exists in India, whether you believe it or not LOL. Tucked in the Northeastern state of Meghalaya, Mawlynnong is a small village that is known for being the cleanest place in India. The village is 90kms from Shillong in the East Khasi Hill; it is believed that the natives and the government took initiative to keep this little village clean. The initiative resulted in it being awarded Mawylnnong as Asia’s cleanest village in 2013. Here is the deal, you go to Meghalaya, get to view nature’s beauty, then you visit Mawlynnong and witness the super clean village and then you trek to the neighboring village called Rawai to see the largest living root bridge in India. So, what do you say??
Explore the world’s only Floating National Park, Manipur
India is certainly the land of odds and the Floating National Park in Manipur is its finest example. Now, doesn’t floating national park sounds really exciting and who doesn’t want to visit a place like it? Well, let me throw some light on the mechanism of this fascinating place. Loktak Lake, situated near Moirang in Manipur is the largest sweet water lake in Northeast India. This lake is known for its Phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition) that makes the lake appear as if it is floating. Keibul Lam Jao National Park is the largest the Phumdis of Loktak Lake and is situated on its southeastern shore. . So, it appears that the national park is floating but it is actually not BUT what I know is that this place is a must to see! This national park is famed for being home to the rare and endangered species of Sangai or Manipur brow-antlered deer
Spot Royal Bengal Tiger in Ranthambore, Rajasthan
If you are in India and you haven’t planned to see the big and beautiful Bengal Tiger, then you are on the verge of making the biggest travel mistake. Established in almost all parts of the country, wildlife reserves are now the current address of these big wild cats. For the best tiger spotting chances you can visit Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan and Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Then there are Tadoba National Park in Maharashtra and Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh which are also known for their fairly large population of tigers. Trust me sighting this gorgeous beast in its natural habitat is far better than watching it on Animal Planet or behind the bars in the zoo. So, put yourself on a higher gear and drive on the adventure road.
Witness Indians Paying Homage to Rats at Karni Mata Mandir, Rajasthan
You will see versatility in India when it comes to faith and rituals. One such example is present in Rajasthan and it is called Karni Mata Temple, where a large population of rats that inhabits the mandir is worshipped by Hindu devotees. This unique temple is situated in Deshnoke near Bikaner and is dedicated to Goddess Durga. According to a ritual if you happen to step on one of these rats and kill them, you have to donate a rat made of gold here. Also, sighting a white rat amongst the scores of rats is considered good fortune. Well, what do you know? India can surprise you big time!
Eat Bizarre Food in Nagaland
I am sure Andrew Zimmern would have loved to visit Nagaland for all its bizarre food. If you are also someone whose taste buds longs to savour the unusual, then Nagaland is also the land for you. Along with the usual chicken, mutton, pork and beef, Nagas take delight in trying some out of the box meats like that of snake, frog, bee larvae and even dogs and cats. The Nagas can eat whatever is available and BOY they savour it all the way. So, even if you are not comfortable with the idea of eating like the Nagas, you should surely visit Nagaland to see the other side of the coin and believe me you are going to LOVE IT!
Watch Snake Boat Race in Kerala
If you are in Kerala somewhere around the second week of August, you are about to offer yourself some of the best sights in India: the Snake Boat Race. Each year in the month of August, a snake boat race is held in Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha. The 100 to 120 foot long boats have earned the name Snake boats and each boat has about 90 to 110 rowers who paddle in a manner to win the competition. What an awesome sight it is! The competition is usually between different villages of Kerala, so one can witness lot of enthusiasm.
Stay in Houseboats in Kerala and Srinagar
There could be nothing more romantic that staying on one of the houseboats either in Kerala or Srinagar, therefore it is one the ideal things to do in India. Srinagar is the only place, where houseboats are recognized as mini-hotels, and staying in one of these floating hotels is altogether a different experience. Houseboats in Kerala can be found sailing on the backwaters and make for some of the most interesting ways of enjoying the natural beauty.
Stand on the Southernmost Tip of India in Kanyakumari
This is one thing that I believe every traveller should have on their bucket list. Imagine yourself standing on the tip of the world’s largest peninsula that overlooks the azure Indian Ocean, fascinating isn’t! Well, you can easily make your dream come true as Kanyakumari is easily accessible and many tours are organized to take tourist to Cape Comorin (the southern tip of India).
Try Bamboo Rafting in Periyar, Kerala
You must have gone on multiple rafting expeditions in India and abroad but trust me bamboo rafting will take you to another level of adventure. The best place to try this unique sport is Periyar National Park in Kerala. These interesting bamboo boats can carry 6 to 8 people and offer one perfect opportunity to explore the wildlife reserve. You are simply going to love this unusual way of rafting, that’s a guarantee!
Witness the Bizarre Thaipusam Festival, Tamil Nadu
If you are in India, festivals shouldn’t be new to you, however, there are a couple of celebrations that can put you in a state of awe and Thaipusam Festival of Tamil Nadu is one of them. Held each year in the month January or February in Tamil Nadu, Thaipusam is one bizarre festival in India. Devotees inflict pain upon themselves by piercing their body parts and then they perform Kavadi Attam dance. It is one of those events in India that you will never forget in your life.
Take a Rail Journey
Let me say it articulately; if you haven’t travelled by train in India, you haven’t travelled at all! In India trains can be dirty, can be late, these can be filled with travellers without ticket and food in some of trains can be pathetic but like the saying goes every coin has two sides, the Indian railway also has a good side. There are some high end trains like Palace on Wheels, Maharaja Express and Deccan Odyssey, some attractive trains like toy trains, however, the Indian railway doesn’t remain confined to trains and appearance, and it is also the journeys through some commendable routes that make Indian railway unforgettable. Train routes like Vasco Da Gama to Londa, Ratnagiri to Mangalore and Jammu to Udhampur are worth taking up in India.
Ok, so you have played soccer, rugby, volleyball, bowls but how about Kabaddi? This ancient Indian game is worth trying and if you consider yourself sporty, you should definitely try your hands or your body (whatever!) at Kabaddi. The best place to take up this sport is Punjab. There are many arenas in this state where Kabaddi is played with great zeal. I would also encourage you to at least go and watch one of the Kabaddi events if playing it is not matching your idea of adventure in India.
Witness some Classical Dance Forms
India is replete with a sizable number of dance forms that come from different states and districts. Watching a classical dance form certainly adds to your knowledge of a particular state. So, if you are someone who is in India to learn more about its rich culture, witnessing a classical dance performance should be on your bucket list. The most popular classical dance forms in India are Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak and Odissi.
Shop till You Drop in India
For some India is a cheap shopping destination, some think that it is unreasonably overrated, while some visit the Indian market with only a thought in their mind to buy souvenirs only BUT what do we all know is India is a land full of colorful bazaars, which have to be explored! Now, listen to me carefully, BARGAINING is the key in India, so if you master this art, you are going to take treasure to your home. No Kidding! So do not be afraid of hitting the colorful markets of Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Nainital, Pune, Chennai and Bangalore and USE YOUR bargaining skills. Also, do not forget that the rural and tribal India also has lot of interesting things to offer to you like paintings, handloom and decoration articles. Hit the Indian markets with confidence my fellow travellers and know that the treasure is all yours! Happy Shopping in India!!
Published: 30 Dec, 2014
From the Lake District, Nainital, Nidhi Singh is a travel writer whose love for mountains can be seen in her write ups. Talk about solo travelling, indulging in adventure activities, binging on good food, planning budget trips or the Aurora Borealis and you will get all her attention. It is the wanderlust that keeps her going and if at all she could get one wish granted she would love to live a life less ordinary. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.