From the snow-dusted mountains in the north to the palm fringed, sun-soaked beaches of the south, India is not only diverse geographically, but a country that does everything in extremes.
An immense country with a history that goes back over 5,000 years, India is captivating, diverse, chaotic, enchanting, shocking, brash, vibrant and colourful. From the snow-dusted mountains of the Himalayas in the north to the palm fringed, sun-soaked beaches of the south, India is not only diverse geographically, but a country that does everything in extremes.
With a population of around 1.5 billion, the disparity between rich and poor is confronting, particularly in India’s main cities. Homeless people rifle through dust-coated rubbish, competing with stray dogs for food while rich businessmen in suits drive around in BMW’s. For every peacefully quiet and tranquil temple, there is a colourful and rambunctious festival being celebrated. Within proximity of the lavish palaces and majestic fortresses that India is famous for, are the overcrowded and inhospitable slums the country is notorious for. It is this contrast and rawness that makes India such an enthralling place to visit.
An intoxicating cultural cocktail for the traveller, India boasts sacred sites, spiritual rivers, grand vestiges of the Raj at every twist and turn, teeming bazaars, sprawling palaces and ostentatious forts, mighty hill stations and verdant tea plantations, national parks heaving with wildlife, cuisine that will leave you salivating and the colourful and expressive artistry of Bollywood. The real richness of India however, is found in its regions. With 21 to choose from, each with their own unique character, you’re spoilt for choice. Few countries can boast a tourism industry that goes back generations like India can!
A trip to India would not be complete without a visit to the city of Agra and its iconic mausoleum, the magnificent Taj Mahal. One man’s monumental testimony to love, it is the unofficial symbol of not only Agra but India. Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 to house the tomb of his favourite wife, the white marble structure really is as beautiful as you expect it to be.
Also in Agra is the impressive red sandstone Agra Fort. Just out of Agra, the deserted Fatehpur Sikri is a superb fortified city that was built by the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585. It was abandoned due to water shortages but what remains is immaculately well-preserved and intricate.
See the colourful state of Rajasthan, with its intriguing temples and echoes of the royalty of India’s glorious past. Soak up the colour of Jaipur’s magnificent red and pink sandstone buildings – a highlight, the intricate Palace of the Winds; built in 1799 as a palace for the women of the royal household to witness everyday life without being seen. Just outside the city is the Amber Fort, still the home of the royal family of Jaipur and a museum with a wonderful collection of paintings, arms, carpets and textiles.
Be dazzled by the vivid blue-painted houses dotted all over the city of Jodhpur, possibly the best of India’s walled cities. The city literally hums with life, a microcosm of mansions, laneways and ancient markets. Mehrangarh Fort is a must, with a wonderful collection of palanquins, howdhs, paintings, thrones and other treasures. Soak up romance in India’s nuptial capital, Udaipur. Framed by the ancient Aravalli hills, the old city is dominated by the City Palace which rises abruptly form the glassy waters of Lake Pichola. From here gaze over the lake to the city’s other famous landmark, Lake Palace floating like an island in the lake. The perfect time to view it is at sunset.
Step into a living fairytale in Jaisalmer’s labyrinthine old city, also known as “The Golden City”. Within its massive walls are some beautiful merchant houses (havelis) and five enclosed palaces, all carved from the same golden honey sandstone as the breathtaking fort. One of the most popular excursions is a camel safari through the sand dunes of the Desert National Park. Invest in a pair of binoculars and head for Ranthambore National Park or Sariska Tiger Reserve where you may see tiger, sambers, deers, panthers, leopards and amazing birdlife.
You don’t have to be a tea drinker to enjoy the fascinating hill station of Darjeeling, founded by the British in the mid 1800s and perched on the foothills of the Himalayas. Surrounded by snow capped vistas and tea plantations, Darjeeling awakes all the senses and is the perfect antidote to the heat and dust of the southern plains of India. Ride the Darjeeling Toy Train along tracks so tightly squeezed between the lanes of mountain villages, residents must take in their washing lines to let the train puff by.
Take a drive up Tiger Hill to see the sunrise breaking over the Himalayas and flooding the tea fields with light. Mingle with the locals – an eclectic mix of Nepalese, Tibetans, Lepchas and Bhutanese. Wander through plush forests and emerald-green fields of tea bushels, enjoying fresh mountain air and exploring bright Buddhist monasteries. Visit the Himalayan Zoo to behold rare alpine animals like red pandas and snow leopards.
It’s the palm-fringed, white sand beaches lapped by cool turquoise coloured waters and the Goan susegad (laid-back, joie de vivre) that draw the masses to Goa every year. Providing endless sun drenched crescents of sand, the balmy shores of Goa are the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a refreshing dip in the crystal clear water, a spot of parasailing, deep sea diving or windsurfing. Wander around spice plantations or through the city streets, admiring the exquisite centuries old Portuguese colonial architecture.
Kerala is a sliver of land along the Malabar Coast with over 600 kilometres of shoreline belonging to the Arabian Sea. It offers visitors a more relaxed pace of life than most of India; with lush backwaters, golden sands and a fair mix of Old India nostalgia. It is also the home of ayurvedic medicine, an ancient system of herbal treatments to balance the body and mind. Cruise the 80 kilometres labyrinth of canals, lakes and rivers of Kerala’s backwaters on a traditional rice boat (built entirely of bamboo thatch, teakwood and coi without a single nail). Watch for fisherman paddling along the banks, peddlers selling their wares, children splashing about and farmers sowing rice paddies against a backdrop of velvety green hills.
Explore miles of stunning coastline, quaint fishing villages and bays packed with huge Chinese fishing nets. Delve into historic Fort Cochin district with its lush canopy of tamarind and rain trees, resplendent Portuguese and Dutch architecture and the oldest church in India. Relax on palm fringed beaches in luxurious resorts and eco retreats.
Ready to go? Contact us to book now
Around the world in 180 days in five star luxury - Waitlist your cabin
Find out more