India, a captivating country of unparalleled diversity, is a vibrant tapestry woven with a rich mix of cultures, religions, and people. Within its borders, modernity and tradition coalesce seamlessly, where urban landscapes blend with rural vistas, and peaks embrace valleys in harmonious unity. The paradoxical allure of India lies in its astonishing past, vast expanses, and enigmatic spirit, making it an inexhaustible point of interest. From snow-capped mountains to palm-fringed beaches, serene temples to bustling bazaars, rustic fishing villages to software-super cities, India proudly claims its place as one of the most multi-dimensional countries on Earth.
Why should you visit India?
India: A Kaleidoscope of Color and Variety
Embark on a journey through the kaleidoscope of India, where a myriad of wonders awaits. Experience psychedelic technicolour temples, explore ancient forts with artfully crumbling facades, unravel the secrets of ancient ruins left by precursor empires, and immerse yourself in the sophistication of cities buzzing with the latest fashion, film, food, and art trends. Indulge in paradisiacal beaches, embark on culinary adventures, lose yourself in numerous bazaars and shopping malls teeming with treasures. Retreat to hill station resorts and nature spas, embark on wildlife safaris where encounters with elephants, antelopes, cobras, and even the elusive tiger await. Engage in countless festivals, fairs, celebrations, and activities that will keep you entertained and entranced. India encompasses all this, neatly packaged within a heady mix of wholeness, bridging the gaps between cultures, customs, dialects, languages, ethnicities, natural phenomena, and people.
Getting around India: Easy and Affordable Exploration
Traversing the vast expanse of India is surprisingly easy and relatively inexpensive, thanks to the country’s extensive and well-connected rail network. India’s railways, among the world’s most extensive, provide a convenient mode of transportation. However, with an estimated 20 million people traveling by train in India every day, seats fill up quickly. To ensure a smooth journey, it is advisable to book in advance, as train bookings open 90 days before departure.
Local and tourist buses also offer convenient options for short-distance travel within the country, providing access to various destinations. Rickshaws and taxis are ubiquitous on every street corner, offering speedy and affordable transportation options. For long-distance travel spanning the length of the country, domestic airlines are the fastest and most reliable mode of transport. India’s own budget airlines, including GoAir, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air India, and Jet Airways, offer competitive airfares, making air travel an attractive option.
Accommodation in India: Tailored to Your Tastes and Budgets
India offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit every taste and budget. Whether you seek budget-friendly options or luxurious resorts, India caters to all preferences.
Budget accommodations encompass a variety of options, including hostels, dormitories, railway retiring rooms, beach huts, home-stays, and basic hotels. Mid-range accommodations, found across the country, often feature modern-style concrete blocks with amenities such as free Wi-Fi, small en-suite bathrooms, cable or satellite TV, air conditioning, and, in some cases, hot water. Some mid-range hotels offer additional facilities such as in-house restaurants, chai shops, communal lounges, and car rental services.
For those seeking top-end luxury, India boasts a plethora of high-end places and luxury chain hotels. These establishments offer efficient service, European-style decor, in-house restaurants, bars, 24-hour front desk services, and a range of creature comforts.
Prices for accommodations vary greatly depending on location and the time of year you plan to visit. Keep in mind that most establishments raise their tariffs during peak season, which typically aligns with the best weather for the region’s sights and activities, such as summertime in the mountains (June to October) or the cooler months in the plains (October to mid-February).
Where to go in India
India: A Land of Limitless Exploration
With its vast expanse, choosing where to go in India can be a challenging task. The country offers an array of attractions, from breathtaking beaches along the western coast to mind-blowing trekking opportunities in the Himalayan mountains. Delve into intricate centuries-old temples brimming with history or embark on amazing animal encounters. Discover endless delights for food lovers at every corner, where each street is a paradise for photographers.
The Six Large Regions of India
India can be divided into six large regions, each with its own distinct charm and allure:
Himalayan North: Shimla and Manali hill stations entice visitors with their cool climate and majestic mountain landscapes.
The Plains: Home to the capital city of Delhi, as well as the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal in Agra and the mystique of Varanasi.
Western India: Goa’s beaches captivate, while intriguing destinations like Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan beckon.
Southern India: A hub of tourism, Kerala and Karnataka welcome the lion’s share of international visitors.
Eastern India: Darjeeling, renowned for its fine teas, and Kolkata, a cultural center, are located in this region.
North-Eastern India: Often overlooked, the seven smaller states known as the Seven Sisters hold hidden gems for intrepid travelers.
Here are some hints to help you begin your exploration of this vast and diverse country.
Goa: Where Beaches and Yoga Meet
Goa, one of India’s most popular tourist destinations, entices over two million travelers annually. Beyond its beachside resorts, the state boasts a diverse cultural and geographical tapestry. Experience the influence of Portuguese cuisine and architecture in Panjim and Margao. Discover dazzling white waterfalls, wildlife reserves, centuries-old cathedrals, and vibrant festivals that blend Christian and Hindu traditions. Goa’s natural beauty, rich history, and famous Goan curry make it an ideal destination for a beach holiday like no other. However, keep in mind that prices in Goa are generally higher than in other states, particularly during the peak season of Christmas and New Year.
Goa also offers much more than beaches, as it boasts waterfalls, rivers, hills, and wildlife for those seeking trekking adventures. Popular trekking destinations include Todo Waterfalls, Udaan Dongor, Mollem National Park, and Chorla Ghats.
Karnataka: A Tapestry of Cultural Heritage
Adjacent to Goa, the state of Karnataka is renowned for its magnificent landscape, lush green valleys, meandering rivers, exotic wildlife, and rich cultural heritage. Bangalore, the capital city, offers a unique blend of a relaxed atmosphere, towering shopping malls, a buzzing nightlife, and fashionable bars and clubs. Mysore, a major city just a couple of hours away, showcases grand palaces and gardens, renowned for silk and incense production.
For a beach getaway, the holy city of Gokarna beckons. Nestled on the Arabian Sea coastline, Gokarna provides a picturesque view of Karnataka’s scenic splendor, with its forest-covered foothills of the Western Ghats. This vibrant coastal resort offers multiple beaches, affordable eateries, water sports, and a laid-back pace of life—a perfect setting for a quiet romantic escape or a long family holiday.
Kerala: Ghats and Ayurveda
Kerala, known for its exceptional beauty and social progressiveness, is a state that captivates with its Ayurvedic treatments, backwaters, rice paddies, tea plantations, elegant houseboats, and aromatic cuisine. Located between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, Kerala boasts a unique network of rivers, canals, and lagoons. Pristine beaches dot the coastline, while former colonial trading towns showcase breathtaking architecture and spice and tea plantations teeming with wild elephants, exotic birds, and tigers. The Hindu temple festivals held between November and March in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi are a must-see, featuring spectacular firework displays and elaborately adorned elephant processions. Kerala offers a vibrant mix of exotic landscapes and urban attractions, making it perfect for first-time travelers.
Maharashtra: A Culinary Adventure
For culinary enthusiasts, the city of Pune in Maharashtra is a must-visit. Known as a burgeoning foodie paradise, Pune combines a modern metropolis with a small-town feel. It offers an array of authentic Southeast Asian fare, unique fusion dishes, and novelty culinary experiences.
Gujarat: South Indian Cuisine
Another city famous for its cuisine is Ahmedabad, which boasts the widest selection of eateries in Gujarat. Ahmedabad is known for its glamorous dining culture, diverse bread varieties, and a vegetable curry called shaak. Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala is also a food lover’s paradise, offering everything from traditional Sadhya (thali) to quick-fry food trucks, innovative fusion kitchens, and traditional South Indian delicacies like idlis, dosas, and uttapams.
Himachal Pradesh: Trekking and Wildlife Spotting
Trekking and wildlife spotting are key attractions in India, and the state of Himachal Pradesh, nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, is an ideal destination for casual hikers and seasoned trekkers alike. It boasts some of the most scenic and remote routes in the country, as well as impressive wildlife sanctuaries in the north. Kerala, too, is renowned for its trekking culture, with magnificent tea plantations around hill-station towns like Kumily and Munnar offering numerous trekking routes and opportunities to spot exotic birds, snakes, monkeys, and even tigers.
Need More Beaches?
India is home to numerous beachside resorts, with some of the most popular ones found along the Arabian Sea. Goa, in particular, is blessed with golden sands and an aquamarine coastline. North Goa features populous beaches like Candolim, Baga, Anjuna, and Arambol, while South Goa offers quieter and more upscale options such as Palolem, Colva, and Benaulim.
If you’re looking for a beach holiday with a distinctive charm, consider Gokarna, which boasts five unique beaches. Gokarna’s Main Beach and Kudle Beach face west, while Om Beach, Half Moon Beach, and Paradise Beach face south. Each of these beaches in the compact seaside town has its own atmospheric and charming appeal.
Kerala also offers some of the country’s best beaches. Kovalam is favored by tourists for its shallow waters, sophisticated eateries, and friendly vibe, while Varkala Beach is known for its relaxed atmosphere and rustic charm. Alleppey, Shankumugham, and Cherai Beaches are also great options for day trips or sunset picnics.