9 unmissable things to see and do in India

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

The country's tourist office likes to proclaim 'Incredible India' with good reason. The hype really does chime loud all over this spellbinding, diverse, ever thrilling nation of over one billion colourful souls. There are many Indias, from the literally breathtaking chaotic urban charm of New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, through to the epic beauty of the temples in a country that gave the world three of its major religions, and then on to the serene mountains of the Himalayas and the laidback beach escape of Goa.

9 unmissable things to see and do in India © Ramón - Flickr Creative Commons
9 unmissable things to see and do in India © Ramón - Flickr Creative Commons

9 unmissable things to see and do in India

There are many ways to explore India, and if you want a guiding hand then Titan Travel offers a range of expert-led tours and escorted trips around some of the country's highlights. Haul aboard my tuk tuk now as I take you for a no thrills barred swirl around the nine things that you must see and do in India. This is Incredible India so come on, let's go! There is so much to discover...

Touring the backstreets of Old Delhi, India © Grant Matthews - Flickr Creative Commons
Touring the backstreets of Old Delhi, India © Grant Matthews - Flickr Creative Commons

1. Cycle rickshaw tour of Old Delhi

The city may be officially be called New Delhi, but ever-captivating Old Delhi is the place I prefer to spend my time. Its exotic sweep of pungent spices and chaotic street life - dogs, pigs, monkeys and the sacred cow walk amongst a constant stream of motorbikes in the jam-packed streets - is the perfect introduction to the maelstrom of much of India. The best way to immerse yourself in it all is on a cycle rickshaw tour - even better if you stop off to try delicious street food en route too.

2. The Taj - the Taj Mahal that is

Countless words have been waxed on this utterly unique testament to one man's love for his wife. The word even the most world weary traveller or deepest cynic will inevitably end up exhorting is 'Wow!'. It is that special. It is that jaw dropping. Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Maha, it is a ridiculously opulent creation awash with marble and other precious and semi precious stones. It is remarkable and busiest at sunset, but I recommend coming back at sunrise when its marble hues change colour every few minutes.

Tiger spotting in India © Alexandra Giese - Fotolia.com
Tiger spotting in India © Alexandra Giese - Fotolia.com

3. Tiger spotting

India is arguably the best country in the world for spotting tigers. Real attempts have been made in recent years to preserve the tiger population and it is bearing fruit in the national parks. The two I recommend are Ranthambore and Satpura. Ranthambore is handy as it's near the well trodden, well equipped 'Golden Triangle' of Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur.

Even better is Satpura, a wee gem that is only just opening up to foreign visitors. Here you can enjoy walking and canoe safaris, as well as the usual jeep adventure. The best time for sightings at both is in the hotter summer months when the tigers have to seek out watering holes.

4. Visit the Pink City

On first sighting Jaipur you will realise why it has earned its pink moniker. This lavish city and its maharajas retained a lot of their spirit and independence even during British colonial rule. That pride lingers on in a city awash with red sandstone temples, palaces and wide boulevards. Jaipur is quite easy to walk around too, which is unusual for a major Indian hub. I massively enjoyed a sunrise guided bike tour with stops off to try the local street food in the early morning. Yum!

Mountain road near Almora, India © Digitalfestival - Dreamstime.com
Mountain road near Almora, India © Digitalfestival - Dreamstime.com

5. Hike in the Himalayas

You'd need serious climbing gear and high altitude training to enjoy a hike deep into India's northern high Himalayas. I prefer instead of tackling the big technical peaks just walking around the Himalayan foothills in and around the Almora district, where there are lots of little villages where few tourists venture. I had great fun here playing cricket with some local kids we just chanced upon, then visiting their school. There are good walking tours too, and you are still up over 2,000m high here. The views to the higher snow-capped peaks are sensational.

6. Jodhpur

This is the historic Indian city for sunseekers as it is known as 'Sun City' due to its impressively clement weather. It is also a charming oasis of forts, palaces and temples set dramatically in the middle of an unforgiving desert. The 'Clock Square' is the heart of the action, with a web of colourful markets swirling around it. This is my favourite city in India to just relax in a café with a chai. Come here and I think you will soon see why.

Enjoy a real Indian © Tomas Belcik - Flickr Creative Commons
Enjoy a real Indian © Tomas Belcik - Flickr Creative Commons

7. Enjoy a real Indian

India is famous for its food and it deserves to be, though of course you have to be mindful of the dreaded 'Delhi Belly'. The food here is far more tasty than the chilli-for-the-sake-of-it dishes you sometimes get in the UK. It is all about fresh spices and depth of flavour. This is the real thing with a diverse array of freshly ground spices setting the tastebuds tingling at every meal. My favourite restaurant is Bukhara in Delhi - tandoori cooking will never be the same again.

8. Hop on a train

I recommend fitting a train ride into any Indian adventure. India's railways are such an experience and an integral part of the country's culture. Don't even think about braving Second Class as it's an anything goes, cram everyone in riot where passengers end up hanging out of windows and balancing on the roof of carriages. It's quite a spectacle, best viewed from the highest class of seat you can snare. The higher class seats often come with meals too and compared to Europe prices are bargain basement.

9. Gone to Goa

On India's sultry, lush western coast this state has a far more laid back, tropical vibe than the north. It's no longer just a hippie retreat, but a fully-fledged resort playground complete with superb hotels and restaurants, with dishes infused with coconut milk, spice and a touch of Portuguese influence from Goa's colonial days. Other beach options include the less discovered Andaman Islands over on the east coast.

Gone to Goa, India © Samrat35 - Dreamstime.com
Gone to Goa, India © Samrat35 - Dreamstime.com

Whether you're itching to try them all or have simply picked one or two from the list, check out the latest online offers from Titan Travel, with tours departing for India from across the UK in 2017 and 2018. India is more than a country - it's an enormous, sweeping continent, and as such the weather in India varies greatly from north to south, east to west. Check out our guide and then dig deeper by visiting the weather pages for specific cities or regions. Same goes for our when to travel to India guide.

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
Posted on Thursday 26th January 2017 in: Adventure Asia Culture

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