"India " A land of remarkable diversity – from ancient traditions and artistic heritage to magnificent landscapes and culinary creations – India will ignite your curiosity, shake your senses and warm your soul. Exploring India: The Great Outdoors From the towering icy peaks of the northern mountains to the sun-washed beaches of the southern coast, India's dramatic terrain is breathtaking. Along with abundant natural beauties, exquisite temples rise majestically out of pancake-flat deserts and crumbling fortresses peer over plunging ravines. Aficionados of the great outdoors can scout for big jungle cats on wildlife safaris, paddle in the shimmering waters of beautiful beaches, take blood-pumping treks high in the Himalaya, or simply inhale pine-scented air on a meditative forest walk. Food, Glorious Food Brace yourself – you’re about to take one of the wildest culinary trips of your travelling life. Here you'll fry, simmer, sizzle, knead, roast and flip across a deliciously diverse repertoire of dishes. The hungry traveller can look forward to a tasty smorgasbord of regionally distinct recipes, all with their own traditional preparation techniques and presentation styles – from the competing flavours of masterfully marinated meats and thalis to the simple splendour of vegetarian curries and deep-sea delights. Expect the Unexpected India tosses up the unexpected. This can be challenging, particularly for the first-time visitor: the poverty is confronting, Indian bureaucracy can be exasperating and the crush of humanity may turn the simplest task into a frazzling epic. Even veteran travellers find their nerves frayed at some point; yet this is all part of the India ride. With an ability to inspire, frustrate, thrill and confound all at once, adopting a 'go with the flow' attitude is wise if you wish to retain your sanity. Love it or loathe it – and most travellers see-saw between the two – to embrace India's unpredictability is to embrace its soul. Simply Soul Stirring Spirituality is the common characteristic painted across the vast and varied canvas that is contemporary India. The multitude of sacred sites and rituals are testament to the country's long, colourful, and sometimes tumultuous, religious history. And then there are its festivals! India hosts some of the world's most divine devotional celebrations – from formidable city parades celebrating auspicious events on the religious calendar to simple village harvest fairs that pay homage to a locally worshipped deity. Kashmir – For its captivating natural beauty One of the most incredible places in India, Kashmir is known for its enthralling beauty and is rightly nicknamed as the ‘Heaven on Earth’. With its Picturesque lakes, striking fruit orchards, verdant meadows surrounded with thick woods of pines and deodars, lush green gardens teeming with vibrant flowers and captivating valleys enclosed with snow-covered peaks of Himalayan and Pir-Panjal ranges – Kashmir seems to have directly made its way out from a picture postcard. From enjoying a heavenly ‘Shikara boat ride’ on the pristine ‘Dal Lake’, strolling through the beautifully manicured ‘Mughal Gardens’, soaking in the untouched pastoral beauty of ‘Betaab’ and ‘Aru’ valleys, paying your homage to ‘Amarnath ji’ standing amidst the ethereal natural beauty of the tiny hamlet of ‘Chandanwari’, relishing the moment of plucking a fresh walnut at one the ‘Walnut Orchards’, braving the strong currents of River Sind during white water rafting in ‘Sonmarg’ to revelling in the adventure of world’s highest Gondola ride at ‘Gulmarg’ – the magic of Kashmir with its breath-taking vistas is sure to captivate your heart and soul forever. Make sure to buy some of the traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and handlooms items and do try out few of the state’s world famous ‘Wazwan’ delicacies before returning from a memorable holiday in Kashmir. Leh-Ladakh – For its unmatched trekking options The land of majestic snow-capped mountains, serene alpine glacial lakes, enchanting valleys and ancient colourful Buddhist monasteries, Leh-Ladakh is one of the ‘must-visit’ destinations in India for nature lovers and people seeking peace and serenity away from the busy city lives. Being home to plenty of serene alpine glacial lakes, some of the world’s highest mountain passes and high-altitude scenic trekking trails, Ladakh is also a dream destination for intrepid travellers and adventure freaks across India and different corners of the world. Be it the feeling of extreme spirituality and divinity listening to the chants and hymns of lamas in the ‘Hemis Monastery’, the tranquillity of ‘Pangong Lake’ offering an indescribable sense of peace and solitude, an unforgettable adventurous experience of trekking on the frozen ‘Zanskar River’, the fun of a unique sand-dune safari sitting on the back of Bactrian camel discovering the rugged landscapes of ‘Nubra Valley’ or the excitement of spotting a snow leopard in the thick of the ‘Hemis National Park’ – Ladakh has in its store, something for its every tourist. Being part of the colourful ‘ Delhi – For its incredible history and past Delhi, the bustling capital of India makes for one of the perfect travel destinations in India. A city of heritage monuments, teeming bazaars and mouth-watering street food reminding you of its rich past from the Mughal era to a city that is today, more cosmopolitan and contemporary with its sprawling boulevards, high-end malls, shopping complexes and luxury hotels & restaurants; Delhi is for sure, a true amalgamation of age old cultures and present day’s modernization. Be it a stroll through the narrow lanes of ‘Chandni Chowk’ relishing on its lip-smacking chaats, a real shopping fun in the streets of ‘Sarojini Nagar’ or more exotic ‘Delhi Haat’, a heritage walk through the awe-inspiring Mughal architectural masterpieces of ‘Humayun’s Tomb’ and ‘Qutab Minar’, a visit to the 700 years old ‘Hazrat Nizammuddin Dargah’, a lovely experience of relishing on some tasty cuisine sitting at a lake side café in the posh ‘Hauz Khas Village’, a memorable time at the lively ‘Kingdom of Dreams’ enjoying a musical Bollywood night, or a picnic time at the iconic ‘India Gate’; the list of ‘must-do things’ in Delhi has no end. One of the must-visit destinations in India, a trip to Delhi should definitely be on the travel list for all curious travellers, knowledge seekers and gastronomes looking out for a holiday trip in India. Agra – For its unprecedented Mughal grandeur A city immersed in a splendid Mughal charm, Agra needs no introduction. Home to the eternal symbol of love, the iconic ‘Taj Mahal’, Agra finds one of the top most places on the world heritage map. Having to its acclaim of being the only city in the world glittering with three world heritage sites, Agra definitely makes it to the list of popular Indian travel destinations. With its three gems, the impressive Taj Mahal, magnificent Agra Fort and splendid Fatehpur Sikri; the city lures thousands of tourists including historians and art lovers from all across India and the world. From savouring on the city’s authentic and traditional Mughlai flavours, shopping in the lively markets teeming with marble handicrafts adorned with fine inlay carvings and fine leather items, watching the epic of the timeless love between Shah Jahan and his beloved, Noor Jahan coming to life at the ‘Kalakriti Cultural & Convention Center’ to soaking your spirits in the enthralling fiesta of the ‘Taj Mahotsav’, there is much more to do in the historic city of Agra than just exploring its monuments. For a more closer and adventurous face off with this cultural city, get on an off the beaten path journey and explore the narrow alleyways of the old city, ancient temples or visit the renowned poet, Mirza Ghalib’s birthplace. Varanasi – For its spiritual essence India is a land of cultures, religions and spirituality, therefore, an Indian exploration remains incomplete without a trip to the holiest city of Varanasi. Also known as the city of ‘Moksha’, the place holds a great religious significance for Hindus. Situated on the banks of sacred river Ganga, the city is believed to be more than 5000 years old. Bustling with enchanting ancient temples and holy Ghats crowded with people performing various rituals and prayers, Varanasi makes for an ultimate spiritual holiday destination in India. From paying homage to Lord Shiva in the famous ‘Kashi Vishwanath Temple’, taking a dip in holy waters of river Ganga absolving your sins, revelling in the spiritual aura of the divine Ganga Aarti during evenings on the ‘Dasaswamedha Ghat’, taking a walk along the Ghats watching life flow by, exploring the chaotic and colourful streets teeming with life to gorging on its delicious ‘Benaras ki Chaat’ or indulging in a unique shopping experience of musical instruments and world-renowned ‘Benarasi Silk Sarees’; Varanasi is indeed an incredible place to visit in India. Jaisalmer – Land of Golden Sand Also known as the ‘Land of Golden Sand’, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is a beautiful city known for its rich cultural heritage and stories of bravery and chivalry of the great Rajput rulers. An exotic city set amidst endless stretches of golden Thar Desert, Jaisalmer spells a magnetic pull at travellers sitting in different corners of the world. Be it the magnificence of the ‘Sonar Quila’ or the ‘Jaisalmer Fort’ beaming in its full glory, the magical charisma of the ancient ‘Salim ji ki Haveli’, ‘Nathmal ji ki Haveli’ and ‘Patwon-ki-Haveli’ reminding us of the royal grandeur of erstwhile wealthy Rajput merchants, an enthralling experience of ‘Sand Dune Bashing’, a rustic charm of a ‘Camel Safari’ exploring infinite stretches of golden sand or an unforgettable culinary experience of authentic Rajasthani cuisine; Jaisalmer impresses its every visitor with an extensive range of cultural offerings. The annual ‘Jaisalmer Desert Festival’ is a visual treat to eyes and it makes much sense to plan for a holiday trip to Jaisalmer during this festival. Folk dances, cultural musical performances, campfires under open starlit sky, enthralling camel shows, local haats selling exquisite jewellery and handicrafts; exuberance and vivaciousness of this gala event can be seen at every nook and corner of the city. One of the most colourful and vibrant places, Jaisalmer, for sure is one of the most striking places to visit in India. Rann of Kutch – For its rustic village life experience An enormous stretch of white salt that is submerged under water for 4 months in a year, the great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is an incredible place to visit in India. With its astounding natural beauty, the world’s one of the greatest salt desert is swarmed by an endless number of tourists every year, especially during the famous ‘Rann Utsav’ when the white canvas gets painted into different hues and shades. Live folk music and dance performances, camel safaris, a rustic stay and a delicious Kutch cuisine makes this experience an unforgettable one for every visitor. From walking along vast stretches of white getting a glimpse of salt making process, watching colourful migratory birds in the ‘Chari Daand’ sanctuary, getting breath-taking views of the infinite expanse of the Rann from ‘Kala Dungar’ to seeing the artisans creating magic with their hands making exquisite embroidery pieces; a trip to Rann of Kutch is truly an eye-opener. What adds to the charm of this memorable trip is a stay in traditional ‘Bhungas’ or cylindrical shaped huts with conical roofs in the enchanting ‘Hodka Village’ nearby. Providing you a feel of a rustic village life, these huts are beautifully decorated with traditional mirror work patterns and delicate lattice work. During night, enjoy a bonfire and watch a folk dance performance under the moonlit sky relishing on the tasty and spicy home-made Kutch delicacies. Aurangabad – For its mesmerizing ‘Ajanta & Ellora’ caves Dotted with plenty of ancient monuments, Aurangabad is a historical city located in Maharashtra. A city ruled by several dynasties in the past, today boasts of its rich heritage with its architectural marvels reminding the tales of its reigning dynasties. Mostly famed for its stunning Buddhist cave paintings of Ajanta & Ellora, a world heritage site, Aurangabad is visited by many national and international tourists throughout the year for many other reasons too. The magnificent ‘Bibi ka Maqbara’ reflecting the architecture of iconic ‘Taj’ and houses the tomb of Aurangzeb’s wife, Begum Rabia attracts many historians, architects and art lovers. The fortified city’s rich and alluring gates like ‘Kala Darwaza’ and ‘Rangeen Darwaza’ adorned with intricate carvings provide you a sneak peek into the artistic skills of the artisans and craftsmen of the bygone era. The city’s one of its kind cultural fiesta of ‘Ellora Ajanta Festival’ showcasing the talent of number of dancers and musicians across the country in the backdrop of illuminated 1400 years old caves adds to the charm of this historic city and provides one more reason to art lovers for a visit to Aurangabad. When in Aurangabad, do not give a miss to the lifetime opportunity of adding to your wardrobe, a traditional and exquisite collection of fine hand-woven Himroo and Paithani silk, etc. Sunderbans – For its enigmatic wilderness Home to the world’s largest mangrove forests, inhabited with the man-eating royal Bengal tigers, Sunderbans is one of the most famous offbeat places to visit in India. Situated on the mouth of the mighty Brahmaputra and river Ganges, the forests are also home to unlimited species of other wild animals, reptiles and birds. Evoking a mysterious fervour, Sunderbans has always lured adventure buffs, nature lovers and bird watchers from across the globe. Tracking down a ferocious beast, standing on the deck of your boat navigating through the dense mangroves engulfed in a sheer silence that is only occasionally broken by the whispering of bushes, squeaking of lizards and chirping of birds; the adventure is definitely one of the most exciting and enthralling experiences you can have at Sunderbans. Besides the spine-chilling adventurous journey, a trip to the Sunderbans also offers you an unmatched scenic and bird watching experience that is indescribable in words. Needless to say, a visit to this world heritage site, for sure makes for an unforgettable holiday excursion. As a remembrance to this mysterious world, fresh forest honey and brown rice makes for a perfect buy Sikkim – For its breath-taking natural vistas One of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in India, Sikkim is a glittering gem of the North-East Himalayas. With its enchanting snow-capped mountains, quaint little villages, pristine lakes and vibrant Buddhist monasteries, Sikkim is one of the best destinations in India to spend a peaceful and laid back holiday amidst extreme tranquillity and solitude. Teeming with some of the world’s best scenic trekking trails and rivers ideal for indulging in real thrill of white water rafting, this little North-Eastern state also makes for a perfect adventure destination in India for trekkers, rafters, mountaineers and rock climbers. Be it the breath-taking panoramas of the rhododendron carpets as you trek to the enchanting ‘Yumthang Valley’, the surreal experience of reaching the ‘Gurudongmar’ and ‘Cholamu’ lakes or an ecstasy of braving the strong currents of River Teesta as you navigate through twist and turns of the torrential river during the white water rafting adventure; Sikkim never ceases to hypnotise you with its serene magic of nature. This quaint state of India is also a perfect place to go for some meditation sessions at one of the numerous old monasteries, indulge in a thrilling fun of hand-gliding or paragliding, experience a unique ‘Yak Safari’, satiate your taste buds with delicious Sikkimese delicacies, shop till your heart’s desire purchasing incredible Sikkimese handcrafts, thangka paintings and mural items or be part of one of the state’s fascinating festivals. Meghalaya – For its spell binding man-made artistic splendours. Also known as the ‘abode of clouds’, Meghalaya is a hidden gem nestled in the lap of pine covered Khasi and Garo Hills in the Eastern Himalayas. One of the most picturesque states of North East India with its lush terraced slopes, gushing waterfalls, mystic caves, dense forests and sparkling lakes and rivers; Meghalaya is an ideal holiday destination in India for trekkers, cavers and nature enthusiasts. It is only in Meghalaya where you will come across unique man made living root bridges that are grown and not built. Yes! You heard it right the ‘bridges which are grown’. The people of Khasi tribe in Meghalaya have been growing these bridges since ages by directing the intermingled roots of rubber trees over hollowed beetle nut trunks to make them run over streams and rivers. The roots mature over a span of 10-15 years and gain strength with each passing year. Fully mature bridges can take a load of dozens of people. The ‘double decker living root bridge’ in Cherrapunjee is one such artistic splendour that has been standing strong for over 200 years. The awe-inspiring and claustrophobic caves of ‘Krem Mawsmai’ is another tourist attraction in Meghalaya that leaves you spell bound with its impressive shapes of stalactites and stalagmites formed over hundreds of years. You will also be amazed to know that ‘Mawlynnong’, the cleanest village in India is also a part of this beautiful state. Kerala – For its backwaters and much more Pristine backwaters, coconut fringed beaches, rejuvenating Ayurvedic massages and colourful festivals; Yes! You guessed it right. I am taking about the God’s own country, Kerala, one of the most picturesque places in India with a footfall of thousands of tourists every year. Tucked between Arabian Sea and Western Ghats, Kerala has been blessed with immense natural beauty. Besides serene backwaters and pristine beaches, Kerala is also home to scenic hill station and numerous wildlife sanctuaries. Offering an umpteen number of tourist activities, a trip to Kerala is a ‘must-have’ experience for every traveller across the world. From memorable houseboat stays on backwaters of Alleppey, nature walks through lush slopes and sprawling tea gardens of ‘Munnar’, thrilling elephant rides at the ‘Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary’ to watching mesmerizing Kathakali performance at the ‘Kathakali Centre’; Kerala is a destination worth visiting once in lifetime. When in Kerala, you simply cannot miss gorging on the aromatic Kerala food served traditionally on banana leaves or experiencing a rustic stay in a tree house. A vibrant temple festival showcasing the cultural legacy of the state or observing the massive Chinese Fishing nets being operated by the fishermen on the beach of Fort Kochi is also something you will find only in Kerala. Hampi – For its brilliantly carved monuments A city immersed in the glorious past of the Vijayanagara Empire dating back to the period between 14th and 16th century, Hampi is one of the most incredible places to visit in India. Ruins of this ancient city with its number of strikingly beautiful monuments, temples and palaces still tell you the tales of grandeur and magnificence of the Vijayanagara rulers. Be it the artistic splendour of the ‘Virupaksha Temple’, the spellbinding exquisite carvings of the iconic stone chariot in the ‘Vijaya Vittala Temple’, the ornamentally carved pillars of the ‘Achyutaraya Temple’ or the fascinating architecture of the ‘King’s Balance’; a walk through the streets of Hampi is sure to make you discover the hidden stories of a great empire whose grandiosity and magnificence is today lost in history. A trip to this historic city is incomplete without being part of its musical extravaganza during the ‘Hampi Utsav’ when the whole city comes alive with live cultural dance performances in the backdrop of the splendid ruins lit up in glittering lights, making it an exceptional sight to behold. Mysore – For its rich culture Considered to be the cultural capital of Karnataka in South India, Mysore is a historic city known for its ornate palaces and gardens. Fast developing as an IT hub, the city still retains its old world cultural charm. From the city’s streets soaked in the fragrance of perfumed incense, boulevards teeming with stalls trading exquisite sandalwood carvings, markets lined up with shops selling beautiful silk sarees to sweet shops queued with hordes of customers waiting to have their share of the delicious ‘Mysore Pak’ – every nook and corner of the city seems to be so full of life. Needless to say, every attraction of Mysore unfolds a new story related to the city’s glorious past: whether you walk past the elaborate pathways of the magnificent ‘Mysore City Palace’ dazzling with thousands of bulbs against the dark night sky, take a relaxing stroll through the sprawling ‘Brindavan Gardens’ lined up with musical fountains along the pathways, witness the sheer extravaganza of a royal procession of colourfully decked up elephants during the world famous ‘Mysore Dasara Festival’, take a climb up to the ‘Chamundeshwari Temple’ perched on the ‘Chamundi Hill’ or get awe-struck with the spectacle of the well preserved ‘Hoyasala Temples’ in Somnathpur; the city of Tipu Sultan continues to fascinate you with its rich cultural heritage. Andaman & Nicobar – For its pristine beauty and array of water sports Known for their picturesque beauty with pristine beaches, azure waters and verdant forests, Andaman & Nicobar are a group of more than 500 shimmering islands tucked in an infinite expanse of the Bay of Bengal. Relatively unexplored, these islands have that enigmatic charm to them that lures thousands of tourists every year. Packed with an array of interesting activities, a holiday in Andaman & Nicobar is sure to be one of the best vacations in India. The Asia’s best beach, ‘Radhanagar Beach’ on the ‘Havelock Island’ is a paradise for honeymoon couples who can be seen here immersed in romantic walks holding each other’s hands and witnessing the beautiful sunset. For water sports lovers, the azure waters teeming with a diverse marine life and coral reefs, offer a perfect ambience to indulge in some world-class scuba diving and sea walking experience. If you are looking out for an adventurous twist in the serenity of these beautiful islands, go for boat safaris through thick mangrove forests leading to dark limestone caves at the ‘Baratang Island’, take a challenging trek to the ‘Saddle Peak’ snaking through scenic terrains and thick forests sighting few exotic colourful birds or camp under the open moonlit sky and try your hands at a bar-be-que experience of cooking your own fresh catch of a fish or crab. JAIPURI JAUNTS Jaipur being the capital and virtual gateway to Rajasthan is probably the most visited city in the state. The city is at its sunshine best at this time. While you are here don’t miss out on the majestic Amer fort and the regal City Palace. When your feet need resting after all the sightseeing, you could park yourself for a traditional meal at Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar (lovingly known as LMB by foodies) – the vibrant Choki Dhani is on the outskirts of the city, so reserve it for later. And ladies, some good news for you – right near LMB you will find a shopping paradise full of vibrant bandhini works, traditional jewellery and jootis. You are unlikely to regret it! January also brings the much celebrated glam Jaipur Literary festival. Those in love with their books and their authors cannot miss this. Go if you want to rub shoulders with celebrities, sight some high fashion, and catch performances by talented musicians. Team Traveliin!!