India is a land epitomised by its diversity. Unblemished mountain getaways flank it in the north. Fairytale castles set in the middle of unending desert dunes welcome you in the West. Dense rainforests and rare one-horned rhinos showcase a land untouched by time in the Far East. White sandy beaches, turquoise waters and a world of spirituality await far South. Today, India is a thriving tourist destination that has embraced the modernity of west while keeping intact its own unique flavour. The geographic riches of the sub-continent serve up an exotic entrÃ©e.
From the hot tropics to the snow-capped peaks, there is something for everyone. With world-class hotels and improved travel, luxury trips to India are today far more appealing than ever before. Here are a few amazing destinations that take you beyond the metros and showcase India’s finest.
Timeless Romance of Taj Mahal
Easily the single most iconic monument of the nation, the Taj Mahal is a must see for every traveller. Its relative proximity to the nation’s capital, Delhi, makes the prospect even more appealing. Viewed as a symbol of eternal and undying love, the sight of gleaming white marble on a full moon night is a sight to behold. The surrounding gardens and the river Yamuna meandering in the distance complete this picture-perfect setting.
Photo courtesy of christianhaugen
As perfect a romantic destination as it is, the Taj Mahal also attracts many architect enthusiasts from all over the globe. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is widely regarded as the finest symbol of unique Mughal architecture. Located in Agra, a trip to India is simply incomplete without a glimpse of this ‘crown jewel’.
Tropical Backwaters of Kerala
Located in the southern part of peninsula India, Kerala is often referred to as God’s own country. Part of the tropical Malabar Coast, it is quickly becoming the most popular vacation spot in the country for international travellers. The long coastline of the state promises countless white, sandy beaches that are both secluded and seductive.
The intricate maze of backwaters also promises a relaxing and tranquil trip in one of the many houseboats. Delectable seafood cuisine and a can of chilled beer are just the icing on the cake.
City of Kochi is the gateway to the many riches offered by this beautiful land. Add to this, gorgeous hill stations surrounded by tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats and you will be tempted to extend your holiday by a week or two! From the beaches of Alleppey to the tea plantations of Munnar, Kerala is world draped in luxury.
Secluded Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Do you love a bit of adventure along with amazing beaches and incredible marine life? Then the isolated islands of Andaman & Nicobar are your ideal haven. Separated from the mainland of India by the Bay of Bengal, the group of islands is sparsely populated. The fact that it does not receive as much attention from tourists as many other mainland destinations makes it a lovely honeymoon spot.
Apart from rich fauna and flora, activities like snorkeling and scuba diving offer a glimpse into some rare coral reefs and marine ecosystems.
Luxury hotels and resorts at Havelock and Port Blair offer world class hospitality and service. The chain of islands and their panoramic beaches will pamper you endlessly as well.
Majestic Opulence of Rajasthan
The undulating and hot Thar Desert might not seem like a destination that exemplifies luxury. But that is only if you have never stepped into the grand palaces of royal Rajasthan. The land of ‘rajputs’ is all about hospitality and splendor that is borrowed from an era gone by. Getting to Rajasthan via air from the nation’s capital takes little time. But the way to travel to this western paradise is by rail. Palace on Wheels has been voted as the fourth most luxurious train in the world.
Clad in rich and royal heritage of India’s princely past, this train journey is arguably the most lavish way to travel in all of India. Destinations such as Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur further unravel a world of colour, festive joy and warmth. Live in one of the many hotels that were once imposing citadels and take in the inimitable zest of life in Rajasthan.
Hidden Gems – Coorg & Karwar
Fragrant coffee and amazing cuisine is what this little venture into the heart of effervescent Western Ghats promises.
Both Coorg and Karwar are not very high on the list of an average international traveller to India. But if you happen to be a foodie who loves his cup of coffee as well, then this is as close to nirvana as you can get! Coorg is dubbed as ‘Scotland of India’ with both its weather and the carpet of green that welcomes you. Picturesque and pristine, Coorg combines natural beauty of misty mornings with imposing valleys and waterfalls.
Tagore describes watching a sunset from the beach of Karwar as a moment that “reflects the joy of the infiniteâ€. Karwar is a foodie’s paradise that presents lovely natural silhouettes, as well as satisfied taste buds, which will leave you with memories that last a lifetime. Karwar and Coorg are all the more appealing as they seem to imbibe a very European flavor thanks to the Portuguese heritage of the region.
Srinagar & Kashmir â€“ Paradise on Earth!
After years of conflict and controversy, Kashmir is once again slowly making its way back onto tourist maps. The city of Srinagar kick starts the journey in this region with sights of tulip and rose gardens, Kashmiri handicrafts and the soothing stillness of the Dal Lake. Imposing mountain ranges soon take over and the adventurous can go a step further and drive to the city of Ladakh. Luxury in Kashmir is found more in the abode of nature than man-made structures.
Sights of Sounds of this ancient Himalayan land are accentuated by the syrupy cuisine of the state. For those who love the cosmos, a night at Ladakh is an absolute must as the altitude and clear skies promise a glittering celestial show.
Lush Green Meghalaya
If you love good old English weather and wish to sport an umbrella along with a coat at all times, then Meghalaya is India’s answer. The far east is a place far too often overlooked by both Indian and international tourists. Experience a day in the world’s wettest place, Cherrapunji and then head over to Shillong for a pleasant day or two away from the crowds. The many waterfalls of the state and the imposing green valleys make it a treat for nature lovers.
Step away for just a little while into Assam’s Kaziranga and marvel at the rare sight of a great one-horned rhino. Enchanting and thrilling, the trip to north east is truly one of a kind.
Heart of India â€“ Khajuraho & Kipling’s Jungle Book!
Easily accessible and in the heart of India’s mainland, Khajuraho is pretty well known as the temple with erotic sculptures. True as that may be, there is much more artistic splendor to this site than the mere obvious. Khajuraho has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its architectural mastery takes you back to a thriving civilization in medieval India. Not far from here is the Kanha National Park.
The setting and inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, these bamboo forests entice you with the prospect of a glimpse of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Both Kanha and Khajuraho are well connected and sport some of the best luxury resorts in the region.
Foothills of Himalayas
Kullu Manali, Shimla, Dalhousie, Dharamshala and Rishikesh are some of the major stops on a tour that is all about capturing the Himalayan spirit. Great connectivity and 5-star luxury are the two highlights of this expedition that showcases Himalayan splendor.
Stays at the likes of the Oberoi and the Ritz Plaza offer natural spas, international cuisine and unabated views of the distant mountains.
You can travel in the winter months to experience a white Christmas and a snowy New Year. Mountain passes, natural valleys, rollicking white waters and glacial grandeur are what the world’s highest mountain range promises.
The multitude of riches in India means that there is often too much on the platter. The best approach would be to visit one particular point on each of your trips. Travelling the length and breadth of the country might not be always the smartest choice unless you are planning on a journey that lasts several months!