15 January 2018
India is one of the world’s oldest civilisations, with a rich cultural legacy for you to explore. Unique experiences await as you take in the sights, sounds and smells of intriguing India…
There is no single best time to visit India, it depends where you want to go. Throughout most of the country, especially the south, the October to April season is the ideal time to visit as temperatures and humidity are low. The monsoon season ranges from mid-June to the close of August, and the country’s wildlife national parks are closed within this period, so think carefully before travelling at this time. But it’s often better to plan a holiday in India’s far north during this period, as this region is inaccessible in winter, and April to June is the best time to visit India’s wildlife national parks.
You’ll find one-of-a-kind hotels throughout India. For a romantic break, book the Lake Palace – an ornate 17th Century structure situated in one of Udaipur’s lakes – where you can dine on floating platforms! India’s ancient traditions have inspired many modern wellness practises, so capitalise on this with a stay at the Shreyas Retreat. Based amid tropical gardens near Bangalore, this secluded yoga retreat provides ashram-style experiences with organic vegetarian food, Ayurveda remedies and traditional yoga. Give your kids the holiday of a lifetime by staying in luxurious tents at the Jawai Leopard Camp based between Jodhpur and Udaipur, where they can watch these majestic creatures roam.
Discover spectacular views at Wildflower Hall in Shimla, which is located 8,000-feet above sea level and boasts an open-air whirlpool overlooking the Himalayas. See Asia’s largest cinnamon garden at Aisha Manzil, a two-story 19th Century bungalow situated on a cliff top in Thalassery, Kerala, which provides intimate experiences and Arabian Sea views. Bird watchers should stay at the 19th Century royal residence of Udai Bilas which lies on Dungarpur’s Gaib Sagar Lake, where you can glimpse species like bee-eaters and purple herons. You can also explore 1,000 acres of private forest and learn about tea production at the Glenburn Tea Estate based on the banks of the Rungeet River.
India boasts an incredibly diverse culinary scene with a plethora of gastronomic delights for you to find in each state. Head to the Punjab and you can sample two popular local delicacies; ‘makke di roti’ corn flour bread and ‘saag’, a sarson gravy traditionally topped with ‘ghee’ butter. Although you may travel to Kerala for its spicy fare, one of its most beloved dishes is the subtler ‘ishtu’; a thin stew made with chicken, beef and lamb cooked with coconut milk and vegetables.
This is a largely vegetarian country, due to India’s Hindu heritage, but you can visit the state of Rajasthan and try one of its most famous meat dishes, Laal Maas. This is a marinated spicy mutton curry cooked on a low heat with a fiery red sauce which will light up your taste buds. Round off your culinary itinerary with a stop in India’s north-eastern state of Mizroam. Here you’ll find the tantalising ‘misa mach poora’ dish, which is traditionally created by grilling or roasting shrimp on banana leaves over hot coals.
Explore India’s spiritual heritage at one of its many festivals. The most famous ones are the festival of lights ‘Diwali’ and colourful celebration ‘Holi’ where guests playfight with coloured-water. If you’re in Kerala between August and September, you can join the ten-day ‘Onam’ harvest festival which marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali and involves eating a sumptuous nine-course meal served on banana leaves. Head to the tiny desert town of Pushkar in Rajasthan between October and November for the ‘Camel & Cattle Fair’ which involves ten days of camel trading, racing and even beauty contests!
For something truly unique travel to Haridwar or Allahabad between January and March in 2019 for ‘Ardh Kumbh’. Held only once every six years, in this sacred festival celebrants ritually bathe in three points of the Ganges. You can also attend the planet’s largest religious gathering once every 12 years at the ‘Kumbh Mela’ mass Hindu pilgrimage to holy sites in Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain which is next due to take place in 2022. A good festival to attend with children is the Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race held in the southern city of Alleppey every August. Here they can watch vibrantly-hued 100-foot canoe-style boats race with 100 rowers at the oars in a thrilling event!