A Guide to Responsible Travel in INDIA
3 min to skim, 10 min for in-depth info | December 2023
In the vibrant tapestry of worldwide travel experiences, responsible tourism has emerged as a conscious choice. Not just for Wanderers but for global Citizens alike aspiring to leave a positive mark. With its rich cultural tapestry and enchanting landscapes, India offers a unique canvas for responsible travellers looking to enrich their journeys,
From the towering peaks of the Himalayas to the serene backwaters of Kerala, India beckons those with a passion for adventure and a heart for giving back.
In recent years, responsible travel has gained momentum as a way to explore new horizons and a powerful vehicle for positive change. Travelers are increasingly drawn to the vision of making a meaningful impact on the destinations they visit, and India stands as a remarkable example of this transformative approach to tourism.
This comprehensive guide is your passport to responsible travel in India, focusing on uncommon and philanthropic destinations that allow you to contribute to the well-being of local communities (a super important principle of responsible travel.)
As responsible travellers ourselves, we understand the importance of commemorating our journeys in meaningful ways. That’s why Traveller Collective was created in the first place. We are dedicated to minimizing the impact we have on Mother Earth while ensuring that our travellers can celebrate their unique adventures in India and beyond in a nifty way.
Let’s dive into some of the least-explored corners of this incredible nation, and check out the hidden gems in some of the more common spots together. We hope this article will help you plan your journey in a way that contributes positively to the communities you visit.
Unique Places to Visit Throughout India
Close your eyes and picture yourself journeying to each of these extraordinary destinations and taking part in giving back to each community. Every move you make takes you closer to a deeper understanding of the world. Enjoy.
The Ladakh Region
The magnificently situated Namgyal Tsemo Monastery overlooks the Ladakh region.
Ladakh, a jewel nestled in the northernmost part of India, isn’t just a destination; it’s a canvas of sustainable tourism. Surrounded by the mighty Himalayas, Ladakh offers travellers a chance to immerse themselves in a world of pristine landscapes, traditional Ladakhi culture, and responsible travel initiatives.
One of the key features of Ladakh’s sustainable tourism practice is its emphasis on community-driven experiences. Travellers can opt for homestays in remote villages, where you can become part of the local fabric. This is just one of the many ways you can ensure your stay directly benefits the village economy, empowering communities and preserving their way of life.
Moreover, Ladakh is known for its eco-friendly trekking and adventure activities. Hemis National Park, home to the elusive snow leopard, offers wildlife enthusiasts a chance to engage in impactful conservation efforts. Your visit not only helps protect these magnificent creatures but also supports the livelihoods of local guides and villagers.
As you breathe in the crisp mountain air and witness the sun casting its golden hues on the Himalayan peaks, you become part of a landscape that has been shaped by time and tradition.
To truly immerse yourself in Ladakh’s charm and contribute to its sustainability, consider supporting organisations like Himalayan Ecotourism. They work tirelessly to preserve the region’s pristine environment and offer unforgettable eco-tourism experiences.
In Ladakh, every step is an adventure, every moment a connection with nature, and every choice an opportunity to make a difference. Don’t skip this place or you’ll regret it!
The Rajasthan Region
Locals in Udaipur, Rajasthan resting in the shade during a community festival.
Rural Rajasthan is a realm where time seems to stand still. Ancient traditions come to life against a backdrop of vibrant colours and warm hospitality. As you wander through the labyrinthine streets of the lesser-known villages in this region, it’s as though you’ve stepped into a living, breathing tapestry of Rajasthan’s heritage. Here, traditions are not relics of the past but vibrant threads that are woven into daily life.
One way to engage in this vibrant community tapestry is through volunteering with the Rural Development Foundation (RDF). This foundation is a social enterprise committed to sustainable community development. They offer a unique chance to leave a meaningful impact on the communities of Rural Rajasthan.
You can teach eager young minds in local schools, lend a hand at a healthcare clinic, and/or support women’s empowerment initiatives. Your journey with them becomes a collaborative effort to uplift lives and preserve traditions that have thrived for generations. It’s super cool!
Additionally, the Jaipur Rugs Foundation is dedicated to sustaining traditional rug-weaving craftsmanship in Rajasthan. Responsible travellers can support their mission by visiting their workshops, booking one of their educational tours, and/or purchasing their handmade rugs. Here you’ll get to bring home a unique piece of art, but also contribute to local livelihoods and preservation of traditional skills at the same time.
As you roam the bustling markets and share meals with local families, you’ll see the genuine warmth of Rajasthan’s people, who welcome you as part of their extended family. It’s more than just volunteer work or purchasing a souvenir; it’s a transformative travel experience. You’re not merely a spectator but a participant in the ongoing story of these communities. Each conversation, each artful creation, and each shared meal is an opportunity to exchange cultural insights and build bridges of understanding.
The Kerala Region
Traditional boat races in Aranmula, Kerala on the Pampa River.
Kerala, often referred to as “God’s Own Country,” is an embodiment of responsible living and travelling. Here, you’ll discover a multitude of opportunities to explore Kerala’s serene backwaters and lush landscapes. There are also many opportunities to help support local communities and sustainable initiatives that define Kerala’s charm.
As you begin your journey in Kerala, consider aligning with the responsible tourism practices advocated by the government-led Kerala Responsible Tourism initiative. KRT for short. By choosing accommodations and experiences certified under KRT, you’re able to play a part in responsible tourism, supporting eco-friendly stays, cultural immersion, and community development.
Speaking of community development and cultural immersion, if you end up venturing into the heart of Kerala, be sure to visit Kerala Crafts. Here artisans showcase their remarkable craft skills. You can engage in craft workshops and take home handmade products, helping empower local women economically while appreciating their craftsmanship.
Perhaps you’re more of a history buff? With the Muziris Heritage Project, you can immerse yourself in ancient history. This initiative focuses on preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of Ancient Muziris. Join guided tours and cultural experiences that not only transport you to bygone eras but also support heritage conservation and community development efforts.
If you’re seeking deeper community engagement, consider volunteering with Kudumbashree. This group operates throughout the Kerala region, offering opportunities to participate in various community-based projects. Here you can get involved in organic farming, waste management, and women’s entrepreneurship initiatives.
Kerala has so much to offer that will make your journey a force for good. Choose the opportunities that resonate with you and let Kerala’s responsible living philosophy guide you the rest of the way!
The Spiti Valley Region
The road to Hikkim village in the mountains just above Spiti Valley.
Spiti Valley is another stunning location nestled high in the Himalayas. With its rugged terrain and remote villages, this destination is a paradise for adventurous souls looking for unique opportunities to explore responsibly.
Imagine waking up in a cosy homestay, surrounded by the smell of a delicious traditional breakfast prepared with love. As you step outside, you’re greeted by stunning vistas and the promise of a day well spent in an amazing community. With Spiti Ecosphere, you can immerse yourself in the daily life of the community. Whether you’re helping with local farm work or participating in wildlife conservation efforts, every moment is a chance to connect with the people and nature that define Spiti.
And speaking of wildlife conservation, Spiti Valley is also a great place to aid in the elusive snow leopard conservation efforts of the region. With the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, you’ll be monitoring camera traps and collecting vital data that contributes to the protection of these magnificent creatures. In the evenings, wind down by gathering around the campfire and listening to stories of the snow leopards that roam these high mountain ridges.
However, if you’d rather spend your days walking through picturesque Spitian villages, and wandering through vibrant markets here’s all the info you need on where to shop and what to shop for. Engaging with the talented artisans in Spiti will give you opportunities to learn a plethora of different handicraft skills. Not to mention being able to take home a unique piece of Spiti heritage which helps to empower local artisans to sustain their artistry for generations to come.
The City of Varanasi
Every day local men in Varanasi perform the Ganga Aarti Ceremony to pay homage to the holy Ganges river.
Varanasi, the spiritual heart of India, offers a journey like no other, where ancient traditions intertwine with the vibrant pulse of daily life. Beyond the mesmerizing ghats and sacred ceremonies, this city provides responsible travellers with opportunities to become part of its community while making a positive impact.
Begin your journey here along the sacred Ganges River, where the flow of tradition and spirituality is ever-present. Picture yourself joining a dedicated group of volunteers, united by a common purpose – to clean and conserve this holy river. As you roll up your sleeves and collect trash along the ghats, you’re not just reducing pollution; you’re preserving the sanctity of the Ganges, and contributing to a cleaner, more sacred environment.
Make sure to also venture beyond the bustling ghats to the rural villages that surround Varanasi. Here, organizations like the Surya Foundation offer travellers a chance to engage in meaningful community development projects. Imagine being part of a team constructing essential village infrastructure, supporting education initiatives, or empowering local women. In these villages, every brick laid and every lesson shared becomes a building block for brighter futures.
You can also explore the bustling bazaars of Varanasi, where artisans skillfully weave the city’s renowned silk textiles. Supporting organizations like Banaras Weavers means choosing ethically crafted products. As you admire the intricate patterns and vibrant colours of handwoven silk, you’re also supporting local artisans and ensuring the sustainability of this ancient craft.
Varanasi’s spiritual aura also extends to the Vishwanath Temple Kitchen inside the Annapurna Temple, where seva, or selfless service, is a way of life. Envision yourself volunteering your time, helping to prepare and serve free meals to those in need. This act of kindness embodies the spirit of the city, where every meal served is a gesture of compassion and a contribution to the well-being of others.
Varanasi’s traditions run deep, and as a responsible traveller, you have the chance to become an integral part of this timeless city. Whether its through river conservation, community development, or embracing local customs, your journey here is an opportunity to leave yet another positive impression on the world.
The City of Mumbai
Cows, the most sacred animals in India, are just a normal function of local traffic patterns in Mumbai.
Mumbai, a bustling metropolis near the Arabian Sea, is a city of contrasts, where wealth and poverty coexist. As responsible travellers, we have the opportunity to explore this dynamic city while also contributing to its social fabric.
One excellent way to gain insight into Mumbai’s diverse landscape is by joining a community immersion tour. These tours provide a deeper understanding of the challenges and resilience of some of the city’s marginalized communities. A notable non-profit organization that offers these types of tours is Reality Tours and Travel. By going on one of their guided tours, you’ll gain a unique perspective of life in Mumbai’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods and support community development projects funded by the organization.
Beyond tours, Mumbai offers several opportunities for responsible travellers to make a meaningful impact by teaching. Teach for India is a non-profit organization that strives to provide quality education to underprivileged children. Travellers can get involved by volunteering their time in person to support classroom teaching or by contributing to fundraising efforts.
For those passionate about environmental conservation, Vanashakti is dedicated to protecting Mumbai’s natural spaces and urban forests. With them, responsible travellers can participate in tree plantation drives, clean-up campaigns, or donate to support their efforts.
Within the vibrant chaos of Mumbai, responsible travellers have the chance to connect with the city’s diverse communities and make a positive impact. Whether it's through community-based tourism initiatives or contributing to environmental conservation, your journey in Mumbai is an opportunity to embrace diversity and create lasting change.
Thanks for Reading!
When it comes to the great tapestry of worldwide travel, contributing to responsible travel initiatives in India gives you a chance to weave a vibrant thread of unforgettable experiences with philanthropic opportunities together. From the pristine landscapes of Ladakh to the vibrant culture of rural Rajasthan, this incredible place offers a multitude of destinations where your journey has the ability to change lives.
As we wrap up this literary exploration, we’d like to express our sincerest gratitude to you for being a part of the Traveller Collective community. Your curiosity and commitment to responsible travel make a world of difference.
Remember, the essence of responsible travel is leaving a positive mark on the places you visit. Whether it’s supporting local communities, preserving the environment, or simply showing respect for diverse cultures, your travels are a powerful source for good.
Our adventure doesn’t end here though. Check out our other articles, each highlighting unique countries like Laos, The Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia, where responsible travel practices are changing lives and landscapes.
Here’s to your future journeys, filled with purpose, appreciation, and the joy of sharing your gifts across the world.
Safe travels, fellow explorer!