India is the ideal destination for a trekking holiday, offering everything from short and easy excursions to the long challenges of the snowy peaks. The highest mountain range on earth – the Himalayas – forms 3500km (2200 miles) of India’s northern and eastern frontiers.
The spectacle of the snow-capped peaks, glaciers, pine-forested slopes, rivers and lush meadows of wild flowers cannot be equaled. Peninsular India offers natural beauty of another kind, clothed in green woodland and fragrant orchards. (For further details on the main trekking areas, see Trekking in the Where to Go section.) No system of issuing trekking permits exists in India. Trekkers are, however, reminded that it is forbidden to enter Restricted and Protected Areas without the correct documentation.
Consult Incredible India before departure or local tourist offices on arrival in India to ascertain what restrictions may apply and what documentation may be required. The trekking season varies from region to region; check with Incredible India for further information (see General Info section). In general, it runs from April to June and September to November. It is possible to undertake treks in the valleys of Lahaul, Pangi and Zanskar and in Ladakh during the rainy season (June to August), as these areas receive minimal precipitation.
Board and lodging accommodation is available on all trekking routes. Essential equipment includes a tent, sleeping bag, foam/inflatable mattress, rucksack, umbrella (doubles as a walking stick), sun-hat, dark glasses, toilet requirements.
The best clothing is a windproof jacket, trousers, shirts, woolen pullover, woolen underwear (for high altitudes), and gloves. Be sure to take a light, flexible and comfortable pair of trekking boots (two pairs should be taken for longer treks) and at least three pairs of woolen socks. Use talc to keep feet dry. A first aid kit is recommended, as are anti-sunburn cream, morphia salt tablets to avoid cramps, a torch, thermos/water bottle, insect repellent, mirror, cold cream, lip-salve, walking stick, spare boot laces, sewing kit, tinned and dehydrated food.
India has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the most popular ones being in the southern states of Goa and Kerala. But though the beaches are stunning, the waters, particularly in the south, can be quite treacherous, with big waves and strong currents creating hazardous conditions for inexperienced swimmers.
To make up for the rough seas, most large hotels now have swimming pools, and there are facilities for a wide range of watersports including sailing, rowing and water-skiing. (For further details on beach resorts, see Beach Resorts in the Where to Go section.) The Andaman Islands and Lakshadweep Islands off the southern coast are noted for their white-sand, deserted beaches and excellent swimming and scuba-diving (but visitors should note that they may require a special permit to visit; see Passport/Visa section).
Whitewater rafting is a young sport in India; the snow-fed mountain rivers of the northern Himalayas place them among the best regions in the world for this sport. Fishing is also available, particularly in the Kangra Valley and Shimla, in Darjeeling and Orissa and throughout the Himalayas. Tackle can often be hired from local fishing authorities. Check with the local tourist office for details of seasons and licenses.
Camel safaris can be taken in the Thar desert and range from one to 15 days’ duration; an ideal way to visit this fascinating region. Delhi is the country’s center for rock climbing, also available in the Aravalli Hills and the Western Ghats. Hang gliding, ballooning and gliding are also becoming more widely available for those who wish to obtain a bird’s-eye view of some of the landscape. Skiing is fast becoming a popular sport, and facilities are offered by some resorts in the north of the country (including Gulmarg and Kufri), set in some of the most beautiful mountain landscape in the world. Horse riding is available in hill stations.
One of the great Indian sports is cricket. Interest in the game reaches almost fever pitch, particularly during the winter test season when the country’s national team is in action in all the major cities. Club matches can also be seen in almost every town. Other popular spectator sports include polo and hockey, sports at which the Indians have long excelled, winning many Olympic gold medals in the latter. Interest in football is increasing.
Enthusiasts will find many courses open to visitors throughout India; enquire at major hotels for details of temporary membership. Calcutta Amateur Golf Championships attract large numbers of serious golfers in the east; the standards are high, and for those interested, temporary membership is available from the Royal Kolkata (Calcutta) Golf Club. Gulmarg and Srinagar have good courses and hold tournaments in the spring and autumn, with Gulmarg enjoying the reputation of being the highest golf course in the world. The course at Shillong is widely regarded as being one of the most beautiful in the world.