From the palm-fringed beach resorts of Goa to the sprawling Bollywood city of Mumbai, India offers a broad spectrum of experiences. Visit the colored palaces of Jaipur, the leafy tea plantations of Darjeeling and the thousands of temples in the river city of Varanasi.
Glimpses of India’s colorful history under the rule of the French, British, Portuguese and Dutch can be seen throughout the country, with the cities such as Kolkata, Kochi and Pondicherry all endowed with impressive colonial architecture. Admire ornate forts, temples and palaces in every corner of the country to truly appreciate India’s diverse appeal.
India’s most famous monument is the Taj Mahal, a colossal mausoleum built by a Mughal emperor in the 17th century as a shrine to his favorite wife. Avoid the midday heat and come in the morning instead, when the complex is bathed in an attractive pinkish light. Another notable monument is Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, the first ever garden-tomb built on the Indian subcontinent.
For a fast-paced adventure ride, try whitewater rafting down the Ganges River. Book an organized trip during spring or summer and camp on the shores of the river.
Around 7 miles (11 kilometers) from Jaipur sits the Amer Fort, one of the most famous forts of Rajasthan. Marvel at the magnificent Sun Gate and the so-called “magic flower,” a fresco carved out of marble.
Head to Harmandir Sahib, a shining gold Sikh temple jutting out into a serene pool in Amritsar. This temple is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Sikhs and has been rebuilt several times since it was first constructed in 1604.
Two main airports service India: Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, although many other smaller airports run domestic flights. Make use of India’s many public transportation options, which include buses, trains, jeeps and rickshaws, although be aware that schedules are rarely adhered to.
Let yourself be consumed by the sights, sounds and smells of this exhilarating country.