An exotic land of palm-fringed beaches, historic temples and delicious food, India is the ideal destination for an unforgettable holiday in 2017. The mention of India conjures up images of bright colours, vibrant spicy dishes and the romance of a country famous for its iconic monument of love, the Taj Mahal. India is a country with diverse landscapes and has culture and natural beauty in abundance. Famed for its spirituality and culture, India remains a popular holiday destination for those seeking to renew their spirituality, learn more about other cultures and get a new perspective on life.
The beauty of India as a holiday destination is that you can experience everything from rural villages to bustling metropolises – and everything in between. The country is famous for man-made wonders like the Taj Mahal and natural wonders like the snow-tipped peaks of the Himalayas, as well as its splendid bazaars and the buzzing markets of New Delhi. With a wide range of national parks, you can count on India for a close encounter with exotic wild animals, such as tigers, and you’ll certainly leave with many fond memories and a new sense of vibrancy.
The most iconic attraction of India is, without a doubt, the Taj Mahal in Agra. The Taj Mahal is renowned for its beauty and has a poignant back story. It was built as a mausoleum for the favourite wife of the Mughal Emperor, the Shah Jahan. Hailing from the 17th century, the Taj Mahal stands as a testament to timeless love and remains an icon of devotion for people from all cultures. Continue on to find the Itmad-ud-Daulah, another marble mausoleum, which is known as the ‘Baby Taj’ and is more compact but no less impressive.
Other top attractions include the Amber Fort, the scenic architecture of Jaipur, which is famed as the ‘Pink City’, and the sacred sites along the banks of the vast river Ganges, such as the Varanasi. India is a wonderful place to meet people from new cultures including the native tribes of Rajasthan’s villages. You can also get up close and personal with the secretive leopard and the Royal Bengal Tiger at Ranthambore National Park, or sail through the picturesque lagoons on a tour of the coastline of Kerala.
Wine and Dine
Indian food is exotic, adventurous and finely spiced, making it one of the most popular world cuisines. We’re all familiar with India’s staple dish, the curry, which is served with rice, onion salad and savoury breads. The spices in Indian cuisine are used both for flavour and for their health-enhancing properties. While curries tend to be more generically flavoured in international versions of Indian food, dishes in India vary hugely from place to place, giving you the opportunity to try several versions of the same dish.
Seafood is found in many curries, but you’ll find that most authentic Indian dishes are vegetable-based due to a lack of availability of fresh meat. As cows are sacred animals in India, you’ll see plenty of cows around but you won’t find beef on any menus. When it comes to drinks, India is famous for its Darjeeling tea and locally-produced beer, with masala chai being the country’s most popular drink. Try tea from street vendors and authentic tea shops to sample a wide range of spiced teas, including traditional black tea with fiery, smoky undertones.
India is renowned for its culture, making it a must-visit destination for couples that enjoy immersing themselves in history. India is home to one of the world’s most iconic romantic attractions, the Taj Mahal, which was built as a mausoleum for the favourite wife of Shah Jahan. The captivating mix of historic buildings, scenic palaces, glimmering lakes and pristine beaches make India an ideal destination for honeymoons and romantic getaways.
The rose-hued palaces of Udaipur in Rajasthan make it one of India’s most romantic cities, with historic bazaars and winding backstreets to explore hand-in-hand. For the ultimate in romantic sunsets, visit the Kanyakumari at Tamil Nadu. This gorgeous destination on the most southern tip of India is almost entirely surrounded by water, and is also a renowned pilgrimage site.
India is renowned for its wonderful culture and rich heritage, making it an ideal choice of destination for holidaymakers who like to learn more about other world cultures. One of the most important things to remember about Indian culture is that religion is at the heart of many people’s lives and there are a wide variety of religions around the country. So it’s important to be mindful of local customs and traditions. Some of the most important and beautiful religious buildings in India include Jaipur, Kolkata, Udaipur and Mysore. Whether you are religious or not, the sheer wonder of these historic buildings and the dedication of those who built them is always awe-inspiring. While the weather is hot and humid in much of India, and traffic pollution can be thick in urbanised areas, people in India dress conservatively and respectively at all times, so you’ll want to make sure you cover up appropriately and avoid shorts, high skirts or sleeveless tops.
Some of the highlights of the cultural calendar in India include Holi, which takes place in Spring each year, and the most famous Indian festival, Diwali, in October and November. Diwali takes place over five days each Autumn and is honoured by Jains, Sikhs and Hindus. Diwali is known as ‘the Festival of Lights’, as worshippers pay tribute to the goddess Lakshmi by lighting lanterns for her to bless and bring prosperity.
Life's a Beach
India has a wide selection of fantastic beaches, meaning you’re never far from a huge dose of sun, sea and sand. There are around 7,400km of coastline in India, so you’re sure to find a beach to your liking. Outside the city walls of Gujarat, you’ll find the pristine sands of Chakratirth Beach. This beach has a pleasant secluded ambience, with few swimmers or sun worshippers during the daytime.
Goa, India’s party capital, is also home to some of its best beaches. With long stretches of golden sands and pleasant warm waters, Goa is ideal for families and has good amenities with plenty of parasols, loungers and a few beachside restaurants. For another relaxed beach, head to Gokarna in Karnataka, 190km to the south of Goa. There are a few unspoiled beaches in this area, perfect for lounging in the sun or enjoying a good book.
Due to India’s huge size, you’ll find that it has retained a great deal of its authentic cultural heritage in some areas, while others have a decidedly more modern, tourist-friendly vibe. Nightclubs, music venues and bars have become more and more popular with tourists, expats and the native population, while the development of India’s economy has supported the growth of the nightlife industry. If you’re heading out in India, it’s worth remembering that India’s nightlife scene gets going early on and doesn’t tend to run on into the early hours. You won’t really find any all-night clubs outside of Goa, India’s party capital.
Nightlife in Goa is something special, with a highly popular live music scene and diverse range of venues. Revellers here tend to head to the iconic clubbing strip on Tito’s Road in Baga, which has an international feel with a range of souvenir shops, tattooists, restaurants and bars. Some of the best nightlife venues on this lane are Cocktails & Dreams and Hype, with a number of lovely open-air bars letting you enjoy the cooling evening air as you drink.
Action and Adventure
You can enjoy a wide variety of exhilarating activities in India, whatever your tastes. With mile upon mile of gorgeous coastline, India is the perfect place for diving and snorkelling. In Goa you can swim with a snorkel to take in the beautiful marine life beneath the surface. Further inland, you can enjoy rafting, one of the most popular and exciting activities in India. At the Ranthambore National Park you can come face-to-face with the secretive leopard and the Royal Bengal Tiger, one of the most majestic creatures on Earth. And in Kerala, you can enjoy a cruise through the lagoons in your own boat. Kids will love the Kalka-Shimla toy train, which winds its way through the stunning scenery.
Of course, one of the main draws in India for adrenaline junkies is the Himalayas. Knowing where to start with a mountain range that is 10 times larger than all of France can be intimidating, so it’s best to opt for a professional tour guide and plan carefully. With 4,000km of mountains extending from Burma to Kyrgyzstan, you can select a part of the Himalayas to explore based on your preferences, including unspoiled forest, deep gorges and tall mountains.