For a country of India’s size, it has been a difficult task narrowing a list down to a mere ‘Top 10’. Nevertheless, here are the places (some unique to Stubborn Mule) you tell us you have enjoyed most, from the hills of the Himalayas and deserts of Rajasthan to the beaches of Goa and backwaters of Kerala. (Jump straight to our India family holidays section if you want to see itineraries, prices and when to go.)
1 – Weird and wacky transport
The black and yellow tuk-tuks (really, pimped-up motorized trikes) are as iconic an Indian image as the Taj Mahal and an absolute must to experience. Kids will love the open sided vehicles, whether you’re navigating through the traffic-packed streets of Delhi or in smaller towns, villages and cities. Whilst usually a favourite mode of getting from A to B for visitors (to the extent you’ll wonder where to source one back home), on any trip to India you’ll experience the weird, wild and wonderful ranges of transport on offer, from camel, camel cart, overnight train, cycle rickshaw, boat, raft and more.
2 – Camel Safari in Jaisalmer
It’s the quintessential ‘Rajasthan Experience’, and without doubt, high up in the ‘Top 10 India with Kids’ experience; taking a camel safari out into the Thar desert, lolloping along the ocean of sand with these ‘ships of the desert’. We admit that it’s not the comfiest ride you’ll ever have in your life but, as an activity all the family can do (small children can sit with you on your camel) it’s hard to beat.
3 – Taj Mahal and cookery class in Agra
We have yet to meet a client travelling to India with kids who didn’t make a visit to The Taj Mahal their must-see (we recommend a sunrise or sunset visit, where the colours are at their most spectacular). We like to make the Agra experience even more authentic by including a cooking class in a fabulous B and B where you learn how to cook a traditional Indian feast and get to eat the results!
4 – Biking the backstreets of Jaipur
You may have to rise early to make the most of the cool, but it’s during these hours that the stunning city of Jaipur – ‘The Pink City’ and Rajasthan’s capital – is at its best, as you cycle yourself around the streets and watch the city come alive. Children running errands. Hawkers shouting. People going to work and around their daily business. And, because you’re cycling, you feel absolutely part of it all.
5 – Taking a rice barge through the backwaters of Kerala
Think Kerala and images of traditional boats, like the converted rice barge (also known as a kettuvallum – a houseboat) we use, will come to mind, meandering through the backwaters flanked by lush, green tropical vegetation. We’d argue that a rice barge is the only way to travel here – it’s slow travel in every sense, allowing you and your family to soak up the atmosphere and watch the world go by, sipping a chilled beer or coconut water, dining on freshly cooked Indian food. A must-do ‘India with kids’ experience they’ll love. .
6 – Overnight in a spice plantation
There are homestays and there are homestays. Our favourite in Kerala is a wonderful plantation bungalow situated in the beautiful Mavady Hills (number 8 in the list of most biologically diverse places in the world!), near the banks of the Meenachil River. The landscape here is stunning, with miles of rolling verdant hills, tumbling rivers and both spice and rubber plantations. The owners can keep you as busy as you want to be, arranging tours of the spice plantation, hikes through the rubber plantation to lovely rock pools for swimming, drives to nearby peaks to watch sunset or visiting an Ashram in a nearby village.
7 – Beaches in Goa
At one time, you could choose: either a family trip to Northern India (Rajasthan, Agra, Darjeeling etc) or Southern India (Goa, Kerala etc). Now, internal flights are far cheaper than they used to be meaning you can much more easily do both without hammering your holiday budget. The white, palm fringed beaches of Goa, then, where you can swim in warm waters, eat from the various beach shacks along the coast, shop in markets and sip coconuts almost straight from the tree are a marvellous way your whole family can rest and relax, particularly after the busy towns and cities of the north.
8 – Walking in Darjeeling with views of Kanchenjunga
To most, Darjeeling is synonymous with its tea production and it’s true, the Himalayan foothill slopes are carpeted with bushes and tea plantations you can visit. You may also have heard of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, or toy train, which is a family must to travel on, whatever the age of your kids. But here, with views of the Himalayas, including Everest and Kanchenjunga, friendly people, tea-pickers and lush greenery, not to mention cooler climes, children will love walking through a very different landscape than the one back home. A highlight is watching sunrise from Tiger Hill from where the incredible panorama of the Himalayas is unbroken, undoubtedly one of the best views in the world.
9 – Taking a cycle rickshaw through the streets of Old Delhi
Whilst Delhi is undoubtedly a modern city, for the visitor, it’s the old part of the city which appeals most. After taking the subway (you see, modern!), you’ll emerge into the most ancient part of the city, best toured by cycle rickshaw from where you’ll see The Red Fort, the 17th century Jama Masjid Mosque and lively markets of Chandi Chowk. It’s noisy, smelly and chaotic, a riot of colour and an assault on all senses but an authentic experience you’ll never forget.
10 – Live like a Maharajah in Rajasthan
Clients have told us that when staying in Chandelao, the ancestral home of the local Rajasthani rulers, makes them feel like royalty, and certainly, you could certainly imagine sipping G & T’s on the terrace, chatting to a Maharaja or Maharani. The accommodation isn’t the only reason our guests find this place so appealing, though, its location also gives a unique insight into rural life. Whilst here you’ll see traditional craftsmen weaving rugs from camel hair and shaping water pots from clay, women collecting firewood and water, farmers tending their fields as well as a visit to a Bishnoi family in their traditional home.
India with kids
For more information about what you can experience on a holiday to India with kids, have a look at our India Family Holidays section or call us on 01728 752 751. You can also check out the best time to visit on our When to go to India page or read Postcards from India, a blog by Stubborn Mule’s Charlotte Hamilton following her recent trip.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
We’d love to hear about your experiences holidaying in India with kids, so do send us your reviews and opinions. Thank you – firstname.lastname@example.org.