Varanasi is not for the fainthearted, but is quite a spectacle CREDIT: NEWMARKET HOLIDAYS
By: Telegraph Travel
15 AUGUST 2017 • 10:15AM
To mark the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, here are a few good excuses for a visit.
1. The food
Perhaps no other country can offer the range of cuisine that India does. There’s no such thing as typical Indian food; from Kerala to Kolkata there’s a smorgasbord of fabulous regional dishes to be discovered, beyond the familiar favourites of chicken tikka masala, rogan josh, malai kofta and tandoori butter naan, which can often be harder to find in India than in the UK.
The cuisine is undeniably a highlight of any trip to India CREDIT: AP/FOTOLIA
2. The Worlds most famous building
"TheTaj Mahal is the best-known building in the world and arguably the most beautiful,” writes Telegraph Travel’s India expert, Gill Charlton, in her guide to visiting. "The architecture is sublime but it is the story that the stones embody that draws seven million visitors each year.”
Seven million people visit the Taj Mahal each year CREDIT: GOSIEK-B/GOSIEK-B
3. The madness of Delhi
India’s capital is a pulsating megalopolis that stifles and stimulates in equal measure (as many of India’s cities do). But bear with this seething metropolis and it will slowly reveal a side you may not have expected; discover leafy parks with their early morning yoga classes, get lost in its dusty bookshops, wander around its lavish Hindu temples, listen to the call to prayer echo from timeworn mosques, shop at bustling markets, go to a comedy club and take in a Bollywood show.
4. The Wagah border ceremony
Since 1959, at the frontier between India and Pakistan, border guards from both nations have engaged in a bizarre border ceremony that, according to Telegraph Travel’s Jack Palfrey, evokes "the poise and elegance of ballet and the showmanship and aggression of professional wrestling.” Expect goose-stepping, shouting and much excitement from the crowds that gather to watch every day.
5. You can stay in a palace
Live like a Mughal king in one of India’s former palaces, many of which have since been converted into lavish hotels. There are many to choose from – find some inspiration further below.
6. The wildlife is incredible
Experience Rudyard Kipling’s India with a wildlife-watching excursion to one of the country’s many national parks, where visitors can see everything from tigers and elephants to rhinos and rufous-bellied hawk eagles. Notable parks include Ranthambore, Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh.
Seeing a tiger in the wild is up there with the greatest wildlife experiences CREDIT: ALAMY
7. Indian art is resurgent
According to the Telegraph’s arts editor, Alastair Smart, these are exciting times for Indian art, which is going through something of a renaissance, led by creatives in Mumbai. Read all about it in his dispatch from the steamy Indian city.
Kaziranga National Park is a World Heritage Site on the banks of the River Brahmaputra CREDIT: DAVIDEVISON - FOTOLIA/DAVID EVISON
8. There are wonderful railway journeys
Nothing quite compares with travelling around India by train, an experience that engenders wonder, nervous anticipation and heady exhilaration in equal measure. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a Unesco World Heritage site that winds through the narrow streets of Darjeeling, is an obvious highlight, but there are many others.
9. To cruise Kerala’s backwaters
Kerala's backwaters are a maze of winding rivers, canals and lakes stretching nearly 50 miles, and they are best explored on one of the old rice barges, which were formerly used for transporting grain but have since been converted to ferry tourists around.
While away lazy days cruising the backwaters of Kerala on a former rice barge CREDIT: AP/FOTOLIA
10. To witness Varanasi
"Varanasi is India for the experienced,” writes Gill Charlton. "Its crowded narrow alleys can induce claustrophobia even in seasoned travelers: mourners carry their dead on biers to the burning terraces above the river; holy men and pilgrims bathe in the frankly filthy waters upstream and consult astrologers and palm readers; and cows, goats and ragged children scavenge for scraps on the ghats – the flights of steps down to the Ganges.” Not for the fainthearted then, but quite a spectacle.
11. There’s a Golden Triangle
The cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are known as the Golden Triangle because of their cultural splendor, which includes the iconic Taj Mahal and Ranthambore National Park. These cities form the basis of the classic tour of northern India.
Decorative temples abound in Jaipur, which is part of the feted Golden Triangle CREDIT: AP/FOTOLIA
12. To hike the Himalayas
Though the star attraction of the Himalayas, Mount Everest, lies many hundreds of kilometers away from India, on the frontier between Nepal and China, the Indian portion of this epic mountain range offers many attention-grabbing vistas and fine hiking.
The Indian Himalayas offers exquisite panoramas and some fine hiking CREDIT: AP/FOTOLIA
13. It’s a bit French
At least it is in Pondicherry, a pocket-sized former colony which France ruled over between 1672 and 1954. "They left a legacy that reveals itself in surprising ways,” noted Telegraph Travel’s Mick Brown.
"The long, sweeping promenade - the Rue de la Marine - that borders the Bay of Bengal carries echoes of Deauville or Biarritz. The street signs would be at home in any French provincial town; and this is the only place in India where the police wear red képis.”
Pondicherry: a little slice of France in India CREDIT: ALAMY
14. The Havelock Islands
Forget Goa; of you want swaying palms, golden sand and turquoise waters, then head to the Havelock Islands. Floating in the Bay of Bengal, this tropical archipelago offers perhaps the best diving in India and is, by most definitions of the word, paradise.
The stunning Havelock Islands are a respite from the madness of the mainland CREDIT: AP/FOTOLIA
15. To watch a game of cricket
Cricket is a national obsession in India; from dusty parks to mega stadiums, the game is played with gusto across the country. There are excellent cricket grounds in most of the main cities, but for something extra special head to the HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala, which, incidentally, is where the exiled Dali Lama lives. The ground has arguably the best backdrop of any in India; framed as it is by the snow-capped Himalayas. Exquisite.
The HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala is arguably the best place to catch a game of cricket CREDIT: GETTY
16. For a proper cuppa
Most of the tea consumed in Britain comes from India, so you’re guaranteed a quality cup during a trip to the subcontinent. As well as brilliant brews, tea plantations in the likes of Darjeeling and Assam, the country offers exquisite scenery, cooler weather and quaint hotels.