It’s in Delhi that you’ll see where old India meets the new – and it has to be top of your list of cities to visit. Old Delhi’s almost chaotic atmosphere will excite you, while the emporiums in New Delhi will tempt you with market stalls laden with trinkets and fabrics, all of which would make fantastic mementos of your journey to India. The sound of stall owners haggling, the scent of spices mingling in the air and the beauty of sarees in a rainbow of colours…
A great way to really immerse yourself in a country’s local culture is by visiting when there’s a festival taking place – and India doesn’t disappoint when it comes to celebrations. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, takes place in late October and is a popular festival for visitors, who are mesmerised by garlands and lights draped around every part of the towns and villages. Another equally photogenic and popular festival is Holi, which takes place in March and involves the throwing of colourful powders.
Think safari, and you may not instantly think of India, but exploring Ranthambore National Park in an open-top jeep is a thrilling way to see some of the wild local residents. One of the largest national parks in northern India, it is home to leopards, hyenas, crocodiles and deer, but the park is famous for its population of tigers, which you may be fortunate enough to spot as you explore. Another great place to spot the Bengal tiger is in Pench National Park, where you can also keep an eye out for Indian wolves, porcupines and barking deer.
No other building comes close to symbolising India as much as the Taj Mahal does. Situated in Agra, the ‘Crown of the Palaces’ dates from the 17thcentury, and was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his wife. Built in white marble, with intricate decorative elements, its stands as the mighty centrepiece of the 42-acre complex. Historians regard it as one of the best examples of Mughal architecture, and visitors treasure it as a highlight to their journey to India. The best time to visit is as the sun rises, as the morning light makes the marble gleam.
There’s no better way to see life in India than to travel on its railways, and it’s a real experience! You can cover a lot of ground quickly, so as well as admiring the breath-taking scenery, you can see more of India during your holiday. The UNESCO-listed Kalka Shimla Railway or Toy Train dates from the 19thcentury and is an amazing feat of engineering, venturing through amazing mountain scenery as it traverses through tunnels and bridges.
India isn’t all bustling cities and vibrant towns… Head to southern India’s most rural state and you’ll be met with a tranquil calm, where tea and spice plantations stretch over the hills, and tempting beaches await. Head to Alleppey and you can explore Kerala’s network of waterways and lagoons on a houseboat, watching the birdlife on the water’s edge and beautiful temples emerging from the undergrowth. You may want to visit the tea plantations of Munnar where you can see the whole process of tea making.
Indian cuisine takes on a whole new dimension when you’re enjoying it in the country. Diverse and delicious with a fantastic depth of flavour, you’ll find dishes vary depending on the region of India you’re visiting, but it’s a great way to get an authentic taste of India. With so many dishes to choose from, you may find it hard to decide, but Indian chaats, a popular street food of rice and spiced vegetables from northern India is certainly a good choice, while fragrant Rogan Josh is a staple of Kashmiri cuisine and is not too spicy for most western tastes.
India is a large country, so naturally its weather is diverse depending on the time of year and region you’re visiting. Visit between October and March, to enjoy the warmer winter but avoid the very hot summer, and of course, monsoon season.
You will need a visa before you travel to India, and you will need to ensure that it’s valid throughout your stay. For the latest information on travel regulations, visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india/entry-requirements
The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR).
The national language is Hindi.