Wanderlust can be a magical thing. After all, what better motivation to haul yourself through drizzly UK winters than the prospect of a few weeks exploring exotic foreign lands? It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of visiting comfortingly familiar destinations, and for good reason too. But when it all comes down to it, who can resist the lure of a Spanish costa or a vibrant European city break?
This year, cast those notions aside and go for something bigger. Go trans-continental. Go to the home of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Go to the land of the tiger. Go to India.
1. You’ll love the people
Images of smiling children running around Mumbai are synonymous with India, and not just because of Slumdog Millionaire. Westerners are greeted with warmth, and are given the perfect introduction to the country’s culture and traditions. Being hospitable and being Indian go hand in hand. It’s not uncommon to be travelling around the country, discovering the beguiling Golden Triangle, and to be invited in to join a local family for dinner. Aside from the company, there’s one major takeaway from such an experience, and that’s the food…
2. …not to mention the delicious cuisine!
India is a must-travel destination for foodies all across the globe. It’s easy to assume the country’s culinary delights are entirely homogeneous, but nothing could be further from the truth. Visit the north for thick creamy curries which aren’t overly spicy. Head further south for spicier, seafood-orientated dishes which will leave you sweating, but still coming back for seconds.
Due to religion (nearly 80% of the country are Hindu and don’t eat meat) vegetarians can enjoy any number of mouthwatering meat-free meals. Next time you visit an Indian restaurant, you’ll know to venture beyond the (British-originating) chicken tikka masala!
3. Spiritual sites here are, well, divine
No matter your religion, it’s hard not to be impressed by the India’s array of spiritual hotspots. For Buddhists, there’s Bodhgaya, for Sikhs, Amritsar, and for Hindus there’s Varanasi. The river Ganges, a trans-border waterway which spans both India and Bangladesh, is famous for being part of a religious journey for many of the country’s Hindus. Every year, millions head to the river’s intersect with the rivers Yamuna and Sarasvati, for a spiritual cleansing session. This is believed to wash away their sins, from both past and present lives.
Rishikesh, known for yoga retreats, high bridges and its dense monkey population, is also significant amongst many Hindus. As if the banks of the river weren’t calming enough, there are numerous yoga institutes designed to keep you feeling suitably zen throughout the day.
4. It’s home to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is one of, if not the, best known landmarks in India. This mausoleum towers an impressive 171 metres above the ground, while all four sides are perfectly identical, resulting in a true spectacle no matter which way you look at it. Over 1,000 elephants were rumoured to have taken part in the construction of the Taj Mahal – a small figure compared to the 22,000 people who chipped in!
Although a lot of the building’s prized stones were torn from its walls by the British during the mid-19th century, the Taj Mahal is still as stunning as it was on its completion in 1648.
5. …and a truly lovable sense of chaos
Whether you’re navigating the backstreets of Jaipur, or scouring Delhi for street food, you’re likely to encounter tumbling rickshaws, loud vendors, and a sense of friendly turmoil that is, quite frankly, un-British. Don’t let that put you off, though. If anything, this is something which you’ll really miss when you return home. After all, try haggling with the cashier at the local M&S and walking away with a bargain!
India is thriving. Thanks to more affordable flights, there’s never been a better time to head to its balmy shores for a holiday of of utter bliss. Whether you’re unwinding on a beach by the Indian Ocean, cruising down a river in the country’s rural territories, or are busy finding your way around Bangalore, India’s charms know few boundaries.