India

India

One thing that foreign travellers need to know is that India is, in many ways, heterogeneous. If they experience one set of behaviours from the locals in one part of the country, it does not mean that the same behaviour is common in another area. Never assume you know everything about any aspect of India; be prepared to see completely new things every day.

To see all the places worth visiting in India, even a 6-month visit is arguably inadequate. There are more tourist destinations in India than can be mentioned in a full-length book, let alone a summary. Almost every state in India has over ten major tourist destinations and there are cities which can barely be tasted in a full week. Several Indian states by themselves are bigger and more populous than most of the countries in the world.

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Travel in much of the North-East (with the notable exception of Assam) and parts of Andaman and Nicobar, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand will require obtaining a *Protected Area Permit (PAP). The easiest way to get one is to request it along with your visa application, in which case it will be added to your visa.

Tamil Nadu (wikivoyage, map), Maharashtra (wikivoyage, map) and Uttar Pradesh (wikivoyage, map) were the most popular states for tourists. Delhi, *Mumbai, *Chennai, *Agra and *Jaipur were the five most visited cities of India by foreign tourists.

*Varanasi – Being the most sacred city in Hinduism and Jainism, and important in the history of Buddhism, Varanasi is India’s most important pilgrimage destination. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world.

Probably the most famous single attraction in India is the Taj Mahal (map), which is widely recognized as the jewel of Islamic art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.

*Jaipur (map), the capital of the western state of Rajasthan, is incredibly rich in forts and palaces, including the tremendous *Amber Fort (map), beautiful *Jal Mahal (Water Palace) and unique *Hawa Mahal (map).

The city of *Jammu (map), the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, has so many temples that it’s called the “City of Temples” and is a major draw for Hindu pilgrims. *Bishnupur in *West Bengal is home to famous terracotta temples. The Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is dedicated to Vishnu and is also a major draw for pilgrims.

The Tantric temple complexes of *Khajuraho (map) in Madhya Pradesh are much beloved for their thousand-year-old sacred erotic wall carvings, considered by some art historians to be the pinnacle of erotic art. The Meenakshi Amman Temple in *Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is a centre of worship of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. The city of *Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu known for its grand Chola-era temples.

Some of the major Indian festivals are: *Diwali (Deepavali), Oct-Nov — The festival of lights. *Ugadhi / Yugadhi’ is one of the main festivals, which is mainly celebrated as the 1st day of the Hindu Calendar New Year. *Durga Puja / Navaratri/Dussehara, Sep-Oct — A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day of Dussehra, when locals worship the deity Durga.

*Holi, in March — The festival of colour is a major festival celebrated mainly in North, East and Western India. On the first day, people go to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it’s a waterfight combined with showers of coloured powder.

Regions & Cities

India
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Himalayan North – Mountainous and beautiful, a tourist destination for the adventurous and the spiritual. As a region that borders on *Tibet, it also has Tibetan-style Buddhist temples, especially in *Dharamsala (map), where the Dalai Lama and many of his followers set up a kind of “free Tibet” in exile, but also in the region of *Ladakh (map), *Jammu and Kashmir (map), which has a home-grown but Tibetan-influenced Buddhism.

In addition, *Uttarakhand contains the sources of the Ganges, Hinduism’s holiest river, which runs past the state’s holy cities of Dehradun, *Rishikesh and Haridwar.

Plains – are considered to be the country’s heartland. The Ganges (Ganga in Hindi) and Yamuna rivers flow through this region. Major events of India’s history took place here. The region also features the country’s capital, Delhi, *Agra of Taj Mahal fame and the holy cities of *Allahabad, *Mathura, *Varanasi.

Western India – Home to the vast Thar Desert; the colourful palaces, forts and cities of *Rajasthan; the country’s most vibrant and biggest city, *Mumbai; the mesmerising rock-cut caves of *Ajanta and *Ellora in *Maharashtra; pristine forests; the wonderful beaches of *Goa; the Asiatic lions of *Gujarat in Gir jungles.

Southern India – Features famous and historical temples, tropical forests, backwaters, beaches, hill stations, and the vibrant cities of *Bangalore, *Chennai, *Thiruvananthapuram and *Hyderabad. The city of *Mysore is world renowned for its palaces, especially the Mysore Palace (map).

Eastern India – Economically less developed, but culturally rich and perhaps the most welcoming to outsiders. Features *Kolkata, once the capital of British India, and the temple cities of *Puri, *Bhubaneswar and *Konark. The region stretches from the mountains to the coast, resulting in fascinating variations in climate.

North-Eastern India – Insular and relatively virgin, this is the country’s tribal corner, with lush, beautiful landscapes, endemic flora and fauna of the Indo-Malayan group and famed tea gardens. The state of Meghalaya is depicted as the “Scotland of India” because of its mesmerizing environment.

Public transport

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YATRA.COM

 BUS >   Redbus • Travelyaari • Buskiraya • Makemytrip • myticketbuddy. + Raj National Express • KPN Travels

While you can’t take a cross-country bus ride across India, buses are the second most-popular way of travelling across states and the only cheap way of reaching many places not on the rail network (e.g. Dharamsala).

 RAIL >   irctc.co.in >> Railways were introduced in India in 1853, more than one and half a century ago by the British, and today India boasts of the biggest network of railway lines in the world, and the rail system is very efficient, if rarely on schedule. It is one of the safest ways of travel in India. *Rail travel in India

 AIRPORTS >   Chhatrapati Shivaji AirportIndira Gandhi Airport • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport • Dabolim Airport. >> + IndiGo AirlinesSpiceJetJet AirwaysAir Asia IndiaAir IndiaDiscover India.

 WATERWAYS >   –

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