India for the First Time Traveller

Bustling and serene, timeless yet irrepressibly on the move, India dazzles and delights like no other place on earth. Here are some tips for the traveller considering a first journey to India.

Where to Travel?

Mumbai

mumbai

India’s most populous city, Mumbai crackles with an energy that simply must be experienced firsthand. Some of its most notable sites are remnants of British colonial rule, including the spectacular Victoria Terminus, the Prince of Wales Museum and the Gateway of India, a massive stone arch built to commemorate the visit of George V in 1911. In addition to the monument itself, the square that fronts it is a hub of humanity, drawing throngs of both visitors and locals.

Kerala

Kerala

If your idea of India includes the rustic serenity of its countryside, then Kerala is not to be missed. There is much to see here – including the extraordinary Hindu murals of the 16th-century Dutch Palace in Kochi – but the main attraction here is the peaceful backwaters of Kumarakom, best explored by traditional rice barge. As your boat snakes up the narrow canals, the sights and sounds of daily life on display on the banks are a feast for the senses.

Udaipur & Jaipur

Amber Fort

For monumental architecture, Agra justly steals the show with the Taj Mahal (see below), a must-see if ever there was one. Yet Udaipur to the west has its share of treasures, nestled in some of the most beautiful landscape in the country. The City Palace rises from the bank of Lake Pichola like a white marble mountain. In nearby Jaipur, Amber Fort is sprawling and spectacular, and its Palace of Mirrors gorgeous, but be sure to include time to visit the Eklingji temple complex, located outside the city. The carvings on the more than 100 shrines here have to be seen to be believed; moreover, it is a place of deep reverence and spirituality, an unmistakable part of the fabric of local life.

Agra & the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

If you ever worried that the Taj Mahal might not live up to the superlatives that poets and historians have applied to it, worry no longer. No photograph does the Taj Mahal justice. It looks as if it were painted onto the sky and is both strikingly simple and graced with fine details – particularly the pietra dura (inlaid stonework) of the cenotaph and the subtle variation in the monument’s marble skin. Visit at both sunrise and sunset, and see for yourself how the Taj Mahal soaks up the colors of the surrounding sky, changing hues as you watch.

Delhi

Delhi

India’s other great metropolis is Delhi, and like Mumbai, it’s a wonderful place to experience day-to-day India at its most energetic. A visit here is likely to include the Gandhi Memorial, an appropriately simple marble slab that marks the spot where the slain leader was cremated in 1948. You may also want to see Humayun’s Tomb, built in 1572. With its symmetrical design and formal position at the heart of an immaculate garden, the tomb prefigures many of the techniques that would reach culmination in the Taj Mahal.