You want swaying palms, golden sand and turquoise waters or a wildlife-watching excursion? You want to visit the world’s most famous building or the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur which are known as the Golden Triangle? Or you like to to hike the Himalayas? Then head to India
1. The food
Perhaps no other country can offer the range of cuisine that India does. There’s no such thing as typical Indian food; from Kerala to Kolkata there’s a smorgasbord of fabulous regional dishes to be discovered, beyond the familiar favourites of chicken tikka masala, rogan josh, malai kofta and tandoori butter naan, which can often be harder to find in India than in the UK.
2. The madness of Delhi
India’s capital is a pulsating megalopolis that stifles and stimulates in equal measure (as many of India’s cites do). But bear with this seething metropolis and it will slowly reveal a side you may not have expected; discover leafy parks with their early morning yoga classes, get lost in its dusty bookshops, wander around its lavish Hindu temples, listen to the call to prayer echo from timeworn mosques, shop at bustling markets, go to a comedy club and take in a Bollywood show.
3. The Wagah border ceremony
Since 1959, at the frontier between India and Pakistan, border guards from both nations have engaged in a bizarre border ceremony that, according to our correspondent Jack Palfrey, evokes “the poise and elegance of ballet and the showmanship and aggression of professional wrestling.” Expect goose-stepping, shouting and much excitement from the crowds that gather to watch every day.
4. There are wonderful railway journeys
Nothing quite compares with travelling around India by train, an experience that engenders wonder, nervous anticipation and heady exhilaration in equal measure. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a Unesco World Heritage site that winds through the narrow streets of Darjeeling, is an obvious highlight, but there are many others.
5. To cruise Kerala’s backwaters
Kerala’s backwaters are a maze of winding rivers, canals and lakes stretching nearly 50 miles, and they are best explored on one of the old rice barges, which were formerly used for transporting grain but have since been converted to ferry tourists around.
6. To witness Varanasi
“Varanasi is India for the experienced,” writes Charlton. “Its crowded narrow alleys can induce claustrophobia even in seasoned travellers: mourners carry their dead on biers to the burning terraces above the river; holy men and pilgrims bathe in the frankly filthy waters upstream and consult astrologers and palm readers; and cows, goats and ragged children scavenge for scraps on the ghats – the flights of steps down to the Ganges.” Not for the fainthearted then, but quite a spectacle.
7. There’s a Golden Triangle
The cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are known as the Golden Triangle because of their cultural splendour, which includes the iconic Taj Mahal and Ranthambore National Park. These cities form the basis of the classic tour of northern India.
8. To hike the Himalayas
Though the star attraction of the Himalayas, Mount Everest, lies many hundreds of kilometers away from India, on the frontier between Nepal and China, the Indian portion of this epic mountain range offers many attention-grabbing vistas and fine hiking.
9. It’s a bit French
At least it is in Pondicherry, a pocket sized former colony which France ruled over between 1672 and 1954. “They left a legacy that reveals itself in surprising ways,” noted Mick Brown, a correspondent for Telegraph Travel. “The long, sweeping promenade – the Rue de la Marine – that borders the Bay of Bengal carries echoes of Deauville or Biarritz. The street signs would be at home in any French provincial town; and this is the only place in India where the police wear red képis.”
10. The Havelock Islands
Forget Goa; of you want swaying palms, golden sand and turquoise waters, then head to the Havelock Islands. Floating in the Bay of Bengal, this tropical archipelago offers perhaps the best diving in India and is, by most definitions of the word, paradise.
11. To watch a game of cricket
Cricket is a national obsession in India; from dusty parks to mega stadiums, the game is played with gusto across the country. There are excellent cricket grounds in most of the main cities, but for something extra special head to the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala, which, incidentally, is where the exiled Dali Lama lives. The ground has arguably the best backdrop of any in India; framed as it is by the snow-capped Himalayas. Exquisite.
12. For a proper cuppa
Most of the tea consumed in Britain comes from India, so you’re guaranteed a quality cup during a trip to the subcontinent. As well as brilliant brews, tea plantations in the likes of Darjeeling and Assam offer exquisite scenery, cooler weather and quaint hotels.
The world’s most famous building
“The Taj Mahal is the best-known building in the world and arguably the most beautiful,” writes Telegraph Travel’s India expert, Gill Charlton, in her guide to visiting. “The architecture is sublime but it is the story that the stones embody that draws seven million visitors each year.”
You can stay in a palace
Live like a Mughal king in one of India’s former palaces, many of which have since been converted into lavish hotels. There are many to choose from.
The wildlife is incredible
Experience Rudyard Kipling’s India with a wildlife-watching excursion to one of the country’s many national parks, where visitors can see everything from tigers and elephants to rhinos and rufous-bellied hawk eagles. Notable parks include Ranthambore, Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh.
Indian art is resurgent
According to our correspondent, Alastair Smart, these are exciting times for Indian art, which is going through something of a renaissance, led by creatives in Mumbai. Read all about it in Smart’s dispatch from the steamy Indian city.
Telegraph Travel / The Telegraph / The Interview People