The growth in the India rural tourism market in recent years means that many Indian villages have now found a place on the tourist map. Not only does it provide the villagers with a much needed additional source of income, visitors are able to interact with them and gain a rare insight into their way of life. Here are some unique ways of experiencing rural India.
Looking for other rural tourism ideas across India? Check out the Indian government's Explore Rural India website.
1. Ecosphere Spiti: High Altitude Rural Tourism
The Spiti Valley is a lesser known alternative to Leh and Ladakh. Visits to Bhuddist monasteries, yak safaris, treks to villages, village homestays, and cultural performances are some of the posssible activities. Ecosphere Spiti, an award winning non-profit organization focused on conservation and responsible tourism, is highly involved in the community there and can make all travel arrangements. They also offer two week Volunteer Travel packages, involving a range of community initiatives.
Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay
Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay has become quite renowned since it was established in 2009 and receives glowing reviews. There, you'll get to stay in traditional yet contemporary dwellings (with western style facilities) with a family of weavers. Outstanding Rajasthani hospitality is provided, along with delicious home cooked food. Activities include folk dances, camel safaris, village trekking, and jeep safaris to Bishnoi Village.
It is possible to explore rural India without sacrificing any comforts. The spectacular Lakhsman Sagar luxury hotel, which was once a royal hunting lodge, is perched on a ridge in the Pali district of Rajasthan. Its design has been inspired by the culture of the region, and numerous activities are offered that give guests an insight into the surrounding rural area. These include breakfast at a villager's home amongst the fields, horse safaris, village visits, exploring old forts, nature walks, and visits to local industry such as chili drying and wholesaling, and making of bricks by hand.
Kutch Adventures India offers forays into Gujarat's Great Rann of Kutch
to visit artisan villages, as well as the region's famous salt desert. You'll get to go off the beaten track to watch the artisans in action, as well as experience and get an insight into village life. Stay in mud huts (with attached western bathrooms) or tents at Hodka's village resort, the Shaam-e-Sarhad (Sunset at the Border). It's owned and operated by the Village Tourism Committee of the people of Hodka village.
India Untravelled offers a relaxing trip to an organic farm in rural Punjab, nestled in the foothills of the Shivalik range. You can do all kinds of activities from short treks to learning Punjabi cooking and visiting a Punjabi village. Volunteering on the farm is also possible. The harvest festival of Baisakhi
is an excellent occasion to celebrate there. Accommodations are provided in a traditional cottage or Swiss tents, all with western bathrooms. (If you'd prefer a more luxurious rural Punajbi stay, try Itmenaan Lodge's Punjabiyat
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One of India's Quirkiest Festivals, the Rural Olympics takes place in February every year at Kila Raipur in the Punjab. The highlight of the festival is an action packed bullock cart race. There are plenty of other competitions and off-beat events, as well as cultural events such as bhangra dancing and folk singers in the evenings.
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Interest in India's north east region
as a tourist destination is growing, especially to states such as Nagaland.
There you'll be able to interact with the state's tribal communities. Relatively new to tourism, the people are curious, warm, informal -- and open to receiving visitors. The Greener Pastures is pioneering sustainable tourism in the north east and offers a huge range of experiences.
Grassroutes has tied up with a couple of villages in Maharastra to offer three three unique experiences, depending on the time of year: The Story of Rice allows tourists to learn about and participate in the cultivation of rice and other village activities; Taare Zameen Par: Watch a Million Fireflies happens every June when the skies around hills of Western Ghats (Purushwadi village) light up with fire flies; A Trip to Warli Village is an excellent way to experience tribal India, with lessons about Warli art painting included.