India bristles with a mind-stirring mix of landscapes and cultural traditions. Your journey through this intoxicating country will blaze in your memory long after you've left its shores.
Simply Soul Stirring
Spirituality is the common thread that weaves its way through the vast and complex tapestry that is contemporary India. The multitude of sacred sites and time-honoured rituals are testament to the country's long, colourful, and sometimes tumultuous, religious history. And then there are the festivals! India hosts some of the world's most spectacular devotional celebrations – from formidable city parades celebrating auspicious events on the religious calendar to simple harvest fairs that pay homage to a locally worshipped deity.
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'India's remarkable diversity is reflected in its landscapes, cuisine and customs. And spirituality, the country's beating heart, pulsates from the snowy peaks of Ladakh to the shores of tropical Kerala.' Sarina Singh, Lonely Planet author
The Great Outdoors
From the soaring snow-dusted mountains of the far north to the steamy sun-washed beaches of the deep south, India's dramatic terrain is breathtaking. Along with abundant natural beauties, exquisitely carved temples rise majestically out of pancake-flat deserts and crumbling old fortresses peer over plunging ravines. Aficionados of the great outdoors can scout for big jungle cats on wildlife safaris, paddle in the shimmering waters of one of many beautiful beaches, take blood-pumping treks high in the Himalaya, or simply inhale pine-scented air on meditative forest walks.
Food, Glorious Food
Brace yourself – you’re about to take one of the wildest culinary trips of your travelling life. Here you'll fry, simmer, sizzle, knead, roast and flip across a deliciously diverse repertoire of dishes. The hungry traveller can look forward to a tasty smorgasbord of regionally distinct creations, each with their own traditional preparation techniques and presentation styles – from the competing flavours of masterfully marinated meats and thalis to the simple splendour of vegetarian curries and deep-sea delights.
Expect the Unexpected
India loves to toss up the unexpected. This can be challenging, particularly for the first-time visitor: the poverty is confronting, Indian bureaucracy can be exasperating and the crush of humanity may turn the simplest task into a frazzling epic. Even veteran travellers find their nerves frayed at some point; yet this is all part of the India experience. With an ability to inspire, frustrate, thrill and confound all at once, adopting a 'go with the flow' attitude is wise if you wish to retain your sanity. Love it or loathe it – and most travellers see-saw between the two – to embrace India's unpredictability is to embrace her soul.
Why I Love India
by Sarina Singh
The moment I start to think I'm right on the precipice of unravelling one of India's deep mysteries, she has an uncanny way of reminding me that it would take more than just a few lifetimes to do so. Indeed, demystifying India is a perpetual work-in-progress. And that is precisely what makes the country so deeply addictive for me. The constant exploration. The playful unpredictability. And knowing that, just when it's least expected, you can find yourself up close and personal with moments that have the power to alter the way you view the world and your place in it.
Mystery, magic, mayhem. Welcome to Delhi, City of Djinns, and 16.7 million people, where the ruins of Mughal forts and medieval bazaars are scattered between the office blocks, shopping malls, and tangled expressways. Like an eastern Rome, India’s capital is littered with the relics of lost empires.
A sliver of a state in India's deep south, Kerala is shaped by its landscape – almost 600km of glorious Arabian Sea coast and beaches, a languid network of backwaters and the spice and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats. As relaxing as an ayurvedic massage, just setting foot on this swathe of soul-quenching green will slow your stride to a blissed-out amble.
The erotic carvings that swathe Khajuraho’s three groups of World Heritage–listed temples are among the finest temple art in the world. The Western Group of temples, in particular, contains some stunning sculptures. See our special colour illustration for details. Many travellers complain about the tiring persistence of touts here.