Travel to India: Introduction
If you are planning a Travel to India then there is a lot to choose from. India Tourism had coined a Phrase “Incredible India” way back in 1972 and any one who has visited India finds it or would find it to be truly Incredible. So what should one choose when planning your Travel to India.
First allow me to introduce you to India, what India is and what Travelling to India could mean for you. With a little bit of background you would be able to understand it a bit better and I hope that helps you in turn find out what places you should visit on your Travel to India or where should you atleast start.
When you Travel to India, you are visiting one of the Oldest living Civilization, emphasis being one of the Oldest Living Civilization, a civilization that continued to evolve and grow, The Indus Valley Civilization which was earlier thought to have its origin in 3300 BCE may actually be older that even the Egyptian civilization and is believed to be around 8000 years old. (Reference Dailymail.co.uk)
This civilization flourished around the Indus river covered an area of around 1.5 Million Sq Kms and some 5 Million People lived in it in a region now comprising modern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It had a well-developed infrastructure, architecture, metallurgy, besides having trade relations and cultural ties with other concurrent civilizations across the world.
Though they were around the river which provided enough water, a Severe drought which lasted for around 900 years forced them to abandon this region and wander towards the eastern and Southern parts of India towards Ganges and Yamuna rivers and further down south and settled there.
Excavations have found that Indus Valley civilization was largely egalitarian and there were no grand structures built for the rulers and it is also believed that even the rulers were elected through a democratic process much like today, which is a huge departure from other Civilizations like Egyptian and Mesopotamian.
Since this civilization already had ties with other civilizations, was considered a very superior civilization it saw migrations from Central Asia and regions as far as what today is considered Turkey and these people in turn mingled with the Locals and became a part of this culture.
It is also believed that it is with the coming of these people that changes happened in the society and it moved away from being an egalitarian society. The caste system which was more about classification of Jobs and one had a caste based on the qualifications one had and jobs they performed was changed to establish control over the people. Circa 1500 BCE is the period when these changes are believed to have happened.
It is this group of people who were now a mix of Central Asians and original inhabitants of Indus Valley who chose to call themselves Aryans.
The very word Aryan is a Sanskrit word which means Noble. (As per oxford Dictionary) The Word Arya is found throughout Indian Mythology and was often used to describe people from Royal Lineage. The Sons of Kings were often referred to as Arya Putra, Son of the Noble one.
Since the history of India pre dates even the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, there were wide spread migrations and the country had trade routes with multiple other civilizations different people from different parts migrated to what we call India today and made it their home. These have all evolved over time and given India its rich diversity that makes planning your Travel to India so interesting. It is said in India that every 200 Kms the food, the dialect and the way people live changes, making it truly “Incredible India”
Now that we have this out of the way, lets talk about the regions that one can visit in India. India is the 7th largest country in terms of Land Mass, If one was to measure north to South flying time it would take appx: 3+ hours for an Aircraft to fly from Leh to Trivandrum (at a speed of .86 Mach a distance of 2850 Kms) around same time for east to west. Since it is so vast and multiple countries have been carved out of this region, it is referred to as a Sub-Continent.
There are Himalayas in the North and go all the way to the East till the State of Arunachal Pradesh where we border with Tibet. We have the Thar Desert in the North West and a Salt Desert in the West called Rann of Kutch, thousands of Kilometres of Coast line with some stunning Beaches from West all the way down South climbing North Again till East of India.
In between we have the mighty jungles home to the Royal Bengal Tigers, pre historic sites which go way back 10000+ years, cities where Buddha attained enlightenment and preached his first sermon to birth places of Jainism and Sikhism, forts and palaces built by the various Invaders and rulers to showcase their strength.
Mighty temples which have probably some of the most intricate carvings on Sand stone and Marble some dating back 1000+ years. Whether your craving is for History or Culture, Culinary or Nature, for your Body or your Soul, India has it all to offer. We are the birthplace of Yoga and Ayurveda and nowhere can it be experienced better than where it all started.
Whatever your craving, India is a multi-visit destination which does not disappoint, I can guarantee this because over the 15+ years of my career as a Trip Leader I have been extremely lucky to have explored the length and breadth of India, Nepal and Bhutan with over 5000 people and have heard their feedback first hand.
So where do you begin your Travel to India, if you are a first timer then naturally Taj Mahal would be on your Bucket list and it is only Fair to tick that off by ensuring that Agra is a part of your Travel Plan. As someone who has been closely associated with the Indian Tourism, I would recommend that the minimum time that you should block on your calendar for an Introduction to India should be one week and this is what you should visit.
Delhi/ New Delhi would most probably be your entry point and needs at least 2 Nights, if coming from across the Atlantic or Australia / New Zealand basically with over 10 Hours of Flying time then consider 3 Nights in Delhi. Vast majority of Travel Agents did not include more than a night in Delhi because Delhi used to be expensive, even though this has changed but many a Travel Agents haven’t updated themselves.
Delhi is home to 3 World Heritage site monuments, has 6 cities which are in Ruins, the 7th city is where the Red Fort stands and then there is the New City a.k.a 8th City of Delhi. Since it has been ruled by multiple dynasties and each has left their mark on the city, there is plenty to be seen and explored here. You would need a minimum of 2 days to explore some key landmarks.
PRO TIP: Visit the Sikh Temple, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, visit not only the main shrine but also the Communal kitchen called Langar, which serves food to everyone irrespective of religion, color or caste. It is run purely by volunteers and the food served is purely on donations.
Don’t save the best for the last, so your next halt should be Agra, with excellent connectivity from Delhi, you should be in Agra in under 3 hours (Leaving Delhi early around 7 AM is a good time) This ways you would be in Agra by 10, visit the Agra Fort first and then check in. Plan your visit to the Taj around 230 PM, This close after lunch is usually less crowded and would allow you a great opportunity to enjoy it in multiple lights. Despite what you may have read or you may be told, 2-2.30 hours is more than enough to appreciate this building and photograph it from every angle unless you are wanting to draw a painting there.
Agra is also famous for its Inlay Work of semi precious stones on marble, referred to as Pietra dura by the Italians who invented it, the artisans in Agra perfected this art and have taken it to the next level. Agra is a Great place to see this exquisite work and if you like something even buy it and have it sent to your home.
1 Night is enough for Agra as you want to see the Red Fort and Taj Mahal and these can easily be covered in a day. Even if you wish to return to Taj Mahal for the Sunrise you could still do so the next morning and then depart Agra after breakfast.
Many people may not consider visiting Sawai Madhopur / Ranthambore during their Travel to India, but by not visiting it you may be missing out on an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with the Indian Wildlife specially the Royal Bengal Tiger. Ranthambore which is located conveniently between Agra and Jaipur should be your next halt. Just outside Agra is the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri, a city which served as the capital of the 3rd Mughal emperor Akbar for a very brief period, It has been abandoned since 1595 but still stands tall and in excellent shape.
Post Fatehpur Sikri you will continue in the General direction of Jaipur and then head South to Sawai Madhopur. If you have visited Taj Mahal this morning you would reach Sawai madhopur by only late afternoon and no Safari would be possible for you. If you would have started early around 7 then you should arrive by afternoon and possibly do an afternoon Safari. The next day would offer you an opportunity to do 2 Safaris one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Safaris in Ranthambore work very differently, unlike Africa where you enter the National park and drive anywhere you want, In Ranthambore there are routes which are laid out and every vehicle is assigned a route. No one knows what route you get and Tigers usually also don’t follow these routes also Since the Tiger population is pretty dense, you have a good chance of seeing a Tiger in Ranthambore irrespective of the Route assigned.
If you are a casual wildlife enthusiast then 2 nights is enough if you are serious about your wildlife experience then you should be staying at least 3 nights and doing a minimum 4 safaris.
PRO Tip: If you are travelling alone book your Safari as soon as they open up which is 90 days in advance or ask a Travel Agent to do so.
On your week long Travel to India Journey, the last stop would be Jaipur, a.k.a the Pink City. Jaipur has always been a highlight for visitors and hence it makes perfect sense to do it last on your trip. Start with a photo stop in front of Hawa Mahal or Palace of the winds, Though called a Palace it is just a façade, with over 500 windows and perforations all angeled downwards, it was built for the women of the Palace, from here the women could observe the happenings in the city without being seen. The façade faces east so morning time is the best time to take pictures. From here continue on to the famous Amber Fort located a short distance outside Jaipur, best visited in the morning as well when the sun is in the east and light falls beautifully on the building. Amber fort sits on top of the Hill which gives it natural fortification and oversees a valley which added to its defense. Though abandoned in 1727 when Jaipur was founded it is still a perfect specimen of the Mughal influence on Hindu architecture.
Afternoon is best reserved for the Observatory called Jantar Mantar and the City Palace museum which is adjacent to it. The founder of Jaipur Jai Singh II built 5 observatories all over India, the finest one exists in Jaipur and is still functional. As a lifelong student of Astronomy and Astrology he was always learning new things and putting them in practise. Always have a Guide for the Observatory to understand what these Instruments can do and getting most out of your visit.
Next to Observatory is the city Palace museum, which served as the Residence and seat of administration during the days of Royalty. A part of the museum today has been converted to become a museum and a part of it is used by the Royal Family as their Residence. The stunning architecture, the exquisite filigree work and the extra ordinary paintings all give you a peak into the life of the Maharajas.
No visit to Jaipur can ever be complete without visiting the Old City, whether you visit it on foot or take a bicycle rickshaw to tour around the city. This is your chance to experience the sights, smell and life of the people up close and personal.
If the day has not worn you out just yet, there are a couple of more things you can do. Jaipur is also the largest Gem cutting center of Asia and employs close to half a million people in this Business, some of the most famous Gem stones you may know of have been cut in this city. There are thousands of Jewelers in this city and if you are in the mood you can find some interesting bargains in Jaipur. The Other thing for which Jaipur is very famous is Hand Block printing, owing to the high mineral content in the water around Jaipur, it is one of the largest exporters of Block printed materials in the world.
A Stay in Jaipur needs a minimum of 2 Nights to do justice to the city. If you like to take things slow then 3 nights are needed.
In my experience this is a perfect introduction of the Country on your first travel to India if you are short on time or want to see if India is a good fit for you. However if you have more time at hand then I believe you should absolutely start with the State of Rajasthan. This article builds up on the Introduction and covers Rajasthan which I can promise you would be a trip of a lifetime.
Leverage my 3 decades plus of expeience as a Traveller and let me help you craft the perfect Itinerary for your Trip. This would be made in Consultation with you and would help you maximise your time in India.
If after that you wish to have it booked, I would get it booked for you locally which would
A) give you a Huge price advantage 15-20% cheaper than what you would pay in your Country.
B) You will benefit from last minute upgrade deals that are made available locally.
If you are searching for best Places to visit in India and have zeroed in on North India and the area of Interest is Culture