India is truly incredible, but you won’t know until you see it. It’s sprinkled with nail-biting adventures and extraordinary experiences not recommended for the faint-hearted. Find out why the country is emerging as one of the world’s newest adventure destinations as we take you through the top 25 adventures in India and where you can try them. By Sushmita Srivastav & Rashima Nagpal

25 adventures in India

1. Heli-Skiing in Gulmarg

Imagine hovering in a chopper over a forbidding snowscape of white-capped mountains and deep green valleys, where the powder is thick, and the crowd thin. Now think of hurtling into that wilderness from that height, as the chopper’s rotors whir above you. Soon, you find yourself skiing forward,  cutting a long, fresh line through the feathery snow, leaving a flurry of white in your wake. The experience thrills all the way, more so when you do it in Gulmarg—Kashmir’s winter wonderland—where you get to plunge down the mighty Himalaya. Heli-skiing, or backcountry skiing through the virgin slopes after jumping from a helicopter, is high in every skier’s bucket list. And in India, the ski resort of Gulmarg lets you escape the well-trodden pistes, and explore the wilderness in full glory.

PLAN IT here.

2. Hot-Air Ballooning in Araku Valley

The sudden jerk that lifts you in the air makes you clutch the safety rope tighter. Cold air lashes at your face, immediately contrasted by a flash of heat from the overhead cylinder. And then you are flying, soaring higher into the sky, with the world getting smaller underneath. Soon, the forested slopes of Araku Valley in the Eastern Ghats come into view. The rolling landscape of the pristine gorge below brims with coffee  plantations, where they are used to giant fireballs gliding through the sky during the famous Araku Balloon Festival held every winter. Apart from sailing the skies, the three-day event also offers glamping in the open farmlands. Call it a soft adventure, but a hot-air balloon ride is magical.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

3. Rhino Safari at Kaziranga National Park

If your idea of an adventure is bouncing along in a jeep while it snakes its way through wild woods and marshy lakes till you catch a sight of a giant rhino grazing calmly in the vast open grassland, then Kaziranga National Park in Assam is where you should be heading. Famed as a haven for the one-horned rhinoceros, a safari in Kaziranga will teleport you straight into the wild. With over 2,400 rhinos within the park’s 370 square kilometres area, you are highly likely to spot one. This ‘land of giants’ is also home to the wild water buffalo, elephant, swamp deer, wild boar, and over 450 species of birds. If you get very lucky, you might also end up spotting a tiger—there are over 100 big cats prowling about.

PLAN IT here.25 adventures in India

4. Cave Walking in Cherrapunjee

If squeezing through narrow murky trails, scurrying past spiders, bats and beetles, and wading through wild streams makes your heart pump with anticipation, then you are among the few for whom cave walking or spelunking might just be the thing. With more than 1,600 caves in stock, over a thousand of them still largely unexplored, Meghalaya should already be on top of your bucket list for this adventure. Some of the more renowned caves here are Krem Puri in Mawsynram, the world’s longest sandstone cave; Krem Mawmluh in Cherrapunjee, with stalagmites and stalactites formations that have grown over a span of a thousand years; and Krem Chympe, with a river flowing through it. Given that much of Meghalaya’s mysterious subterranean world is still waiting to be discovered, any spelunker worthy of the title should be making a beeline for it.

PLAN IT here.

5.Dune Bashing in Jaisalmer

You will have to buckle up for this one. Dune bashing in the colossal Thar Desert means diving into the sun-burnt golden sands, and literally bashing the dunes in your rugged 4×4. The stomach dropping 90° dips give you quite an adrenaline rush, and as you snake through the endless sea of sand, the desert seems to move and change with every passing moment, leaving you dazed. If luck is on your side, a mirage might manifest before you. Dune bashing is an exhilarating adventure that can morph into a relaxing leisure activity—once done maneuvering the desert landscape, sit back, relax, and watch the golden sun melt into the rosy sky. Sam Sand Dunes near Jaisalmer is considered to be the best desert dune site in India.

PLAN IT here.

6. Skydiving in Mysuru

Skydiving has been around long enough to have staked its place as one of the top adventure activities in India. Free-falling from a plane, toying with gravity, floating in mid air, and finally battling against the wind as you zoom towards earth like a hawk homing in on its prey—this is one thrill-a-second activity. While you can go skydiving in numerous locations in India today, taking the plummet from a plane 10,000 feet above the pristine environs of Mysuru is probably the best bet. Here the land is greener, the air fresher, and the weather soothing and balmy all year long.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

7. Scuba Diving in The Andamans

Seeking adventure in exotic, enigmatic lands? The Andamans tick the right boxes. Havelock Island, a three-hour ferry ride from Port Blair, is where diving enthusiasts from around the world come to get one with the marine life. Beginner or expert, if scuba diving is your goal, Barefoot Scuba is one of the best in the business, with as many as 21 dive sites. South Button, a beautiful little islet that is home to schooling snappers, surgeonfish, barracuda, and trevally at a depth of 25 metres, is perfect for beginners. Advanced divers can go deeper in hubs like Dixon’s Pinnacle, where stingrays and Napoleon wrasse skim the seabed, and if you’re lucky, you might be graced with a visit from white-tip reef sharks.

PLAN IT here.

8. Giant Swing in Rishikesh

Swings are undoubtedly the most sought-after attraction for children in parks. As adults, however, when the excitement quotient needs to be many notches higher, jumping off† a cantilever 83 metres above ground on a giant swing might just cut it. In Rishikesh, you can do exactly that—jump o†ff a rocky cli†ff, with nothing but a harness tethering you to solid ground. After a free fall almost touching the riverbed below, you swing in wide arcs in every direction. Too scared to do it alone? No problem, two can scream together in the harness, splintering the silence of the wilderness, speeding towards ground against the wind and then up again. Trust us when we say, it is the ride of a lifetime.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

9. Paragliding in Bir-Billing

Unlike other aerial adventures, paragliding is more than just the buzz—it’s also about the joy of feeling like you own a pair of wings. Add to that the quiet, endless sky, and the panoramic views of deep valleys and soaring peaks, and you get the very picture of serenity. After jumping off a cliff at Billing at 8,000 feet above sea level, you float in the sky, sharing the space with sweeping eagles. The meadows that roll by underneath are lush and flamboyant. While Bir–Billing hosts a Paragliding World Cup every few years for professionals, thrill-seekers only get the option of tandem rides. But no one’s complaining as this only means no risk, and much more fun. After you land in the vast grounds of the Tibetan colony in Bir, we suggest gorging on some mouth-watering mutton momos, thukpa, and laphing.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

10. Snow Leopard Spotting in Leh

Tiger spotting is passé; a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard, on the other hand, is the new attraction among thrill seekers. Braving icy winds while you scan the white wonderland of Hemis National Park in Leh is a game of perseverance, dare, and a curious eye. But if you manage to score, your reward will be the sight of the famous ‘grey ghost’. The window to spot a snow leopard is the harsh winter months (December to March), but that just adds to the fun. Hemis National Park covers the road-less villages of Rumbak and Yurutse, and the whole of Markha Valley. As you meander through the frozen land, you are also likely to see the twin-humped Bactrian camel, mountain goat, and the great Tibetan sheep. Keep a reserve of patience for this wild expedition, which includes trekking along snowy trails.

PLAN IT here.

11. Kayaking in Brahmaputra

If you’re seeking high adventure in India, kayaking in the River Brahmaputra is a must on your to-do list. Nerve-racking battles against the river’s currents, and little peeks into the tribal settlements that line the banks add up to an unforgettable journey. If nothing else, you get a first-hand insight into the might of this river. One such adventure filled itinerary is the 12-day Siang Expedition, the next one being scheduled in November 2019. The trip begins at Dibrugarh airport, from where you travel through Pasighat, Karko, Ramsing, Ningguing, and finally reach the camp at Purung. This is where—on day five—you get your hands on the oars. Five hours of rowing gets you to your next base at Pango. The adventure continues until you fi nd yourself back to where you started, Pasighat, having passed through several rapids.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

12. Trailing Tigers at Bandhavgarh & Kanha National Park

Driving through the dirt tracks, keeping a close eye on every little move in the bush, and heart throbbing fast in anticipation—nothing can match the thrill of spotting a tiger in the wild. When planning a trip, don’t restrict yourself to one tiger reserve (given that two-thirds of the world’s tiger population live in India), think big, and embark on a 13-day trail spanning the country’s finest tiger reserves—Bandhavgarh and Kanha. While the former has the highest density with 50 tigers in the region, the picturesque Kanha takes a leaf out of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book with its open grasslands and lush forests.

PLAN IT here.

13. Fly boarding in Goa

If you want more than just sun, sand, and tan for your next beach vacation in Goa, how about trying the daunting water adventure of fly boarding? There is a learning curve to it, and you need to practice to get the hang of it. While it needs concentration and time to learn the sport, we can assure that it is definitely worth the e›ffort. Once you get the grips, you can spend all day at the Baina Beach diving, flying, spinning, back-flipping, twisting, somersaulting, and dolphin-swimming, propelled by the powerful jet spray attached to your feet. Flying 30 feet into the air as the water gushes out in a forceful stream, making you rise from the water like Iron Man, is certain to give you that superhero kick.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

14. Glamping at Dudhwa National Park

Want the adventure, but loathe to give up the luxury? A boutique camping experience in the wilderness of Dudhwa National Park might just be up your alley. While the premium accommodation allows you to sit back and relax in complete privacy, curated experiences such as cycling through the farmlands and hamlets on the periphery of the park can add that dash of adrenaline. Situated in Uttar Pradesh along the India–Nepal border, comprising 490 square kilometres of farmlands, this rustic destination is a lovely countryside escape. The wilderness and the indigenous flora and fauna are certain to prod your inner naturalist. Look out for waders, kingfishers, elephants, swamp deer, single-horned rhinos, Indian narrow-headed soft shell turtle, and more. Another highlight is the interaction with the local Terai community.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

15. River Rafting in Pahalgam

While you are in heaven that is Kashmir, don’t forget to cross rafting off your bucket list. The Lidder, a glacial river that originates from the Kolahoi Glacier, and flows through the valleys of Pahalgam, is a gush of whitewater and a sight to behold. At the end of an adventurous 12-kilometre of rowing, the peaceful aura of this destination combined with its scenic beauty makes it a quaint picnic spot to spend some quality time. Other adventure sports possible in this region are angling, horse riding and fishing.

PLAN IT here.

16. Zip Lining at Neemrana

Staying in a fort palace means dining at grand venues every evening, and spending the nights in luxurious rooms. And if the fort in question is Neemrana, then in the day, you could go zip-lining across the picturesque Aravalli Hills too. Neemrana Fort-Palace, acknowledged as India’s first heritage hotel, has become a preferred escape for city-dwellers. Beyond its charming aura and grand decor, you can also get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape, thanks to a state-of-the-art zipline facility at the hotel. Operated by Flying Fox, a provider which has been managing the adventure sport at Neemrana for over 10 years now, this five line zip tour provides a panoramic perspective of the fort that has been standing tall for over five centuries.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

17. Mountain Expedition at Panpatia Glacier

Trekking to Panpatia Glacier in the Himalaya gives one a different kind of high. These mighty mountains are a treasure trove of adventures, especially if you feel an affinity to great heights. Among the many challenging climbs is the one to the revered Panpatia Glacier that stands tall between the pilgrimage towns of Kedarnath and Badrinath in Uttarakhand. Legend has it that the trek route through Panpatia Col remained concealed until recently, despite numerous attempts to navigate it since 1934. It was only in 2007 that one intrepid duo managed to get there. A path hides the approach to the glacier, with drifts of moraines, crevasses, and gigantic ice falls. But once it reveals itself, you won’t be sorry you braved the landscape to see it first hand. For the best experience, we would recommend going with a certified tour operator.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

18. Surfing in Varkala

India may not be the obvious choice when you run your fingers along the coast lines on the world map to pick the popular surf destinations, but it surely has Varkala. This sleepy little town in Kerala switches into a frenetic surf spot pretty quickly. Smooth waves rolling and breaking over sand banks, the Malabar coastline disappearing into sea spray—the idyllic, tropical beaches of Varkala maintain a safe distance from the cold heavy swells that may deter even the most free-spirited surfers. Instead, the warm waves rolling in the fresh waters of the laid-back beach town is preferred by many who come to explore the Indian surf scene. Once done chasing the waves, choose to sit back, take a stroll, meditate, or do yoga on the soft sand. But you would probably save everything else for some other time, as with its waves always warm, crowd always little, and views always breathtaking, Varkala tempts you to surf all day long.

PLAN IT here.

19. Trekking at Bagini Glacier

Imagine meandering through little villages, thick woods, and Himalayan meadows peppered with rare alpine flowers blooming bright yellow and purple, with Mount Nanda Devi soaring high in the background. This is what you can expect on the route that takes you to the Bagini Glacier. This is also the path taken by mountaineering expeditions to high-ranging peaks like Changabang and Kalanka, and it gives you the thrills of being nowhere less than at the Everest Base Camp. The trek starts at Jumma village near the Indo-Tibet border, from where it is an easy three hour hike to Ruing. Then the going gets harder, with a gradual, but steep hike to Chaza along a bare landscape, and a testing one along a landslide zone to the alpine village of Dunagiri. From there, Bagini is still two days away, but once you get there, you are rewarded with spectacular views of many Himalayan peaks.

PLAN IT here.

20. Microlighting in Bengaluru

Ever fancied taking the controls rather than just passively sitting back in an aircraft? If yes, a weekend in Bengaluru is just the ticket. Besides its many other allures, the city also opens its doors to adventurers who seek to pilot their own microlight aircraft. This aero sport comprises flying a lightweight, single- or two-seater aircraft with fixed wings. Needless to say, winding through the clouds with the world shrinking steadily beneath you is sure to get the adrenaline pumping—and rest assured, it is a safe sport. You take offŽ from the runway at Jakkur Aerodrome in the suburbs of Bengaluru for this adventure in the skies, and after your sojourn ends, you land in the countryside of Yehalanka.

PLAN IT here.

21. Forest Walking in Khasi Hills

Imagine hiking along a trail with a dramatic wooded landscape around you and a living, breathing trail underfoot. That’s Meghalaya’s living root bridges for you. On the slopes of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, a species of the Indian rubber tree with an incredibly strong root system thrives. Seeing that they had stood the test of time in this region, one with heavy rainfalls, locals had begun to pull these roots together to form bridges. In Cherrapunjee, the rainiest place on the planet, you find living bridges that are over 500 years old—naturalists say that the roots get stronger with age. Dozens more can be found between Mawsynram and Dawki. There is also the famous Umshiang “double-decker” bridge in Nongriat. To add some extra thrill, explore the living bridges near Pynursla, some going deep into the jungle, and requiring several hours of tough hiking.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

22. Road Tripping in Gangtok

The road trip from Gangtok to the glacial Tsomgo Lake, though only two hours long, is no routine drive. You must navigate rock-strewn terrain, hairpin bends, and steep slopes before you reach the high mountain lake at an elevation of 12,313 feet above sea level. Expect to encounter a biting chill, grazing mules and yaks, and swathes of land brimming with orchids and rhododendrons. Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary also falls en route, so keep your eyes peeled for a rare spotting of the red panda, Himalayan black bear or blood pheasant. International travellers to Tsomgo Lake need to be in a group of two or more, and must have visitors’ permits (obtained through a travel agency). A word of caution—this drive will not make those with vertigo or a weak stomach happy.

PLAN IT here.

23. Rappelling in Mumbai

Those who prefer the proverbial road less travelled, Maharashtra’s countless waterfalls make for great sites to explore. Hiking through the verdant Western Ghats, and discovering gushing cascades is enough of an adventure in itself, but the thrill of rappelling through the fast-flowing water is something else altogether. Madhe Ghat near Pune and the Madap Waterfalls in Khopoli are two sites for this teeth-grinding sport. Both, the 70-kilometre drive to Madhe Ghat from Pune as well as the 65-kilometre route from Mumbai to Madap Waterfalls, are smooth and scenic, passing through peaceful green landscapes. The controlled descent down a cold and fast-streaming waterfall from a height of over 100 feet, though, is anything but peaceful. A word of caution: this activity should be performed under the guidance of reliable tour operators.

PLAN IT here.

24. Mountain Biking in Munnar

Anamudi, at an elevation of 8,800 feet above sea level, is the highest peak of the Western Ghats. These sprawling mountains are among the world’s top-10 biodiversity hot spots. The area around Anamudi in Kerala is lined with tea estates and sandalwood forests, making the region as aromatic as it is picturesque, perfect for a mountain-biking excursion. Starting from Munnar, it is roughly 11 kilometres to Anamudi, with many a curve and hairpin bend to keep the adventurer in you engaged. In the bargain, you cross some stunning pitstops—Madupatty, Kundala, Anamudi Shola National Park, Kanthalloor and Marayoor.

PLAN IT here.

25 adventures in India

25. Bouldering in Hampi

A UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its archaeological ruins, Hampi is attracting adventure travellers from around the world. As breathtaking as its landscapes are, the rocks and boulders scattered around the region make for any climber’s playground. Among the most impressive sights here is the one found across the River Tungabhadra, a short ferry ride away from the Hampi Bazaar. A pair of home-grown climbers with nicknames Tom and Jerry have set shop in the region that can be your go-to place for renting gear, etc. They also offer workshops, courses, and personalised classes for anybody who wishes to learn.

PLAN IT here.

Related: 5 Offbeat Adventure Activities To Try Around The World