Top 10 things to experience in India

India is a complex patchwork of people, culture and geography. Full of history, India’s monuments are ancient and breathtaking.

The size and depth of this incredible country makes it very difficult to pinpoint the best experiences — but we’ve managed to narrow it down to 10 that should be on any traveller’s list.

Varanasi - A thriving city for over 3,200 years. According to legend the Hindu god Shiva founded Varanasi and today it attracts travellers and pilgrims seeking to connect with ancient culture.

New Dehli - The capital of India, full of relics from lost empires, mausoleums, dusty bazaars and mega malls.

Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) - Previously the capital of British India, now the cultural capital of India. Colonial-era buildings are scattered among a city now full of creative energy in the form of literature, art, music and theatre.

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) - Heart of the Bollywood film industry and home to the impressive Gateway of India stone arch and Elephanta Island which holds ancient cave templates.

The most famous of India’s landmarks, the Taj Mahal is a timeless and awe inspiring dedication of love between a mighty Emperor and his favourite wife. The manicured grounds and sprawling gardens spanned an entire river system, and was a lush explosion of blooms and fruit trees before being re-landscaped by the British colonialists in the 1800s to suit the taste of the new rulers. Despite being heavily touristic, and even with scam artists and pickpockets aplenty, it remains atop the list of ‘things to see’ in India.

Kerala in Southern India is known as a tropical paradise with palm trees and beaches, and it’s also home to the Begur Wildlife Sanctuary in the Wayanad district. The park is full of exotic and lush plants (such as vanilla, cardamom and trees with medicinal value), plus a variety of animals ranging from elephants, deer, tigers and leopards. The best time to visit is December to May as the monsoon season has just filled the water holes attracting a variety of wild animals.
Tucked in behind the southern reaches of the Malabar Coast, the Kerala Backwaters offer an experience for travellers looking to slow down the pace of travel. Created by thousands of years of erosion and tidal movement, a series of saltwater canals, pools and lakes formed by more than 900km of waterways create a watery world for you to explore. The best way is via houseboat, where despite the growing numbers of tourist boats plying the backwater, you can still fall into the rhythm and peace of local life.
Diwali is one of the biggest and brightest festivals in India, lasting for five days. The name literally means ‘a row of lights’. Held in October or November depending on the cycle of the moon, Diwali is a warm and atmospheric festival and a delight for tourists. Visit Haridwar or Varanasi during Diwali as many locals descend the ghats (steps to the river) and light diyas leaving them to float on the water. Gradually, thousands of diyas light up the water and fireworks light up the sky.
Based in Mumbai, the Bollywood film industry is a huge part of Indian culture. Bollywood automatically brings to mind beautiful stars dancing and singing in brightly coloured outfits (and you’d be right). Most films have a happy ending, so for a feel-good experience watch the latest blockbuster at a local Mumbai cinema. A popular venue to watch a movie is the Liberty — a beautiful art deco landmark — or you can take a Bollywood style dance class and tour the studios.
Rishikesh is the leading destination when it comes to learning and practicing yoga. It is located in the Himalayas foothills, in the banks of the sacred river Ganges, in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand. Ever since the Beatles visited a local ashram in the late '60s, Rishikesh has been attracting a growing number of spiritual seekers. People visit the city to learn yoga, meditate, learn about the Vedas (the Hindu sacred texts), or even bathe in the sacred river. Since 1986, Rishikesh hosts a month long annual International Yoga Festival on the first week of March.
The Golden Temple is one of the most famous Sikh holy sites and has been rebuilt several times since the city was founded over 500 years ago. Various regional leaders have embellished and decorated the temple over the years, most famously in gold leaf during the 1800s at a huge cost.
Test cricket and the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket are incredibly popular with the locals. For the serious cricket lover, try to catch a game at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, one of the best cricket stadiums in India. The crowd at this stadium is one of the most passionate and vocal crowds around. If you can’t make it to a game, try the cricket-themed brewery in the Galaxy Hotel, Gurgaon where you can buy a beer named after cricket, watch a game on live TV and sit in a glove-shaped seat.
DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information as of the date of publishing, Allianz Global Assistance does not accept liability for any errors or omissions. Allianz Global Assistance strongly recommends seeking the guidance of a professional travel agent/agency for further information on a specific destination. On your next trip, whether to another province or country, ensure you have travel insurance as it may assist you in cases of unforeseen medical emergencies and other types of mishaps that can happen while you travel. Travel insurance does not cover everything, please always refer to the policy document for full terms and conditions, including limitations and exclusions. Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.
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