Highlights of India: Top 10 things to do

With its mix of traditions, colourful festivals, religious beliefs, architecture and mind-blowing diverse landscapes, India will blow your mind and ... Read more
Highlights of India: Top 10 things to do

With its mix of traditions, colourful festivals, religious beliefs, architecture and mind-blowing diverse landscapes, India will blow your mind and leave you with memories that will fuel your travel spirit forever. It's a vast land, filled with incredible temples and forts, sun-splashed beaches, bustling cities, natural treasures and snow-dusted peaks.

It caters for everyone. From the hardcore trekkers and mountaineers looking to bag some high-altitude exploration, to the culture seekers and families, looking for a more traditional experience. 

Incredible India has something for everyone and we've put together our top 10 things to do. Take a look.

1) Visit the Taj Mahal

When anyone asks, which is the No.1 tourist place in India? It's easy to answer. The Taj Mahal.  Every year, over a million visitors pass through its gates to catch a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse, of what is widely considered the most beautiful building in the world. Very few people leave dissapointed. Built by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his third wife in 1632, the whole complex was built from ivory-white marble and was not completed until 1653. The Taj Mahal has a slightly eerie, yet magical effect on you, and you feel almost humbled to be allowed to walk and touch this beautiful building. 

Get there when the gates open, and, if you're lucky, you have a brief moment when you feel like you have the place to yourself. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

You can visit the Taj Mahal on our popular India tour, Best of Northern India, which visits Jaipur, Delhi, Agra and Varanasi. On this tour of India, you will witness an unforgettable sunrise over the beautiful Taj Mahal, an experience that will stay with you forever. Our exclusive walking holiday Heritage Trails of Rajasthan,  spends three days trekking through the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, visits Delhi, Udaipur and Pushkar, all before ending with an unforgettable visit to the Taj Mahal. 


2) Cycle through Rajasthan

Rajasthan is the land of palaces, deserts, forts, festivals, camels and music, and is undoubtedly one of the most colourful places on earth. Jaipur, the 'Pink City', also the capital of Rajasthan, is famous for its forts and palaces. Pushkar is famous for its camel festival, and Udaipur for its glistening lake and Taj Lake Palace, also used in the James Bond movie 'Octopussy'. The pleasures of shopping for a traditional “jooti” or digging your teeth into “dal-baati” are as varied as they are fascinating.

A cycling tour through Rajasthan is a fantastic way to explore this part of India. You'll meet the locals as you cycle through timeless villages, go on game drives to see tigers at Sariska National Park, chill out in Pushkar and visit Agra, and the famous Taj Mahal. The journey is a medley of sights, sounds and other sensory stimulation. Time it right, and you can be there for the Pushkar camel festival, a 5 day festival tipped as being one of India's most highly-rated travel experiences. 


3) Take a trip down the Ganges

The Ganges (Ganga) River is a sacred body of water to Hindus that begins high in the Himalaya Mountains, and empties out into the Bay of Bengal. It's more than 2,500km long and has the most populated river basin in the world. It’s also a vital source of water and life for more than 40 per cent of India’s billion-plus population. As the Ganges is a holy place, people come here by the millions to bathe, thereby cleansing themselves of sin. As well as bathing, people make offerings of food and flowers. Hindus also consider the banks of the Ganges to be one of the most auspicious places to die and be cremated.

Varanasi, about 800km south-east of Delhi, is the holiest city along the banks of the ganges. It's thin winding alleyways, are busy with 'sacred' cows and pilgrims heading to the many ghats to bathe, and its busy main streets filled with tuk-tuks and silk merchants. It's a truly unique and spiritual place to visit.

We include a sunrise sail on the Ganges on our Best of Northern India holiday, where you head out at dawn to watch the sunrise, and are gently rowed along the river, watching people making their offerings and prayers. Alternatively, you can experience the ganges on our iconic Himalaya trekking holiday Curzon's Trail and the Kuari Pass, where during your 9 days trekking, you have time to experience the magic of Rishikesh and Haridwar and to attend the 'arti' (floating lamp) ceremony on the Ganges.



4) Take an overnight sleeper train

No trip to India is complete without experiencing an overnight sleeper train. It's a cultural experience you just can't describe and a great way to cover long distances. The classic image in Western minds is that of 'Slumdog Millionaire, crowded, dirty trains, often delayed and sitting on the tracks for hours, with people leaning out of carriages and sitting on the roof. Although we can't guarantee there won't be any delays, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the level of comfort in your A/C class sleeper coach set aside especially for westerners.

Everyone has a berth, although you will share a carriage with others in the group. It's a fun experience and there's nothing quite like falling asleep to the gentle rocking as you trundle down the tracks, after stocking up on local cuisine from the sellers who walk up and down the train, feeding the mass of western travellers.

Trips that include a sleeper train include:

  • Tigers, Temples and the Taj Mahal - A wildlife orientated holiday with two nights on a sleeper train.
  • In the Shadow of Nanda Devi - A 2-week trekking holiday through an unspoiled region of the Himalaya. One night on a sleeper train from Delhi. 
  • Cycling Tour of Rajasthan - Enjoy a rest from the bike, with an overnight sleeper from Delhi to Udaipur.
  • Best of Northern India - A cultural tour taking in the highlights of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi with two nights on a sleeper train.
  • Heritage Trails of Rajasthan - An active walking holiday, trekking through the tribal villages of the Kumbhalgarh Sanctuary and Aravalli Hills, with one night on the sleeper train. 


5) Trek in the Indian Himalayas

The Indian Himalayas extend for 2500km from the south of the Indus Valley beyond Nanga Parbat in the west, to Namcha Barwa in the east. It is an area of India that so few travellers know about, and dips and dives in and out of the Lesser, Greater, Tethys and Siwalik Ranges. Its tallest mountain is Kangchenjunga which stands at 8586m, and is the third highest summit in the world. 

Trekking in the Indian Himalaya is unique. It's pristine wild campsites, rarely trekked routes and ancient monasteries, set the story for a region where the way of life has changed little for centuries. You could head to Sikkim and experience close up views of Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, or to northern Ladakh and the Peaks and Passes of the Nubra Valley. With two non-technical high peaks and stunning mountain passes, this has all the hallmarks of a future classic. 

Take another view of the Himalaya with our Head of Product, Jo Rolls, who trekked on our Markha Valley Trek in Ladakh.


6) Relax on a Keralan houseboat

At the southern tip of India, the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu offer a range of experiences unlike anything else on the Subcontinent. One of these is to travel on a traditional Keralan houseboat. Known locally as 'kettuvallam', these traditional rice barges are made by tying jackwood planks together with coir rope, and then coating them with black resin made from boiled cashew nut shells. 

Today these 80ft long crafts have been converted into simple, furnished houseboats with bedrooms, a lounge and eating area, a deck, a kitchenette and a crew comprising of a captain and a cook. Cold water showers are normally available, but the crew can normally provide a bucket of hot water on request. There's no better way to relax, than cruise down the Keralan backwaters on one of these fabulous traditional boats. 

If you want to add this into your holiday itinerary, then check out our Kerala and the Cardamom Hills trekking holiday, which offers an immersive insight into what the locals call 'God's Own Country'. Not only does it include fantastic trekking in the beautiful Cardamom Hills, walking tours of tea plantations, stunning temples and historic forts, but also an unforgettable sunset cruise and overnight stay on a Keralan houseboat.


7) Go on a safari and search for tigers

Tigers are icons of beauty and power, and Ranthambore National Park, one of the largest national parks in northern India, is one of the best places to see majestic Bengal tigers in their wild, natural habitat. Bengal tigers are the national animal of India, and one of the most wondrous and iconic animals to walk the Earth. They’re also one of the biggest cat species in the world. 

Seeing these incredible creatures in the wild, is a wonderful and unique experience. We visit Ramthambore on a number of our holidays and explore the reserve in 4X4 jeeps or canters, with an expert naturalist who has worked closely with the park authorities to save tigers and other wildlife in the area. Their knowledge and skills will give you the best chance of spotting a tiger.

Holidays you can go searching for Tigers in India include:



8) Climb a 6000m peak

Why not set your sights on one of the Himalaya's majestic 6000m summits, many of which people of never heard of? Offering total immersion in the wilderness, you’ll be likely to encounter very few other trekkers. 

The perfect introduction to 6000m trekking peaks in the Himalayas is Kang Yatse 2 (6250m). Our approach through a remote valley offers the combined reward of sensational views and an astounding sense of accomplishment on reaching the summit. A short flight from Delhi drops you into Leh, the Ladakhi capital. Leh and the surrounding area is the perfect place to acclimatise and you’ll spend several days exploring the colourful Buddhist monasteries of the Indus Valley in a region known as ‘Little Tibet’. Then, after driving to the trailhead hamlet of Lhato, you’ll wind your way through remote and starkly beautiful valleys, trekking past glaciers and villages to the base camp below Kang Yatse. From there the focus is clear – trek up to the summit in the company of your experienced guides.

If you're an experienced trekker accustomed to using an ice-axe and crampons, then Mentok Kangri (6250m) may be more a climb you'd enjoy. A high-level trek leads across the Chang Tang plains to the stunning cobalt-blue lake of Tso Morari, the isolated village of Karzok and a basecamp at 5300 metres below a group of peaks known as the Mentoks. From here, depending on conditions, there’s the chance to climb to the two separate 6000 metre summits of Mentok Kangri. Close to the border with Tibet, this rarely-visited high plains region offers great trekking and an excellent mountaineering challenge.


9) Learn to cook 'Indian' curry

When in India, you're surrounded by culinary delights, and there's an abundance of tastes and smells that make your mouth water. Taking a cooking class or watching a cookery demonstration, is not only fun, but will help you learn about the different spices and curries of India. 

On our Tigers and Temples of Rajasthan Family Adventure holiday, you not only visit the Ranthambore tiger reserve, see the majestic Taj Mahal, watch Bollywood movies and play cricket with the locals, but you'll also visit a local Rajasthani family for a cookery demonstration, learning about the different spices and curries of India.

A delicious way to introduce your kids to cultural dishes, if they don't love them already!


10) Visit a festival

India is a country with a vast territory and diverse religions, which creates a diverse local festival culture. It is said that there are over a thousand festivals in India throughout the year. Every festival in India is welcomed with big celebrations and sometimes a unison of cultures. 

Diwali, is a national festival and is the biggest and most important festival in India. It normally falls in October or November and runs for 5 days. It's famously known as the 'Festival of Light' and is marked by prayer, feasts, fireworks, family gatherings, and charitable giving.

The Holi festival is India's 2nd most celebrated festival, and it takes place in March, normally around the 7th and 8th of the month. The Holi festival is the famous festival where the entire country heads to the streets for a giant coloured-powder-and-water “fight”. The colour fight is meant to represent the pure joy of victory and the coming together of people of all classes.

A number of our trips travel during the above times, so be sure to check the dates as you may well co-inside with the festivals. We also run a specific departure on our Cycling Tour of Rajasthan holiday, which coinsides with the Pushkar camel festival. 


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