There are many reasons people visit India. Some do so looking for spiritual enlightenment, others to experience the rich cultural diversity the country has to offer. For hiking enthusiasts, India – which covers an impressive 1.2million square miles – is also home to some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. But when visiting such a country, how do you go about picking the hiking trail that’s right for you?
We’ve chosen five of the best walks across the whole of India, suitable for beginners, seasoned hikers, and everyone in between!
Tiger Hill, Darjeeling
To be honest, we could have put together a whole list of hikes for Darjeeling alone. This is one of the country’s most beautiful and scenic regions, with a truly breath-taking diversity of landscape, flora and fauna for you to enjoy. It borders on the Indian Himalayas, but don’t let that put you off – you won’t need any expert climbing experience to tackle Tiger Hill. Clear days offer jaw-dropping views of Mount Everest, to the North West, but it’s worth noting that during the busiest season – between March and June – Tiger Hill gets around 1,000 visitors before dawn, drawn there by the spectacular sunrise.
Seven Sisters, Himachal Pradesh
Another great trek takes you across the peaks of Manali’s so-called Seven Sisters, in the northern region of Himachal Pradesh. A hiking trip through this visually stunning landscape takes a little over a week, starting from Delhi or Chandigarh, but most tour operators will pepper your trip with rest days, allowing you the chance to put your feet up or pause to enjoy your surroundings! Though the hike doesn’t involve any specialist climbing, it is recommended that those attempting the Seven Sisters trek have some experience in ascending and descending in snowy conditions.
Doon Valley, Garwhal
Located in the southern Himalayas, the Doon Valley offers the less seasoned hiker a gentler, more easy-going experience, with plenty of opportunities for short, one day round trips. In the summer months this is a spectacularly verdant part of the country, rich in flora, and was popular in British colonial days with those desperate to escape the tropical heat of the southern cities. Plenty of tour operators here offer a wide range of outdoor pursuits, including river rafting trips along the Ganges.
While it’s true that some of India’s most impressive scenery is to be found in the north, near the Himalayas, there are many other beautiful regions, particularly in the south. Munnar, in eastern Kerala, is a small settlement 65 miles from Cochin International Airport and around 90 miles from the nearest train stations in Ernakulam or Aluva. Sitting at an altitude of between 4,700 and 8,800 feet above sea level, it enjoys a cooler, more temperate climate than Kerala’s coastal region, and is home to vast tea plantations and a number of wildlife reserves. Here, you can spot the rare giant grizzled squirrel , gaurs (a type of bison) and even elephants!
Baga Beach, Goa
If all these hikes sound too strenuous, and you’re in search of something a little more relaxing, we can think of few better walks than this stunning, mini-trek along Goa’s coastline, from Baga Beach in the south to Chapora Fort in the north. It won’t take up too much of your time – it covers a total distance of around 6 miles – but if you walk it in the evening you’ll be accompanied by a breath-taking sunset over the Indian Ocean.
David Llewellyn writes about travel and tourism for Life is Good.