India is the seventh largest country in the world, and a cultural wonder. I have spent the last three months traveling from the southern tip of the country, right up into Nepal. Along the way I have come to terms with the toilets, battled my way through the cows, hung with the baba’s, seen the beaches, the temples, the city’s and the palaces; all to deliver you the India Top 20!
The holy city of the dead; Located on the beautiful River Ganges, Varanasi is the perfect place for spiritual enlightenment, from the burning ghat where souls can finally find release from the cycle of karma, to the cleansing ghat where you can wash in the river.
From a mushroom masala to a delicious dosa, full of sweetness and spice, sampling Indian cuisine is a culinary adventure all on its own – however beware, try to avoid meet, dirty street food markets and water or you could end up with a case of Delhi Belly.
This yogurt based drink makes for the perfect breakfast, coming is salted, sweet and fruit flavors they are beyond delicious. Try the mango it’s my favorite.
17. Religious Festivals
India has so many religious festivals that no matter what time of year you go you should get the opportunity to participate in one. The music, the colour, the joy and the cows decorated in garlands of flowers all make for one of the most fun and exciting spectacles that you will ever witness.
16. Jaislamer Desert
Ride a camel, deep into the Jaislamer Desert and spend a night on the sand dunes camping under the stars.
15. Ellora Caves
The 34 “caves” are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. The Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples were built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history, and are completely awe inspiring.
I’m not talking so much about the men’s fashion, however the colourful Lungi’s can be quite something, but the women’s fashion is incredibly beautiful. From the jewel encrusted saris, the floral patterns, the bling and the rainbow of colour. Fashion in India is elegant, timeless and beautiful to look at.
13. Mysore Palace
One of the most impressive palaces in the country; you have to go through security at the entrance as you are not allowed to photograph the inside of this wonderfully eccentric palace, with its turquoise and pink rooms complete with mirrored ceilings.
You have probably heard of Darjeeling Tea; however it’s Munnars top hill station that is the most beautiful for me. Take a rickshaw day trip to the highest tea plantation in the world and get lost in the rolling green maze…If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of some wild elephants.
11. Mysore Market
India is packed full of markets and bazaars to go bargain hunting, however the night market in Mysore is possibly the best in the country. From the colours on display, the girl selling garlands and the smell of incense and spices; the moment that you walk through the gated entrance you are sent into sensory overload.
10. The Backwaters
Take the boat ride of a lifetime down the tranquil backwaters in Kerala. Peaceful, serene and shrouded by palm trees the backwaters can only be described as magnificent!
Tip: A houseboat can be pricey…Think about opting for a canoe at a fraction of the price, it also means that you can fit into some of the smaller canals less frequented by tourists.
An unusual choice you may think, considering rain can spoil a holiday. However the monsoon rain brings joy in India and you get to witness the children playing in the streets. Not to mention the fact that when a country is this hot a natural cold shower is always welcome.
India’s most Romantic city and the location where James Bond Octopussy was filmed…as you will be told over and over again should you ever visit. With excellent shopping, two beautiful lakes, a palace, temples galore and spectacular hill top views, what’s not to love?
7. Riding The Rails
Mumbai is everything – its rich, its poor, its hassle, its fun, its Bollywood, its shopping, its clubbing, Its great restaurants, its dodgy stomachs, its historical, its current and there is no way to describe it other than – It’s Mumbai!
Goa makes the perfect respite from the rest of India; spend your days chilling out on the beach letting time pass you by, and the evenings in UV Bar dancing to trance music until the wee hours of the morning.
4. Indian People
Indian people are among the most welcoming in the world, from the people in the street who yell ‘Welcome to our country’ and the hundreds of people who will want to get a photo with you, in India you will feel like a celebrity. Ultimately in India everyone from the millionaire to the slum dweller just wants to help you and make sure that you get the most out of their incredible country.
3. Taj Mahal
The ultimate monument to love, and arguably the most beautiful building in the world. The first time you lay eyes on the Taj it is absolutely breath-taking, this would have made the top spot if it wasn’t for the crowds, which are unavoidable and definitely detracts from the experience.
Brahma dropped a lotus flower and when it landed Pushkar was created. This holy city was created around the holy lake that lies in its center. Pushkar is a cultural experience, with its many religious festivals, sweet market and fantastic yoga.
Hampi is perfect, a small bazaar packed with guest houses and market stalls, surrounded by incredible temple ruins, rain-forests and gigantic boulders so perfectly placed that they look as though they were laid out by the gods. Hampi is magical in its seclusion, just rent out a bike or a rickshaw and have the temples to your-self for a day.
However if you want to experience the splendor that is Hampi you had better be quick as the government has started work to bulldoze the bazar.