Beautiful yet gritty, tranquil yet bustling, enlightening though chaotic – travelling in India is like riding an emotional roller coaster, with twists and turns around every corner.
From the frozen peaks of the Himalayas to the steamy jungles of Kerala, this country contains a seemingly endless variety of landscapes – and a history thought to date back over five millenia.
Most travellers follow a carefully planned route. If you’re short on time, opt for the ‘Golden Triangle’ – a whistle-stop tour of the ancient Mughal Empire’s trio of sacred cities: Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. In Delhi and Jaipur, you’ll enter a world of spices, shopping bazaars, palaces and chalky red forts, while in Agra you’ll encounter what is undoubtedly India’s majestic centrepiece, the Taj Mahal. These three cities are also widely regarded as the best places to spend India’s world-famous Holi Festival – a wonderfully chaotic celebration of colour.
If you’ve more time to spare, then you’re in luck. Stay north to see spectacular, rock-hewn temples rise from the desert in Khajuraho; Hampi’s unearthly world of rocks and ruins; and ancient funeral ghats beside the River Ganges in Varanasi. You could even go trekking, skiing or white-water rafting in the far northern valleys of Kullu, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Or head south for wild tiger reserves, Mumbai’s thriving Bollywood scene, Goa’s white-sand beaches, and the meandering backwaters of Kerala, where, after a long spell on the road, you’ll surely find your inner ‘shaanti’.
There’s a vast infrastructure of accomodation in India, with a range of hotels, guesthouses and hostels catering for all travellers’ needs. The most luxurious options can be found in modern cities like New Delhi and Bangalore.
The 12 best places to stay in India: Top hotels, B&Bs, inns, and vacation rentals — Based on real reviews from real guests