Immersive Unseen India

Have you ever gone foraging in the desert? Or learnt pottery without a potter's wheel? On your next trip, try something you've never tried before
Immersive Unseen India
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India offers a range of incredible experiences, which also happen to be gentle on the planet, thus proving that travel can be more than just an escape; it can be a means to connect, learn, and contribute to preserving cultural and natural heritage. The true essence of travel lies not just in the destinations but in the connections—with the locals, the environment, and the stories that become a part of your narrative. We hope this list of curated, immersive experiences and the inspiring stories behind them propels you to rediscover India.

Hiking To An Ancient Lava Stream

Habitat Institute Activity Centre, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

What comes to your mind when you think of the Andamans? Pristine blue waters, powdery golden sand and days spent lazing in the sun, right? And just like every other tourist, I had already done all these. So, when I returned to the islands this time, I was on a mission to explore beyond the usual.

Local weavers using traditional weaving methods in Majuli
Local weavers using traditional weaving methods in MajuliCourtesy: Enchanting Majuli

And an apt opportunity arose at the dinner table during my first night there. We were suggested a trek through Havelock Island's secluded, untamed rainforests. The next morning, we headed out to see a side of the islands that we didn't even know existed. During the first half of the hike, we explored the island's unique flora and fauna and how they adapted to the local ecosystem to ensure their survival. And the tiniest detail didn't escape us, thanks to the expertise of award-winning naturalist Anurag Karekar and his team from the Habitat Institute Activity Centre—Hussain, Chahat and Aditya, who led the hike. Together, they had years of experience studying the ecology of the region.

The trail was scenic, and as we hiked up further, we were greeted by the soothing sound of water flowing through the forest. What awaited us was a lesson in evolution on how the islands were formed, natural pools of fresh water and a "private jacuzzi" formed by centuries-old volcanic rock formations. The humidity of the island made us all dive into the water immediately. On our way back, due to fresh rainfall, we encountered several tricky bits where the trek had become slippery. But Anurag and his team were thoroughly prepared. They had already set up rappelling ropes on the trail, which enabled us to climb down smoothly. They made us feel comfortable, constantly supporting us where needed and were thorough with their safety measures.

Travel Logistics

Guests can book the Ancient Lava Stream Hike amongst a range of activities offered by the Habitat Institute Activity Centre and can choose to stay at the Seashells Resort ( Havelock or Swaraj Dweep Island can be reached by private or government ferry from Port Blair. The best time to visit is between October and March.

A windsurfer at the Quest Academy
A windsurfer at the Quest AcademyCourtesy: Quest Academy

Windsurfing In The Sea

Quest Academy, Ramanathapuram

The southern Indian coastal town of Ramanathapuram, which is close to Rameshwaram, has access to the pristine blue waters of Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar. Here, Quest Academy offers the perfect spot to get started on some thrilling, low-impact water sports.

From kayaking to windsurfing, snorkelling and sailing to scuba diving and stand-up paddling, guests at Quest Academy are spoilt for choice. All the activities offered at the Academy use non-motorised power-paddle, pedal or wind. Led by Jehan Driver, the focus here is on helping everyone—the brave, the bold, and even the reluctant punters—discover the joys of adventure while raising awareness about the triple bottom line of sustainability—people, planet and profit.

Through its Ocean Ambassadors Foundation, Quest Academy organises regular outreach and training programmes for the coastal community to provide them with an alternate source of income. Quest also does regular beach cleanups and have popularised "trash for cash," where local children can pay them in the trash in exchange for activities.

Travel LogisticsRamanathapuram is 2.5 hours away from the nearest airport in Madurai. While doing their short four-day courses, you can stay at the natural cottages built using local materials like coconut thatch, palm and silver teak. The best time to visit Ramanathapuram is between October to March. (

Travellers during a tea-tasting tour at Wah Tea Estate
Travellers during a tea-tasting tour at Wah Tea Estate Courtesy: The Lodge at Wah

Tea Tasting In The Himalayan foothills

The Lodge at Wah, Palampur

Moving on to the serene hills of Himachal Pradesh, we arrive at The Lodge at Wah in Palampur. At the Lodge, which has more than 70 years of history, the hosts are fourth-generation planters and high school sweethearts Surya Prakash and Upasana Todi Prakash. Take part in the tea tour if you want to know about the journey of tea from a shrub to a teacup, learn more about the people who pluck your tea, or acquaint yourself with the traits of a tea sommelier. After a walk through the tea gardens and a brush with history, you can witness the withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting processes involved in the manufacturing of tea. Then, move on to sample a range of freshly brewed teas of different varieties and learn insider tips of making the perfect cuppa. You can also taste authentic Himachali food if you ask for a Kangri dhaam, which includes local dishes like kala chana khatta, teliyama, jimikand madra and meethe chawal.

Travel Logistics

Palampur is accessible from Kangra Airport or a 10-hour drive from Delhi. You can stay at an eco-friendly homestay on the 500-acre farm. The best time to visit Palampur is between September and November and March and April (

The water pool at the end of the hike with the Habitat Institute Activity Center
The water pool at the end of the hike with the Habitat Institute Activity CenterCourtesy: Habitat Institute Activity Centre

Learning Pottery Without A Potter's Wheel

Enchanting Majuli, Majuli

Did you know that India has the world's largest river island? At 352 sq km, the Majuli island on the Brahmaputra River is the largest river island in the world, and not only that, it is also the only island in India that has become a district. Steeped in history and culture, Majuli is truly a world unto itself.

"Tourists come to the Northeast and see waterfalls, rhinos and sunsets. But no one visits the local villages or walks into the forests," says Julie Kagti, Founder of Curtain Call Adventures, who is changing this perspective, one trip at a time. Julie brings travellers to learn and experience one of the most well-preserved traditions of the island's vibrant community—its unique, ancient pottery-making practice without a potter's wheel. The passion of the potters for their craft clearly shines through as they continue to adopt the technique in accordance with their limited access to resources. Their story is a shining example of the proverb, "Necessity is the mother of invention," as they did not let their remote location deter their spirits or passion for their craft.

The indigenous Mishing community is also known for their beautiful handloom weaves. The intricate patterns require a lot of precision, and the locals are exceptionally skilled. You can engage with them and learn more about their craft. Also, grab this opportunity to learn how to weave a scarf or stole.

Travel Logistics

Majuli, being a river island, is only accessible through ferries and boats via Jorhat. The curated experience can be booked standalone or as part of a larger trip around Northeast India through Curtain Call Adventures ( Guests can choose to stay at Enchanting Majuli or Jyoti's Homestay. The best time to visit Majuli is during the dry months of October to February.

Utsow Pradhan, Owner, TIEEDI Forest Garden, Darjeeling with produce from the farm
Utsow Pradhan, Owner, TIEEDI Forest Garden, Darjeeling with produce from the farmCourtesy: TIEEDI Forest Garden, Darjeeling

Learning Permaculture

TIEEDI Forest Garden, Darjeeling

En route to the historic Hill Cart Road that connects Siliguri with Darjeeling, you will find yourself at TIEEDI, a self-sufficient, regenerative, zero-waste experiential stay and earth school. TIEEDI Forest Garden offers a unique co-living experience with nature, where you can enrol in a permaculture course focussing on natural farming at Dzomsa, the classroom at the TIEEDI Forest School. Pause and immerse in the surrounding nature as you take inspiration behind the name TIEEDI, which is an abbreviation for "Take it easy, easy does it" from an old Ladakhi folk song.

As founder Utsow Pradhan puts it, "At TIEEDI, our vision is to fight for pure air, fresh water and rich soil for all beings." Driven by this, the team is committed to sharing an experience where guests travel and live differently while learning the ropes of sustainable land and building solutions, decentralised waste management and regenerative tourism.

You can complete the permaculture course and get a certificate. Or experience TIEEDI as a short-term stay, where you can go on village walks, hike to surrounding waterfalls and birding trails and sample the local Newari cuisine.

Travel Logistics

TIEEDI is an hour's drive from Darjeeling and easily accessible by road. You can stay at an earth dwelling, a garden room or a shared dormitory here. The best time to visit TIEEDI is between March and June (instagram/tieediforestgarden).

The Museum of Memories
The Museum of MemoriesCourtesy: Hundurman Museum

Visiting A Museum Of Memories

Hundurman Museum, Kargil

Amidst the rugged terrains of Kargil, the Museum of Memories in the village of Hundurman opens up a window into the lives of people who have survived four wars and lived under the rule of two countries. The village's unique architectural style and connection with the 1971 war prompted this museum's opening. A joint initiative of Roots Ladakh, a local travel company, CEPT University and the villagers of Hundurman, the museum houses several rare artefacts, including French coffee tins, identity cards, coins and traditional jewellery. When asked what could potentially be the oldest preserved part of the museum, co-curator Muzammil Hussain shares, "It might be the building which houses the museum itself. It is believed to be more than 300 years old."

What makes the Hundurman Museum truly unique is the opportunity to interact with the local Purigpa tribe. With a current population of about 39,000, the Purigpas are the original inhabitants of Hundurman. You can have a traditional meal of local Purigpa and Balti dishes with the museum host, Iliyas.

Travel Logistics

To have an immersive experience, guests can witness all that the museum has to offer through a curated tour hosted by Roots Ladakh ( Visitors can further choose to stay at either the local homestay at Hundurmaan or travel 30 minutes away to book a stay at the Black Sheep B&B in Kargil. To reach Hundurman, the nearest airport is in Leh. From Leh guests can take a long and scenic drive of about five to six hours to get there. The best time to visit is between May and October.

Local astronomers leading a tour as part of Cosmohub
Local astronomers leading a tour as part of CosmohubCourtesy: Cosmohub

Stargazing At A Village And Monastery

Cosmohub, Phyang

A sky full of stars awaits you in the beautiful, quaint village of Phyang, barely 20km from Leh. A dark, star-studded night sky is a true rarity for city dwellers like us. But not when you are at the Cosmohub, an experience centre on the periphery of a 700-year-old monastery perched on a hill. Stargazing is a low-impact, nature-based activity that has brought the community together and motivated local women to lead the change. About 34 local women have been trained in astronomy and now lead the tours. With the advantage of the Himalayan dark sky and minimal light pollution, the stargazing experience at Phyang is unparalleled.

"There were many other women in the village, too, who weren't trained in astronomy, yet they wanted to be a part of the project, and we had to find a way," shares Sonal Asgotraa, Founder of Astrostays and CosmoHub. So, while CosmoHub was designed to celebrate the cosmos, as its name suggests, it now also celebrates local pashmina handicrafts and apricots and farm-fresh Ladakhi dishes made by local women. It's also paired with a guided tour of the Phyang monastery, which is not a particularly popular pitstop.

Travel Logistics

Book the experiences through Cosmohub from June to September. Stay at Astrostay, an astronomy-focused homestay in Phyang village or Leh, about 30 minutes away. (

Local ingredients used for a modern Marwari meal at Kaner Retreat
Local ingredients used for a modern Marwari meal at Kaner RetreatCourtesy: Kaner Retreat

Foraging In The Desert

Kaner Retreat, Hapusar

India's first desert botanical-inspired resort, Kaner Retreat, stands majestically amidst the golden sands of Hapusar. Named after the Oleander flower or desert rose, Kaner has been brought to life by long-time Thar resident Sapna Bhatia.

For instance, if you've ever wondered how locals sustain themselves in a desert, you can sign up for Kaner's tour of the "oran" or sacred grove. The tour is a wonderful excuse to go foraging in a "wasteland" while decoding the mysteries of famine foods and discovering the truly unique cuisine of the Thar. Local and seasonal ingredients like ker and sundried vegetables are prominent in-house dishes.

You can also experience a cheese-tasting session with cheeses made from camel milk, including cream cheese and feta, sourced locally from Camel Charisma, a social enterprise providing income opportunities for the traditional camel herding communities. You can sample a 5-course meal inspired by modern Marwari flavours, too. Or opt for any of the other wild and wonderful experiences and exquisite meals on offer, including a lunch at an olive farm or dinner in the dunes after a spot of stargazing. At Kaner, the influence of the desert botanicals is omnipresent, from the food served to the decor in the rooms.

Travel Logistics

Hapusar is accessible by road from Jodhpur, which has the nearest airport and railway station. The best time to visit is from October to March when the desert is pleasantly cool. To truly make the most of the trip, consider Kaner's Thar Unplugged itinerary, where apart from the culinary experiences, you can also take guided nature walks, indulge in plant-based wellness sessions, and enjoy stargazing, birdwatching and safaris in the desert wilderness (

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