Whether it's a cow meandering down a Delhi lane or the latest beats in Mumbai's cocktail bars, India is a contrasting continent in one country. Religious symbolism pervades in ancient Buddhist sites and in the Hindus bathing by the holy Ganges at Varanasi. At the nation's beating heart you'll find myriad languages and races at vibrant street markets and colorful festivals.
India's capital Delhi revels in its mix of Mughal monuments like the majestic Juma Masjid mosque, and its graceful parliament buildings on broad boulevards. In dynamic Mumbai, chaotic cricket games play to a backdrop of the Victorian High Court, with Bollywood glamour never far away. Jaipur's pink-hued sandstone palaces are almost a match for Agra's dazzling marble Taj Mahal, a monument of love. British forts and churches recall the days of the colonial Raj in relaxed Chennai.
Charter a rice barge and watch the world drift by along Kerala's verdant backwaters, snaking their way through India's southern tip. Mountain villages dot the mighty Himalaya region in the north, where snowboarders whiz down the peaks around Manali, with trekking for those who prefer the summers. From here it's a dramatic journey over the snowy peaks to mountainous Ladakh. Explore India's hidden-away northeast, where lush tea plantations dominate hill-station Darjeeling, and the remote hills of Sikkim shelter monasteries.
Children squeal while riding on hand-cranked Ferris wheels on Mumbai's Chowpatty Beach, while families promenade at sunset eating kulfi ice-cream and barbecued, chili-smeared corn on the cob. It's easy to find your own spot of palm-tree tranquility on one of Goa's sandy beaches, where Portuguese heritage still lies in its crumbling 19th-century mansions. Another kind of calm dominates Mahabalipuram's beach, where seventh-century granite shore temples sit on the water's edge, guarded by Shiva's sacred bull.
Eating and Drinking
From butter chicken in Amritsar to steamed momos from Sikkim, India's cuisine is as varied as its landscapes and languages. In Kerala you can mop up fiery fish curry with rice on a huge banana leaf, or dine like a king on a Kashmiri Wazwan banquet. Chennai loves its spicy, filled dhosa pancakes, and rice flour idli with coconut chutney for breakfast. Yogurty lassi goes well with every meal, or sip cocktails in sleek bars with Mumbai's movers and shakers.