Even experienced travellers, who have been to India
countless times, will be the first to admit that they have barely
scratched the surface of this fascinating country. There is so much
to hear, see, smell and feel.
From the snow-capped mountains and tea plantations of the North,
to the magical forts of Rajasthan and spectacular beaches of the
South. A trip to India is quite simply an assault on the senses.
Its rich history, diverse mix of cultures and natural beauty will
enchant you, as well as give you an exhilarating shock.
Delhi is the hub that tends to first greet tourists arriving in
India. You are immediately struck by an array of wonders and sights
which reflect both the country's past and future. The Red Fort and
Jama Masijd mosque are highlights but it is worth perusing New
Delhi with its stylish bars and hip cafes, not to mention the
famous Edwin Lutyens designed buildings.
To the west of Delhi is India's star attraction and the area
that welcomes by far the most tourists each year,
Rajasthan. Meaning the 'land of kings', it is aptly named. It
is an enchanted land of palaces, forts and bazaars. There is the
desert citadel at Jaisalmer, stunning Mehrangarh towering over
azure-blue Jodhpur and the Lake Palace at Udaipur.
However competing with Rajasthan's fairytale splendour is of
course the Taj Mahal at Agra and the Golden Temple at Amritsar,
Sikhism's holiest shrine. Visiting these sights, you will
begin to appreciate the central role spiritualism plays in local
life. Why not further explore the role with a visit to Varanasi?
Regarded by Hindus as a crossing place into the celestial world, it
is one of India's holiest places. The appeal of this city is
the intimacy with which visitors can view these ancient rituals
that take place on the banks of the Ganges (like sending flaming
funeral pyres down river). Moreover the prospect of being able to
wash away a lifetime's worth of sins in the waters ought to be
motivation enough to visit this most fascinating of cities!
A trip to India is never complete without a sighting of the
majestic Bengal tiger in the wild and nowhere will you have a
better chance than in the tiger reserves of Ranthambore, Kanha,
Pench and Bandhavgarh. They are some of India's finest
reserves, as well as the setting of Rudyard Kipling's 'Jungle
Book'. What better way to observe the animals and track tigers than
on the back of an elephant?
A trip to India is quite simply an assault on the senses. Its
rich history, diverse mix of cultures and natural beauty will
enchant you, as well as give you an exhilarating shock.
After the adrenalin pumping experience of tracking tigers in the
jungle, wind down on the beaches of laid back Goa. Head inland
again to Hampi, to see the ruins of Vijayanagar, a World Heritage
Site and the capital of a once mighty Hindu empire. Set in a
boulder strewn landscape, the ruins are some of the best in India.
For those having caught a glimpse of Indian history at Hampi and
have a thirst for more, the province of Madhya Pradesh is ideal.
Its history can be traced back to pre-historic times. The forts and
decadent palaces offer wonderful insights into the state's past and
are evocative of a bygone golden era.
In the South-East of India, in the region of Tamil Nadu, are
some of the most intriguing ancient Hindu temples, where pilgrims
far outnumber tourists. Temple complexes sprawl over vast tracts of
land and are characterised by steeply stepped, vibrantly coloured
gopurams (gateway towers) and intricately detailed stone
carvings. For anyone visiting this area, that constitutes the
heart of Dravidian civilization, Mamallapuram and Sri Meenakshi
temples are must-sees. The latter, covering an area of six
hectares, is worth allocating plenty of time to explore.
Continuing south of Chennai, the delightful city of Pondicherry
ought to appeal to those beginning to feel a bit 'templed out'.
With its colonial buildings, churches and avenues, this former
French colony retains a distinctly French ambience. Before crossing
over the Western Ghat Mountains into Kerala, stopping off at the
'temple city' of Madurai is a must.
To discover Kerala's still unspoilt charm, why not head down the
back waters on a Kettuvallom (an old rice boat converted into a
luxury house boat). The lakes, connected by canals, span over 900km
and this lateral diversion offers unrivalled seclusion and
relaxation as you drift along. In addition expect throughout Kerala
to experience culinary delights thanks to the fusion of European,
Indian and Middle Eastern flavours.
The Himalayan region of India is relatively untouched by mass
tourism, and there are some real hidden charms to be discovered.
Sikkim serves as a base for some fantastic trekking in the
Himalayas past cedar forests and gompas (Buddhist monasteries). The
region of Ladakh is often described as Little Tibet and a visit to
Leh will leave you breathless due to the beautiful mountain vistas
and the 3,500 metres above sea level!
In the foothills of the Himalayas lies hidden the tea
plantations of Assam, which span across hundreds of acres. There is
no better way to round off the day strolling through this pleasant
scenery than to sit on the verandah of one of these plantations,
perched on a hill top, and have a 'cuppa' direct from the
source. For those train enthusiasts take the narrow gauge
railway from Chandigarh to Shimla; one of the famous British Raj
Those who are enticed by India's charm after their first visit,
will find the country lures them back time and time again. A
glimpse of the country's historical treasures, diverse scenery and
cultures will have you craving for more.
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