India is a number of things all in one. Multicultural, spiritual and fascinating, it’s not just a destination, it’s an experience. Actually, it’s such an experience, that you really need some tips before you go.
Take it Slow
India is vast and incredibly diverse. From the Himalayas in the north to the serene backwaters in the South to the coastal countryside in the East to the arid deserts in the West, India is brimming with places to be explored. Do not cram everything in a single trip, but explore it bit-by-bit.
It’s advisable to start with the classics. So if this is your first trip, the Taj Mahal is the most recognizable building in the world and arguably the most beautiful, so go to Agra. You can take a day trip from Delhi.
Fly into the nation’s capital and make it your base.
Built around Lake Pichola, India’s most romantic city is all traditional Mughal architecture, gorgeous textiles and delicious North Indian cuisine. Ride a horse into the surrounding desert and tour the 16th-century City Palace.
Jodphur From Udaipur, it’s a five-hour drive to Rajasthan’s bustling Blue City. Its signature powder-blue buildings are scattered about the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, which begs to be toured.
Tucked away in the far north of the country between Kashmir and the Chinese border, the “land of high passes” is where to head for otherworldly Himalayan treks and visits to 15th-century Buddhist monasteries.
The home of yoga and where The Beatles found enlightenment, Rishikesh is a spiritual wonderland full of ashrams, holy men and schools teaching every esoteric art from palm reading to tarot.
Tea is the order of the day at this peaceful Himalayan hill town. Well, that and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, temples, ponies and the UNESCO heritage-listed toy train that takes visitors chugging through the mountains.
Health is Wealth
To stay healthy, remember these basic precautions. Indian food is a bit tangy and it can be common to experience a swirling stomach; consume wisely by eating freshly cooked food and drinking only from sealed water bottles. To protect against pollution in the cities, wear a scarf and mask in the streets. It’s also a good idea to travel with medications for diarrhea, headache and other common ailments. Also be sure to get the necessary shots before your trip. Talk to your doctor about what might be necessary for you, and where you’re traveling. If you run out of medicines, don’t worry as there are pharmacies everywhere.
Where to shop
Rajasthan is where it’s at for colorful embroidered textiles, as well as miniature paintings, papier mache puppets and embroidered leather shoes.
To buy precious and semi-precious gemstones head to the “pink city” of Jaipur, where gorgeous blue-glazed pottery is also made.
Marble wares inspired by the Taj Mahal, some of them exquisitely detailed and inlaid with semi-precious stones, can be sourced in Agra, while Varanasi is a popular place to pick up silk and saris.