India is the world’s largest and most divided democracy. It is a virtual melting pot of cultures, traditions and languages. Visiting such a place can be daunting, but in the guide below, we give you a quick list of eight places that will give you a great ‘Indian experience’.
India is a large, diverse country, and when you’re about to embark upon a trip to that mystical land, one could excuse you for feeling overwhelmed. How many states do you visit? What do you put on the list and what do you cross off? There is enough to see in India that will last you a good few months if you want to cover everything, but if you’re pressed for time, please use this definitive list, covering all the major states.
1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Around 1000 kilometres off the east coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, there are a clutch of tropical islands that come under the jurisdiction of the Indian Republic. Go to Havelock Island, the most popular place in the Andaman, where you can snorkel and scuba dive to your heart’s content.
2. Andhra Pradesh
This South Indian state contains perhaps the most famous Hindu temple of the world, that of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirupati. Time your trip to coincide with off-season (which means winters), otherwise you will find yourself in the middle of a stampede. Also be warned that as India the country becomes richer, the off-season window at Tirupati is shrinking.
This is the birthplace of Buddhism in India. Visit the Bodhgaya and the famous Mahabodhi Temple. There is a Buddhist tourist train that will take you to all the important places. You can sit under the same tree where Buddha had his moment of enlightenment. See if it suits you.
This is perhaps the most famous Indian beach resort for overseas tourists. Every Christmas and New Year, guests from the West descend upon Goa and light it up with parties, alcohol, dance and music. There are quite a few sights for the historically inclined and nature lovers too, if you’re up for a trip around the mainland.
There is a lot of culture in Gujarat, and the state plays an important role in the modern history of India, because it was the birthplace of Mohandas Gandhi. There has been a lot of recent interest in converting Gujarat into a tourist location, with the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, giving it a lot of interest. Visit it for the Gir National Park. Time your visit with the Navaratri festival to catch hold of the famous garba dance.
6. Himachal Pradesh
Those you crave crisp mountain air are bound to fall in love with Himachal Pradesh. Lovely snow-capped mountains will look down on you wherever you go in the state, and adventure sports like skiing and paragliding are always only a short walk away. There is a serene calm to Himachal that sets it apart from the rest of India.
Often called ‘God’s Own Country’, this Southern Indian state is distinctive in traditions and culture, and is full of lush natural beauty. The pace of life is slow, making it a perfect choice for a tranquil vacation. Visit it during the monsoons to catch the state and its people at its most beautiful.
8. The North East
The North East of the country is comprised of seven states besides Sikkim, and is the most tribal region of India. The mountain scenery is arrestingly beautiful, and the states have a strong presence of Buddhist monks and monasteries. So if it’s calm and serenity you’re after, the North East will work well.