India Travel Guide
India - a land of contrasts, colors, and incredible diversity. From the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the sun-kissed beaches of Goa, from ancient temples to bustling metros, India offers a unique blend of the ancient and the contemporary. This vast subcontinent is not just a country, but a rich diversity of cultures, religions, and landscapes.
Embark on a journey through India, and every state will unfold like a chapter from an epic saga, each with its own flavor and story.
Capital city: New Dehli
Currency: Indian Rupee INR – 1 USD = 83 INR
Electricity: Power voltage is 230 Volts. Power sockets type C, D, and M.
Languages: Hindi and English are the two national languages, but hundreds of other languages are spoken in the country. Some most prominent ones include Tamil, Urdu, and Bengali.
10 Handpicked Highlights of India
The Sundarbans, a maze of mangrove forests and water channels, spread across India and Bangladesh. As the largest delta in the world, it is unique due to its tidal halophytic mangroves and the presence of the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger.
Over 400 tigers are believed to inhabit this region, developing the rare ability to swim in the saline waters. Apart from tigers, it’s a refuge for endangered species like the saltwater crocodile and the Ganges river dolphin. The ethereal beauty of the forest, combined with its rich biodiversity, makes it an essential visit.
Often referred to as ‘Little Tibet’, Ladakh sits at an altitude ranging between 9,000 to 25,170 feet. The allure of places like Pangong Lake, which changes colors from azure to light blue and green as the day progresses, draws travelers worldwide.
Ladakh’s Nubra Valley, with its sand dunes, camels, and monasteries, seems like a mirage from a different world. This region, due to its isolated location, has retained its Buddhist culture, evident in the Hemis Monastery which houses ancient scriptures and artifacts.
Ranthambore National Park
Located in Rajasthan, Ranthambore was once the regal hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. Now, as a major wildlife tourist attraction, it is renowned for its frequent tiger sightings, especially around the park’s lakes.
The 10th-century Ranthambore Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands tall inside the park, offering panoramic views. The park’s diverse habitats, from dense forests to water bodies, house leopards, hyenas, and sloth bears, making it a biodiversity hotspot.
Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand
Nestled in the West Himalayas lies the enchanting Valley of Flowers. Spanning an area of 87.50 square kilometers, it transforms into a vibrant bed of alpine flowers from June to September. The valley is home to over 500 species of wildflowers, many of which are medicinal.
Snow leopards and Asiatic black bears can also be spotted in this high-altitude national park. A serene trek through this region promises an ethereal experience as the fragrance of blossoms fills the air.
The backwaters of Kerala, a series of interconnected canals and lakes, form a unique ecosystem. Fringed by coconut palms and paddy fields, they are the lifeblood of Kerala’s rural communities.
Travelers often stay on traditional houseboats called “kettuvallams”, drifting through tranquil waters and observing local life. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, attracts migratory birds, making it a birder’s paradise.
The Western Ghats
The Western Ghats mountain range is an ecological marvel, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It stretches over 1,600 km, from the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat to Kerala.
Home to around 7,402 species of flowering plants and 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, it’s a treasure for botanists. Hill stations like Munnar and Coorg offer panoramic views and the experience of walking amidst clouds.
Taj Mahal, Agra
An epitome of love, the Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. This ivory-white marble mausoleum attracts around 8 million visitors annually.
Its construction took over 20,000 artisans and 16 years to complete. The gardens, laid out in the Persian style, and the Yamuna River flowing beside it, enhance its natural beauty.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands
A group of 572 islands, Andaman and Nicobar, are a marine lover’s dream. Home to India’s only active volcano, the islands are surrounded by coral reefs supporting marine life such as sharks and rays. The indigenous tribes of Andaman, like the Sentinelese, have lived there for up to 60,000 years, making it culturally significant.
The Khajuraho Group of Monuments, set in Madhya Pradesh, is renowned for its intricately carved temples. These temples, built by the Chandela dynasty, are unique due to their erotic carvings. Set amidst lush gardens, they represent a celebration of love, life, and worship.
Ghats of Varanasi
Varanasi, believed to be over 5,000 years old, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its ghats, where pilgrims bathe to cleanse their souls, are the city’s heartbeat. Witnessing the evening Ganga Aarti, as hundreds of lamps light up the river, is a spiritual experience, bringing one close to the rhythms of nature and divinity.
India's Geography & Landscapes
India is a vast country, and its geographical diversity is unparalleled. It stretches from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas in the north to the sun-kissed beaches of the south. The country can be divided into several distinct geographic regions:
Himalayan Mountain Range: This majestic mountain range in the north includes some of the world’s highest peaks, such as Mount Kanchenjunga. The Himalayas are also home to several picturesque valleys and hill stations.
Indo-Gangetic Plains: Stretching across northern India, this region encompasses the fertile plains of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. It’s one of the most densely populated areas in the world and includes major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, and Lucknow.
Thar Desert: Located in the western part of India, primarily in the state of Rajasthan, this desert is known for its sand dunes, camel rides, and historic forts.
Western and Eastern Ghats: These mountain ranges run parallel to the western and eastern coasts of the Indian peninsula, respectively. They’re known for their rich biodiversity and are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Deccan Plateau: This expansive plateau covers the southern part of India and is characterized by rolling hills, granite outcrops, and dense forests.
Coastal Plains: India has a long coastline, with the Arabian Sea to the west, the Bay of Bengal to the east, and the Indian Ocean to the south. This region boasts beautiful beaches, tropical backwaters, and vibrant port cities.
Islands: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea offer pristine beaches and coral reefs.
Best Time To Go To India
India primarily has three seasons:
Summer (March to June): These months can be scorching in most parts of India, with temperatures often exceeding 40°C (104°F) in many regions.
Monsoon (July to September): Characterized by heavy rainfall, especially in coastal regions and the Western Ghats. The Himalayan region and the desert areas receive moderate to scanty rainfall.
Winter (October to February): Winters are cool and pleasant, with temperatures dropping significantly in the north. In the southern and coastal regions, the climate remains moderately warm.
Best Time for Travel: The ideal time to visit India largely depends on the region and the kind of experiences you’re seeking. However, the winter months of October to March are generally considered the best for most tourist activities. During this time:
- The Himalayan region is perfect for snow sports and enjoying the snowy landscapes.
- The plains and southern parts of India have a pleasant climate, ideal for sightseeing, beach vacations, and cultural tours.
- Wildlife enthusiasts can visit national parks and sanctuaries, as many animals are more active and easily visible in the cooler months.
However, if you wish to experience the monsoon magic, the Western Ghats come alive with numerous waterfalls and lush greenery during July and August.
Remember, India is vast, and each region has its own charm in every season. It’s always a good idea to plan your trip based on the specific experiences and regions you’re keen to explore.
Traveling in India
India is generally a safe destination for travelers, but like any other country, it has its own set of challenges. Here are some tips to ensure a safe trip:
Stay Alert in Crowded Places: Busy markets and tourist spots can be hotspots for pickpockets. Keep your belongings secure.
Dress Modestly: Particularly in religious places. India is diverse, but conservative attire is appreciated, especially for women in rural areas.
Avoid Isolated Areas at Night: Stick to well-lit and populated areas, especially if you’re a solo traveler.
Drink Bottled Water: Ensure the seal is intact. Avoid tap water to prevent waterborne diseases.
Street Food Caution: While delicious, ensure the stall is clean and avoid raw salads.
Travel Scams: Be wary of overly friendly locals offering deals or tours, especially near tourist attractions.
Respect Local Customs: India is culturally diverse. A gesture or comment that’s harmless in one region might be inappropriate in another.
Stay Informed: Keep abreast of local news, especially regarding any political gatherings or protests.
Transport: When hiring taxis or autos, it’s safer to use app-based services like Ola or Uber.
Emergency Numbers: Familiarize yourself with local emergency numbers. The pan-India emergency number for police is 100.
Getting to & Around India
India boasts an extensive transport network, facilitating ease of travel:
Air: Major international airports include Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi), Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai), and Kempegowda International Airport (Bengaluru). There are numerous domestic airports connecting smaller cities and tourist destinations.
Rail: Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest rail networks. Trains are a quintessential Indian experience. The Shatabdi and Rajdhani are among the premier trains, offering faster travel and better amenities. Booking can be done via the IRCTC website.
Bus: State-run bus services connect cities and towns. Private companies like RedBus also offer intercity services with varied comfort levels.
Auto-rickshaws and Taxis: Available in most cities. App-based services like Ola and Uber have made commutes more convenient and standardized.
Metros: Cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata have metro services, easing urban commutes.
Rentals: For the more adventurous, bikes and cars are available for rent in major tourist destinations.
India offers a diverse range of accommodation options:
Luxury Hotels: Chains like the Taj, Oberoi, and ITC offer opulent experiences, particularly in metro cities and prime tourist destinations.
Budget Hotels: Multiple chains like OYO and FabHotels provide affordable and decent rooms throughout the country.
Guest Houses and B&Bs: These are great for an authentic experience, often providing home-cooked meals.
Hostels: Popular among backpackers, brands like Zostel and Hostelworld offer cheap stays in most touristy areas.
Heritage Hotels: Especially prevalent in Rajasthan, these are erstwhile palaces and mansions converted into hotels, offering a unique historical experience.
Homestays: Particularly in regions like Kerala, homestays provide intimate experiences with local families.
India’s accommodation spectrum caters to all budgets. It’s recommended to read reviews and book in advance, especially during the tourist season.