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7 places to immerse yourself in nature in India

From edge-of-the-world solitude in the Thar Desert, to the spiritual highs of the Himalayan mountains. For a wellness trip with a twist, look no further than India's spectacular nature...

Things to do in nature in India (Shutterstock)

From edge-of-the-world solitude in the Thar Desert, to the spiritual highs of the Himalayan mountains, India’s landscapes are endlessly diverse – and, of course, utterly beautiful too. While its cities steal the limelight, these spectacular spots will capture your heart – not just for their looks, but for their stress-busting, mood-boosting, serotonin-surging adventures. For wellness with a wild twist, here are a few of our favourites…

 

1. Brahmaputra Valley, Assam

Best for: Tea and tradition

Assam tea garden in the Brahmaputra Valley (Shutterstock)

Assam tea garden in the Brahmaputra Valley (Shutterstock)

Strong in colour and rich in taste, Assam tea is the perfect pick-me-up – wherever you are in the world. But when sipped on the sun-kissed plantations of the Brahmaputra Valley, among the neatly-clipped rows of Assamica tea bushes, the local brew is much more than just a refreshment: it’s a connection to the earth, and Assam’s colourful history.

This North Eastern state has wild rides aplenty: from Jeep safaris in Kaziranga National Park, in search of rhinos and tigers; to river cruises on the mighty Brahmaputra, where Buddhist ruins meet birdwatching hotspots. The monsoon season (May to October) keeps the landscapes lush and vibrant – a haven for wildlife and wellness-seekers alike.

2. Madhya Pradesh

Best for: Taking the road less travelled

The Marble Rocks of Bhedaghat (Shutterstock)

The Marble Rocks of Bhedaghat (Shutterstock)

You might not normally associate India with road trips, but we’ll let you into a secret: driving in Madhya Pradesh isn’t as daunting as you might expect, thanks to its quiet country backroads and sleepy valley trails. And now, with the launch of a new caravan rental service, you can explore – and stay – in sweet seclusion. So, where should you set your sat nav? The Bhimbetka caves are a geological marvel, adorned with prehistoric rock paintings. Meanwhile, in the national parks of Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench, tigers and leopards await. Love watersports? Don’t miss the Marble Rocks of Bhedaghat: strewn across the Narmada river, they’re catnip for adventurous kayakers.

3. Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

Best for: Wild wonders

A male tiger in Jim Corbett National Park (Shutterstock)

A male tiger in Jim Corbett National Park (Shutterstock)

There’s something incredibly soothing about safaris. Silent, sharp-eyed, and with senses heightened, you’re engaging fully with the natural world – the absolute essence of mindfulness. And because nothing is guaranteed, you must embrace serendipity: find the joy in every wildlife encounter, whether with a swooping hornbill or a steely-gazed tiger. Of course, it helps if your surroundings are spectacular – so make tracks for Jim Corbett National Park, one of India’s oldest sanctuaries. This sprawling reserve features lakes, hills, grasslands and marshes – home to beasts big and small, from golden orioles to Asiatic elephants.

4. Ooty, Tamil Nadu

Best for: A mood-boosting break

Sunrise view from the Dolphin's Nose (Shutterstock)

Sunrise view from the Dolphin's Nose (Shutterstock)

Ooty, or Udhagamandalam, is – quite literally – a tonic for body and soul. For your physical ailments, its famous eucalyptus oil has myriad health benefits: boosting circulation, easing jet lag, unblocking sinuses, and much more besides. As for the soul? Its countless chocolate shops, piled high with cocoa confections, will lift your spirits in no time. As will the Nilgiri Mountain Toy Train, whose beautiful views and century-old heritage has earned it Unesco-credited fame; and the town’s tranquil Botanical Gardens, festooned with 650 varieties of tropical blooms. But the biggest high? That’s Dolphin’s Nose viewpoint, a clifftop spot that overlooks tea plantations and waterfalls. You’ll feel on top of the world.

5. Munnar, Kerala

Best for: A digital detox 

Emerald green tea plantations in Munnar (Shutterstock)

Emerald green tea plantations in Munnar (Shutterstock)

At an altitude of 1,600 metres, where a trio of mountain streams meet, Munnar enjoys one of the coolest climates in otherwise balmy Kerala – and was one of the British Raj’s favourite summertime retreats. Today, the setting is just as restorative: think pretty tea plantations and thick jungle woodlands, all overlooked by Mount Anamudi – the highest peak in South India. 

This giant peak is part of the spectacular Eravikulam National park. This 97 sq km reserve is home to a third of the world's population of nilgiri tahr (an endangered species of mountain goat) as well as neelakurinji, a type of plant that only flowers once every twelve years. 

6. Rajasthan

Best for: A desert adventure

Travel by camel in the Thar Desert (Shutterstock)

Travel by camel in the Thar Desert (Shutterstock)

From its celebrated national parks to the sacred depths of Pushkar Lake, Rajasthan is blessed with incredible landscapes – but the most soul-stirring of them all is the Thar Desert. Rajasthan encompasses 60% of the dunes, which cover a whopping 200,000 square kilometres in total. It’s easy to assume that this arid environment is devoid of wildlife, but that’s far from the case: look a little closer and you’ll spy black buck antelopes, wildcats and white-footed foxes – while great Indian spotted eagles soar overhead.

The best way to explore? By camel, of course. The desert-bound cities of Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur offer treks of varying difficulties and durations – from those with simple bivvy-bags and vegetarian food, to sumptuous tented camps and evening entertainment.

7. Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh

Best for: Mountainous meditation

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more humbling landscape than Himachal Pradesh's Great Himalayan National Park (Shutterstock)

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more humbling landscape than Himachal Pradesh's Great Himalayan National Park (Shutterstock)

Up in the northernmost reaches of India, the Great Himalayan National Park harbours 350 wildlife species, including some of the world’s most vulnerable mammals – such as snow leopards and Himalayan tahrs. These peaks, you see, reach almost 6,000 metres high: a natural haven for hardy fauna, as well as a remarkable diversity of flora.

If you like your camping trips on the wild side, and your hiking trails with breath-stealing views, you’ve come to the right place: summer and autumn bring high-altitude adventures aplenty. But take a moment, too, to meditate in this greatest of outdoors. A more humbling landscape you’d be hard-pressed to find.

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