The ultimate traveling experience, if you don’t acquire the strongest of travel bugs after your Indian adventure then i’m sorry but traveling certainly isn’t for you.
By far the most fascinating country I have ever visited, India kicked me about and threw me out the other side with a profound understanding and appreciation for their culture, their religion and most of all, their people.
India is a vast country, often referred to as a sub-continent and is a land filled with contradictions. Noisy, raucous towns buzz below peaceful mountain villages. The pollution and uncleanliness is completely overshadowed by its profound and undeniable beauty.
It’s a tough travel, it will wear you down and induce exhaustion, make you exasperated and on the verge of giving up, but one thing is for sure, if you’re resolute and fight through the hard days, India will surpass any country on your favorites list and leave an indelible mark on you. Traveling has never been so rewarding.
So here are the top 10 things to do in India, I hope they inspire you like they inspired me:
10. Dharamsala (Mcleod Ganj)
Home of the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala attracts swarms of pilgrims every year, however it is the little tourist town of Mcleod Ganj that grabs the attention here.
Brace yourself to get wet, because Mcleod Ganj sees a lot of rain. This is just one thing that adds to the enchantment of Dharamsala’s sister (and more popular) town.
Stroll into any of the ubiquitous quirky book stores and top up on your Buddhist readings. Alternatively, get warm by purchasing a traditional woolly jumper and dive into a quaint little coffee house, chat with other travelers or read and drink Indian tea until night sweeps.
It is no surprise that Mcleod Ganj has become a hub for tourists in search of peace and pure serenity, as it offers both in abundance. Spectacular views, forest walks and yoga retreats will leave certainly cleanse your soul and clear your mind. Once cleansed, walk through the fresh mountain night air to one of Mcleod Ganj’s array of great restaurants.
A relaxing stay in Mcleod Ganj will almost certainly leave its hippy, carefree mark on you.
9. Taj Mahal
You may have seen it a thousand times in photos but nothing prepares you for the real splendor of seeing this majestic building engulfed by the stunning backdrop of clear blue skies.
Well, how could anyone visit India and miss this? The answer is, they don’t. It may seem redundant even adding this to the list, however it is imperative that you gain all the information needed about visiting the Taj.
Simple. Get in, get out.
Agra is not an attractive place, in fact if it wasn’t for the Taj Mahal, Agra probably wouldn’t receive any tourism whatsoever. It is hot, dirty and exceptionally over-crowded.
Make sure you top up on water and sun-cream before you enter because a strict search at the gate along with all liquids prohibited from the site, means dehydration can strike. If you can, hide as much of your body/head from the burning heat as possible.
Nevertheless, the Taj Mahal is a fundamental stop on your India tours. It’s a breath-taking site and a truly memorable experience.
Allow 2-3 hours for your visit and then book a train east to Varanasi, north to Dharamsala/Kashmir region or South to Rajasthan.
Mumbai is fast-becoming one of the most vibrant and wealthy cities in the world. Mumbai manages to merge a monumental metropolis with vast areas of slums.
Mumbai is buzzing at the moment. A real sense of progression and liberalism is being indoctrinated into the current generation, with thriving businesses, an eclectic and fast improving nightlife and a popular university.
Leopold’s is the most famous of tourist traps, but I would personally avoid that whole street and head to Bandra for the latest string of good bars and nightclubs. Bluefrog is the latest impressive hi-tech and hi-def club venues in Mumbai.
For great food, khyber is the restaurant to beat, with delectable kebabs and curries in a fancy cave-inspired setting. Trishna restaurant is the seafood hotspot, with a fantastic, varied menu on offer.
Try to avoid getting too drunk in the touristy areas where thieves and corruption could be lurking just around the corner. I found out the hard way by being mugged on my last night there.
Relatively unheard of until you’re traveling through India, it’s a miracle how Hampi hasn’t acquired the same reputation as the iconic Taj Mahal.
A simply fascinating landscape, a walk through Hampi’s ruins will leave you bewildered and astounded.
At the focal point of the main bazaar is the Virupaksha temple, but a mere 2 km walk, bending round the enchanting riverside, is the even more impressive Vittala Temple.
On your walks around the peaceful city you will encounter precarious boulders sitting beside incredible river landscapes where monkeys dance and lizards bathe.
I hired a motorbike and explored the whole inner and outer Hampi area and came across many wonderful isolated temples and river settlements, climbed on some huge, thousand year old boulders and genuinely rode through the most beautiful and enchanting sunset that I believe I will ever experience in my life.
Hampi boasts many fabulous restaurants but the pick of the bunch has to be Mango Tree cafe and restaurant. This chill-out joint, located beside the river, is reached by walking through an attractive banana plantation.
6. Biking through Goa
Hop on your scooter and ride through the sunset and into one of many of Goa’s paradise beach spots. The palm-lined drive and trance driven beach clubs will alleviate any jaded, tiring travelers.
Goa is always on a lot of travelers lists but nothing beats renting a scooter and driving the whole stretch of India’s smallest region, stopping here and there at any of its seductive beaches.
Be careful on your drive as erratic lorry drivers and careless motorcycles accelerate unknowingly around perilous bends and through dangerous pot-holes. Irrespective of the rare dangers, the short beach drives is an unmissable experience.
My favorite beaches in Goa have to be Palolem (amazing restaurants), Arambol (great parties) and Anjuna (hippy town). Make sure you head to a number of Goa’s epic infamous trance clubs.
5. Kerala’s Backwaters
Trees sway peacefully over the glistening backwaters of Kerala, India’s most relaxed, liberal and questionably beautiful environment.
Languid Kerala is yet another perfect chill-out spot on your India travels. It is a lazy river ride down Kerala’s interminable backwaters that will leave a permanent perfect picture in your head.
The intricate network of tributaries branch off through hundreds of beautiful rice paddy fields and lagoons of thriving wildlife, while tiny, tranquil streams are overhung by dense, lush greenery.
It is the sunlight beaming on the bright trees and reflecting off the still waterways that makes this the perfect river ride, however.
You know about the tea, but do you know about the spectacularly steep hillside station, adorned with an emerald green facade?
Embrace the array of Himalayan culture as you cross paths with Tibetans, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Indians in this quintessential Himalayan hillside town.
The steep tea-plantations are only matched in beauty with the breath-taking backdrop of Himalayan peaks and sporadic distant clouds, creating a seemingly endless perfect skyline.
Trek through the tea fields and into the colonial-era town, passing picturesque Buddhist monasteries and traditional clothing stores, and finally earn yourself a rewarding tea (need I say Darjeeling).
Arguably India’s most beautiful region, Rajasthan hosts an array of opulent palaces set across mesmerizing backdrops.
It’s remarkable how many great cities Rajasthan boasts and I would almost certainly include all of them in the top 10 list separately, however, to include even more unmissable attractions I have just mentioned the region of Rajasthan without favoring any of its gems.
Alas, whether it’s the pink city of Jaipur, the blue city of Jodhpur or the romantic scenery of Udaipur, Rajasthan has a scintillating amount of charm, enough to arguably be India’s greatest state.
Start off by visiting the Jal Mahal (water palace) in Jaipur City, after strolling through Jaipur’s pink laden streets and gazing up the the majestic Amber Fort.
Afterwords, prepare for your vision to turn blue as you meander through Jodhpur’s blue facade. Navigate your way through the spindly network of alleyways and blue stairwells and follow your instinct up to one of the largest forts in India – Mehrangarh Fort. The views of the city from this magnificent fort are unforgettable.
Trekking just got a whole lot better. Ladakh’s mountain scenery and seductive lakes will inspire all future adventure travelers.
Ladakh’s largest city and arguably its best is Leh. At 3,500 metres and being the second home of the Dalai Lama, Leh features mesmerizing treks and several opulent Buddhist temples.
When touring this area, it is imperative that you focus on the scenery. In particular the Chang La pass is a trek worth noting. Closed during the harsh winter, this pass is a gateway to the splendid, vast Himalayan landscapes.
It may take a little time to acclimatize as the 5,360m pass contains thin air and tough treks, however overcome this and reward yourself with the beautifully serene Pangong lake. Hidden between the mountains, this lake is the most idyllic spot in all of India so make sure you absorb the surroundings.
Apart from scenery, Ladakh is all about temples and the pick of the bunch is Leh Palace.
Evoking plenty of emotion, overwhelming Varanasi is not for the fastidious. This religious labyrinth will invigorate your senses and open your mind to a world of spiritual charm.
Varanasi, in my opinion, has to be the most fascinating and overwhelming contrast to any city I have ever visited.
From my cheap hotel, if I wasn’t getting lost in the myriad of dark backstreet alleys that were riddled with scowling monkeys and totally unaware bulls, then I was certain to be sitting on one of the riverside ghats, infused with the strong scent of burning bodies and different incense fumes.
Absorbing the atmosphere as well as the powerful spirituality of Varanasi is exactly the profound introduction to India that clarifies the lucid difference between India and any other country in the world.
This holy city on the river Ganges, where Hindus make their pilgrimage to come and have an auspicious death, is the authentic Indian experience and will ultimately alter your mind and belief on the meaning of religion.
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