Highlights of India
Rajasthan & Gujarat
India's princes may have long passed into history but their cultural and historic legacy lives on. Ancient palaces, forts and temples showcase an astonishing blend of Hindu, Jain and Islamic traditions which shaped everything from modest country estates to magnificent royal residences. Although princely states were scattered across India, Rajasthan is widely thought of as the real home of the traditional Maharajas.
With its lacy white grandeur the Taj Mahal, built completely from flawless marble and inset with precious stones and jewels, is the finest example of Mughal architecure in the world. Emperor Shah Jahan built this incomparable mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal and it is considered the most extravagant monument ever built for love. The Taj Mahal is breathtaking from any angle, at any time of the day and in any season.
North India offers fabulous wildlife parks, sanctuaries and reserves. Visitors will find themselves awestruck when they visit Sariska, Corbett, Ranthambore, Kanha or Bandhavgarh and discover nature's grandeur. If you are a nature lover then Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in the north-east cannot be missed, especially with its promise of sightings of the one-horned rhino. Travellers can explore the natural beauty of the rainforest and catch a glimpse of herds of wild elephants as they bathe in Periyar Lake.
A quiet and secluded desert town for 51 weeks of the year, Pushkar becomes, for just a few days, an absolutely incredible extravaganza drawing people from around the globe. It is quite possibly the largest camel and cattle trading fair in the world. Camels are painted, adorned, beautified and raced to attract the best buyers. Hindu devotees throng the ghats around Pushkar Lake in order to bathe, cleanse their sins and attain a place in heaven. Early risers might like to walk in the morning light to see the gypsy inhabitants waking up and preparing breakfast around the campfires.The Pushkar festival is celebrated according to the lunar calendar and takes place in the month of November.
For centuries these majestic mountains have challenged the spirit of man, inspired awe and symbolised the heights of achievement. Any visit to north India would be incomplete without experiencing the mighty Himalayas. From the quaint hill station of Shimla to the virgin pine forests and the surging rivers, there are many places which bring the mountain range and its foothills to life. Breathtaking views, exhilarating walks, spa holidays - the choice is endless.
Temples & Beaches
South India boasts some of the most remarkable temple architecture in India. With a living tradition of music and dance, the region is also culturally very rich. Some of India's greatest cultural treasures are found here, including the distinctive southern temples at Madurai, Thanjavur and Mamallapuram. Travellers are also drawn to the attractive palm-lined beaches of Goa and Kerala with their golden sands and azure waters.
The Kerala backwaters beckon the visitor to catch a glimpse of rural village life. Festivals are marked by great elephant marches, snake boat races and colourful Kathakali dances. The blue backwaters reflect the azure sky, contrasting with the amazing shades of green of the mangroves, coconut palms and paddy fields that cover the verdant countryside.
Ayurveda, the science of life, is the ancient Hindu system of medicine. This naturalistic system depends on a holistic diagnosis of the body's humours to achieve a harmonious balance. Ayurvedic massage using aromatic and medicinal oils to tone up the nervous system has been practiced in Kerala for centuries.
Reminiscent of colonial influences, south India's hill stations offer quaint and restful getaways. Kodaikanal, Coonoor, Munnar and the popular Ooty enjoy the best of a low latitude, high altitude climate and are cool throughout the year.