Is India a good travel destination? Yes, it really is! In fact, we’d say India should be on everyone’s bucket list. This vast country is one of the most enthralling on the planet. It’s a land packed with such diversity and contrast that it’s simply too much to sum up in a single article…
We’ll give it a go though. This guide hops from the snow-blanketed reaches of the high Himalaya in the north to the palm-threaded backwaters of Kerala in the south, through the frenetic chowk bazaars of Mumbai all the way to the tiger-stalked Western Ghats, all to offer a few insights into why this is such an incredible destination.
We’ll touch on a whole range of reasons why we think India should be a consideration for your latest travel plans. Whether it’s the sun-heavy climate, the spicy food, or the sheer abundance of beaches and soaring mountain peaks, it’s all in here. So, without further ado: Is India a good travel destination?
Because it’s MASSIVE
Yep, India really is massive. Measuring about 1,800 miles from tip to toe and almost the same from east to west, it’s officially the seventh largest country on the globe. But, unlike many of the others that top it on that ranking, it’s not got great swathes of Arctic territory where no one goes. Almost ALL of India can be visited and much of it is lived-in to boot.
For the would-be traveler, that means there is oodles to explore. From high-perched hill stations raised by the British in the north to remote fishing towns with surf breaks in the south, there’s all manner to get through.
To put it another way: There’s no such thing as “traveling India.” This is a nation of such variety, such diversity, such contrast, that you can never really pin down what it’s all about. One day you could be treading snowdrifts on Gangotri mountain, the next you could be smelling the incense waft from the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the next stalking tigers in the jungles of the Western Ghats. Prep for an adventure!
The good thing about India from a weather perspective is that it has a relatively predictable patten of monsoons and dry seasons that you can count on pretty much every year. The other thing to know is that, since the country is so darn huge, the climate varies a lot from north to south, east to west. The upshot? There’s almost always somewhere that will be in season when you want to travel.
For example, most people say that the prime time to visit the dusty deserts and Rajput cities of Rajasthan (Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur) is after the rains finish from November onwards. Meanwhile, the peak season in the Himalaya runs from the spring all the way to the end of summer. Then you’ve got south India, which really hits its best around January time (a spot of winter sun, anyone?).
It’s important that you plan your trip in line with the climate in these parts. The onset of the monsoon can make travel in certain regions quite difficult, and it has the potential to totally alter your experience of the country.
The far north of India is where the continent crumples skywards with the mighty Himalaya. These are a thing of superlatives; the highest mountains on the planet, no less. They run for a whopping 1,800 miles from east to west, all the way from the misty tea fields of Assam to the forbidden highlands of Jammu and Kashmir on the edge of the Hindu Kush.
The peak hiking seasons in the Indian Himalaya are between May and September, though lower-altitude hill walking can be done in early spring and late fall. The best places for it include the wonderful Nanda Devi National Park, a sweeping dash of wildflower meadows in the heart of the Himalaya, and UNESCO-tagged Khangchendzonga National Park in northern Sikkim.
But also don’t go thinking that these soaring monsters are the only mountains in India. You’ve got the ancient Western Ghats, too. They carve through from Gujarat all the way to Kerala in the south, hosting lush tea plantations in Munnar and jungles rife with waterfalls and Bengal tigers.
There’s a mind-blowing 4,670 miles of coastline in India. The vast majority (over two thirds) is on the mainland of the country, running from where the Rann of Kutch desert meets the Indian Ocean in the north all the way to the wetlands of Kerala in the south and then back up to where the Hooghly River spills into the Bay of Bengal.
As it goes, it’s got some pretty stunning highlights for those on the hunt for beaches. Goa stands out from the crowd. It’s a whole state of sweeping golden-sand bays washed by warm Indian Ocean waters. Towns like Patnem and Palolem offer rickety shacks on the shoreline there, with hammocks strewn between ducking palm trees. Karnataka is another upcomer, with hippie escapes like Gokarna on the menu.
Don’t discount the islands here, though. They include the legendary Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago that’s closer to Thailand than to India but comes with white-sand beaches that would look right at home in the Caribbean.
Planning on heading to one of India’s amazing megacities? Prepare for a sensory overload. From Delhi to Mumbai, Kochi to Calcutta, these great urban jungles unfold in a heady patchwork of tuk-tuk-filled highways, temple-sprouting suburbs, grand Victorian relics, and – of course – infamously gritty slums.
Mumbai, the so-called Gateway to India, has to be one of the most energetic towns on the planet. Between the dual districts of Colaba and Fort, it offers up the perfect high-octane intro to the country as a whole, complete with street chowks and bazaars. Then there’s Delhi, which is one part grand monuments from the Raj, one part sleepless meeting point of humanity.
Don’t ignore the smaller cities, though. Udaipur oozes romance. It’s the erstwhile home of the Mewar maharajas, with the gilded Mughal-style palaces to show for it. Then there’s Jodhpur, a burst of blue in the middle of the desert. And there’s Jaipur, the Pink City, where ancient bazaars collide under historic forts.
No mention of India could possibly be complete without a nod to the taste-bud-tingling cuisine of the subcontinent. Up there with Italian and Greek as one of the most iconic kitchens on the globe, this one’s all about spice-plumed curries and baked naan breads, paneer kebabs plucked straight from the tandoor and puri street foods that are as hot as they come.
Like all things, variety is key. Northern Indian regions like Rajasthan and the Punjab tend to draw heavily on influences from the Middle East and old Persia. Up there, you’ll try curries like panchkuta – a zingy gravy with a long history and a hit of hot red chilies – and dal baati – a creamy lentil stew with beans and thick dunking breads.
Move south and the whole thing takes on a more tropical air. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, there are coconut curries and spiced green banana concoctions, along with thali platters served on open banana leaves. Then there are the latent leftovers of colonialism, which comes through in the bread pavs of Mumbai and the various tomato curries of Goa and Maharashtra.
The history of India is certain to enthral. Most agree that humans first came sometime around 50,000 BC. That kick-started a story that would see the rise and fall of some of the planet’s greatest empires, episodes of colonialism, and mythical ages laden with more heroes and demons than you can shake your pav bhaji at.
There are some periods that stand out as the most influential. First, the Mughals. This mighty force swept through India in the middle of the 1500s, revolutionizing much of the art and architecture of the nation. These are the guys – specifically the incurable romantic Emperor Shah Jahan – that gave the world the exquisite Taj Mahal, arguably India’s most iconic building.
Then there’s the long period of British rule. Towns like Shimla attest to that, hidden up in the mountains with faux-Gothic exteriors. But there are also other lasting remnants, like the Victorian train station in the midst of Mumbai and the muscular Victoria Memorial in Calcutta.
Is India a good travel destination? Our conclusion
Is India a good travel destination? There’s simply no doubt about it. India is up there with the most enthralling and amazing countries on the planet. It’s long been a getaway for those looking to tread off the beaten track, to see ancient temples and attend yoga courses in the shadow of the Himalaya. It’s home to world-class hiking, beautiful beaches (we’re looking at you, Goa), and stacks of cities packed with historic monuments. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed coming here!