Stretching from the frozen barrier of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala, and from the sacred Ganges to the sands of the Thar desert, India is a soul-stirring country, overflowing with cultural treasures, spiritual wonder and natural beauty.
India is one of the most diverse nations in the world. In area, it is the seventh largest country, and with over 1.2 billion people, second only to China in population. Within its geographical confines, stretching from the Great Himalayas in the north to the tropical southern peninsula, there is a dizzying variety of cultures, languages, ethnic groups, beliefs and lifestyles that few countries or continents possess. The past is ever-present and centuries-old fort and temples happily co-exist with the modern.
Bamboozling. There’s simply no other word that captures the enigma that is India. With an ability to inspire, frustrate, thrill and confound all at once, India presents an extraordinary spectrum of encounters for the traveller. Some of these can be challenging, particularly for the first-time visitor: the poverty is confronting, Indian bureaucracy can be exasperating and the crush of humanity sometimes turns the simplest task into an energy-zapping battle. Even veteran travellers find their sanity frayed at some point, yet this is all part of the India experience.
If you look deeper, India strikes its visitor with a sensory, intellectual, spiritual and philosophical assault that’s unmatched by any other place on earth, all set in an awesome physical environment teeming with a resilient, indefatigable one-billion-strong population. Every expectation – be it of beauty, mysticism, poverty, bigotry or bureaucracy – will be outdone by what hits you on the ground. Love it or loathe it – and most visitors see-saw between the two – India will jostle your entire being.
No matter how much you have travelled you have never seen anything like India! It is a joy, interesting, disgusting, aromatic, disgusting, spiritual, dirty, rewarding, enlightening, disgusting, and simply the most interesting experience of your life. It’s a place that fires the imagination and stirs the soul like nowhere else on earth. With such astonishing diversity, you will be taken on a journey that will linger in your mind long after you’ve left India’s shores.
Top Reasons to Visit India
MAJESTIC FORTS & PALACES
India’s long history is riddled with tales of conquest and domination by rulers who built towering forts to protect their kingdoms and exquisite palaces to live in.
India is dominated by magnificent secular buildings, such as forts, palaces and mansions (havelis) which were built by powerful ruling and aristocratic families hundreds of years ago. Many of these forts and palaces, especially in Rajasthan and Gujarat, harmoniously combine monumental scale with superb decorative elements. A variety of indigenous domestic forms that have remained unchanged through the ages can be seen throughout rural India. Kingly Rajasthan is studded with an outrageous number of magnificent fortresses and elegant palaces.
Must-see forts & palaces of India:
No one does temples like India – from psychedelic techni-colour Hindu towers to silently grand Buddhist cave temples and Amritsar’s gold-plated fairy-tale Sikh shrine.
India’s 2,000-year-old architectural heritage is intrinsically linked to the country’s major religions in the form of grand temples. These include temples from various religious strands including Buddhist stupas and monasteries and Hindu and Jain temples. While religious in nature, many Indian temples are worth visiting for their grand architecture, richly carved with sacred imagery and decorative motifs and often built out of expensive materials such as gold and ivory.
Must-visit Indian temples:
Eating in India is an adventure, from the East-meets-West artistry of tandoori-style foie gras to the tangy jumble of flavours in a street snack.
Brace yourself – you’re about to jump on board one of the wildest culinary trips of your life! Frying, simmering, sizzling, kneading and flipping a deliciously diverse variety of regional dishes, feasting your way through the subcontinent is certainly one hell of a ride. The hungry traveller can look forward to a bountiful smorgasbord of tasty delights, ranging from the spicy goodness of masterfully marinated chicken drumsticks in North India to the simple splendour of squidgy rice dumplings in the steamy South. So what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves, put on your chomp chomp hat and rumble your way down India’s gastronomic highway!
Don’t miss these culinary experiences:
India is at its best during the celebration of one of its many religious or harvest festivals that bring the country to life with its fanfare.
With its vibrant mix of religious denominations, India is home to a formidable array of celebrations – from larger-than-life extravaganzas with caparisoned elephants and body-twisting acrobats to pint-sized harvest fairs paying homage to a locally worshipped deity. With silk-garbed deities paraded through the streets, special foods, dancing, and the ritual gifting of everything from saucepans to Swarovski – festivals and holidays bring together the most excessive and ascetic aspects of Indian culture. There’s almost always something going on, and it’s worth timing your visit to coincide with a festival.
Must-visit festivals of India:
Vibrant coloured shawls, necklaces strung together on the spot, copper pitchers and serving bowls are some of the unique items you can find at Indian bazaars (markets).
Shoppers, get ready. Indian megamalls may be popping up like monsoon frogs, but the age-old bazaar – with its mix of crowds and spices, garbage and flowers, altars and underwear – is where the action’s at. With centuries-old crafts and textile traditions preserved from province to province, it’s no wonder that shopping factors so heavily in many travellers’ itineraries when it comes to the Indian subcontinent. In many cities you’ll encounter bazaars and markets lined with street hawkers selling everything from garments and jewellery to trinkets and souvenirs – all of which you can bargain down the prices. As an alternative, government-run emporiums source good-quality handicrafts from various regions and sell them at fair but non-negotiable prices.
Indian bazaars worth visiting:
From Delhi in the north to Hyderabad in the south, Indian cities are worth exploring for their great arts scene, excellent bars and restaurants and lively atmosphere.
It’s true that most Indians live in villages, but city people in India have attained high plains of sophistication when classiness was just a glimmer in the West’s eye. Although densely populated and scant on tourist attractions, India’s cities have great arts scenes, excellent restaurants, exotic bazaars (markets) and heaps of style and atmosphere. It’s worth visiting one or more Indian cities to get a glimpse into the modern life of Indians and to get a sense of the Indian culture that thrives in its cities today.
Must-visit Indian cities:
Best Time to Visit India
The weather in India is best from November to March, and most tourists come in the first half of this high season. Delhi, a city of extremes, is often scorching from mid-April through June, and damp and cold – sometimes freezing – in December. The monsoon’s daily rains, sweeping up from the southwest, usually arrive in Mumbai in June and hit Delhi a month later. Although you can work around the monsoon rains, they can lead to flooding, which makes travelling slow and sometimes even dangerous. The five days of Diwali, one of India’s biggest festivals, fall in mid-October and mid-November; make reservations well in advance if you’re visiting during this time or around Christmas.
Where is India located?
The Indian subcontinent lies at the southern tip of the Asian continent. The country is bounded on the north by the majestic Himalayas. Along their foothills, sweeping the breadth of Central India, are the fertile, densely populated Indo-Gangetic Plains, while the arid Thar Desert covers much of Western India. India’s 7,516-km (4,670-mile) long coastline borders on the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.