India

india

 Kaleidoscopic India continues to amaze and infuriate, inspire and dismay her visitors. A country full-enough of paradoxes and contrasts to madden anyone who tries to understand it, the best way to enjoy your holiday in India is simply to open your heart, and soak up what is surely the greatest show on earth.

The Indian subcontinent is a land of great fascination – of pungent spices and rich fabrics; of stunning art and architecture; of exotic flora and fauna. And the people. So many cultures and customs to observe; so many languages to hear. India alone has 18 official languages – one of them, thankfully, is English.

The world’s most populous democracy, India is also an enormous landmass, so full of interesting towns and cities and incredible remote areas that you’d really need a lifetime to explore it all. A thorough, though not rigid, pre-trip itinerary is recommended – decide what areas most appeal to you, and set yourself the modest goal of exploring them properly. Travelling even short distances in India can be slow and exhausting, so take your time, and remember that – perhaps more so in India than anywhere else – it’s the journey, and not the destination, that is all-important.

Having said that, India arguably boasts more world-famous attractions and activities than any other country: from the historic Red Fort of Old Delhi, to the glimmering Golden Temple of Amritsar, the ghats of Varanasi, the desert palaces of Rajasthan, the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, the cool alpine air of Darjeeling and, of course, the immortal Taj Mahal, visitors can anticipate more than a few awe-inspiring sights. And, true to its billing as a land of contradictions, India is equally prepared to cater for sybarites as spiritual-types – the hectic trance parties of Goa stand in stark contrast to the thousands of ashrams dotted around the country.

India is not only one of the best value-for-money tourist destinations in the world, but one which offers a totally unique, not-to-be-repeated-anywhere-else kind of travelling experience to visitors. A safe, friendly land, well-trodden by years of heavy tourist traffic, there are few more intriguing places to travel than mad, majestic India.

India is possibly the most thrilling tourist destination of them all. It contains an astounding diversity of people, landscapes, sights and sounds. From lush jungles to sun-bleached deserts, from soaring mountain peaks to golden beaches, India has something to offer all her visitors. The difficulty is just in deciding what you want to see and do in this vast and complicated country.

Famous sights such as the Taj Mahal, Amber Palace and old Goa seldom fail to instil a sense of wonder in visitors, while the modern face of India, evident in the crowded cities and chaotic traffic, is also thrilling. It is the people, however, that live longest in the memory. They are renowned for their warm welcome, engaging conversation and obsessive-compulsive love of bargaining.

Visitors seem to be divided between those on organised tours, seeking to make the most of their time in relative comfort, and backpackers on six-month visas with flexible agendas. Despite isolated terrorist incidents and the occasional flare-up with Pakistan, India is one of the safest countries to visit, and it remains one of the best-value travel destinations in the world.

India’s vibrant culture remains distinctive and unique despite years of colonial and western influence. One reason for this is the centrality of religion to Indian life, so that wherever you go, the sacred and profane exist side by side in perfect harmony. The real key to enjoying India is to go there with an open mind and an open heart.