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Every year, millions of tourists around the world travel to India to explore its majestic landscapes and ancient, awe-inspiring temples. India is a country where spirituality is soaked into every fiber of culture. Parades, rituals, and festivals abound, the indomitable soul of the Indian people shining bright through in every ceremony and celebration. The shores of India also shine, the beaches bathed in sun, the rays sparkling on the waves. And then there are the lush jungles and the soaring summits of the Himalayas—each with its own spectacular magnetism, each echoing the spiritual call of a vibrant nation like no other. Wherever your bespoke tour takes you, India will leave its mark upon your soul.Help Me Plan My Trip
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India is the largest country in South Asia, and there is so much to explore here that even with a lifetime, you wouldn’t be able to see it all. So what are some highlights you should consider adding to your itinerary?
The most iconic site in India is doubtless the majestic Taj Mahal, commissioned by Shah Jahan upon the death of his third wife. Specialists from all around the world traveled to India to work on the beautiful structure and its magnificent details.
Next, you will want to travel to the spectacular temple ruins of Hampi. Not only are the ancient structures beautiful to behold, but the landscape of massive boulders has a stark, surreal beauty to it, making this World Heritage Site one of the most unique areas you will ever see.
Those with an interest in religious history also will want to plan a tour of the Ajanta Caves. Some of these prayer halls and monasteries date back to the 5th century. Exploring these caves, you will notice that the Buddha is typically represented by a footprint or other symbol, never depicted as a figure.
For an incredible outdoor adventure, head to Ladakh. This desolate landscape features rugged mountains, vast open spaces, and beautiful high lakes reflecting the blue dome of the sky. With colorful prayer flags flapping in the wind, you’ll feel like the world itself is a temple in which you have been invited to kneel with awe.
Your First Trip to India Is Just the Start of a Lifelong Passion
It would be impossible to take in all the sights of India in just one visit—even if you stayed for a year or longer. Your first holiday in India will light the fires of your imagination, igniting a lifelong romance with the country’s sunny beaches, magnificent temples, and sublime spirituality.
As of 2013, the census reported there were 1.252 billion people living in India, making it one of the most populous countries on the planet. Sadly, the life expectancy as of 2012 was only 66.21 years.
India’s history dates back millennia, so everywhere you journey across this astonishing landscape, you will find yourself immersed in history and legend. Diverse cultural influences have played into the development of modern Indian cities, so you will find a wide range of architectural styles on display. A number of different religions enjoy prominence in India as well, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism. The traditional Hindu caste system still stratifies society into strictly defined economic and social classes. This system applies across the board, even to members of other religions.
As to the big cities like Bombay and Calcutta, these were created during the age of British imperialism. As such, they still have some westernized influences. The caste system is less rigid in these cities as a result, and there is more upward mobility. If you visit these urban cities as well as the rural outlying villages, you will notice significant differences culturally and socially between them. On that note, you may also observe that a lot of people in India are most concerned with their regional identities rather than any national struggle—especially in smaller communities where illiteracy is prevalent.
When to Go on an India Vacation
When is the best time of year to plan a trip to India? Ideally, you should plan to show up sometime between October and March. This is the most temperate time of the year, steering you around the drenching monsoon season. Keep in mind that most of India is tropical, but there are also desert and mountain zones. If you are visiting one of these extreme climate zones, be sure to research that locale. For example, the Himalayas are very cold in December and January, so February-March would be a better time to visit.
What to Do
The Taj Mahal – This of course is India’s most famous destination, a beautiful monument erected by Shah Jahan for his favorite wife. It is an architectural wonder featuring some of the most ornate craftsmanship imaginable. Its white façade beautifully captures the changing light of the day from dawn through sunset.
Hampi – Venture to this land of giant boulders and temple ruins to explore a landscape like no other. Plan at least a couple of days for this part of your India adventure.
Varanasi – Known as the “City of Lights,” Varanasi may well be the most ancient inhabited city on the planet. It is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains.
Ajanta Caves – The thirty caves of Ajanta offer an incredible look into the past. They are among India’s most ancient holy sites, and remain a destination for spiritual pilgrims from around the world.
Ladakh – The rugged and beautiful desolation of this high mountain landscape will steal your breath away.
Jaisalmer – You will find Jaisalmer, known as the “Golden City” in the Thar Desert. This is an incredible spot to visit if you are looking for exemplary medieval Jain architecture. Highlights include the Laxminath Temple and the Raj Mahal.
Harmandir Sahib – Harmandir Sahib is called the “Golden Temple,” and is the holiest site for Sikhs. Warfare has caused the temple to need to be repaired and rebuilt multiple times. Visit it today however and all you will find is tranquillity within its walls.
Akshardham Temple Complex – This modern marvel in New Delhi was constructed entirely without the use of concrete or steel. The gorgeous pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble temple looks like something out of a past epoch, but this beautiful structure was completed in 2005.
Holi – Visiting India in March? Be sure to participate in the Holi festival in honour of Lord Vishnu. During the “Festival of Colours,” crowds throw colourful water and powder around, painting each other in a rainbow of mesmerizing hues.
Shopping opportunities abound in India! While on your trip, you will find numerous markets where you can purchase traditional textiles, jewelry, and other beautiful handcrafts. There are many regional differences in the crafts you will find for sale, so you can purchase distinctive souvenirs for every destination you visit.
There are so many amazing accommodations you can book while visiting India. Consider the 18th century Lake Palace in Udaipur for a romantic stay, or think about pampering yourself at any of India’s other stunning luxury resorts.
Indian cuisine is popular all around the world, but you haven’t had the full experience until you’ve eaten the authentic article! Here are a few dishes to consider trying on your trip:
Aloo gobi – This dish is a mix of potatoes and cauliflower with masala and turmeric. It may include curry and kalonji leaves.
Chana masala – Chickpeas with mixed spices. Generally this dish comes with fried bread. When it does, it is called chole bhature.
Bhatoora – The type of fried bread used in chole bhature is known as “bhatoora” (there are several other spellings). It is fluffy and deep-fried with a chewy, elastic texture.
Naan – Another type of bread which is popular in India and which you may have tried at a local Indian restaurant in your own country is naan. This flatbread is a delicious side dish commonly served with many different types of Indian cuisine.
Butter chicken – This Punjabi dish is made with a mild curry sauce.
Tandoori chicken – Chicken which is marinated in spice and yogurt and then cooked in a clay oven known as a “tandoor” is tandoori chicken.
Jalebi – This sweet is made out of deep-fried maida flour coated in syrup, and may be eaten either warm or cold.