Top 10 Adventure Activities in the Indian Himalayas

by Pawan Kotiyal

What are the phrases travelers can use to describe the grandeur of The Himalayas? Nature’s wonder, Giant Mountain Range, The pride of India and so on? Well, describing this gigantic land form in a single word is challenging indeed. Extreme elevation, awe-striking weather, and diverse terrain, call globetrotters to unearth the treasures hidden among its gleaming peaks. 

Adventurous souls who never worried about the danger they might be facing on those venturous routes, were the first to discover the paths which bold souls trek today. To satiate these hungry souls, Himalaya presents locations to fill every sense with thrill, mysticism, and the natural splendor of places seemingly untouched.

1. White Water Rafting in Rishikesh

White Water Rafting in Rishikesh on the River Ganga

White Water Rafting in Rishikesh on the River Ganga. Photo Credit: Pawan Kotiyal

There cannot be a more whimsical activity in the world than winning over the fierce form of nature. Whitewater rafting in India is like a wrestling match with nature which can be enjoyed by all who dare to accept the challenge of the turbulent rapids of River Ganga. Many rafting points are marked in Rishikesh, which are divided according to the level of rapids found at different stretches.

Recommended Rafting Starting Points

  • Brahmpuri (Grade I, 9km): The expedition in this level is meant for beginners. People nine to 65 years old can enjoy the raft without any fear.
  • Shivpuri (Grade II & III, 16km): Difficulties are moderate in this stretch so people with a basic knowledge of rafting are more likely to feel at home here than beginners.
  • Marine Drive (Grade II & III, 27km): The rafting excitement lasts here for four to five hours and people should have at least a minimum knowledge of rafting.
  • Kaudiyala (Grade III & IV, 37km): Avid rafters with sufficient experience should get involved in rafting in this level of rafting. Only people with enough stamina to tame water rapids constantly for eight to nine hours should attempt this route. 

Water rapids from Kaudiliya to Rishikesh are considered the most exciting white water rafting locations in India, and include 14 thrill packed white water rapids. To mark the exclusive nature of each rapid, all of these are labeled with attention grabbing names, such as Sweet Sixteen, Cross Fire, Three Blind Mice, and so on. 

Camping sites are built across from the popular starting spots to combine two popular outdoor activities. Two to three day tours are recommended to get the full experience of rafting in Rishikesh. However, those looking for even more excitement should take part in bungee jumping, river crossing, beach camping, rock climbing, flying fox, and other outdoor activities available at Rishikesh. 

2. Paragliding in Ladakh

Feel exhilarated by a rush of fear and pure joy paragliding over Ladakh. India’s “land of the high passes,” located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, is an awe-inspiring getaway for challenging adventure activities. Coming down from a height of over 13,000 feet above sea level seeing the breathtaking views of Ladakh adds to the most unforgettable moments of your life. If you are looking for an even more intense thrill try taking off at 40 mph from Lamayuru or other great paragliding locations in India, such as: Tsemo Gompa, Stok Kangri, and Leh Bazaar.

3. Trekking on Chadar Trek

Exploring the Himalayas on foot is a must have experience for every adventure loving soul. There are several fixed treks which have been around for years and gained well deserved fame. Some are very easy to walk while others are more challenging; Chadar Trek in Ladakh falls into the latter category. The maximum height of the trek is around 11,123 ft and it covers close to 40 miles. The route is utterly dangerous and includes a frozen river that can bring danger at any point of time. As the route is not made of any solid objects like soil or rock, there are chances of getting stuck in ice pits. The challenges one faces on this trek are immense as the trek throws every type of hurdle at the trekker, be it stone-laden roads, high mountain passes, or large expanse of marches, so conquering the trek is a matter of pride for any trekker willing to take on a real challenge.

4. Heli-Skiing in Himachal Pradesh

Quite literally off the beaten trail and truly goose-bump inducing, Heli-Skiing is an adventure activity which has gained major popularity in the Himalayas through the years. The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh offers a few unbeatable options to enjoy this trending sport. A 10 minute helicopter drive will take the skiers to a height of approx 14,000 feet and let them ski over the powdery snow spread over the gigantic Himalayas. 

The Best Spots? Hanuman Tibba, Rohtang Pass, Deo Tibba, and Chanderkhani Pass near Manali are the best locations for Heli-skiing in India for visitors to try this thrilling experience.

5. Yak Safaris in Ladakh

Found exclusively in the cold deserts of Ladakh, Yaks are pretty large animals native to the region and are the best means to explore this cold desert. The tradition of using a yak to explore the difficult terrains in India is very ancient, but it is still in practice today and is a big draw among the tourists that visit the region. Riding on the back of this giant, yet adorable mountain animal, is a truly unique Himalayan experience. It’s the perfect cultural and unique way to explore Indian Himalaya for those who aren’t a fan of trekking. 

Ladakh is the ideal place in India to ride the largest animal of the cold deserts, a region of permanent cold. Riders can explore lakes, gurgling streams, glacial valleys, cascades, snow clad mountain peaks, and dense forest without worrying about the difficulties of navigating the rugged land.

6. Skiing in Auli

The extensive slopes of Garhwal and Kumaon region are coated with thick layer of fresh snow in winter and become a seasonal hot spot for skiing in India. With their vast unbound spaces over the snowline, these two regions in Garhwal Himalaya bring matchless opportunity of ski touring amongst the glaciers. The end of December to March is the ideal time to experience skiing in Auli. The slopes are maintained by the expert snow beaters. The vicinity is dotted by Deodar and Pine forest that serve as a protective barrier and make the chilly wind a little more enjoyable.

Mountain Biking from Leh to Manali.

Mountain Biking from Leh to Manali. Photo Credit: Pawan Kotiyal

7. Mountain Biking from Leh to Manali

Traversing the backbone of Western Himalaya – the Zanskar, Himalaya, and Pir Panjal Ranges can fulfill the dreams of even the most intense adrenaline junkies. The biking trail winds through the high passes connecting Ladakh to the Kullu Valley. It includes the highest drivable road in the world and passes through Leh. During this day long mountain biking trip cyclists will cross the vast and wild landscape on the borderland of Tibet. The route passes magnificent vistas of snow clad mountain ranges, sprawling gorges, and spans the picture perfect land of Kullu Valley to the hill station of Manali.

8. Hiking in Har Ki Doon Valley

Love to accept the challenges with an open heart? Then head to the fascinating travel destination of Har Ki Doon Valley. Acclaimed as the best hiking destination in India, this cradle shaped hanging valley brings unbeatable opportunities to explore the hidden treasure of Garhwal Himalaya. The valley is famously covered with wild Himalayan flowers blooming across the lofty mountain ranges, a sight that wins over even the most experienced trekkers.

9. Gondola Ride in Gulmarg

The second highest active cable car ride in the world, Gulmarg Gondola is the longest and highest cable car ride in Asia. The ride starts from a height of nearly 9,000 feet above sea level and ascends to over 10,000 feet offering an unbeatable view of the wide stretch of pine forests below. 

Travelers enjoying the cable car ride are enchanted by the enigmatic greenery of the hilly terrains. The ride also runs over the spectacular meadows of wild flowers, called Khilanmarg, during its journey. Keep your camera ready to click some of the striking images of snow clad mountain peaks lined with trees and other natural landforms.

Angling the giant Mahseer fish in the Ramganga River.

Angling the giant Mahseer fish in the Ramganga River. Photo Credit: Pawan Kotiyal

10. Angling Mahseer in Ramganga River

The Ramganga River flows through the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, India. Fighting with the giant Mahseer fish which has been known as India’s “tiger in the water” will leave you feeling more alive and connected with nature than ever before. This gigantic fish can grow up to 110 pounds and will fight with every ounce of its being till the very end. A fight between this fierce fish and angler typically lasts over 30 minutes. But, the feeling you get after trapping this mammoth is irreplaceable. Be sure to snap a picture (like I did) as a sign of your victory.

The adventures of the Himalayas cannot be capture in a list of 10 activities; even more heart pumping excitement can be found motor biking in Khardung La Pass, Paragliding in Bir and Billing, or watching a snow leopard in the high altitude mountains of Ladakh, India. 

Which adventure program will you choose?