Colourful and chaotic, India is often described as an assault on all the senses, and any visitor will immediately agree. Even allowing for the pampered confines of luxury hotels and escorted tours, this is not a place for the faint-hearted. But dive in and you’ll be richly rewarded by the compelling culture, astounding architecture and fabulous food.
This massive subcontinent is broadly divided between the dry, dusty north and the humid, lush south. In the north the frenetic capital of Delhi, together with “the pink city” Jaipur and Agra, home to the astonishing Taj Mahal, form the Golden Triangle – many a traveller’s first taste of India.
Spectacular Mughal architecture, typified by the Taj Mahal, is dotted throughout the north. Rajasthan, India’s largest state and synonymous with maharajas, has an impressive array of fortresses and palaces in the beguiling cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur. The region also has copious wildlife, from birds and butterflies to monkeys and tigers, and so is a good spot for safaris and nature excursions.
Further north is the mountainous, sometimes snowy Himachal Pradesh region, including the cooling hill station of Shimla. To the east is Varanasi, on the banks of the sacred Ganges, and further afield Kolkata, the former British capital where fine colonial-era architecture remains. On the west coast lies sprawling Mumbai, the film and fashion centre of India, and further south the beach resorts of Goa and the more serene Kerala. The latter, perhaps the gentlest introduction to India, has the added attraction of beautiful backwaters – best explored by converted rice boat.
With a huge population comes a diversity of religions – Hindu, Muslim and Sikh being the main ones – and languages (around 30). The varied cuisine is also influenced by religion, geography, climate and health (via the traditional Indian practice of Ayurveda). Nationwide, though, vegetarian food is prevalent, making it one of the best destinations for veggies.
With so much to experience there’s a temptation to pack in too much but resist: several trips are better than one that may leave you templed outing and with fort fatigue.
Tempted by what you’ve read? Need a few more ideas about where to go, what to see and how to go about it? Contact us – we’re always happy to help you choose your dream stay.