Remarkable, exotic, glorious, spiritual, ancient, serene, magical, extravagant – the "real" India? All of that and more...
Namaste! Welcome to India! Here travel is a joy for the senses; every adventure an unforgettable experience. The possibilities are endless. India is the heady intoxication of sandalwood, exotic spices, jeweled liquid silks, glittering gold and a festival every day!
India is a vast nation of landscape and culture; a kaleidoscope of southern lush green fields and jungles, central plateaus and golden desert sands, fabulous beaches with azure waters and snowy mountain peaks to the north. Rathambore National Park is famous for its tigers and preserves hundreds of kilometers of India's forests and its wildlife.
Its modern cities underscore the world's largest democracy and seem fit to burst at the seams with people from all walks of life. Traditional India lies in the heart of its rural villages and small towns. Magic winds through India like the intricate stitching of a bridal sari. It is a land of temples and sadhus, of religious diversity and cultural opulence. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam all exist within the country today.
Over 5000 year of history has gifted this land with a wealth of architecture and monument. Successive conquerors, traders and travelers have left their mark on the different regions of the sub-continent over the centuries. Pink cities, red forts, marble palaces and memorials are a profusion of ornamental arches, slender minarets, colorful tile, stone inlay and peaceful reflecting pools. The million facets of India await in the treasures of its fabled destinations; Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Gangtok, and Kolkata
Get caught up in the excitement of Delhi. India's capital is a contrast in history. It is a bustling metropolis, its old and new cities the former capitals of the British and Moghul empires. Historical monuments sit side by side with modern office buildings. Its most famous landmark is the massive Red Fort, constructed in the 17th century from red sandstone and partially razed by the British after the mutiny in 1857.Nearby is the Chandni Chowk one of the first covered bazaars of the same era originally catering to the Mughal nobility and their families. Built in 1199, Qutub Minar was the first Islamic structure built in India and is one of the most visited tourist spots of Delhi. It boasts the world's tallest brick minaret. The Parliament buildings are here as is the Rajghat, the memorial to Mahatma Ghandi.
Jaipur is the "pink city". The capital of Rajasthan state is build of pink stucco and is remarkable for its networks of gridded streets. The walls were painted pink in honor of a visit by the Prince of Wales in the 1800's! The Palace quarter encloses the huge complex of the Rajput Hawa Mahal - Palace of the Winds, with its formal gardens and small lake. Believed to have been built for the ladies of the royal household, they enjoyed the sights of the city through its screened balconies of lattice work. The Amber Palace offers arrival by elephant, much like the ancient rulers of Amber. It was originally part of the Jaigarh Fort which sits on the hills above with incredible views, imposing architecture and an impressive collection of medieval cannons.
The Taj Mahal, easily one of the world's most recognizable monuments is located in Agra. A monument to love, it is a masterpiece of Indian Muslim architecture and the grounds include ornamental gardens and pools. Agra served as the capital of the Mughal rulers at the height of their empire. Babar, the founder of the dynasty laid out the first formal Persian gardens here. His grandson, Akbar built the Red Fort - the model for the one in Delhi. Once consisting of five hundred buildings including palaces, courts, gardens, mosques and pavilions of white marble and inlaid with precious stones. In Agra you will find the famed Mughal cuisine; sophisticated and sublime combinations of spices, vegetables, rich gravies and flavorful biryanis.
Khajuraho is a village southeast of Delhi. It is most famous for the group of medieval Hindu and Jain temple monuments. Khajuraho was one of the capitals of the Chandela kings. It contained about 85 temples built through the 11th century, of which about 20 remain. They were rediscovered in the 19th century after neglect and jungle overgrowth. The most outstanding feature of these temples is the extravagant carving on the spiral superstructure. On the outside the carvings depict both the sensual and the everyday life of the Indian people at the time.
The holy city of Varanasi is a place of pilgrimage; one of the seven sacred spots for Hindus in India. This is where the Lord Shiva stood at the beginning of time. Also known as Kashi or Benares, Varanasi is a center of spiritualism and mysticism. The dizzying array of shrines, ashrams, temple spires and ghats attest to this. On the banks of the Ganges, long flights of stone steps that lead down to the river, the ghats are the hub of life here. Bathing in the Ganges is said to absolve one of all their sins, paving the way to future salvation. Water carriers are popular items here, brass pots and jerrycans to bring the holy waters back home.
The archaeological museum houses the national symbol of India – the Ashoka pillar. This pillar is one of a series of columns erected throughout northern India in the 3rd century BCE by king Ashoka and engraved with his edicts. The Varanasi pillar has four lions seated back to back on its capital. Varanasi has drawn men of learning and proponents of dance, music and culture for centuries. Benarasi saris are highly prized; the city is famous for fine silk and gold and silver brocades. An indispensable part of a bride's trousseau they are often passed on through generations.
Discover India's nature Darjeeling was the traditional summer escape for the British as well as the Mughal kings and is reknown for its lush green tea plantations and temperate climate. It is also the jumping-off center for alpine trekking, heli-skiing and white water rafting throughout the region. View Mount Everest from Observatory Hill, explore a tea estate and ride the cable car, visit the only snow leopard breeding facility at the zoo and shop for beautiful Tibetan crafts. Darjeeling is an invigorating blend of colorful architecture and verdant mountainscape.
Kalimpong, famous for its orchards and flower nurseries is a quiet hill resort 50 km from Darjeeling, set among the foothills of the Himalayas. Here you will find important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. In the early 18th century, this area was taken over by the kings of Bhutan. The British annexed then it to Darjeeling after 1865. Its fabulous setting offers panoramic views of the Kanchenjunga Range and the Teesta river valley.
Gangtok. Is this India? Like something out of the mysterious Shangri-la, this hill station seems to be more Tibetan than what we consider traditional India. Old-world charm and hospitality warm the snowy vistas dominated by Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Prayer flags flap in the wind over stupas and monasteries. In Deer Park are native Sikkim animals like the red panda and Himalayan bear. The Kalimpong handicraft center for local artisans is here along with the weekly Lal Bazaar for silks, spices and jewelry.
Kolkata, formerly Calcutta offers a complete change of pace from the peaceful hill stations. The "City of Joy" is the largest metropolis in India and the commercial and industrial heart of the East. Once the capital of the Raj it still retains the stamp of the Empire on its monuments, gardens and colonial buildings. There is a destination for every kind of traveler in Kolkata; museums, historical monuments, night life, restaurants and markets galore. Enter the city over the massive Howrah Bridge and make your way to the Maiden, a great, green stretch of lawn. At the southern end is the Victoria Memorial a museum for the Victorian age. In the Indian Museum are vast collections from ancient civilizations.
Join in the fun. Kolkata is a vibrant, dynamic city and its inhabitants pride themselves on their passion for life. No day is complete without and adda, a chat session with friends over a cup of chai. Indulge yourself in a dizzying array of sweets, festivals, music and sports. Cricket is king and their love of good food legendary!
Picture yourself amongst the breathtaking, illuminating, extraordinary treasures of India!