A beginner’s guide to Mongolia
22 November 2023
A sensory explosion, India is a vast and unforgettable country. Whether you’re weaving through the streets of Jaipur or spotting tigers in Madhya Pradesh, its sheer diversity is sure to surprise and inspire. Nested among incredible landscapes, India’s stunning temple complexes and vibrant food and festival scenes are just the beginning of what it has to offer. While the Golden Triangle may represent a well-trodden path, there are still plenty of undiscovered corners of India simply waiting to be explored.
We caught up with Nutan, one of our local experts, to talk tradition, travel and getting the best out of this sprawling country.
Hampi in the state of Karnataka is my favourite place in India. Hampi was the capital of the fabulous medieval kingdom of Vijayanagar. Today, the ruins of the great Empire are strewn across it. Hampi is set in a beautiful landscape – rolling hills littered with enormous boulders and the Tungabhadra River running through the center of it. It has a certain magical quality to it. An important aspect of the area is that excavations are still going on and you could be a witness to the unearthing of an important piece of history.
A country of 1.3 billion, it is impossible to summarize it in three words. A 19th century British scholar best describes India,
‘India is a miniature world, a lesson in chronological survey of human history, a collection of all race types and a study in culture. It is a museum of anthropology’.
Ancient, diverse and complex.
Stretching back over 5000 years, India’s culture has been enriched by successive waves of migration which were absorbed into the Indian way of life. These new people were made an integral part of the culture without annihilating their originality, culture, customs or language. Each group was allowed to maintain its own rules and way of life. allowing them to develop within their own parameters. This diversity is what makes Indian culture so unique.
Lentils (dal) and vegetable curries (subzi) are my favourite. They are cooked in a variety of ways in India, but I prefer the way they are prepared in my home state of Maharashtra.
– Three quarters of the Himalayas are in India
– There are 16 main languages and more than a thousand dialects spoken in India
– Four of the world’s biggest religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism) originated in India
– The world’s largest number of fairs and festivals are celebrated in India
Try street food: You can find it at every nook and corner in India, and it is not to be missed! The country is so diverse and each state has its own cuisine to share with visitors Eat where you see a crowd because locals know the best places.
Walk: If you have the time and inclination, there is truly no more inspiring and rewarding way to experience India than on foot. Whether it is quaint mountain villages, bustling small towns or old and forgotten parts of large cities, these are best experienced on a walking tour.
Participate in a Temple Ceremony: Indian villages, towns and cities are dotted with Hindu temples where every morning and evening a ceremony takes place called ‘Puja’. It is a truly mesmerizing experience.
Having worked for a number of years in the business of destination management in India, I could not help but notice some glaring issues which affected the quality of travel experiences being offered. My business was set up to:
-Change/revise the industry. Whilst a number of new hotels have cropped up all over the country, tours of India have not changed much for many years now. We wanted to try and revitalise the way people see our country!
-Offer expert/passionate guides who know the sights, sounds and smells of the area rather than monument hopping.
-Offer authentic experiences as more and more people are no longer travelling for the old style ‘sand and beach’ tourism and predictable experiences. Travellers these days are looking for stimulating experiences that give them the touch and feel of the local culture and interaction with real people.
Village walks in the Himalayas, experiencing tribal culture in the North-East and a trans-Himalayan safari in Ladakh – these are some of the most memorable experiences that I have had as a tour operator.
For us, we are constantly revising our tours to make sure we offer unique experiences. Every two years we endeavor to revisit the entire country all over again – looking for new ideas and ways to do existing tours differently. Because India is such a huge country, this challenge keeps us engaged year after year.
Food: Avoid drinking tap water while in India. Consumption of bottled water is always advisable. Please do not forget to check that the bottle is sealed before you purchase it.
If you are not used to eating Indian food, go easy on the spices and give yourself a few days to adjust to the heat. You may also seek advice from your guide if you wish to try food at local restaurants.
Visiting Places of Worship: Removing your shoes before entering temples, mosques or Gurudwaras (Sikh Temple) is essential. Avoid taking leather goods of any kinds (bag, belt etc) and cigarettes into places of worship. Finally make sure you are appropriately dressed – no shorts or sleeveless tops in places of public worship.
Orissa on the east coast of India is a hidden treasure and I would love to visit it. The state offers everything – a 500 km long coastline, mountains, lakes and rivers, wildlife reserves, temples, monuments, and vibrant festivals.
Make it happen
If you want to experience what India has to offer, head to our destination pages for more information. Alternatively, send an enquiry and make your dream trip into a reality! If you would like to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.