The sheer vastness of India ensures that it has a variety of terrain and attractions like few other countries. Stunning mountainous landscapes, vast plateaus and plains, and wonderful beaches in the south is only the beginning.

The Cities

India has some of the largest cities in the world. Delhi, the national capital, is the largest city in North India. Mumbai, the financial capital, is the most populous and also the wealthiest in the country, and Kolkata (Calcutta) is a massive city in the west. Bengaluru (Bangalore), and Chennai (Madras), are the largest cities in South India.All of these cities are crowded and at times frenetic but they have the best facilities, some wonderful monuments and museums, and they offer good shopping opportunities. They also provide an excellent introduction to what you find elsewhere.

The Culture

India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations and the culture is unique and varied. Traditions, languages, handicrafts, values, arts and religions all vary from one area to another, and it’s fascinating seeing the vast differences as you move around. India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism yet 15 per cent of the population is Muslim. Throughout the country religion plays a central role in the life of many people.

The People

India is a diverse multi-ethnic country that is home to thousands of small ethnic and tribal groups. You see this best in the rural areas where traditions are better displayed. A typical Indian is difficult to define and there are noticeable differences between those in the north, west and south. However one thing that remains the same is the general friendliness of the people towards visitors.

The History

For nearly five millennia, India has seen civilizations come and go. You can see the remains of these in amazing attractions like the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Qutb Minar, Mysore Palace, Ajanta Caves, Charminar Mosque, Hampi, the Konark Sun Temple and the city of Old Goa. You won’t see them all on a single visit, and each has its own magic, so take the time to enjoy the ones that you’re lucky enough to experience.

The Food

There is as much diversity in Indian food as there is in India’s many religions. Different regions use varying spices and herbs, and recipes and cooking techniques also drastically differ. Some Indian food is vegetarian, but traditional Indian dishes also include chicken, goat, pork, lamb, fish, and surprisingly, beef. On the street, in local restaurants, or in five-star hotels, you’ll have a range of inspiring experiences.

By Len Rutledge

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