Travelling in India: 10 Must Visit Destinations in India (Plus Guide to the Dos and Don'ts of Travelling in India)
10 must-see Indian travel destinations
Travelling in India
From the Thar desert to the tropical lagoons of the south, the Arabian sea coastline to the majestic Himalaya, travelling in India offers a headache-inducing variety of cultures and landscapes. Colourful festivals, fantastic ruins, rich and diverse wildlife…it’s difficult to know where to start. On the flip side, first-time travellers can be faced by an overwhelming barrage of noise, dirt and touts.
Getting out of the cities is a good way to escape some of the chaos. It’s important not to try and cram in too much in one go when travelling in India. You’ll just have to go back next year.
An upset stomach is common, particularly if it’s your first time travelling to India. Only drink bottled water, or swap it for coconut water in the south; avoid fruit that you can’t peel yourself; and try and eat in places packed with locals.
Travelling in India itself can be done by rail, in spite of the vast distances; the Rajdhani Express connects Delhi with most other state capitals. You’re as likely to encounter chickens as people on the trains, which are bursting with life; and for long haul journeys, you’ll get tea in bed and some fantastic views. Our favourite is the Himalayan Toy Train from Siliguri to Darjeeling.
People who go travelling in India tend to go back again and again and again. Hoping to inspire you to do the same, here is Mpora’s India travel guide and top tips.
Vijayanagara, the capital of the last Hindu kingdom, was once the second largest city in the world. Hampi village now lies amid its incredible ruins, and is a must-see for anyone travelling to India. Although most people rightly head for the ornate Virupaksha Temple, don't miss the remains of the elephant stables, which once housed 11 royal elephants. The surrounding landscape, scattered with eerie, reddish boulders, is like nothing else on Earth. There is also some excellent rock climbing on offer.
This epic Himalayan highway - the highest motorable highway in the world - is 300 miles long, and takes you from the awe-inspiring monasteries of Leh to the extremist's paradise of Manali. In this case it is very much about the journey, however; the hairpin bends, streams of icy water from glaciers and hundred-metre sheer drops make it an adrenaline-fuelled ride for motorists and cyclists alike. Lush greenery gives way to arid brown moonscapes and majestic white peaks on the way to the highpoint, the Tanglang La Pass at 5,328 m. Look out for some hilarious and imaginative slow down signs as well.
If thoughts of frenzied, bustling cities, overcrowded trains and crazily driven rickshaws are putting you off travelling in India, the lazy, languid Kerala backwaters might be a good place to start. The labyrinthine network of lush, tropical lagoons is best explored by houseboat, and is equally beautiful on moonlit nights and misty mornings. You can even grab breakfast from the coconut and banana trees which shade the waters.
Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
A mere 260 km from Delhi, Corbett is India's oldest national park, and a must-visit if seeing tigers is high on your list while travelling in India. Founded to protect Bengal tigers, Corbett places a big emphasis on ecotourism and conservation. You can explore the tiger-packed grasslands, hills and forest of the park on elephant back, and even stay overnight.
Tiger Hill, Darjeeling
The little Toy Train that puffs its way into the hills of Darjeeling is worth a visit in its own right, as are the famous tea gardens, where you can sample local produce. Tiger Hill, about 11 km from the town, offers amazing views towards Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak; on a clear day you can even spot Everest. Watching the light hit the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya at sunrise is pretty special.
Udaipur is, admittedly, one of many cities to be dubbed the ‘Venice of the East’, but perhaps it is the most deserving. In 1829, Colonel James Tod called it ‘the most romantic spot on the continent’. Fabulous palaces, many of which are now luxury hotels, are set around its lakes against the backdrop of the purple Aravalli Hills. Warm and sunny all year round, Udaipur has all the colour and noise of any Indian city, with an extra injection of Aladdin-style romance. The floating white marble Lake Palace, which James Bond fans will recognise as Octopussy’s opulent home, is particularly beautiful.
Goa's hot white sands and sparkling waters have long made it a popular destination with anyone travelling in India. British troops used to come here for the bars and brothels, and while these are very much still on offer, most visitors are drawn in by the palm-fringed beaches. The snorkelling and jet skiing are top notch. There are plenty of attractions inland as well: crumbling colonial architecture, spice farms and delicious east-meets-west cuisine.
Camel Trekking, Jaisalmer
The desert fort of Jaisalmer, the 'Golden City', is an excellent starting point for camel treks. You will usually cover a mixture of scrub land and rolling golden dunes on your camel which, according to our sources, are surprisingly high up and spit a lot. Some tour operators treat their camels better than others, and it is worth doing some research. The occasional mud-built village breaks up the sand flats, giving a glimpse of Indian rural life. Nightfall heralds a welcome drop in temperature and the unveiling of the spectacular night sky. Sleeping in the desert beneath the stars is wonderfully peaceful.
The lakes of Kashmir’s capital are mesmerisingly beautiful, and plenty of visitors pass their time in Srinagar exclusively on the water. You can step from floating houseboats onto delicate shikaras and float up and down the placid, 8 km Lake Dal. If you can bring yourself to step ashore, the colourful markets offer exquisite Kashmiri crafts and fragrant cuisine, and there are plenty of Mughal pleasure gardens to explore. The city’s northerly position makes it pleasantly cool on and off the water.
Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek, Sikkim
A less well known and more challenging trek than the hike to Everest Base Camp, the trip to Kanchenjunga takes you through Sikkim, one of the remotest corners of India. Valleys of magnolia and orchid give way to meadows of grazing yak, herded by the incredibly hospitable Lepcha people who believe that Kanchenjunga is the home of a goddess and should not be summitted. Buddhist monasteries perch against impossibly high peaks as the mountain itself comes into view. It's a fantastic alternative trek with some of the most spectacular views in the Himalaya.