Useful tip for first time travellers to India

Travelling to India? Do you have a travel Itinerary? For an enjoyable trip to India, come prepared with a travel plan. Know the places you want to visit, before arriving here. Chalk out a travel plan, depending on what you want to see. Use the tips as a guide when planning your India trip.

While India is beautiful and fantastic, in an intoxicating way, it can also be overwhelmingly chaotic. There is nothing that can really prepare you for India; every aspect of the country will surprise you. India is spread over a vast area, and has different terrains – it is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south and the mighty Himalayas in the north. The most amazing detail about India is that it encompasses everything that nature has to offer – dry arid desert, cold desert, mountains, hills, plateaus, rivers, streams, beaches and snow etcetera. It's not just a place of natural wonders; it is also a place of ancient sites of historic and religious significance. It is impossible to cover the length and breadth of the country in one trip. It's best that you plan your holiday depending on what interests you – and here's a list that can help you decide.

Chart your route

Instead of attempting to cover the entire country, it's best to focus on a particular region. India's diversity is not limited to food habits, languages and cultural traditions. There is a variety even in the sites that you'll find here. For instance, temple architecture varies from region to region and no two temples are alike. The same is true for the forts, palaces and mausoleums.

For convenience sake, you can divide the country broadly into different regions, such as the North, the South, the Northeast and the Hills. You can pick a region and choose to see all that it offers. Though the flight network is pretty good and you won't have trouble hopping on and off flights if you choose to move between different regions and see a bit of everything. However, it is best to have an itinerary, so you know where you are headed and the places you can cover. Here are a few destinations in India that you can consider when planning your itinerary.

The landmark prototypes

This classic tour is one of the most popular that you can take in India. It includes the world famous Taj Mahal, the imposing forts of Jaipur in Rajasthan, as well monuments of historical significance in the national capital. Called the Golden Triangle the tour covers three major tourist destinations; Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It is an ideal short holiday as you can pack in a lot within a week.

Fly into New Delhi and check some of the historic sites in and around the city. Most historic sites in India are World Heritage sites, protected by the UNESCO. Delhi has a number of monuments belonging to the Mughal era such as the Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb and the Jama Masjid. Qutub Minar, which is equally famous, is a 73-metre tall medieval minaret built during the reign of the Delhi Sultanate. Within the Qutub complex stands the 7 metres tall Asoka's Iron Pillar that dates back to 402 CE. This---- pillar stands in the open and has withstood the elements without getting rusted. There are other places of historical significance within the vicinity. The ruins of the Purana Qila, abut the Delhi Zoological Park. You can visit the Jantar Mantar, an open-air observatory from the early 18th century. Also, check a host of old Churches, Gurudwaras, Mosques and Temples and a lot of other sites.

Explore old Delhi and capture the old world charm of the city. Tours inside the bustling Chandi Chowk area, on a cycle rickshaw, can be quite an adventure. Pick up some good bargains on Janpath or shop at the row of State run Emporiums at Baba Kharak Singh Marg.

Places of interest around Delhi include Badkal Lake, Tughlaqa Bagh, Suraj Kund, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and a host of other destinations that are a few hours' drive from the capital.

You can proceed to Agra by road or catch a flight or take a train. Agra is in the state of Uttar Pradesh, at an approximate distance of 230 kilometres from Delhi. The National Highway is good and the drive is quick and comfortable. It's preferable that you start early in the morning, to avoid traffic. On the way, you'll cross Suraj Kund a 10th-century reservoir.

Agra is where the Taj Mahal is. While in Agra visit Fathepur Sikri and see the mausoleums belonging to Royal Mughals. Shop for 'Petha' an Indian sweet made from curing ash gourd in sugar. You'll also find curio shops selling marble and onyx carved artefacts. Chess sets and miniature replicas of the Taj are good buys.

Your next destination would be Jaipur, in Rajasthan. It is called the Pink City, as most of the structures are predominantly pink in colour. Jaipur is a tourists' delight with much to see. The most striking highlights are the imposing forts with ramparts that can be seen from a distance. Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort and Amber Fort are the prominent forts where you can take guided tours. Some of the other places of interest are the City Palace, the Jantar Mantar and the Hawa Mahal. Camel and elephant rides can make you feel like royalty! You can also catch some snake charmers in action. Shop for some exquisite camel leather goods – like handbags, pouches and mojari which is a type of footwear with intricate patterns; they can be embroidered or have sequins and glasswork or embossed. Jaipur is also famous for blue pottery, tie and dye fabric and semi-precious stone studded trinkets set in pure silver and of course a lot more.

Religious sites

India is also synonymous with temples. Although the modern temples are aplenty, it is the ancient temples that you must visit. These temples are unique in more ways than one. They have withstood the wrath of nature for centuries and a few temples are still used for worship. All temples are different in style and architecture and have different presiding deities. When it comes to temples, you'll be spoiled for choice. South India has some exquisitely carved temples, in Mahabalipuram, on the shores of the Arabian Sea. Travel to Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Hampi and Tiruvannamalai to catch a glimpse of some more temple architecture. South Indian temples have gigantic gopurams (tall towers at the temple's entrance) adorned with intricately carved statuettes.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar is a special place of worship for the Sikhs. The temple is covered in gold, real gold! The temples at Khajuraho and the Sun Temple, at Konark, are known for their erotic carvings. Rajasthan has cohorts of attractive Jain temples, carved out of white marble. The Elephanta Caves located on an island, in the Bay of Bengal, and the temples of Ajanta and Ellora are carved out of rocks. These are magnificent structures that leave you spellbound.

Apart from religious sites, all places listed here have other places too that can be added to the itinerary. For instance, a visit to Amritsar would not be complete without a visit to Jallianwala Bagh a place where a large group of Indians were massacred under the orders of Colonel Dyers. The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Wagah Border (between India and Pakistan) is a high-drama event that you must watch.

Wildlife sanctuaries

India has around 537 wildlife sanctuaries, spread across the country. Tiger Reserves in Madumalli and Annamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu are excellent destinations for spotting tigers in the wild. The Madumalli sanctuary extends into the state of Karnataka, where it is called the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. There is an abundance of wildlife in these sanctuaries and elephants, different species of deer, wild boar, gaur ((Indian Bison) and rare bird species are easy to spot. Wildlife sanctuaries in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are also great for sighting tigers. Also, in Rajasthan is the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary – a haven for avid birdwatchers. It is a day trip from Delhi.

Lions can be found in Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat state. The Rann of Kutch also in Gujarat has wild asses roaming the sun-baked, salt marsh land. Wild elephants and gaur can also be spotted in Wayanad and Munnar in Kerala. Kaziranga Wildlife Reserve in Assam is a protected forest for one-horned rhinoceros.

Accommodation inside all sanctuaries is limited and bookings have to be done in advance. The Forest Department conducts jeep safaris in all these locations. Trips are generally made in the early mornings because that's the time when animals are most active and easy to spot. Accommodation is also available outside the perimeters of these reserves. Very few hotels serve continental food, so carry your own food along or come prepared to savour some spicy Indian cuisine.

Savvy traveller tips

  • Your safety is in your hands, so don't trust strangers
  • Avoid lonely places and always be in the company of others
  • Let your hotel know where you are headed and provide details of the person accompanying you (guide/driver etcetera)
  • India is a conservative country, so dress appropriately
  • Finally, ensure that you carry essential items with you when you visit India.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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