Travel Guide

Travel Guide

India Travel Guide - Everything You Need To Know About India Tour & Travel

Trips to India

India’s diversity of landscapes and abundance of cultures make it a nation of remarkable contrasts. Home to the highest mountain ranges in the world, jungles, deserts, tropical coastlines and a seemingly infinite variety of peoples, the country can have a beguiling effect on those travelling to India. The teeming cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata throng with humanity and this populous nation is arguably the most fruitful birthplace of religion on Earth. Endless sights range from the majestic marble palaces, fortresses and emperors’ mausoleums of Rajasthan and Agra to the ghats of Varanasi, the monumental ruins at Hampi and the Hindu gateway and temple towers of the south.

India is a vast, multifaceted nation, with a complex geography. In the far north, the Himalayan mountains tumble into the great river plains of the Ganges, Yamuna and Punjab. To the west, the Thar Desert straddles the border with Pakistan, while further south, the high tableland of the Deccan Plateau forms the core of peninsular India, which tapers as it approaches the country’s southernmost tip.

Vibrant India Tour Travel Guide Map

The country comprises a diamond-shaped subcontinent that stretches over 3,000km (1,800 miles) from the Northwest Himalaya right down to Cape Comorin, on the ­Indian Ocean. From east to west India also covers about 3,000km, from the border with neighbours China and Myanmar, to the Gujarat coast on the Arabian Sea. The topography extends from the snows of the high Hima­layas, to the deserts of Rajasthan, to the lush tropical landscape of Kerala.

Delhi, the nation’s capital, presides over the Northern Plains, and Mumbai (Bombay), India’s second city, sits on the shores of the Arabian Sea in the southwest, making it the ideal gateway to the beaches of Goa. The largest population centre in the far south is Chennai (Madras), on Tamil Nadu's southeast coast, while Kolkata (Calcutta) dominates Northeast India, at the head of the Ganges Delta and Bay of Bengal.

When to travel to India
India's climate The climate in India ranges from the permanent snow of the Himalayas and the tropical weather of the coastlines, to the continental climate of the interior. Many regional and seasonal variations also occur, but overall the best time to visit India is after the southwest monsoon. October to March is the cool season and the best time to travel in peninsular India. Most areas see blue skies and sunshine, but sleet and snow make the far north very cold and often inaccessible. Summer, from April to June, is very hot and dry for most of the country, and a good time to visit the hills. The southwest monsoon begins along the western coast in late May, bringing relief from the heat and differing amounts of rain as it moves across the country during June and July. The northeast of the country typically has very heavy rain during this season. North India April - June: Hot, dry and dusty with temperature 35-42 degree centigrade July - August: Hot, Humid and rainy Sep - Mar: Pleasant days and could get cooler in the night   South India April/May & Aug/Sep: Hot and Humid with average temperature 38 degree centigrade June/July/Oct/Nov: Hot and Heavy rains Dec - Mar: Hot but less humid   Best time to visit India India's climate can be conveniently divided into three zones – the north, the south and the hill regions – and into three distinctive seasons: the winter, the summer and monsoon. Meanwhile, in a country with such a strong and varied religious tradition, there is always some reason for celebrating something, so festivals and events abound, see below for more details.
Festivals of India
There are many festivals in India but few public holidays. Here is a selection of the annual highlights in India’s festival calendar. In addition, every town, village and temple celebrate its own during the year.  Jan–Feb Pongal. This is the most celebrated harvest festival in South India; typically lasting four days, it involves the painting of elaborate kollams (floor paintings) and the preparation of pongal, a rice, sugar and nuts confection which gives the festival its name.  Holi. Full-moon festival welcoming the arrival of spring. Indians typically celebrate by throwing vast quantities of dyed water and paint over one another. Not for the faint-hearted. August Raksha Bandhan. A festival dedicated to the brother-sister relationship, celebrated most prominently in North India, during which brothers and sisters tie coloured strings on each other’s wrists. Sept–Oct Dussehra. Ten-day festival celebrating the victory of good over evil, particularly Rama’s triumph over Ravana and Durga’s over Mahishasura. Oct–Nov Diwali. India’s biggest national celebration, the ‘Festival of Lights’, commemorates the homecoming of Rama and Sita with the lighting of innumerable oil lamps and the setting-off of vast quantities of fireworks. Nov–Dec Pushkhar Camel Fair. One of India’s most celebrated events, with thousands of camels converging in the Rajasthani Desert while a mass Hindu bathing ritual takes place in nearby Pushkar Lake.
Best places to visit in India
From the human multitude, vibrant culture and architectural treasures of India’s great cities to the natural wonders of its myriad terrains, tailor-made trips to India take in every aspect of this extraordinary nation. Highlights of India tours include:
  • Marvelling at the marble domes and minarets of the sublime Taj Mahal
  • Watch the sun rise over the Taj Mahal
  • Witnessing Varanasi’s ghats on an early morning boat ride along the sacred River Ganges 
  • Explore Delhi's historic monuments
  • Visiting Mahabalipuram’s towering Shore Temple on the Bay of Bengal 
  • Watching the sunset from a Goa beach bar 
  • Enjoying a relaxing cruise along Kerala’s palm-fringed backwaters
  • Wandering through fascinating Kala Ghoda in Mumbai’s diverse Colaba district 
  • Hiking the forested slopes of the Himalayan foothills in Manali
  • Roving around the ruins of Hampi’s temple complexes
  • Taking in the view from the top of Jaipur’s pink sandstone Hawa Mahal palace
  • Experience the megacity of Mumbai
  • Feel the romance of Udaipur
  • Ride the rails to Darjeeling
  • Laze on Palolem Beach in Goa
Delhi is the political and administrative ­centre of the world’s largest democracy. Strategically located between the Aravalli hills and the Yamuna river, its site has been occupied for millennia. It has survived invasion, sacking and a political ‘emergency’ to emerge as a fascinating mix of ancient and modern. Appropriately for a county as culturally mixed as India, the nation's capital, Delhi, is a true melting pot, with a population of 15 million drawn from all four corners of the subcontinent. Today's metropolis, sandwiched between a spur of the Aravalli Hills and the Yamuna River, is merely the latest, however, in a succession of cities dating back at least 3,000 years, with landmark sights such as the Red Fort, Qutb Minar and Humayun's Tomb. This sprawling city has two centres, Old and New Delhi, and a series of ancient villages and sites that have been engulfed by newer residential areas (known as colonies). These newer areas mostly lie either to the south (where Delhi extends for many kilometres) and across the border into the neighbouring state of Haryana, where the city of Gurgaon forms a de-facto Delhi suburb, or on the eastern side of the Yamuna such as NOIDA. Places to visit in Delhi Red Fort The spectacular Red Fort, so called because of the colour of its sandstone walls, also known as Lal Qila, faces Chandni Chowk (meaning ‘moonlit’ or ‘silver crossroads’), once the central avenue of a bazaar that is still an important commercial centre. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2007, it is the most impressive Mughal monument in the city. Rajpath If Connaught Place is the commercial hub of Delhi, then Rajpath is not only the political hub of the city but also the whole country. This centrepiece of Lutyens’s grand design was an impressive conception, intended to show off the full pomp and might of the British empire. Rajpath is a long, straight boulevard, laid out on the plain to the south of Shahjahabad, rising to the small hill of Raisina at its western end. Along its length are India’s most important government buildings, as well as the national collections of art and archaeology. At the far eastern end of Rajpath is the imposing monumental arch of India Gate, a memorial to the dead of the Indian Army. Humayun's Tomb At the eastern end of Lodi Road is Humayun’s Tomb. Set in beautiful gardens, this red sandstone monument is the finest Mughal building in Delhi (listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993) and the prototype for the Taj Mahal. Lodi Gardens This is one of the most beautiful and best-­maintained parks in the city, dotted with the tombs of the 15–16th-century Lodi rulers. The gardens are beloved by Delhiites who relish the respite it affords from the rush and pollution of the surrounding streets. In the morning you will see people running and walking in the gardens, and later on it becomes a meeting ground for young couples. Qutb Minar Made a Unesco World Heri­tage Site in 1993, the Qutb Minar and the buildings which surround this tower mark the centre of the first of the Delhi Sultanates.
Agra, the location of the Taj Mahal is the most popular tourist destination in India. For the Taj, as one calls it, is a ‘sight’ that awakens the wonder and enthusiasm of the most blasé, world-weary traveller, a sight for which no amount of stunning photography in guidebooks and magazines can adequately prepare you. But there’s plenty more. Agra was the capital of Akbar the Great and the site of his Agra Fort, as well as his tomb outside the city at Sikandra and the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. Places to visit in Agra Celebrate love at the incomparable Taj Mahal Some people assert the Taj Mahal looks at its best during Sharad Purnima, the first full moon after the monsoons. Others love to see it at the height of the rainy season. But in truth, the magic of the world’s most beautiful building is irresistible at any time of year, and any moment of the day, or night. Agra Fort Built by Akbar in 1565, Agra Fort was conceived as a citadel with a moat on three sides and a river on the fourth. Pleasure palaces were a secondary consideration and were in fact mostly added by Shah Jahan. Admire the beauty of Itimad-ud-Daula Visible on the riverbank opposite the fort is the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, often eclipsed by the Taj Mahal but still of exceptional beauty in its own right. The mausoleum was built 15 years earlier by Jahangir’s wife, Nur Jahan, for her father, who served as Mughal wazir (prime minister). Akbar's mausoleum at Sikandra Akbar also designed his own resting place. Completed in 1613, the tomb still stands at Sikandra, 12km (7 miles) northwest of Agra, set in a garden roamed by langur monkeys and blackbuck (nilgai).
One third of India's Golden Triangle, Jaipur is the entry point to Rajasthan for many and entices with its memorable Rajput architecture and pink city walls. Lying within easy reach of Delhi and Agra, the Rajasthani capital forms a prominent port of call on northern India’s popular “Golden Triangle” of sights, attracting streams of visitors through the winter. Other than its flamboyant Rajput architecture, Jaipur holds one of the country’s biggest bazaars, renowned above all for its handicrafts – particularly textiles and gemstones. Among the city's major draws are the City Palace, the honeycomb alike Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, and the Jantar Mantar. Meanwhile, the nearby Amber Fort recalls the past glories of the Rajasthani maharajas. Places to visit in Jaipur Maharaja's treasures at the City Palace Occupying the most auspicious central portion of Maharaja Jai Singh’s grid, the City Palace formed the political hub of Jaipur, and remains the residence of the royal family. Although its innermost enclosures date from the 18th century, other wings were added in subsequent eras, fusing Mughal and Rajput architectural motifs. A series of ornamental gateways leads to the interlocking courtyards inside the palace, many of whose pavilions are given over to the Sawai Man Singh II Museum. Armour, weapons, priceless carpets, state regalia, jewellery, miniature paintings, manuscripts and precious ritual paraphernalia make up the bulk of the collection, all lavishly decorated by craftsmen whom the Jaipur maharajas recruited from the courts of the Mughals as the empire lapsed into decline.  Photograph the famous Palace of the Winds The most photographed sight in Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), dating from 1799, which stands at the eastern perimeter of the City Palace, overlooking the bazaar. A five-floored confection of domed balconies, delicate cupolas and pierced stone jali screens, all painted Jaipur’s trademark salmon pink, it is not in fact, a palace, but an extraordinary facade of 953 airy niches and windows, used by the royal women in purdah (secluded from the public) to watch the outside world of the streets below. Explore the Jantar Mantar Immediately behind the Hawa Mahal, the Jantar Mantar stands in surreal counterpoint to the traditional Rajput splendour surrounding it. Made up of 16 colossal geometric structures which Maharaja Jai Singh – a keen astronomer – used to calculate celestial latitudes and planetary movements, Marvel at Amber Fort Amber, 11km (7 miles) from Jaipur, was once the capital of the Minas – believed to be the original inhabitants of this area. Painted elephants take visitors up the hill to admire the massive gateways, pillared pavilions and palaces that recall the glory and wealth of Amber’s association with the Mughals
Rajasthan – literally ‘Land of Kings’ – conforms to a popular ideal of romantic India, boasting more maharajas’ palaces, camel treks and colourful festivals than you could experience in a lifetime. Itineraries tend to revolve around the state’s main cities, each of which is distinguished by a different hue: the salmon pink of the capital, Jaipur; the cobalt blue of Jodhpur’s old city; the yellow ochre of Jaisalmer’s desert citadel; and the white alabaster of Udaipur. Big cats tend to be high on the agendas of most visitors to this region, thanks to the presence in Rajasthan of one of India’s foremost tiger reserves, Ranthambore, while the Pushkar Camel Fair is a popular event to attend. Places to visit in Rajasthan Jaipur One third of India's Golden Triangle, Jaipur is the entry point to Rajasthan for many and entices with its memorable Rajput architecture and pink city walls. Lying within easy reach of Delhi and Agra, the Rajasthani capital forms a prominent port of call on northern India’s popular “Golden Triangle” of sights, attracting streams of visitors through the winter. Other than its flamboyant Rajput architecture, Jaipur holds one of the country’s biggest bazaars, renowned above all for its handicrafts – particularly textiles and gemstones. Among the city's major draws are the City Palace, the honeycomb alike Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, and the Jantar Mantar. Meanwhile, the nearby Amber Fort recalls the past glories of the Rajasthani maharajas. Jaisalmer's desert fort Sailing above the ochre sand flats of the Thar on a long, low ridge, the amber-coloured walls of Jaisalmer exude a molten glow at sunset, generating an atmosphere that has entranced travellers for centuries. But much more than the individual monuments, it is the general ambience of the town that gives it its special allure. Everything here is bathed in a serene desert light that adds a shimmer to the stone and a translucence to the shadows. Jodhpur, the blue city If any sight could be said to epitomise the indomitable pride and swagger of old Rajputana, it’s the Meherangarh Fort in Jodhpur. The core of the palace, a complex of sumptuously decorated apartments overlooking enclosed courtyards, is given over to the excellent Meherangarh Museum, where royal artefacts spanning five centuries are displayed. Romantic Udaipur ‘The most diversified and most romantic spot on the continent of India’ was how the chief analyst and champion of Rajput culture, Col. James Tod, famously described Udaipur in 1817. Parts of the fabled lake city have altered beyond recognition since Tod’s day, but the palaces where he was so lavishly entertained by the Maharana of Mewar continue to entrance everyone who sets eyes on them. Framed by a distant backdrop of rolling desert hills, they rise from the waters of Lake Pichola like some exquisite orientalist fantasy. An imposing wall of yellow plaster topped by a crowning layer of domes, golden finials, fluted pillars and whimsical arches, the City Palace is part royal residence and part luxury hotel, but the most historic, and vibrantly decorated, portions have been allocated to the Palace Museum. Most of the interest in Udaipur city itself centres on its old quarter, on the eastern shores of the lake. Competing for the best views, several fine havelis still stand on the waterside, including the enormous Bagore-ki-Haveli, a former prime minister’s residence converted into an engaging museum. The camel fair at Pushkar During the full moon of Kartika month (usually November), tens of thousands come to bathe in the redemptive waters, and to buy and sell livestock at the huge Camel Fair (mela) held in the dunes to the south of town. The fair has become a major tourist event, for which a whole town of tents is set up. Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with the famous mela, Pushkar deserves a detour. Set against a backdrop of sharp-ridged hills, the lake and its entourage of domed temples, bathing ghats and whitewashed havelis (merchants’ houses) is one of Rajasthan’s defining sights. For the ultimate view, climb up the flight of ancient stone steps to the Savitri Temple, southwest of town, from whose terrace you can look down the Aravalli mountain range and across the Thar, rippling into the distance. Tigers at Ranthambore National Park Great concern surrounds the future of the 30 or so tigers surviving at Ranthambore National Park, but for the time being, at least, the reserve’s beautiful big cats are sufficiently numerous to justify the lengthy trip to this remote corner of the state. Moreover, the scenery is magnificent. Spread over nearly 400 sq km (155 sq miles) of rolling grasslands, mixed deciduous forest and scrub, Ranthambore encompasses a former royal hunting reserve, set around an estate of artificial lakes dotted with pavilions and chatris. To complete the scene, a rambling Rajput fort perches on top of a sandstone outcrop in the centre of the park, where monkeys scamper around ruined temples. Safaris take place in the mornings and evenings. 
Glorious beaches, jungles filled with wildlife, teeming backwaters and exotic costumed temple dramas – Kerala ticks just about every box. Its lush beauty is simply a complement to its rich traditions, legends and culture.  The appealing thing about Kerala from a visitor’s point of view is that if offers an enticing combination of beaches, backwaters and hills. When you tire of lounging on soft, surf-lashed sand, you can head off on backwater cruises in converted wooden rice barges, venture up into the cooler climes of the Western Ghat mountains for a stay on a tea plantation, or go elephant and tiger spotting in any number of remote national parks. Kerala’s rich tradition of elaborately costumed ritual theatre – notably the masked drama form, Kathakali – adds yet another dimension to travelling in the state, as do its vibrant temple festivals, featuring spectacular processions of caparisoned elephants, drum orchestras and firework displays.  The landscape Kerala’s attractions are focused mainly in the south, within easy distance of the capital, Thiruvananthapuram, where the beautiful white-sand beaches around the resort of Kovalam attract streams of sun worshippers throughout the winter months and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary draws tiger-spotters.  Further north, the densely populated backwaters area forms a distinctive tropical environment, its tangled canals, rivulets and lakes screened from the main transport routes of the coastal strip by a wall of intense greenery. A fleet of converted rice boats cruise these idyllic waterways, allowing you to explore the region in great comfort and style from towns such as Kollam and Alappuzha.  The backwaters peter out as they approach Kerala’s biggest city, Kochi (formerly Cochin), a sprawling metropolis divided between modern Ernakulam on the mainland, and the historic district of Fort Cochin across the water. Lined by some of India’s oldest colonial buildings, the fort’s narrow streets are packed with visitors from all over the world, just as they were 400 years ago, when they formed the hub of India’s maritime spice trade. What to see in Kerala Thiruvananthapuram's old city Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the capital of modern Kerala, is set around seven low, wooded hills in the far south of the state. Seat of the Maharajas of Travancore, its old city, bounded by high granite walls, is dominated by the temple of Sri Padmanabhasvama (closed to non-Hindus), which the region’s rulers built to honour Lord Vishnu. Its majestic, Tamil-style gateway towers are reflected to stunning effect in the waters of the adjacent ablutions tank, on whose southern side stands the Puttan Malika Palace. With its elegant gables, elaborately carved pillars and enclosed courtyards, the complex is a wonderful example of regal Keralan architecture. Kovalam's beaches  Kovalam, 16km (10 miles) south of Thiruvananthapuram, has been Kerala’s principal beach resort since the late 1980s. A ramshackle agglomeration of hastily erected hotels, the village extends across paddy fields and palm groves inland from a trio of separate coves, each with its own distinct character. Most foreign tourists congregate on Lighthouse beach where, at night, the revolving lamp of the eponymous lighthouse casts its beam across a strip of brightly lit café-restaurants. Get up early enough in the morning and walk around the low, rocky promontory dividing Lighthouse beach from its neighbour, Hawa beach, and you’ll be treated to one of the quintessential spectacles of the Keralan coast: teams of local fishermen, dressed in cotton turbans and Madras-chequed mundus (lunghis), hauling huge nets ashore with ropes. Elephants and tigers at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, near the market town of Kumili, is the most frequented of Kerala’s national parks. A former royal hunting reserve, it centres on a reservoir where, from the comfort of a boat deck or bamboo raft, you can sight grazing herds of wild elephant, and even, on rare occasions, one of the handful of tigers that survive in the forests. To protect its fragile populations of fauna from poachers, the Periyar Tiger Reserve has implemented a scheme whereby local forest-dwelling minority people are employed as guides, wardens and hotel staff in the park, thereby reducing illegal hunting. So far, the initiative seems to have been extremely successful, with animal numbers on the increase and local poverty on the wane. Colonial Kochi (Cochin) One of the most atmospheric locations in southern India, Fort Cochin clusters on a peninsula jutting into the mouth of the Periyar River, where the Portuguese spice traders gained their first foothold in India in the early 16th century. Dating from 1506, the stalwart Church of St Francis is a well-preserved survivor from the era of Vasco da Gama, whose body was for a while interred here after he died of fever in a nearby house. Old colonial mansions dotted around the streets of Fort Cochin recall the Portuguese, Dutch and British settlers who made this among the most prosperous ports in Asia. For centuries junks from as far afield as China sailed here to fill their holds with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and pepper. A quirky vestige of their presence is the much-photographed Chinese fishing nets lining the peninsula’s northern shore, operated by a cantilevered system of counterweights. The Keralan Backwaters A network of narrow canals and wide lakes, the backwater region, known as Kuttanad, offers visitors the chance to see a uniquely Keralan landscape at close quarters. Boats of all descriptions are punted or sailed along the shallow green waterways with palms arching overhead. The best way to explore this fascinating area is to hire a converted rice barge, or kettu vallam. Made of oiled jackwood and mounted by canopies of plaited palm leaves, these used to transport rice between farms and market towns. Now more than 400 carry tourists around the waterways near Alappuzha, along with fleets of diesel-powered excursion boats and smaller, more environmentally friendly, dugout canoes.
The name Goa is synonymous with many things, from golden sweeps of beach to the hippie trail. Although only a little over 100km (60 miles) from north to south, Goa, India’s smallest state, forms one of the most distinctive pieces in the great cultural mosaic of the subcontinent, thanks to its history of being Portuguese ruled until 1961. Today, however, the area is best known for its idyllic tropical climate and paradise landscape of white-sand, palm-fringed beaches. For more than four-and-a-half centuries Goa was run as a Portuguese colony – the lynchpin of a vast trade empire stretching from Japan to Lisbon. As such, its major influences tended to come from across the sea rather than across its borders. Insulated from the rest of coastal India by tidal rivers and mountains, these influences subsequently took root and blossomed into a culture that was neither entirely Indian nor European, but something in between, with its own unique styles of architecture, cuisine and dress. Travellers have been coming to Goa to relax. Back then, its bars were the main attractions. Nowadays the beaches are what draw the crowds during the winter, and there are plenty of them: Anjuna and Arambol in the north retain an alternative vibe, while Palolem in the far south offers a stunning beach. The entire 101km (63 mile) coastline is splashed with sand, from vast bays to tiny coves only accessible by boat. The only problem is deciding which one to head for first. Meanwhile, luxuriantly green jungle inland has its own charms, with the waterfalls at Dudhsagar perhaps one of the biggest draws. Places to visit in Goa Wander in the lost world of Old Goa At the height of its splendour in the late 16th and 17th centuries, the former Portuguese capital of Goa was a city of extraordinary magnificence. Contemporary engravings delineate a skyline bristling with Baroque cathedrals and church spires, vast paved piazzas and a port heaving with the spoils of empire. Bigger even than Lisbon and London in its day, it was the first great colonial metropolis. Old Goa 2 (as the site is nowadays called) fully deserves its status as the state’s prime visitor attraction. As well as the surviving cathedral, churches and convents, the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier in the majestic Basilica of Bom Jesus attracts Christians from all over India, while a pair of well-stocked museums showcase historic artefacts from both the Portuguese and pre-colonial periods. Party in Anjuna and chill in Arambol The long-established Flea Market is still held on Wednesdays at Anjuna, in northern Goa. This has long been a bastion of a hedonistic hippy tourism, with drug-fuelled full-moon parties and techno dance music, the latter of which which you can sample at the famous Nine Bar in nearby Vagator after the Flea Market.  North of Anjuna, development thins out after the Siolim River, only rearing its head again at Arambol, Goa’s northernmost village. Beyond the reach of package tourism, this remains essentially a hang-out for long-staying ‘alternative’ visitors. If you’ve come to India to learn yoga, have ayurvedic massages or space out on the beach doing t’ai chi, Arambol will be the place for you. Enjoy a tropical paradise in Palolem In the far south of the state, a couple of hours’ ride across the Sayadhri hills, Palolem is undeniably Goa’s most picturesque beach – a gently curving bay of golden sand set against a curtain of coconut palms. Remote and unfrequented until as recently as the early 1990s, it has since become the first-choice destination for backpackers.
Thankfully, however, building has been held in check by the local municipality’s ban on concrete construction, and accommodation is mainly in the form of eco-friendly palm-leaf ‘huts’
See Portuguese architecture in Margao With a population of over 100,000, Margao (also known as ‘Madgaon’) is Goa’s second-largest town. It can feel frenetic compared with the resorts just 10 minutes’ drive west, but does hold a wonderful crop of elegant 18th- and 19th-century Portuguese houses. The centrepiece of the old colonial enclave on the north side of Margao is the splendid Church of the Holy Spirit, built in 1675 and a textbook late Baroque edifice, with a grand whitewashed facade, fronted by a monumental cross whose base is carved with episodes from the Easter story.  Admire the falls at Dudhsagar The waterfalls at Dudhsagar, near Goa’s eastern border, are the second highest in India. Measuring 600m (3,000ft) from head to foot, they’re a spectacular sight at any time of year, but especially just after the monsoon rains in October and November, when water levels are at their highest.
Mumbai - Bombay
The metropolis of Mumbai sets the pace for all western India, its commerce, cinema, energy and global profile instrumental in the rise of the country’s ambitions. Known until 1996 by its former British name, Bombay – Mumbai is a city of superlatives. Packed on to a narrow spit of reclaimed land that curls into the Arabian Sea from the Maharashtran coast, it’s the world’s largest urban sprawl, with a population of 15 million and rising – the most crowded, powerful, corrupt, crime-ridden and compelling metro-polis in India. Nowhere else in the country looms as large in the popular imagination or exerts such far-reaching influence. For visitors, Mumbai isn’t so much about unmissable sights as atmosphere. Plenty of wonderful monuments do survive from the city’s chequered history, such as the Gateway of India and the Victoria Terminus, but in many ways travelling between them. But immersing yourself in the teeming street life is where the real interest lies – rubbing shoulders with commuters at rush hour, or jostling with porters in the stations and bazaars, you’ll get a vivid sense of what makes the Maharashtran capital an extraordinary place to live and work. Be sure to visit Chowpatty Beach and Crawford Market for a taste of the bustle at its most fascinating. What to do in Mumbai (Bombay) Admire the Gateway of India The defining monument of Colaba, the district at the far southern tip of the peninsula where most foreign tourists congregate, is the grandiloquent Gateway of India. A triumphant arch built to commemorate the visit of Britain’s George V and Queen Mary for the Delhi Durbar in 1911, it is now – somewhat ironically – better remembered as the place where the last detachment of British troops marched to their waiting ships in 1947, marking the official end of imperial rule.  Take a train or just admire the architecture at Victoria Terminus Opened in 1887, Mumbai's principal railway station, Victoria Terminus, was conceived as a symbol of the pride and power of the British Empire. It amalgamated all the stylistic eccentricities of the day – ornate domes, minarets, fancy arched windows and a staggering wealth of sculptural detail – and still forms an imposing spectacle. Re-named Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the station remains one of the country’s best-loved landmarks, Shop in Crawford Market Northwest of the station is the bustling Crawford Market (known in post-Independence as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule). Behind the brick facade with bas-relief friezes by Kipling’s father over the gate, the stalls retain their original layout: vegetables to the left; fruit and flowers to the right; and fish, mutton and poultry straight ahead. Beyond Crawford Market lies the heart of Mumbai, where Indians from the entire subcontinent compete in the bazaars. Among the extravagantly coloured Hindu temples, and mosques in the Muslim neighbourhoods, Jain merchants sell gold in the Zaveri Bazaar, while other streets specialise in silver, brass, copper, leather and lace. Stroll down Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach Another famous landmark in the city is the promenade of Marine Drive, around Back Bay from Nariman Point to the residential area of Malabar Hill. One must-see is Chowpatty Beach, not for swimming or sunbathing, but because it is one of the greatest people-watching spots in western India: fakirs and fakers walk on fire, sleep on nails, climb ropes in midair, or bury their heads in the sand; food vendors hawk kulfi ice cream as well as bhelpuri, a spicy local speciality.
The most sacred stretch of the Ganges is at Varanasi (Benares), one of the oldest living cities in the world and arguably the most intense, atmospheric place in the whole of India. For more than 2,500 years this city has attracted seekers and pilgrims. Its heart lies between the streams of the Varuna and the Assi which flow into the Ganges and give the city its name. This is the home of the god Shiva, who, to his devotees, is the one great God. To die here in his city on the banks of the holy river is to achieve moksha, liberation from the cycle of life and death. Places to visit in Varanasi Around the ghats and city Dawn on the Ganges is a fabulous sight. The river flows south to north, with the city on the west bank, and fields and trees to the east. As the sun rises, the golden rays fall on the innumerable temples and 70 bathing ghats, on the priests under their tilted umbrellas, and devout Hindus taking a purifying dip. The one notable mosque on the skyline was built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Rowing boats take visitors along the ghats from Assi in the north to Raj Ghat, a highly recommended experience. Within the city itself, the Vishvanath Temple is a major attraction, as is the Sankat Mochan shrine. 
Haridwar and Rishikesh
In the foothills of mighty Himalayas along the bank of the Ganges lies the twin national heritage cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh. Haridwar is more of a spiritual destination with a plethora of temples and religious celebration that attracts Hindu pilgrims from across the world. While you’re here do not miss the Ganga aarti. Just 12 miles upslope from Haridwar lies Rishikesh, which is a go-to destination for yoga, meditation and adventure sports, such as bungee-jumping, river rafting and flying fox.
The magnificent Golden Temple, holiest shrine of the Sikh faith, stands in the centre of Amritsar, capital of Indian Punjab. Built by Guru Arjan Dev in the 16th century, the heart of the complex is the ornately gilded Harmandir. Every Sikh aims to make at least one pilgrimage to the shrine in their lifetime, but its doors are open to all: come early in the morning or around sunset, when the gold colour, reflected in the waters of the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Immortality Giving Nectar), is most sublime.13
Northwest Himalaya
From the lush Kullu Valley to the arid heights of Ladakh, India’s northwest Himalaya are much loved by walkers, climbers and those in search of tranquillity or simply incredible views. The area is also imbued with spirituality: just as Islam dominates Kashmir, Buddhism has a bearing on large swathes of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, while the area is home to some of the holiest Hindu sites. Places to visit in Northwest Himalaya Mountains of Northwest India No matter where you are in this spectacular corner of the world, you’re never far from a stunning view of a snowcapped mountain. These can be enjoyed in the company of thousands – Manali is still top of every Indian honeymooner’s and snow-seeker’s wish list – or entirely alone. With its Buddhist monasteries set against gleaming ice peaks, the high-altitude desert of Ladakh is guaranteed to fulfil every fantasy about the Himalaya, while the flower meadows and wooden villages of Himachal Pradesh provide a dreamily bucolic backdrop for explorations on foot. Himachal Pradesh The picturesque state of Himachal Pradesh straddles the Himalaya from the foothills to the high, remote valleys of Lahaul and Spiti, with a swathe of snowy peaks in between. In early summer (May–June) – the best period to visit – the coolness of melting snow tempers the heat in the myriad wood- and stone-built villages perched on terraces high above the valley floors. The majority of Himachalis are Hindus, but Buddhism is also a major influence, particularly with the presence of the exiled Dalai Lama at Dharamsala and the large settlements of Tibetan refugees. The state's capital of Shimla was the Raj's summer retreat and remains deservedly popular. Shimla, summer capital of the Raj Now the capital of Himachal Pradesh, the town of Shimla was built in the early 19th century when the British colonial settlers were searching for a summer refuge from the heat of the plains. At an altitude of 2,130m (6,755ft), the site was first discovered by British troops returning from the war with the Gurkhas of Nepal in 1819. They returned soon after to build little holiday bungalows with fabulous views of the mountains. Within a decade Shimla had become the most prestigious hill station in India – and the summer capital of the entire Raj. In town, visitors can retrace the favourite promenades along the Mall and see the old administrative offices of the Ridge, which leads past the neo-Gothic, Anglican Christ Church, where the bells are made from the brass of cannons captured from the Sikhs. At the end of the Ridge, you’ll find the baronial pile of Viceregal Lodge, where Mountbattan, Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah held their crucial negotiations in the run-up to Partition in the 1940s. Tibetan-influenced Dharamsala West of Manali at the foot of the Dhauladhar Range in the beautiful Kangra Valley lies Dharamsala. Consisting of a lower and an upper town, its altitude varies from 1,000 to 2,000m (3,250–6,500ft). Upper Dharamsala, better known as McLeod Ganj, is the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile. The large Tibetan population supports many organisations, including TIPA (Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts), which preserves and arranges performances of traditional Tibetan music and dance, particularly the drama, lhamo. In the lower town is the Museum of Kangra Art, housing a collection of miniature paintings and other local artefacts.  Ladakh and Kashmir Although officially within the boundaries of Jammu-Kashmir state, the remote Himalayan region of Ladakh is a world apart, in every sense. Encircled by some of the world’s highest mountains, the geography and culture of the ‘Land of High Passes’ has more in common with neighbouring Tibet than Muslim Kashmir. The majority of its inhabitants are Buddhists, and from the moment you first enter the region, the brightly coloured prayer flags and monasteries perched on hillsides of parched scree reinforce the impression that you have arrived on the margins of Indian influence. Leh is the gateway to the Indus Valley. Uttarakhand But for sheer exoticism, it’s hard to top the Hindu pilgrimage sites of Garwhal and Kumaon in Uttarakhand, where ancient temple towers are framed by the dazzling white giants of the Inner Himalaya. Here, also, is the home of the Corbett National Park, a famed toger reserve. Leh, high in the Himalaya Despite its remoteness, Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is a developed town boasting most modern amenities. Spilling from the foot of a ruined Tibetan-style palace, its broad bazaar and jam of ancient mud houses look south across the Indus Valley to the snowy peaks of the Stok Kangri massif. Most visitors use the town as a base for excursions into the valley, travelling by taxi or local bus to the monasteries (gompas) of Shey, Tikse, Stok and Likkir.  Corbett National Park for rich wildlife At the foot of the Himalayas, some 300km (180 miles) northeast of Delhi and accessible from the capital either by train or road, is the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Among India’s nature reserves, this is the best known because of Jim Corbett, the audacious hunter of the man-eating tigers of Kumaon. The park was established in 1935 and was given Corbett’s name after India became independent.  The lovely expanse of forest and meadows by the Ramganga River remains a home to tigers, leopards and elephants, as well as cheetahs, sloth bears, wild pigs, jackals and hyenas. The river abounds with mahseer and trout, as well as two kinds of crocodile and the occasional blind fresh-water dolphin. Birdwatchers should look out for stork, red jungle-fowl and black partridge. Safaris are conducted by Jeep and elephant back. Rest at midday in the lodge at Dhikala and watch the elephants head down to the river.
Tamil Nadu
For many Indians, Tamil Nadu is the south. The mighty Chola temples rising from the state’s central rice flats are considered to be the principal highlights of the region. The ancient sites of Tamil Nadu Historic monuments and temples tend to loom large on most visitor itineraries in Tamil Nadu. Top of your list should be the ancient city of Madurai, in the far south of the state, and the seaside capital of the Pallavas, Mamallapuram, in the north. Take your time travelling between the two: the region’s distinctiveness reveals itself as much in its markets, fishing villages and festivals as its famous temples, busy year-round with pilgrims from across southern India. Sprawling from the Western Ghats to the Coromandel Coast, the former heartland of the Chola dynasty is a repository of the world’s oldest-surviving classical culture; Thanjavur is the historic capital. Ancient gopura temple towers still dominate the skyline of its towns and cities, and the devotional songs blaring from the sound systems of pilgrims’ buses in the region would have been familiar to Hindus 1,500 years ago. Modern times Yet for all the tenacity with which they have retained the traditions of the past, the 62 million inhabitants of this vast state have enthusiastically embraced the modern era. Car manufacturing and the IT sector are booming in the dynamic capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai (Madras), which is also the hub of a thriving film industry whose stars monopolise the region’s political scene as well as its cinema screens.
Chennai - Madras
Chennai is a beautiful city serving as the gateway to the south of India and has a distinct culture based on Tamil traditions. At the same time, the city is a modern cosmopolitan city with a very diverse population. The architectural landscape, for example, comprises beautiful ancient temples just as much as modern high-rises. Besides the thriving local arts and culture scene which attracts visitors from across the globe, Chennai is also an important medical tourism destination. Chennai's history The major metropolis of the South, Chennai – known as Madras until 1996 – is India’s fourth-largest city, home to around 5 million inhabitants and sprawling for miles along the coast of northern Tamil Nadu. The area has been inhabited since as early as the 1st century, but really came to prominence as a major port from the 1500s onwards. The Portuguese and the Dutch both had bases here, but it wasn’t until the arrival of the British East India Company in 1639 that the city began to take shape.  Things to see in Chennai (Madras) Fort St George, the oldest colonial building in India The British East India Company established one of its earliest seats of power in India in the former Madras, and the construction of Fort St George was begun around 1640 – making it the oldest colonial structure in the country. The fort was often attacked by Indian and French forces, yet it continued to expand. A feature of the East India Company architecture is the use of Madras chunam, a glittering whitewash of limestone mixed with crushed seashells. The chunam-coated walls of the buildings are dazzling. Within the fort, a number of other early buildings still stand, of which St Mary’s Church is the most interesting. It is the earliest English building surviving intact in India and the oldest Anglican church in Asia, consecrated in 1680. Rare Buddhist sculptures at the Government Museum Established in 1846, this has one of the finest collections in the country, including a rare collection of sculptures from Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh, belonging to the Buddhist period, 2nd century AD. The white limestone sculptured medallions and panels tell the story of the life of the Buddha. The Bronze Gallery has a superb collection of Chola bronzes (9th–13th century AD). Some are barely 4cm (1½ ins) tall, while others measure over half a metre (1½ft). All are iconographically sophisticated. The dancing Shivas, Durgas and Ganapatis and the famous Rama, Lakshmana and Sita group are the pride of the museum. A spectacular temple in Mylapore One of the most interesting parts of Chennai lies just south of the city centre. This is Mylapore, with a tank, market area and old Brahman houses. At the evening bazaar, crowds of people, freshly bathed, make their way to the Kapalesvara Shiva Temple. The vibrantly colourful sculptures inside and all over its towering gopuram (temple tower) are among the most spectacular sights in Chennai.
Known as the hub of Tamil culture and learning, Madurai is an ancient city that is over 4,000 years old. It is worth visiting this place for one reason, and one reason alone – the Meenakshi temple that is as old as the city. Dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi (an incarnation of Parvati), the temple stands out with its stunning Dravidian architecture, complete with intricately designed 14 gopurams (gateway towers), sculpted pillared halls and colourful sculptures depicting the mythological tales and scenes from Hindu texts. The 17th-century Tirumalai Nayak Palace, the 19th-century Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Vilachery Pottery Village and Gandhi Memorial Museum are other highlights.17
Bengaluru - Bangalore
In one of the latest surveys, Bangalore was established as India’s most liveable city. In the past, it used to be referred to as the “Pensioner’s Paradise” and the “Garden City of India” because of its large, green spaces. While in recent years, development has meant that the city’s green areas have been affected and reduced, it still has enough to make it one of the most beautiful cities in India, and lush green forests can still be found in the outskirts. Bangalore is also the main centre of the IT industry, commonly known as the “Silicon Valley of India”. Bengaluru the boom town The spectacular growth of India’s boom town in electronics, software, telecommunications, back-office and call-centre support has not only greatly increased the population (to well over 6 million). A major transport centre, Bengaluru presents the modern face of India and has some of the country’s best accommodation, some excellent restaurants and lively bars. Also, in Bengaluru is the headquarters of the Art of Living Foundation, the spiritual and humanitarian organisation founded by New Age guru and Hindu evangelist Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Things to do in Bengaluru (Bangalore) Walk in Cubbon Park This peaceful 1,200-hectare (3,000-acre) park was laid out by the British viceroy in 1864. Notable buildings including the Vidhana Soudha (Secretariat and State Legislature), the red Gothic High Court and the State Central Public Library stand at its edge. See rare plants at Lalbagh Botanical Gardens Found in the south of the city, this park was laid out in the 18th century by Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali, and contains India’s largest collection of rare tropical and subtropical plants, with trees from Iran, Afghanistan and Europe, and a glasshouse similar to the former Crystal Palace in London. Lalbagh is the venue for flower shows in January and August. The low hill at its centre affords tremendous views over the city.  Get spiritual at the Art of Living Foundation This spiritual and humanitarian organisation is found in the state-of-the-art Ved Vignan Mahahvidyapeeth, or VVM campus, a massive, five-storeyed meditation hall, built entirely of marble in the shape of a lotus, with 1,008 stone petals encrusting its exterior. Inside, adoring audiences, drawn mostly from the city’s English-speaking elite, gather on the polished marble floor to listen to the teachings of their long-haired, bearded guruji, who sits on a stage in flowing silk robes – a bespectacled British journalist, Edward Luce, once remarked that the scene “looked as if Jesus were shooting a shampoo advertisement”.
Nestled at the foothills of Chamundi hills in Karnataka, Mysore is famous for its majestic Mysore Palace, which is among the grandest palaces in the country. It is a beautiful compendium that opens up the pages of Mysore’s grand history. Be there until the evening time as the entire palace is illuminated with nearly 100,000 lamps – truly a sight to behold! You can also check out the stunning Jagmohan Palace, where you can see South India’s exquisite artwork and artefacts. For nature lovers, a visit to Brindavan Gardens (botanical garden) and Karanaji Lake (largest lake in the state) is a must.
The official currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR). Its symbol is ₹ The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency in is via ATMs, which are readily available in most towns. Cash shortages at ATMs can be a problem in rural areas. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, so please bring clean bills, and small denominations are most useful. With regards to the exchange currency, it is recommendable to carry adequate US dollars. US dollars are widely accepted and would be hassle free to get it changed. It is also advisable to carry adequate local currency i.e. Indian Rupees while travelling in India especially in small towns, remote and wildlife destinations as you will find no ATM there. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops, but not usually in hotels in the wildlife parks. Do not allow your credit card to be taken out of your sight in restaurants and shops. ATMs are available in major cities and towns.
Visa entries and requirements
All visitors (apart from citizens of Nepal and Bhutan) require a visa to enter India. Nationals of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Singapore will be granted a visa on arrival; all other nationalities are required to obtain a visa in advance. Tourist visas are issued for six months from the date of issue (not entry). Note that anyone leaving India on a tourist visa will not be allowed to re-enter within two months, although exceptions are made in certain cases – these need to be arranged in advance. To get a visa you’ll need to apply online at Tourist visas cannot be extended; you must leave the country and re-enter on a new one two months later. It may be difficult to apply for a new visa from neighbouring countries. Five-year visas are also issued to businessmen and students. In addition to visas, special permits are required for certain areas, while other areas are out of bounds to foreigners altogether.
Essential Equipment / Documentation
  • Travel documents: passport, visa, travel insurance, air tickets or e-ticket receipts
  • Colour photocopy of main passport pages, visa, travel insurance and air tickets Spare passport photos
  • Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card, Money belt, Small padlocks
  • A mixture of lightweight clothing and warm layers
  • Smart clothes for dinner in bigger cities
  • Clothing that covers arms and pants/skirts that go past the knee for entry into local temples
  • Raincoat
  • Head scarf for women (for when entering temples or mosques)
  • When travelling in cooler climates - Wind and waterproof jacket.
  • Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks.
  • Camera/Phone
  • Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm
  • Personal medical kit - Such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, Band-Aids and insect repellent
  • Water bottle
  • Padlocks to keep your luggage safe and secure.
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Travel wipes
  • Small hand towel
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses (if required) 2 strong plastic garbage bags (for laundry and in case of rain)
Things to carry/packing for India Travel
Hotels provide a fast, reliable laundry service. So, it is unnecessary to pack a large amount of clothing. We recommend checking local weather advisory websites before departing to get a better understanding of what to expect and how best to pack. Bringing extra layers and a beanie could improve your overall experience. The standard allowance permitted by most Indian domestic airlines is 15 Kg plus hand baggage. A medical kit, toiletries and camera should be brought. All clothing is economical throughout India and much of it of excellent to good quality, particularly in the large towns. DAY PACK A day pack for carrying essentials when exploring destinations as well as for short overnight stays will be useful. On overnight trains packing this with the essentials you need to access during the trip will also be very useful. MAIN LUGGAGE What you need to bring will vary according to when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage and walk with it for short distances including up and down stairs and in busy places. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, the more they enjoy the trip not having to worry about carrying heavy bags! Aim to keep your main luggage under 15kg. Small, wheeled suitcases that can also easily be picked up and carried are the best for travel in this part of the world, although if you prefer, a backpack is also fine. FOOD Western food is available in larger hotels. Indian food is delicious and varied, and vegetarian food is widely available. In hotels the spicing is often milder to suit Western tastes. It is recommendable to eat hot and freshly cooked food and to avoid salads, cut fruit, any food which is not cooked. Avoid yogurt and lassi unless milk has been boiled. Ice cream is only safe if produced using a heat treatment method. Rice which is not freshly cooked is a common cause of food poisoning. Hotel buffets can cause problems if food is left standing for a long time (if in doubt, order freshly prepared food from the a la carte menu). If you have any dietary requirements, please check with the hotel or restaurant before ordering. It’s always recommended to double check with staff or manager of eatery about your requirements. We don’t take any responsibility of any health or other issues arising because of wrong food is served. Whole responsibility is upon customer and eatery.
Eating Out
In some locations we will recommend restaurants you may like to try. Food is often excellent, but service can be variable. Delays are not unusual, and the component parts of a meal do not invariably arrive together! In some hotel’s staffs are local people, who may be shy and inexperienced. Even in five-star properties staffing may occasionally be unequal to the challenge. Elsewhere you may find service over-attentive, often understood as good service locally! Patience and a sense of humour will help you enjoy your meals.
Emergency Numbers
As well as the following numbers, there is a new India-wide number covering all three emergency services on 108. The following numbers, however, will continue to be in use.  Police 100 Fire 101 Ambulance 102 Directory enquiries 197