The striking variety in India is one of its most enticing qualities with a range of terrains, cuisines, religions, people and celebrations. However, the great variety in wealth is also often a deterrent for tourists who find themselves intimidated by the disparities and confronted by the harsh poverty. The poverty at first can seem bewildering but for all its frustrations and unpredictability, India is still a captivating destination and tourism is extremely economically important. India’s size means it’s impossible to cover in one trip, so lets take a look at its best bits.
The wildlife in India is some of the richest and most diverse in the world; with around 400 species of mammals, 2550 fish and 1250 birds. The safari’s in India are on the top of most people’s destination lists and tourists flock in hope of catching a glimpse of elephants, birds, monkeys, leopards, antelopes, rhinos and most of all- tigers. The safari areas host a huge variety of options for accommodation like jungle lodges, treehouses, safari tents or tribal-inspired resort villages.
For the best chance of seeing tigers in their natural habitat head to Bandhavgarh National park, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, best known for its Royal Bengal tigers and home to the largest tiger population in India. Bandhavgarh is also one of India’s most beautiful parks and has plenty of sights in case of the misfortune of having no tiger sightings, such as temples, hand-carved hermit caves, valleys and a whole load of other wildlife to excite you.
If rhinos are your thing, Kaziranga is the place to visit, holding a population of a whopping 1800 which represents more than two-thirds of the world’s total. A must-do for anyone visiting Kaziranga is an early morning elephant trail, where you can get close to the beautiful, majestic animals in the wild and if you’re extra lucky maybe catch sight of a calf.
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Spirituality is vibrantly intertwined throughout all of India’s culture, with thousands of sacred sites, rituals and religious celebrations. For a quick, but stunningly beautiful, glimpse of India’s spirituality take a sunrise or sunset boat ride along the Ganges and see the locals bathing and performing prayers and rituals.
One of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage destinations in the world, is Bodhgaya. It’s here that Lord Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree during meditation and it now hosts endless options for meditation and Buddhism courses and retreats.
Haridwar, another religious destination, is known as the “Gateway of God” and one of the oldest living and holiest cities in India. Situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, Haridwar believed to be a point of access to God and every night locals and tourist light lamps and send them floating down the river.
Now, the biggest on the list and one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Taj Mahal is a landmark everybody is dying to see. The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their child in 1631. Soon after it was finished Shah Jahan was overthrown and imprisoned in Agra Fort where he spent his time gazing out the window at his only view- his creation. And what a view it is. Synonymous with love and romance, the Taj Mahal is an outstanding, white marble mausoleum that will take your breath away. Try and stay at night, when it’s at its most beautiful, as the dome becomes illuminated in the light of the moon.
The Amritsar Golden Temple is another must-see landmark in India and is open to people from all religion and faiths. To feel completely immersed in the religious culture, see the pilgrims bathe in the Amrit Sarovar, a sacred water pool around the temple and if you can try to catch the changing of the guard.
Lots of things spring to mind when thinking of India, but what it unarguably does better than most is its festivals. India is famous for its religious and cultural celebrations and with such diversity and high number each year, you’re bound to catch some of the excitement on your trip.
Diwali, the Festival of Light is a five-day celebration of the triumph of light over dark, and good over evil, and is the highlight of the holiday season bringing families together. To celebrate properly, stay with Indian friends or book into a homestay or a family-run guesthouse to experience the celebrations with a family. Be warned though, in the most spirited places you won’t have a moment of peace as there is huge noise pollution and fireworks everywhere.
India’s most well-known festival and a photographers paradise, is Holi, the Festival of Colour. The festivities are vibrant and wild and involve throwing coloured powder and water at each other all over the streets. Don’t be afraid to get stuck into the action, but remember- don’t go wearing your best clothes.
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Prepare to have your mouth watering throughout your whole trip because India serves up some of the most delicious food in the world, using such an amazing array of herbs and spices. Really, if all you did in India was feast, you’d leave feeling pretty satisfied. The variety of food is countless and differs between each region but to tick off the most popular from your list make sure to try: Thali; Dam Aloo; Samosa: Paratha; Paneer; Chaat; and Gulab Jamun.
Dehli is up there fighting for the Food Capital title and offers an outstanding number of options to try the North Indian cuisine, in dhabas (roadside food stall), cafes and high-end restaurants. If you’re into your street food, Mumbai is food paradise with endless options being sold on the bustling street such as Vada Pav, a deep-fried garlic and chilli potato patty, or Bhel Puri, a crunchy day-time snack.
For relaxation after the madness of the cities and safaris go to the beach; India has 7500km of coastline and a whole load of beautiful, sandy beaches.
Goa is probably the most popular beach destination with a diverse selections of beaches catering to: the hippies; the backpackers; the families; the romantics and those seeking the fancy five-stars. For peace and striking views head to the far north or far south of Goa to the unspoilt beaches that are tucked away from the thousands of guesthouses, hotels, and tourists.
Further down the West Coast is Kerala: a 600km stretch along the Arabian Sea providing picturesque palm-trees, dramatic cliffs and soft white sand. It’s much more laid back than Goa, and the rest of India for that matter but has the positive of offering more than just a beach. There is also an exciting selection of wildlife: wild elephants, exotic birds and sometimes the odd sighting of tigers.
The railways in India are one of the largest networks in the world, have inspired authors and filmmakers everywhere and are an exhilarating way to get around on your trip. There a countless options to feel the hustle and bustle of the train commuters and the tickets are mostly very cheap. If it suits your route, take the Goa express from Goa to Londa (Karnataka) and watch the coastline, beautiful trees, waterfalls and valleys fold out before you. It’s a shorter journey than most taking only 3 hours 30 minutes and is certainly smoother than the bus.
To get hyped up before jetting off, watch some of the greatest films that offer a glimpse of India’s culture.
Slumdog Millionaire is the ultimate rags-to-riches Bollywood tale and shows us some shocking footage of the poverty and slums in India whilst also portraying a colourful, uplifting story of hope.
Life of Pi is the story of a young man’s incredible journey at sea with the most unlikely companion, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. It brings to life some of India’s wildest creatures with the use of unbelievable special effects.
And last, but certainly not least: The Jungle Book. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel inspired by the Seonee jungle, The Jungle Book is a family favourite and brings to life the madness of the Indian Jungle. Both the 1967 animated film and the 2016 live action version have been huge hits because of the love the audience feels for the characters: Baloo the bear; Bagheera the serious Black Panther; King Louis the crazy monkey king, and Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves.
India offers so much. What are you most excited for? Tweet us at @B Sunglassesunglasses to let us know.