India Tourism - Visit India

India, it is often said, is not a country, but a continent. Stretching from the frozen summits of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala, its expansive borders encompass an incomparable range of landscapes, cultures and people.

India Tourism also brings a fantastic opportunity of backwater tour in its vast, eloquent beaches. The magnanimous beaches of Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu soak ever moods along with the tranquility of the nature. Kovalam, Baga, Marine Drive, Calangute, Juhu Beach, Dona Paula Beach are some of the magnificent sea-sides that brings tremendous enjoyable options for the party freaks and the romantic honeymooners along with some relaxing Ayurvedic Treatment Centers and Spa therapies.

India - The land of Tigers and Elephants, is one of the most interesting wildlife destinations in the world and offers plenty of wildlife tour options for enthusiast wildlife lovers.

Getting around in India                                                                                                                

India is a vast country but luckily for the traveller, it is extensively linked by public transport. All major towns and cities have airports. Even very small towns are connected by rail with Indian Railways maintaining the biggest network in Asia. ‘Toy trains’ are quaint, neat and narrow gauge; pretty like the hillsides they chug up. The roads and highways may not be state-of-the art multi-lane expressways but if it’s basically about getting to places, they serve the purpose well! The bus network, privately run and state operated is extensive.

Traffic drives on the left hand side and it is possible to hire cars, but more easily chauffeur driven ones. Self drive cars are hard to come by as the government does not issue licenses for these. That’s fine, believe us, because you will appreciate your driver here! Roads are reasonably good in parts, specially the major highways. Near towns and villages they deteriorate and depending on the season, crumble into tracks in some areas. Valid documentation is an International Driver’s License. Taxis and three wheeler auto rickshaws are ubiquitous in the Indian urban and even semi rural landscape. Most small towns have motorcycle rentals.

Travel by water is not popular but there are ships to the Andamans from Calcutta, Chennai and Vishakhapatnam. Backwater cruises in converted rice boats called Kettuvalams are a delight in the lazy lagoons of Kerala.

How to Get to India                                                                                                                      

How to get to India by Air
The major international airports in India, which serve traffic from all over the world, are in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Airports tend to be on the outskirts of cities. Pre-paid taxi services and auto-rickshaws are stationed outside the terminus to get you into the city.

How to get to India by Rail
Railways do not cut across international borders in this part of the world except the Samjhauta (i.e. "understanding"!) Express that runs between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan). But since the running of the train is subject to relations between the two countries it would be prudent to check if the train is running. However, in many cases it is possible to travel till the border by train.

How to get to India by Road
Except the Lahore-Delhi bus which used to run 4 times a week, but is now erratic, there are no cross border coach services. It is possible to drive into India with the requisite paperwork in order. Even driving in from Nepal now requires a permit. Permits may be arranged through the Indian embassy in your country.

Sightseeing in India                                                                                                                      

There is a vast range for sightseeing in India. From wildlife parks where tigers roam free to temple trails that will take you on a wondrous spiritual journey, from sandy beaches along its vast shoreline to towering mountains in the north – India has something for everyone!

India’s jungles, rivers and streams are simply bursting with wildlife; much of it protected in her 80 National Parks and 441 Sanctuaries. Popular ones are Corbett, Rajaji and Dudhwa (Uttar Pradesh), Kanha, Pench (Madhya Pradesh) and Sasan Gir (Gujarat).Sariska and Ranthambore (Rajasthan), Kaziranga, Manas (Assam), Mudumalai, Bandipore and Wyanad (Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve-Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala) are the other well known game sanctuaries. Keoladeo Ghana, Bharatpur (Rajasthan) is a famous bird sanctuary. Find yourself as you lose the cares of life in the city.

If you are looking for some spiritual upliftment and are more curious about Indian temples then there are plenty of options all over this mesmerizing country. The gilded gurudwaras in Amritsar, ancient weather-beaten cathedrals in Goa, ‘dargahs’ (mausoleums) of Muslim saints and grand temples to the innumerable Hindu deities; these houses of worship are as precious as works of art.

Catch the trail as it runs through Ajmer, Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Varanasi, Madurai, Sarnath, Gaya, Orchha, Tanjore, Trichy, Tirupati, Mathura, Ayodhya, Jammu, Badrinath, Haridwara and Rishikesh. The legacy of spiritual succour lives on in the land of exotica. In Pune, Pondicherry, Puttaparthy and Dharamsala, Osho, Auroville, the Sai Baba and Buddhist monks explore a new life, of what is and what could be.

Explore the same along turquoise blue and breezy beaches along the coast. Windswept or sunny, India’s beaches are peculiarly Indian. Crowded and cheery, sometimes dirty, always delightful, you’ll find them in Kerala’s Kovalam, in the Andamans and Lakshadweep, in Goa, quiet Gokarna, and ‘templescaped’ Puri, Kanyakumari and Mahabalipuram.

Ruins of forts, palaces, picturesque ‘havelis’ (large private houses) and mausoleums pepper the landscape. In and around Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, all over the country actually, historical sites intrigue the history enthusiast. Important sites are Hampi, Khajuraho, Mandu, Aurangabad, Bikaner, Goa, Gwalior, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Mahabalipuram, Tanjore and Mysore.

Museums, business centres, nightlife, large markets, embassies and consulates mark space in the bigger cities of India. Bustling with activity, bristling with high voltage energy, busy-busy-busy, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Calcutta, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad make up India’s urban landscape.

The world’s highest mountains form a tall 2500 km long wall along India’s northeast frontier and are prime climbing territory for the outdoor types. The mountainous regions of Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Leh are high altitude trekking options.

The "blue mountains" of the Nilgiri Hills in the Deccan, and the lower reaches of the Himalayas in Garhwal, Kumaon and around Darjeeling are simpler and ideal for a leisurely hike. From stark white mountains framed against sheer clear blue to forested hills that enclose rushing streams, there is endless variety for the hiker. In the hills, in tiny towns with winding ‘mall roads’ survive the British legacy of "hill stations." These cool getaways from the simmering plains continue to entertain weekend tourists in the summers. Shimla, Manali, Kasauli and Mussoorie in the north, Shillong, Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the east, Ooty and Munnar in the south are the most popular.

So much to do, so much to see.....so little time! That holds completely true for the Indian experience. Don’t push yourself to do it all because that’s well nigh impossible but choose well and plan little, open your mind and be gathered up by the experience that the world calls "India".

Shopping in India                                                                                                                                 

 Shopping in India is an expedition on its own! All over India makeshift markets line streets. Paan-sellers dot market corners, villages have busy market-days, deserted mountain trails boast lone tea-stalls that count as a whole settlement, and city roads all lead to snazzy malls! While shopping has always been big for Indians, as current trends go, ‘Indian’ is now big in shopping.

Ethnic chic, glitz and kitsch, whether it’s clothes, carpets or clutter, if it’s Indian, it’s in! To name a little that could fill your bags: Kashmiri carpets that rival Persian rugs or rugged durries of natural fibre in vibrant colours and rural motifs. Perfumes extracted from the sweetest of flowers, opulent silks and block-printed cotton. Beads and trinkets, silver and gold, mirror-work Rajasthani skirts, tie-and-dye, inexpensive leather ware, and statues in metal or stone - there is no dearth of places to shop in India!

Look out for the bright red, yellow, green and blue handloom from the ‘seven sisters’ in the Northeast; Karnataka Bidriware (silver inlay on blackened white metal); Kanjeevaram and Benaras saris with gold woven into multihued silks; beads, bangles and other ornaments everywhere; shell craft, pretty sandals, kurta and pyjamas at Delhi’s designer shops, brass from UP, bronze in the south; Darjeeling tea, and Coorg coffee.

Eating Out in India                                                                                                                                  

If you are a foodie, your quest for variety in cuisines will be short-lived as places to eat in India abound! The call of "Chai-garam" proclaims the availability of hot tea on obscure railway platforms, and if you are tempted you’ll singe your tongue to one of the truest Indian experiences with food and drink. From the foil packed dinner trays that is railway dining to the gourmet meals on dull silver that is fine dining, it’s all available in India.

In the cities the most popular international cuisines are Chinese, Italian, ‘Continental’/European and Thai. Lasagna, pasta, chop suey and red curries abound on menus. The most widely available Indian foods are definitely Mughlai and south Indian. Harking back to the days of the Mughals, Mughlai cuisine relies on aromatic spices, and succulent meats either curried or roasted in a tandoor and it can be very heavy. South Indian food is predominantly vegetarian, light and tangy.

When it comes to eating out in India, one will be spoilt for choice! Frothy coffee that sizzles out of a bright machine, chicken burger served up in a jiffy and with a smile; fast food has come into its own in India. Many worldwide chains have set up shop in India’s cities and from Pune to Delhi, the American get-and-go eating experience is yours for the asking.

Originally the truckers’ meal deal, ‘dhabas’ have proliferated along the highways and cater to all wayfarers. These shack establishments serve some great food at hard to beat prices, but since plates are not cleaned in the clearest of waters this dining experience may not be too safe.

Theatre and the arts are feted in the urban centres of Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Pune and Bangalore. Hollywood fare also reaches the big screens here almost the same day of their American release. The Hindi movie, that quintessentially Indian phenomenon, is a must-see. Slake your thirst for nightlife and twinkle any tingling toes at the pubs, nightclubs and discos. There is little by way of entertainment in the smaller towns and cities except the cinema halls and maybe the odd locally produced cultural show.

Festivals and Events in India                                                                                                             

India’s calendar is full of very special events: festivals of religion, harvests and culture are celebrated with aplomb. India has three national holidays when all establishments across the country are compulsorily closed: 15th August-Independence Day, 2nd October-Gandhi’s birthday and 26th January-Republic Day, which is an extravaganza of a parade.

Festivals and holidays differ in different regions and some are universally appreciated across the country. The winter festival of lights, Diwali, is celebrated in cities, towns and dusty villages with twinkling lamps and fireworks and is one of the most celebrated and famous festivals in India. Spring brings myriad hues to the world around and also the festival of Holi - a happily messy rite of water and colour. The harvest brings joy and festivities of another order and is celebrated as Pongal in the south, and Bihu in the east and Baisakhi in the north. Christmas in Goa is still the most special but the cheer spreads everywhere. The month of Ramadan and feasting is important to Muslims. Other important religious events include Id-ul-Fitr, Id-ul-Zuha, the Prophet’s birthday, Good Friday, Dussehra, Buddha Purnima (Buddha’s birthday) and Guru Nanak’s birthday.

Besides these, dance festivals in southern temple towns in December and car festivals of Puri and Madurai when the temple chariots are wheeled around the city, and the Nehru Cup boat race in the Kerala's backwaters (second Saturday of August) bring more occasions to celebrate.

Best Time to Visit India                                                                                                                     

 The best time to visit India is between October and March. Temperatures in northern India are pleasant and range in the 25-10 degrees Celsius during the daytime in these months, making it pleasant for sightseeing.

Between October to March is the peak season for tourists in India as the weather is conducive and the country celebrates many colourful festivals. Dussehra is celebrated in October and is followed 20 days later by the festival of lights- Diwali. Come March, it is time for Holi: coloured powder, water fights and sweetmeats! Pretty Pushkar in Rajasthan holds Asia’s largest camel fair in November; in February it’s time for the Mardi Gras carnival in Goa.

Rajasthan is colourful and extremely pleasant with pleasant days and cold nights during this time. The winter months are also ideal for wildlife enthusiasts and this is the best time to visit wildlife parks like Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh amongst others.

The major deterrent to visiting India in summer is the oppressive heat and humidity. Temperatures in north India hit the 45 degree Celsius mark and the rains lash the west coast from Kerala to Goa and Mumbai during June and July, making humidity levels high. However, the months from March-May and September-November are prime trekking time in the Himalayas, and if you plan to concentrate on hilly areas then this is a good period in which to visit.

Climate                                                                                                                                                   

In a country where topography varies wildly, climatic conditions are only bound to vary wildly too. Classified as a hot tropical country by many, that is a definition that holds true for most of but not all of India. Exceptions include the northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir in the north and Sikkim in the northeastern hills.

In most of India summer is hot. It begins in April and continues till the beginning of October. The heat peaks in June with temperatures in the northern plains and the west soaring above 46° C. The monsoons hit the country during this period too, beginning 1st of June when they are supposed to find the Kerala coast. Moisture laden trade winds sweep the country bringing relief to a parched northern India but devastation in the east where the rivers Brahmaputra and Ganga flood annually. Tamil Nadu in the south receives rainfall between October and December, beneficiary of the retreating monsoons.

India’s extensive coastline lies almost entirely below the Tropic of Cancer. The coast is usually warm and moist, prone to heavy rains in the monsoons and high summer temperatures. The eastern coast is vulnerable to cyclones. Winters here are mild and pleasantly sunny.

Hill Stations are the happy peculiarity that came up here when British wives and officers needed to flee the oppressive heat and malaria of the plains. Quaint towns that buzz along "mall roads", tucked away in hills all over India, they are now weekend getaways at the height of summer for families and couples from India’s cities.

The plains in the north and even the barren countryside of Rajasthan reel under a cold wave every year in December-January. Minimum temperatures could dip below 4° C but maximum temperatures usually do not fall lower than 12° C. In the northern high altitude areas of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, and parts of Uttar Pradesh, it snows through the winter and even summer months are only mildly warm. The east receives rain from April to August. September to November is relatively dry and the region only has sporadic showers. There are winter rains in December and January. This abates for two months and then it’s time for the monsoon season yet again. The central plateau has similar climate to the north but the mercury does not dip as low in winter. It rains from mid-June to September. 

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