Expand your horizons in Incredible India

Expand your horizons in Incredible India
Expand your horizons in Incredible India. Image source: Unsplash

Mention India to any adventurous traveller and watch their face transform. If they haven’t been to this unforgettable country yet, most will tell you wistfully that it’s right at the top of their bucket list. And if they have been? Prepare for stories packed with ancient and mystical sights, a colourful mix of spices and smells, bustling cities of joyful people, and no shortage of excitement and drama.

Navigating India’s vastness can be daunting though, especially if you’re a first timer or are travelling alone. That’s why it helps to know a bit about the country beforehand, so that you can get the most out of the sensory feasts and cultural kaleidoscopes that await you.

Many Indian itineraries begin in the capital city New Delhi, with its 33 million inhabitants, so if you’re considering doing the same, here are some top sights to see while you’re there:

  1. The striking Lotus Temple is made up of 27 freestanding marble petals arranged to form the nine sides of it, and it’s no wonder that it’s won multiple architectural awards. This serene white structure offers a moment of calm amidst the frenetic city, as you walk in its landscaped gardens and gaze on serene pools.
  2. Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India, and it will leave you awestruck. The throngs of faithful visitors, the intricate architecture, and the cacophony of prayers combine to form a tapestry woven with religious fervour, offering a glimpse into India’s soul.
  3. If you’re searching for meaning than take the time to visit Raj Ghat, a simple outdoor memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, and also the place where this great advocate for peace was buried. You could also visit Birla House, the site of his assassination, for a contemplative and humbling experience.
  4. The Red Fort, a silent sentinel to Mughal grandeur with whispered tales of emperors and concubines, is well worth a visit.
  5. Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world that pierces the sky like a defiant exclamation point – definitely snap a picture!
  6. The chaos of Chandni Chowk, Delhi’s labyrinthine market, is truly exhilarating. Crammed with vendors hawking colourful spices and shimmering fabrics, the aroma of chai and samosas hangs heavy in the air.
  7. Be sure to indulge in the city’s culinary tapestry. From melt-in-your-mouth butter chicken, to the fiery vindaloo, each dish is an explosion of flavour. Don’t forget to try the sweet pani puri or a refreshing lassi to cool down your spice-tinged palate.

Most Delhi itineraries will usually also include a visit to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Its beauty and intricate details make it one of India’s biggest tourist attractions, which means it’s usually packed with people – so try visiting at sunrise when it’s quieter. If you visit at sunset however, the rose gold of the sun’s rays will make it feel even more ethereal.

Ready to start packing? First have a read of these top tips from a previous Trafalgar Tours traveller, Georg Knoke.

Tips for South Africans traveling to India:

  • Get your visa: Visas to India are free of charge for South Africans and are valid for 12 months.
  • Choose a trusted tour operator like Trafalgar to ensure that you can unlock the magic of India with confidence.
  • Research and be prepared: Learn about local customs and etiquette, dress modestly, and be aware of potential scammers.
  • Embrace the chaos: Accept that things might not always run smoothly and be flexible with your plans.
  • Bargain politely: Bargaining is expected in many markets, but do so respectfully.
  • Carry rupees: While some places accept bank cards, having cash is essential in many situations.
  • Stay hydrated: Especially during the hot pre-monsoon months, stay hydrated to keep your health in check. Be sure to drink sealed bottled water rather than tap water.
  • Respect the culture: Be mindful of religious and cultural sensitivities.
  • Enjoy the food: Sample the diverse cuisine, but start mild and gradually increase your spice levels.
  • Do pack charcoal tablets and Imodium, as Delhi belly is a reality for most travellers.

Above all, prepare to be amazed. As Georg commented after his unforgettable trip: ‘My solo escapade changed my perceptions of India. From the majestic Taj Mahal to the heady spice markets, every moment was a symphony of sights, sounds and smells’.

What are you waiting for? Pack your bags, embrace the adventure, and get ready to fall head over heels in love with incredible India.