Monday, 11 April 2016

Incredible India



India is a vast South Asian country with diverse terrain – from Himalayan peaks to Indian Ocean coastline – and history reaching back 5 millennia. In the north, Mughal Empire landmarks include Delhi’s Red Fort complex, massive Jama Masjid mosque and Agra’s iconic Taj Mahal mausoleum. Pilgrims bathe in the Ganges in Varanasi, and Rishikesh is a yoga center and base for Himalayan trekking.

India pulsates with a spectacular mix of people, traditions and landscapes. Your journey through this mind-stirring country will blaze in your memory long after you've left its shores.

The Great Outdoors
From the soaring snow-dusted peaks of the northern mountains to the sultry sun-washed beaches of the southern coast, India's dramatic terrain is breathtaking. Along with abundant natural beauties, exquisitely carved temples rise majestically out of pancake-flat deserts and crumbling old fortresses peer over plunging ravines. Aficionados of the great outdoors can scout for big jungle cats on wildlife safaris, paddle in the shimmering waters of one of many beautiful beaches, take blood-pumping treks high in the Himalaya, or simply inhale pine-scented air on meditative forest walks.

Simply Soul Stirring
Spirituality is the common characteristic painted across the vast and varied canvas that is contemporary India. The multitude of sacred sites and rituals are testament to the country's long, colorful, and sometimes tumultuous, religious history. And then there are the festivals! India hosts some of the world's most dazzling devotional celebrations – from formidable city parades celebrating auspicious events on the religious calendar to simple harvest fairs that pay homage to a locally worshiped deity.

Food, Glorious Food
Brace yourself – you’re about to take one of the wildest culinary trips of your travelling life. Here you'll fry, simmer, sizzle, knead, roast and flip across a deliciously diverse repertoire of dishes. The hungry traveler can look forward to a tasty smorgasbord of regionally distinct creations, each with their own traditional preparation techniques and presentation styles – from the competing flavors of masterfully marinated meats and thalis to the simple splendor of vegetarian curries and deep-sea delights.

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Expect the Unexpected
India tosses up the unexpected. This can be challenging, particularly for the first-time visitor: the poverty is confronting, Indian bureaucracy can be exasperating and the crush of humanity may turn the simplest task into a frazzling epic. Even veteran travelers find their nerves frayed at some point; yet this is all part of the India ride. With an ability to inspire, frustrate, thrill and confound all at once, adopting a 'go with the flow' attitude is wise if you wish to retain your sanity. Love it or loathe it – and most traveler’s see-saw between the two – to embrace India's unpredictability is to embrace her soul.

Chaotic, bamboozling, intoxicating, crazy, exasperating, wonderful, squalid, beautiful, daunting, overwhelming, and fantastic. India is all these things, and more.



India packs a lot into a massive space, and you'll never have time to see it all on one trip. Think about what interests you, what you like doing and how much time you have, and tailor your trip accordingly. Be realistic about how much you can fit in. Rather than trying to see the whole country, you may get more out of your trip if you concentrate on the south of the country, or on the north. However, internal flights are plentiful and inexpensive so you can hop from north to south if you want a taste of both worlds. The itineraries section at the front of Lonely Planet's guidebooks to India can be a great help, but here are some possible itineraries to get the ball rolling.

The classics: The most popular India tour is the all-time classic Golden Triangle. If time is short this is a fantastic introduction to three of India's top destinations, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and you can squeeze it into a week if you don't mind moving every couple of days. Start in Delhi, with sights such as Humayun's Tomb and the Red Fort, before hitting Agra and touring the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Then it's on to Jaipur to explore the Pink City and the fort at Amber, before returning to Delhi's wonderful bazaars for a final shopping spree before you fly home.

Religious sites: If it’s temples you’re after, you’ll find them everywhere, but in north and central India, you'll be truly spoiled for choice. There’s the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the erotically carved edifices of Khajuraho, Konark's rock-carved Sun Temple, and cohorts of exquisitely hewn milk-white-marble Jain temples in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Temples in the south are something else again, with towering, statue-covered gopuram towers; there are stunning examples at Hampi, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Tiruvannamalai, and exquisitely decorated temple caves at Ajanta and Ellora, and Elephanta Island near Mumbai.

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Mughal magic: Fans of Islamic architecture will find some spectacular monuments in Delhi, home to the Red Fort, the mosques and minarets of the Qutab Minar complex and Humuyan’s Tomb. Nearby you can revel in more graceful Mughal splendor at Fatehpur Sikri and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, before exploring Rajasthan's captivating collection of Mughal forts, including Jaisalmer, the very vision of an Arabian Nights desert fortress.


Beaches & waterways: Head south to enjoy India’s finest beaches. Munch bhelpuri (puffed rice, noodles, green mango and a tangy sauce) on Mumbai’s Girgaum Chowpatty beach before drifting south to the sand and sun in Goa. Take your pick of the Goan beaches – Arambol, Vagator, and Palolem are top spots – or try the black sand beaches of Kovalam and Varkala in Kerala, as well as lesser-known, golden sand in the north of the state. Kerala is also famous for its meandering backwaters, where you can hire a houseboat or a canoe and let the world glide gently by. Similarly serene is beautiful Dal Lake in Srinagar in Kashmir, where – depending on the security situation –you can watch the mountains rise out of the mist from the walnut window frame of a traditional wooden houseboat.

Wildlife encounters: Your best chances of spotting a tiger are in the national parks of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, but there are national reserves all over India where you can track down wildlife as exotic as lions (Sasan Gir, Gujarat), wild asses (Little Rann, Gujarat), one-horned rhinos (Assam) and wild elephants (Wayanad, Kerala), as well as abundant birdlife (Bharatpur, Rajasthan). Not quite wildlife, but certainly wild, are camel treks through the desert from Jaisalmer or Bikaner in Rajasthan.

Trekking & mountains: The north is a playground for adrenaline seekers, with pretty much every outdoor activity imaginable on offer in the Kullu Valley and the high reaches of Uttarkhand and Himachal Pradesh, from treks to skiing and white-water rafting. Shimla, the classic hill station, is a great place to start, as is Manali, still further north. Ideal trekking season is in September/October, after the monsoon. To take adventure up a notch, set off from Manali for the epic two-day journey (possible from mid-June to mid-September) to Leh inLadakh, whose towering mountain peaks are criss-crossed by epic hiking trails. Rishikesh is another top spot for rafting and trekking, with a famous pilgrimage trail to four sacred mountain temples, and more treks await in mountainous Sikkim.

Spiritual India: For religious fervor, Varanasi reigns supreme, with its ancient funeral ghats where Hindus pay their last respects to the dead beside the sacred River Ganges. But you’ll encounter India’s spiritual side all over the country, particularly at pilgrimage towns such as Ajmer and Pushkar in Rajasthan, or the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in the Punjab. If you want to get more involved, you'll find classes in meditation and yoga almost everywhere, from the Delhi suburbs to the ashrams of Rishikesh. For Buddhist encounters, aim for Tibetan-Buddhist centres such as Leh in Ladakh and McLeod Ganj(Dharamsala), home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in

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