The road less travelled is often the best one.
India’s backroads, where the traffic jams are caused by herds of wool-gathering sheep or a cow taking a nap on the asphalt, are its best-kept secret. As soon as you leave the cities behind and set off to explore rural India, the magic takes over.
The hill-slopes and forest trails in Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong, are ideal for walks and hikes, as well as some terrific birdwatching.
As you trek down a wooded path, you suddenly come to a clearing, overlooking Himalayan snowcaps tinged by the sun.
The entire Himalayan region is an adventurer’s dream. One of the most spectacular bicycle trips you’ll ever experience, is up to Wari La pass in Ladakh. Prayer flags flutter in the wind as you pedal past mural-covered monasteries and pristine white stupas at tremendous altitude. Situated at 5312 m (17427 ft) Wari La is one of the highest mountain passes in the world. Then follow the flow of the Shyok and Nubra rivers as you descend into the Nubra valley.
Wind your way down into the Lower Himalayas, where the deep red rhododendron forest gives way to gold and green mustard fields, and orchards filled with peaches, plums and cherries, waiting to be picked.
Small animals and birds flit across your path as you walk through the woods in areas like Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. End the day by tucking into a delicious meal of home-cooked Kumaon cuisine, and bedding down for the night in a traditional village home, its interiors beautifully refurbished with a blend of local crafts, woodwork and creature comforts.
If you’re the kind that likes to end a day of activity in the lap of luxury, then biking through Rajasthan is the ultimate thrill.
Make your way across the arid Aravalli mountains, interspersed with stunning wetlands and oases. Colourful turbans and tye-dye saris catch your eye as you pedal your way through the countryside.
At the end of each day, you’ll find yourself at yet another gorgeous palace, or even a luxurious safari camp, where you can put your feet up and let yourself be pampered with spa treatments, exquisite cuisine, and gorgeous accommodations — and swap stories with the owners over a glass of wine.
The joy of rural India is that there’s something to capture your imagination at every turn, and nowhere more so than in the south of the country.
A bike ride through the Kerala takes you through paddy fields and coconut groves, as you pass through fishing villages and make your way down to the sea. As you veer off the coast, you find yourself in lush tropical jungles and tea-estates in the Western Ghats.
Places like Munnar, Wayanad and Valparai are not only great hiking ground, but also have an abundance of flora and fauna which add to the experience.
The best thing about hiking and biking in India is that at the end of every day, you have a real treat waiting for you.
From old world palaces to luxury tented camps, exclusive wildlife lodges, gracious home-stays, and colonial tea-bungalows and plantation estates, each day ends with yet another spectacular evening of great food, drink and warm companionship in elegant environs.