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Our favourite Indian destinations for food, beaches and culture

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India is complicated, multilayered, fascinating... and don’t forget huge. There are a multitude of destinations to explore so if you have a theme in mind that you wish to build your trip around, it is more than likely that India can oblige.

Where to go in India for… foodies

Delhi

Immerse yourself in a world of flavour in India’s northern city of Delhi. The jumbled bedlam of Old Delhi is heaven for anyone who enjoys a hit of local life - take your time to ramble through and among some of the most historic and impressive markets in India: Chadni Chowk is an assault on the senses. Head along this bewilderingly eclectic thoroughfare for a thrilling experience, as much about food as humanity in general.

Delhi spice market stall

Asia’s biggest spice market occupies much of the Khari Baoli area, and makes a fine place to get to know the essential building blocks of Indian cuisine. Don’t miss Paratha Street, where these brilliant flatbreads have been in production for nearly 150 years.

Flatbreads in Paratha Street India

Try: Paratha, chaat, chole batura, roti and punjabi thali..

Cochin

An absorbing destination even when you remove food from the equation, this is one of the major fishing ports in India - and there’s plenty of harbourside activity to prove it. When you’re done with the boutiques and beaches, get ready to tuck in to some of the most divine food in India. Heavily influenced by the proximity of the sea, the produce landed daily in the port forms the mainstay of many local specialities, enhanced with fragrant pinches of chilli, curry leaves and coconut.

Fish for sale in Cochin

Try: uttapam, idli, dosa, beef fry, seafood curries.

Kolkata

This thronging city is a destination worthy of any foodie tour of India. Blessed with the double whammy of great seafood as well as a meat-eating tradition (some parts of India are mostly vegetarian) Kolkata serves up a fine array of edible treats to suit all palates. For an incredible blast of bartering and fresh produce, look no further than the frenetic Munsi Sadaruddin wholesale market, near MG Road Metro. Street food is more or less omnipresent: look for the busier setups to ensure food has not been sitting there for too long.

Kathi Rolls being prepared in Kolkata India

Try: Kathi rolls, phuchka, chai, jhalmuri.

Where to go in India for… beachgoers

The Goan coast

The veteran of the Indian beach package destination may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but Goa is still out partying til the small hours on a regular basis, especially in the overblown resorts at Calangute, Baga and Candolim. Look beyond these, however, and you will find that there are also quieter destinations along Goa’s 100 kilometers of coastline. Arambol beach is the current hotspot to check in and bliss out at a morning beach meditation or an evening trance party, whereas further down the coast the lies natural paradise of Mandrem, little more than a village with few tourist facilities other than a lovely beach, a few guesthouses and simple eateries.

Andhra Pradesh

This east coast region is as yet under the radar for most sunseekers visiting India, yet it boasts a string of beaches, many of which are blissfully unspoilt. No Goan style beach parties or Keralan style luxurious hotels here, but if it’s calm time to contemplate the waves you’re looking for, this could be your destination of choice. Head for Mypadu Beach if you are seeking some solitude, as the long stretch of sand never gets crowded. Bheemunipatnam Beach is a sweeping curve of sand backed by green hills, offering shallow waters for easygoing days in the sun.

Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai

This is a beach for an evening promenade and a spot of people-watching rather than lounging and swimming. At weekends there are sometimes thousands of Mumbaikars milling about on the sand, enjoying the breeze and munching the excellent street food as they go. A great place to get a feel for city beach life in India, but don’t bother to bring your swimmers as the water is pretty grim.

Chowpatty beach Mumbai, India

Where to go in India for… culture vultures

Jaipur

Peppered with heavyweight cultural sights, Jaipur is also the capital of Rajasthan, one of the most exotic and traditional areas of India. The rich royal heritage is showcased in elaborate monuments such as the Amber Fort, which is impressive to visit by night, and the city palace, a sprawling complex including several lovely gardens and courtyards.

Varanasi

The whole city is an eye-popping spectacle of Indian culture in action, where faith and spirituality ooze from the very walls of the town. Rise early to witness the striking sight of the population congregating at dawn on the shores of the sacred Ganges to wash and pray. Make time to watch the evening Ganga Aarti ritual - a spellbinding blend of chanted mantras, incense and fire held on the river’s edge.

Udaipur

This is a destination for true romantics. Udaipur is one of the most scenic cities in India, known as the city of lakes, and indeed the filigree facades of the numerous palaces and havelis reflected in the water of lake Pichola is a magical sight, with the silhouette of distant mountains framing the view perfectly. Take to the water to visit the island in the centre of the lake graced by the Jag Mandir palace, or try to tick off all 138 rooms at the Bagore Ki Haveli waterside palace, where evening folk dances take place.

Lake Pichola, Udaipur, India


Make it happen

If you’d like to get to know this incredible destination better, or if there’s a certain aspect of the country you would like to explore in depth, TravelLocal’s handpicked local experts can help. Pop your details into our enquiry form and they will do the rest. To find out more about India’s myriad temptations, see our destination page. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.

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