Welcome to Rustic Pathways in India!
Our friendly and welcoming staff are as diverse as the Indian subcontinent. From residents of the southern shores of the Kerala Backwaters to families in the northern peaks of the Ladakhi Himalayas, our full-time and part-time staff have been bringing a wealth of local knowledge to our high school, Gap Year and private group trips since 2005.
Group Travel in India
We custom design our Journeys to meet your school’s requirements, so please contact us to discuss the type of experience you are looking for. As a general guide, here are some of the potential elements of your Journey through India:
Rustic Pathways has developed various long-term partnerships with communities and local organisations in India.
Some of our service projects that you could support include:
Tutoring refugees: You will be paired up with a recent Tibetan refugee to teach grammar, reading, writing, and conversational English. As an international language, English is a very important skill for communication and employment and these students are eager to learn.
Community development projects: Work together with locals on light construction work surrounding the village.
River clean up: Help a local environmental organisation with a river clean up near town.
Balla Village: This volunteer work will consist of working in the fields with the villagers, assisting with basic construction projects selected by the village, and spending time at a nearby school for students with special needs.
Schools & sports: Engage with kids while playing cricket or football in the mountain village school of Balla.
Sloth Bear Conservation: Work with Wildlife SOS to improve the lives of rescued sloth bears in Agra. Learn all about sloth bear conservation, human and wildlife conflicts, and the story of the dancing sloth bears in India. Help build structures, monitor bear behaviour, and work on other Wildlife SOS projects. In addition to your responsibilities with the bears, you’ll have an opportunity to check out the elephant rescue facility as well, where you will feed, bathe, and walk the elephants, and clean their pens.
Education and Cultural Exploration
Experience the fullness of life in India, from crowded streets of Delhi to the peaceful backwaters of Kerala. Feel the positive energy of the Dalai Lama as you climb through the mystical mountain ranges of the McLeod Ganj province and bask in the stunning beauty of the mighty Himalayas. You may like to incorporate some of the following experiences into your Journey:
McLeod Ganj: Enjoy some cool fresh mountain air in the village of McLeod Ganj – home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Explore the town on a scavenger hunt, meet with a Tibetan poet and activist, and learn more about the situation in Tibet while doing kora, a meditative walk, at His Holiness’ monastery.
Buddhism: Have a guest lecture on Buddhism and get to try your hand at meditation! Visualize yourself as Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of compassion.
Political Prisoners: Meet a former political prisoner and hear his life story, a powerful experience that you can share with family and friends when you arrive back home.
Norbulingka Institute: See firsthand local artisans who are preserving Tibetan culture through painting, sculpting, carving, and transcribing sacred texts.
Karmapa: Have the opportunity to meet with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa! Born in Tibet but escaped to India in the early 2000’s, the Karmapa’s new home is just south of Balla. Get blessed by the Karmapa and if you are lucky you may have a chance to ask a few questions as well.
Discover Delhi: Head to a restaurant for some delicious Punjabi food and debrief your experience on the scavenger hunt. After lunch, spend the afternoon touring this bustling capital city. Learn about Gandhi at a museum housed in the same building where his life ended, explore Sikh religion at Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, and take in the famous India Gate and parliament.
Religions galore: Understand the mix of religions as you visit Hindu temples, Sikh gurudwaras, Islamic mosques, and a Jewish synagogue.
Photo Expeditions: Explore the Himalayan region with local guides as well as photography professionals who will lead you to some of the most beautiful locations this Land of High Mountain Passes is known for. At more than 11,500 feet above sea level you hone your photography skills and meet nomadic tribes and live like a local.
Adventure and Challenge
Adventure and challenge is inherent to every Journey, however, if you are looking to physically challenge your students through a specific activity, you may opt to include:
Yoga classes: Take part in a yoga class to practice your asanas and pranayama and feel the energy that this mountain escape has to offer.
Agra: Visit the highlight of India, the Taj Mahal! Experience the magic of the Taj Mahal at sunrise, then head to Agra Fort to learn about the Mughal dynasty and the emperor who built the Taj.
Palace elephant ride: Take an elephant ride to the famous Amber Fort Palace. Explore within the well-protected walls of the palace and see the secret caves that were used by former royalty to escape when the palace came under attack by invading armies hundreds of years ago.
Sunset cruise in Kerala state: Enjoy a relaxing sunset cruise through the Arabian Sea. Savour some of the local seafood delicacies as the sun paints colours across the sky.
Munnar Tea: Munnar was the British government’s summer resort in South India and is famous as one of South India’s most beautiful tea plantations! Enjoy a plantation tour to learn the colourful and fascinating story behind growing and making tea, then sample more than ten varieties of the teas that are locally grown.
Rajasthani Dancers: Spend an evening getting an elaborate Mehndi design inked on your hand and watch an arts show where you’ll see traditional Rajasthani dancers and musicians put on a dazzling performance! Get your dancing shoes ready because you’ll be the next to dance!
There are various accommodation options that we can offer in India; it depends on how “rustic” you would like your Journey to be.
Hotels: A variety of 3, 4 & 5 star hotels in cities and towns
Homestays: Students can truly immerse themselves in a Himalayan village where they live with an Indian or Tibetan homestay family.
Guesthouses/resorts: The most comfortable style of accommodation when in smaller towns and remote areas.
Houseboat: Situated on Vembanad Lake, one of the largest lakes of India, students can live on a traditional Ketuvallam houseboat. Life on the boat is comfortable, with spacious bedrooms, a great lounge area, bathrooms, and delicious, healthy meals prepared by local chefs to make each day a real treat!
Arrive into New Delhi International Airport where you will find your Rustic Pathways leaders waiting for you outside of baggage claim. From the airport you will transport to our base hotel in Delhi. Enjoy the sights and smells of New Delhi, India’s bustling capital city, and get to know your Rustic Pathways leaders during a relaxing evening discussion about India and your upcoming adventure!
Over breakfast, your group will have their first informal language lesson and an introduction to Indian culture. While you will just learn basic greetings and common phrases, the learning the local language is an essential part of understanding the culture and people you interact with.
Next it’s out to the streets for a cultural scavenger hunt to get a first hand look at India! After discovering Hindu gods and goddesses and testing your language skills, head to a restaurant for some delicious Punjabi food and a discussing about your scavenger hunt experience. After lunch, spend the afternoon touring the city. Learn about Gandhi at a museum housed in the same building where his life ended, explore Sikh religion at Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, and take in the famous India Gate and parliament.
After dinner, your group will meet for the first of their evening reflection and discussion periods. Debrief your first day in India and get prepared for the upcoming exploration!
After another informal language lesson over breakfast, the group will depart to the city of Agra via private bus and spend the afternoon discovering how the intricate marble work of the Taj was inlaid with precious gems.
Later, visit Agra Fort to learn about the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal. Tonight, enjoy a delicious dinner together sampling a wide array of traditional Mugal dishes known for their rich aroma and flavour.
Over the next several evenings, the group will have a chance to debrief their experience so far and update their travel journals.
Today you will visit one of the marvels of the world, the Taj Mahal! Experience the magic of the Taj Mahal at sunrise, and watch as the colors shift with the changing light. Learn about the intricate marble work and architecture from a local guide and take time to explore the compound.
Later in the afternoon drive to the Pink City of Jaipur to continue your North Indian tour. This evening, you’ll have a cooking demonstration and dinner, where you’ll learn to prepare traditional Rajasthani dishes.
After a fresh Indian breakfast this morning, start your day exploring the famous Amber Fort. Discover the well protected walls of the palace and see the secret caves that were used by former royalty to escape when the palace came under attack by invading armies hundreds of years ago.
Next it’s off to the lac workshop, where you will see how artisans make lac bangles. Try your hand at customizing one of these bangles to give to friends or family. Spend the evening getting a customized mehandi (henna) design on your hand while trying your dance moves with our fabulous Ghoomar dancers – traditional Rajasthani style.
Tonight we’ll take some time to connect as a group and debrief our North Indian experience before heading to bed.
Take an early morning walk through the ancient city of Amber this morning, keeping an eye open for peacocks and monkeys. After breakfast you’ll pack up and head back to Delhi, for a solid night of rest before starting the next leg of your adventure in South India.
This morning after breakfast you will head to the airport to catch a flight to the tropical paradise of India: Cochin, Kerela. Welcome to South India! Settle into your hotel in historic Fort Cochin and in the evening enjoy a relaxing sunset cruise through the Arabian Sea. Savour some of the local seafood delicacies as you reflect on the differences between North and South India.
After breakfast and an introduction to South Indian culture and tradition by your trip leader, stroll down the beach in Fort Kochi to see the 15th century Chinese fishing nets and fresh fish markets, and visit the centuries old Jewish Synagogue. It’s a different world down here, so take your time to soak in the down-south vibes while sipping on fresh coconuts and speaking your first words of Malayalam, the language of Kerala.
This evening you’ll visit a Kerelan cultural center to enjoy an enthralling Kathakali dance performance by our local artists!
The discussion this evening will continue the topic from yesterday, centering on the differences between North and South India.
After an early morning breakfast, you will depart the lake and drive to the magnificent hill station of Munnar, situated in the Western Ghats at an elevation of 5000 feet above sea level. Munnar was the British Government’s summer retreat in South India and is famous as one of South India’s most beautiful tea plantations! Enjoy your afternoon with a plantation tour to learn the colourful and fascinating story behind growing and making tea, then sample over ten varieties of the teas that are locally grown.
Spend your day exploring the natural beauty of Munnar. Step into the exotic world of nearby tribal colonies to learn about their life style and culture. In the afternoon try some of the lip smacking local cuisine prepared by locals with fresh local spices from the mountains. Enjoy your evening watching the skillful and adventurous martial art form Kalaripayattu and celebrate the company of your fellow students with a bonfire dinner tonight.
Today you will drive to the spectacular backwaters of Vembanad Lake, one of the largest lakes of India, where you will be living on a traditional Ketuvallam houseboat. Life on the boat is comfortable, with spacious bedrooms, a great lounge area, bathrooms, and delicious, healthy meals prepared by local chefs to make each day a real treat! Fish for your dinner, swim in the lake, and compete in a friendly canoe race among your group! This is a day to soak in the ambiance of Kerala.
No India experience is complete without the celebration of a festival! Today you will celebrate a mock Onam Festival that welcomes the Gods to Kerala. Create beautiful patterns from freshly picked flowers on the deck of your boat, get dressed in local Keralan clothing, and have a huge feast on banana leaves. In the evening you will have a chance to get a massage in the birthplace of Ayurveda.
Stroll through the nearby tea gardens in the morning and try your hand picking tea along with the local tea workers. After breakfast, bid farewell to the mountains and make your way back to Cochin, stopping by a spice market along the way to purchase spices for all the new foods you will be cooking at home! Drive straigth to Cochin airport to catch your connecting flight to Delhi, then settle into your hotel for a final night in the nation’s capital city.
As today is your last day in India, it’s the best time to utilize your bargaining skills to pickup the rest of the souvenirs you have been wanting to get. You will spend the morning in a local market pickup up gifts, then head to a resort in South Delhi to relax in a pool and have final dinner before heading to the airport to catch your flight home.
We hope you’ve had a wonderful time in India and trust that the lessons you’ve learned, people you’ve met and experiences you’ve shared will serve you in all our future endeavors. Safe travels and we hope to see you again soon!
Please chat to us if you have any special requests that you would like included in your Journey.
There is nothing too big, small, or out-of-the-box that we can’t handle.
Please email us at email@example.com to start designing your Journey!
We would be delighted to partner with your school to support the global education of your students.