Why go to India – At a glance
Mention India to someone, and their mind tends to fill with exotic thoughts. Visions of rich culture, spices and spirituality will all spring to mind. I have had a strong passion for travelling my whole adult life, and I have been lucky enough to visit almost one-third of all the countries on this beautiful earth. Yet I am building a website for Indian travel because no other country has left such a mark on my soul as this one. Now I want to share with you how to get the most out of your experience and help point you in the right direction.
Each state is radically different from the next, and it feels like India is many countries all wrapped up into one. So let me answer the question of why go to India in the first place? Some people come here for the wildlife and some for the golden sandy beaches of Goa. Whatever you are looking for, you will probably find something to suit your needs.
A complete post about why to visit would be a very long read indeed. After you have read my post, ask yourself what you want and what do you expect? Once you have decided what that is it’s easy to plan your trip from there. This is the most important question as answering it will prevent you from wasting any of your precious time and money on things you dont really want.
Now I will cover the most popular areas of interest travellers tend to have in mind when they come. I’m going to try to keep things as straight forward as possible as I dont want you falling asleep on me, so let’s jump straight in.
India is a vast country, and its topography varies more than any other country I know. Throughout the nations, 3.287 million square kilometres of landmass it seamlessly changes from one incredible landscape to another.
Those of us on a spiritual quest and looking for a bit of solitude will probably head to the foothills of the mighty Himalaya. Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand are the perfect place for long walks in the mountains to give yourself time to reflect and charge your soul. It could be how harsh the environment is in the Himalayas, but there is no place on earth I have ever experienced where people are so kind and hospitable. You could not dream of a better place to lose or find yourself in than this fabled land.
Or maybe you are looking for pure hedonism and just want to feel the sand between your toes on a palm-fringed island? If that’s the case head to the tropical paradises of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa or the Andaman Islands. It is easy to lose track of time from your hammock as you tirelessly watch the tide go in and out.
Maybe you have come to see the Jungles of the subcontinent so you can marvel at the extraordinary biodiversity mother nature has bestowed on this land. For nature, lovers come to the tropical heaven that is the Western Ghats. The animals that live in the lush hills are both unique and Varied. The Sal forests of the Terai look and feel primordial and harbour many species of megafauna. The steaming tiger filled jungles of central India are sure to enthral all who come.
You may be the adventurous type who wants to pit your wits against the elements. If this is true, then head to the northern states such as Ladack or Sikkim. The high mountain deserts are visually stunning and offer one photographic moment after another at almost every turn. It is also extremely challenging and getting out and into the wild that will push your limits. It is the chance for you to really test out those north face shoes and see what they can do.
Rajasthan and Gujarat’s landscapes are hostile, yet they are the most densely populated deserts on earth. They are both dramatic and diverse in the extreme. Catching a sleepy-eyed camel across this forbidding landscape is enough to make you grateful just to be alive. There are not so many dunes in the Thar, and there is a certain amount of vegetation that provides a home for a remarkable amount of wildlife.
So no matter what it is you like, be it sun, sea, sand or ice. This country has you covered. Unless you have stacks of time, I suggest you decide which part of what I have just described appeals to you most. Ask yourself what is the purpose of your visit? What is it you are looking for? Look at the map, see where it is on a map and plan your trip around your choices. Try not to cram too much in one trip, or you will spend all your time on transport and miss it all.
Even though India’s protected areas cover just 1.23% of its landmass, that still equates to 40501.13 square kilometres. That is divided up into 104 national parks.
India is home to 8% of all the species found on earth, making it one of the 12 mega diversity hotspots in the world. With 1301 species of birds, India is an Ornithologists dream. 410 species of mammals can be found here, or 8.86% of all the earth species. Including the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, stripped Hyena, Asian Elephant, Bengali Tiger, Snow leopard, common leopard and entire worlds population of Asiatic Lions to name just a few.
518 Species of reptile, including 279 species of snakes. 410 species of amphibians of that number 50% are found nowhere else in the world,18000 species of plants and an undetermined number of insects. Put bluntly India is a wildlife enthusiasts paradise.
The distribution of biodiversity is very uneven and is concentrated into small pockets. The rainforests and jungles are where the big hauls are. The conditions in the jungle are both warm and damp. This is the perfect conditions for life to thrive and seldom have I seen a better example of what evolution can do when the conditions are just right. The biodiversity is staggering and all just there waiting for you to discover for yourselves.
In the same token, the deserts and high mountains provide a refuge for many species that you won’t find anywhere else on earth. It can be gratifying for any wildlife enthusiast to come here. Still, in terms of the numbers of species, it is obviously smaller than India’s jungles as living conditions are a lot more hostile. There are many times when I stand in awe that life finds a way to flourish at all in these parts, but flourish it does.
Humans beings have been inhabiting the land since around 3500BC due to the bountiful nature of the land. The country has seen countless empires’ rise and fall. Each has left a genuinely breathtaking mark on its architecture. From the Hindu empires in the south to the Muslim kingdoms in the north, Architectural wonders are everywhere, and they are as varied as its landscapes.
Some are delicate, intricately carved and designed to impress like the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. Some are built for strength. To protect all those who live in their walls like, the mighty Mehrangarh fort in Jodphur. Some are just plain Bizzare and can only be described as the personification of someone’s abstract imagination.
There are also mighty monuments leftover from India’s days as a colony that scatter the country. From the exquisite Portuguese churches of Goa to the Imposing grandeur of The victoria memorial in Kolcutta.
Indias seemingly endless collection of man-made marvels are so numerous it would be impossible to see them all in just one visit. Many of them are now Unesco world heritage sights that have had vast amounts of money put into their restoration and preserved these monuments against the ravages of time.
The fact of the matter is there are enough examples of breathtaking architecture to keep you coming back to the country again and again. Even if architecture is not your thing, some of the buildings here are sure to grab your attention. I think it is fair to say that discovering Indias Sublime architecture for your self is one of the plus points when considering why go to India?
While the country is hurtling into the 21st century, spirituality is still very much alive in India. This is something that many of us want to explore for ourselves because word on the street is the place to experience that. Its long history has allowed traditions to flourish and given rise to a kaleidoscope of humanity.
Some search for traditional and herbal alternatives to modern chemical-based medicine to be more kind to our bodies. If this is your purpose, well look no more, India is the home of Ayurvedic medicine (Ayurveda for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems.
Ayurvedic medicine can trace its roots back more than 3,000 years, and for me, I find it very hard to believe that its practitioners did not find anything to note during this immense stretch of time. The ideas are based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind and body; something many of us will agree there is an obvious logic from the offset. Whereas we use Western medicine to treat symptoms of an illness, ayurvedic medicine is geared towards maintaining that balance and prevent you from getting sick in the first place. The accumulated secrets of this noble pursuit are waiting for you to discover.
It is also the birthplace of yoga, and that has become part of so many of our lives to relax the mind. Studies show quite clearly people who practice yoga tend to be more supple in old age, but it is more than just a way of stretching.
Yoga, coupled with meditation is an excellent way to bring a sense of calm to our minds, something most of us need in our fast-paced lifestyles in our own countries. Our lives in the western world tend to be full of pressure, anxiety and stress. Many come here to learn these methods to heal from those stresses and learn to cope with these issues that little bit better in the future.
There are ashrams (places of communal living established around the teachings of a guru) and centres of Vispanna (mindfulness meditation) all over the subcontinent that welcome outsiders. It is where you go to learn these ancient arts and foreign tourists are coming to these places in ever-increasing numbers.
Culturally its the birthplace of Hinduism, Jainism and where buddha came to become enlightened. Not to mention Muslims making up a good portion of the country and the pockets of Christian communities all add to the appeal of discovery. I think It is food for the soul to surround yourself with other cultures and ideas so that we might try and appreciate the world from someone else’s eyes. Most importantly, as a whole Indian people welcome those who want to learn about their cultures, making everything all the appealing.
Signs of spiritual India are everywhere. From a small village shrine to enormous temples to the gods. There is a good reason many of us make a beeline for India. So if it’s you seeking to perfect your downward-facing dog pose in Rishikesh or indulging in a sumptuous ayurvedic spa in Kerela, then you have come to the right place. Whatever your seeking in your spiritual journey, India is undoubtedly at the top of the list of where to start.
India has become synonymous with good food across the planet and, in the UK, research shows us it is our favourite takeaway. Travelling across the country and sampling each states culinary delights is a highlight for anyone. Places to fill up range from grubby streetside Dhabbas to plush 5-star hotels. The rule is if it is full of local people, then it is probably a good place to eat.
Word is out India is a vegetarian’s paradise, and indeed it is. Hands down the most creative vegetarian and vegan food, you will find anywhere. You will find no remakes of burgers and sausages, that plague our vegetarian menus in the west. It is all original and all delicious. Vegetarian food is also safer to eat if you chose to eat in local streetside Dhabas as food handling practices can be a little on the questionable side.
Not only is this the best place to eat your greens in, but also carnivores, won’t be disappointed either. Especially in the north with roasts Kebabs and meaty curries are strewn across menus everywhere. Most restaurants a divided into pure veg and non-veg varieties and If you are an omnivore, well you have almost too much to choose from.
In the south rice is the staple, and in the north, there will be bread accompanying most meals. That bread comes in all shapes and sizes. For me, the wide variety of bread is a highlight if not very fattening.
With over 7500km of coastline seafood understandably features on many menus. Most notably Karnataka, Kerala Tamil Nadu, Goa and Odisha. Each with there own signature dishes that are sure to delight any palate.
Eating your way across the subcontinent is a highlight for anyone who enjoys food and now would be a good time to invest in some stretchy trousers. The cuisine you will encounter make up an essential part of why go to India in the beginning.
Trekking in India.
India has a whole lot of space to stretch one’s legs, Ranging from half-day outings to multi-week expeditions that are sure to challenge even the most experienced trekkers.
What’s more, there are opportunities to walk through a wide range of landscapes that are just not offered by another country. You can trek in search of the elusive tigers through the lush hillsides of the western ghats. Or push your limits in the lofty high mountain deserts of the north and take your time to meditate in one of the many Buddhist Gompas along the way.
For those looking to make there own footprints rather than follow someone else’s, the tribal states of the northeast can be truly pioneering work that would take a lot of planning. In Uttarakhand, the trekker can join countless pilgrims in season on the road to the source of the sacred river Ganges or seak solitude on the trail to the Millam glacier.
Additionally, if you are looking for something more hardcore, you might want to consider trekking the misty slopes of Khangchenzonga in Sikkim. It is the third highest mountain on earth, and a trip up to its basecamp is the ultimate test of your abilities. For more information on this and other examples of intrepid travel in India, check out my post. The truth is with this many options its hard to work out where to trek first.
India is virtually many countries in one, different landscapes, different cultures and other faiths give rise to a rich tapestry of human nature. One thing that all of these cultures have in common is a sense of hospitality and openness. Something that makes a trip to India a truly unforgettable experience.
Let me tell you a little story about what I mean. One day when I was on a train and waiting for it to depart. Two children posted a piece of paper through my window, and I took it in my hands. When I opened the letter it said, “thank you for visiting my country and if you are lost or need any help, phone my mother.” They also provided his mother’s phone number.
Now I don’t know about for my readers, but from where I live in London this is something that would never happen. I found this act of kindness to be a little overwhelming, to be honest. Most importantly, it is not an isolated case. Acts of kindness like this happen to me all the time. The fact of the matter is that the Indian people are really kind, and that is something special to experience.
As you travel around the country, you can’t help but notice the people don’t just have different cultures and customs, but they look different. It can feel like you have crossed some kind of border sometimes.
With so many ways to perceive the world all inside one border, this must surely be one of the joys of travel here. After all, One of the key benefits of travel is seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Because this helps us grow as a human and with so many walks of life living side by side that can only be a good thing, right?
India is also home to a multitude of cultures. Hindus, Muslims, Jain, Buddhists, Christians, and many animist cultures all call this beautiful land home.
As most of us know in Hinduism, there are many gods. Even though Hindus makes up the bulk of the numbers in India, there is a multitude of ways for its followers to show their devotion. In fact, this is as varied as the countries’ landscapes, which makes for an even greater diversity of culture. It is one of the key attributes of Hinduism I respect most. There is no set way to worship. It is whatever feels right for the individual.
There is no doubt that the countries diversity of culture is a highlight of coming in the first place and a definite plus when considering why to go to India.
Shopping in India.
Shopping for souvenirs is something most people will want to do whether it is one of the colourful saris that adorn many Indian women or a sparkling new laptop.
The bargains are everywhere. India is home to many artists who sell their masterpieces in pottery, drawings, paintings, leatherwork, stonework and just about every other art form you can imagine. There is a beguiling choice of souvenirs to choose from, and there is something to suit everyone.
But you will have to bargain hard for a reasonable price. Not much has a fixed rate here, and the bargains are only as good as you make them to be. Remember no one will sell at a loss, so don’t be afraid to haggle.
India is famous for spices and many of which are not available in our own countries such as lichens, or very unreasonably prised, like Kashmiri saffron strands. Also, the spice blends that give the dishes their unique flavour such a Deggi Merch or Mutton Masala are almost impossible to get your hands on outside of the big cities in the west. Although amazon can sometimes help, it is best to capitalise on this while you can be an avid food lover or a chef.
India is famous for its textiles, and it can take a long time in a lot of shops to find just what you want in the price range that’s for you. A pashmina made from pure Kashmiri wool will set you back a few thousand rupees for sure. But Khadi (homespun textiles produced on a small scale) will only set you back a few hundred. There is something to suit every budget, and no tourist is likely to leave empty-handed. So bring your poker face and good nature to bargain your night away.
Summary of my post Why go to India?
That was just eight reasons to include India into your bucket list, and I could quickly write a dozen more. No matter what it is, you want from your travel India has you covered. Its a land of colour and of contrasts sure to provide you with memories that will last a lifetime. This post aimed to give my readers an insight into why I keep going back to this amazing country again and again. More importantly, show you what is there for you, so you can ask yourself what you want from your travel.
From that, you can have a look at the map and focus your travel there. I hope this post has helped with that and for further information and inspiration check out the government website Incredible India. It is packed with even more ideas on how to get the most out of your travel. If you have any questions or comments just leave them in the box provided and until next time my fellow intrepid traveller, happy trails.
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