There is no dearth of wild and unspoilt outdoor playgrounds in India. Here are some of our lesser-feted picks to amplify your travel plans.
Kayaking in Thamarassery
Located 30 km inland from the coastal Kerala town of Kozhikode, Thamarassery is a sleepy village that stirs up every cloudy July for an unexpected event that gets an international footprint of adventure travellers and kayakers, uncommon to the rest of Kerala. These junkies come to town for the popular Malabar International Kayaking Championship—an annual kayaking competition that crowns the most successful manoeuvring on the Iruvanjhipuza River in different categories. Only, the river is no sedate unhurried vessel, but a restless sheet of water scrambling over a rocky bed. What more could a kayaker want? Amateurs can always watch and marvel.
If you like the homeliness of small towns and don’t mind a brush with the royals, Bundi is a soulful city that sits on the edge of a lake. Foregrounded by a craggy hilltop fort, it’s made for the offbeat traveller likely to unearth new things in the most popular tourist spots. The fort and open terraced gallery, Chitrashala, apart, the town is known for a number of stepwells. Some are relatively well preserved for a tourist footprint, but the real thrill lies in walking in the inner streets of the town looking for abandoned ones. Stay in an old restored haveli, roam the main street, and check out the layers of history in the form of intricate stone fretwork screens on walls of homes.
Walking in Banlekhi, Kumaon
The Kumaon hills have started to feel and show fatigue, save for some faraway villages like Banlekhi, which offer a back of beyond experience and a chance to connect with a simpler life. The highlight of the village is the namesake pad that has a 180-degree plus view of the valley in front of the six cottages of the property. Local food, bonfire and first row seats to the mountain-cloud chase makes for a great holiday. Walk through the Mahesh Khan sanctuary that touches the back of the property, and go on a mild trek over the day. It’s no classic trek that many have traipsed around but you might be one of the few that have shared the trail with local villagers who come to collect wood.
Whitewater rafting at Jayalgarh
Give the usual trope of amateur rafting in Rishikesh a miss, and drive 96 km further to a small village called Jayalgarh. At the Himalayan Eco Lodges’ Camp Hi-5, a riverside base, is the perfect springboard to go rafting, kayaking, cliff jumping, bridge slithering and a number of other thrilling water activities. The luxury camp is based on the banks of the River Alaknanda, that later joins the Bhagirathi to make the Ganga. Jayalgarh is the ideal mix of adventure and relaxed riverside beach camping. While some are drawn to the unruly waters and adrenalin rush, some like the meditative ambience of the sand, lower Himalayan mountains and the sound of the river.
Trekking AT Naggar
Compared to the frenetic vibe of neighbouring Manali, Naggar is a haven for those who like a more paced out holiday. Home to the artist Roerich and the intricately carved Naggar Castle, the town is a base for some discretionary bikers heading for the overland journey to Leh. Naggar is also a base for the Chandrakhani-Malana trek that takes two days. Adventure seekers can start from the high reaches of Naggar and end the first day by camping on the Chandrakhani Pass. Next morning, a downhill trek to Malana lands you in the Aryan village known for rampant marijuana production and strains of Bob Marley’s most popular songs filling the air.
Rock Climbing at badami
A vast scape of arid brown boulders bleached in the harsh sun might seem dull to some, but for those who want to learn the ropes of rock climbing, this is paradise. Badami in Karnataka has long been on the radar of seasoned rock climbers, and it’s catching up on the list for new explorers. The nearby towns of Pattadakal and Aihole make a historic loop with Badami as they are home to ancient temples dating back to 7th century and magnificent caves. These detours are worth your while if you have days and energy to spare.
But the main highlight remains, reaching the craggy topography of Badami, where specific spots make for veritable base camps to start climbing. Be prepared for some bruises and brushes with some challenging rockscape.
Surfing in Varkala
A palm fringed beach, dramatic rock escarpments dotted with bohemian cafes and waters just perfect for surfing—that’s Varkala for you. Ideal for a weeklong break to get a grip on the surfing part, visit Kerala in the cooler months when the harsh hand of heat and humidity is slightly more lenient. You can choose to stay in a handful of plush hotels, home run pads or backpacking clutches. Spend the day with the waves or idling on the beach, and reserve the evenings for cafes teetering on the edge of a cliff that runs along the beach.