Highlights of India
Of all the countries you could choose to visit, it is India more than any other that has the mystical romance for the traveller. There is nowhere else like it for culture, food, colour and just sheer energy.
Life in India happens outside. It’s on the streets that you will see everything going on. Rickshaws, food stalls, people dashing to work, cars, motorbikes, cows, a man sharpening knives, someone getting a haircut and more. On every street corner the traveller can just watch and soak it all in.
It can take a few days to acclimatise but India is generally very safe for the foreigner and other than some occasional pestering to buy something, there is nothing much to be concerned about.
Most Indians, and most visitors, will start the day with a cup of masala chai (spiced tea) which can be found anywhere on the street. It’s made up of black tea, hot milk, spices and sugar. The recipes vary but generally include cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and pepper. Usually served in a small glass tumbler the chai wallah will often go to elaborate lengths to prepare and pour each glass. You can always be sure to find a hot chai wherever you are in India and if you cannot immediately see a chai wallah you can generally hear them and if not just call out ‘chai’ and someone will come running or point you in the right direction.
There are countless food options available and opinion is split on whether or not it’s safe to eat street food. Some think that there is a lack of hygiene in the preparation but on the other hand you can often see the food being freshly cooked in front of you. It’s a personal choice but the temptations are many. Some of the main dishes readily found everywhere are,
- Kati roll
- Aloo Tikki
- Papadum, the fried cracker type bread. Usually made by women.
Once you are ready for the day there is so much to see and do that most people who go for a few weeks quickly realise that they need months to take it all in. Those that go for months feel that they need years!
Often incorrectly referred to, as a palace the Taj Mahal complex is actually a mausoleum. Its origins are also Muslim rather than Hindi. The construction in the 1600’s was ordered by the ruling Mughal Emperor Shah Jajan.
A spectacular white marble building with its distinctive central dome and framed by four minaret towers all set in lavish landscaped grounds.
The Unesco world heritage site receives around 7 million visitors per year and is open from dawn until dusk. Here are our tips for visiting.
- If you want to get an iconic photo then arrive first thing (6am) and be prepared to sprint through the main entrance to take up your spot. Alternatively, make an afternoon trip to the other bank of the Yamuna River for a classic shot from the gardens there. Any Tuk Tuk driver will be able to take you.
- Be prepared for lots of heat and glare. The white marble reflects daytime light so be sure to take sunglasses.
- Spend time exploring around the building. There are a myriad of concave and convex arches, doorways and reliefs forming all manner of intricate patterns.
- Don’t take too much stuff. Not only will you not be allowed in with a heavy bag, you don’t want to be dragging it around with you all day.
- Have lunch in the gardens and soak up the atmosphere. The Indian tourists who visit tend to do so in very large family groups so don’t be surprised if you end up joining in with one.
- Wait until sunset, even if you arrived early. You’re likely to only visit this magnificent site once so you might as well get the most from it. As the sun comes down and the colour of the light changes the tints and hues across the marble dome can be quite spectacular.
This ancient constantly inhabited city, which has been continually inhabited for almost 4 thousand years and is located on the holy river Ganges. The Ghats, or steep steps on the banks that run down to the river are constantly busy with pilgrims.
Varanasi is also renowned as the place of the burning Ghats or funeral pyres that are still held today, as they have been for thousands of years. Hindus believe that death in this holy city will lead to salvation, or nirvana (Hindu paradise). It is also the place where Buddha is believed to have established Buddhism in 528. It is also highly significant city for Muslims and there are many mosques and a large Muslim community.
What is so unique about Varanasi is not that it was ancient city with thousands of places of worship and merchant shops and boats on the river and so on but that it still is. Little has changed and if you view paintings and engravings of scenes of Varanasi and the Ghats from the 17th and 18th century it looks exactly the same.
A visit here is a very different experience and one that most tourists will never forget.
The Water Palace
Built into the centre of Mansager Lake in Jaipur the water palace is an immediately recognisable sight. Also named the Jal Mahal (translates as water palace) was built around 300 years ago, although there are not many hard facts about the iconic building.
Originally used as a summer retreat by royalty, the building is partly submerged which is what gives it its distinctive appearance as if it is‘ rising up’ from the lake appearance. It has incredibly detailed carvings on the numerous arches and balconies.
The palace sat abandoned for over 200 years but was restored during a six-year project in the late 2000’s following decades of deterioration and neglect, not just of the palace but also the lake.
Now, there is a promenade, the lake is clean the palace is fully restored. It’s a magical place to visit and perfect for an iconic image of India so have your camera ready at sunset!
The Amber Fort
This Hindu style fort complex is one of the most visited sites in India. And it’s easy to see why as it’s an impressive large fortifications and myriad of cobbled alleys and passageways. There are countless rooms to explore and most people spend half or even a full day at the site.
Getting into the fort requires a brisk hike up the hill to the main entrance. There are elephants, which can be rented, but due to concerns regarding their safety and treatment these are no longer a popular option among tourists.
The site is laid out in a series of courtyards and is primarily constructed of red sandstone and marble. The name Amber (or Amer) comes for the adjoining town rather than the colour of the sandstone.
It’s both impressive and relatively well preserved, making it well worth a visit on any trip to India.
Many first time visitors to India will arrive at New Delhi. This busy and hectic city is an experience in itself. Indians tend to be very industrious and the city throngs from first light until early evening. Eerily, the city streets are mostly quiet at night except for the small army of street cleaners who make the accumulating daily piles of rubbish disappear.
Navigating around can be challenging but can also be great fun. From taking a crowded bus to a ride on an ubiquitous rickshaw, you can be assured of a colourful and entertaining time or if you prefer to keep it a bit more modern, navigating around on the efficient metro stystem is the fastest way to reach your destination.
There are countless fascinating sites in Delhi but the most popular is probably the Red Fort. Built in the 1600's the sprawling complex is a good way to spend half a day. The evening sound and light show is excellent. Also worth exploring are the Jama Masjid mosque in the old city, Qutb Minar complex with countless tombs and ruins and early examples of Islamic calligraphy, or the Raj Ghat where Ghandi was cremated. There is a wide array of markets (including the spice market), museums, libraries, memorials and parks. Or, for an experience like no other, just wander the streets and people watch!
The hill town retreat of Darjeeling is most well known (in Britain) for lending its name to tea. There are still many plantations on the steep slopes around the town and the climate is particularly suited to tea growing.
Also well known for the ‘Toy Train’ or Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to give it its correct name. Completed in the late 1800’s the train still runs ferrying passengers along its narrow track.
Being in the foothills of the Himalayas gives Darjeeling a completely different feel to other parts of India. The air is much cooler and it was a popular destination during the time of the British Raj when the elite would make their way here to avoid the oppressive heat of the lowlands.
It’s also the place to get a unique view of the Himalayas and even, if you’re fortunate, a distant view of Mount Everest. The trip to Tiger Hill is typically taken very early in the morning in order to see the sunrise. This can be a magical experience with a multitude of colours and hues spread over the mountains as the sun comes up.
Darjeeling is a relaxed and easy going location and a great base for trekking, sightseeing or just to do what the lucky few did many years ago, just relax and re-charge your batteries before heading back down to the lowlands.
If you’re looking for a relaxing time, love spicy food and cruising along backwaters then Kerala is the destination for you.
There really is everything here for the traveller and more than 10 million visit each year. Despite the numbers, there is a still a laid back feel to much of Kerala.
The numerous wildlife sanctuaries, riverboat cruises and festivals mean there is always something to see and do. Kerala's beaches, backwaters, lakes, mountain ranges, waterfalls, ancient ports, palaces, religious institutions  and wildlife sanctuaries are major attractions for both domestic and international tourists.
If the time is right for you to visit India then we have a large variety of trips you can browse here.
India Tailor Made for you by Imaginative Traveller
Unique, alluring and intoxicating, the Indian sub-continent boasts more celebrations, colour and spectacle than most other countries on earth. This sample journey through India’s ‘Golden Triangle’ is the perfect introduction to this fascinating country and promises simply incredible experiences combined with unforgettable adventures.
Gain an insight into the country’s vivid history, rich cultures and religious beliefs as well as enjoy a glimpse into the tranquil everyday lives of India’s villagers. And of course, you have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the country’s many culinary delights – with the chance to learn how to cook the traditional way, and sample your efforts! As with all our tailor made itineraries, we can amend all aspects of a holiday to India, from the type of accommodation you stay in, to the places you visit and the unique experiences you can enjoy. So if you prefer something a little more bespoke we can also arrange trips Tailor Made just for you as individuals or groups.
Call our Tailor Made specialists now, to book or discuss your options in more detail, on +44 (0)1728 862230