Having never been to India myself, I had to look to some fellow travel bloggers to find out just what this amazing country has to offer, and oh man did they suggest some rad ideas. Next trip plan?!
Taj Mahal, Agra
By Sally Lucas – Our 3 Kids V the World
A trip to India can be pretty overwhelming especially when you are travelling with kids in tow. We have just returned from India last week and I’m happy to report that the kids very much took it in their stride. A highlight of any trip to India has to be a visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and that was stop number one for us. We visited the Taj Mahal at sunrise which is the best time to visit, reason being the weather is much more comfortable and the crowds are manageable. It also gives you the best opportunity to get some great shots without the crowds of people in them.
We chose to have a private tour guide on this occasion and I highly recommend you do so as well. Like all things Indian getting organised can be a bit confusing if you haven’t been before. Our tour guide organised our tickets and ensured we were within the first 100 people through the gate. He was also a wealth of information regarding the history of the Taj Mahal built in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan.
Agra is also home to the Agra Fort, this is another big tourist attraction located in Agra and will provide you with fantastic views of the Taj Mahal but has an amazing history around Shah Jahan and his imprisonment by his son for 8 years. It’s really fascinating history and an amazing building worth exploring.
Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
By Priya – Glorious Sunrise
My homeland, India, is blessed with diverse geography making it a truly beautiful nation. Deserts, evergreen rain forests, mighty mountains, stunning beaches are all part of the landscape and justify it being called the Indian subcontinent.
Out of all these, my favorite spot in India is Kodaikanal, a peaceful hill station in Tamil Nadu. It is not overrun with tourists and is an absolute treasure of South India. It is fondly called as the “Princess of hill stations” by the locals and for good reason.
There is so much to do in Kodaikanal, you would need at least three to five days to check out everything and soak in the beauty of nature. Three Pillars view point, the Guna caves, Coaker’s walk, Dolphin Nose, Berijam Forest and Berijam lake are some of my favorite spots here. You literally feel that you are floating in the clouds at the Coaker’s walk.
Madurai is the nearest international airport to this hill station. Also, buses ply to Kodaikanal from all major South Indian cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. Though this is a year-round destination, September to June are the most beautiful months here.
Auroville, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
By Bert Luxing – Survive Travel
Auroville is one of the most inspirational places I have ever been to. You can find it outside the city of Puducherry in Tamil Nadu, South India. It has red dirt roads and endless bushland. The plot of land that Auroville sits on was a deforested wasteland. They completely rehabilitated it to build Auroville and the result is incredible.
Auroville, is in fact, an “experimental city” in which its citizens live an alternative way of life. There is no money or religion. Instead, things like organic farming, renewable energy, and alternative education are the priority. Auroville accepts citizens from all over the world and you can also volunteer there.
The centerpiece of Auroville is the peace gardens. Inside it, you can find the Matrimandir (pictured). Matrimandir is the “soul” of Auroville and is a place for concentration.
Periyar Tiger Reserve near Thekkady
By Nastja Novak – Brownie on the Go
While travelling around Kerala make sure you visit Periyar Tiger reserve which is one of the 27 tiger reserves in India. With 925 square kilometers, it’s the largest wildlife protected area in Kerala. Here you can spot wild boars, otters, cormorants, and if you are lucky enough you can spot tigers and elephants. We did a tour with boat and surroundings were just incredible. Lush green forests, with patches of orange and red earth, tree trunks sticking out of the water. Just amazing! If you wish to wake up with the most beautiful views, stay over for a night in beautiful Lake Palace. It used to be King of Travancore’s summer palace.
Do you feel like going bamboo rafting, hiking or jeeping? All of these activities and much more are available in Periyar Tiger Reserve, so go on adventure yourself!
Golden Temple in Punjab
By Scott and Hayley – International Hot Dish
You can’t leave India without visiting the Golden Temple in Punjab. This temple was first built in 1581 and has since been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the following centuries. The current iteration of the building is coated in gold foil, inspiring the current name.
The Golden Temple is a holy site for Sikhs, so many people visit the location for pilgrimage or for worship every single day. The building is two stories tall and contains countless murals, beautiful music, vivid carvings, and holy imagery from Sikhism’s holiest traditions. The locals are friendly and happy and may stare at you, which is understandable considering many have never seen foreigners before. The pool out front is man-made and worshipers often touch or wade in.
Getting to the temple might seem a little out of the way but it is certainly worth visiting if you’re in India or Pakistan. Make a trip to see the Golden Temple and you will not be disappointed.
Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur
By Tom – Travel Tom Tom
Most people head to the city of Jodhpur to see the painted houses and the impressive Mehrangarh Fort but they skip one of the most majestic buildings in India. Umaid Bhawan is the largest palace in India and nowadays turned into one of the flagships of Taj Hotels. The building is an incredible sight up on the hill and walking up to the palace it is hard to believe that this once was the residency of just one family. It was Maharaja Umaid Singh back in 1929 who decided to build a palace to give employment to his people. Nowadays the Royal Family is still living in one part of the palace and the other part is one of the most prestigious hotels in the world with former guests like Queen Elizabeth and many more. As a guest I experience first hand why this hotel was rated as best hotel in the world by TripAdvisor.
By Alan & Rosalind Cuthbertson – Frequent Traveller
Varanasi is said to have been founded by the Hindu God Shiva, making it one of the holiest city’s in India.
Located on the River Ganges, Varanasi is an important Hindu pilgrimage and cremation site. Hindu’s believe that if they are cremated at Varanasi their spirit will be freed from the cycle of reincarnation and their soul released into heaven.
As the sun sets, pilgrims, the faithful and tourists fill the streets and begin the walk down to the River Ganges. The streets come alive with the sound motorbikes tooting, shop keepers advertising their wares as the exotic rhythm of Indian music fills the air. Through the crush of people, you glimpse the flash of a brightly coloured sari and dodge sacred cows as you make your way through the traffic.
Once at the River you join the crowd as they step into the row boats that line the shore to begin the boat ride along the River Ganges. The faithful wash, children play, and the holy men pray as you pass the ancient buildings that sit on the banks of the river.
We come to the cremation Ghats, here we watch as towering flames engulf a funeral pyre. We watch as relatives bring the bodies of loved ones down to the River Ganges. Richly wrapped in cloth of gold and flowers they are lowered into the sacred river before being placed upon the pyre.
We watch as the cremation ritual unfolds and what may be thought of as morbid becomes an event of beauty, love and faith.
As night falls we head back to watch the Ganga Aarti. The Ganga Aarti is nightly ritual of fire, chanting, music and light as priests pay homage to Mother Ganga, the Goddess of the holy River Ganges.
Anjuna Beach, Goa, India
By Erin Hardie – Down Bubble
My favourite spot in Goa (and maybe even the whole of India!) without a doubt is Anjuna on the north coast. The beach is swimmable, lined with beach bars for fresh juices by day and beers by night, plus cows share the beach side by side with the visiting travellers! Anjuna has a real hippy vibe, once held by the Portuguese it was then “discovered” in the sixties by hippies. It remains a small year round population of around 10,000 which swells with visitors. Time your visit to include a Wednesday to see the open-air market which is an unmissable spot in Anjuna. After some hard bargaining over a range of wares including artisanal fabrics and jewelry, you can regain your zen in one of the market-adjacent on-the-sand beach bars with live music. Anjuna is most easily accessed by car, it’s an hour and a half drive north from the Goa International Airport.
By Linda and David – Retired and Travelling
We visited India and spent a day in Mumbai. There was much to see as we travelled about the city. We focused on a tour that showed us the religious diversity in this large crowded city. The history of the city could be traced as we moved between the beautiful but very different religious sites. Ornate Catholic churches sat close to simple original Jewish synagogues. Fire temples were reserved for local worshippers only. Hindu temples were colourful and decorative, whether they were massive or just local neighbourhood spots. We found flower markets everywhere that created the most beautiful offerings. Anglican churches were a tribute to the English roots and early settlers of India. It was a fascinating look into the history and culture of this dynamic and diverse city in India. So very different than when we went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal or visited the Chinese fishing nets in Cochin.
By Suruchi – All Gud Things
Leh Ladakh, the roof of the world is also known as the land of high passes. It is famed by a famous saying that “Our Land is so barren and the passes so high, that only the best friends or the fiercest enemies come to visit us”. So, let’s be friends and go to say hello to the locals of Leh Ladakh Valley and the army men guarding India from China and Pakistan.
The whole valley is a cold barren dessert with the green patches like oasis in between. All the settlements in the Leh Ladakh valley are at an altitude above 10,000 feet. In spite of being at that high altitude, the whole Valley is mesmerizing in every sense. The changing colourful landscapes stretch up to several kilometres leaving one transfixed. And at every kilometre one can find the attractions ranging from Palaces to heritage huts to colourful monasteries.
Nubra Valley is one of the main sub districts of Ladakh and it lies 116 kilometres from Leh. It can be reached by crossing the highest motor able road and pass, Khardung La at an altitude of 18,380 feet.
By Himanshu – Everything Candid
25 Km from Jabalpur – the cultural city of central India, lies Bhedaghat on Sacred River Narmada. Bhedagaht is the abode to marble rocks and thunderous Dhuandhar water fall. Bhedaghat, stretched for 5 KM along River Narmada, is a beautiful expression of nature and belived by many as Indian version of Grand Canyon. River Narmada meanders through marble rocks rising upto 100 feet on either site creating a marvelous natural wonder. Sunlight sparkling on marble rocks creates hues and shades of many colors throughout the day and casts colorful reflection on the clear water. Crystal clear water of this placid river and marble rocks provide an excellent opportunity for boat ride with talkative local guides. The cascading waterfall of Dhuanadhar where Narmada takes the plunge is an awesome spectacle of nature. During sunrise and sunset, entire setting offers a great avenue for photographers to click golden hour shots. To feel the place, one must take a walk along Narmada on marble rocks for then nature will reveal its best painting on a huge canvas marked with Marble Rock, Holy Narmada and Smoky Fall. Once done with photograph, one can stay at hotels on the bank of river and enjoy dinner while watching the roaring waterfall.
Trek to Dzukou Valley in Nagaland
By Suman Doogar – Nomadic Shoes
Situated 2452 m above sea level, the picturesque valley lies at the border of Manipur and Nagaland. One can trek to the base camp from both sides, there are two routes to reach the valley from Nagaland through Visema and Jakhama, and from Manipur side, one can go through Mt.Isu from Senapati. First timers prefer Visema route as it’s easy to hike, expect for the first 1 hour where you need to climb on a steep trail, rest of the trek is almost straight and takes around 2.30 hours to reach the base camp. If you are starting from Visema then I suggest take a cab till the starting point of the trek, the road is motorable for 7 km, while coming back from the trek we met almost 30-40 people who were going to Valley but didn’t know that it was an additional 7 km walk before they could start the climb. The distance of trek in another 6 km from the starting point.
There are many legends associated with the valley, our guide Nicholas told us that deep inside the valley there are spirits who don’t let men enter and many get sick while trekking because of this. In Angami `Dzukou means `Soul-less and dull`, according to locals some ancestors of Visema tried cultivating the valley but weather conditions were so unfavourable that they could not grow anything, dejected they referred to the valley as beautiful but dull.