When you think of India, you probably think of the gorgeous Taj Mahal, the colourful markets, Delhi, and delicious recipes. Our volunteer programs are based in North India, and we're here to show you how the North will absolutely defy your expectations!
Our volunteer housing in India is based in Palampur, within the state of Himachal Pradesh. Because North India borders China, we are very close to Tibet. In 1949 the Dalai Lama led Tibetans out to India when China invaded Tibet, and the Tibetan government now resides in Dharamshala, right next to Palampur. This created an incredible melting pot of Buddhist and Hindu culture that has led to an amazing mix of style, food and way of life, found only in this area!
There are many tea gardens sprinkled through North India, as are the factories where the tea is processed. You can see the whole process yourself with a visit to the Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory, from the handpicked leaves in the lush green gardens to the commercial production and packaging. There are even teas ready to try fresh from the gardens and tea available to purchase on site. Kangra tea being the most popular for locals and visitors. Visiting the tea gardens will be a welcome break from volunteering, as you go on a picturesque walk through expansive expansive green fields with a relaxing atmosphere.
India itself holds one of the biggest populations in the world at 1.3 billion people. The state of Himachal Pradesh itself comes in at almost 7 million. Palampur is considered just a small country area, even though the region in which Palampur resides has a population of 100,000 people! Because of its huge population, the area faces big economic and environmental problems, which makes it even more essential that we have people willing to lend a hand and volunteer with us!
Not far from our volunteer housing, there is a world renowned paragliding location called Bir Billing. Because of its closeness to the Himalayas, it give a striking view and an unforgettable experience.This spot actually happens to be one of the best paragliding spots in the Northern Hemisphere! For those looking for an exciting activity after volunteering hours or their free weekend, there are 30-minute sessions available for a thrilling paragliding ride in scenic North India.
Famous for their vast and colourful range of spices and herbs, India hosts some of the greatest food in the world. But if you're yearning for a taste of home, there is a Domino’s Pizza located in Palampur. There are many additions to the menu that you can experience, such as a Jamaican Jerk Spice, an Indi Tandoori and even an Aussie BBQ pizza!
Palampur is only an hour from Dharamshala, which among its many attractions has the residence of the Dalai Lama. There is a remarkable range of temples and religious structures that is popular among visitors interested in Buddhist culture. Another place for those visitors would be the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. It holds artefacts, documents, and books dating back to the 12th century.
In Palampur, we are right at the base of the Himalayas. Surprisingly for India, if you visit during Australian summer months you’ll actually need to make sure you bring warm clothing. The stereotypical idea of India may be as hot and humid it can get, but in Palampur you might just find yourself needing to put a few more layers on!
Although your first thought of India may be its vast population and pollution, Himachal Pradesh was actually the first state in India to ban plastic and polythene bags! With this change came the ban of single-use plastics and polystyrene items like cutlery, plates, and cups. Local traders have welcomed this change and now use paper plates and cups as a more environmentally sound alternative. This move to biodegradable materials has caused a wave of other eco-friendly laws to be posed to the Indian High Court and will hopefully inspire other regions to do the same!
Has North India stolen your heart? You should check out our volunteer opportunities in India!
This blog was written by Isabelle Mills, volunteer almnus and media intern.