India heralds images of vibrant colours: glorious sunshine beating down on rich, red earth; exquisitely embroidered saris in rich golds, greens and reds; deliciously spiced cuisine, andsmiling faces. There is, of course, a flip side to the rich culture, mouth-watering food and breath-taking architecture: some areas of India are over-populated, hot, crowded, polluted and impoverished. As with anything in life, you need to take the good with the not-so-good. Take some time to understand India’s history, immerse yourself in Indian culture and scratch a little beneath the hot, sweaty surface, because there you will encounter a very real beauty accompanied by unrivalled hospitality from this welcoming, dignified country.
No doubt, if you are planning a trip to India, you have watched a few films based in the country. Whether you’ve whetted your appetite with Lion, Slumdog Millionaire, Welcome to the Exotic Marigold Hotel, Bride and Prejudice or somegood, old-fashioned Bollywood action, prepare for your wildest, most glorious expectations to be exceeded. India’s reality so far surpasses the sum of its parts that it is impossible to describe the warmth and beauty (both physical and metaphorical) of this country and its people. The only way to understand it is to experience it yourself.
Direct flights to India fly into a number of major international airports, including Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, Mumbai’s ChhatrapatiShivaji International Airport, Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, and Chennai International Airport.
India’s climates change so dramatically that the best time to visit India really depends on where you are going and what your itinerary includes. In fact, the weather ranges so much that India has been divided into seven regions, based on climate: the Deccan Plateau - south-central India; the Western Ghats and coast - south-western India; Eastern Ghats and coast – south-eastern India; the Himalayas; Assam; West Bengal; and the Indo-Gangetic Plain – north-central India. The southernmost regions experience a more tropical climate, while the north is cooler and the centre regions tend to be hot and dry. To find out the best time to get cheap flights to India, it is a good idea to first decide where you want to go.
Many countries have their “Big Five” and in India, it’s all about the big cats. India is home to the Asiatic lion, snow and Bengal tigers, clouded and Indian Leopards. If you are lucky, you will glimpse them all at some point, however, some are more elusive than others. Leopards can be found throughout most of India, from Rajasthan in the North to Kerala in the South – you may even glimpse them scavenging for food on the outskirts of Mumbai. The elusive snow leopard can be found in the Indian Himalayas, near Ladakh; winter is the best time for a sighting as they come down from the mountains to hunt for food. The cloud leopard, which is not actually a leopard, lives in the foothills of the Himalayas, while tigers are best spotted in Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarth National Parks.
The world’s only Asiatic lions are located in Gujurat State, in the Sasan Gir National Park. Home to 523 Asiatic lions and more than 300 leopards, as well as two species of dear and a host of birds, reptiles and smaller carnivores, such as the India fox, hyena and jackal, the Gir National Park is a unique opportunity to see the majestic lion living in the wild.
Much of India’s architecture is linked to its deep spiritualism. Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Jainism all originated in India, and daily rituals associated with these religions as well as “imported” religions are a part of everyday life. As a result, India is a site of pilgrimage for many visitors, who wish to study yoga, meditation or find spiritualism in some way. This deep spirituality of India is evident in its incredible temples. Each temple is unique and, whether it is etched into mountains and caves, or constructed to soar over the surrounding landscape, each one has its own story and reflects the ideologies, arts and culture of its time. Many of the temples are still used, although some have been reduced to dusty remains of their former glory. Each, however is a small window into India’s soul; the more you see of these intricately decorated temples, the more you will understand this enigmatic country.
Of course, India is famous for its architecture, most notably the Taj Mahal. When it comes architecture, however, India is by no means a one-trick-pony. There are plenty of palaces, forts and ruins, in addition to the countless mosques and temples. In fact, there are currently no less than 32 UNESCO World Heritage sites across the country, making India a veritable Aladdin’s cave for historians and lovers of design.
With over 250 miles of tropical coastline stretching from Mumbai to Goa, India’s beaches really are heaven on earth. White sand, palm trees, warm, azure water and cobalt skies are found in abundance. Bizarrely, there is not (yet) a huge tourism trade on this stretch of coast, making it possible, or even probable, that with a little effort, you will find your own, private, tropical beach; what could be better? As is often the case, the further you are willing to venture, the better you will be rewarded; ask around for good secret spots and local hotels, where you can experience a slice of real rural India, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Gourmands will be in heaven in India, with its kaleidoscope of spices that look as delicious as they taste. Typical Indian food varies from region to region and tends to be a far cry from the Indian fare we eat in Europe, which is most closely related to the food from North India. Curry, of course, is universal, as is the presence of pulses such as chickpeas and lentils. However, the spice mixes used throughout India vary wildly from region to region. In Northern India, dairy, such as paneer (a kind of cheese), ghee (clarified butter), and yoghurt are commonly used in cooking. Samosas originate from the north, as do tandoori dishes, backed in clay ovens (tandoors). Coastal areas tend to specialise in fish and coconut dishes, while many areas of Southern India do not eat meat or fish at all; their curries are vegetable based, with a broad range of spice combinations. If you fall in love with the food (and we think you will), take advantage of the array of cookery courses available; many will take you to the local markets to shop for fresh produce before preparing your meal, from scratch, in an Indian kitchen; the perfect way to relive your incredible trip and show off to friends on your return home!
India really does have it all: culture, colour, architecture and beautiful landscapes. So, if you are planning the trip of the lifetime, let Travangelo help you find cheap flights to India.