The moment you set eyes on the Taj Mahal, you know you are seeing an edifice unlike any other. India is like that - it stirs the soul, it challenges your conceptions, it changes you. It is a spectacular mix of people, traditions and landscapes, from Himalayan peaks to the hills, backwaters and beaches of the south, from the sacred Ganges to the deserts of Rajasthan. Temples, shrines and fortresses are everywhere, reminders of an ancient history and spirituality. One thing is for sure: you will remember your journey through this fascinating country long after you've left its shores.
best time to travel
The best time to travel to India is the cool dry season from November through March. If you travel only in the north, consider October and April as well. Ladakh, in the far north, is best visited between June and September.
places to go
India's capital is an exciting, busy, and often chaotic city rich with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars.
Like a miniature containing all India has to offer, this city on the sacred Ganges is a must-see for anyone travelling to India. Take an early morning boat ride on the river or watch a ceremony on its banks - Varanasi will change you forever.
Bandhavgarh National Park
A true wilderness with plenty of wildlife Bandhavgarh offers a good chance to spot tigers in their natural habitat.
Thanks to its remote location, the at once famous and infamous erotic temples of Khajuraho were spared destruction by foreign invaders.
One of the great architectural wonders of the world, this incredible edifice in Agra should be visited by anyone at least once in their life.
Abandoned after only 15 years, the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri stands as a testament to the glory of the Moghal civilization.
Nicknamed the Pink City, Jaipur is crammed with palaces and bazaars, including the Palace of the Winds and the City Palace. Don't forget the nearby massive Amber Fort.
The Blue City of Jodhpur, with its jumble of houses and shops lining winding medieval streets is guarded by the mighty Mehrangarh Fortress, an architectural masterpiece.
Once a favourite hunting grounds for emperors, Ranthambhore today is a great wildlife destination. Board a 4x4 and go in search of tigers and other animals.
India's most romantic city, rolling hills, white palaces and lakes come together to paint a picturesque town.
Laid-back Pushkar comes alive with the annual Pushkar Fair, a gathering of camel traders, pilgrims and funseekers from all over northern India.
Set out in the Rajasthan desert, the honey-coloured fortress town of Jaisalmer makes for a good base to take a camel into the sands beyond.
The first European trading post in India, the old town of Cochin retains its character of a romantic colonial town.
Kanchipuram & Mahabalipuram
South of Chennai lie these two towns famous for its temples from the 6th - 8th century. Those at Mahabalipuram occupy a stunning position on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea.
Once a French colonial town, its Gallic heritage is still visible in its shady and clean cobble-stone streets of the old town, lined with bougainvillea-draped colonial-era homes.
This historic city of labyrinthine royal palaces is most famous for its Brihadisvara Temple, one of the great monuments of southern India.
The Meenakshi Temple in the bustling city of Madurai is a hive of activity and the scene of an almost continuous religious festival. It has beautiful carved columns and sculptured ceilings.
Periyar National Park
While the park doesn't hold wildlife in the numbers we know from Africa, it is a nice place to go for an early morning jungle walk. A visit to a spice plantation makes for an interesting afternoon.
Backwaters of Kerala
There is nothing quite like exploring this network of rivers, canals and lakes on a traditionally crafted wooden houseboat. Watch the scenery float past, visit a hamlet or two and enjoy some of the great food Kerala is known for.
Beaches of Goa, Varkala and Kovalam
Swaying palms, white sands and sparkling waters - India's beaches have all the necessary ingredients for an ocean-side vacation. From laid-back Portuguese-influenced Goa to the backpacker hangout of Varkala and the Ayurvedic resort town of Kovalam, end your trip to India with a few days on a beach.
Ganges boat ride in Varanasi
An early morning boat trip on the sacred Ganges is an unforgettable experience. The energy that comes with throngs of joyful pilgrims is palpable as people cleanse and purify themselves and sing and pray riverside. Elsewhere bodies are being cremated while the waters of the holy river quietly carry off the ashes.
Sunset or sunrise at the Taj Mahal
Stand in awe as the soft sunlight drench the Taj Mahal in a beautiful soft pink. Prepare to be moved to the core.
Flavours of India
Delight in the flavours of the many cuisines of India. From excellent street food to thalis and biryani rice, a mouthwatering experience awaits you.
Pushkar Camel Fair
Held each November, this epic fair and carnival, one of the last great traditional melas, brings together livestock, farmers, traders and villagers from all over Rajasthan and as far afield as Central Asia.
Travel by 4x4 deep into a game park in India and watch in silence as a majestic tiger gracefully moves out of the shadows. Few wildlife experiences can match the thrill of seeing your first tiger.
Take an open jeep, oxcart or bicycle into the countryside and visit a rural village not often seen by Western eyes.
Varying from open-coach, curtain-lined berths to clean, air-conditioned cabins, India's overnight trains are a great way to travel long distances while immersing yourself in the local culture.
Stay in the lap of luxury at the home of local landlords or former royalty, the perfect place to take a break from what can be a hectic country.
Mount your camel and feel like a 19th-century explorer as you journey through the sands of Rajasthan's Thar Desert. Stay overnight in a comfortable camp and enjoy a hearty meal accompanied by traditional singers.
Feel like a king
Enter one of the mighty fortresses in Rajasthan (Jaipur and Jodhpur are good places for this) and imagine what it was like to be the local ruler living here.
Narrow gauge railway ride
Whether you take the Blue Mountain Railway to Ootacamund in the south or the Shimla Toy train in the north, narrow gauge railways are a fun way to travel and watch the scenery go by
Time for a movie anyone? A Bollywood blockbuster surely is a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon in India. Action, romance, drama and music, often all rolled into one!
Shop till you drop
Who would go to India and not come back with a souvenir or two. One of the best places to pick up a variety of India's best handicrafts is Delhi's Dilli Hat. Browse the stalls for rose and sandalwood carvings, camel hide footwear, fabric and drapery, gems, beads, brassware, metal crafts, and silk and wool fabrics.
Kerala boat cruise
Wake up in the morning on your houseboat and find your crew serving tea and breakfast as you sail through a network of lakes, rivers and canals. Later that day, disembark to explore a village and learn about local handicrafts, or visit a farm to buy produce. A houseboat cruise in the backwaters of Kerala is arguably the most tranquil and romantic experience India has to offer.
Aryuvedic massage and steam cleanse
Being locked up in a steaming vessel may not sound all that inviting, but follow your Aryuvedic steam bath with a massage, and you will come away renewed and rejuvenated.
Aarti on the Ganges
Witness devotees gather to sing their praises on the banks of the Ganges River and be carried away by hypnotic prayers and harmonious singing
Visit a temple
And discover the sacred within.