Travelling India with Kids
Travelling India with Kids
If you think travelling to India is only for adults, think again. There are lots of places and activities throughout India that are very educational and entertaining for families and children of all ages. Let us take a look at just a few of them:
Even though hockey is the national sport of India, everyone here eats, breathes and loves playing cricket. Sachin Tendulkar is God for cricket lovers. A lot of the people I know, would prefer staying at home on the day India plays a game. Once the match is over, you will find people in every restaurant talking about the game in great detail.
People play cricket in the streets all over India. They’ll even continue playing even if a few window panes are broken by a ball and the players have to pitch in to buy a new pane to get their prized ball back.
When you’re here, you and your kids should really try out the game. Grounds like Azad Maidan and Oval Maidan (local grounds that organize cricket matches) have lots of training and matches scheduled throughout the day.
Farms are at the heart of every village in India. There are different crops cultivated during different seasons throughout different parts of India. You don’t need any training to do farm work here - all you need to do is stop at the farm and introduce yourself and ask if they need any help (most of the time, they will be more than happy to use your help). Most of the vegetable fields need picking all throughout the year so go ahead and help them out!
‘Attithi Devo Bhava’ means ‘Guest is God’. So, even if you don’t help them, they will invite you to have a meal with them. You will need a really good reason to not accept their invitation. And you don’t need to worry about hygiene as food is prepared with care and vegetables washed very well. The only thing you may need to worry about are the spices. Indians use a lot of spices, but what fun it can be trying all these authentic dishes .
Rajasthan is filled with history and religion and if you find yourself here, you need to see three things: castles, forts and camels. All of them will give you a glimpse of an era gone by.
Castles and forts: Every castle and every fort has a story of its own. Stories of bravery and valour are still told to the children of Rajasthan. Most of the castles have actually been converted to five star hotels, but the forts still remain the same. A few of the most famous castles and forts, which have some great tales behind them, are Amber Palace, Lake Palace, Alwar Fort, Chittorgarh Fort and Hawa Mahal. Every child over the age of 5 will be able to relate to these stories of kings and battles. Lots of family fun!
Camel rides: Camels are a pride of Rajasthan and a family’s wealth is actually calculated by the amount of farms they own and the number of camels they have. Nowadays, times are changing and camels have become a unique selling point for Rajasthan’s tourism. You can visit and tour different villages by camel and even stay overnight in tents and resume your tour the next morning. One such tour that is wrth checking out is Pushkar Camel Safari.
Goa - the land of beaches and churches. And there is one church called the Basilica of Bom Jesus that should be on your ‘must-see’ list. The reason this church is so famous is because it houses the body of St. Francis Xavier. Now, this Saint died in 1552, but his body has not decomposed. Legend has it that the Good Lord has kept his body intact because of the good work he has done to mankind. St. Francis Xavier’s body is kept in a coffin on one of the alters in the church where you can see it, but not touch it. Every 10 years, the coffin is brought to ground level for the month of December for the people to venerate. December 2014 is when this will happen again.
Goa also has a number of great beaches. The most famous are Calangute and Baga, which are beaches very safe and very family-friendly. If you want a secluded but scenic beach, make a visit to Palolem. Its pristine waters and scenic views make it one of the best beaches in all of Goa. The downfall is that it’s at the southern tip and is quite a drive to get there - but well worth the drive for anyone looking to escape the crowds.
Staying in the Wild
You will find a number of wild life sanctuaries all over India. These sanctuaries have resorts either in the forests (most of the bird sanctuaries have them) or in the near vicinity. You get a beautiful view of the birds and a few deer roaming around the place. These sanctuaries offer jungle safaris that are a great way to see wild life from a really close distance. Some worth mentioning are the Jim Corbett Park and the Ranthambore Park, which are both Tiger Reserves. You have the option of seeing the tigers while driving in jeeps or by elephant. Most of the families prefer the elephant trek as they can penetrate deep in the jungles (something that jeeps cannot) and the kids get to ride the elephant, of course. Be on the look out for naughty monkeys too!
Dandiya is a dance form which takes place over nine nights. That is why, it is aptly called ‘Navratri’ (nav = nine, ratri = night) although Dandiya is celebrated all over India, the fun that you have while you are in Gujrat takes you to an all time high. Dandiya is normally celebrated in September and during these nine nights, you will see almost every person in Gujrat dressed in a traditional outfit filled with mirror work. Don’t worry - the steps of dandiya are not tough and can be easily learned in a day. The kids will have a blast dancing the night away and every street in Gujrat is filled with dandiya dancers. You have a choice between a small communities of dancers where your kids will feel very welcomed or a big bash - normally organized on playgrounds or pther public venues, where you feel the true spirit of dance and nobody really bothers about you.
The Kite Festival is a colourful event that is held on January 14 each year when the skies of Gujrat are filled with kites of all different shapes and sizes. Buying kites and specially made threads (called maanja) are a piece of cake as you will find them for sale on every street. Your tour guide can help you get a kite that is easy for your child to handle. Your guide will be happy to teach you how to fly a kite and tell you all about the game and pass along tips like to be careful of the thread that is a little sharp and may cut you if not handled properly. Kids over 10 years old are taught a few tricks on how to cut their competitors kites, which can be very competitive and lots of fun! Your kids can either take part in one of the local flying competitions or just take it all in by laying down in a park or playground and watching the competitors from all over the world fly their kites to win their title.
No trip to Kerala is complete without spending a day in a houseboat. The backwaters of Kerela are known for its beautiful surroundings and the serenity it brings to those around. The houseboat is a room floating on the river with all the amenities of a 5-star hotel. Every child gets to be an imaginary pirate or a beautiful princess travelling along the river to meet her prince charming. The meals here are authentic Indian (you need to tell them the amount of spice you prefer in your food) which gives a tourist a taste of the Indian cuisine. The houses along the backwaters light their houses with lanterns which look like fireflies and add to the beautiful backdrop of the evening on the river. A trip like this proves to be really educational and entertaining for your kids and entire family. You can also take a golunda ride with your kids, which is a boat where the locals use hand paddles to get the boat moving. Kids above the age of 10 will enjoy paddling the boat along themselves. Lots of fun!
Ellora Caves bring out the curiosity in a child. There are around 34 caves built here by 3 different religions which show the religious harmony that prevailed during these times. If your child is artistically inclined, they will definitely be in awe seeing the intricate designs of the various damsels carved on the walls. Each and every cave (and sometimes every wall) has a different story to tell. You also need to understand that these caves were built in the 5-7th century when modern tools were not available. So the time, effort and dedication by the artists is really astonishing.
Once you have seen the caves, you can make a visit to Lonar were there is a crater formation from a meteorite or a shooting star that fell centuries ago. Kids who have grown up listening to fairy tales about getting their wishes fulfilled through shooting stars will be thrilled to see this.
A great way to ensure your kids use up all their energy is a trip to the Himalayas, home to the highest mountain peaks in the world. The winters here are freezing and the mountains are covered with snow, which makes it nearly impossible to climb. However, there are smaller peaks which can be accomplished easily. Every peak has its own plateau which is normally dedicated to a God or Goddess. You will also find hot refreshments, soups food and some basic amenities on these plateaus. The views from up here will take your breath away. You can also find tents to spend a night if you’re really in for an adventure. This trek is nature’s way of showing kids that nothing in life comes easy. But once the feat is accomplished, the rewards are amazing. The locals are very warm and friendly and they make visitors feel welcome,
Hot Air Balloon
Hot air balloons are a new trend in India and although they are found all over India, they dominate the North Indian skies. A lot of travel agents and tour guides have added hot air balloons as a part of tour itineraries for tourists travelling with kids. However, unlike other countries, the hot air balloon does not travel around mountains and rivers. Here, they travel over forts, gardens and palaces in Rajasthan and over picturesque landscapes. Your pilot will tell you stories of each fort or palace conquered by different rulers. The advantage here is you do not need to go to every fort or palace to learn its history. In one hour you and your kids will know stories of the heritage sites in Rajasthan that you want to visit. The hot air balloon gives an amazing ‘bird’s eye view’ of the land below and must be seen to be believed.
Along the Maharashtra coast line you will find a beautiful virgin beach called Tarkali where you will find sand and sea for as far as your eye can see. Yes - you will find a few people here too, but most of them locals. The beauty of this place is you will spot dolphins playing around in the waters here. Your kids will have a blast watching them do their stunts. There’s also snorkelling and scuba diving here. If you head twenty minutes from Tarkali, you will find a Fort called Sindhudurg, where the descendants of a warrior clan will be happy to take you around and show you the fort. The unique selling point of the fort is the path under the sea that takes you directly to Tarkali. This route was made in the 15th century by its ruler, named, Shivaji.
Pottery is an occupation practised in almost all of the villages throughout India. However, Uttar Pradesh is most famous in the art, which is passed down through the generations. Clay pots are used in most of the villages and are important in cooling and purifying water. If you are around Uttar Pradesh, you should really visit one of these villages. The locals will be happy to show you their art. The potter will hold your kids hand and help them mold a pot. Your kids will be astonished to see a mound of clay transformed to something so beautiful and useful. Don’t expect to create a masterpiece though – pottery takes years of practice. However, your kids will really enjoy getting their hands dirty and experiencing the process of turning clay into something so useful. Along with pots, these artisans excel in making clay door markers with your child’s name engraved on it. These pots and door markers are normally given as a memento to the child.
Have you always wanted to visit Switzerland but never had the opportunity? While in India, we give you something very close to Switzerland. Khajjiar is called ‘Mini Switzerland’ because of the beautiful landscape created by scenic mountains, lush green grass and beautiful rivers and lakes. Since it is not very well known, you will not find many tourists here - giving you all the privacy you want. Your kids can run safely through the fields and most of the time there will be a football or a cricket game going on somewhere nearby. If you are up to it, you can join them. If not, you can sip a cup of tea in your hotel lawns and enjoy the beautiful scenery or read a book. Lots of people come to Khajjiar to spend quality time with their families. You could be one of them.
If you visit Mumbai with your kids, you just have to visit Elephanta Caves. The caves, though small, are a great journey in itself. The only way you can reach the caves is by boat and the one-hour boat journey is usually a hit with kids. While having a blast watching the waves, there are lots of sea gulls to feed, who have an uncanny ability to catch food morsels while flying by. Make sure you take along some bread before you board the boat. Kids above the age of three are allowed to throw the morsels with the help of their parents. The leftover bread can be fed to the monkeys who dominate the caves and surrounding areas. Truly a fun-filled day.
Along with its amazing views, Munnar is home to a number of endangered birds and there are a few bird sanctuaries here that aim to protect them. Munnar is famous for its cinnamon and plants that are used for ayurvedic medicines. Along with learning the different uses of the plants around, you can also help the workers pick cinnamon bark to be used for cooking and medicinal purposes. A lot of hotels and tour operators organize a special kathakali show for its guests, which is a traditional dance form in the South which involves a lot of intricacies with regards to its dance and facial make up and attire. This is truly a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience and something that should not be missed.
Waterfalls can be found all over India with a few of the best ones found en route to Goa and Lonavala. There are plenty of spots to take in the amazing scenery here. The kids will have lots of fun getting drenched at the waterfalls – especially during the rain. You know what a lot of people do after they get drenched? Enjoy a hot cup of tea and eat some bhutta, which is corn kernels roasted in a small coal fire and mixed with spices. You will find these stalls at the waterfalls as well as many others. This is one experience you and your family should never miss.
The steam train to Ooty is a hit with parents and kids alike. You might have problems getting tickets on the train as there are only 30 seats on the steam train. However, once you get the tickets, you’ll be glad you did. You can feel a part of the Victorian era while enjoying the scenery around. You will know when you have entered Ooty as there will be a strong essence of the Neelgiri trees that surround the town. Ooty is known for these trees as well as its tea plantations and its silk. The trees and its oil are used for a number of ailments. Your kids will likely enjoy collecting branches from these trees and can also help the locals collect tea leaves that surround the hills of Ooty. Most of the farms have a special dress with a basket on your back to help deposit the leaves. They will be happy to give it to you while you help them.
If you and your kids are into sports activities, Himachal Pradesh is a place you need to visit. Himachal is an amalgamation of activities and serenity. So you get the best of both the worlds. Its beautiful landscape gives you the serenity you deserve. With regards to sports, the place is filled with summer and winter activities. Mountain cycling, ice skating, para gliding, angling, trekking, skiing, mountaineering and rock climbing are just a few of the many activities that can be done here. Something every child must try is skiing - and Himachal Pradesh has a number of hills and mountains. You need to go to the slope best suited for your kids. Adventure seeking kids will also enjoy paragliding through the snow capped mountains. If you happen to visit Himachal in the summer, trekking and mountain cycling make great options.
Be it education, entertainment, leisure or sports, India is an amazing place that your kids are sure to enjoy!