India is a vibrant and diverse country, although it doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves as a family-friendly destination. It took me a long time to realise this too. Before exploring my own country, I had seen parts of Europe, Middle East, South East Asia, even studied in the UK. It is only in 2013, that I started taking travelling in India seriously. Since then, I’ve ticked 18 Indian states off my list. A lot of these trips have been with my family.
Many people immediately think of India’s intense and busy cities as off-putting for families, but the country has so much more to offer – from the deserts of Rajasthan and the Western ghats to the beaches in the south, the mountains in the north, and the pristine beauty of the east. Colourful, charming and, yes, a bit chaotic, India is indeed an amazing place to explore. There’s so much more to see that I don’t think my list of to-dos will ever exhaust. But I’m going to list down some activities you should try, especially with your family for a fantastic holiday in India.
1. Cruise Kerala’s backwaters
I love Kerala. That’s a big thing, coming from a Goan. Don’t get me wrong, I used to love Goa too. But easy access to Goa from metropolitans like Mumbai and Pune and the state’s cheap standard of living has meant that the quality of tourists has dropped. Kerala on the other hand has retained its charm. The state has countless beaches, mouth watering food, a rich cultural heritage and pretty backwaters. The miles and miles of waterways in Kerala are a fantastic way of exploring as a family. My personal favourite is Poovar near Kovalam. A tiny island sandwiched between the backwaters and the Poovar beach. Get a houseboat on these backwaters and take in the surroundings at a more relaxed pace than you’ll find elsewhere. If you’re feeling active, you could even get a kayaking guide to explore the canals and rivers.
2. Meet elephants
Elephants are a common sight at most of the forest reserves around India, especially Periyar National Park and Dooars. But if you want to get up close and personal with these animals, I’d recommend Dera Amer, a wilderness camp home to well-loved elephants on the outskirts of Jaipur. You can feed, bathe and play with the elephants here. It’s an experience you’ll remember for a long time.
3. Stay in a palace
Yes, you read that right. In India, you can stay in palaces. A number of our palaces have been turned into luxury hotels like the Ahilya Fort Palace in Maheshwar, Jehan Numa Palace in Bhopal, Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur and Lake Palace in Udaipur. I’d recommend the Ramathra Fort, which is just 25 miles away from Ranthambhore National Park. From boat trips on the nearby Kalisil Lake to night safaris in the park, there’s a lot to do here. After a busy day out, you can come back to a cosy room for some home-cooked traditional meals.
4. See the Taj Mahal
If you’re in India, you really should go and see the Taj Mahal, arguably one of the most famous structures in the world. When I visited the Taj Mahal in 2015, I thought it was every bit worth the hype. Magazines and guidebooks abuse the Taj Mahal by over using the monument’s photos literally everywhere, but when seen first-hand, the Taj is a magical sight. Get up early if possible to avoid the majority of crowds and take in the atmosphere.
Also read: My three ‘monument’al moments in Agra
5. Visit Jodhpur
Jodhpur is a great stop for those heading from Jaipur to Jaisalmer or vice versa. But don’t treat the city as a mere pit-stop. Jodhpur got an amazing fort that can take an entire day to explore, and a palace cum luxury hotel fit for royals. It’s also a great base for adventure – from dune bashing to zip lining. Jodhpur’s pride, the Mehrangarh Fort can be explored ‘Spiderman’ style swinging from one wall to another. Flying Fox Asia is an adventure sports company that organises Zip lining at the Mehrangarh Fort. They also operate at the Neemrana Fort Palace.
Also read: Mehrangarh fort inside out
6. Go skiing
For a completely different holiday, try skiing. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Gulmarg has quickly become one of the country’s best skiing resorts. It’s got plenty of nursery slopes if you and your family are novices, as well as slopes for more experienced skiers and snowboarders. If you head there in the winter months, you can almost guarantee a thick layer of snow, without the crowds of other popular resorts.
Have more recommendations? Share them in the comments.
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