India has quickly made its way to the bucket lists of many travellers across the world, whether it be for its history, its food or its culture. Here are the 5 essential places to visit if you’re looking to discover the latter.
This Indian city is one of the tamest – the aura is chilled and laidback, and the locals also. Known as the intellectual and cultural hub of the country, Kolkata is renowned for its book and film festivals,as well as the myriad of events which take place every evening, including theatre and dance shows.
One of the most striking things about Kolkata is the significant blend of old and new; big brands share streets with low-cost vendors traipsing the roads with their goods behind them. For a very unique insight into Indian culture, this is the place to visit.
On the other hand, Delhi contrasts the tame feel of Kolkata with a bustling, energetic centre. It’s here you’ll be whisked up off your feet in a whirl of Indian culture, whether it be the fragrant street foods filling the air with their scents, the frantic taxi drivers expertly navigating busy roads or the many historical sites waiting to be discovered.
One such site is the Red Fort, standing majestically on the city’s outskirts. The Delhi Gate is where you enter, and its red stone shines bright and brilliant under the beaming sun – be sure to take pictures, although no photograph can truly do it justice.
No visit to India is complete without at least seeing the Taj Mahal. The white marble mausoleum is a sheer spectacle, hence the swathes of visitors entering its grounds every day – be sure to arrive here at the break of dawn for the quietest experience.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is breathtakingly beautiful; manicured gardens give way to the mausoleum itself, four pillars towering on each corner. Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632, you’re now able to explore it for yourself. Don’t miss out – this is undeniably India’s most iconic location.
Hidden in the depths of the Himalayas, Darjeeling is a hill station with a rich history. Known for being home to the “Champagne of Teas”, you’ll want to ensure you try a fresh cup of Darjeeling’s oolong or black tea during you stay – it certainly lives up to its name.
But there’s plenty more on offer than just the drinks in Darjeeling. Being in such a prime location means the hiking trails through the mountains are unparalleled by anywhere else in the country. And be sure to ride aboard the famed “toy train” that winds down from Darjeeling back to ground level.
For the most authentic insight into Indian culture, consider a homestay in Kerala. Living with an Indian family will allow you to experience each and every part of their life, from cooking dinners to sharing stories of their history. Homestays range from basic accommodation to luxurious homes, but either way you’re in for an unforgettable experience.
And Kerala itself is a town worthy of exploring – the charming rustic architecture gives way to some of the most gorgeous natural sites in the entirety of India. Be sure to explore it to your heart’s content in your free time.