Here is India's quintessential land of maharajas and medieval forts, palaces and tigers, and kaleidoscopic festivals. Rajasthan really is the jewel in India's crown. Land of Kings Rajasthan is literally the Land of the Kings. It is home to the chivalrous Rajputs, and its battle-scarred heritage is ingrained with pride and tradition.
Tamil Nadu is the homeland of one of humanity’s living classical civilisations, stretching back uninterrupted for two millennia and very much alive today in the Tamils' language, dance, poetry and forms of Hinduism. Some of the temples here are among India's finest, from the sculpted stonework at Thanjavur (Tanjore) to the sprawling halls at Madurai.
A stunning introduction to southern India, Karnataka is a prosperous, compelling state loaded with a winning blend of urban cool, glittering palaces, national parks, ancient ruins, beaches, yoga centres and legendary travellers' hang-outs. At its nerve centre is the capital, Bengaluru (Bangalore), a progressive cybercity famous for its craft-beer and restaurant scene.
Kashmir & Ladakh
The state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) brings together three incredibly different worlds. Hindu Jammu and Katra, in the south, are the state's rail hubs and a major draw for domestic pilgrims. Muslim Kashmir is India's Switzerland, attracting hordes of local tourists seeking cool summer air, alpine scenery and Srinagar’s romantic houseboat accommodation.
Enthralling, historical Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, is the gateway to India’s most flamboyant state. The city’s colourful, chaotic streets ebb and flow with a heady brew of old and new. Careering buses dodge dawdling camels, leisurely cycle-rickshaws frustrate swarms of motorbikes, and everywhere buzzing autorickshaws watch for easy prey.
India’s third-largest city is a daily festival of human existence, simultaneously noble and squalid, cultured and desperate, decidedly futuristic while splendid in decay. By its old spelling, Calcutta readily conjures images of human suffering to most Westerners – although that's not a complete picture of this 330-year-old metropolis.
Gujarat & Diu
Unfairly overlooked by many travellers scurrying between Mumbai and Rajasthan, Gujarat is an easy, and highly rewarding, sidestep off the tourist trail. While the capital, Ahmedabad, can draw you in with its deep sense of culture and remarkable architecture, the countryside holds most of the state’s many treasures.