Immensely beautiful, enchanting, surprising, dynamic and yet challenging at times is my country India. The great nation lying between the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas in the north and the coastline of the Indian Ocean in the south has incredible things to offer from natural beauty to man-made astonishing creations.
This is the land of temples, forts, lost kingdoms, mystical monasteries, jungles, chaotic-crazy-colourful cities, vibrant markets, iconic monuments and high spirited life.
Most importantly you can’t absorb everything in India at one go, here you would need to make repeated visits- one part at a time. There are more than 32 UNESCO heritage sights in India. You can spend a lifetime exploring the ancient past, the dramatic landscape, spirituality, Himalayas, fares and festivals, food and much more that is Indian way of life.
Visiting India for the first time can also be offensive at time due to sights, sounds, smells, people’s reactions and all other experiences at their highest intensity. However, over a period of time once you accept the way of life here, you would find it less intimidating.
I would define India as a colourful paradox-it has all kinds of colors from beautiful to not so beautiful to even abhorring ones. You can see big cities, high rise apartments, best of the international brands, luxurious lives on one hand and shanty towns, remote villages, small houses, huts, lack of basic necessities on the other. There is chaos on one hand and calm on the other. There are people absolutely immersed in spirituality and then there are people fighting in the name of religion.
Of course the funny part is the largest democracy still survives despite 29 states, different religions- Hinduism, Chritianity, Sikkhism, Buddhism Islam & more, 880 languages and all kinds of people. India is a land of great history and great future- it is the land of Gods.
Most people at their first visit take Golden triangle tour. However, depending on your interests you can choose to explore the specific region.
North India – We have hills, places of spiritual importance, wildlife & historical places. Delhi, Agra, Ladakh,
Delhi, Agra, Ladakh, Kashmir, Shimla- Manali, Corbett– Nainital- Binsar, Dehradun Mussorie, Dulhousie, Dharamshala, Amarnath, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Haridwar- Rishikesh, Mathura- Virindawan, Varanasi , Lucknow Amritsar.
West India– We have desert, temples, wildlife and beaches. Primary states are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Mahrashtra & Goa. Top destinations include
Central India– This is rich in wildlife and heritage. Top destinations are
South India– Heritage, Back water, hills, and wildlife.
Hampi -badami-begur, Kerela backwaters, Munnar, Pondicherry, Kanyakumari, Bandipur- Mudumalai Nagarhole forests, Mysore, Ooty, Rameshwaram, Udupi, Kodaikanal etc.
East India– Hills, heritage and wildlife Kolkata-Shantiniketan-Sundarbans, Darjeeling, Ranchi- Gaya, Konark- Puri, Andaman Nicobar Islands etc
Kolkata-Shantiniketan-Sundarbans, Darjeeling, Ranchi- Gaya, Konark- Puri, Andaman Nicobar Islands etc
North East India– Hill and Jungles
Below are a few glimpses of India (It’s not even 20% of what India to offer to travelers)
Basics- Quick facts
Capital – New Delhi
Population – 1.34 billion approx. second most populous nation after China
Language – There is no national language in India. There are 31 official languages used in India by various states. 23 languages are recognized by the constitution of India.
English & Hindi are the official languages used by Central government, states use their respective regional language. Most people understand either English or Hindi or both. For all practical purpose if you know English, you can survive in India.
Currency– Indian Rupee
Food & Culture
Indian culture is one of the oldest. It is literally the world’s melting pot , where incredibly diverse cultures, religions and ethnicities live in surprising harmony. Civilization in India began about 4,500 years ago. India has 29 states, 7 union territories, 880 recognized languages of which 23 are official. Language, food, architecture, religion, dance and music forms , customs all change from region to region and place to place.
India is the birthplace of Hinduism and Buddhism, the third and fourth largest religions. About 84 percent of the population identifies as Hindu.About 13 percent of Indians are Muslim, making it one of the largest Islamic nations in the world. Christians and Sikhs too form a small percentage of the population. Infact there are fewer Buddhists and Jains.
Architecture & Art
India is known for temples, forts and palaces besides the Taj Mahal which is an amalgamation of Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles. You will see many confluence of more than two styles in each of the architectural marvel.
Closely identified with colourful sarees or salwar kameez for women and dhoti kurta or pajma kurta or sherwani for men.
Customs and Traditions
This is a country which is quite rich in traditions & celebrations. And it’s not just the Hindu traditions or festivals which are celebrated in the country but festivals of other religions or caste are also celebrated with equal fervor. Holi, Diwali Dushhera, Id, Baisakhi, Christmas, Durga Pooja, Ganesh Chaturthi to name a few. To plan your travel around festivals in India and join the fanfare Read here
India is a heaven when it comes to the variety of cuisines. Indian cuisine is known for its large assortment of dishes and its liberal use of herbs and spices.
Though Indian food is spicy for American and English taste buds still most people who travel to India fall in love with the food culture.
Within India there are cuisines based on different regions – North Indian cuisine, South Indian cuisine, Bengali cuisine, Gujarati cuisine, Mughlai cuisine, Hyderabadi cuisine so on and so forth.
Wheat, rice and pulses are important staples of the Indian diet. India has the highest number of vegetarians but lamb and chicken are commonly served dishes for non vegetarians in most restaurants.
The food is rich with curries and spices, including ginger, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, dried hot peppers, and cinnamon, among others.
Much of Indian food is eaten with fingers however you can always use a spoon and fork. For breakfast – you will commonly get Idli Dosa, paratha, poha, upma, poori sabji, chana bhatoora besides bread and eggs.
For lunch/dinner – you can order breads/ rice with vegetarian curries or non vegetarian curries. You also get something called as thali in India which an assortment of various dishes under a particular cuisine.
Indian cuisine is also influenced by many other countries.You will never face any problem is India when it comes to good food. You also get Continental and other international cuisines in most major cities. Besides, there are enough McDonalds, KFCs and Pizza Huts in the cities if you are one of those who survives on these.
However, we would suggest you to definitely try local India cuisines wherever you travel to. Drink bottled water everywhere unless you are dining in a 4 star or a 5 star luxury property.
For more details on the cuisines , names of dishes and exact place where you should try these read our blog on India Food travel guide here.
How to go?
Primarily there are 10 busiest airports in India. To travel to India, you may choose to land at any of these airports depending on your travel itinerary and flight costs. Ideally, people choose airports in metro cities of India namely Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai. Cost wise best connections are available from Mumbai and Delhi.
- Delhi – Indira Gandhi International Airport
- Mumbai – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport
- Chennai – Chennai International Airport
- Kolkata- Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport
From your destination do the following:-
Take flight to Delhi if your India travel itinerary starts with Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan
Take Flight to Mumbai- For traveling in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa.
Take flight to Cochin- If you are planning to go to Kerala backwaters first.
Goa International Flight- If you are visiting Goa first, you could land at Goa International Airport directly if connections are available.
Take flight to Bengaluru or Chennai if you are visiting south India including Karnataka, Tamilnadu and kerala
Best time to go
India is huge in every sense as have been discussed numerous times before and hence the weather too differs from place to place however in general September to February should be ideal for most places apart from wildlife destinations.
Summer months – April- June
Monsoon- June end – August
Winters – October end to February.
Stay – Primarily depends on the type of boarding accommodation you choose. Families and couples in could get a decent place within $50. Good ones will come in the range of $85 to $100.The luxurious one can start from $120 onwards.
Food – On an average $15 to $20 per meal per couple or a nuclear family in a mid-range restaurant. In smaller local eateries, this could be much lesser. And in superior ones, it could go up to $80 plus.
Local Transport – Again depends on the mode of transport and the city distances. Within cities, you can do trains or flights depending on the budget and time at hand. For long distances flight does make more sense. Most metro cities have Uber and Ola taxi providers, the most economical way to drive around the city.For short intercity travel by taxis which is a convenient option for families, the per day range could be $40 -$60. There is also an option of renting a car however it is recommended only if you are used to of Indian way of driving and the mad rush.
Sightseeing – Admission to historic sights could vary from $8-$16
Indian government provides the option of E-visa to tourists
The e-Visa is an electronic authorization from the government to enter India and is equivalent to a visa, but no stamp or label is placed in your passport.
To be eligible the traveler must:
- Submit for the e-Visa no less than 4 days and no more than 120 days prior to entry into India
- Be applying for a visa for no more than 2 entries only
- Must be arriving by air or sea at specific airports and seaports
- Traveling for a 60 day or less stay in India
You need to download the visa application form from here and submit it along with the documents- photographs and Scanned Bio Page of the passport showing the Photograph and Details.Visa processing fee also varies depending on the country & the number of entries. Ranges from $50 to $150 plus 2.5% bank processing charge.Click Here to learn more and apply for an India e-Visa.
Top things to do
We are born and brought up in India, have been to almost all states but this part is quite difficult to suggest. The country is huge and there are so many things to do here depending on what one likes, however, would still suggest a few things that I feel would give you a glimpse into the mystery and diversity of this nation.
- Explore history, the lives of Kings and Queens– Visit the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri around Agra in north India
- Experience royalty at its best in Rajasthan – Visit Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Jaipur. Stay in one of the traditional Havelis or Palaces turned into hotels, eat the traditional Indian thali and feel like a king or a queen
- Go trekking in Himalayas- Do one of the treks in the Himalayas ideally in Kashmir region.This is one of the most beautiful experiences.
- Goa Beaches – Spend at least three days in Goa. Many other countries and states have beaches, in fact very beautiful beaches but Goa is for its energy and fun in the air.
- Backwaters of Kerala, the God’s own country– Rent a houseboat in Kerala preferably Alleppey or Kumarakom and spend one full day and night on backwaters.
- Join the festivities for a glimpse of Indian culture– Attend atleast one of these festivals in India, the more the better – Jaisalmer desert festival/ Holi in Mathura/ Durga puja in Kolkata / Rann Utsav in Gujarat/Goa Carnival/Mysore Dusshera.
- Spirituality and introspection in the land of spirit and mystique – Take a spiritual retreat in one of the following places – Chakra Activation and Balancing Retreat in Manali( Himachal Pradesh), Blue Mango Retreats in Spiti Valley (Himachal Pradesh) , India Yoga Ashram in Rishikesh, Auroville in Pondicherry, Art of living centre in Bangalore, Root Institute in Bodhgaya and Isha Yoga Centre in Velliangiri Mountains
- Indian National Parks– If you are a wildlife fan visit Tadoba National Park to see Tigers of India but if it’s the jungle beauty that entices you check out Corbett National Park, Manas National Park and Kanha National Park.
- Photography tour – If you love photography, visit the Laddakh region for some amazing landscapes. For adventure enthusiasts go biking from Manali to Leh to add to the experience.
Itinerary Suggestion by destination expert
One size doesn’t fit all even when it comes to itinerary besides the fact that India is huge and has so much to offer. However, let me tell you that the best way to experience India is through its culture, its food, and its heritage.
India travel itinerary could be based on the following and one has to pick and choose depending on time and interest and other comforts.
- Regions – North, East, West, South, Central and North East
- Interests – Historical places, hill stations, desert, beaches, wellness or spirituality, temples – Jyotirlingas or Buddha circuit, heritage/festivals or wildlife.
Though even 2 months are less for India travel, we have decided to stick to 10-15 days itinerary relevant for couple and families in this section and hence here is our suggestion
Land in delhi- 2 day sightseeing, Agra & fatehpur Sikri 2 days, Jaipur 2 days – This part is for history, food, and culture. In case you’re traveling around Feb try to attend Jaisalmer desert festival for at least 2 days. India gets vibrant and alive during festivities and Jaisalmer is my favorite place to be in Rajasthan.
Come back to Delhi and fly to Cochin Kerala, and then take a bus/taxi to Alleppy. Spend 2 days here,at least 1 full day and night on a houseboat. Unlike north, you will find this part of South India much greener and quieter, a different vibe altogether.- This part of for a different travel experience.
At the end for some family fun together travel to Goa from Cochin. This place is loved by kids and is worth to add fun to your India travel trip. Spend last few days in Goa beaches and fly back to Delhi for your return flight to your destination.
For any query, please get in touch. Let us know your interests and time at hand, we can help you with the appropriate itinerary ( free of cost)
- Take time to experience India, it does require one to make several trips to get a glimpse. For first timers visiting India, check our detailed guide here
- Keep these apps to make your travel easy in India- IRCTCconnect, Ola, Uber, and either MakeMyTrip or Yatra for all sorts of travel bookings.
- Use this link to get alternate solutions for confirmed tickets to travel by train.
- India changes in every mile. You will meet good people. You will meet very good people and then you may also meet the worst kinds. Keep your head cool. In a huge country like India, rules and regulations may not be followed by all every time. There will be instances where you may feel,’ How people drive?’ ‘How can this fellow break the queue and go ahead?’ ‘Why don’t people give some space?’ ‘That’s the seat reserved for women but why is this man sitting and not getting up?’ Make sure that you handle situations with calm.
- Unless you are in a fine dining restaurant, please take bottled water everywhere. Tap water is not meant for drinking.
- Food can be cheap, very cheap at places and streets. Make sure, it is hygienic. Take freshly prepared hot food. Avoid, cut fruits, salads and juices unless eating at fine dining restaurants and well-known hotels.
- Respect religion, respect culture. Learn a few basic words, English and Hindi is understood by most people.
- Carry enough clothes as per your planned itinerary. Weather conditions differ a lot from one place to another.
- Many times people get overly excited seeing the foreigners, especially in small places. Some may insist for photographs with you, some may even try to get close. Please remember it’s your wish, you can be firm in saying no.
- Street vendors and hawkers also become too intruding in some places for example in Goa when you just want to lie on a beach and have some peace. Be firm in saying no when you need to.
- India is a country with huge income disparity. Beggars tend to flock around foreigners. You can help people, give tips for good services but avoid giving to beggars. If you give to one, many will appear.
- Give tips generously to the deserving people. This country is cheap and hence it will not cost a huge hole in your pocket if you tip the poor even when it is not expected by him/her.
- Toilets are not many and toilets are not clean everywhere. Women do use female urination device. Carry sanitizer,hand wash,wet wipes always.
- Bargaining is part of the culture, especially when shopping for souvenirs and other knick knacks in tourist places.
- India is safe with conditions and those depend a lot on the city or the place. Avoid traveling alone in nights to unknown places.Take calculative decisions.