Source: Peter Anta on Pixabay
India is a land of contrasts and sometimes challenges. The whole subcontinent is full of sights, sounds, tastes and smells that may seem extremely strange to you, a traveller, but it’s all part of the experience of travelling in such a unique and colourful region. With so many amazing things to see, do and experience in India, it can be hard narrowing it down to just a couple of places if you’re only there for a short time. Many travel-hardened folk suggest spending at least a month in India to give it the time it deserves, however that would include you only going to a handful of places. To really do the whole country properly, you’re looking at six months minimum, possibly as much as a year. Here is a great list of places to add to a shorter India itinerary, so you can start thinking about what you definitely have to see in this beautiful and sometimes strange country. So book a cheap flight and get your visas in order – India awaits!
This region, known colloquially as the Golden Triangle, includes the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and is one of the most popular tourist trails in India, especially for first timers. This route takes you to the three main cities in the area – Delhi (or New Delhi) the capital city, with its markets and bustling streets is likely the first place anyone will find themselves when travelling to India, and so it makes sense to start from here. The Triangle takes you out to the city of Agra, a challenging place with a lot of poverty and pollution, but it’s where the Taj Mahal is located and so it’s a popular option for tourists. The final stop is Jaipur, also known as ‘the Pink City’, due to its trademark pink buildings that flood the city, giving it a warm and inviting glow at any time of day. Jaipur is also home to a number of interesting forts and palace grounds which makes this an inviting stop once you get out of the big, big city of Delhi.
Rishikesh is the capital of India’s Uttarakhand state and is home to numerous centres for spiritual studies, yoga and meditation. The River Ganges runs through Rishikesh and while it’s considered holy throughout India, it’s particularly sacred in Rishikesh. Ashrams are numerous here, and if you’re looking to learn yoga, meditation or any other type of spiritual point of interest, this is where you will want to come. Based in the foothills of the Himalayas, it’s cooler and less stressful than the bigger cities, so even if you aren’t into spirituality, it’s a welcome escape from some of India’s bigger cities.
Down the west coast of India is the state of Goa, a bit of a hippie haven with a real thing for parties, nightlife and psytrance music. While it’s easy to find a party here, there’s also a quieter side that will be welcome to most travellers at some point in their journey. Spice plantations are plentiful and the area has retained a bit of the influence from its time as a Portuguese colony on the Arabian Sea. Many buildings still survive from this period, making Goa an interesting place with a bit of interesting history, culture and influence that differs from other regions in India. Beaches, beach restaurants and beach accommodations are plentiful here, and it’s a good area to base yourself if you’re hoping to explore further into the southern states like Kerala or more eastern areas like Chennai.
Probably the premier city in India that you have to have on a list of things to do and see is Varanasi. A popular spot for many as their final resting places, the funerary pyre on the banks of the Ganges here are frequented with cremations that are public. While it may seem to be a bit on the macabre side, many have reported it to be an awe-inspiring and interesting thing to witness. The rituals and rich beliefs of the Hindus who come here after death to be cremated and their ashes put into the Ganges really hammers home the deep faith that Hindus have in the sanctity and sacredness of their beloved river. Varanasi dates back to the 11th century BC, so just being here is like being at the cradle of civilization in India, and some of the temples and buildings have a feel like they could almost be that old.
Set in the Himalayan foothills on the other side of the country from Rishikesh, Darjeeling is a beautiful mountain town that was formerly home to the British Raj elite. Hints of these times of yesteryear are still evident in some of the architecture and names of restaurants, hotels and the like. The higher altitude means cooler weather, often rainy and/or foggy, a perfect climate for the delicious black Darjeeling teas that grow on tea plantations throughout the region. Darjeeling is still famous for its narrow gauge railway, also known as the ‘toy train’, which is a unique and enjoyable tourist attraction that was completed in 1881.
So with just these couple of great places to check out in India, hopefully you have an idea of just a few of the really interesting and welcoming places that make this beautiful, bustling and sometimes weird country what it is. This is literally only the tip of the iceberg though, but we’ll let you figure India out for yourself. It’s usually much better that way!