From the snow-capped Himalayas in the north to the sun-drenchedcoastal villages of the south, India unfolds like an ancienttapestry. The perennial rivers running down from the mountains arethe lifeblood on which India has flourished. Since the firstcivilisations developed on the banks of the Indus river almost5,000 years ago, India has given birth to Buddhism and Hinduism,seen the rise and fall of the Sultans and Moguls, and seen the sunfinally set on the British Empire as it reclaimed independence in1947.
The world's largest democracy presents an incredible variety ofreligions, languages, cultural influences and monuments. This isthe country famed for the iconic Taj Mahal, the colourful festivalsof Holi and Diwali, and for traditional Carnatic and Hindustanimusic. Art and theatre mix traditional culture with westerninfluences, and Bollywood far outstrips its better-known US rivalin terms of output and popularity on home turf.
India's landscapes are as vast as they are varied. The peaks ofthe Himalayas give way to the great plains of the Ganges River andthe capital, Delhi. To the west lies the Thar Desert and the GreatRann of Kutch, while the west and south coast plays host to beachesand forests and vibrant cities.
India is a feast for the senses. The air is heavy with the scentof jasmine, dancers trail frenetic melodies in colourful silksaris, and cooks compose dishes from a palette of exotic spices.India's cities are a cacophony of seemingly endless traffic and amyriad of other textures, colours and movements all jostling forattention. India can be overwhelming, but its variety is part ofits charm for those who brave the sub-continent.
India offers an astounding diversity of people, landscapes,sights and sounds. Visitors will find a rich tapestry ofattractions to enjoy, the scope of which is unmatched anywhere elseon earth.
Spiritually inclined tourists make for the temples and ashramsof the north, nestled in beautiful Himalayan cities such Rishikesh,the birthplace of Yoga. Away from the mountains, Delhi dominatesthe desert plains. The heaving, ancient capital is a mind-blowingmix of history and humanity.
Delhi is just one of India's incredible collection of cities,which includes Kolkata, the cultural capital, Kochi, the Queen ofthe Arabian Sea, and Mumbai, a major port city, and home toBollywood. Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges, may well be themost fascinating of the lot. This sacred Hindu destination is oneof the oldest continually inhabited cities on earth.
Jungles and forests such as the Sundarbans, the largest mangroveforest in the world, and the stunningly beautiful Sangla valley,are home to endemic flora and fauna. Lucky visitors to some of thenational parks may be greeted by a glimpse of the rare, legendaryBengal Tiger.
India's architectural treasures need no introduction. Theimmortal Taj Mahal is one of the most recognisable monuments in theworld. Tourists will also be fascinated by the opulence of TirupatiBalaji, the richest temple in the world, and Golden Temple, one ofSikhism's holiest shrines.
India is synonymous with vibrant, colourful festivals such asHoli, the festival of colours, and Diwali, the festival of lights.The spicy cuisine is superb, enjoyed by millions of peopleworldwide. Indian music, theatre and film is unique.
The endless list of attractions simply goes on and on in thisvast and varied land.
The Red Fort, known locally as , is Delhi's signature attraction, rising highabove the clamour of Old Delhi as a reminder of the power andprosperity of the Mogul Empire. The massive sandstone walls werebuilt in the 17th century to keep out marauding invaders, and stilldominate the city's skyline today. Inside is an array of exquisitebuildings, which once provided the living quarters for Shah Jehan,his courtiers, family and staff of three thousand. Visitors canmarvel at the intricate decoration and only imagine the scenes hereat the empire's height, when the walls were studded with preciousstones and a 'stream of paradise' drove an ingenious airconditioning system. The fort was the scene of the Indian Uprisingof 1857 and the mighty Lahore Gate, on the west side of the fort,remains a potent symbol of India's fight for independence. Thereare frequent sound and light shows in the evenings at the fort butthey are conducted in Hindi; some audio guides are sometimesavailable to translate into French and English. The fort is vastand there is a lot to explore so it is best to allow a few hoursfor this famous attraction; seeing everything means covering quitea lot of ground so come prepared to do some walking.
Shah Jehan, the architect of the Red Fort and much of Old Delhi,built Jama Masjid between 1644 and 1656. This grand structure issituated on a hill a few hundred yards west of the Red Fort, andtowers over the mayhem of Old Delhi's sprawling streets. JamaMasjid is India's largest mosque, and can hold 25,000 worshippersat one time. Wide red sandstone steps lead to entrances on thenorth, south and east sides of the mosque. Inside is a massivecourtyard, dominated by two red-and-white striped sandstoneminarets that cap the main prayer hall on the west side (facingMecca). There are smaller towers at each corner of the mosque, andenergetic visitors can climb the 122 narrow steps of the southernone to be rewarded with magnificent views of Old and New Delhi.
Those wearing shorts or skirts can hire a to cover their legs. Women wearing T-shirts shouldbring a scarf to cover their shoulders. Visitors will be requiredto leave their shoes at the entrance. Tourists frequently complainthat the people managing the mosque are rude and try to get as muchmoney as possible out of visitors by charging for things like shoestorage and modesty dresses they insist women wear even if they areappropriately clad. The best way to deal with these inconveniencesis to have a local guide to help navigate through the process.
The Qutub Minar is a mammoth tower that was built between 1193and 1369 to symbolise Islamic rule over Delhi, and to commemoratethe victory by Qutab-ud-din over the city's last Hindu king.Standing 238 feet (72m) tall, the tower is decorated withcalligraphy representing verses from the Quran, and tapers from 50feet (15m) at the base to just eight feet (2.5m) at the top. Thereare five distinct storeys, each encircled with a balcony: the firstthree are built of red sandstone, and the upper two are faced withwhite marble.
At the foot of the minhar stands Quwwat-ul-Islam, India's oldestmosque, largely built from the remains of 27 Hindu and Jain templesdestroyed by the Muslim victors. The cloisters that flank thenearby courtyard are supported by pillars that were unmistakablypilfered from Hindu temples, but fascinatingly, the faces thatwould have adorned these pillars have been removed to conform toIslamic law, which strictly forbids iconic worship.
Somewhat incongruously, in the corner of the mosque, stands theIron Pillar, bearing 4th-century Sanskrit inscriptions of the Guptaperiod dedicating the structure to the memory of King ChandraguptaII (373-413). It is said that anyone who can encircle the pillarwith their hands whilst standing with their back to it will havetheir wishes fulfilled.
Humayun's Tomb is one of the best-preserved and most beautifulexamples of Mogul architecture in Delhi, and is often seen as aforerunner of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Building started on the tombin 1564 after the death of Humayun, the second Moghul emperor, andits construction was overseen by Haji Begum, his senior widow andthe mother of Akbar. The tomb is an octagonal structure capped by adouble dome that soars 125ft (38m) into the sky, and is set in aformal Persian garden. In the grounds are some other worthwhilemonuments, including the Tomb of Isa Khan. Some careful restorationwork has been done on some of the buildings and art but nothingimportant has been altered and the site has not lost its sense ofauthentic old age. Visiting this attraction is great for theuninitiated because it is the perfect introduction to thearchitecture, symbolism and importance of memorial tombs in India.For photography lovers the tomb, with its red colouring andgeometric designs, is a wonderful subject. Tourist infrastructureis somewhat lacking, with only a few stalls, a tiny exhibit and noreal public toilets - but, on the plus side, it is also lesscrowded and commercial than many other sites in the city andvisitors can wander freely.
After his visit in 1911, the Emperor of India, King George V,decreed that the capital should be moved from Calcutta to Delhi.Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to plan the new government centre,which he focused around Rajpath - the grand, tree-lined boulevardthat runs between the Secretariat Buildings and India Arch, the warmemorial built in 1921. Rashtrapati Bhavan was built by Lutyens andSir Herbert Baker between 1921 and 1929, on the gentle slope ofRaisina Hill, flanked by the Secretariat Buildings. This immensepalace, larger than Versailles, was created for the Viceroy and isnow the residence of the President of India. With the exception ofthe central copper dome there are few concessions to Indianarchitectural style: despite its Classical columns, the building isunmistakably British and remains a potent symbol of imperialpower.
Every Saturday morning between 9:35am and 10:15am guards paradebefore the iron gates, in Delhi's answer to London's Changing ofthe Guard. The gardens are open to the public every year inFebruary and March but unfortunately no entry to the palace ispermitted at any time of year. However, the exterior is veryimpressive and it is well worth at least a drive by.
No trip to Delhi would be complete without a visit to one of thebazaars that surround Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square) in OldDelhi, where shops and stalls display a wonderful array of goods,and offer a pungent and colourful insight into everyday Delhi life.Chandni Chowk has a large number of galis (lanes) and each one isdifferent, with its own atmosphere and selection of goods tobuy.
Naya Bazaar, on Khari Baoli, is the spice market, displaying awonderful range of seasonings in neat, colourful piles. The nearbyGadodia Market is the wholesale spice market. Hundreds of spicesand condiments can be found there, including aniseed, ginger,pomegranate, saffron, lotus seeds, pickles and chutneys, to namejust a few.
Chor Bazaar sits behind the ramparts of the Red Fort and comesto life on Sundays to trade a collection of 'second-hand' goods.Chawri Bazaar was once notorious for the ladies who beckoned menfrom the arched windows and balconies above the street, but todaythese houses have made way for shops specialising in brass andcopper Buddhas, Vishnus and Krishnas. Some of the busiest galis(east of Kalan Mahal) house the poultry and fish markets, but mosttourists wisely avoid these areas.
The Taj Mahal is one of the world's most recognisable andevocative sights, and despite the incredible hype, a visit herecannot disappoint. Set overlooking the River Yamuna, visible fromAgra Fort in the West, the Taj was built by Shah Jahan to enshrinethe body of his favourite wife, who died giving birth to her 14thchild, in 1631. The story of this great monument to love is givenan added poignancy by the fate of Shah Jahan himself. When hisdevout and austere son Aurangzeb seized power, Shah Jahan wasinterned in Agra Fort, where he lived out his final years gazingwistfully at the Taj Mahal in the distance. When he died there, inJanuary 1666, with his daughter Jahanara Begum at his side, hisbody was carried across the river to lie alongside his beloved wifein the peerless mausoleum.
Completed in 1653, the Taj Mahal is set in a large walledgarden, between two mini-Taj's (one of which is a mosque), and infront of a long reflecting pond. Close up, the craftsmanship of thebuilding is as spectacular as from a distance - the inside of thevast double-dome is inlaid with delicately-filigreed verses fromthe Quran and semi-precious stones. Visitors should aim to visit itat dawn and at dusk, as the building truly does change colourthrough the day, from rosy pink, to gleaming ivory, totwilight-blue. Note that there can often be smog and fog in themornings. Two days before and after the full moon, the Taj Mahal isopen for moonlight viewing, but tickets must be booked at least 24hours in advance, through the Archaeological Survey of India'soffices in Agra.
Not far from the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. Thispowerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 1.5mile-long (2.5km) enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughalrulers. It comprises many fairytale palaces, such as the JahangirPalace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls suchas the Diwan-i-Khas; and the Sheesh Mahal (The Glass Palace), whichis inlaid with thousands of mirrors and was once the haremdressing-room. There are also two beautiful mosques, including ShahJahan's Pearl Mosque. The Octagonal Tower is exquisitely carved,and is the very place where Shah Jahan spent the last seven yearsof his life. The tower used to be known for providing one of thebest views of the Taj Mahal - which is significant as Shah Jahanfamously built the Taj as a memorial to his wife and no doubtenjoyed this view - but these days, regrettably, air pollution hasreduced visibility.
Not all of the areas and buildings in the Red Fort are open tovisitors but there is plenty to see. Local guides are available atthe entrance and hiring one is recommended because the fort hasaccumulated many great stories in its long history. Try to arriveearly to avoid crowds and queues.
Situated on the crest of a hill seven miles (11km) north ofJaipur is Amber, capital of the Kuchwaha Rajputs from 1037 to 1728.The city-palace is protected by towering outer walls, and a furtherwall runs for miles along the hills surrounding the palace. Formany, the most memorable part of a trip to Jaipur is the journey upthe palace ramparts, through a succession of vast gates, on theback of a painted elephant, Maharaja-style. Inside are the ruins ofa once-great palace: a wonderful example of Rajput architecture,with Mogul influences. Visitors will be able to see the remains ofthe Maharajas quarters surrounded by the rooms of his many wivesand concubines, each linked to his bedroom by secret steps andpassageways to avoid jealousy. Although much of the complex isclosed to the public, there is still a large area to explore.Visitors are advised to spend at least a few hours here, andideally to hire a guide who will explain the architecture andhistory of the palace. Don't forget to pack your camera. Photoopportunities abound at Amber Palace but note that there is a smalladditional fee for those who want to take photographs.
The magnificent City Palace is in the centre of the Pink City ofJaipur, enclosed by high walls and set amid fine gardens andcourtyards. Since Jai Singh built it in 1728, it has been theprincipal residence for the Maharajas of Jaipur and successiverulers have each added to it. The palace was built during the glorydays and the exhibits and interior have lost none of theirsplendour: the doors and gateways preserve their flamboyantdecoration; and royal retainers, clothed in turbans and fulllivery, still guard the principal halls and entrances.
Chandra Mahal is the private palace of the current ruler and isapproached through a number of courtyards. Mubarak Mahal, in thefirst courtyard, was once a guesthouse and is now a textile museum.There are a number of other museums displaying old costumes anduniforms, carpets, mementos, elephant saddles and an armourycontaining a fascinating array of fearsome and inventive weaponsdating back to the Mogul era.
A beautifully-carved marble gate with brass doors leads to thesecond courtyard, where Diwan-I-Khas, the hall of privateaudiences, is found. On display here are two gigantic silver urnsused by Madho Singh II to carry water from the holy Ganges with himwhen he travelled to London in 1902 on board an ocean liner - hewas reluctant to trust the water in the West! These are said to bethe largest silver vessels in the world - 243kg of silver wasrequired to cast each urn, and they can hold 8,182 gallons ofwater.
The Palace of the Winds is Jaipur's most acclaimed attraction.Built in 1799, it is situated on the edge of the City Palacecomplex overlooking one of the city's bustling main streets, andwas constructed to offer the women of the court a vantage point,behind stone-carved screens, from which to watch the activity inthe bazaars below. The five-storey building is shaped like a crownadorning Lord Krishna's head, and contains over five hundredfinely-screened windows and balconies. Although the palace'sprimary appeal is its ornate and finely-carved pink façade,visitors can also go inside and see the intricate, honeycombedstonework of the original screens close up. There are beautifulviews of the city and some surrounding forts from the inside of thebuilding. Additional motivation for exploring the interior - apartfrom the thrill of imagining the royal wives and consorts flittingabout behind their screens - is the naturally cool, breezy natureof the place, which makes it refreshing on hot days. Those who justwant to see the building and take some photos can do so from theroad without paying the entrance fee. The building is particularlylovely early in the morning when the light makes it seem evenpinker than usual.
The white walls of Udaipur's Lake Palace soar above the peacefulwaters of Lake Pichola, topped by ornamental battlements andturrets. The sprawling palace has been developed by successivemaharanas since the foundation of Udaipur in 1559. These days, partof the palace is home to the current maharana, a section of it is afirst-class hotel (with the best restaurant in the city), and theremainder is a museum.
The approach to the City Palace is through the Elephant Gate,Hati Pol. The Great Gate (Bara Pol) leads to the first court, whereeight carved arches mark the spot where the rulers were onceweighed against gold or silver, the equivalent value of which wasthen distributed among the poor. Beyond the Tripolia Gate is thearena where the elephant tug-of-war competitions were staged, pastwhich are a series of courtyards, overlapping pavilions, terraces,corridors and hanging gardens.
The Krishna Vilas honours a 19th-century Udaipur princess, whopoisoned herself to avoid the dilemma of choosing a husband fromthe two rival households of Jodhpur and Jaipur. Its walls displayminiature paintings portraying royal processions, festivals andhunting parties. Further along, a glass mosaic gallery containssuperb portraits and stained glass, and offers a wonderfulpanoramic view of the city below. Set into the walls of the17th-century Mor Chowk are brilliant mosaics of three peacocksshowing the three seasons: summer, winter and monsoon. Perhaps themost splendid rooms in the palace are the women's quarters, ZenanaMahal, with their ornate alcoves, balconies and colouredwindows.
Udaipur's Lake Palace really does have a storybook quality to it- both in terms of its looks and its history - and it is rightlyconsidered by all and sundry to be one of India's stellar touristattractions.
Forty miles (60km) north of Udaipur are the Jain Temples ofRanakpur. It is the largest temple complex of its kind in India,and boasts some truly staggering marble work - easily on a par withany in Asia. The main temple was built in 1439, and is dedicated tothe first tirthankara Adinath, whose image is enshrined in itscentral sanctuary. The temple is two or three storeys high inparts, and its roof, topped with five large shikharas, undulateswith tiny spires that crown the small shrines to Jain saints liningthe temple walls. Within are 1444 pillars, each sculpted withunique and intricate designs, and dissecting the 29 halls. Thecarving on the walls, columns and the domed ceilings is superb.Friezes depicting the life of the tirthankara are etched into thewalls, while musicians and dancers have been modelled out ofbrackets between the pillars and the ceiling. While exploring thetemples at Ranakpur, visitors may see Jain monks walking about withmasks on their faces to avoid eating insects. The most importantteaching of Jainism is 'Ahimsa', meaning non-violence, and this isapplied to all sentient beings. Many monks also carry a brush tosweep surfaces to avoid standing on bugs. Ranakpur's isolatedposition means it is not on the major tourist trail, but it makes agood stop for those travelling between Jaipur and Udaipur.
The magnificent Gothic Victorian buildings in Mumbai's Fort Areahighlight the power and wealth of the British Empire at its might.They are reminiscent of many of the great public buildings inLondon or Glasgow. The Victoria Terminus (known as CST) was openedin 1888, and is one of the world's grandest railway stations, on apar with New York's Grand Central Station or London's St Pancras.Built in the Italian Gothic style, it looks more like alavishly-decorated cathedral than a railway station: massive archessoar splendidly above the scurrying crowd, and carved into thepillars and buttresses are images of monkeys, peacocks, elephantsand lions. The station is topped by a tall dome crowned with astatue representing Progress.
The nearby St Thomas' Cathedral was built between 1672 and 1718,standing witness to almost the entire history of the British inBombay. Its whitewashed interior contains poignant colonialmemorials - including one to Henry Robertson Bower, Lieutenant ofthe Royal Indian Marine, who lost his life returning from the SouthPole with Captain Scott.
The epicentre of the Fort Area is Horniman Circle, which issurrounded by curved, arcaded terraces. The lush and leafy gardenin the centre offers a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustleof the surrounding city.
The southernmost peninsula of Mumbai, known as Colaba, is wheremost travellers gravitate. It has a good range of hotels andrestaurants and houses two of the city's most famous landmarks: theGateway to India and the Taj Mahal Hotel. The Gateway to India wasbuilt in 1911 to commemorate the visit to India of King George Vand Queen Mary. The archway is built from honey-coloured basalt ina style derived from Gujarati architecture of the 16th century. Inthe days of the steam liner, the Gateway was for many visitorstheir first and last sight of India, but today it acts purely as acolourful tourist stop, and attracts hawkers, snake charmers, andbeggars. The neighbouring Taj Mahal Hotel was built in 1902 by JNTata, after he was allegedly refused entry to one of the city'sEuropean hotels on account of being 'a native'. It has since turnedinto a bit of an institution, and the streets behind it have becomea Mecca for foreign shoppers; the Colaba Causeway is the mainstreet, with a melee of street vendors, shops, stalls andcafes.
Unfortunately Colaba was also the site of two of the 2008 MumbaiAttacks and tourists are recommended to remain vigilant whenvisiting the area. To the north of the causeway, set in beautifullush gardens, is the fascinating Prince of Wales Museum displayinga collection of ancient and medieval sculpture and Indiandecorative arts. Nearby, the new National Gallery of Modern Artshowcases Indian modern art. To the south is the Sassoon Dock,which at dawn becomes an area of intense and pungent activity asfishing boats arrive to unload their catch.
Built in the 1920s, Marine Drive runs along the shoreline of theArabian Sea, from Nariman Point to the foot of Malabar Hill. It isMumbai's most famous thoroughfare, and a favourite spot forwatching the sunset. Lined on the landward side by a crescent ofcrumbling Art Deco buildings, it is lit up memorably at night,prompting travel agents to dub it 'the Queen's Necklace'. At thetop end of Marine Drive is Chowpatty Beach, the only beach in thecentral part of Mumbai. Though not ideal for sunbathing orswimming, it is a popular (though hectic) place to spend anafternoon, surrounded by beach traders, entertainers and beggars.It is the best place to watch the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival(during August/September), when vast models of Lord Ganesha areimmersed in the sea. Marine Drive is also an exciting vantage pointon Diwali, when there are stunning fireworks in the bay and allover the city. The thoroughfare is best avoided on weekends, whenit can get extremely crowded and rather dirty, but the atmosphereis festive and some people love to mingle on busy days. There aremany restaurants and cafes lining the street and it is lovely toeither walk or drive along the road at night.
The colourful indoor Crawford Market (Mahatma Jyotiba PhuleMarket) is where locals of central Mumbai go shopping for theirfruit, vegetables and (for the brave) meat. Rudyard Kipling wasborn just south of the market, in 1865. An ornate fountain designedby his father, Lockwood Kipling, sits between old fruit boxes atthe market's centre. He also designed the frieze depicting Indianpeasants in wheat fields which hangs above the main entrance. Youcan find almost anything at the market which is large and full ofsurprises. The animal market at the rear sells everything frompoodles to parrots in small cages.
Visitors will enjoy a stroll around the narrow lanes ofKalbadevi, north of the market. This predominantly Muslim area is aseething mass of people and traffic and is the location of severalmarkets selling jewellery, textiles and leather goods. The mostfamous is the Chor Bazaar, Mumbai's 'thieves' market', which sells'antiques' and miscellaneous junk - don't place too much faith inthe authenticity of anything sold here. This area is also home tothe Jama Masjid and the Mumbadevi Temple, which is dedicated to thepatron goddess of the island's original Koli inhabitants.
Once just a backpacker and hippie hangout selling kaftans andchillums, the Anjuna Flea Market is now more commercial, with abroad range of high-quality goods on sale. Traders from all overIndia come to sell their wares: Lamani women from Karnataka,dressed in their traditional garb, sell colourful, elaboratelywoven clothes; Kashmiri stalls display silver and papier-mâchéboxes; and Tibetans preside over orderly rows of sundry Himalayancurios. Visitors are expected to bargain - often the starting pricewill be more than double what something is worth and rule of thumbis to try and haggle down to 50 percent of the original askingprice - but the stall owners tend to be friendly and less pushythan in some other markets. Even if not planning to haggle foranything, the market is a great place to watch the world go by andmingle with bands of musicians, snake charmers, beggars and theinevitable juggling hippies. The place is colourful and vibrant,and conveniently located right on the beautiful coastline. It is agood idea to go early to avoid the crowds and midday heat. Themarket takes place every Wednesday.
For most visitors to India, Panaji is simply a busy busterminal, offering connections between India's southern cities andthe beautiful beaches of Goa. However, this most sedate of statecapitals has plenty to offer tourists, and should rightly have aday or two devoted to it on any Indian travel itinerary. Situatedon the southern banks of the Mandovi River, Panaji only became thecapital of Goa in 1843, after the harbour at Old Goa silted up anddisease had driven its inhabitants out. The best way to explore thetown is on foot, wandering around the old cobbled alleyways,colonial villas, red-roofed houses, taverns and cafes, all of whichhas the look and feel of a small Portuguese town. There are somewonderful old government buildings, dating back to beforecolonisation, and some elegant Catholic churches. Most memorable isthe Church of the Immaculate Conception: built in 1541, it's toppedwith a huge bell that sits between two delicate Baroque-styletowers, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Panajiis a delightful place to explore and has an extremely laid-backatmosphere and small town feel unusual for a state capital.
Situated on a hilltop at the southern end of India is Kerala'scapital, Thiruvananthapuram (still commonly known as Trivandrum).For most visitors the capital is simply a transit-point on theirway to Kovalam, the popular beach resort a few miles to the south.However, it is worth lingering for a day or so in this easy-goingcity to explore the narrow backstreets, old gabled houses andexpansive parks.
The most fascinating part of Trivandrum is the Fort area, aroundthe Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple (closed to non-Hindus); and PuttanMalika Palace, seat of the Travancore Rajas. Some of the palace hasbeen turned into a museum, and displays a collection of heirloomsand artefacts. However, the highlight is the building's typicallyunderstated, elegant Keralan architecture. Beneath slopingred-tiled roofs, hundreds of wooden pillars carved into the formsof horses prop up the eaves, with airy verandas projecting onto thesurrounding lawns.
When it gets too hot at sea level, Ponmudi makes a welcomeexcursion. This enchanting hill station, tucked away in the WesternGhats 40 miles (64km) to the north of the capital, offers a lot totravellers with a passion for trekking, and just as much to thosewho'd prefer a gentle wander along narrow, winding pathways,through cool, wooded environs thick with mountain flowers andbutterflies. The hill resort is surrounded by tea-estates andmist-covered valleys, and peppered with little stone cottagespainted violet, pink and white.
Old Goa was the state's capital city until 1843, when it wasmoved down river to Panaji. Once a byword for splendour, with apopulation of several hundred thousand, Old Goa was virtuallyabandoned from the 17th century, as the river silted up and aseries of malaria and cholera epidemics drove out theinhabitants.
It takes some imagination to picture the once-great capital asit used to be. The maze of twisting streets, piazzas and grandPortuguese villas have long gone: all that remains are a score ofextraordinarily grandiose churches and convents. Old Goa has beendeclared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and today is the state'smain cultural attraction. Tourists take a break from the beachresorts to come and admire the massive facades and beautifulinteriors of the city's well-preserved churches.
The Tuscan St Catherine's Cathedral is the largest church inIndia and took eighty years to build, finally being consecrated in1640. The scale and detail of the Corinthian-style interior isoverwhelming: huge pillars divide the central nave from the sideaisles, and no less than fifteen altars are arranged around thewalls. An altar to St Anne treasures the relics of the BlessedMartyrs of Cuncolim, whose failed mission to convert the Moghulemperor Akbar culminated in their murder; while a chapel behind ahighly detailed screen holds the Miraculous Cross, which stood in aGoan village until a vision of Christ appeared on it. Reported toheal the sick, it is now kept in a box; a small opening on the sideallows devotees to touch it.
Other sights worth seeing include the Arch of the Viceroys,built in 1597 to commemorate Vasco da Gama's arrival in India, andthe distinctive, domed Church of St Cajetan (1651), modelled on StPeter's in Rome. Old Goa is a major site for Christian pilgrimsfrom all over India who come to visit the tomb of St FrancisXavier, the renowned 16th-century missionary whose remains areenshrined in the Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Situated in the Cardamom Hills region of the Western Ghats, thePeriyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most popular wildlifereserves in India. It is home to a great variety of game, includingelephant, sambar, wild pig, mongoose, the Malabar flying squirreland almost 300 species of bird. Leopards and dwindling numbers oftigers are also here, but are, unfortunately, rarely glimpsed byvisitors.
The park lies 75 miles southeast of Cochin at cool altitudes,between about 3,000 and 6,000 feet (900 and 1800 metres).Ironically, the park was created by the royal family of Travancorto preserve their favourite hunting grounds from the encroachmentof tea plantations, and is centred around a vast artificial lakethat was created by the British in 1895 to supply water to thedrier parts of the state.
Most people view Periyar from a boat on the lake; however, manyvisitors prefer to explore the area on foot. Local guides takesmall groups on treks of various lengths. Exploring on foot shouldbe avoided in the weeks immediately following monsoon season, whenleeches make hiking virtually unbearable. The best time to visit isfrom December to April, when the dry weather draws animals from theforest to drink at the lakeside. Periyar is also a good base forday trips to visit the local tea and spice plantations, and toexplore the waterfalls and appreciate the fine views of theCardamom Hills.
One of the most memorable experiences for many travellers inKerala is a boat journey on the state's famous backwaters. Thebest-known of these areas is Kuttanad, situated between the hillsin the west and the Arabian Sea, and stretching for 50 miles southof Kochi (formerly Cochin). This extraordinary maze of rivers,lakes, canals and estuaries is lined with dense tropical greeneryand reveals a Keralan lifestyle that is totally hidden from theroad. Boats are the only way to explore this area, billed asKaleidoscope Kerala, where views change around every bend: narrowtree-covered canals open onto dazzling vistas of paddy fields, andthrough the trees can be glimpsed churches, mosques, temples, andsmall farms and villages which remain relatively untouched by themodern world. Buffaloes are used for ploughing the fields and womenbathe and wash their clothes in the rivers. Roads do cross thisarea, but are almost entirely linked by manually-operated ferriesrather than bridges. Kingfishers, cormorants and fish eaglescompete with fisherman in rowing boats for the dwindling fishpopulation. Providing visitors with the chance to just sit back andallow life to unfold around them at its own, slow pace, a trip onthe Keralan backwaters is the ideal tonic for travel fatigue -especially if the experience of cities like Mumbai, Delhi andKolkata has tourists feeling a bit strung out.
Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is India's economic powerhouse, andhome to more millionaires than any other city on the Indiansubcontinent. The city contains a breathtaking array of HighVictorian buildings, reflecting the British passion for the Gothicand demonstrating the wealth, panache and confidence of BritishBombay. Mumbai's countless attractions are reached via the iconiccolonial-era arch that is the Gateway of India. Nearby stands theTaj Mahal Palace. India's second-most photographed monument, andthe equally imposing Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, anextravagant Gothic building.
The Colaba peninsula is a hive of activity, with high-endfashion boutiques, souvenir craft markets, and a collection ofrestaurants and cafes. Tourists can visit the Iskcon Temple towitness scenes of intense, joyful worship accompanied by dance andmusic, or plan a trip to Film City to see first-hand how Bollywoodshoots its films. For those seeking a break from the madness ofmodern Mumbai, the 180-year-old village of Khotachiwadi offers aquiet glimpse into life as it was before the high-rise buildings oftoday's mega-city.
The deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of theMughal Empire between 1570 and 1585. It was built under thepersonal supervision of the Emperor Akbar. The story goes that theemperor was childless and, having tried all sorts of solutions tohis plight, visited a Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chishti, for help.Soon a son was born, and - impressed and overjoyed - Akbar startedbuilding on the site where he had met the saint. However, due to asevere shortage of water the city was abandoned after only fifteenyears, and the capital was relocated back to Agra. As a result,Fatehpur Sikri stands untouched and perfectly preserved: a completemedieval fortress built of red sandstone, with vast centralsquares, exquisitely carved multi-tiered pavilions, cool terracesand formal gardens. It is best to hire a guide, or do some researchbefore visiting, because the site is hugely enriched by someknowledge of its fascinating history and the many stories that haveaccumulated about the place. Visitors can walk freely around thevast complex admiring the intricate architecture and carvings andimagining how the royal family once lived. The gardens are alsolovely and well-maintained.
Kolkata is India's third-largest city, and home to some of thecountry's holiest temples and finest colonial structures.The'Cultural Capital of India' is a diverse city with a diversemixture of languages spoken among its 14 million inhabitants. Itwas also home to Mother Teresa, whose humble home can still bevisited, and the famous writer Rabindranath Tagore. Kolkata is acity of many cultural attractions and some impressive colonialarchitecture. The India Museum, India's oldest, largest andarguably best museum, is a must for those interested in the historyof the country. The lovely Victoria Memorial is celebrated as oneof the architectural gems of the colonial period. The MarblePalace, an eccentric, privately-owned mansion with some intriguingfeatures is also very popular.
A deeply religious city representing several faiths, somestriking temples often top the list of things to see in Kolkata.The Kalighat Temple is the city's holiest site, and those willingto brave the hordes of worshippers and pilgrims will find thisattraction to be a profound experience. The Sri Mayapur ChandrodayaTemple, frequented by devotees of Lord Krishna, is popular withtourists; and the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, stunningarchitecturally, is another favourite.
The Haji Ali Dargah is both a mosque and a tomb, located insouthwestern Mumbai, on an islet off the coast of Worli. The (tomb) was built in memory of Muslim preacher SyedPeer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari in 1431, who was inspired to change thecourse of his life after embarking on the Hajj to Mecca. Haji Aliis only accessible by a 1500-foot (457m) walkway during low tide.The walkway is generally lined with beggars and vendors, andThursdays and Fridays see thousands of pilgrims flocking to HajiAli to receive blessings from the dead saint. People of allreligions are welcomed but the mosque is an important spiritualsite for Muslims and some respect is due from visitors, who mustabide by the mosque's rules - for instance, dress appropriately anduse the separate entrances designated for women and men. As withmany big attractions in Mumbai the site can get uncomfortablycrowded and can be rather dirty, with beggars, touts and salesmenof all kinds thronging the place. The best time to visit is at lowtide, early in the morning, as it is less crowded and the high tidewashes away some of the rubbish. Although some people lament thecrowds and dirt the Haji Ali Dargah is still a powerful andcaptivating site which impresses many.
The exciting Nehru Centre, which even looks like a UFO, featuresa world-class planetarium, an art gallery filled with emergingtalent, and an interesting culture wing. However, the highlight ofthe centre is the (permanent) Discovery of India exhibition, withconsists of 14 galleries showcasing every aspect of artistic,intellectual and philosophical attainment in India through theages; visitors walk through the history of India from ancient timesto independence. This is a wonderful place to start for thoselooking to get to grips with the history and identity of India, oneof the most mercurial and fascinating countries in the world. Thecentre is a tribute to its namesake, the first Prime Minister of anindependent India, and described on the official website as a'living testament and monument of faith in Jawaharlal Nehru'svision of man, his compassion for humanity, his concern forhumanbeings and his undying passion to lift them to the greatestand highest purpose'. The planetarium is also very popular andoffers well-planned and presented shows. There is a restaurant inthe centre which has received good reviews from visitors.
The Prince of Wales Museum, now officially known as theChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, was founded in theearly 20th century to commemorate the visit of (eventual King ofthe United Kingdom) George V. The museum houses more than 50,000exhibits of ancient Indian history, as well as artefacts from otherlands. The museum's greatest areas of focus are art, archaeologyand natural history. The Indus Valley Civilisation section isparticularly impressive. The museum is surrounded by a lovelygarden, which provides a nice area to stroll in after exploring theexhibitions. The building dates back to 1914 but it was originallyused as a military hospital and only housed the museum in 1922; itis an acknowledged architectural gem of the city.
There is a cafe where visitors can buy refreshments and it's funto enjoy them out in the garden. The museum's collection is fairlylarge so it will take a few hours to see everything. Studentsshould be sure to take their student cards along because theconcession for foreign students is substantial. There is no airconditioning in the building so rather don't visit in the middayheat. Visitors are allowed to take photographs, but there is anadditional charge to take in a camera.
The former home of Mahatma Gandhi, the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museumis a Gujarati-style house featuring three floors for visitors toexplore. The house did not belong to Gandhi but served as his homeand headquarters in Bombay for 17 eventful years between 1917 and1934; it belonged to a friend of his, who was his host whenever hevisited the city. Several important events and activities inGandhi's political life took place or were initiated at this place- he was arrested on the terrace in 1932. The museum houses anincredible library, full of Gandhi-related books, periodicals,photographs, posters and even the great man's old (spinning wheel). His old room has been preserved asit was when he lived in it, as far as possible, and there is aPicture Gallery and an Auditorium that plays Gandhi's speeches andfilms about him. The terrace where he once prayed, spoke and wasarrested is open to the public. There is also a Sales Counter whichsells memorabilia like stamps, photographs and books. For anybodyinterested in the life of this global icon the museum is amust.
Known as the 'world's largest laundromat', the Dhobi Ghatprovides a scene many travellers might have already seen in movies.Every day, thousands of (laundry washers) collect dirty laundry and descendupon the concrete washing areas, all fitted with their own floggingstones, to wash the garments. To the dhobis themselves, the washingand drying of clothes is a menial task - but to inquisitivetourists, this practise can be a fascinating insight into India'sdaily life, as well as a surviving relic of old India. The job istraditionally hereditary, and many of the men at work have familiesthat have been doing the same job, and using the same age-oldtechniques, for generations. This is not a glamorous attraction butit is a very interesting one and many tourists love to photographthe work and the area and get a taste of the 'real' India. Having alocal guide is an advantage because they can explain the history ofthe area and the job, and because they usually prevent the pettytheft and pick-pocketing which sometimes occurs. Generally thepeople are very friendly and amused by the foreign interest intheir menial labour but visitors should watch their belongingscarefully. Entrance to the area should be free but there have beenreports of locals asking for a small admission price.
Located on Elephanta Island, in the Arabian Sea off the coast ofMumbai, the Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and anabsolute must for visitors to Mumbai. The island can be reached byan hour long boat ride from the Gateway of India pier. The cavesfeature (the oldest of the four sects of Hindusm) stonesculptures of Hindu deities important to worshippers of Shiva. Manyof the sculptures in the caves were unfortunately defaced by thePortuguese who, in the 17th century, used the sculptures for targetpractice. However, there is still lots of intricate and impressiveart to see. Visitors arrive and step off the ferry to walk througha gauntlet of vendors selling all sorts of food and trinkets. It ispossible to take a ride on a small train to get to the cave site,or to be carried up in chairs. The other option is simply to walk.Each year, in February, the Elephanta Dance Festival is heldoutside the caves with lots of local dance troupes performing. Theisland can get very crowded on weekends and public holidays so itis best to go during the week if possible.
The Indian Botanical Garden in Kolkata has many floraltreasures, but none as impressive as the 250-year-old Great BanyanTree, which covers nearly 5,300 square feet (500sq/m). What atfirst seems like a forest of narrow trunks is, in fact, 1,573drop-roots from a single banyan tree - either the largest or secondlargest canopy tree in the world depending on who you believe.
The gardens, located on the west bank of the Hooghly River,contain about 12,000 living plant species from every corner of theglobe and offer some good bird watching opportunities and a quietgreen space in which to walk, relax and picnic. There are manypaths and trails to explore. Since July 2012 the gardens have beenclosed on Mondays for maintenance but walkers and joggers are stilllet in. Officially the gardens open at 8am, but those wanting toexercise can usually get in as early as 5:30am. The gardens are notas impressive in winter and maintenance seems to take a backseat inthe off-peak months but the Great Banyan Tree is worth a visit atany time of year and in spring and summer the birds, butterfliesand flowers are a joy.
This astounding marble building is probably the most impressivecolonial structure in India. In a city known for several greatmonuments and buildings, this palace is often considered theprimary architectural gem and most iconic landmark. It was built tocommemorate Queen Victoria (although she never actually visited thecity) and only completed in 1921, after 20 years of solid work.Inside is a fascinating museum of Indian history, including somewonderful sculptures and paintings. The monument is situated on 64acres of land, which includes lakes, gardens and walking paths. Thegardens are well-maintained and for many the lovely grounds andexterior facade of the memorial are the highlight - the museum isfascinating for those genuinely interested in India's colonialhistory, but the exhibitions are informative rather thanentertaining. Although the museum officially opens much later,visitors can usually get into the gardens for a small fee as earlyas 5:30am. This is a really beautiful time of day to visit andwonderful for photographs or morning exercise. Note that nophotography is permitted inside the memorial. There is a sound andlight show most evenings at 7:15pm.
With 60 galleries of art, archaeology and anthropology, this isIndia's largest museum, India's oldest museum, and quite possiblyIndia's most attractive museum, housed as it is in a stunning,colonnaded palace. The Indian Museum was established in 1814 andthe collection is vast and varied, including fossils, skeletons,coins, manuscripts, all kinds of Indian art and sculpture,traditional games, icons, puppets, toys, musical instruments andmuch more. The natural history collection is thought to be one ofthe world's finest and the museum library is famous for itsimpressive collection. Unfortunately, although there arefascinating things to see and learn in the museum, it is not aswell-maintained as it could be, and sometimes the beautifulbuilding seems slightly dilapidated. Nevertheless, a visit here ismandatory for those wanting a snap-shot view of India's past. Asthe collection is so big it is best to join one of the four guidedtours that are available each day. There are restrooms and a simplelittle gift shop at the museum; there are also usually many hawkersoutside the museum selling snacks, souvenirs and trinkets.
This humble and touching temple to Mother Teresa's life and workin downtown Kolkata is well worth a visit. Upstairs is a smallmuseum, full of affecting and interesting displays. Visitors evenhave a chance to see Blessed Teresa's bedroom, preserved exactly asit was when she lived in the building. Tourists can also visitMother Teresa's tomb and spend a quiet moment praying or reflectingin this inspirational place. Not so much an 'attraction' as adeeply emotional and inspiring insight into a life ofself-sacrifice and devotion, a visit to Mother House makes a finecounterpoint to more traditional tourist pursuits. In fact, formany visitors to the city it tops their list of worthwhile thingsto see and do, particularly as Kolkata is so strongly associatedwith Mother Teresa in the global imagination. Mother House is amemorial and museum but it is also an active charity organisationwith real nuns at work. Donations of money or clothes are greatlyappreciated, and there is an orphanage nearby which is abeneficiary of the organisation and which some people like to visitto lend a hand. Mother House is a real gem in this sprawling cityand a special place to visit.
This 350-year-old temple dedicated to Kali is Kolkata's holiestsite, attracting a throng of excited pilgrims every day. Visitorsneed to tip one of the priests in order to get inside through themêlée of devotees. Inside the temple there are several shrines: aKrishna shrine where goats and buffalo are sacrificed to thegoddess (the meat is distributed to the poor); a shrine to thegoddess Manasa which consists of a tree, to which devotees(typically women) tie rocks with red thread in order to receiveblessings, usually regarding fertility; a Shiva shrine with a Vedicfire pit in which a fire ceremony is performed daily; and, ofcourse, a shrine to Kali which is a statue of the god with athree-eyed black skull and a long, golden tongue. Stalls sellingvotive items and various artefacts surround the temple. To avoidthe worst crowds, the best days to visit Kalighat Temple areWednesdays and Thursdays. Visitors are advised to take ample change(in Rs 10 denominations) to tip the various priests and ushers.Visiting the Kalighat Temple can be quite overwhelming as it is achaotic place but it is a fascinating experience and a good way tobe immersed in the local religion and culture.
One of Kolkata's most unusual sites, this palace was built by alocal member of the 19th century gentry in a marvellous patchworkof classical architectural styles. Lavish use is made of Italianmarble, and the lawns contain an eclectic pantheon of statuesincluding Christopher Columbus and the Buddha. The Marble Palace isa place of drama and dilapidation - and unsurprisingly, hasfrequently been used as a movie set. It remains a privateresidence, however, so you'll have to arrange a permit to view theinterior (a worthwhile activity, if only to gawk at the impressiveart lining the walls). Permits can be obtained from the West BengalTourism Information Bureau. With a permit, entrance to the palaceis free and a member of the staff will show visitors around andtell them about the place. Frequently, those who arrive without thepermit are persuaded by the guards to pay bribes to get in but thisis not advisable as one bribe may quickly lead to another a fewsteps later! Next to the palace is the Marble Palace Zoo, the firstzoo opened in India, which is now primarily an aviary, housingpeacocks, hornbills, pelicans, storks and cranes. No photography ispermitted in the palace.
Goa has some amazing beaches, and draws a steady stream of localand international tourists.
In the north, Anjuna Beach once played host to hordes ofhippies, but is now home to a number of trendy beach bars as wellas the famous Wednesday Market. The new hippie haven is Arambolbeach, also good for dolphin-viewing and paragliding. With itswhite-sand beaches, Vagator is gaining in popularity. However, thesea is not safe for swimming due to the rip tides. The busiest,most commercial beach is Calangutell, while neighbouring Baga Beachhas great nightlife spots.
In the south, Agonda is a quiet stretch of beach with a fewsouvenir stalls and restaurants, while Benaulim Beach, south ofColva, is known for its fishing and laid-back atmosphere. In recentyears, Benaulim has become popular with tourists wanting to getaway from Goa's party reputation and just lay back, jog along thelong stretch of beach and indulge in the city's fresh and healthyculinary fare. The shady palm trees and soft sands of PalolemBeach, also known as Paradise Beach, are backpacker territory.However, it's also a great place for a dolphin cruise orpicturesque sundowner at one of the many beach bars lining thewater. Nearby Patnem has some lovely beach huts available torent.
There are a couple of great beaches to take the kids to in Goa.The fishing village of Benaulim, near Colva, has a few quiet spotswith soft sand and beautiful clean water. A firm family favouriteis the Mandrem beach area, which offers shallow waters for kids toplay in, and beach beds for parents to relax on. Between the beachat Mandrem and the dunes, there's a little wooden bridge crossing ariver that kids love to play on.
A great outing in Goa is a trip to the Dudhsagar Waterfall,which is one of the most popular natural attractions in the area.The falls are located in a tropical jungle near the Goa-Karnatakaborder, and are surrounded by a network of gently flowing streamsand pools. Swimming, hiking and picnicking are popular pastimes atthe falls and the deep pool beneath the falls is a favourite naturespot. The waterfalls are among the 100 highest in the world, andvisitors who take the difficult climb to the top will be rewardedwith breathtaking views of the Western Ghats' wooded mountains.There are usually monkeys to be found in the jungle and around thefalls and they tend to be very tame because tourists often feedthem. Feeding the monkeys is prohibited because they quickly becomea nuisance when they associate people with easy food. They are funto watch and interact with but be cautious with your food andpossessions as they may try to take something. The most common wayto get to the falls is to take a fun 30-minute Jeep ride from theentrance to the jungle, but some intrepid travellers choose to walkalong the train rails from Castle Rock Station. The hike isbeautiful but it is over eight miles (14km) and should only beattempted by the fit.
The Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is home to around 400 species ofbirds, both local and migratory. Here visitors can expect to seekingfishers, pintails, coots and egrets, as well as a fewcrocodiles, jackals and foxes inhabiting the mangroves. Althoughthis is one of the smallest bird sanctuaries in Goa, it is amongthe most famous in India. It is important to go at the right timeof year: the best time to see the migratory birds is after themonsoon season, from October to March; and bird and animalsightings are likely to be better early in the morning. Thesanctuary is not a zoo and the animals are in no way enclosed soexperiences vary hugely with regard to how much people see. Themangroves themselves are interesting and beautiful and for manynature lovers a boat ride through this unusual landscape is reasonenough to visit the sanctuary. For those who prefer to explore onfoot, guided walks through the mangroves are also available. Bearin mind that exploring a swamp invariably means there will bemosquitoes - insect repellent and long-sleeved clothing are inorder. Photography is welcomed but there is a small extra fee forcameras.
Delhi is a city of contrasts, where an elephant can overtake asnazzy Italian sports car on the streets, where commanding colonialmansions stand next to overcrowded slums, and where cows arerevered but musicians are labelled 'untouchable'. The city's paceis chaotic, yet strangely relaxed, making it ideal for exploring.Visitors are almost certain to have some strange and exoticexperiences. The city is full of fascinating temples, museums,mosques and forts, each with a distinctive architectural style. InOld Delhi, visitors will find a charming selection of colourfulbazaars and narrow winding alleys. In comparison, New Delhi - thecity created to reflect the might of the British Empire - consistsof tree-lined avenues, spacious parks and sombre-looking governmentbuildings.
A great way to visit many of the sights around Delhi is on theHop On Hop Off Bus, which leaves every 30 minutes and stops atclose to 20 of Delhi's top tourist destinations. Tourists pay aonce-off fee and can hop on and off at a variety of monuments,gardens, bazaars, museums and galleries. The city is also ideal asa base for visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, and provides the bestlinks for travelling to the hill stations in northern India.
Cubbon Park is Bengaluru's equivalent of Central Park: a placeof relaxation, open space and some worthwhile attractions. In andaround the park are the State Central Library, two municipalmuseums, an art gallery and the Government Aquarium. The intenselyred Attara Kacheri, which houses the regional high court, isunmistakable and eminently photogenic. The State ArchaeologicalMuseum is one of the oldest in India, has artefacts dating back5,000 years, and is well worth a visit to gain some historicalcontext to this relentlessly modern city. The handsome andphotogenic Seshadri Memorial Library is another distinctly redbuilding on the fringes of the park. At the northern edge of CubbonPark is the imposing Vidhana Soudha, home to the State Legislatureand Secretariat. The massive sandalwood doors to the Cabinet are anotable feature of this handsome colonial structure, built in aneo-Dravidian style. The construction work was done by more than5,000 prisoners, who were set free once the building was finished,in 1956.
First and foremost, however, the park is a green lung, apeaceful and pretty place to take a break from the traffic andnoise of this bustling city. It is a great area for walkers andjoggers - particularly early in the morning and in the evenings.Tourists travelling with kids in Bengaluru will find Cubbon Parkhas many lovely picnic spots and open space to let off some steam;there is also boating on the lake and a toy train that runs aroundthe park. Note that there is a busy road running through the areaso it is not completely devoid of traffic.
This splendid botanical garden, laid out by Hyder Ali and hisson Tipu Sultan as a private royal garden in 1760, contains morethan 1,000 species of rare flora in its enormous grounds. Lal Baghis an internationally renowned centre for the scientific study andconservation of plants, and also a centre of botanical artwork. Thename Lal Bagh means 'red garden', in tribute to its celebrated redroses. The centrepiece of Lal Bagh is the Glass House, which hostsan annual flower show and is modelled after London's CrystalPalace. Apart from the many old and imposing trees which delightvisitors, the gardens also house a deer park, an aquarium, a lakeand one of the city's four Kempe Gowda Towers.
The gardens are large and very beautiful with a great variety ofscenery, many well-maintained paths to explore, and lots of shadynooks and lawns for picnics and relaxation. There are four entrancegates to the botanical garden and it is very popular with localsand visitors alike. None of the features are really stand-aloneattractions but the gardens are a refreshing green lung in acrowded city, and a lovely place to take a morning stroll or jogand enjoy the peace.
Famed as a hippie hangout since the 70s, the main source ofAnjuna's enduring popularity as a holiday destination is its superbbeach. Fringed by palm trees, the curve of soft white sand conformsmore closely to the archetypal vision of paradise than any otherbeach on the north coast. The quieter southern end is protected byrocky outcrops, while to the north the beach widens and stretchesfor almost a mile past groups of bars, cafés and handicraft stalls.Revellers from the UK and all over India come to Anjuna on holiday,lured by the club scene and the promise of big beach parties(particularly over Christmas and New Year). Outside this peakseason the resort normalises to a simple, relaxed atmosphere;except on Wednesdays, when locals and tourists flock from allaround to shop at the famous Flea Market and drink sundowners atone of the many restaurants and bars that stretch along the beach.The best place to spend a night out in Anjuna is the same placevisitors would probably have spent the day...the beach. Stopping inat any of the beach-front bars and restaurants for a cold beer canlead to a night of fun, with the bar owners dispensing great adviceabout the latest impromptu party.
Situated between two granite cliffs, this temple is part of amuch larger temple complex. The complex has three sacred poolswhich locals, and the monkeys, enjoy swimming in. This Hindi templeis slightly dilapidated but definitely still worth the trip out ofthe city - the views of Jaipur afforded from its vantage are simplyunforgettable. The best time to see the temple is at sunset, whenthe monkeys appear for their evening swim and when the light isstunning for photographs. The complex is covered in monkeys andsome other animals and it is not a polished, elegant place, but itis interesting and in its own way very beautiful. There may be mudand beggars and livestock in the mix with the crumbling beauty andsacred pools but for many this only adds authenticity and interest.The monkeys are tame and usually keen to interact with people -those who don't like animals should steer clear. They are notdangerous and tend to be quite gentle; many visitors bring alongfood for them. The temple is active and a good place to witnessIndian worship and people-watch.
For three months, between November and January each year, streetmusicians and performers of all kinds add to the colourfulatmosphere of Mumbai's Sunday street bazaars, held near theJehangir Art Gallery in the city's pedestrian plaza. The areabecomes a hive of activity and excitement between November andJanuary, with cultural performances and stalls selling a variety ofcrafts, folk art and food. The stretch has become such a hub ofcultural and artistic activity that it is now known as an artprecinct all year round.
The Kala Ghoda Art Precinct stretches from Regal Circle at thesouthern end of Mahatma Gandhi Road, to Mumbai University, which isfurther north on the same street. The attractions along thisstretch include the Mumbai National Gallery of Modern Art, thePrince of Wales Museum, the Jehanqir Art Gallery, the Kala GhodaPavement Gallery (where talented young artists exhibit their workon railings set up along the pavement), the Museum Gallery, andRampart Row (a restored heritage building packed with stores andrestaurants). The area also boasts some of the city's most popularrestaurants and is a great place to go shopping and eating-out.
Considered one of the most beautiful temples in the world - andthe veritable heart of the Sikh religion - it's no wonder thattourists come from all over the globe to see the Golden Temple ofAmritsar. Situated in the middle of a sacred lake fed by anunderground spring, the golden structure is a unique blend of Hinduand Muslim architectural styles. Within the temple is the AdiGrantha, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, displayed on ajewel-studded platform.
Visitors to the Golden Temple can enjoy the serene and spiritualatmosphere, with the sound of Sikh hymns accompanied by flutes,drums and stringed instruments. Next to the lake are the enormouspilgrims' dormitories; and at the gate is the information desk,where helpful and friendly staff will answer your questions andprovide free pamphlets on the temple and Sikh religion.
The best time to visit the Golden Temple of Amritsar is actuallyat night, when the Palki Sahib ceremony takes place. Dozens ofdevotees act as a human conveyor belt to carry the Granth Sahib (ashrine containing the Adi Grantha) from the main shrine to thesanctum, where it is kept until the opening ceremony the followingmorning. Visitors may participate in the ceremony, taking theirturn to shoulder the weight of the enormous shrine.
Visitors to the Golden Temple should be respectful of the Sikhculture. Smoking and alcohol is forbidden throughout the complex,and visitors must remove their shoes. Heads must be covered at alltimes - for those who forget, vendors will sell bandanas near thetemple. Alternatively, it is possible to borrow a head coveringfrom the pile kept at the entrance.
The Baga Beach holiday resort is a few miles south of Anjuna,and is basically an extension of Calangute. Lying in the lee of arocky, wooded headland, the only difference between this farnorthern end of the beach and its more congested centre is that thescenery here is marginally more varied and picturesque, and thebeach less crowded. It is a good swimming beach but there are nopromising breaks for surfers. However, there are lots of otherwatersports on offer. Hawkers can be an irritation but no more thanon most other popular stretches of sand in Goa; a firm 'no' usuallydoes the trick.
Baga Beach has the best range of restaurants and liveliestnightlife in the area, with a number of popular restaurants, beachbars and clubs to choose from.
The small, relaxed town of Hampi - located in the state ofKarnataka, about 220 miles (350km) from Bengaluru, and about thesame distance from Panaji (in the neighbouring state of Goa) - notonly boasts one of the weirdest, most awe-inspiring landscapes inthe whole of India, but is also a fascinating historical site. Thecapital of the once-great Vijayanagar Empire, the ruins of the14th-century village and temple complex found in present-day Hampihave been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, asimpressive as these ruins are (especially the multi-tiered,ornately-sculpted Virupaksha Temple), the grandstand attraction ofHampi remains its natural landscape. A severe, desolate andboulder-strewn wilderness, tempered by a slate-grey riversurrounded by lush groves of banana, mango and palm trees. Hampimight be slightly off the beaten track, but it is a manageableexcursion from Bengaluru and will deeply reward all those who seekout its thoroughly singular charms. Hampi is a must forrock-climbers and is considered the bouldering capital ofIndia.
Located on Kerala's southwestern coast, just 32 miles (50km)from the state capital of Trivandrum, Varkala is one of thosetourist destinations that gets more and more popular each year, asword of its stunning coastline and lively atmosphere gets out.Varkala is considered a less-crowded, less-commercial alternativeto the beautiful Goa; although Varkala's main beach (PapanasamBeach) cannot boast the white sand and towering palm trees of someof its Goan counterparts, it is flanked by a steep and staggeringlybeautiful cliff-face. As all the tourist accommodation, restaurantsand shops are located on top of this cliff, overlooking the water,it is almost a daily ritual in Varkala for life to come to astand-still at about sunset, and for everyone just to watch the sunsink into the Arabian Sea. The beaches are less crowded than in Goaand there are still many gems to be discovered in the area. Inbetween relaxing on the beach and shopping at the markets in town,tourists can also take an enjoyable walk to the nearbyJanardanaswamy Temple, a 2,000-year-old structure. Varkala is alsoa great centre for Ayurvedic medicine, and there are numeroustreatment and massage centres in the vicinity.
Once a peaceful fishing village - and then a haven forhedonistic hippies - Calangute is now Goa's busiest and mostcommercialised holiday resort, a 45-minute bus ride north of thecapital, Panaji. The road from the town to the beach is lined withKashmiri-run handicraft boutiques and Tibetan stalls sellingHimalayan curios and jewellery. The quality of the goods - mainlyRajasthani, Gujarati and Karnatakan textiles - is generally high,but haggle hard and don't be afraid to walk away (the same stuffwill crop up again and again). The Calangute beach is nothingspecial, but is more than large enough to accommodate the hugenumbers of holiday visitors. To escape the hawkers, visitors shouldhead fifteen minutes or so south of the main beachfront area,towards the rows of old wooden boats moored below the dunes. There,teams of villagers haul in their nets at high tide, and fishermencan be seen fixing their tack under bamboo shacks.
Calangute's bars and restaurants are mainly grouped around theentrance to the beach, and along Baga Road. As with most Goanresorts, the emphasis is firmly on seafood, though many places alsooffer vegetarian dishes, and western breakfasts featureprominently. Thanks to repeated crackdowns by the Goan police onparties and loud music, Calangute's nightlife is surprisingly tame,with most bars closing by 10pm, though there are someexceptions.
Colva is the oldest and most heavily-developed South Goanholiday resort. The town itself is dotted with colonial-stylevillas and ramshackle fishing huts, but the beachfront is crowdedand blighted with unimaginative concrete hotels, snack bars andsouvenir stalls. Indian tourists and local children mill aroundthis central area and foreigners are pestered by traders andbeggars. However, it is easy to steer clear of this central area:within a few minutes' stroll from here the beach is spotless andrelatively quiet. Benaulim is only a 30-minute walk to the south,still on Colva beach, and attracts a more upmarket clientele,including British and Indian visitors on holiday. There are manyluxury resorts along the coastal stretch, and brightly-paintedwooden fishing boats litter the beach. The hawkers and touts hereare persistent, but in a good-humoured rather than aggressive way.To escape completely, visitors can hire a bicycle and ride furthersouth along Colva beach, beyond Taj Exotica, which stretches formiles with the only possible interruption likely to be a stray cowwandering along the sand.
Restaurants line the beachfront at both Colva and Benaulim, andin general the food is of an excellent standard, and the atmosphereis much better than at the hotel restaurants. For the freshestfish, aim for the more popular restaurants.
The state of Himachal Pradesh's largest hill station,Dharamsala, is a gorgeous and deeply spiritual place. With a largeTibetan population, the community centres around the teachings andactivities of Tenzin Gyatso - the 14th and current Dalai Lama - whoresides in Dharamsala for large portions of the year. Cool, alpineDharamsala has been attracting hordes of tourists for years. Someare drawn by its staunch and inspiring Buddhist culture; others bythe meditation, yoga, reiki and cooking classes on offer in thearea known as McLeod Ganj; and yet others simply come to enjoy itsconsiderable natural beauty. Hikers will be overawed by the trailsavailable to them to explore - the pick of the bunch being the walkup to the summit of Triund, from where explorers can enjoy fineviews of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance. Dharamsala is apopular tourist haunt that has somehow managed to keep itselfunspoiled and retain its traditional outlook and charm; visitors toIndia who find themselves overwhelmed by the smoggy, freneticcities of the plain, should retreat to Dharamsala for some rest andrejuvenation. For anybody interested in Buddhism, this attractionis a must.
For years Palolem remained a secret holiday getaway to all butthe most independent traveller. Situated towards the southern tipof Goa, twenty miles south of Margao, it has now been discovered -but thankfully, due to strict urban planning restraints, tourism iskept in check. Palolem's crescent-shaped bay is lined with abeautiful white sand beach and backed with groves of coconut palms.Either side of the bay is a rocky headland covered in thick blackforest, and offshore there is a tiny island whose only permanentinhabitants are a colony of black-faced langur monkeys. Althoughthere aren't really any watersports facilities on the beach - thevibe is more relaxed than active - visitors can take boat rides outinto the bay to see the dolphins and maybe even swim with them. Thebeach is also lined with a selection of beach shacks andbar-cum-restaurants serving up the daily catch and lots of otherkinds of meals and snacks. During December and January the beachswells with day-trippers, who come to escape the more commercialresorts. However, outside this peak season, Palolem returns to abreezy, sedate pace, and one of the reasons it is so special isbecause it is generally less crowded and much less commercial thanmost beaches in Goa.
Kumbhalgarh is a massive Mewar fortress built in the 15thcentury, with seven heavily fortified gateways and a perimeter wallthat extends a staggering 22 miles (36km); possibly the secondlongest continuous wall in the world. Inside this intimidatingcomplex there are more than 360 temples (300 ancient Jain and therest Hindu) in addition to the main palace. The fortress hasimmense sentimental significance for local inhabitants because itis the birthplace of Mewar's legendary king, Maharana Pratap.Needless to say, one can spend hours exploring this architecturaland historical playground, and those who enjoy climbing will findmany opportunities. The views from the many vantage points of thisfortress are astounding.
Legend has it that the maharana who built Kumbhalgarhencountered some construction difficulties and consulted aspiritual advisor who decreed that a voluntary human sacrificewould enable the project. A volunteer was eventually found and theposition of the decapitated head and body signalled where buildingshould go forward. A shrine to this unknown volunteer can still befound in the main gate.
Kumbhalgarh is situated about 50 miles (82km) to the northwestof Udaipur and the drive will take about one and a half hours,making it a manageable and rewarding excursion. The fort isextremely well-maintained and the fact that it is a little remoteensures that there are seldom crowds, despite how astounding anattraction it is. There is a sound and light show in the eveningsbut it is conducted in Hindi.
Jallianwala Bagh is a sombre historical attraction; it is thesite of the April 13, 1919 Amritsar massacre, when hundreds ofinnocents were gunned down by British troops. Thousands of men,women and children had gathered peacefully in the Jallianwala Baghgarden to celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi, but, as publicgatherings were illegal at the time, the British decided to make anexample of them: between 379 and 1,000 people were killed, and morethan 1,000 wounded in this tragedy. The Martyr's Well, which canstill be seen at the site today, was a death trap because manytried to leap into it to escape the bullets - 120 bodies werepulled out of the well. The massacre was a turning point forBritish colonial rule in India and, ultimately, a step towards thecountry's independence.
The site is now a quiet and peaceful memorial garden and museum.The monument to the slain was built in 1961. The bullet holes onthe walls and buildings surrounding the park are still clearlyvisible and serve as a harrowing reminder of the mass murder.Jallianwala Bagh is a moving and interesting addition to theitinerary of anybody exploring Amritsar that has an interest inhistory. It is located conveniently close to the Golden Temple.
Varanasi has seen human settlement as far back as the 11thcentury BC. The 'city of light' is an intense mix of colour,sights, sounds and smells. Among many astonighing sights are themore than 100 ghats (literally 'steps') leading down into theGanges. These are the sites of bathing and burning, where intimaterituals of life and death can be witnessed in public. ManikarnikaGhat is the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be cremated.Dasaswamedh Ghat (the 'ghat of ten sacrificed horses') is theliveliest and most colourful ghat, where every evening visitors canwitness the ganga aarti (river worship) ceremony. Assi Ghat, wherethe river Assi meets the Ganges, is an important site of worshipfor pilgrims who come to pay homage to the god Shiva.
Dotted around the ghats are numerous temples, the highlightbeing the Golden Temple, with its resplendent towers. Varanasi isworld-famous for its silks, and silk brocades, and does a roaringtrade with pilgrims and tourists alike. The city is home to manypoets, musicians, novelists and philosophers. Visitors are stronglyencouraged to spend some time in the city's tea-houses and localrestaurants, where they are guaranteed to be embroiled in somefascinating conversations.
Hindi Phrase Book
|shukhriya/ dhanyavaad||thank you||shook-riya /dhun-ya-vaad|
|mera naam ... hai||my name is...||may-ra naam ... hey|
|kitna hua...?||how much is...?||kith-na...?|
|... kaha hai?||where is�?||� kaha hey?|
|kyaa aap angrézee?||do you speak English?||apko angrezi ati hai?|
|mai samjha nahi||I don't understand�||mai sum-jhi n-|
|ek, do, teen, chaar, paanch||one, two three, four, five||ek, dow, tin, char, panch|
|mujhko doctor chahie||I need a doctor||muj-ko doctor cha-hie|
It is hard to generalise in a country that runs from theHimalayas to the beaches of the Indian Ocean and encompasses half adozen climatic regions, but broadly speaking, India has a tropicalclimate which is dominated by monsoons, heat and humidity. Tropicalhurricanes and cyclones are also part of the general weatheroutlook in the middle and at the end of the year, especially incoastal areas. On average, October through to March tend to be themost pleasant months in India, when it is relatively dry and cool,but the best time to visit really does depend on the destination.In the far south the best months to visit are between January andSeptember; northeastern areas of India tend to be more comfortablebetween March and August; the deserts of Rajasthan (west ofJodhpur) and the northwestern Indian Himalayan region are at theirbest during the monsoon season (July to September); and themountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir should bevisited over the summer months (May to September). Whenever onevisits it is bound to be hot, which is why generally the summermonths are best avoided in favour of the cooler winter and moremild shoulder seasons.
This diverse restaurant specialises in Japanese, Malaysian,Indonesian and Balinese cuisine, and is a firm favourite whendining out in Mumbai. Dishes such as oriental crab bisque, Nonyabamboo chicken and Norwegian salmon flavoured with dill, lemonbutter and crisp seaweed are not to be missed. For those with asweet tooth, try the chocolate cigar with prune and Armagnac icecream. Reservations recommended.
Serving traditional Rajasthani, Maharashtrian, Sindhi andKathiawadi Thali, Rajdhani is a vegetarian restaurant popular withboth locals and tourists. Traditional favourites such as roti and are not to be missed. Open daily for lunch and dinner.Closed on Sundays.
An unusual restaurant, Jimmy Boy Restaurant serves Farsi andIranian food, with favourites on the menu including the chickendhansak and chicken jardaloo, which are both specialities here andprobably the most flavourful dishes on the menu. This is a greatplace to sample some of the subcontinent's lesser-known fare. Opendaily for lunch and dinner.
Popular with Mumbai's elite, Trishna has a formidablereputation, and prides itself on its seafood dishes. With a sisterrestaurant in London, a visit to Trishna is a must while in Mumbai,even if just to sample the flagship dish, the butter pepper garlicking crab. Open daily for lunch and dinner (dinner only onSundays). Reservations essential.
Appearing more like an odds-and-ends treasure trove than therelaxed eatery that it is, Chor Bazaar (the 'thieves' market') isadorned with unusual décor pieces such as matchboxes, antique combsand ivory sandals, as well as an old jukebox. Menu favouritesinclude the Kashmiri specialty of (lamb meatballs) with cardamom, and the Kashmiri (thali) platter. Open daily for lunch and dinner;reservations recommended.
Located in the heart of Old Delhi, the true home of Mughlaicuisine, the Karim Hotel restaurant has an informal atmosphere anddates back to the early 1900s. Authentic Mughlai dishes on the menuinclude mutton kebabs, tandoori (lamb stuffed with chicken, rice, egg and fruit), and (chicken cooked in butter). Open daily forbreakfast, lunch and dinner; reservations recommended.
Experience Mughlai cuisine in style at the Park Balluchirestaurant in Delhi's beautiful Deer Park. The restaurant'sturbaned waiters serve a feast of kebabs and spicy tandoor dishes,including (kebabs with chicken and prawns or mince) and (tandoor grilled lamb). The restaurant has asecond branch located near Leisure Valley Park in the city centre.Both are open daily for lunch and dinner; reservationsrecommended.
The trendy S Bar, recently renamed from its previous name;Shalom, serves delicious Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine in anupmarket, romantic setting. The restaurant's tapas selectionincludes lemon, paprika and garlic fish skewers or a Spanishasparagus and orange salad, while the main menu features dishessuch as Dubai duck (served in a lemon and honey sauce, with apricotand cinnamon flavours). Be sure to leave room for the decadentmolten chocolate cake dessert! Open daily for lunch and dinner;reservations recommended.
For travellers who really want to splash out, Bukhara is theonly place to go. With a host of awards to its name, Bukhara hasbeen voted 'Best Indian Restaurant in the World' by the UK'sRestaurant Magazine. With dishes like dhal bukhara (tomato, gingerand garlic simmered black lentils) and mouthwateringly delicioustandoori prawns, it is easy to see why it comes so highlyrecommended. The restaurant designed a selection of platters namedthe Hillary Platter, the Presidential Platter and the ChelseaPlatter following a visit by the Clinton family in 2009. Open dailyfor lunch and dinner, reservations are a must.
Serving up northwestern Indian dishes inspired by the cuisineencountered by the British on the frontier in 1990, Peshawri is afirm favourite with travellers looking for an upmarket restaurantpromising authentic Indian fare. The food is cooked in traditional'tandoor' clay ovens and the ambience is friendly butsophisticated. Open daily for lunch and supper.
The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed atbanks, and authorised bureaux de change. It is illegal to exchangemoney through the black market and it is advisable to refuse tornnotes, as no one will accept them apart from the National Bank. Itis best to change money into small denominations. Major creditcards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientatedestablishments. ATMs are available in large cities and airports butare not generally available in rural areas.
Although English is generally used for official andbusiness purposes, Hindi is the official language and is spoken byabout 40 percent of the population. Urdu is the language commonwith the Muslim demographic. India has a total of 22 officiallanguages.
230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of power outlets are usedin India, but most plugs have two or three roundpins.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for theirintended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India. E-visas can beobtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa forthe first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visapages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic TravelAuthorisation (ETA).
UK citizens must have a passport that is valid for theirintended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India. E-visas can beobtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa forthe first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visapages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic TravelAuthorisation (ETA).
Canadian citizens must have a visa and a passport that is validfor their period of intended stay. E-visas can be obtained beforedeparture, with a printed confirmation of their purchase, alongwith two unused visa pages, needing to be presented on arrival.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for theirintended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India as tourists.Australian citizens can apply for visas online before travelprovided they have a printed copy of the e-Toursit visa confimationthat was applied for online, a passport containing at least twounused visa pages, and return or onward tickets.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid fortheir period of intended stay, and a visa, to enter India. SouthAfrican citizens can apply for visas online before travel, providedthey have a printed copy of the e-Toursit visa confimation that wasapplied for online, as well as a passport containing at least twounused visa pages.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for theirintended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India. E-visas can beobtained before departure. Irish citizens can apply for visasonline before travel provided they have a printed copy of thee-Toursit visa confimation that was applied for online, as well asa passport containing at least two unused visa pages.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for theirintended period of stay, and a visa, to enter India. E-visas can beobtained online before departure. Passengers using the e-visa forthe first time must have a passport with at least 2 unused visapages, and printed confirmation of the Electronic TravelAuthorisation (ETA).
Citizens of New Zealand must have a passport that is valid forthe period of intended stay, and a visa, to enter India. NewZealanders can apply for visas online before travel provided theyhave a printed copy of the e-Tourist visa confirmation that wasapplied for online, a passport containing at least two unused visapages, and return or onward tickets. e-Tourist visas can only beissued a maximum of two times per calendar year.
Visa extensions are not possible for tourist visas. Other visasmay be eligible for extensions, which are applied for through theMinistry of Foreign Affairs.
Holders of multiple-entry Tourist Visas (visa type code "T"),with a validity ranging from above three months and up to 10 years,are no longer required to leave a gap of at least two monthsbetween visits unless they are nationals from Afghanistan, China,Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Bangladesh.
Indian law does not permit dual citizenship for nationals ofIndia. An Indian national holding dual nationality should contacttheir embassy or consulate for further information. Passengers inpossession of an "Overseas Citizen of India" card or a "Person ofIndian Origin" card, however, are liable to enter the countrywithout a visa.
Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, ifarriving in India within six days of leaving or transiting throughheavily infected areas. Also note that the following areas of Indiaare restricted, and require that visitors obtain a permit BEFOREentering them: (Protected Areas) parts of the state of Manipur,parts of the state of Mizoram, parts of the state of ArunachalPradesh, the whole state of Nagaland, the whole State of Sikkim,parts of the state of Uttaranchal, parts of the state of Jammu andKashmir, parts of the state of Rajasthan, parts of the state ofHimachal Pradesh; (Restricted Areas) the whole of the unionterritory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, part of the state ofSikkim. If surface travel is involved, and nationals travel viarestricted areas, they require a "pass" issued by either theForeigners Regional Registration Office (located in each majorIndian city), or the Superintendent of Police (located in eachIndian district), or the diplomatic representation of India inBhutan or Nepal.
NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at leastsix months validity remaining after your intended date of departurefrom your travel destination. Immigration officials often applydifferent rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.
There are many health risks associated with travel to India.Although no vaccinations are required for entry into the country,travellers should take medical advice on vaccinations at leastthree weeks before departure. Outbreaks of dengue fever andchikungunya virus occur, both transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria iscommon, particularly in the northeast of the country. Outbreaks ofcholera occur frequently. Travellers coming to India from aninfected area should hold a yellow fever certificate. Rabies isalso a hazard; travellers should get immediate medical advice ifbitten.
Food poisoning is the most common problem among travellers toIndia. Visitors should only drink bottled water and ensure that theseal on the bottle is intact. Avoid ice, as it's often made fromtap water. Meat and fish should be eaten with care in all but thebest restaurants, and should always be well cooked and served hot.Salads and unpeeled fruit should be avoided.
Health facilities are adequate in the larger cities, but limitedin rural areas. Travellers should have comprehensive medicalinsurance, and carry a small first-aid kit complete with atravellers diarrhoea kit and a course of general antibiotics.
In India, taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped. However,tipping is expected for other services (porters, guides, hotelstaff and waiters in small establishments). In tourist restaurantsor hotels a 10 percent service charge is often added to bills.'Baksheesh' is common in India: more a bribe than a tip, it isgiven before rather than after service.
Although the vast majority of trips to India are trouble free,there are some risks that travellers should be aware of. As in manycountries, there is a threat of terrorism; in the past there havebeen attacks in popular tourist haunts like hotels, markets andtemples. Travellers should take caution at large religious events,where huge crowds can result in life-threatening stampedes.
On a more everyday level, there is a risk of minor theft, suchas pick-pocketing, but incidents of violent crime in India are low.Travellers using India's vast railway network are advised to locktheir baggage, and keep it close. Visitors should be on guard; ifsomeone offers a 'business opportunity' that seems too be good tobe true, it probably is.
Female travellers should note that there are rare incidents ofrape and assault. Women should respect local dress codes andcustoms, and avoid travel to secluded rural areas, includingbeaches, at any time of day.
*General elections are taking place in India between 11 Apriland 19 May 2019. Visitors are advised to exercise caution and avoidlarge gatherings associated with the election process.
*On 17th April, Jet Airways announced the cancellation of alldomestic and international flights. Affected passengers can contactJet Airways directly for information on alternative arrangements.For more information, passengers can also go to the Civil AviationAuthority (CAA) website
India is a tolerant society, but visitors should educatethemselves about the countries religious and social customs so asnot to cause offence: for example, smoking in public was banned in2008. When visiting temples visitors will probably be required toremove their footwear and cover their heads. Generally, womenshould dress more conservatively than they may be used to doing athome, both to respect local sensibilities and to avoid unwantedattention. Topless bathing is illegal. Indians do not like todisappoint, and often instead of saying 'no', will come up withsomething that sounds positive, even if incorrect. Social order andstatus are very important in Indian culture - remain respectful andobliging with elders. Avoid using your left hand, particularly wheneating.
Business in India is conducted formally, with punctuality animportant aspect. Suits and ties are appropriate, and women inparticular should dress modestly. If it is very hot, jackets areusually not required and short-sleeve shirts are deemedappropriate. It is customary to engage in small talk before gettingdown to business, and topics can range from anything from cricketto politics. Business cards are usually exchanged on initialintroduction, using the right hand only. Handshakes are fairlycommon, though one should wait to see if greeted with a hand, or a'namaste' - a traditional Indian greeting of a small bowaccompanied by hands clasped as if in prayer. Visitors shouldreturn the greeting as it is given. It is common for women toparticipate in business meetings, and hold high positions incompanies, and foreign businesswomen are readily accepted. Businesshours are usually from 9.30 to 5.30pm (weekdays) with a lunch breakfrom 1pm to 2pm, and Saturdays from 9.30am to 1pm.
The international access code for India is +91. Internationalcalls are expensive and there are often high surcharges on callsmade from hotels. Buying a local SIM card is a good option, asinternational roaming fees can be high. Free wifi is offered atcafes and hotels in major cities.
Travellers to India over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 100cigarettes or 25 cigars or 125g tobacco; two litre bottle ofalcohol; medicine in reasonable amounts; and goods for personaluse. Prohibited items include livestock, bird and pig meatproducts.
Indian Tourist Office, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2332 0005 orwww.incredibleindia.org
Indian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 9397000.
Indian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 78368484.
Indian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 7443751/52/53
Indian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 3425392.
Indian High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 62254900.
Indian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 496 6787.
Indian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 4736390/1.
United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 8000.
British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 2100.
Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4178 2000.
South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 26149411.
Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4139 9900.
Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4940 3200.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2688 3170.