From adrenaline-pumping adventures to slow living, the experiences on offer in this region span a wide range and make for indelible memories. Here are the handpicked 10. By Vikas Plakott & Divya Behl
Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Mount Everest
Scaling Mt Everest is one thing, staring down at it like a bird is another. Hop on an aircraft run by Buddha Air to gaze at the highest peaks in Nepal (also the highest points on Earth), flying so close to them that at one point snow-capped Everest is not more than 30 kilometres away from your seat. During the 50-minute flight, every passenger is provided a window seat for unobstructed views of the mountain peaks, which include the likes of Shishapangma (8,027 metres above sea level) and Lhotse (8,516 metres). For unbeatable views, the pilots even let you into the cockpit for a few minutes. Starting at and returning to Kathmandu in the early morning hours, the flight offers the best views during the months of September to April. Buddha Air Everest Flight costs INR 7,000 per person. Stay at Yak and Yeti, a five-star heritage hotel in Kathmandu; rooms starting from INR 7,200.
Row through the Largest Mangrove Forest on Earth
Spread across 1,40,000 hectares, the Sundarbans is the planet’s largest contiguous mangrove system, the majority of which lies in Bangladesh. Home to a wide range of endangered species, including the Royal Bengal tiger, the reserve is a network of waterways, small islands and mudflats. On a three-day expedition to the forest, sail through the many canals and rivers on a tiny wooden rowboat, learning about the area’s biodiversity and looking out for sightings of a lifetime. The journey is marked by birdsongs of 260-odd avian species. While you’re here, sleep in a cabin of a boat anchored in the middle of the river for a fully immersive experience. Nijhoom Tours run a six-day safari that also includes visits to a crocodile breeding centre, Kotka Wildlife Sanctuary, and Jamtola Beach. The company also runs an overnight transfer from Dhaka on a steamer with a stop at the heritage city of Bagerhat. Prices from INR 50,000 per person.
Meet the Last Headhunters of Northeast India
In India’s final frontier, close to the border with Myanmar, lives one of the most fabled and once feared tribes—the Konyaks. Located in the village of Mon in the state of Nagaland, the Konyaks were once fierce headhunters who would raid rival tribes and bring back the heads of their opponents as a symbol of victory and prosperity. Their elaborate body and facial tattoos are another feature that make them stand out. In the Mon of today, you can meet the chief of the erstwhile headhunters (the angh) and some of his tribe members, who recount stories of their nerve-wracking wars. The tattoos inked on their skin are a sight to behold—a rare art that is at the cusp of fading into history books. While at Mon, set aside some time to scourge the local markets for rare Konyak handicrafts. ChaloHoppo, a local tour company focussed on responsible travel, runs an exclusive trip to visit the Konyaks. From INR 25,000 per person.
Raft down Kosi Rapids in Nepal
Imagine plummeting down the rapids of the legendary River Kosi over 270 kilometres from Nepal’s border with Tibet all the way to its confluence with the mighty River Ganga on a nine-day rafting expedition. En route, visit some ancient Hindu temples, camp on sandy riverbanks, test your adventure meter on intense rapids, soak in the surrounds on calm waters, and maybe jump in for a swim—all this while, the stunning scenery of Nepal’s mountains paint the backdrop of your journey. Book an autumn (Sep-Nov) or spring (Apr-June) expedition with GRG Adventure, which takes care of all your needs and safety measures. The experienced and locally well-versed guides ensure an immersive and educational experience as you cross remote villages and communities on the banks of Kosi. Nine-day expedition begins at INR 48,064 per person.
Spot Blue Whales in Sri Lanka
Between the months of May and October, the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth visits the east coast of Sri Lanka. Far from the tourist traps, the port city of Trincomalee is the perfect base to go blue whale-watching with friends or family. Book a luxury yacht with Sail Lanka Charters and head out for a private day cruise to spot the giants. Besides seeing the whales, you can also enjoy a swim, go stand-up paddleboarding, or snorkel in the ocean. For a higher probability of multiple whale encounters, choose a sailing holiday that spans several days. Beach bums can luxuriate on the beaches of Trincomalee while going on short whale expeditions. Day cruises begin at INR 10,000 per person. Indulge in the cottages of Jungle Beach Resort from INR 23,896 per person (August rate).
Trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan
Perched on a cliffside at a height of 3,050 metres, the Taktsang Monastery in Paro stands over a vast blue pine forest. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche tamed a local demon to sanctify Bhutan in the eighth century at this very site; he landed here on a tiger’s back, lending the site the nickname ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Without a flying tiger at your disposal, the best way to visit the monastery is with a three-hour trek on a trail flanked by Tibetan prayer flags, rhododendron trees, and spectacular mountain views. There are ponies available at the start of the trail until halfway up. On arriving at the top, navigate the many temples within the complex and visit the caves where Rinpoche is believed to have meditated. Plan your tour to Bhutan, including the trek, with Bhutan-based company Druk Asia. Stay at Le Meridien Paro, Riverfront—from INR 22,000 per night.
Ride the Wave on India’s West Coast
Located on the Kodi Bengre beach in Udupi, Karnataka—on the southwest coast of India—Shaka Surf Club is meant for those looking to truly ‘hang loose’. Started by the first and perhaps the most prominent female surfer of India, Ishita Malaviya, and her partner Tushar, the club offers world-class surfing lessons for enthusiasts of all levels. The remote location of the surf school, the lovely hosts, the endearing village community involved at the school and the pristine sea come together to make it a memorable experience. Whether you book a single two-hour lesson or a full-fledged training programme, the joy of riding the Arabian Sea waves is thrilling. Lessons include surfboard rentals and start at INR 1,500 per person. Stay in the presidential suite at The Ocean Pearl in Udupi—from INR 11,000.
Challenge Yourself to the Annapurna Circuit Trek
Located in the north-central part of Nepal, the Annapurna Massif makes for one of the planet’s most thrilling trekking routes. Ever since the route opened to trekkers in the 1980s, the 160- to 230-kilometre hike (depending on your start point) has come to be loved for its wild trails, views of snow-capped mountains, rustic villages and some astounding flora. The trek takes anywhere between 11 and 14 days to complete, beginning at Besisahar and ending in the adventure town of Pokhara. The highest pass, Thorang-La, stands at around 1,550 metres, and offers views of spectacular peaks like Manasalu and Annapurna. Along the way, trekkers can stay at scenic teahouses operated by local communities. G Adventures runs an 18-day tour of Annapurna, all inclusive, for INR 64,000 per person. Stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa for INR 6,000 per night.
Devour the Street Food of Dhaka
The chaotic capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, flies quietly under the radar of South Asian tourism. However, the few who care to venture here are guaranteed to discover mouthwatering food on its streets. After nightfall, an alluring aroma of spices wafts across the lanes of Laxmi Bazaar, Narinda, Chankharpul and Dhaka University. Begin by sharing a plate of chotpoti and fuchka with your partner—the chickpea dish is popular among locals. For the main course, sample the kacchi biryani, which features layers of meat, rice, and potatoes with aromatic spices. The biryani is typically washed down with borhani, a yoghurt-based drink. Savoury dishes like bakhorkhani, shami kebab, haleem, and desserts like doi chira are the other stars of Bangladeshi cuisine. Hop on a tuk-tuk tour with Cholo Bangladesh Tours for the ultimate food-tasting experience. From INR 4,200 per adult. Stay at the five-star Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka for INR 10,000 per night.
Party with Turtles & Eels in the Maldives
Overwater villas and private beaches are de rigueur in the Maldives. But have you ever considered an underwater nightclub? Take a speedboat to Subsix, a property of Per Aquum Niyama Hotels, and climb down a grand three-tier staircase to go six metres under the waterline and into the first nightclub of its kind. Here, you can dine and dance into the night in the company of moray eels, hawksbill turtles, groupers and other exciting marine life that surround the underwater restaurant. The nightclub takes after its surroundings—coral-like chandeliers, blue lighting, capiz shells hung from the ceiling and anemone-inspired chairs. Order lunch from a lavish sub-aquatic menu and pick one of the creative cocktails to wash it down. If it’s a Wednesday or Saturday, come dressed for an underwater glow party. Lunch at INR 13,730 per person.