The Great Indian Outdoors || Thinking about travel improves mental health

The past few months of staying indoors under lock-down have got to have gotten to even the most dedicated of homebodies. By now, most of us are itching to get outside and explore beyond our four walls to visit the great Indian outdoors.

We must adapt our lives and lifestyles to the new normal. While governments across the world figure out best practices and ease up on restrictions, we can find hope in the fact that there’s plenty to explore still, away from urban hubs and crowds, and more in the shooting lap of nature in India.

Across the length and breadth of our country, there are many places to get out amid nature and reconnect with the planet and the other species that inhabit it.

Traveling locally has many advantages. Not only does it minimize risks by eliminating international air travel but also makes your holiday much more carbon-conscious.

Not to mention the benefits to the local economies. Out in the great outdoors, there’s plenty of space for everyone, with safe distance in place.

Take a look at the list of destinations of the great Indian outdoors that will transport far from the madding crowd and into adventures with a natural bent.

Yumthang Valley, Sikkim

Sikkim, the tiny mountain state tucked away in the Himalayas, is still one of those places where commercialization hasn’t managed to find a firm foothold.

  • Especially if you venture towards the more remote areas of the state, you could go weeks without having to jostle for space with other visitors.
  • Closed through the winter months from December to March, the most colorful season to visit Yumthang Valley, also known as the Valley of Flowers, is from March to June, when the entire valley floor is covered in blooms.
  • If you want to get an insight into the local culture, traditions, and people though, it’s a better idea to go there in February, during the Losar Festival.
  • Locals celebrate the Tibetan New Year in traditional attire, and festivities continue for a week or two.
  • If you’re just looking to relax, there’s also a hot spring in the valley to soak up some therapeutic minerals.
  • The best part is there aren’t any places to stay in Yumthang Valley, the closest town being Lachung, where you will find accommodation.
  • This is definitely one of the more relaxed trips you will have in the lap of nature.

Udaipur, Rajasthan


It might be famous for its lakes, palaces, and herds of tourists, but Udaipur takes on a very different face if you choose to explore beyond the well-oiled and conventional tourism machinery.

  • Ditch the tour van and hire a bicycle instead. Leave behind the photogenic monuments and head out into the countryside.
  • Lovely hills, picturesque lakes, panoramic landscapes, and friendly locals will make it a memorable experience.
  • While a trip by yourself is fairly doable given how welcoming the people in these parts are, taking a local guide along will only make your experience all the more authentic and give you unparalleled insight into regional customs, traditions, culture, and lives.

Indrahar Pass, Himachal Pradesh


The Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas presents as breathtaking views as it does provide engaging trekking trails to the many visitors to these parts.

  • Indrahar Pass, which forms the border between the Kangra and Chamba districts of the state, is a rather sought-after trek destination, especially if you want to get away from people and into the lap of nature.
  • The trek starts from Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, where there’s plenty to do in town. From an elevation of roughly 2,900m, you can undertake a moderately difficult trek up to nearly 4,500m.
  • The trek begins from right above the village of Dharamkot, close to Dharamsala, and, on the way, you will have amazing views of the Kangra Valley, pass little Himalayan settlements and wander past lush meadows dotted with boulders and coniferous trees.
  • To the north, the glorious Pir Panjal range is visible on clear days. There will also be a chance to spot local wildlife such as the ibex.
  • Unless you’re looking for a serious challenge and have a lot of time at hand, avoid the trek during the monsoon months as rains in the mountains can delay schedules and even close some routes.

Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu


From towering mountains to rolling hills. Kodaikanal is located in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu.

  • While it isn’t exactly removed from civilization owing to its status as a summer getaway for over the last two centuries, the proliferation of visitors has resulted in many stay options.
  • And, if you manage to avoid peak holiday season, you’ll be rewarded with more affordable rates for everything.
  • The reason Kodaikanal finds a place on this list is for the great walking and hiking trails all around town.
  • Surrounded by dense forests and with a lake at its center, it is ideal to wander about in, through groves of fruit-bearing trees, stretches of flowering shrubs or over thick carpets of green grass stretching across hilly slopes.
  • Sure, you can try the usual touristy patterns and visit the popular spots such as waterfalls and viewpoints, but we’d suggest you take off on your own.
  • One activity that is quite popular and a must-try is cycling around Kodai Lake experoencing the great Indian outdoors.
  • There’s also plenty to shop for, such as spices, homemade chocolates, locally-produced cheeses, and herbal oils, among many other things.
  • While not strictly an off-the-beaten-path destination, Kodaikanal has plenty of outdoorsy options and open spaces.

Dandeli, Karnataka


Yet another destination nestled in the Western Ghats, Dandeli in Karnataka is relatively less known among travelers.

It’s particularly famous for the wide variety of birds that live and visit here, especially four species of hornbill.

  • Bird-watching tours are popular, and guides are fairly easy to find; in some cases, the hotel you’re staying at will have staff in-house to help.
  • There’s also the Kali Tiger Reserve here, and morning and evening safaris can be booked in advance.
  • Aside from Bengal tigers, panthers are said to have been spotted here, though, you should know that a sighting is rare.
  • For fans of adrenaline, the Kali River, which cuts through town, is riven with rapids, and white-water rafting is a popular activity here, though avoid the monsoon season if you want to get on the water.
  • Many of the hotels in the area, especially those located on the banks of the river, provide the option of rides in a coracle, a South Asian, circular boat.
  • Keep an eye out for the crocodiles that inhabit the waters in these parts but are known to avoid humans rather proactively, remember they are already enjoying the great Indian outdoors.
  • Dandeli offers a great blend of several outdoor options – from rafting and coracle riding to safaris in the forest and bird watching in timber yards.

Mumbai, Maharashtra


Not the most obvious name on a list of outdoorsy places, Mumbai is a great destination if you enjoy sailing.

  • The Gateway of India, which is a popular draw for visitors to the city, is among the usual starting points for sailing activities here.
  • Step away from the busy streets of South Mumbai and onto a boat.
  • If you have the skills required to navigate said vessel by yourself on the high seas, you could simply hire one, or, if you prefer a more passive role in the sailing business, book a spot with one of the many operators here.
  • There are plenty of great sights right as you take off from the jetty, with the Taj Mahal Palace and the Gateway making for great backdrops.
  • If you venture a little distance away from shore on a quiet day, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin or two.

Kheer Ganga, Himachal Pradesh

Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh is among one of the most popular places for visitors to the state.

  • While there’s an abundance of tourists in Kasol, the town that serves as the base for most looking to explore the region, once you start moving further upwards, the crowds thin out.
  • Once you’re past Manikaran, which is a big draw for the faithful, it gets a lot quieter.
  • Kheer Ganga is a little village near the summit of a mountain and the hike up to it takes a few hours from the closest motorable road.
  • The trail is beautiful, with views of little villages, shy locals herding cattle and sheep, and over the Parvati River.
  • There’s a spring at the top, with a few makeshift restaurants and amazing views of the surrounding mountainscapes which top in the great Indian outdoors.
  • It’s not a very difficult trek, however, you’d do well to pack light and engage a local guide. There are some options to stay overnight, but be prepared to rough it out.

Kozhikode, Kerala


From the snake boat races to the recently-introduced kayak festival, fans of watersports will have heard of the different water-related activities in God’s Own Country.

  • And, while we’ll leave snake boat racing to the professionals, kayaking is a leisure activity that is picking up in India.
  • The Chaliyar River, which is the longest in Kerala, is ideal for beginners.
  • It’s also perfect for budding enthusiasts with a love for spending hours on the water, watching life as it goes by on the banks of the river.
  • Time your trip for the cooler months of the year, as the sun can get harsh in the Kerala summers for the great Indian outdoors.
  • Kayaking down the river, especially on multi-day itineraries, provides a unique perspective, along with a wholly authentic immersion into the lives of local communities.
  • It’s an experience that few come away unchanged from and most cherish for years.

Kovalam, Kerala


Surfing is not a new phenomenon in India any longer, with quite a few places on our long coastline now not just hosting surfers and starting up surfing schools but even holding surfing competitions.

  • Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, was among the first places in India to catch on to the trend, owing to the beach’s popularity with international visitors.
  • The surfing schools here have today evolved to not just benefit visitors interested in surfing but also improve the lives of the local community.
  • The entire stretch of Kovalam Beach is split into three or four (depending on who you ask) beaches and most of the upscale resorts are on Samudra Beach.
  • Sign up with one of the surfing schools for crash courses or stay on for longer ones.
  • There are also diving schools here, for those who want to move on from riding the waves to plunging into the depths beneath them.
  • When worn out by all the exertion, simply curl up with a cool drink at any of the beach-front properties. You can literally spend days the great Indian outdoors in Kovalam.

Hampi, Karnataka


While this popular getaway is usually known for its ancient architecture and rich historic and heritage value, those looking for an active vacation can consider Hampi too in the great Indian outdoors.

  • There are numerous boulders and rock formations here that are ideal for climbers.
  • The skill level is not too much of a concern in Hampi as there are different climbing areas for all kinds of climbers.
  • There is one thing to bear in mind though: the rocks and boulders here are made of granite, and this can be harsh on fingers, hands, and the other body parts you might end up using to climb.
  • On the plus side, granite is strong and holds up well under pressure, making it suitable and safe for repeated climbs on the same stretches of rock.
  • Tie some history-seeking in with your outdoor adventures, and Hampi will make for a truly engaging getaway.

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