Top 5 experiences... for a first-time traveller in India
Enthralling India is a destination that everyone ought to explore at least once in their lifetime. While the size and scope of this magnificent country makes multiple trips a joy, there is no denying that there is nothing quite like your very first taste of India.
During this first foray to the nation, there are certain experiences that really stand out as quintessential of a classic Indian adventure. Offering a medley of awe-inspiring sights, luxury and insight into the country, the below experiences are five of the finest to have on your inaugural trip to India.
1. Architectural adventures
Cast your mind to India; most likely, images of the Taj Mahal and similarly grand buildings are what occur first. Discovering these icons of India is a natural place to begin, allowing you to experience the reality behind the image.
Indeed, however impressive these buildings may seem in photos, they are far richer both in terms of visual impact and meaning when seen in person. Take the world-famous Taj Mahal; this opulent mausoleum is a masterclass in symmetry, balance and architectural beauty, but it is also a lasting symbol of love. Created by emperor Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal, his favourite wife, it has for centuries been considered one of the world's most beautiful buildings.
Grand palaces and forts offer another side to India's architectural intrigue, demonstrating as they do the country's characteristic luxury, as well as the various plays for political power that have shaped the nation's history. Exploring this opulence is, in particular, a must on your first visit to India - after all, it is here that you can discover the sense of romance and grandeur that for many characterises the country.
2. Exploring Indian art
India possesses a wealth of wonderful art; exploring its artistic heritage and modern works not only provides a feast for the eyes, but also helps you get under the skin of this complex, fascinating country.
What's particularly appealing is that there is such a variety of art to discover - art lovers can opt to take in as wide a range as possible, but it is also easy to adopt a narrower focus and discover the areas that particularly interest you, such as the tradition of miniature painting.
3. Luxury rail travel
Nothing captures India's characteristic opulence and air of romance quite like luxury rail travel. So, incorporating a little time on one of the nation's famous luxury trains is one of the finest ways to experience the country - especially during a first visit.
Among the finest is the Deccan Odyssey, which will carry you along the north Indian plains and present the opportunity to enjoy the hubbub of Delhi, the majesty of Rajasthan and the beautiful Taj Mahal. Offering exceptional cuisine, exemplary service and luxurious cabins complete with en suite bathrooms, the Deccan Odyssey embodies all the traits of a high-end hotel. Indeed, there is even a spa where you can relax and unwind in between viewing some of the nation's most compelling sights.
The Palace on Wheels, which boasts period carriages furnished in the classic Rajput style, is a similarly excellent choice for luxury rail travel in India.
4. Pace of life
One of the most memorable and immediate first experiences in India is simply noticing the different pace of life. What's particularly fascinating, however, is that this varies widely depending on exactly where you are. Delhi, for instance, is where you can get a taste of the classic cacophony and blur of people, cars and even animals thronging the streets.
However, travel south and visit a state like Kerala, and you will discern a stark contrast. Kerala's backwater region, for instance, possesses a totally different pace of life that is defined by its rural setting. Exploring this area by boat, you can discover a certain tranquility and a much slower, relaxed rhythm to daily life.
5. Indian cuisine
Culinary experiences form a cornerstone of any voyage of cultural discovery. In India, where the spices are cultivated on local land and the flavours of each region are distinctly their own, this has never been truer. Moreover, tasting each destination's cuisine will provide clues to its past - taste the past influence of French in Puducherry, for instance, or the presence of the Portuguese in Goa.
Moreover, you can enjoy memorable gastronomic experiences at all levels, from high-end restaurants to well-regarded street food stalls (follow the lead of the locals to find the best street sellers). For the best experience, aim to try the regional favourites of the destination(s) you visit. Kerala fish curry is the signature dish of this southern state, for example, and is an utterly delicious blend of seafood, coconut milk and spices. Tuck into golgappas on the streets of Delhi - a stunning savoury snack. Treat yourself to vada pav, a fragrant Indian vegetarian burger, in Mumbai, and taste the real India.
- Tags: Art & Architecture, Cox & Kings Staff, Culture & History, Food & Wine, India, Indian Subcontinent