I love India. The atmosphere, the smells, the tastes, the colours; pretty much everything about. Which is why early next year I’ll be returning for a brief period to catch up with friends and do a bit more exploring. Given that I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently, and realising how diverse the country is, I’ve decided to put together a small list of some of the places to visit in India. So, in no particular order…
Mumbai is most people’s first stop in India, and it can be an overwhelming experience, especially for those who are new to travelling. However, the busy streets, friendly atmosphere and an abundance of typically authentic Indian food are what make it so great. There’s plenty to see in and around the metropolis, including the gateway of India, the Haji Al Dargah, and elephant island. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to catch the Dabbawalas delivering lunches, or see a wedding or two on marine drive.
It’s on my list of places to visit in India because: the city throws you in at the deep end and is the perfect introduction to Indian food, culture and social norms.
Hampi was my first glimpse at the ‘real’ India. A small, quiet, temple town in central Karnataka, it’s often overlooked by people passing by on their way south. The boulder formations that surround the village are remarkable to say the least, and the ruins of ancient temples dotted about the river are worthy of exploration. Hampi is separated into two areas by river; the southern side being home to the bazaar, and the northern side housing most of the tourists in small huts and hostels. There are a few hilltop temples to visit, including the Monkey Temple, which can easily be reached by bike or, if you’re so inclined, by hiking.
It’s on my list of places to visit in India because: the calm and spiritual atmosphere is an ideal place to regroup after visiting cities and beaches elsewhere in the country.
A hill station situated in the heart of Kerala, Munnar is home to hills upon hills of tea plantations and forests. Taking a hike through tea fields and visiting some of the local factories really is an eye-opener for those interested in where their favourite cup comes from. You can rent a driver for the day to take you around the various different plantations, visiting lakes, dams and other smaller villages. The cool air that drifts through Munnar is a relief from the baking climates of other parts of the South, and can be a welcome change for the weary traveller.
It’s on my list of places to visit in India because: the cool air and smell of tea leaves really just does the trick, especially if you’ve been in the north for any amount of time!
The holiest of Hindu cities, Varanasi is a great place to get to learn and understand Hindu culture, and it is also said to be where Buddha gave his first sermon, creating Buddhism. Set on the banks of the river Ganges, the city is a melting pot of magnificent architecture, great food, and unique fabric clothing. If you’ve got a strong head, visit the ghats along the river to witness Hindu rituals and cremations; these offer a great insight into local beliefs, and are a place of pilgrimage for Hindus across the country, and even the world.
It’s on my list of places to visit in India because: it’s one of the most interesting and cultural places you’ll ever visit.
The pink city, found in the northern state of Rajasthan, is home to many forts, palaces and temples. India’s pink city itself is but a small area of the wider region, but is home to some of the best food India has to offer. The forts in the area, including Amer fort and Nahargarh fort, are architecturally astonishing, and are a precursor for those travelling further into Rajasthan, which is made of desert forts and palaces. Most of the city’s other unique sites are within walking distance, like the Jal Mahal (which is set in the middle of a lake), and the Hawa Mahal, in the city centre.
It’s on my list of places to visit in India because: it’s a great introduction if you’re travelling through the north, which has a different feel to the south.
Worth a shout:
Wondering why the home of the Taj Mahal didn’t make the list? Well, other than the actual mausoleum, there’s not too much to see in the city, and it’s a little out of the way. However, you can pass through on day trips from Delhi and Jaipur if you just want to see the Taj (though I recommend going as early in the morning as possible).
Worth a visit if you’re in the area or you are a budding yogi, I only visited this small city to find the ‘Beatles Ashram’. There’s also rafting and bungee jumping in the area on the river Ganges for the more adventurous folk, but don’t count on finding many places to relax with a beer…
Pondicherry & Auroville
An old french colonial city, the ville blanche is worth a quick visit, even if to eat some european food and drink. Nearby is the township of Auroville; a unique, international community based on the work of Sri Aurobindo.
If you’re in the area,check out Fort Kochi and see the early morning catch from the Chinese fishing nets; worth a visit for that alone. Old, dilapidated buildings are the main backdrop of the area, making for a decent day visit.
Situated in the Himalayan foothills, the city is the home of the Dalai Lama, and is a great place to visit if you’re interested in learning more about Buddhism and more other-worldly endeavours. There are various hikes in the area but beware, the city is quite cut off from anywhere else; once you’re here, you’re staying.
Are there any places I’ve missed that you think are worth a visit? Let me know!