India can make a strong claim to be the most exciting and rewarding travel destination in the world. From the exhilarating pace of life in its colourful and vibrant cities to its exquisite temples and superb scenery, few visitors ever leave disappointed. There are not many countries where you could stay in a former palace and receive first-class service without breaking the bank, yet India offers a superb range of luxurious and characterful hotels at excellent value for money. Add the delightful food and the fact that with English as an official language it is easy to interact with the locals and it is no surprise that so many of our clients return again and again to the country, whether it’s to take an epic train journey, take a tiger safari
in one of its national parks or simply live like royalty. For most, the biggest problem is where to start.Click here to read about India festivals
What to seeWith so many different experiences to be had in India it is helpful to think about the country in terms of regions. Many first-time visitors head for the ‘Golden Triangle’, where in a week you can see Agra’s majestic Taj Mahal, explore Delhi, ancient and modern, and discover the beautiful forts and palaces of Jaipur in Rajasthan. To the west, The Rajasthani cities of Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer offer an experience of India at its colourful and exotic best. It is also easy to reach Ranthambore National Park to search for tigers.
North of Rajasthan lies the old British summer capital of Shimla, and Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan government in exile, both quiet towns set against a stunning Himalayan backdrop. In the Punjab you can find the magnificent Golden Temple of Amritsar, a Sikh shrine, whose gilded exterior glitters in the sunshine, while in the far north Ladakh is dotted with Buddhist monasteries surrounded by wild Himalayan landscapes.
The south of India offers a completely different experience - more tranquil, green and lush with some superb temple architecture, particularly in Tamil Nadu, including the Meenakshi Temple at Madurai and the shore temples of Mahabalipuram, both UNESCO sites. A cruise along Kerala’s backwaters offers a fascinating insight into everyday life of rural India as you pass through sleepy villages and rows of palm trees, and the city of Cochin has a long and fascinating history as a trading port. A little further north, a boulder-strewn landscape is the backdrop for the impressive ruined city of Vijanayagar, a mammoth and now deserted site, which was the second largest city in the world at the end of the fifteenth century.
In eastern India lie two vast cities with strong connections to India’s colonial past: Chennai (Madras) on the Coromandel Coast is home to some of the earliest British settlements, including the 17th century Fort St George, while Kolkatta (Calcutta) in Bengal is an uplifting, teeming city, with a strong intellectual heritage and a fascinating history that lives on in its colonial-era houses and the impressive Victoria Memorial. From here visitors can head north to the tea plantations of Darjeeling or head inland to central India.
In the heart of India, Varanasi, situated on the sacred Ganges River, is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. A holy site for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, it is an atmospheric, busy pilgrimage centre, unlike anywhere else in the world. To the north lies Lucknow, home to magnificent Mughal-era architecture and scene of the 1857 uprising against the British. Also in central India is the intricately carved Khajuraho Temple, the city of Gwalior with its impressive fort and city walls, and the well-preserved temples in the relaxed village of Orchha. Further south, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks offer some of the best opportunities for tiger-spotting as well as beautiful meadows, lakes and trees.
Finally, the west of India is dominated by the vibrant city of Mumbai, a sprawling business and cultural centre, where visitors can explore Bollywood, designer shops or experience the city’s charismatic street life. Heading to the north of Mumbai, the Ellora Caves are home to hugely impressive Indian rock-cut architecture and the Ajanta Caves, masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. While further north, the state of Gujarat is an important trading hub, full of splendid mosques, temples and stunning wildlife. To the south of Mumbai lie the idyllic beaches of Goa.