A woman with her back to the camera stands in front of a tomb in Agra, India

Your Guide to Walking Through India

With a history that dates back over 30,000 years, there’s no telling what you’ll find on a visit to India. Between the stunning architecture, unique and varied culture, mouth watering food, and ancient traditions, travellers who rank India at the top of their must-visit list can’t be blamed for wanting to experience some of this amazing country for themselves.

While there are many ways to explore a country – cruising along rivers, prowling in a safari van, and enjoying an overland journey, to name a few – one of the best ways to truly get a feel for the culture and history of a region is to walk through it. After all, what better way to walk a mile in a local’s shoes than literally walking a mile in their shoes? Thankfully, India provides countless opportunities to explore the country by foot, and we, along with our friends at Exodus Travels, are here to provide you with a complete guide to walking through India.

Best time for walking through India

India’s weather is famously extreme, from large monsoons to scorching, dry summers. While India is certainly a year-round destination, travellers should consider their level of fitness and decide what kind of adventure they’d like to have before determining when they’ll visit the country. If an extreme journey trekking through mud under harsh conditions sounds like your perfect adventure, then you won’t have a problem travelling during monsoon season, which lasts from about July to September (however, note that a visit to the north of India around August will actually be fairly dry and pleasant, similar to a European summer). If you’re used to extreme heat and know how to properly hydrate and care for yourself when hiking long distances in those conditions, pre-monsoon, from April to June, might be perfect for you. However, travellers who don’t want to contend with any extreme weather, and enjoy a more accessible journey, would do well to plan their trip from the months of October to March, when temperatures are moderate and the weather is pleasant.

A woman holding money in a market in India
Walking through India is the perfect way to get a feel for the local culture | © Pau Casals/Unsplash

What to pack for a walking trip in India

While any experienced hiker knows that clothing can make or break a journey, it can occasionally feel daunting to reconcile India’s more conservative standards for clothing with the breezy, comfortable outfits many western hikers feel most at home in. The most important thing to remember when packing for a trip to India is, of course, to keep things light! As with any hiking trip, the last thing you want is to feel weighed down by unessential items. Begin with these must-haves, and add in any extras as needed.

  • Shirts. If you own any moisture-wicking tank tops or t-shirts, now is the time to bring them out! Note, however, that in more conservative areas of India it would be unusual to see a woman wearing tight-fitting clothing, so consider wearing baggier shirts in these areas. (It’s a great excuse to go out and buy a locally-made souvenir or two!)
  • Leggings/shorts. Again, female travellers may have trouble blending in while wearing tight-fitting clothing, but that problem can be solved by wearing a longer shirt, or even a dress, while visiting more conservative areas.
  • A scarf. While it may seem counterproductive to bring a scarf to one of the hottest countries on earth, keeping one close is perfect for impromptu temple visits, chillier evening breezes, and covering up when necessary.
  • Hiking shoes or boots. The number one rule of purchasing new shoes or boots for a hike is to break them in before you head out. If you’re going to be buying new footwear for your Indian walking trip, make sure to do it a couple of months in advance. Your feet will thank you!
  • Sunscreen. Possibly the most important item on the list, it’s always important to apply sunscreen before setting out in the morning – and then continue to reapply it throughout the day for maximum efficacy.
  • Water. Hydration, hydration, hydration! Indian tap water is rarely potable, so either bring along a portable water purifier or remember to pack plenty of bottled water.
A woman with her back to the camera stands in front of a tomb in Agra, India
Make sure you pack comfortable clothing! | © Ibrahim Rifath/Unsplash

The best hiking trails in India

  1. The Valley of the Flowers. A trek even more beautiful than the name describes, travellers embarking on a hike through the Valley of the Flowers should prepare to enter a world of vibrant wildflowers, fluttering butterflies, and endangered animals such as blue sheep. Available to visit from June through September, this moderately-challenging journey in Uttarakhand generally takes about one week to complete.
  2. The Rajmachi Trek. A fast-growing tourist destination, Rajmachi in Maharashtra provides incredible views of vibrant green hills, and two different ways to view them. Travellers looking for a walk that can be completed in just a few hours can take the 15-kilometre walk from Lonavala, but those looking for a more rugged adventure can climb 2,000 feet and end their visit with a trip to the Kondana caves.
  3. Chandratal Lake Trek. An easy journey popular with couples honeymooning in Himachal Pradesh, the Chandratal Lake Trek is just one kilometre around the beautiful lake, known as the Lake of the Moon. The best time to explore this area, located in Spiti Valley, is from May to October, and the region makes for an excellent day trip.
  4. The Indrahar Pass Trek. Located in the Dhauladhar mountain range, the Indrahar Pass sits at 4,300 metres above sea level and is a popular trekking destination from April to October. Travellers looking to work hard and receive a serious pay-out in the form of some incredible views should rank this 4 to 10-day trek highly.

Your Guide to the Kerala Spice Trail

Okay, we admit it: while there are nearly endless routes perfect for a walking journey through India, we have a favourite. Kerala, the established centre of the spice trade from as early as the year 3000 BC, is known as the “Spice Garden of India.” Kerala is the real deal – you won’t find a more authentic, inspiring trail in many other destinations. The Kerala Spice Trail is a moderate hike with breathtaking scenery along the way, from coffee plantations to wildlife sanctuaries to ancient temples. If you want to truly see it all while walking through India, this trail should be number one on your list. Thankfully, Exodus agrees, and travellers who can’t resist the possibility of exploring the Kerala Spice Trail will be happy to learn that, on the 15-day Spice Trails of Kerala tour, they’ll have the chance to hike through tea plantations, spot elephants in the wild, visit peaceful temples, and so much more. For an experience like no other, a hiking trip through India with Exodus is the ultimate adventure.

Three brown monkeys in Kerala, India
A family of monkeys that call Kerala home | © Bill Wegener/Unsplash

This story was created in partnership with: Exodus Travels 

Have you ever gone hiking in India? Where did you go? Let us know in the comments!

Maggie is a life-long traveller with a special affinity for the United Kingdom. When she's not reading, writing, or dreaming about her next trip, you can find her talking at length about her dog to anyone who'll listen.

selective focus photo of back of woman wearing fedora hat with elbows on railings facing bridge
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