Last updated: November 2018
How to talk about this huge country in a few lines? The only thing that comes to my mind to sum it up is: India is an adventure … in a good and bad way!
A country that is not the easiest to visit alone … but not even so difficult, it takes only a lot (a lot) patience! What I have seen is the northern part, from Mumbai upwards, one day I will also explore the South.
For what little I understood (to learn something of an immense country like this it would take me years …!) India is totally immersed in its ancient traditions, religion and the sacred that is an integral part of every aspect of everyday life of the locals. I have seen many beautiful things but also many not nice things in this country. I will focus on the best of what I received from traveling for a few months here.
Let yourself be bewitched by the sounds, the perfumes, the colors, the people and the chaos that will transport you to another dimension!
Some of the activities I suggest you plan during a trip to India:
- For now from Mumbai to the North -
- If you have the energy and some time to venture into the Gangotri exploration, here you will find the source of the sacred Ganges river.
- Take a few days trekking in Ladakh, among stupendous Tibetan gompas and Himalayan mountains.
- Attend a puja, the sacred ceremony held every day at sunrise and sunset. Rishikesh and Varanasi are two places that I recommend.
- Bargain in one of the many bazaars … do not give up, but do not be too greedy either.
- Attend one of the many colorful festivals celebrated in the country.
- In Jaipur there is one of the most famous cinemas of India: the Raj Mandir. Go see a Bollywood movie in this unique structure!
- Taste some of the delicious food in the country!
- Attend a conference by smiling and serene Dalai Lama to McLeod Ganji.
- Venture out on a rusty half broken bus, not a pleasant experience to try but funny and unforgettable!
- Get carried away by a rikshaw (always bargain on the price before leaving!).
- If you feel to you can attend a cremation ceremony of the dead on the Ganges in Varanasi.
- Visit one of the hundreds of temples, monuments, moshee, forts scattered everywhere.
- Feel yourself a little Indiana Jones exploring the Ajanta caves.
- If you are in Mumbai do not miss a visit to the beautiful statues on the island of Elephanta.
- Go hiking in the Spiti Valley, a dream place!
- How not to recommend a sunset or a sunrise (or both) in the presence of the incredible Taj Mahal !?
Some info about India:
Capital of India: New Delhi
Population: more than 1 billion (and 300 million) !!!
Official language: Hindi and English + other 21 languages…
Currency: Indian rupee
Calling Code for India: +91
India Visa: must be obtained before entering the country. Usually you can get one at the Indian consulate in your home country.
Lately I have heard that several travelers are using the e-visa (the electronic visa), it seems to work well! Find out if you can get one, it could be a good solution.
N.B. Always check before leaving that the visa rules have not changed recently!
Phone and Internet: It is easy to buy a sim card, you can also buy it at the airport (you need a copy of the passport and a passport photo, but first find out if the rules have changed and if they ask for other documents).
The most used telephone companies are Airtel (probably the best), Vodafone, Idea you can use the wifi service in many hotels and some restaurants. The line is essentially good.
The main tourist destinations of India:
- For now from Mumbai to the North -
I will try to give you some of the top destinations, for the other destinations more out of the way I will try to make specific guides!
Delhi: what a messy city! My first encounter with India, I was overwhelmed by chaos, colors, smells, sounds and noises, people everywhere (there are more than 16 million inhabitants!) And a hot and humid weather where I could not breathe. Explore the architectural and cultural beauties and the various bazaars in this truly intense city!
Mumbai or Bombay: Another megalopolis, built on the west coast of the country, the entertainment capital of India … Does the name Bollywood tells you anything? Take a trip around the city and its interesting architecture and attractions! Take a trip to the Elephanta island!
Leh (and the region of Ladakh): here things are much more relaxed, the area is predominantly Tibetan. Leh’s palace and the gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) around the city will transport you to a distant world! Do not miss a festival in these parts and a few days trekking.
Chadigarh: a city designed by the Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier. It will not seem (almost …) to be in India! You can use it as a stop over during a long journey from Delhi proceeding to the northern regions.
Varanasi: fascinating and surreal city on the banks of the river Ganges. Famous for being one of the 3 sacred places where Hindus go to die: it is said that if you leave the life of this planet here you get rid of the cycle of reincarnations. People are cremated on the banks of the river, to witness this can be a rather strong experience.
Khajuraho: famous for its spectacular Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist temples and monuments. Also famous because some of the wonderful statues depict erotic poses.
Amritsar: if you reach this city near the border with Pakistan it is almost certainly to visit the magnificent Golden Temple, a religious and sacred site for the Sikhs. If you have time go and see the incredible and bizarre ceremony of closing the border between India and the Pakistan that is held every day!
Agra: the only reason, in my opinion, to visit the city is the fascinating mausoleum of the Taj Mahal. I have always wondered how buildings can convey such deep emotions. Unique and to be seen absolutely! If you have time there is also the nice fort to visit.
Rajasthan: this state represents one of the most touristy areas of India. The main places to visit are the pink city of Jaipur, the blue city of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer with its fort and the nearby desert area, Udaipur and its beautiful lake.
Rishikesh: hordes of hippies of the 60s, spiritual researchers and … the Beatles … came and went to make a retreat in one of the many ashrams of the area to release body and soul. Considered the world capital of yoga and the meditation, the city is located at the foot of the imposing Himalayas and on the banks of the sacred Ganges, the setting is quite suggestive!
India, when to go?
India is huge, so you have to think about the area you are going to visit to understand what is the best time to catch a plane and reach it!
Generally from October / November to March you will find a climate that can be considered suitable for visiting the whole country.
August and September are the best months for Himalayan trekking.
N.B. Lately the weather conditions are changing a lot, so sometimes the seasons are not always as expected!