India is a beautiful and bamboozling place, an endlessly fascinating country that is often challenging and always surprising.
Stretched between the golden beaches of the Indian Ocean and the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountains lies an incredible tapestry of natural and man-made wonders – astounding temples, mystical monasteries, frenetic cities, pristine national parks, lavish palaces, lost kingdoms, mesmerising markets and some of the world’s most iconic monuments.
Visiting India is an assault on the senses. Sights, sounds, smells and sensations are all experienced at maximum intensity. On day one, it can feel intimidating, but by the end of the first week, the noise and chaos will seem like an ordinary part of life. The sensory stimulation becomes strangely addictive.
India is one of the world’s great melting pots, where an incredible diversity of cultures, religions and ethnicities live in surprising harmony. Presided over by an extraordinary array of gods and deities, one-sixth of the planet’s population can be found here, living in anything from high-rise apartments and inner city shantytowns, to simple huts in remote villages where life has hardly changed in centuries.
You could spend a lifetime exploring the relics left behind by ancient empires and the country’s dramatic landscapes, which range from tiger-filled jungles to frozen Himalayan deserts. On the first trip, almost everyone finds time for the so-called Golden Triangle, zipping from the colonial capital, Delhi, to the Taj Mahal at Agra, then on to Jaipur, the colourful capital of Rajasthan. With more time to spare, you can discover 32 UNESCO-listed sights, from creaking mountain railways and ancient fortresses to mangrove forests and temples overflowing with multi-armed deities.
Don’t expect to absorb all India has to offer in one visit; the country is best appreciated like a buffet table, with repeat visits to sample the next tantalising platter. And with India’s legendary cuisine, rest assured that on every trip, you’ll eat like a Maharaja.