Being in social isolation doesn't stop us dreaming of all the places we'd like to visit; in fact now we've got even more time to daydream. Escape on a virtual vacation to bring a little piece of India to your living room.

India has been capturing visitors’ imaginations – and their hearts – for centuries. Its diverse mixture of bustling cities, exotic jungles, laid-back beaches, snow-capped Himalayas, majestic architecture and the sacred river Ganges mean that it’s on the bucket list of most adventurous travellers. The multitude of festivals and cultures, the world-famous cuisine, the luxury and the poverty, make a trip to India utterly unforgettable, and those who have been know it has to be experienced to be believed. But as we can’t visit right now, we’ve gathered some ways to experience the spirit of India from your home.

Palolem beach Southern Goa, India colorful sea front bungalows landscape
Experience the vibrancy of India through virtual experiences at home ©Dan Baciu/Shutterstock

Our editors independently select the best products to help you have amazing experiences. If you purchase through links on our site, Lonely Planet may earn a commission from the retailer.


Best movies

Romance
Guzaarish (2010): An Indian romantic drama with some beautiful dance sequences, Guzaarish stars Hrithik Roshan as a man who has been paralysed and wishes to end his life. Can his nurse, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, convince him that he has something to live for?
Bride and Prejudice (2004): Bollywood meets Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. What more can we say? Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Dev Patel stars as a boy from a humble background who ends up appearing on an Indian gameshow. This is ultimately a feelgood film although it shows a dark side of Bombay.

Adventure
The Darjeeling Limited (2007): This Wes Anderson film is perfect for anyone who dreams of travelling India by train.
The Jungle Book (1967/2016): Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling grew up in India, and this classic film (or the more modern live action version if you prefer) uses Hindi names for its famous animal characters - for example, Baloo ('Bhalu') means 'bear'.

Drama
Lion
(2016): An adopted boy named Saroo, played by Dev Patel, returns to India after 25 years to search for his family.
A Passage to India (1984): Directed by David Lean and based on the book by E. M. Forster, this epic explores tensions between British colonials and native locals in India during the 1920s.
Salaam, Bombay! (1998): One of the films credited with putting Indian cinema on the (Western reviewers’) map, it explores the day-to-day life of children living in the slums of Bombay.


Listen


Indian classical music:

The music of A. R. Rahman (the Indian composer and singer who worked on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack and many more:


Best novels

Love stories/Tragedies
The God of Small Things is a beautiful and tragic novel by Arundhati Roy, exploring the childhood experiences of a pair of twins growing up in Kerala.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth is first and foremost a love story about the quest to find Lata a ‘suitable’ husband, but the context is a country struggling with its new independence.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is an epic tale of a country in crisis. Four people come together in a time of political turmoil, and together navigate situations full of comedy and tragedy, fear and love.
Shantaram reads like a thriller, contains a love story and is based on the extraordinary real-life experiences of Gregory David Roberts. The author established a free health clinic in a Bombay slum after escaping from an Australian prison – and later acted in Bollywood and fought with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. A rollercoaster of a book.

Political sagas
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee sets terrible poverty against (comparative) wealth, telling the tale of the relatively wealthy Ghosh family in Calcutta – and how one of their members leaves to join the cause of the peasants, who are beginning to rise up against corrupt landlords.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is about the poor son of a rickshaw puller who turns into a killer. It may provide an unflattering portrait of Indian society but its rage and realism makes it a very powerful read.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie tells the story of a young man born at the very moment of Indian independence. With its blending of the personal and the historical, this fascinating tale is considered by many to be one of the greatest contemporary novels.
The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh is a sweeping narrative covers three generations with the story moving across Burma, Malaya and India, against the backdrop of colonialism and the devastating effects of World War II.


Best Podcasts


Anupama Chopra Film Review is a quality podcast by a well-known film critic for fans of Bollywood and Hollywood movies.

Cyrus Says is a comedy podcast which tackles topical issues in India from politics to sport, traffic and children.

No Sugarcoat explores Indian cuisine through stories from chefs in roughly 40 minute episodes.

Maed in India is all about independent Indian music and includes interviews with musicians.


Learn the Local Language

Of the languages spoken in India, Hindi is considered the easiest for an English speaker to learn. Here are some phrases to get you started.

  • Namaste - Hello
  • Dhanyavad - Thank you
  • Maaf kijiye - Sorry
  • Suniye - Excuse me
  • Accha - Good
  • Kitna? - How much?

Indian Language Resources
Duolingo: specializes in bite-size, quick lessons.
Lonely Planet Indian phrasebook: a handy tool filled with popular slang and vocabulary to help you get by in a country of many languages, or focus specifically on Hindi, Urdu and Bengali


Food

When it comes to Indian cuisine, there are so many incredible dishes to try. Here’s a selection of our favourite recipes: Goan vindaloo; Chennai chickenKolkata koti roll and Indian samosas.


Best Videos


Introducing India
Introducing Goa & Mumbai
Explore: Varanasi's river and music
India's colourful Holi festival

Drinks

Whip up a refreshing Indian non-alcoholic cocktail with our recipe for a mango lassi


Cultural Highlights


The majestic Taj Mahal

Visit New Delhi’s National Museum online


Epic Landscapes


Varanasi

Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi


Shop Online

Do some online browsing with these Indian shops who ship internationally (please note there may be some delays or restrictions due to COVID-19).

Payal Singhal is a fashion brand specialising in contemporary Indian clothing

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tanishq (@tanishqjewellery) on

Pahadi Local - explore natural skincare and wellness products (plus honey!) from the Himalayas

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Payal Singhal (@payalsinghal) on

Tanishq - an Indian jewellery brand

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Pahadi Local ®️ (@pahadilocal) on

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