Forget about the Taj Mahal, temples and talismans. Brionie Pereira digs a little deeper into India for experiences minus the clichés
Off the beaten path
While trekking might be the most popular way around the Himalayas’ sweeping valleys, there are other ways to experience its dramatic terrain. Mahindra Adventure offers off-roading driving tours in Spiti Valley and the northeast, for a more adrenaline-fuelled experience of the landscape. If you can’t make it all the way to the dizzying north, try one of the adventure fleets spanning the country, offering trips in Goa, Bangalore and Kodaikanal; plus, some on offer in the hills around Mumbai and New Delhi, too.
For more details about Mahindra Adventure’s packages, visit mahindraadventure.com
Tours for the tummy
India’s diverse micro-communities, from the icy north to the sweltering south, mean there are almost as many flavours in the country as there are people — and a lot more on offer than just curry. Several touring companies, like Intrepid Travel, Indus and India Food Tour, offer regional culinary tours including gourmet experiences and cooking classes. From Kerala’s dosas and subtle sambars to Rajasthan’s piquant vegetables; Gujarat’ sweet curries to the spicy seafood along the coasts, tour the Indian subcontinent via your tastebuds.
Surf’s up in the south
It’s a little known fact that India’s 4,350-mile coast is home to some of the world’s best surf breaks. The country’s surf scene has burgeoned over the last decade, with clubs opening up all along its southern peninsula. Puri, Orissa hosts its fifth annual surf festival this year, and surf clubs like Shaka and Mantra in Karnataka, Vaayu in Goa, Kovalam and Soul & Surf in Kerala offer surfing lessons year-round. If you’d rather go it alone, the best season is May to September with the biggest waves breaking on the west coast between Dwarka and Kanyakumari, specifically at Varkala, Kovalam, Gokarna and Mahabalipuram, Vizag and Pondicherry.
For more information on upcoming surf events, festivals and news, visit surfingfederationofindia.org
A new frequency
If dancing is your thing, head to Goa for the EDM Sunburn Festival, Asia’s largest music festival. Ziro Music Festival has alternative national and international artists performing in the middle of a mountainous nowhere, while Magnetic Fields brings its party to a Rajput palace in the desert. For metal, there’s Big69, while techno lovers can head to By the Pier. And if you can’t make it to the days-long festivals, there are plenty of regular gigs in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi to keep you dancing.
The capital New Delhi has art around every corner, with a contemporary scene that’s bursting at the seams. The National Gallery of Modern Art is home to 150-year-old pieces, while the Kiran Nadar and the Devi Art Foundation double their contemporary exhibits with workshops and seminars. In Lado Sarai, Exhibit 320 and Art Positive do the same on a smaller scale, while New-York-born Nature Morte focuses on conceptual art and installations. In recent times, the St+Art Festival has brought paint to the pavement by featuring street artists from around the world, and the prestigious India Art Fair welcomes hundreds of artists to display, discuss and enjoy new art every year.