India Hikes - Trekking In India
India's Top Five Treks
2 October 2018 by Kiera Greenwood
A heady mix of unabashed colour, ancient cultures and iconic architecture: this is India.
Home to the world’s second largest population, things tend to get loud here. But leave the sights, smells and sounds of the hectic cities behind you and there is a whole lot of lesser-trodden land just waiting to be explored. And the best way to do it? On foot.
From the dramatic crags of the Himalayas’ snow-capped peaks to the lush winds of tea-plantation-clad hilltops, it soon becomes apparent that this is a country of contrasts. Noisy may be an understatement in amongst its inner-city chaos, but out in its wilds you’d be hard pushed to find a silence more deafening. It’s no wonder that this is the home of meditation.
Jungle spray to hand and hiking boots laced, it’s time to go trekking.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of our five favourite trekking spots in the depths of India’s vast folds…
1. Shimla, The Himalayan Foothills
Does trekking for you mean sweeping forests met by snow-dusted mountains? Then Shimla will be just your bag. Using the popular hill station as a base, Shimla’s mountainous surrounds prove to be a trekker’s paradise.
Views, views and more views – Shimla’s trails will provide you with plenty. Head to Chadwick Falls for fairytale forest scenes that can be done in a day, or venture further afield into the wilds of the lower Himalaya’s oscillating valleys to quench your thirst for adventure. If you have the time, a relaxed pace holiday will give you three nights in Shimla meaning more days to get your teeth into its lengthier trekking routes.
To satisfy both a love for hiking and an appetite for culture, make the city’s highest point – Jakhoo Hill – your go to. The steep 2.5 km footpath is home to many a criminally-minded monkey, so the ascent to the summit won’t be the only obstacle that you face on route to the ancient temple at the top. Yes, monkey pickpockets really are a thing.
In winter, Shimla can get snowy so make sure to pack wisely if you’re planning on trekking here.
2. Munnar, Kerala
Back home it’s only ever seen bagged-up and boiling water ready, but tea in India is a whole different story.
After the kaleidoscope of colour that you will have been bombarded with since arriving in this vibrant country, Munnar’s sea of gently undulating green is somewhat of a palate cleanser. It’s here that you’ll get back to the basics of the cuppa that gets you out of bed every morning. And what better way to do so than to traipse the verdant hillsides that its younger relatives carpet? With no dearth of hill-trails to choose from, trekking here offers something for all levels of expertise – and don’t worry, all will reap the same rewards.
Opt for the 'active’ experience pack when you’re building your India itinerary and the Lockhart Tea Plantation will welcome you to enjoy their winding trails at your leisure. Watch the age-old practice of tea-picking at work as you climb the rippling slopes of Munnar’s rolling topography, pausing for pictures as you go. As you breathe in the fresh mountain air, the pollution of Delhi will be long forgotten.
The best thing about trekking in Munnar? A warm cup of chai once you’ve finished is mandatory.
3. Thekkady, Kerala
Tigers hide within the dense vegetation, strange bird calls echo through the air and evergreen giants loom overhead – welcome to the jungle.
Thekkady’s Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, with its elephant dotted plains and overgrown forests, offers some of India’s best jungle-esque trekking opportunities. Shorter treks work well for the less experienced whilst full-day expeditions offer a challenge for seasoned hikers.
And, for when day trekking gets a bit “been there, done that”, heading out into the inky cloak of the night is sure to change up the experience – with little to no light pollution in this area, we’re not talking London dark. Here, in the thicket of Thekkady’s forest, you’d be lucky if the gleam of the star specked sky was to reach you. Headlamps suitably adjusted and senses quickly sharpened, this is one for those wanting to get their fill of India’s ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences.
Please note: unless partaking in an organised tour, you will have to get permission from the appropriate authorities to trek in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
4. Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Always fancied being best friends with a bear called Baloo? Are you a “man-cub” at heart? Then there’s no better place to get in touch with India’s wilds than Kanha National Park, the very jungle that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s universally loved The Jungle Book.
After tiger safari-ing in the Park itself, enjoy the freedom of trekking Kanha’s beautiful ‘buffer zones’. Follow the path of the river Banjaar – the water that forms the natural boundary of the park – or get lost in the depths of the lowland forests. Out here, the smaller wildlife that usually live in the shadow of the ever-sought-after tiger truly come into their own and travelling on foot gives you the chance to appreciate the flora and fauna native to the area.
Come late afternoon, head to Bamhni Dadar – or “sunset point” as it has been aptly named – in the highlands to watch the park’s animals grazing in the rolling grasslands, back-dropped by the burning sun disappearing into the horizon. It’s a scene so mesmerising that you’ll almost forget to get your camera out.
5. Raneh Falls, Khajuraho
Unspoilt is an understatement when it comes to Raneh Falls. The “Grand Canyon of India” as some have dubbed it, has bypassed the tourism of nearby Khajuraho for... well, ever. But just a 20 minute drive away from the popular temple town, this is a trekking spot not to be missed – especially if you’re planning on spending two nights in Khajuraho.
Craggy and dramatic, the views here will be certain – if the hike hasn’t done it already – to take your breath away. During monsoon season the falls themselves are in full swing which makes for quite a sight to behold, but even in dry season the canyon’s colourful rocks themselves are a sight that’s worth the hike. With holiday-makers rarely making it here, this is a trek for those wanting to avoid the tourist traps – serenity is guaranteed.
And it doesn’t stop there. For those of you that like to be on the move we have a whole range of experiences that will have you on your feet. Play around with our itinerary builder now and take a look at our ‘active’ experience package to see where else your two feet could be taking you on your India travels.