By Japhy Ryder
India travel can be daunting, but is also capable of providing one of the most enriching travel experiences in the world. India is a land of elephants and maharajahs, of ancient temples and brilliant light. It’s a place of rickshaws and spicy food, and dense jungle and snow dusted mountain peaks. Travelling in India is, in fact, like visiting a hundred countries at once. Landscapes range from the boiling Thar desert of Rajasthan to the freezing high altitude meadows of Ladakh. In the north east the people like Asiatic as India draws towards the Chinese border, and in the north west pale skinned, a product of the Aryans long ago.
Photograph by Zé Eduardo
Getting a good travel insurance package is a must before your journey to India. Buy a comprehensive package that will put your mind at rest, and then add a simple first aid kit to your bag with some of the essentials in there. Mosquito repellent is useful, plus a decent net that ideally has simple hooks or ropes to string up in your room. Most of the other things you can buy while you’re in India, as there are many well stocked pharmacies. Be sure to check the best before date, however, but otherwise you should be absolutely fine.
As for the places to visit in India, well they’re too many to name. There is the majestic Taj Mahal, once called ‘a teardrop on the face of heaven’ by India’s poet Tagore. Then there are incredible modern cityscapes of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, with many other smaller cities rapidly catching them up in size, technological innovation and clamour.
Many people come to India for sacred travel, on pilgrimages, yoga retreats, meditation retreats, and for yatra to holy places. These are almost infinite in India, from the ice lingam at Amarnath, to the temple Spires of Kashi, the erotic statues at Khujaraho, the Buddhist sites of Bohdhgaya, Lumbini and Sarnath, and the Muslim mosques and temples scattered across the land.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the world’s most famous spots for Ayurvedic cleanses, panchakarma healing, relaxing massages, and the full range of healing options innovated back in the mists of time by the sages of India. When you’ve detoxed at a top Ayurvedic spa it’s time to head for the beaches of Goa, like Anjuma, Ashvem and Candolim, or south to the popular spots of Kochi, Varkala and Kovalam. India’s beaches are clean, the sea sparkling and a tropical blue, and the prices very reasonable.
If it’s meditation you’re after, India is the best place in the world. There a many ashrams and retreats for your to balance your chakras at, as well as the world’s best and most flexible yoga teachers, skilled in the instruction of asana, pranayama and meditation. One of the best places to indulge a love of holy India is at the Kumbh Mela festival, which happens every four years in one of four sacred places and is an awesome collection of sadhus, saints, holy men and women, elephants, visiting dignitaries and more. Many millions congregate at the confluence of a sacred river in numbers so vast it can be seen from space. This is truly Hinduism in action, a beautiful pulsing collection of humanity which reflects both the modern changing face of india and an ancient culture little changed for several thousand years
These days, spirituality isn’t the only things in people’s minds however, and the cities of Delhi and especially Mumbai are becoming famous for the quality of their night-life, world-class hotels, bustling clubs, incredible cuisine made by talented chefs, and thumping dance floors. Swelled by the Bollywood movie crowd Mumbai is currently perceived to be the world’s coolest city, and a must for any visitor to India in search of a party.
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