Blogs » OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES AND SPECIALIST HOLIDAYS

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES & SPECIALIST HOLIDAYS
India offers a wide range of sporting and outdoor activities. The larger cities have facilities for golf, tennis, swimming and riding. Winter (Oct-Feb) is the main season for sports, such as polo and cricket. For the more adventurous, there are treks in the Himalayas, tiger tracking in India’s many wildlife parks, and a choice of rivers for white-water rafting. Camel or horse safaris offer a memorable way to explore the Rajasthan desert. For the more spiritually inclined, there are yoga and meditation centres, and opportunities to spend time with renowned gurus at their ashrams. An increasing number of visitors are attracted by India’s Ayurveda health spas, and other holistic healing centres, which emphasize nature-based treatments.
 
Spectator Sports
 
Indians are cricket-crazy and grab at any chance to watch or play the game. Through the year, world-class teams tour the country and test matches and one-day internationals are held in cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kanpur and many other so-called Tier-2 cities. The Indian Premier League (IPL), a Twenty20 cricket competition, has made the sport even more popular. Announcements of match schedules and ticket details appear in the national and local newspapers. Football does not have the high profile that cricket enjoys, but in certain places, such as Kolkata, Goa and Kerala, it is as popular. The game creates great hysteria in Kolkata, and professional clubs such as Mohun Bagan and its rival team East Bengal have mass followings. Check the local press for matches in the city. The Indian Super League (ISL), played in the second half of the year, is gaining popularity. It has football teams owned by millionaires and business houses, with a mix of Indian and famous former international players. IPL-style leagues have started for badminton and kabaddi. Hockey, although a national passion, is not yet big enough to attract international events.
 
Swimming and Tennis
 
All five-star hotels have excellent swimming pools with attached fitness centres. Non- residents can use hotel pools for a fee. In North India, outdoor pools close in winter. Beach resorts have pools as well as access to beaches. Before swimming in the sea, check with the lifeguard that it is safe. Swimming and sun-bathing in the nude are strictly prohibited. Major cities have government- and privately-run clubs that offer tennis, squash and swimming facilities. Non-members are allowed in for a fee. Hotels offer grass- or hard-court tennis facilities and can also arrange games at certain local clubs, especially in the larger cities. India joined the Davis Cup fraternity in 1921 and has hosted the event numerous times. The RK Khanna Tennis Stadium also organizes tournaments. Among India’s pride are Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza. All three are multiple Grand Slam winners in either the singles or mixed-doubles categories. Mahesh is the founder of the International Premier Tennis League, an IPL-style tennis tournament played in multiple countries, with the Indian leg held in December. Matches involve tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who play in Delhi.
 
Golf
 
A vast network of clubs with well-maintained courses has made India a popular destination for golfers. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club was set up as early as 1829 and was followed by others in Raj-era hill stations, tea estates and cantonments. Exclusive golf resorts such as the ITC Classic Resort near Manesar, The Lalit Golf Resort in Goa, designed by the international golfer Jack Nicklaus, are much frequented especially by top executives, who like to combine a round of golf with negotiating business deals. The Indian Golf Union in Kolkata organizes a choice of activities, ranging from international events to leisurely games. It can also arrange temporary membership at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club and the Delhi Golf Club. Many towns in India, such as Jaipur, Agra and Ranikhet, have well-maintained, army-run golf courses, which are in cantonment areas and are open to foreigners for a fee. It is therefore worthwhile enquiring about facilities when in new town. 
 
Polo and Riding
 
Still very much an elitist sport, polo is enjoying a pleasant revival thanks to corporate sponsorships. The Army Polo and Riding Club in Dehi is the main centre and can be contacted for match schedules and other information. The season is in winter, when regular matches are held in Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Mumbai, Two of India’ leading teams still play under the banners of the erstwhile princely houses of Jodhpur and Kashmir, while the Indian Army continues its long association with polo and fields its own team, Polo is extremely popular in Jaipur, and matches are held at the Rajasthan Polo Club near the Rambagh Palace Hotel. In some hotels in Rajasthan’s Shekhawati district, visitors are taught how to play the game. Some variations are elephant and camel polo (both played in Jaipur, while in Ladakh, a rough-and-ready form of polois played, with ponies instead of horses. As for riding, thoroughbred horses can be hired at clubs in Delhi and Kolkata, as well as at the Royal Equestrian Polo Centre in Jaipur, after applying for a temporary membership.
 
Heli Tourism
 
For short but delightful package tours, Deccan Charters runs helicopter trips to many exotic destinations, such as the mountain ranges of the north and northeast, and around Bengaluru and Mumbai. The cost includes food and lodging. while expensive, these trips are perfect for tourists with plenty of cash but limited time. The government-run Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd also offers heli- trips in collaboration with hotels or tour operators. Few pilgrimage destinations are offering helicopter ride. 
 
Jeep Safaris
 
Often, the best way to explore places that are off-the-beaten track is to take one of the many safaris on offer. Jeep safaris are popular in Ladakh, especially to the Nubra Valley (see p147) and to the lakes of Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso. Jeep safaris are also popular in Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. A good base is Manali, which has many adventure tour operators. Among them, Himalayan Adventurers is reputable agency that organizes off-road jeep safaris as well as other adventure activities such as trekking and rafting. The two-day route from Manali to Leh is a very popular one.
 
Trekking
 
India has a fantastic range of trekking options. Besides the Himalayas, the Nilgiris in South India, and the Sahyadris in Maharashtra, have many trails for short hikes. The great Himalayas are a trekker’s paradise. Ibex Expeditions, a reputable agency, organizes expeditions all over the Himalayas. For more detailed information on trekking and local adventure tour operators in Himachal Pradesh, in Ladakh and Zanskar, in Garhwal and Kumaon. and in West Bengal and Sikkim. This guide divides trails into three types, based on levels of difficulty. “Easy” ones, which involve mildly strenuous walking at mid-high altitudes, are a good introduction. “Moderate” routes cover various terrains and should not be attempted by people with heart problems and serious ailments. Only experienced climbers should attempt “tough’ treks, since these go to very high altitudes and require high levels of fitness. It is mandatory to carry a permit Near international border areas.
 
Camping and Adventure Sports
 
Holidays that combine camping and trekking can be particularly enjoyable. Banjara Camps specializes in tented holidays in the scenic Sangla Valley in Himachal Pradesh, while Jungle Lodges & Resorts organizes well-run luxury camps in Karnataka India also provides plenty of opportunities to pursue a range of adventure sports. However, itis advisable to take out extra cover on your insurance if you plan on trying any of these activities Hang-gliding and parasailing are offered in Himachal Pradesh, especially in Manali and Dharamsala, and near Billing in Kangra. Ooty in Tamil Nadu is another great hang-gliding site, while the Western Ghats in Maharashtra and Goa offer idyllic conditions for parasailing. Local tourism offices in each state organize these sports and can be contacted for bookings and equipment hire. For mountaineering and rock-climbing enthusiasts, the Himalayas offer several challenging peaks, many rising above 7,000 m (22,966 ft). Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are India's main mountaineering regions, and Sikkim also offers climbing in the Himalayas. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation in Delhi is the central agency; it organizes expeditions and has an active rock-climbing fraternity, too. It also provides information on the country’s other institutes, such as the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling and the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, both of which offer courses, Auli, in Uttarakhand, is the best-equipped ski-centre in India, and is open between January and March, For bookings and skiing information, contact the GMVN Office in Dehra Dun, or the GMVN Tourist Rest House in Auli, which also hires out gear. Solang Nala, 13 km (8 miles) northwest of Manali, also has ski slopes that are open between February and March. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, in Manali, rents out skiing equipment, offers mountaineering courses, and organizes kayaking on the Beas river,
 
Kayaking and River Rafting
 
The challenge of the fast-flowing rivers of the Himalayas makes India a popular destination for kayaking and white-water rafting, Rivers are graded from levels | to VI; only professionals should attempt rapids that are graded IV and above, The main destinations are the Indus and Zanskar in Ladakh, the Beas and Satluj in Himachal Pradesh, the Ganges, Bhagirathi and Tons in Uttar Pradesh, and the Teesta in Sikkim. The best seasons are between September and December, and again between February and April Numerous agencies run organized trips and provide tents, rafts, life jackets and meals. The Ganges near Rishikesh is a popular site it is just a few hours drive from Delhi. Many companies have set up rafting camps and provide equipment during the season. Himalayan River Runners and Aquaterra Adventures are two of the reputable agencies that run various rafting camps in Uttarakhand and Ladakh. Water Sports. Goa is a popular destination for water sports, where yachting competitions and wind-surfing regattas are attended by enthusiasts from all over the world. Sports such as water- skiing, sailing, wind-surfing and parasailing are offered by local agencies, on beaches such as Baga, Vainguinim, Sinquerim, Anjuna and Bogmalo. The National Institute of Watersports, located in Panaji, also offers training courses in wind-surfing, water-skiing, sailing and scuba diving, and hires out boats and equipment as well The Royal Bombay Yacht club, in Mumbai, organizes sailing excursions for visitors every Saturday, while Kerala's popular Kovalam Beach has some facilities for surfing and snorkeling, In Tamil Nadu, a few water sports centres and hotels offer water sports facilities along the coast between Chennai and Mamallapuram. The Lakshadweep Islands, off the Kerala coast, have excellent centres for wind-surfing, parasailing and water-skiing, as well as snorkelling and scuba diving, Lacadives, on Kadmat Island, has the best-equipped centre. An equally exciting destination for snorkelling, scuba diving and other water sports is the tropical Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Quality equipment, including glass-bottomed boats and scuba gear, is on offer at the Andaman Water Sports Complex in Port Blair. Adventure parks such as Wonderla, in Kochi, and others in cities such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad, are popular.
 
Fishing
 
India’s network of rivers and lakes provides ample opportunity for fishing enthusiasts. All fishing in India requires a permit, which can be obtained from the Fisheries Officer at the various state Fisheries Departments. However, it is simpler to let an agency organize the permits for you. Himalayan River Runners organizes exciting mahseer fishing expeditions in the Ganges in February and March. The best spots in North India are the Ramganga river, outside Corbett National Park; Gangalehri, off the Haridwar- Rishikesh road on the Ganges; and Pong Dam, on the Beas in Himachal Pradesh. This state also offers superb trout-fishing on the Beas river at Katrain, and in the scenic Sangla Valley on the Baspa river. In South India, Jungle Lodges & Resorts run the Kali River Camp at Dandeli and the Cauvery Fishing and Nature Camp, in Karnataka. These are luxury camps for discerning visitors who wish to combine a fishing holiday with modern comforts.
 
Wildlife Tourism
 
The country has an extraordinary diversity of habitats that support a vast variety of plant and animal life, including many rare and endangered species. Today, India has 166 protected national parks and over 515 wildlife sanctuaries that cover 5 per cent of its total area. Numerous societies are actively involved in environmental issues. The World Wide Fund for Nature, India (WWF), with its headquarters in Delhi, has a regular programme of activities such as camping trips, film shows and seminars on wildlife. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) is one of the foremost nature institutions in India. Its first Indian president was the renowned ornithologist, Dr Salim Ali. The Society, dedicated to conservation, with special emphasis on bird studies, also organizes workshops. Another eminent institution is the Madras Naturalists’ Society. India’s many wildlife reserves and game sanctuaries are the best places to see endangered species in the wild. Ibex Expeditions organizes ecofriendly trips to parks all over India; Exotic Journeys is another reputable agency. Jungle Lodges and Resorts in Karnataka runs numerous luxury camps, spread across the Nagarhole and BRT Wildlife Sanctuaries, with coracle boat rides, elephant safaris and film screenings on offer for visitors Corbett Park in Uttarakhand, Kanha in Madhya Pradesh and the Sunderbans in West Bengal are among India’s largest Tiger Reserves, Rajasthan's Keoladeo Ghana National Park  attracts a large variety of migratory birds in winter and is a bird-watcher’s paradise, while Kaziranga in Assam is one of the few places in the world where the Indian rhino can be found in the wild, The best park for observing Asian elephants is Periyar in Kerala, which has the largest population of wild elephants in the country. A few practical tips should be followed while visiting wildlife reserves. Do not litter and be especially careful not to drop any plastic and synthetic materials. Carry a pair of binoculars, wear sturdy boots and never wander off on your own, as this could be dangerous. Do not play loud music or blow horns within park limits, since this disturbs the animals. Also, talk softly on safaris to improve the chances of spotting wildlife.
 
Yoga and Healing
 
Yoga, meditation and Hindu philosophy are taught at ashrams and spiritual centres in most Indian cities. Some of the best are in Rishikesh, where courses are conducted by learned gurus, renowned in their fields. Of these, the Sivananda Ashram is the most famous. Pune’s Osho International Commune started in the 1960s by the charismatic guru Bhagwan Rajneesh, offers residential courses in meditation and philosophy. The Ramamani lyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, run by the well-known Yogacharya BKS lyengar, is also in Pune, and offers a choice of hatha yoga courses. Among Indias other reputed yoga and meditation centres are the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry, the Chinmaya Mission at Mumbai and the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math. Hotels and travel agencies can find out about local branches of many of these centres. India also has numerous institutes that conduct courses in Buddhist meditation and vipassana. Dharamsala and McLeodganj, the home of the Dalai Lama, have some of the best centres. Residential courses are held at the Tushita Meditation Centre. Ayurveda and naturopathy rely on the healing powers of herbs and natural foods, and are widely practised in India, Ayurvedic treatment, using special herbal oils, is believed to have originated in Kerala, and is widely practised there today. Almost all hotels in the state have Ayurvedic centres, especially around Kovalam and Thiruvananthapuram, The Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort at Palakkad (with branches in Delhi and Khajuraho), and the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Resort at Kovalam are among the best centres. For visitors in search of medical advice and treatment, the Arya Vaidyasala in Kottakkal is a pioneer institute. India also has a handful of luxury spas, which emphasize holistic healing. The Jindal Naturecure Institute in Bengaluru, also known as Jindal's Farm, admits patients for specialized treatments for respiratory and stomach disorders, ulcers, migraines and diabetes. Other healing practices, such as Reiki and Pranic healing (methods that channel positive forces through the body's chakras or energy centres), are practised in many larger cities, and itis best to check local city magazines for details. A magazine, published every month, called Life Positive, focuses on New-Age healing techniques.
 
Cultural Activities 
 
Indian classical dance and music are taught at renowned institutes all over the country. Triveni Kala Sangam in Delhi holds courses in classical singing, dance and painting, Dharamsalas Norbulingka Institute teaches Tibetan arts and crafts, including thangka painting and embroidery. The dance village of Nrityagram, near Bengaluru, offers long-term courses in classical dance, choreography, music and painting. Kalakshetra in Chennai is a premier institute for teaching Carnatic music and classical dance, and the Kerala Kala Mandalam, near Thrissur, is another renowned centre for the performing arts. Trip India Pvt Ltd travel agencies offer special interest tours on subjects such as architecture, tural and tribal culture, traditional arts and crafts, and cuisine. They make itineraries to suit individual tastes. Incent Tours focuses on textiles, architecture and food, while Travel Link specializes in tribal tours in Odisha. Various institutions all over the country promote traditional crafts and artisans. The Crafts Museum in Delhi, and the Dastkar Craft Centre, which is near Ranthambhore in Rajasthan, are two places where visitors can observe artisans at work and learn more about their skills and way of life.

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