When you think of India, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, impromptu bursting into songs about heartbreak, and of course huge choreographed dance numbers that’ll take you weeks, if not months to learn😅
True, life in India might not always be a scene straight out of a Bollywood movie but nonetheless, India is brimming with untapped potential as a go-to travel destination! Here’s 10 amazing things you never knew you could do in the land of culture😊
1. Get artsy at Raghurajpur (Bhubaneshwar), a well-known handicraft village
55km away from the state capital Bhubaneshwar, this humble village in Odisha is pulling in tourists left and right with its intricately designed and highly sought after pattachitra, traditional cloth-based scroll paintings. Nestled amongst groves of coconut, palm and other tropical trees, Raghurajpur is the state’s first heritage village, with the pattachitra art form dating back to 5 BC!
Credit: Mike Prince on Flickr
The paintings are made over a piece of cloth known as patta or dried palm leaves, which is first painted with a mixture of chalk and special gum. Artisans then painstakingly sketch away colorful and intricate designs derived from Hindu mythology; adorning them with beautiful ornamentation of flowers, trees and animals.
Credit: Mike Prince on Flickr
With such unrivalled artistic skills passed down from generation to generation, you might feel a little intimidated to try your hand at crafting but everyone’s a beginner at first! If not, you can always buy some prints back for your family and friends to marvel over😝
Credit: Mike Prince on Flickr
Aside from pattachitra, the village has mastered a plethora of other crafts like palm leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings, paper mache toys, masks, wood carvings and more! If you find yourself getting a little overwhelmed by the sheer brillance displayed by the inhabitants of this creative village, head on over to Gram Kutir’, the village rest house.
Address: Raghurajpur, Jagannathballava, Odisha 752012, India
2. Go on a budget textile shopping expedition in Erode, Chennai
Everyone needs a little retail therapy every now and then right?😉 Being a major manufacturer of textiles, India is probably the best place to get exquisite fabrics like cotton, silk, wool, linen, lace, polyester and more!
Credit: Heather Cowper on Flickr
To get the best spoils, make your way to the city of Erode in Chennai! Hailed as a ‘textile heaven’, Erode is a major producer of hand-loom, comfy knitwear, and the most luxurious sarees. Abdul Gani Textile Market is the largest wholesale textile market in the city, with over 1000 individual shops, so you definitely wouldn’t run out of options here😝
Credit: Scott Dexter on Flickr
You can purchase ready made goods like pouches, bags, shoes and of course, clothes in a wide array of gorgeous prints!
The markets can get a little overcrowded and humid so if that’s not your scene, stick to smaller stores that you can find along the many shophouses in India. But be prepared to haggle like your life (and wallet😂) depends on it! Chances are, the shop owners will try to sell you the goods at a ‘tourist price’, so there’ll be quite a bit of bargaining involved before making your purchase.
#HHWT Tip: Visit India during May to October to get goods at even cheaper rates!
Address: Erode Fort, Erode, Tamil Nadu 638001, India
Operating hours: Daily; 9am – 8pm
3. Get down to earth at an underground cave resort in Bengaluru
Ever been told that you always have your head in the clouds?☁️ A stay at Guhantara, an underground cave resort in Bengaluru will solve that rightaway! The first of its kind in India, this resort will take you back to more simple times, sporting a Flintstone-like facade even our homo sapien ancestors would approve of.
Credit: @prasanth_r on Instagram
Take a load off and lounge at their cosy auditorium, known as Rangamandapa, and enjoy the daily entertainment line up or take a dip in their open air swimming pool complete with cascading waterfalls.
Credit: @wordplaybeforeplay on Instagram
If you’re feeling antsy from staying in too long, sign up for Guhantara’s adventure activities! Wage a paint ball war on your friends, test your accuracy skills with archery or conquer your fear of heights by zip lining across the resort.
Credit: @sujai_sivasamy on Instagram
Daredevils can opt to hop on their quad bikes and navigate through rocky terrains or burn some cardio by tunnel trekking. With so many fun activities for you and the whole family to do, it may even warrant a longer stay at this one of a kind resort😊
Address: Sy. No. 177 & 177/18, Off Kanakapura Main Road , Nowkal Palya, Bangalore South Taluk, Kaggalipura, Karnataka 560082, India
4. Star in your very own Bollywood movie at Ramoji Film City (Hyderabad)
Bollywood fans, this is for you! Star in your very own Bollywood movie at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad 😉 We’re not kidding when we say this particular attraction is humongous! It holds the Guinness World Records for being the largest film studio complex in the world, measuring over 1666 acres😯
Credit: Ankur P on Flickr
Complete with various realistic film sets suitable for shooting, the city has been used as backdrops for blockbuster Bollywood/Tollywood movies like Baahubali, Dilwaale 2015 and Krrish 3. Join the Film City Tour and travel to the places where your favourite celebrities shot their iconic scenes on top of a open vintage tour bus!
Credit: McKay Savage on Flickr
Sets include simulations of North Indian architecture, thematic Japanese gardens and picturesque fountains, where you can film/snap pictures of yourself reenacting the most dramatic scene you can think of😜 Don’t forget to catch the Wild West Stunt Show for an amazing display of acrobatics or any of the live streets shows.
Credit: Harsha K R on Flickr
Kids will have a blast at Fundustan, a theme park filled with thrilling rides, exciting video games and even an evil magician’s workshop! There’s certainly something for everyone here, regardless of age😊
Address: Anaspur Village, Hayathnagar Mandal, Hyderabad, Telangana 501512, India
Operating hours: Daily; 9am – 5.30pm
5. Visit the majestic Charminar in Hyderabad
Built by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah back in 1591, Charminar is Hyderabad’s principal historical landmark. This gargantuan, 4 column architectural treasure makes for an impressive sight amongst the relentless stream of crowds and traffic.
Credit: Aditya Kavoor on Flickr
The second floor of this structure is home to Hyderabad’s oldest mosque, with the main gallery having 45 covered prayer spaces with a large open space in front to accommodate more people for Friday prayers.
Credit: Abhinaba Basu on Flickr
After performing your prayers, take your time to appreciate the beautifully carved lotuses and dainty petal-like patterns on the granite walls. If you’re coming by at night, you’re in for a spectacular light show as the massive structure is illuminated from 7pm to 9pm😍
Credit: cotaro70s on Flickr
#HHWT Tip: Have some rupees to spare? Make a pit stop at Laad Baazar, a thriving market known for its jewelry, especially their gorgeous bangles!
Address: Char Kaman, Ghansi Bazaar, Hyderabad, Telangana 500002, India
Operating hours: Daily; 9.30am – 5.30pm
6. Explore the ancient Borra caves in Visakhapatnam
Discovered by an Anglo-Irish geologist in 1807, this 150 million year old cave is one of the largest in the country! Due to the humid acid in rainwater reacting with the calcium carbonate in limestones, it dissolves the minerals in the rock to form sharp stalactites and sprouting stalagmites.
Credit: @wanderlust_riju on Instagram
To explore the caves, you can join guided tours that will also take you to other popular attractions around the area like the Tyada Railway Tunnel and Damuku View Point. You can check out this link for more information on the packages.
Credit: thotfulspot on Flickr
Just like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, the caves are dimly lit with deep tunnels that never seem to end. As the terrain can get pretty slippery, it’s advisable to wear proper walking shoes. Locker facilities are not provided so it’s best to travel light for this trip.
#HHWT Tip: To use your video and digital cameras, be prepared to pay an additional fee of 100 rupees.
Credit: Rajib Ghosh on Flickr
Address: Andhra Pradesh 531149, India
Operating hours: 10am – 5pm
7. Go old school fishing with Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
These huge wooden contraceptions are a common sight in Kochi and are operated by only the most experienced fishermen. Scattered along the northeastern shores of Fort Kochi, this ingenious fishing technique works on the principle of balance and counterweights to suspend nets before submerging them into the waters.
Credit: Ashwin Kumar on Flickr
Despite being made out of teak wood, bamboo poles and strips of fabric, the net is surprisingly durable, as it’s able to withstand the weight of several fishermen.
Credit: Christian Haugen on Flickr
Any first timer will definitely find the slow rhythm and balancing of the net to be absolutely fascinating. You can even purchase the freshly caught seafood and have the nearby street vendors cook up a simple but satisfying lunch😋
Address: River Rd, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala 682001, India
Operating hours: Open 24 hours
8. Walk through tea plantations at Munnar Hill Station in Kerala
The scenic view of sprawling green pastures, rolling hills and aromatic scent of tea is enough to soothe any stressed out souls. The breathtaking landscape alone is worth the long journey and truly a sight for sore eyes!
Credit: Julia Maudlin on Flickr
The best time to visit Munnar is during September – May, which is the monsoon season. Being such a quiet and rural town, you won’t see any machinery collecting the tea leaves. Rather, you’ll see the native ladies picking each individual leaf while chattering away happily with huge bags slung over one shoulder.
Credit: Julia Maudlin on Flickr
Credit: Julia Maudlin on Flickr
Make the most of your trip and swing by the Kannan Devan Tea Museum to learn more about the origin and evolution of tea plantations. You can also buy delicious tea leaves for your loved ones back home!
Address: Munnar, Kerala 685612, India
9. Perform your prayers at the famous Tipu Sultan Mosque (Kolkata)
When in Kolkata, you have to visit the Tipu Sultan Mosque! Built back in 1832, this elaborate mosque is a clear testament to Kolkata’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.
Credit: @viper30083 on Instagram
The green domed mosque attracts people from different walks of life; allowing people of all religions and sections of society to enter the premises. The silhouette of the mosque against the setting sun is also a view worth capturing!
Credit: @the_soul_aperture on Instagram
Address: Lenin Sarani Rd, Chandni Chawk, Bowbazar, Kolkata, West Bengal 700013, India
10. Cruise the backwaters of Kerala, Kochi
Once used as a route to transport goods like coconut, spices and rubber, the backwaters of Kerala promises a serene cruise along the riverbank. Be accompanied by the sights of lush paddy fields and the gentle lapping of water as you meander along on kettuvallams (traditional rice barges that have been converted into houseboats).
Top backwater destinations in Kerala include Kollam, Kumarakom and Alleppey; also known as the Venice of the East!
#HHWT Tip: Check out this link for more information on how to book a cruise!
Address: Punnamada, Kottankulangara, Alappuzha, Kerala 688006, India
Bonus: Indulge in authentic biryani!
With Muslims making up almost 15% of India’s population, halal food is pretty easy to find. Plus, you can’t leave India without trying their most prized dish; biryani! The most authentic biryani dishes can be found in Hyderabad, with Cafe Bahar and Paradise in the running for the best biryani eateries in the whole of India!
Credit: @nyc_rider on Instagram
So what makes a good biryani dish? Think big, tender chunks of meat that almost immediately melts in your mouth, on top of fluffy basmati rice😋 Choose from mutton, beef, chicken, fish or even vegetarian biryani; whatever suits your fancy!
Credit: @theflyingglutton on Instagram
- Cafe Bahar: Old MLA Quarters Road, Hyderguda, Hyderabad, Telangana 500029, India
- Paradise: Masab Tank X Roads, Masab Tank, Hyderabad, Telangana 500004, India
- Daily; 11am – 12am
- Daily; 11am – 11pm
India has proven to be a cultural goldmine and vastly underrated travel destination. Not only does the country have an extensive list of delicious halal eateries that’ll leave you wanting more, but there are loads of incredible things you never thought you could do in India!
Credit: Sharada Prasad CS on Flickr
Can’t wait to start planning your trip already?
This article was brought to you by AirAsia.
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