Best Places to Visit in India

The list of destinations below includes the premier destinations in India, including cities, towns, and other attractions. We have only listed destinations that we feel will be of interest to most explorers visiting India – the massive and diverse nation has countless other places that may be of interest to some travelers. + Read More

Agra Description:

Agra is an ancient city and one of the most popular tourism destinations of North India. While the name of the city finds mention in the classic Indian epic the Mahabharta, the modern city of Agra was established around 1475 AD. Since then Agra has been an important center of art and culture and has even served as the capital of India for nearly one and a half century between 1506 AD and 1658 AD.

Agra has flourished under a variety of governments that have established their hold over India. The city has served as the capital of the Delhi Sultanate as well as the Mughal Empire.

Being the capital of India under the watch of the Mughals benefitted Agra greatly. The City was lavishly decorated with gardens, monuments, mausoleums as well as more functional constructs such as the world famous fort and the Jamia Masjid. Even today, all these monuments continue to make Agra a mainstay of any tour to India.

Undoubtedly, Agra gets the greatest share of tourism traffic in India due to the presence of the Taj Mahal, one of the great wonders of the world. Globally recognized as a symbol of undying love, the Taj Mahal was created by an inconsolable Mughal Emperor Shahjehan, as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

However while the Taj Mahal may be the biggest tourist draw for the city, Agra boasts an exhaustive list of major attractions and monuments that unfortunately escape mention due to the sheer matchless magnificence of the Taj Mahal.

Apart from the Taj Mahal, other notable attractions in the city include the iconic Agra Fort, The Itimad-ud-Daulah Tomb (also known alternatively as the Jewelry Box and the Baby Taj), the Jama Masjid, The Taj Museum, Akbar’s Tomb, the many gardens of Mehtab Bagh as well as the ancient markets of Kinari Bazaar just to name a few.

Most of the attractions listed above have a series of sub-attractions within them. Monuments like the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort are huge complexes replete with multi-faceted features within them such as residences, meeting halls, places of assemblage as well as houses of worship. All of these would require considerable time to see and would enrich any trip to Agra immensely.

In the immediate periphery of Agra is one of the world’s most well preserved Ghost Towns. Originally developed as a sister city of Agra and the capital of the Mughal Empire, the city of Fatehpur Sikri is remarkably preserved despite being abandoned for over five centuries. Fatehpur Sikri along with the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort make three of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city. Legend has it that the childless Emperor Akbar the Great visited the shrine of the famous saint Salim Chisti in the area to implore him to pray for a successor to the Empire. The saint promised the emperor not one but three sons which came to pass and Akbar moved his capital to the site in honor of the saint.

There are differing opinions as to why the capital was shifted back to Agra in only a few years after the creation of whole new city at the site. Most historians agree that a chronic lack of water in the area precipitated the decision to move the capital back to Agra after the death of Emperor Akbar.

Today Agra is considered as a sheet anchor of any tour to North India and is considered a part of North India’s tourism Golden Triangle. Apart from its many attractions and monuments, Agra is a great place to sample North Indian cuisine. The city has many establishments serving the finest delectable specialties of North Indian, Punjabi, Mughlai and other culinary influences of the region.

Being a center of art, culture and literary development for centuries, Agra has attracted a variety of craftsmen and artisans over the ages. This has led to the development of a fabulous handicraft industry in the city which specializes in art forms of pietra dura, marble carvings and woodwork.

Agra is also the marble capital of the world. The output of the city’s marble industry is greater than any other place in the world. Marble from Agra is sourced by leading companies to be used in construction, ornamentation as well as for a variety of purposes globally.

The city is also a great place to buy Zardozi tapestries, which is made by gold and silver threads as well as semi-precious and precious stones.

Best Time to Visit Agra:

As with the rest of India, any trip to Agra needs to be planned around two major weather challenges, namely the searing summers and the extremely wet monsoon rains. This makes the period between October and April the best time to come and tour Agra.

With the weather at its most pleasant during this period, it is a great time to visit the many attractions of Agra. Since any tour of Agra requires walking considerable distances and lots of outdoor sightseeing, avoiding the summers and the monsoon rains ensures that travelers get the most out of their trip to the city.

Many tourists also plan their itinerary of a trip to Agra in time to catch one of the many colorful festivals in Uttar Pradesh. These include Holi, Purnima, the Magh Mela and the Eid-ul-Fitr.

Also when taking a tour of Agra, it is important to plan your visits to monuments at the right time to get the maximum benefit out of the visit. For the Taj Mahal going early in the morning or late at sunset gives you the best photography times and ensures that you beat the throngs of domestic Indian visitors. Furthermore many monuments are closed at certain days of the week so ensuring that you know when to visit each attraction in Agra beforehand can save travelers from needless disappointment.

How to get to Agra:

Agra is situated in the western part of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The city is nearly 200 kilometers away from the Federal Capital of New Delhi.

While Agra has a domestic airport and a new green-field international airport is being planned, there are at present no regularly scheduled commercial flights to the city. For the international tourist traveling to India, the most convenient international gateway to get to Agra is Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. The airport offers convenient connections and a plethora of airline carrier options.

From Delhi the most convenient way to commence a tour of Agra is by a modern, access controlled, 6 Lane Highway called the Yamuna Expressway.

The drive time between Delhi and Agra on the highway is around two hours and can be traversed comfortably in a luxury vehicle.

Agra Highlights:

It is considered gospel truth in global tourism circles that no tour to India is ever complete without a visit to Agra. The city’s matchless monuments, rich history and cultural window give it a place of unique importance in India.

Any trip to Agra would be of great interest to fans of history, culture, architecture as well as for enthusiasts of romance, poetry and folklore. Furthermore the city is one of the finest places in India to buy genuine Indian art forms such as Pietra Dura (known locally as Parchim Kari), fine woodwork and marble sculptures as well as zardozi tapestries.

Many of these art forms were brought to the city by the artisans who built the magnificent monuments such as the Taj Mahal and are still practiced in their original form by their descendants to this day.

Appropriate Attire :

Since most of the monuments and attractions of Agra are either religious sites or mausoleums, most visitors are required to wear respectful clothing which would mean covering of arms, legs and shoulders by travelers of both genders.

Furthermore women travelers may be required to cover their heads when visiting some mosques and temples in Agra as well.
Amritsar is dominated by the history of Hindus and Sikhs; many of their sacred shrines are found in and around the city. It is home to the Harmandir Sahib, known as the Golden Temple, the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion. The temple is surrounded by a large lake, known as the Sarovar, which consists of Amrit ("holy water" or "immortal nectar"). There are four entrances to the temple, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness. Inside the temple complex there are many shrines to past Sikh gurus, saints and martyrs. There are three holy trees, each signifying a historical event or Sikh saint. Inside the temple there are memorial plaques that commemorate past Sikh historical events, saints, martyrs and include commemorative inscriptions of all the Sikh soldiers who died fighting in World Wars I and II. Much of the present decorative gilding and marble work dates from the early 19th century. The gold plating on the Harmandir Sahib was begun by Emperor Ranjit Singh and was finished in 1830.

Aurangabad Description:

Aurangabad is a bustling industrial hub and metropolis in Maharashtra state in South India. The city can best be described as a gateway to a pair of India’s greatest historical treasures. Aurangabad is the perfect springboard for visitors to discover two of India’s most fabulous ancient World Heritage Sites, the Ajanta and the Ellora Caves.

Aurangabad’s original claim to fame is that the city was the capital of the Mughal Empire in India for over half a century between 1653 to 1707. The city was built on the orders of the sixth Great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who used it as a base for his conquest of South India and the Deccan territories.

During the days of its zenith, Aurangabad’s Mughal administrators built a number of attractions in the city which continue to interest international travelers to this day. The most prominent of these is the Bibi Ka Maqbara. A garden tomb with a striking resemblance to the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Bibi Ka Maqbara has been dubbed the “Poor Man’s Taj” and the “Deccani Taj” over the ages. The tomb was commissioned by Prince Azam Khan, the son of Aurangzeb, in memory of his mother and was intended to rival the beauty of the Taj Mahal. However due to the lack of finances available for the project, the Bibi Ka Maqbara ended up as an extremely scaled down, albeit, beautiful construct made out of a combination of marble and lime mortar. The monument while suffering from comparisons with the Taj Mahal nevertheless is an interesting garden tomb in its own right with a classical Mughal Charbagh setting.

While the caves at Ajanta and Ellora are clearly the most amazing tourist attraction near Aurangabad, there is another minor complex of ancient Buddhist caves within the city limits as well. The cave complex, called the Aurangabad Caves, is a set of Buddhist cave temples built in the 6th and 7th century. While not as grand as the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, the Aurangabad Caves are worth a visit and have a collection of interesting sculptures some of which have been carved on extremely suggestive themes.

Many visitors on a tour to Aurangabad choose to visit the city’s attractions as part of a single day trip. A regular feature of this city tour is the Pan-Chakki which is a Mughal era hydro-mill. The Pan-Chakkihas an ingenious system of underground water pipes that carries water from a distance of 6 kilometers to feed the mill. Also in the immediate periphery of the Pan-Chakki is the Dargah (shrine) of Aurangzeb’s spiritual advisor and Sufi saint Baba Shah Muzzafar. The Dargah is the sight of some interesting religious rituals and has a steady stream of devotees coming to pay their respects.

Many visitors to Aurangabad also make it a point to visit the city’s Shivaji Museum which focusses on the legendary rivalry between the Marathas and the Mughals. The Museum has interesting exhibits of armour, weaponry as well as a manuscript of the Quran hand-written by Emperor Aurangzeb himself.

Undoubtedly the high-point of any tour to Aurangabad is a trip to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Both locations are within an hour’s drive from Aurangabad and can be toured as day trips from the city.

Designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves are ancient complexes of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Temples. The Ajanta Caves are significantly older and have a number of Buddhist temples. These temples boast some amazing fresco paintings. Ajanta has been dubbed the “Louvre of Ancient India” by many leading travel experts around the world.

Similarly the Ellora Caves are a combination of Hindu and Jain temples. The Ellora Caves are famous for the amazing rock carvings in its temples. The Ellora Caves comprise of 34 cave temples which were carved into the cliff face by an army of 7,000 craftsmen over a period of 150 years.

Best Time to Visit Aurangabad:

A popular time to tour Aurangabad is the traditional high tourist season between October and March. The weather is at its best and many of the popular festivals in the city occur during this timeframe.

Festivals in Aurangabad that have been the center of visitor interest include the traditional Hindu festivals of Ganesh Chaturthi as well as the Dussehra that are celebrated with considerable zeal in the city during October or November (dates are determined by calculations according to the traditional Hindu calendar).

Another local festival that is proving increasingly popular with foreign visitors is the Ajanta Ellora Aurangabad Festival that is organized every November. The festival features performances of dance, poetry and music as well as artistic traditions and handcrafts of Maharashtra.

How to get to Aurangabad:

Aurangabad is located in Maharashtra state towards the south of India. Aurangabad has a small domestic airport that offers good connecting flights to Mumbai which is the closest metropolitan city to Aurangabad.

For the foreign visitor, the most convenient way to take a tour of Aurangabad would be to fly to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport which is a major aviation hub of India and offers convenient global connections.

Aurangabad Highlights:

While Aurangabad has not been aggressively promoted as a primary tourism destination in India, the city nonetheless attracts hordes of foreign visitors every year due to the presence of such globally acclaimed attractions such as Ajanta and Ellora in its immediate periphery. Aurangabad with its cultural monuments as well as Ajanta and Ellora is sure to interest fans of archaeology, world history, art, sculpture, culture, spirituality and mythology.

For fans of retail therapy, the must have souvenir from Aurangabad is clothing made out of Himroo fabric. Himroo is made of cotton, silk and silver thread. Local tailors can make any article of clothing to visitor specifications ranging from traditional saris to shirts and scarves at very short notice. For high spenders, there is always an option to graduate to the considerably pricier Kam Khaab textile form which is similar to Himroo however makes use of ornate brocades of silk and gold thread.

Aurangabad is also a great point for the visitor to indulge in some traditional Marathi cuisine. The city is home to a vibrant set of communities and this diversity is well represented in the number of culinary options that are available to the visitors on a tour of Aurangabad.

Appropriate Attire:

While Aurangabad is a laid back multi-cultural metropolis, many of the city’s attractions such as the Bibi Ka Maqbara and Dargah Baba Shah Muzzafar are local shrines and require visitors to cover arms, legs and shoulders while visiting the premises.

Also trips to the magnificent caves temples at Ajanta and Ellora are full day tours with considerable walking on uneven terrain between the many attractions on site. Therefore visitors should wear comfortable shoes and take adequate precautions against bright sunlight.
Take our word for this, your backwaters cruise will very likely become one of your most treasured travel memories. The incredible lushness of the vegetation around the fresh water canals, rivulets and lakes, the beauty of the water bodies themselves and the abundance of coconut trees and other exotic plants create a subtropical environment not found elsewhere on this planet. When you combine this with the opportunity to be part of a unique way of life that hasn’t changed much for a few centuries, it results in most visitors’ second highest rated experience in India (after the Taj Mahal). Relax and have a great time till the next morning as you cruise the amazing backwaters. The cook and other staff make sure that all your needs are taken care of, while serving you with delicious Kerala cuisine. You have the option of taking shore excursions at one or two of the tiny rural communities as you cruise by - the locals are very friendly and communicative.
At ¼ the size of the monstrous Kahna, Bandhavgarh’s claim to fame is having the largest density of tigers in India. Its beautiful physical characteristics also make it one of the most popular parks in India. The terrain is comprised of forested hills with a large dominant mesa in the center of the park. Bandhavgarh is blessed with over twenty streams flowing through the park, which empty into the Son River, a major tributary of the Ganga. The Indian bison and the porcupine are among the many other species in the park. Elephant back safaris and jeep safaris are the preferred methods for exploring this beautiful spot on Earth.
Located in the heart of the Deccan Plateau, Bangalore is a prosperous illustration of how an ancient society can assimilate with rapid growth and change. Bangalore is called the "Garden City", but it is much more famous now because it leads India's efforts in software development, as well as other related industries. Founded by Kempe Gowda in the 16th century, the city sits a 1000 meters above sea level and has a temperate climate.

Visit Cubbon Park and the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, prime examples of why Bangalore became famous for it's gardens. Tipu Sultan's palace and fort are worth a visit if you want to explore their legacies of numerous battles and wars. A visit to the Vidhana Soudha after dark is very impressive, the granite facade of this immense government building is flood-lit for maximum effect.

In the last decade or so, the inhabitants of Bangalore have seen property values increase even faster than the skyrocketing appreciation of real estate in other urbanized parts of India. In Bangalore, this came about mainly due to the influx of almost every large American and Western European hi-tech organization. The 'Garden City' now has increased pollution and traffic jams, though not as bad as some of India's larger cities.

We include a visit to Mysore during our scheduled visits to Bangalore. Also known as "The City of Palaces", Mysore's awe-inspiring royal palace is a sight to behold and rivals any of the royal palaces in the world for sheer grandeur and lavishness of art and architecture. You can easily spend the greater part of a day just admiring a part of the palace and other buildings in the royal compound. There are also a number of impressive temples in Mysore, and like Bangalore, a profusion of gardens and plants.
Located in the Brij region, Bharatpur was once a well-planned and well-fortified city, and the capital of Jat kingdom ruled by Sinsinwar Maharajas. Today it is known for the nearby Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary. Once the shooting preserve of royalty, it is perhaps the most spectacular water-bird sanctuary in India. It is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia. Some 364 species of birds, including the rare Siberian Crane, have been recorded in the park. The name Keoladeo is derived from the name of an ancient Hindu temple devoted to Lord Shiva in the sanctuary's central zone, while the Hindi term "Ghana" implies dense, thick areas of forest cover.

Bodh Gaya Description:

It was under a Bodhi (sacred fig) tree in Bodh Gaya that Siddhartha Gautama is said to have attained enlightenment and become the Buddha in 534 B.C.

The most important site in the Buddhist religion, hundreds of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims travel to Bodh Gaya every year to pray in the monolithic Mahabodhi Temple that protects a sapling cut from the original Bodhi tree in 288 B.C. The original Mahabodhi Temple is believed to have been constructed in 250 B.C. by the Buddhist Emperor Asoka. The current structure is believed to have been a massive renovation and enlargement completed between the 5th and 6th centuries.

Successive invasions by foreign powers and religions saw the decline of Buddhism throughout India, and by the 12th century Mahabodhi was abandoned and falling into disrepair. In the later part of the 19th century the British government of India began an extensive excavation and restoration process to return the temple to its former glory. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2002, and numerous Buddhist countries have added their own temple structures and aided in additions and enhancements to the existing structures.

Best Time to Visit Bodh Gaya:

The best weather to visit Bodh Gaya is between October and March. High temperatures between April and June give way to cooling and resuscitating rainfall from July to September. Pilgrims from McLeod Ganj, home of the Tibetan Government in Exile, start arriving in November, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is a frequent visitor between December and January.

How to get to Bodh Gaya:

Bodh Gaya is in the Eastern Indian state of Bihar. The small holy city is best reached by private vehicle departing from Bihar’s capital city of Patna.

Bodh Gaya Highlights:

No trip to India would be complete without a visit to the center point of Buddhism. Bodh Gaya is a must-see on our tours of India.

Appropriate Attire:

Buddhist tenants require shoulders, arms, and knees to be covered while on holy ground, and certain temple areas may require the removal of shoes upon entrance.

Chennai Description:

Chennai is a city with a rich and vibrant history that has caused it to reinvent itself many times over. Being the capital of Tamil Nadu state, home to the oldest known indigenous civilization of South Asia, the Dravidians, Chennai has had an interesting journey that has seen it grow from a small fishing village to one of India’s largest and fastest growing cities.

While Chennai does not get the leisure tourist traffic that some of the other Indian metropolises such as Delhi and Mumbai do, the city has an impressive list of attractions to hold visitors’ interest.
Anyone touring Chennai can see that the city has much to boast about. Attractions in Chennai include India’s oldest Anglican Church the Cathedral and Basilica of San Thome that was built in the early 17th century. As the city, then known as Madras, was the first seat of British Imperial power in India, it is replete with colonial masterpieces with a pronounced Anglicized influence. Notable examples include Fort St. George which was the first British settlement in the city and still serves as the urban city center of Chennai as well as San Thome Museum, the Fort Museum and the Chennai’s famous flagpole, which is a salvaged 46 meters tall masthead of a ship.

Chennai is long considered to be the entry point of the Christian faith in the Indian Subcontinent and has many sites important to the local Christian community. These include the Tomb of Saint Thomas the Apostle who is credited with bringing Christianity to this part of the world circa 58 AD. Other sites of pilgrimage for local Christians as well as of interest to foreign tourists in Chennai include St. Thomas Mount as well as Little Mount.

Chennai’s other claim to fame is its position as the capital of Tamil culture and society which traces its roots to India’s Dravidian civilization. The city and its immediate periphery is home to a number of temples some of which are over 5,000 years old. The world famous Shore Temple and the many famous relics in its surroundings are within an hour’s driving distance from Chennai in the town of Mahabalipuram.

Chennai offers an interesting starting point for anyone wanting to experience the extremely vibrant and prolific Tamil cultural scene. The city is home to an interesting set of museums dedicated to its proud history as the epicenter of a variety of political structures in India including British, Portuguese and Muslim as well as Modern Indian rule, all the while preserving its ancient Tamil language and cultural heritage.

The city has a vibrant art and culture scene and is a center of excellence in dance, meditation and theatre in India. Chennai is also home to a prolific regional cinema industry popularly dubbed, Kollywood (Tamil Cinema). Tamil movies are extremely popular not just in South India but as far afield as the Middle East and Gulf, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia as well as in Europe and North America thanks to the widespread Tamil diaspora in these countries.

Dovetailing from Chennai’s rich cultural scene, the city is home to a vibrant culinary scene as well. Anyone wanting to get a sampling of traditional Tamil cuisine as well as the many global fluxionary influences on it over the ages would hit mother-load in Chennai. The city’s many upscale restaurants, dining establishments as well as street food joints offer an eclectic mix of South Indian cuisines including Tamil, Telgu and Malayali. Furthermore being a world class center for business and commerce, any sort of cuisine and food from India and around the world is easily available across the city.

Another major tourist attraction to Chennai is its pristine beaches. The city and is periphery is home to a number of beaches that are popular with both local and foreign visitors alike.

Best Time to Visit Chennai:

Chennai has a weather pattern that is slightly different from other major cities of India. Located deep in the south of the country, the city is situated on the thermal equator thereby ensuring that it does not have considerable temperature variations throughout the year.

While India is lashed by the Monsoons during July to September, Chennai gets most of its rainfall during mid-October to mid-December as a result of the annual Northeastern Monsoon.

The climate for most of the year remains hot, humid and tropical with temperatures peaking during May to July.

A lot of visitors coming to Chennai time their arrival to catch one of the city’s many vibrant festivals. The most popular festivals held in Chennai is the Pongal (held in mid-January) which is the traditional Tamil festival hailing the arrival of spring as well as the Karthikai Deepam Festival. The Karthikai Deepam Festival is the traditional Tamil festival of lights and is celebrated by lighting lamps and setting of fire-crackers across the entire state. The festival is held in November- December.

Other more modern festivals that celebrate achievements of Tamil culture in areas like dance, theatre and cinema include the Chennai Summer Festival and the Chennai Festival of Music and Dance.

How to get to Chennai:

Chennai is India’s fourth largest city and is the capital of Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state in the Indian Union. The city is located on the southeastern coast of India and is a bustling commercial center, hub of industry and the second busiest cargo port of India.

Not surprisingly then the city gets a considerable level of traffic of business and commercial visitors and connected to the world by the Chennai International Airport.

While not offering as many choices as the bigger aviation hubs of Delhi and Mumbai, the Chennai International Airport is serviced by a significant number of regional and international carriers.

The airport offers convenient connections to a host of international destinations across, Asia, the Middle East, Far East and Europe. Many visitors use Chennai as a springboard to commence their exploration of South India.

Chennai Highlights:

Being South India’s largest city and busiest center for commerce, Chennai gets a great deal of business visitors who find time to discover the many treasures of this often under-rated city.

The city is a proud center of Dravidian Civilization which is thought to be the oldest indigenous ethnic grouping of South Asia.Chennai and its periphery are home to a host of ancient cultural icons as well as more modern colonial architectural masterpieces with a pronounced Anglican influence.

Furthermore Tamil society is one of the most progressive and forward-looking across India. This has ensured that Chennai has a very vibrant urban landscape of cultural events, art, dance and music, museums and history as well as culinary traditions.

All of the above ensures that Chennai captivates a variety of visitors interested in history, culture, food, shopping, natural wonders, contemporary religions and even beach holidays.

Appropriate Attire :

Chennai has a proud history of progressivism. The city has always been a center of art, free-thinkers and literature which coupled with centuries of western and foreign influence has created a vibrant cultural scene.

With near universal literacy, Chennai is very upwardly mobile so modest casual wear and western clothes (covering arms and legs) are a common sight at most top end establishments, shopping districts as well as areas of visitor interest.

However as in other major cities of India, there is great value put on modesty. Covering arms and legs and opting for clothing not too revealing is always a smarter choice and ensures that the visitor attracts no unwanted attention.

When visiting temples, mosques, religious sites as well as some of the cultural artifacts, national monuments and street markets you may be required to dress conservatively ensuring that arms, legs and even hair are covered.

Chettinad and Karaikudi Description:

Chettinad is a region in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu which is famous for its unique history, architectural brilliance and signature attractions. The Chettinad region is a collective of 76 rural communities with the town of Karaikudi being the region’s principal urban center.

The Chettinad region was developed over 400 years ago and came about due to the migration of merchant communities from the Tamil coastline that were displaced by periodic cyclones and Tsunamis. These merchants then moved on from their traditional sea-faring professions to become financiers of trade, moneylenders as well as entrepreneurs and agriculturists. The result of this migration to the Chettinad region resulted in the development of a unique and vibrant community that is unlike any other in India. Today the Chettinad region is home to over 22,000 mansions,over half of which are still maintained in immaculate condition.

The mansions of Chettinad are the region’s signature attraction and are popularly dubbed as the “Wedding Cake Houses of Chettinad”. The reason for this is the extravagant and colorful decorations and embellishments of these structures.

The mansions of Chettinad are of varying sizes depending on the prosperity level of its owners. The mansions include large open spaces, generous use of a variety of construction materials, high ceilings, large windows and a number of building features along with a liberal sprinkling of color that make them a sight to behold.

Being a vibrant community that had strong sea-faring roots as well as a culture of financing international trade in the region, the residents of Chettinad had access to a plethora of building material from around the world and used it lavishly in their mansions. Even today one finds amazing structures among the mansions of Chettinad that are replete with the finest Italian marble, Burmese teak, Belgian chandeliers, French crystal and European granite.

The immense wealth of Chettinad’s merchants and a sense of taste and discernment led to a signature style building spree in the region that was uniquely local in execution while relying globally on input. This above all fascinates visitors from around the world and an increasing number of foreign tourists are making their way to Chettinad as part of a larger tourism trek through Tamil Nadu that includes other popular destinations such as Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Tanjore, Trichy and Madurai as well.

The town of Karaikudi is the most convenient base to commence a tour of the Chettinad region. The town gets its name from “Karai” which is a thorny bush indigenous to the area.

Some of the oldest and finest mansions of the town serve as heritage hotel properties where visitors can relax in pampering luxury and the signature resplendent décor. Chettinad mansion hotels are also a great place to experience the unique cuisine of the Chettinad region which is unlike any other in India. Guest can also take a few cooking lessons and try their hand at creating classic Chettinad dishes served on a traditional banana leaf platter. Karaikudi, along with some other locations in Chettinad have been declared as official “Heritage Towns” of Tamil Nadu thereby ensuring that their amazing historic architecture is protected by the Government. Karaikudi has also made an appearance on UNESCO’s “Network of Indian Cities of Living Heritage”.
While the different mansions of the Chettinad region are the main attraction of the area and are the subject of most trips to the region, there are other accompanying attractions that add considerable value to any tour of Karaikudi and Chettinad.

There are some ancient temples in the area that may be of interest to some visitors. These include Pillayarpatti Karpagavinayagar temple and the Thirunayam Permual temple.

Chettinad is also a center of excellence for tile making in South India. Chettinad tiles are made by hand through an interesting process that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Chettinad tiles are used across India mostly for decoration and embellishment and are always in high demand. Visitors can go to a tile manufacturing center and see the fascinating way in which these skilled tile makers create amazing designs on tiles right in front of their eyes.

Similarly Chettinad is also famous for its hand-loom made fabrics. Visits to handloom factories are also a popular activity for visitors on a tour of Chettinad and Karaikudi.

Best Time to Visit Chettinad and Karaikudi:

Any tour of the Chettinad region needs to account for two of India’s greatest seasonal challenges, i.e. the monsoon rains and the summer temperatures. Chettinad - Karaikudi getthe greatest rainfall during mid-October to mid-December as a result of the annual Northeastern Monsoon weather pattern.

This makes the period between December to April the most popular time to visit Chettinad.

The climate for most of the year remains hot, humid and tropical with temperatures peaking during May to July. Many visitors touring Chettinad time their trips to coincide with many of the prominent cultural festivals and events that are being held in other cities of Tamil Nadu such as Chennai, Madurai and Mahabalipuram.

How to get to Chettinad and Karaikudi:

Chettinad is a region of 76 rural communities as well as the town of Karaikudi. Chettinad is in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Most international tourists visit Chettinad and Karaikudi as part of a greater tour through South India which includes attractions in nearby cities like Tanjore, Trichy, Kanchipuram and Madurai. The most convenient international gateways to reach Chettinad are the principal aviation hubs of south India either in Chennai or Mumbai. Both airports offer a multitude of international connection options and full service facilities.

From either of these locations, most visitors fly to Madurai which is a closest airport to the Chettinad region and the site of some of India’s most amazing temples thereby kicking off their tour across South India.

Chettinad and Karaikudi Highlights:

Chettinad with its interesting backstory would be of interest to fans of culture, architecture, arts and crafts as well as history.

Chettinad is a center of excellence for the traditional handmade tile industry of Tamil Nadu as well as for its famous hand-loom fabrics. Both of these are made by processes that have remained unchanged for centuries and make for some great souvenirs.

Tours of tile manufacturing and hand loom cottage industries are included in all tour itineraries of Chettinad. These tours are extremely popular with visitors who can interact with the skilled artisans and watch them make these colorful and intricately designed tiles through an ingenious process right before their eyes.

Chettinad in recent years has also become a hot-spot for culinary tourism in India. The cuisine of Chettinad is unlike any other that travelers experience while touring India. Chettinad cuisine is famous for being less spicy than other Indian cuisines. Also there are some amazing signature innovations to Chettinad cuisine such as the use of Banana Leaf platters that also make it a point of interest for visiting tourists to the area.

Appropriate Attire:

Chettinad as a whole is a very laid back region with an idyllic pace of life. Chettinad is in Tamil Nadu which is one of the most progressive and intellectually vibrant states in India. Western wear, albeit with arms covered and not too figure hugging will hold visitors in good stead when touring the many attractions of Chettinad including its world famous mansions.

Cochin Description:

Cochin (Kochi) is the commercial capital and gateway to Kerala, one of the most interesting and culturally rich states in Southwest India. Kerala is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world and is known for its natural beauty, rich history, intellectual vibrancy and cultural diversity.

Often dubbed the “Queen of the Arabian Sea”, Cochin is an interesting confluence of ancient cultural and historic influences as diverse as Dravidian, Islamic, Jewish, Arab, Portuguese, English, Dutch and Chinese. The city and its many attractions came about as the area became a prominent trade hub between the orient and the western world.

Cochin today can boast of signature attractions that range from the oldest European built church in South Asia to a 400 year old synagogue coupled with equally ancient temples and mosques that all pepper its dynamic cityscape. The modern city of Cochin can be divided into three distinct parts: the colonial quarter at Fort Cochin, the cultural heart of the city at Mattancherry and the modern business hub at Ernakulam.

Any tour of Cochin is best kicked off with a visit to Mattancherry Palace. The palace was built in 1555 and presented as a gift by the Portuguese to the local Maharaja in a bid to gain trade concessions. The entry of the Portuguese marked Cochin’s longstanding colonial tryst that saw it become a bustling trade hub under a spate of European powers including the Portuguese, Dutch and finally the English. The Mattancherry Palace has a number of beautiful murals depicting many tales from Hindu scriptures. There is an interesting gallery of the portraits of the reigning Maharajas of the region along with a superb collection of palanquins, jewelry and royal outfits.

Another iconic attraction on any tour of Cochin is the Pardesi Synagogue. The Jewish community in Cochin traces its roots as far back as the 6th century, the present synagogue was originally built in 1556 and then re-built in 1664. The synagogue is one of the oldest in South Asia and has an interesting set of artifacts including a gold pulpit as well as a floor-plan composed of intricate handmade tiles from China. The area around the Pardesi Synagogue is called Jew Town and is a sprawling mix of spice markets, colonial buildings as well as interesting shops. The Jew Town is one of the oldest Jewish settlements of the Indian Subcontinent and its buildings make for a fascinating journey of discovery.

At the northern end of Fort Cochin are the gigantic fishing nets that have become the most prolific visual of Cochin and Kerala around the world. Brought to Cochin over 400 years ago by the Chinese of Kublai Khan’s court, these gigantic cantilever based nets are each operated by a crew of four. Visitors can take guided tours of how these nets work under a complicated mechanism of counterweights that balance the net during changing tidal currents.

Cochin is home to some great museums such as Cochin Folklore Museum and Indo-Portuguese Museum. Both museums have a great collection of antiques and artifacts that display the prominent periods and the often conflicting global influences in Cochin’s vibrant history.
Cochin is also home to a number of iconic churches and cathedrals including the oldest European built church in the Indian Subcontinent. The Cathedral of St. Francis was built by the Portuguese in the year 1503 and still contains the tombstone of the world famous explorer Vasco Da Gama, who is credited with bringing earliest organized European trade and missionary expeditions to India. Vasco Da Gama was buried at this site for over 14 years after which his remains were taken back to Portugal. Another famous church in Cochin that is popular with visiting tourists, is the Santa Clara Basillica which was built in 1506.

Cochin is a center of excellence for many activities that would interest foreign visitors. These include indulgence in Keralan cuisine, shopping, the traditional Kathakali dance form as well as Ayurveda treatments. Many visitors coming to Cochin indulge in these diverse activities with as much gusto as they do in walks along colonial cityscape of Fort Cochin or the cultural treks of Mattancherry.

Best Time to Visit Cochin:

The best time to visit Cochin is between December and April. Cochin has a tropical weather that is hot and humid for most of the year. The city is located in the extreme south west of the Indian Subcontinent in proximity to the thermal equator. Cochin, therefore doesn’t get a lot of temperature variance, however is blessed with an average of 132 days of rainfall a year. The city is on the pathway of both the north east and south west Monsoon weather systems.

Since Cochin is one of the main centers of Keralan culture as well as one of the most multi-cultural cities of India, there are a number of festivals that are zealously celebrated in the city. While the city celebrates both traditional Hindu and Muslim festivals such as Holi and Eid with much fanfare, Cochin has a local festival called the Ernakulathappan Utsavam Festival that is very famous with visitors.

The Ernakulathappan Utsavam Festival is celebrated every January / February and is an 8 day festival replete with local art performances, elephant parades as well as a brilliant firework display.

How to get to Cochin:

Cochin is located in the south western Indian state of Kerala. Cochin is the commercial capital of the state and is connected to India and the rest of the world by the Cochin International Airport. While not as large as the major aviation hubs of Delhi or Mumbai, the Cochin International Airport offers convenient connections to all major Indian cities as well as to a number of major international destinations in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Orient.

For this reason, the Cochin International Airport is often the gateway of choice for many visitors coming exclusively to tour South India and the many attractions close to Cochin such as the Periyar National Park and the Kerala Backwaters.

Cochin Highlights:

Cochin is a city like no other in India. It is such an amazing melting pot of so many cultural influences coupled with its own ancient civilization that makes it a great launching pad for exploring South India. Cochin and its many attractions will interest fans of history, architecture, culture and contemporary religion. Enthusiasts of photography will also find much to focus on while visiting the city. Cochin’s interesting fishing nets, old buildings and vibrant cityscape as well as beaches make for some interesting photo-opportunities.

For fans of food and drink, Cochin is amongst the best places to sample the eclectic and vibrant Keralan cuisine. The city is a major hub for seafood as well as for a multi-cultural cuisine offering due to its rich history.

Cochin is also a great place to see authentic South Indian dance performances such as Kathakali. The city has many venues that regularly host dance performances of critically acclaimed artistes. Another indulgence that every visitor to Cochin should partake in, is a pampering Ayurvedic treatment. The city has many fine establishments that offer a number of treatments to bring balance to mind, body and spirit alike.

For fans of shopping, Cochin is a great place to acquire traditional Keralan handcrafts. Souvenirs from Cochin that are most popular with visitors include organic cotton clothing, Ayurvedic oils, exquisite lace work and housewares.

In recent years, the Kerala Tourism Corporation has made great strides in promoting handicrafts from rural and tribal communities of the state and items such as shawls, paintings as well as figurines made by these rural craftsmen are also proving to be very popular with visiting tourists.

Appropriate Attire:

Cochin is one of the most multi-cultural cities in India with a rich colonial heritage. Kerala is also the home of one of the most progressive and intellectually progressive societies in the country. Therefore western wear (though not too revealing) is perfectly acceptable at most places in the city as well as at upscale establishments and restaurants.

It is however worth noting that many of the attractions in Cochin are religious sites including cathedrals, synagogues as well as temples and mosques. All of these usually have a conservative dress code for visitors to gain entry to the premises. It is therefore best that visiting tourists dress modestly covering arms, legs and shoulders and wear slip-on shoes with socks.

Also since many of the historic attractions of Cochin are best seen while walking, visitors should take adequate protection against bright sunlight.
Darjeeling is popularly known as the "Queen of the Hills" and produces the famous Darjeeling tea, one of the world's finest teas. It is also home to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the oldest hill stations in India, Darjeeling has plenty of options, both for those seeking a lazy getaway from the hot plains, as well as nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. Apart from sights within the town, there are plenty of trekking options along the Himalayan ridges on the Indo-Nepal border near Darjeeling. The most popular of these is the Singhalia Ridge Trail.

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is one of the most visited spot in Darjeeling. This institute was created by the late Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa who climbed Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary. The institute has a fascinating Everest Museum and offers some mountaineering and adventure courses. Situated on Jawahar Parvat, the institute is famed for its exceptional collection of mountaineering equipment and findings.

Just beyond the quaint Tibetan market lies the Observatory Hill, the popular meeting place of tourists and residents. It is popular not only for its religious significance but also for the scenic views. Another popular spot for short treks is Tiger Hill, the summit of Ghoom, the highest railway station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. It is famous for its spectacular sunrise view over the Himalayas. Leveling out at 8,500 ft, Tiger Hill is the highest summit in the immediate surroundings.
Sights in Darjeeling
Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill, the summit of Ghoom, is the highest railway station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. It is famous for its spectacular sunrise view over the Himalayas. Leveling out at 8,500 ft, Tiger Hill is the highest summit in the immediate surroundings. This spot has earned international fame for the magnificent view of the sunrise over "Kanchenjunga" and the great Eastern Himalayan Mountains. Even Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, is visible from here.

Batasia Loop

Depending on your itinerary, you may travel to Darjeeling via the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, or you may enjoy an excursion on the train’s Batasia Loop during your time in Darjeeling. The Toy Train, as it is affectionately known, affords breathtaking views of high waterfalls, green valleys, and at its end, the splendid panorama of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga range.  The Batasia Loop is a marvelous feat of engineering. It is fascinating to watch the toy train wind its way through the loop.

Observatory Hill

Just beyond the quaint Tibetan market lies the Observatory Hill, the popular meeting place of tourists and residents. Apart from the magnificent view it commands, this hill is attached with great religious importance as a revered temple complex for both the Hindus and the Buddhists.

Leopard Breeding Centre

Padmaja Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling opened up a Snow Leopard Breeding center in order to breed, in captivity, endangered Snow Leopards that would eventually be introduced back into the wild. This center also specializes in breeding programs for the Red Panda, Tibetan Wolf, and Blue Sheep. The center provides a rare opportunity for visitors to view the Snow Leopards in the large enclosures, but visitors have to observe absolute silence not to disrupt the Leopards. Children are not allowed.

Tenzing and Gombu Rock

Always wanted to try rock climbing? Tenzing and Gombu Rock is a preliminary course that provides amateur and beginning rock climbers an opportunity to test their mountaineering skills. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute conducts many demonstrations on this rock, and professionals are waiting to help you discover your mountaineering potential.

Lloyds Botanical Garden

Lloyd Botanical Garden is a colorful garden located in the beautiful hill station of Darjeeling. The garden was designed by Mr. W. Lloyd in 1878. It contains a vast collection of rare Himalayan plants, flowers, orchids and many more flora species. Built on 40 acres of land, Lloyd Botanical Garden is overseen by the Indian Botanical Garden Network. The garden mainly preserves various flora varieties native to the Darjeeling Himalayan region, Sikkim and other neighboring areas. The garden, one of the most prestigious gardens in the Himalayas, is divided into three sections. The upper section contains the flora of the Eastern Himalayas, the lower part has a collection of exotic species of many temperate countries, and the middle portion contains a large variety of alpine flora. The garden's orchid collection is quite impressive, containing over 2500 species.  This leads to the garden’s cacti and succulent conservatory which displays nearly 150 species. The garden also houses a Victorian-era herbarium, displaying rare botanical specimens. This exotic and magnificent collection of rare plant species makes Lloyd Botanical Garden a favorite among both tourists as well as residents.

Happy Valley Tea Estate

Happy Valley Tea Estate is located in Darjeeling’s picturesque hillside. Due to its high perch, the garden is able to utilize the mountain mist which has a unique effect on the pollen of the plants and lends to the unique flavor of Darjeeling tea. Aided by Darjeeling's cool, moist climate and sloping terrain, its tea estates produce a fine and delicately flavored tea that is referred to as the "Champagne of teas."

A look at the processing method used in the Happy Valley Tea Estate in Darjeeling shows how one bush can produce five different varieties of tea. The picked leaves are placed in long trays to a depth of about 20cm where air is blown from underneath to drive out moisture in a two-stage process, six hours of cold air and six hours of hot; this reduces the moisture content of the green leaves from 75% - 35%. The leaves then pass into a rolling machine where they are rolled and crushed for 45 minutes to bring out the juices from the cells, after which a sifter machine separates out any leaves that are too big.

Fermentation is next, where the leaves are left on cold metal shelves for two to three hours to ferment in their juices, turning the color from green to brown; they are then passed through the drying machine, a long conveyor through a furnace where the moisture is reduced to about 2%. Finally the leaves, now ready to brew up, are sorted into categories according to leaf size, the smaller leaves being the best quality; at the Happy Valley the teas produced are, in order of quality with the best first, Orange Pekoe, Golden Flower, Golden Supremo, and Supremo.

Barbotey Rock Garden

The Barbotey Rock Garden is an elaborate terraced garden full of walkways and stone paths perfect for snapping unforgettable pictures. The garden is surrounded by beautiful hills and is full of lush green plants and beautiful flowers. The Rock Garden also features Chunnu Summer Falls, a free flowing water fall that rushes through the garden. Relax and really take in all the views of this wonderful garden.

Delhi Description:

Delhi is India’s national capital and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Most historians agree that the present city has been inhabited since 1000 BC. During the course of its 3,000 plus years of history, Delhi has seen some seismic shifts in its fortunes. The city has been built, ravaged, sacked and re-built at least eight times bearing testimony of the passing of many different world orders and empires.

Even today, the city’s denizens (Delhiites) attribute the city’s un-mitigating growth momentum and resilience of spirit as a corollary of the city’s history. The city has served as the capital of glorious dynasties and empires. These include the Mauryan, the Mughal, the Tomara, the Chauhan and the Slave as well as the British.

Each dominant power of its day, added to the city-scape of Delhi adding to its social mores, cultural landscape as well as architectural palette. This has left the city with a host of magnificent monuments including multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Delhi is home to a colorful tapestry of major monuments, archeological remnants as well as modern iconic buildings. These include the Asoka Pillar, the Red Fort, the Qutab Minar, the Jama-Masjid, the Raj-Ghat (Mahatma Gandhi Memorial), the Rashtrapati Bhavan(Presidential Palace), the Akshardam Temple, Humayun’s Tomb, the modern iconic Bahai Temple and the famous India Gate just to name a few.

Today the city is broadly divided into two main parts simply called Old Delhi and New Delhi. The old part of the city includes the historic quarter as well as the walled city inside the Red Fort. This area used to be the old Mughal capital which is also called Shahjahanabad (named after Shah Jahan - the fifth Great Mughal Emperor).

Alternatively, New Delhi is also called Lutyens Delhi. This part of Delhi was purpose- built as a modern capital by the British imperial administrators of India when the capital was moved to Delhi from Kolkata in 1911.

All of these competing influences over centuries have left Delhi with a unique identity that is pluralistic, multi-cultural, diverse and superbly enriched. Since Indian independence in 1947, Delhi is the heart of the world’s largest democracy which also makes it the home of the world’s largest bureaucracy. The city is filled with architectural monoliths to house Indian officialdom such as the massive Sansad Bhavan (India’s bi-cameral parliament).

Delhi has come to symbolize India’s rise as a power of global significance. The city has grown phenomenally in the last half a century to become one of the largest urban conurbations of the world with over 27 million residents. The city is now a prominent business and diplomatic hub and is home to a growing plethora of international festivals and events that draws millions of tourists to the city.

For the visitor, Delhi has a seemingly endless array of surprises. While the city’s most visible splendors are its monuments, Delhi is home to a multitude of museums, galleries, events as well as world class shopping opportunities.

The city is a great place to start a culinary expedition of India as well. The diverse culinary scene of the city has its own unique flavors and also combines the very best of North Indian cuisines including Mughlai, Rajasthani, Punjabi and Marathi.

Best Time to Visit Delhi:

The period between October to March is undoubtedly the best time to be in Delhi. The weather in the city is comparatively pleasant and the searing summers as well as the inundating monsoon rains do not disrupt any tour of Delhi.

In recent times, many visitors align their travel itineraries to include the many colorful and cultural festivals that fill the social calendar of the Indian capital. These range from the traditional religious festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra to more modern festivals such as the Annual World Book Fair and the Delhi International Art Festival.

How to get to Delhi:

Delhi is situated in the north of India and is a federally administered territory located ideally between the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. All three states are amongst the most popular destinations with international tourists visiting India.

The city is serviced by the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the largest aviation hub not just in India but also in the entire South Asian region. The airport is modern and connects Delhi to over 100 international destinations conveniently through a variety of international carriers.

First time visitors often find Delhi as the perfect springboard to commence their exploration of India.

Delhi Highlights:

Being the fast-paced pulsating heart of modern India, there is something for everyone in Delhi. People interested in history and culture can immerse themselves in the multitude of historical sites and museums that are scattered across the city. For the religious and mystically inclined there are visits to any number of temples, mosques and houses of worship of the many religious communities that call Delhi home.

Fans of shopping will find immense value and great bargains in the city’s markets that range from local bazaars, centuries old street markets all the way to the most modern shopping emporiums.

In a nutshell, it is extremely unlikely that anyone wanting to experience India would not find something of interest in Delhi.

Appropriate Attire:

Since Delhi has a tropical climate for most of the year apart from the October to January winter months, loose cotton clothing is the best sartorial choice when exploring the city. The city’s pluralistic and cosmopolitan character ensures that western wear and casual clothing are acceptable at most places.

However guests should be mindful that India is a deeply traditional and religiously devout society which puts great value on modesty. When visiting temples, mosques, national monuments and historic sites, both male and female visitors should cover arms, legs and shoulders.

Goa Description:

Goa is one of the most prominent tourist destinations of India known to western visitors. For over half a century, Goa has been an iconic tourism destination on the hippie trail and is extremely popular with western tourists coming to enjoy pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear waters that remain warm even during winters.

All of this has made Goa, a destination of choice for beach lovers around the world. Goa is the smallest state in India and is located on the country’s western coast. Thanks to its phenomenal reputation as a beach haven and a party city, Goa gets an average footfall of over two million tourists every year.

Goa is one of the most liberal states in India. Western wear, including beach wear is perfectly acceptable on Goa’s many beaches.

There are a number of beaches and ultra-luxury beach resorts that offer guests a beach holiday of a lifetime in privacy, comfort and convenience. Added to that Goa has an extremely vibrant bar circuit, this has further cemented its reputation as India’s signature party capital.

Goa has miles of white sand beaches to choose from. Some of the more prominent public and resort beaches include Chapora, Vagator, Candolim, Benaulim, Colva, Agonda, Anjuna, Palolem, Varca, Cavelossim and Morbor. Guests at these beaches can enjoy a luxurious beach holiday amidst the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and indulge in a variety of water sports comparable to any beach destination around the world. Unlike in many developing countries, Goa’s beaches have trained lifeguards as well as swimming advisories to ensure the safety of both domestic and foreign visitors.

While Goa has always been famous as India’s major beach destination, it has a host of attractions that would hold the interest of visitors beyond the beaches as well. The reason for this is the rich and diverse history of Goa itself. Goa has been a center of culture since the times of Asoka the Great, it has been ruled by various Hindu dynasties since the 3rd century BC all of whom have added to the cultural landscape. However the heaviest cultural influence on Goa has been that of the Portuguese. The Portuguese ruled Goa from the 16th century till 1961 when an independent and assertive India drove out the last remnants of European colonialism from within its borders.

However to date, the Portuguese legacy in Goa is extremely strong. Part of the liberal climate and wholesale acceptance of western values, lifestyle choices and dress codes even by the locals in Goa is attributed to the longstanding rule of the Portuguese.

Portuguese rule apart from cultural enrichment also has provided Goa with a host of architectural icons, museums and churches that serve as major tourist attractions in modern day Goa. These include the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception built in 1541, the Secretariat Building (formerly the Viceroy’s office) and the Se Cathedral which is the largest church in Asia standing at 76 meters long and 55 meters wide and is home to the largest church bell of Asia, the Golden Bell.

Other iconic colonial structures include Chapel of the Cross of Miracles and the Cathedral of St Francis of Assisi which holds the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier - the patron saint of Goan Christianity. Other cultural landmarks include Goa State Museum, Museum of Christian Art, the impressive Fort Aguada as well as a number of Hindu and Jain Temples.

For lovers of nature, Goa has the second highest waterfall in India which is called Dhudsagar Falls as well as some interesting spice plantations and dense forests that have a large number of bird and butterfly species.

For fans of shopping Goa has a world famous flea market and a Friday market which evoke memories of the hippie trail era of the 60s and the 70s. Added to that Goa has a number of shopping locations that are great places to pick up local handcrafts such as brass work and local embroideries.

Best Time to Visit Goa:

The period between Mid-November to Mid-April is the best time to visit Goa and its many attractions. The most pleasant weather is between December and February when the temperature is at its coolest and the waters of the beaches are warm enough to indulge in.

Many visitors coming on a tour of Goa time their arrival with one of the many colorful festivals of the state. Some of the more prominent festivals celebrated with great fervor in Goa that have been of interest to visitors include the Feast of the Three Kings (January), Shigmotsav which is Goa’s version of the Holi (February), the Carnival (March) and the Feasts of St. Francis Xavier and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (December).

How to get to Goa:

Goa is situated on the western coast of India and is the smallest state in the Indian Union. While Goa does have an international airport called Dabolim Airport, it doesn’t offer a lot of international connections and is serviced mostly by holiday charter flights.

Most visitors coming to Goa use Mumbai’s Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport. The airport is a major aviation hub in India and is serviced by most international carriers offering convenient connections to a host of international destinations.

Goa Highlights:

Goa has long been the beach holiday epicenter and the party capital of India. It has over 50 years of a solid reputation that continues to draw visitors from all over the world. A good majority of the visitors coming to Goa come to experience its world famous beaches with white sand and warm waters. Fans of water sports, beach holidays and live music performances would always find the charged atmosphere of Goa’s beaches and bar circuit to their liking.

Apart from its pristine beaches Goa has loads more to offer to the discerning tourist. It is the site of some of the oldest and grandest colonial architecture in India that would be of great interest to enthusiasts of architecture, history and culture.

Added to that Goa has a score of natural attractions that would interest the eco-tourist. This includes spice plantations, India’s second highest waterfall and dense forests.

As Goa has been a major tourist destination in India for over half a century and a landmark on the hippie trail, it is also of interest to many foreign tourists who come to experience the nostalgia of the period and its influences that still permeate the markets, beaches and cultural icons of Goa.

Appropriate Attire:

Goa is one of the most liberal states in India thanks to its longstanding colonial influence. The dress code particularly on the beach is most relaxed and it’s perfectly acceptable for women and men to wear western swimwear.

Away from the beach, it is always advisable to wear modest loose cotton clothing that is breathable considering the hot and humid weather throughout the year in Goa. This is particularly true for visitors touring cultural attractions of Goa which include many religious sites and churches that require arms, legs and shoulders of visitors to be covered.
The most remarkable single attraction in Karnataka has to be the ruins of the ancient city of Hampi.

Traces of a two millennia old civilization have been found at Hampi, but the UNESCO World Heritage Group of Monuments at Hampi are a mere five to seven centuries old. Hampi was the last Capital of the Great Vijayanagar Empire, and the amazing monuments here are definitely matched by the incredibly scenic landscape that is strewn with massive boulders.

The landscape is surreal and breathtaking. Amidst hundreds of square kilometers of granite hills and boulders are the remains of a civilization that was unmatched in its heyday. It is our opinion that Hampi, along with the Taj Mahal and the caves at Ajanta & Ellora, make up the most impressive attractions in a country that is overflowing with magnificent achievements made by ancient and medieval man.

Two days of exploration at Hampi are a must to be able to really savor the amazing city and its granite monuments. The Vijayanagar Empire thrived here from the 14th - 17th centuries. The estimates of the local population during that period range from over 500,000 to almost a million residents, and the city was said to have been surrounded by an army of about a million soldiers.

The streets, temples, bazaars and other structures (remnants of which are spread all over the 30 square kilometers of the Site) were so safe that traders dealt in precious stones in the open. The incredible stone aqueduct dots part of the landscape, as do various tanks and stepwells. Through this other worldly environment meanders the picturesque Tungabhadra River, creating an image that a visitor will never forget.

The Golconda Kingdom that (after centuries of trying) conquered Hampi was determined to destroy all remnants of the glorious city and they spent five years doing just that. All wooden structures were burnt and brick structures were wrecked using elephants and other means. Except for the dozens of stone temples, they destroyed as much of the stone structures as they could, but there are still many left behind.

The area is now completely rural and the closest town, Hospet is a 20 to 25 minute drive away. It is common to see goat, sheep and cow herders wandering through these priceless ruins.

You can explore most of the monuments with a guided trek for those inclined to do so, or you can drive between areas with monument clusters and just take short exploratory walks while being amazed by what you will see.

The only drawback of touring Hampi up until now has been the lack of luxury accommodation. The best available lodging has been fairly spartan hotels at Hospet and, since 2012, an upscale Hyatt Place that is about an hour away, located in an industrial city. This will change in 2015 when Orange County Resorts, Karnataka’s leading boutique Resort Group, open their new facility next to Hampi. This resort promises to be the same as their other two resorts at Nagarhole National Park and in scenic Coorg, with a unique combination of all inclusive luxury combined with good measures of excellent cuisine, great service, and a selection of organic activities.

Hampi is about a six and half hour drive from Bangalore and about a three and a half hour from the city of Hubli, which has daily direct flights to Mumbai and Bangalore.

About a seven hour drive from Hampi are the famed temples of Belur and Halebud. India is a nation that has more exquisite ancient stone sculpture than all of Europe combined and these temples have thousands of incredible sculptures that have a level of detail and intricacy not found anywhere on this planet.

Haridwar Description:

Haridwar (Hardwar) is one of the holiest places in India for practitioners of the Hindu religion.

Hindu lore says drops from the sacred elixir of immortality fell here millennia ago, and today the sacred city draws throngs of religious pilgrims who bathe in the holy Ganges River. Every four years the Kumbh Mela (a massive Hindu pilgrimage) rotates to Haridwar, and with it comes millions of Hindus seeking purification in the Ganges.

The city is a spiritual center for the Hindu religion, and is host to numerous ashrams, temples, and shrines for the devout and sightseers on tours of India to enjoy like the hilltop shrines of Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi reached by cable car.

Running alongside the Ganges where it first reaches the plains of India from the Himalayas, Haridwar is just a few miles from Rishikesh, the town the Beatles stayed in while working on The White Album.

Har-ki-PairiGhat (The footsteps of God) is where the devout step down into the holy Ganges from the canals and bridges of Haridwar every evening for ritual cleansing where Hindu tradition says the god Vishnu left his footprint. Travelers visiting the city on luxury tours of India often come to view pilgrims during the torch-lit evening ceremonies.

Best Time to Visit Haridwar:

Year-round, Haridwar is a busy locus for international and domestic tourists as well as religious pilgrims, some of whom may travel for weeks to reach the holy site.

Pilgrimage season runs May through October every year, which coincides with the area’s heaviest rainfalls. If your India tour plans bring you to Haridwar during this time of year, plan far in advance as the millions of pilgrims seeking salvation through the waters of the Ganges will decrease the availability of accommodations and swell the crowds in the city, especially during the Kumbh Mela every four years.

How to get to Haridwar:

Nestled beside the Ganges River in the Northern Indian state of Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal), Haridwar is well connected to the rest of India by modern highways. Travelers can also shorten the trip by flying into Dehradun then reaching the Haridwar by private car.

Haridwar Highlights:

A pilgrimage for both the devout and travelers on India tours, Haridwar draws millions of visitors every month to view the holy rituals that take place in the Ganges, and make offerings to the area’s shrines. A treat for the devout and the uninitiated, the spiritual presence of Haridwar leaves a lasting impression.

Appropriate Attire:

A center of spiritual devotion for the Hindu religion, Haridwar is a conservative city full of holy sites. Visitors should plan to dress modestly by covering shoulders, arms, and legs in the city.

Hyderabad Description:

Hyderabad, known as the city of pearls, is the capital of the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. With an exquisite history dating back to the early 16th century meshing with modern innovation and business, Hyderabad is an excellent destination for travelers on luxury tours of India to feel the presence of history while enjoying the lap of luxury.

About 4 miles west of Hyderabad’s Old City, Golkonda (Golconda) Fort was the original seat of power for Qutb Shahi dynasty that ruled the region starting in 1463. The seven rulers of the Shahi dynasty are interred at the Qutb Shahi Tombs, which can easily be seen and reached from the fort. Local legends say a Shahi Sultan built the nearby Taramati Baradari pavilion so he could view his courtesan’s singing and dancing from the walls of Golkonda Fort.

Water shortages in the late 16th century prompted the construction of Hussain Sagar, a sprawling man-made lake not far from the heart of Hyderabad. Standing on a plinth in the center of the lake is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. The statue was added to the lake in 1992 to pay homage to Buddhism’s influence in the early history of Andhra Pradesh, which was a monastic hub of learning until the 6th century. Lumbini Park lies on the edge of Hussain Sagar, and watching the sunset from the quiet park is a wonderful way to end the day’s explorations.

Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah moved his capital to Hyderabad in 1591, and ordered the construction of Charminar mosque as a monument to commemorate the new city. Charminar’s four minaret towers and grand arches are Hyderabad’s most iconic monument, and it’s a busy destination for tourists and pilgrims alike.

The Chowmahalla Palace is a UNESCO cultural heritage site built over a period of 100 years for the Nizam sovereigns that ruled Hyderabad between the 18th and 20th centuries. The structure is actually 4 distinct palaces with architectural styles from Europe, India, and Persia blended uniquely together. In the palace’s northern courtyard the splendid Khilwat Mubarak hall is where the Nizam rulers held elaborate ceremonies under massive Belgian crystal chandeliers.

Behind the sprawling Chowmahalla Palace the Badshahi Ashurkhana was one of the very first structures built in Hyderabad after the Shahi dynasty moved their seat of power here. Nondescript from the street, the structure features dazzling tile mosaics, and was built as a mourning hall for Shiite Muslims.

Mecca Masjid is one of the oldest and largest mosques in India. The structure’s entrances are massive triple arches carved from single pieces of granite, and there’s enough space inside for 10,000 people to worship at once.

There are more museums in Hyderabad than can be easily counted, but the exquisitely constructed exhibits in Salar Jung Museum standout from the rest. There are 14,000 exhibits within containing artifacts, sculptures, carvings, paintings, manuscripts, weapons, and toys from every corner of the globe, some of which date back to the 1st century.

Best Time to Visit Hyderabad:

The best weather to visit Hyderabad’s numerous monuments is between October and March. Temperatures rise steadily between April and June until the monsoons from July to September quench the heat.

How to get to Hyderabad:

Hyderabad is the capital of the Southern India state of Andhra Pradesh. It’s best reached by flight from Delhi.

Hyderabad Highlights:

The multicultural nature of many of the monuments and historic structures in Hyderabad leaves guests on our India tours breathless. The unique cuisine and stunning architecture found here make Hyderabad a must-see on any itinerary.

Appropriate Attire:

Dress for warm weather, but keep in mind that most Muslim monuments enforce strict dress codes requiring shoulders, arms, and legs to be covered while on holy ground.

Jaipur Description:

Jaipur is the largest city and capital of the Western Indian state of Rajasthan. Jaipur along with Delhi and Agra forms India’s Golden Triangle which is the most visited tourist circuit in the country.

Jaipur was formed in the year 1727 AD by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II as his capital and bears his name. The Maharaja is famous as one of the most forward looking and progressive rulers in Rajasthan. He was an urban planner, architect, astronomer as well as military genius of great merit. Jaipur is the only planned city in pre-modern India. The city is built on a grid with streets and lanes of standardized width, regularity and is divided into six sectors. Jaipur is encircled by a large defensive wall with huge gateways called “Pols”. Some of the more famous doorways frequented by tourists include the Chand-Pol, Ajmer Gate and the Sanganeri Gate.

Jaipur is called India’s “Pink City.” Pink represents the traditional color of hospitality in Rajasthan. The city’s façade was painted pink in the year 1876 AD to welcome the British Prince of Wales and since then all residents are required by law to maintain the color.

Jaipur is the unquestioned gateway to Rajasthan, one of the most culturally flamboyant states in India. The city provides a unique window into traditional Rajasthani culture and hospitality. Jaipur is famous for its many traditional markets such as Johari Bazaar, Bapu Bazaar, Chandpol Bazaar and Tripolia Bazaar. Many of these are specialist markets and are a good place to source authentic Rajasthani handicrafts, costumes and merchandise.

Most enthusiasts of history and culture kick start their excursion of Jaipur by a visit to the City Palace which is still home to the Rajasthani Royal Family. The palace is a fine specimen of the fusion of Rajasthani and Mughlai architecture. The City Palace has a host of attractions including the Mubarak Mahal (Celebrated Palace) which was used to receive dignitaries and is now home to a fine museum displaying a large royal costume collection. Other prominent sections in the City Palace include the Diwan-e-Khaas and the Diwan-e-Aam assembly halls. The Palace is also home to some interesting artifacts such as the weaponry in its armory, a prized art gallery of manuscripts as well as the world’s largest silver vessels that were used to carry holy water of the Ganges on the King’s foreign trips.

Undoubtedly, Jaipur’s most unique attraction is the celestial observatory built by Maharaj Jai Singh II titled Jantar Mantar. The Jantar Mantar at first glance looks like a collection of bizarre stone sculptures. However each construct is used to measure precise celestial movements as well as complex calculations like star positions, altitudes, azimuths and even predicting eclipses. The Jantar Mantar is famous for the great precision and accuracy of its calculations and was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 AD.

Another iconic landmark in Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds). Designed as the Crown of the Hindu Deity, Lord Krishna, the Hawa Mahal was constructed in 1799 AD with a massive façade of windows to provide ladies of the royal court the opportunity to see life in the city’s markets and military processions in relative privacy.

For a window into traditional Rajasthani village life and the state’s mystic heritage one can visit the Central Museum which has some amazing exhibits and is housed in the Albert Hall, a fine specimen of Rajasthani and British colonial architecture.

Outside the city is a set of Royal Cenotaphs. These are some beautiful stone monuments with intricate carvings to honor kings of Jaipur including Maharajas Jai Singh, Madho Singh and Pratap Singh. Also nearby are the Maharani cenotaphs honoring the queens of Rajasthan.

In close proximity of the Royal Cenotaph Complex are a host of attractions such as the Gatta and Surya Temple and its large population of Monkeys. Other famous sites nearby also include a Royal construct called Nahargarh and the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal (Heaven Piercing Minaret). Both monuments have interesting back stories and provide some great views of Jaipur from a higher elevation.

One of the star attractions of any tour of Jaipur is a visit to the ancient capital of Amber (pronounced Amer) that is 11 kilometers away from the city. Amber is home to the Amber Fort, which has recently been awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built in 1592 AD, the massive Amber Fort is said to be the pinnacle of Rajasthani military architectural genius. The fort is built along the precipice of a steep hill thereby giving it formidable natural defenses. Constructed out of yellow and pink sandstone, the Amber Fort has four main sections each with an open courtyard. Visitors to the Amber fort can take an elephant ride up the ramparts and arrive through the massive gates in traditional fashion of the Maharajas.

Inside the Amber Fort there are many attractions to enthrall the visitor including the four main courtyards, Jaleb Chowk, Diwan-e-Aam, Jai Mandir (Victory Hall) as well as Sukh Niwas (Hall of Pleasure). Visitors can also see the temples within the fort as well as visit the Maharajas’ quarters and the Zenana which were the female quarters. Situated at an elevation, the Amber Fort provides great scenic views of Maota Lake below its walls.

Best Time to Visit Jaipur:

As with the rest of India, the period between October and March is the best time to visit Jaipur. The weather is comparatively pleasant and the scorching Rajasthani summers as well as the inundating monsoon rains do not disrupt any tour of Jaipur.

Since Rajasthan is home to some of India’s most famous and colorful festivals, many visitors plan their trips to Jaipur in time for one of these events. Prominent festivals include the Elephant Festival in March / April, Gangaur which is a statewide festival honoring the Hindu Gods Shiva and Parvati as well as Teej Festival celebrated in August to honor the onset of the Monsoon.

In recent years, the Pushkar Camel Festival in Rajasthan has increasingly become the subject of global traveler interest. Held in October / November, many people coming to Pushkar use Jaipur as a springboard to explore Rajasthan and its many attractions.

How to get to Jaipur:

Jaipur is situated in the North-west of India. Jaipur along with Delhi and Agra forms India’s Golden Triangle. The city due to its rich history, amazing culture and iconic attractions gets a great number of foreign tourists coming to India.

While Jaipur has its own international airport, this provides extremely limited international connections. Most foreign travelers coming to Jaipur use Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, the largest aviation hub in India and then take a domestic connecting flight to Jaipur.

Many visitors tour Jaipur in conjunction with other Indian cities and choose to drive to Jaipur in a luxury SUV while visiting many other famous attractions en route such as Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) and Ranthambore.

Jaipur Highlights:

Rajasthan is famous for an extremely vibrant cultural scene making a visit to Jaipur a thrill ride of experiences for foreign visitors. The city is the heartland of Rajasthani culture that is known for its chivalry, modesty, religiosity, martial prowess and world famous bravado.

Jaipur and its many attractions will interest enthusiasts of history, culture, military tactics, religion and mysticism as well as free spirited adventurers. The city, its attractions and festivals are popular with all varieties of tourists as they are the perfect showcases of traditional Rajasthani hospitality that is welcoming and inclusive.

For foodies, Jaipur has much to offer being the center of excellence for traditional Rajasthani cuisine and its plethora of gastronomic delights.

For shopaholics, the bazaars of Jaipur hold the promise of a great shopping experience. Jaipur is an excellent place to source traditional Rajasthani handcrafts, gems and jewelry, bangles, local costumes and jootis (footwear). For the artistically inclined, Jaipur is a center of traditional jewelry making as well meenakari which is glazed enameled artwork made by local artisans.

For visitors wanting to indulge in matchless luxury, Jaipur is home to a number of palace hotels and former royal residences that have been converted to give tourists a taste of the regal lifestyle. These include some world famous heritage properties such as the Raj Palace, the Jai Mahal, the Oberoi Raj Villas and the Taj Rambagh Hotel.

Appropriate Attire:

Rajasthan is mostly desert with hot weather for the greater part of the year, visitors are strongly advised to wear loose cotton clothing that is breathable. Also a point to consider is that Rajasthan is an extremely conservative society that is devoutly religious and traditionally patriarchal.

It is therefore advisable that both men and women visiting Rajasthan should wear modest clothing which covers arms, legs and shoulders as well as take adequate protection against bright sunlight. Some of the attractions in Jaipur still function as religious sites and may require female visitors to cover their hair.

Furthermore some sites in Jaipur may require visitors to remove their shoes upon entry therefore wearing slip-on shoes as well as socks in summers increases comfort for visitors.

Jaisalmer Description:

Jaisalmer is located in Western India in the state of Rajasthan near the Pakistani border. Constructed from bright, yellow sandstone Jaisalmer is often referred to as The Golden City of India.

A former military outpost dating back to the 12th century, Jaisalmer today is a living fort town where many families still reside and work in Havelis (sandstone homes) crafted by their ancestors centuries ago.

One of the great tourists destinations of India, the Golden City is particularly splendid to view at dawn and dusk when the sun’s rays refract on the sandstone giving the city the rich color it takes its nickname from.

A treasure trove of activities awaits guests on luxury tours of India in this ancient and resplendent town. From the intricately carved Jain Temples to the still waters and quiet tombs and temples of Gadisar Lake, there is a wealth of cultural and historical treats for travelers to devour.

Camel treks into the surrounding desert offer guests on India tours a chance to experience the stark beauty of Rajasthan’s desert.

Best Time to Visit Jaisalmer:

With monsoon rains light in July and August, Jaisalmer is a popular year-round destination that attracts travelers from all over the world, but the heaviest tourism traffic comes through the city November through May to beat the summer heat.

How to get to Jaisalmer:

Located in Western Rajasthan near the Pakistan border, Jaisalmer is remote, but well connected to the rest of India by modern highways easily traversed in a private vehicle.

Visitors on luxury tours in India also have the option of reaching the city via India’s famously opulent Palace on Wheels luxury train.

Jaisalmer Highlights:

The shining walls and buildings of Jaisalmer draw visitors by the thousands to Western India. The intricately carved Havelis and Jain temples feed the hungry minds of architecture and history lovers, while the quiet and breathtaking beauty of the surrounding desert offer sustenance for those that crave nature.

Appropriate Attire:

Jaisalmer’s population is under 100,000, and many of the residents are only around during the height of tourist season. Guests visiting this ancient town should dress conservatively by covering their shoulders, arms, and legs to keep from drawing unwanted attention.

Jodhpur Description:

Jodhpur is the second largest city in the Western Indian state of Rajasthan. The city is one of the most prominent destinations for tourists in India and is known as the “Blue City”. The reason for the city’s moniker is that houses in the old city center are painted blue. Originally the blue houses signified the residents of the house being upper-caste Brahmins, however over the years residents of all castes started painting their houses blue as a status symbol that trend has endured to this day. Some old residents of the city also claim that the blue hue reflects light better and drives away insects and vermin from houses.

Jodhpur is also called the “Sun City” of Rajasthan as it is famous for its near yearlong bright and sunny weather. The city of Jodhpur was built in the year 1459 by Rao Jodha, the king of the migrant Rajput clan called Rathores and therefore bears his name. The King managed to build a successful and prosperous kingdom ironically called “Marwar” meaning “Land of Death” with Jodhpur as its center. The kingdom straddled all major trade routes of India and that turned Jodhpur into a vibrant commercial city with bustling markets, something that the city is known for to this day.

The city of Jodhpur is built on the foothills of its most iconic attraction which is the massive Mehrangarh Fort. The Mehrangarh Fort is an awe-inspiring behemoth that stands 120 meters above the city. This enormous fort is a reflection of the brilliance of Rajput military engineering and is chiseled out almost perpendicularly from the rock of the hill above Jodhpur itself.

Any trip to Jodhpur would be incomplete without seeing the many wonders inside the Mehrangarh Fort which can be conveniently accessed from the city during a day trip. The fort can be entered through a number of its massive gates known as “Pols”. Most tours of the Mehrangarh Fort kick off from the Jaipol which means Victory Gate. The Jaipol was created to celebrate Marwar’s successful repelling of an invasion by the neighboring kingdom of Jaipur. Other major gates of the fort include the cannon-ball pockmarked Dodh Kangrapol, Imritiapol and the Loha Pol that is replete with spikes to provide defense against charging enemy elephants.

Nearby the gates of the fort there are handprints etched in the walls of the queens of Rajasthan who would traditionally self-immolate themselves on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands. The last set of widows and concubines to undertake this practice was in 1843.

Inside the Mehrangarh Fort there are a number of small palaces that are great examples of traditional Rajput architecture and have been built with great aesthetics and finesse. These include the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), the Sukh Mahal (Pleasure Palace) and the Phool Mahal (Flower Palace). The fort’s many ramparts also serve as a good walk down into history and are still maintained in great shape with their old artillery pieces and defense fortifications intact.

Also inside the Mehrangarh Fort is an amazing museum with galleries showcasing elephant howdahs, palanquins, turbans, Mughal miniature paintings, folk music and instruments as well as an armory with impressive Rajput military weapons and artifacts.

Other major attractions in Jodhpur include the Jaswant Thada monument which is a milky white marble construct housing a symbolic cenotaph in memory of Maharaja Jai Singh II. Also a must see for any visitor on a tour of Jodhpur is the Ghanta Ghar or Clock Tower and its surrounding markets that still function as the commercial heart of the modern city of Jodhpur. The markets are a great window into traditional Rajasthani commerce and are a good place to pick up a souvenir or two to remember Jodhpur by.

Another world famous icon of the city of Jodhpur is the massive Umaid Bhavan Palace. The Palace is a 365 room behemoth, part of which still serves as the official residence of the Royal Family of Marwar. A section of the palace however has been built into what has been dubbed the finest palace hotel in the world by many leading opinion makers in the global tourism industry. The Umaid Bhavan Palace is open to both residents and non-resident visitors albeit in different sections and is a fantastic sight to behold. The Palace was commissioned in 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh as a royal job creation project during a period of prolonged drought that managed to employ over 3,000 people for 15 years. The Palace is heavily embellished with tasteful fixtures and materials such as Makrana marble and Burmese teak and never ceases to amaze visitors to Jodhpur because of its massive scale yet luxuriant beauty.

Many visitors who come to Jodhpur on an extended visit also use the city as a springboard to visit nearby rural communities. This provides visitors a great opportunity to experience the richness and diversity of Rajasthan’s culture, social mores and traditional hospitality.

Best Time to Visit Jodhpur:

Being in the Rajasthani heartland, the period between October and March is the best time to visit Jodhpur. Visitors during this period can freely indulge in a tour of Jodhpur and its many wonders without worrying about the scorching summers of Rajasthan as well as the annual monsoon rains.

Just before the start of the peak tourist season, Jodhpur hosts the annual Marwar Festival which is a great time to visit the city and get a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan. The Marwar Festival has many interesting activities such as polo, camel tattooing, traditional Rajasthani folk performances as well as a vibrant bazar scene.

How to get to Jodhpur:

Jodhpur is situated in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. The city is the second largest in the state and is a major tourist destination. Jodhpur is connected to the major metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Delhi by a domestic airport which offers connectivity to a very limited number of domestic destinations in India.

Most people visiting the city of Jodhpur do so in conjunction with other major cities of the region such as Jaipur and Jaisalmer. A popular choice of foreign tourists coming to Jodhpur is to fly from Delhi to Jaipur and then drive down to the city of Jodhpur in a luxury SUV. The drive time between Jaipur and Jodhpur is five and a half hours and makes for an interesting drive through the desert landscape of Rajasthan.

Many foreign visitors also visit Jodhpur as part of a luxury train tour through North India and Rajasthan. Jodhpur is on the itinerary of the super luxury " Royal Rajasthan on Wheels" train that runs through the entire state.

Jodhpur Highlights:

Jodhpur with its many different facets would be of interest to a variety of tourists. Visitors interested in history, culture, religion, military tactics as well as martial chivalry will find the city fascinating.

Food lovers will find much in Jodhpur to hold their interest as well, the city is one of the great centers of Rajasthani cuisine that is known for its generous helpings, eclectic tastes, vibrant textures and liberal use of spices, condiments and sweets to energize the palate.

For fans of shopping, the bazaars and markets of Jodhpur are an excellent source of replica antiques, textiles, traditional Rajasthani handicrafts such as puppets and ethnic jewelry as well as furniture.

For visitors wanting to experience Maharaja like luxury, Jodhpur is home a number of heritage properties that have been converted into uber-luxury hotels. These include the massive Umaid Bhavan Palace that is considered by many as the finest palace hotel in all of India.

Jodhpur is also home to a number of smaller heritage properties, minor palaces and Havelis all of which have been converted into boutique hotels and provide travelers a taste of pristine regal living.

Appropriate Attire:

Rajasthan is mostly desert with hot weather for the greater part of the year, visitors are strongly advised to wear loose cotton clothing that is breathable. Also a point to consider is that Rajasthan is for the greater part a patriarchal and conservative society that is zealously religious.

It is therefore advisable that both men and women visiting Rajasthan should wear modest clothing which covers arms, legs and shoulders as well as take adequate protection against bright sunlight. Tours to some of Jodhpur’s attractions such as the iconic Mehrangarh Fort require considerable walking in the outdoors so the choice of comfortable footwear as well as protective covering from sunlight would greatly aid traveler comfort.
A multiple choice question - What is Karnataka?

1. A state in Southern India where the temperature, in most areas, is uniformly cool and pleasant during most of the summer.

2. A state with a plethora of amazing monuments and sights, with the crown jewel being the incredible and surreal city of Hampi, a UNESCO world Heritage Site.

3. A state that has incredible natural beauty, ranging from massive granite formations to lush rain forest and mountain resort areas such as legendary Coorg.

4. A state that has some of the best wildlife viewing in all of India, with tigers and large elephant herds and even the elusive leopard.

5. A state with a diverse cultural base that ranges from the modern lifestyles of cosmopolitan Bangalore, to colorful rural communities with a higher standard of living then most other states in India.

6. A state with a unique, delectable cuisine that, although Indian, has its own unique flavors and characteristics, honed by millennia of local evolution.

7. A state with world class lodging options for travelers, ranging from small boutique resorts like the amazing Orange County Resorts, to incredible architecture that is both luxurious and environment friendly like Coorg’s Taj Vivanta, situated in the middle of a rainforest.

Answer: All of the Above.

Karnataka is obviously a year around destination with its temperate climate and great selection of attractions that cater to all travelers’ tastes. It should really be a must for anyone touring India in summer because of the cool weather when compared to most destinations in India.

The one drawback is that most of the hotels and resorts do not offer the steep discounts available in most of India during summer as they are aware of the fact that they are a preferred destination during that period. An ideal itinerary could allow you to explore the Golden Triangle and then take you to Karnataka for the rest of your time in India.


The most remarkable single attraction in Karnataka has to be the ruins of the ancient city of Hampi.

Traces of a two millennia old civilization have been found at Hampi, but the UNESCO World Heritage Group of Monuments at Hampi are a mere five to seven centuries old. Hampi was the last Capital of the Great Vijayanagar Empire, and the amazing monuments here are definitely matched by the incredibly scenic landscape that is strewn with massive boulders.

The landscape is surreal and breathtaking. Amidst hundreds of square kilometers of granite hills and boulders are the remains of a civilization that was unmatched in its heyday. It is our opinion that Hampi, along with the Taj Mahal and the caves at Ajanta & Ellora, make up the most impressive attractions in a country that is overflowing with magnificent achievements made by ancient and medieval man.

Two days of exploration at Hampi are a must to be able to really savor the amazing city and its granite monuments. The Vijayanagar Empire thrived here from the 14th – 17th centuries. The estimates of the local population during that period range from over 500,000 to almost a million residents, and the city was said to have been surrounded by an army of about a million soldiers.

The streets, temples, bazaars and other structures (remnants of which are spread all over the 30 square kilometers of the Site) were so safe that traders dealt in precious stones in the open. The incredible stone aqueduct dots part of the landscape, as do various tanks and stepwells. Through this other worldly environment meanders the picturesque Tungabhadra River, creating an image that a visitor will never forget.

The Golconda Kingdom that (after centuries of trying) conquered Hampi was determined to destroy all remnants of the glorious city and they spent five years doing just that. All wooden structures were burnt and brick structures were wrecked using elephants and other means. Except for the dozens of stone temples, they destroyed as much of the stone structures as they could, but there are still many left behind.

The area is now completely rural and the closest town, Hospet is a 20 to 25 minute drive away. It is common to see goat, sheep and cow herders wandering through these priceless ruins.

You can explore most of the monuments with a guided trek for those inclined to do so, or you can drive between areas with monument clusters and just take short exploratory walks while being amazed by what you will see.

The only drawback of touring Hampi up until now has been the lack of luxury accommodation. The best available lodging has been fairly spartan hotels at Hospet and, since 2012, an upscale Hyatt Place that is about an hour away, located in an industrial city. This will change in 2015 when Orange County Resorts, Karnataka’s leading boutique Resort Group, open their new facility next to Hampi. This resort promises to be the same as their other two resorts at Nagarhole National Park and in scenic Coorg, with a unique combination of all inclusive luxury combined with good measures of excellent cuisine, great service, and a selection of organic activities.

Hampi is about a six and half hour drive from Bangalore and about a three and a half hour drive from the city of Hubli, which has daily direct flights to Mumbai and Bangalore.

Other Must See’s in Karnataka

India is a nation that has more exquisite ancient stone sculpture than all of Europe combined. Yet, even in India the early 12th century temples at Belur and Halebud stand out for the level of detail and intricacy in the thousands of incredible sculptures that adorn them. The Serai Lodge at Chikmagalur offers boutique luxury lodging for those wanting to be spoilt, and the Taj Gateway has comfortable accommodations located among gorgeous gardens for those not requiring the pinnacle of luxury.

Just a few hours from Bangalore are the scenic wildlife parks, Nagarhole (Rajiv Gandhi) National Park and Bandipur National Park. Both parks offer a large variety of wildlife, including hundreds of unique avian species. A large number of wild elephants, frequent tiger and leopard sightings, as well as dozens of other species are found in these parks located on the banks of the scenic Kabini River. The Orange County Resort on the banks of the Kabini is a luxurious all-inclusive resort that offers excellent service and cuisine, as well as many activities besides the scheduled safari’s into the park.

The Coorg area is an ideal place to relax and enjoy nature. The landscape is a lush combination of rainforest and coffee plantations, making Coorg a popular vacation destination for the affluent from Bangalore. The elevation of this portion of the Western Ghats ranges from 3000 feet to about 5600 feet above sea level and the scenery is spectacular with clouds meandering through the green hills. The Orange County Resort and Taj Vivanta offer very luxurious yet organic lodging and a number of local activities, including rural experiences.

The city of Mysore is the ancient capital of the region and is still considered the cultural hub of Karnataka. A short 3 hour drive from Bangalore, its most famous attraction is the Mysore Palace, this awe-inspiring and colorful structure is one of the most opulent palaces in the world. Various lodging options are available, including the magnificent but poorly maintained Lalitha Mahal Palace. Mysore really comes to life during the 10 days of the Dasara (Dussehra in North India) Festival period. There are 10 days of festivities, culminating with the fascinating procession on the final day, locally known as Vijayadashami.
Kerala is situated on the lush and tropical Malabar Coast with the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Western Ghats towering on the east. Kerala is a popular tourist destination for its backwaters, yoga, Ayurvedic treatments and tropical greenery. The legendary King Mahabali is said to have ruled from Kerala in a reign of universal happiness and prosperity. On his passing away he was appointed ruler of the netherworld by Vamana, the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu. Once a year, during the Onam festival, he returns to Kerala.

Much of Kerala's notable biodiversity is concentrated and protected in the Western Ghats. Almost a fourth of India's 10,000 plant species are found in the state. Among the almost 4,000 flowering plant species are 900 species of medicinal plants. The backwaters region, which comprises an extensive network of interlocking rivers, lakes, and canals, centers on the cities of Alleppey, Kollam, Kumarakom, and Punnamada. During early summer, the Thrissur Pooram festival takes place, attracting thousands of tourists who are largely drawn by the festival's elephants. Nearly half of Kerala's people are dependent on agriculture alone for income. Some 600 varieties of rice are harvested from paddy fields. Other key crops include coconut, tea, coffee, rubber, cashews, and spices - including pepper, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Around 1 million fishermen haul an annual catch of 668,000 tons; 222 fishing villages are strung along the coast.

National Geographic's Traveler magazine names Kerala as one of the "10 paradises of the world" and "50 must see destinations of a lifetime". Travel and Leisure names Kerala as "One of the 100 great trips for the 21st century." Widely regarded for cultural arts performances, Kerala is a popular destination for travelers seeking unique music and dance performances. Native performing arts include koodiyattom (a 2000-year-old Sanskrit theatre tradition) and kathakali (literally translated “story performance”).

Khajuraho Description:

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are popularly dubbed internationally as the Kamasutra Temples of India. Many historians have contended that the Temples at Khajuraho are the finest examples of Indo-Aryan temple building. The Temples at Khajuraho are over a millennium old and are thought to have been built in the period between 950 and 1050 AD.

The Temples at Khajuraho were built by the reigning Chandela Dynasty of the area. The Temples at Khajuraho are replete with beautiful carvings depicting many aspects of life during the Chandela era in pristine detail including erotic and sexual practices of the time.

The Temple Complex at Khajuraho was thought to originally have over 85 temples, however only 25 remain standing in various stages of preservation. While the Temples of Khajuraho primarily draw their fame as the “Kamasutra Temples” of India due to the presence of grandiose and detailed erotic sculptures at all but one of the temples in the complex, erotic depictions make up around 10% of the amazingly intricate carvings at the Khajuraho Temples. The temple complex has been designed as a complete storyboard of life under Chandela rule and honors many Hindu deities, real life situations, mythical and real animals along with more sexually dynamic situations.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, the Khajuraho Temples were thought to be abandoned to the thick jungles of Central India to spare them the destruction brought about by invaders from the north. The temples were then rediscovered by India’s British colonial administrators in 1838. The name Khajuraho is derived from the Sanskrit word “Khajuravahaka” which means “date-palm carrier”.

The Khajuraho Temples are organized in three broad groups which are known as the Western, Eastern and Southern Groups of temples. Of these, the Western Group comprises of the largest and the best preserved temples and is the usual starting point of any tour of the Khajuraho Temples.

The most striking structure at the Group of Monuments at Khajuraho is the Lakshmana Temple. The temple took over twenty years to build and is one of the best preserved in the complex. The Lakshmana Temple is dedicated to Vishnu and has some amazing statues and carvings depicting mythical beasts, charging battalions of Chandela soldiers as well as surasundaris (heavenly nymphs) in various passionate embraces with lovers. Another major temple that is a must see on any tour of Khajuraho is the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple. This is the largest temple in the complex and has over 872 statues and the largest number of representations of the female form in the Khajuraho Group of Monuments. Some of these intricate statues and carvings are over 1 meter tall. The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple has a 31 meter high Shikara (spire) with 84 sub-spires to depict the heavenly abode of the Gods in the Himalayas. The nearby Temple of Vishvanath is most famous for its large animal statues including the mythical Nandi (Shiva’s Bull vehicle) as well as a large number of elephants and a twelve pillared shrine.

Other prominent temples in the Western Group include finely constructed temples such as the Mahadeva, Devi Jagadamba, Chitragupta, Parvati, Matangesvara, Lalguan and Chausath Yogini Temples. Each of these temples represents a collection of fine statues, intricate carvings depicting both erotic scenes as well as more mundane aspects of life such as military conquest, hunting, trading, domestic chores as well as honoring mythical deities and beasts such as the half-man and half lion Sardula.

Similar to the Western Group of Temples at Khajuraho, the Eastern Group of temples are designed in the same vein with intricate sculptures and lively friezes. These temples are smaller than the grandiose Western Group however, have interesting details, excellent carvings and represent a degree of greater innovation and boldness in all types of depictive sculptures. The Eastern Group of Temples at Khajuraho also includes some Jain temples and is evidence of the religious pluralism of the Chandela era. Prominent temples in the Eastern Group include the Hanuman, Vamana, Brahma, Javari, Ghantai and the Parsvanath Temples.

The last set of temples in the Khajuraho Group of Monuments is the Southern Group. Made during the vanning days of Chandela power, these are more basic structures in the Khajuraho Temple Complex. Prominent temples in the Southern Group include the Duladeo Temple and the Bijamandala Temple which are famous for their thematic sculptures. Another famous member of the Southern Group of Temples at Khajuraho is the Chaturbuja temple, which stands out as the only temple in the complex not to feature any erotic sculptures.

Other attractions in the immediate periphery of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments include the Khajuraho Archaeological Museum. The museum has a fine collection of statues, carvings as well as remnants of destroyed temples that have been excavated at Khajuraho over the years. Another point of interest is the Adivart Tribal and Folk-art Museum which has interesting exhibits on the lifestyle, colorful arts and handicrafts of the hills tribes of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh states.

Best Time to Visit Khajuraho:

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is open to visitors all year round from dawn to dusk.

Many tourists take advantage of the pleasant weather between October and March, making it a popular time to visit the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.

In recent years, a traditional dance festival is organized in February / March of every year at the Western Group of Temples at the Khajuraho Group of Monuments. During the course of the festival, the magnificent temples at Khajuraho are floodlit and the stage is set for some of the finest dancers and classical musicians in India to enthrall visitors with their performances.

How to get to Khajuraho:

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is located in the town of Khajuraho in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (MP). Khajuraho has a small domestic airport that offers regular service to Delhi and Varanasi.

For the foreign visitor the most convenient way to get to Khajuraho is to fly to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport that offers a plethora of global flight connections and then take a connecting flight to Khajuraho. Many tourists also opt to visit Khajuraho as part of a larger northern India tour that includes Delhi and Varanasi as well.

Khajuraho Highlights:

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments would interest any visitor due to the richness of its design, glorious history and intricate sculptures.

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments would hold particular interest for enthusiasts of history, architecture, romance, spirituality as well as culture and philosophy. For the photography enthusiast, the best time to photograph the Khajuraho Group of Monuments is early in the morning when the light is at its softest and you can shoot some interesting cut light shots of the various temples at the complex along with their intricate sculptures and detailed carvings.

A must have souvenir from Khajuraho is a replica of the fine temple carvings. The replicas are widely available and made from wood, stone and marble. Other specialties of Khajuraho include textiles and marble inlay work.

In recent times, tribal folk art especially original paintings made by rural artisans from the hill-tribes of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh states are being increasingly bought as souvenirs by visitors coming on a tour of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.

Appropriate Attire:

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is located in Madhya Pradesh which is one of the most traditional and conservative states in India. While most of the temples Khajuraho Group of Monuments are not active places of worship, the Matangesvara Temple being the only exception, they are still considered as great religious icons by devout Hindus. Visitors are advised to wear clothing that is suited to the weather and covers arms, legs and shoulders.

On most days the weather in Khajuraho tends to be sunny and a tour of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments requires walking outdoors in the sun. Visitors should therefore take adequate precautions against the sun to avoid any inconvenience.
Kolkata “The City of Joy, mere village in the 17th century, is today the commercial hub of eastern India and the capital of the Indian States of West Bengal. It is one of the major metropolitan cities of India along with Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. This city is also known for Mother Teresa’s Home, the “Home of the Pure Heart” (Nirmal Hriday), located next to the Kalighat Temple. This Home was established in 1952 by Mother Teresa with the help of the Indian Government. She transformed an abandoned building that had once been a temple for the Hindu Goddess Kali, into the “Kalighat home for the Dying”, a free hospice for the poor. People who were brought to the home received medical attention from the Missionaries of Charity and were given the opportunity to die with dignity. Visit the Victoria Memorial built by Sir William Emerson, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which houses a fine collection of paintings, artifacts, sculptures, books and manuscripts. You can visit the St. Paul's Cathedral, built in 1839, a fine example of Indo-Gothic architecture and the famous Kali Temple in the city.
Nestled between the great Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges lies the magical mountain kingdom of Ladakh. Ranging in elevation between 9000 and 25000 feet, the land is a high altitude desert because it is protected from the powerful Indian monsoons by the Himalayas. The destinations that we offer in Ladakh range in elevation between 9000 and 12000 feet, although you will drive through higher elevations as you cross mountain ranges – at well over 18,000 feet, Khardong La claims to be the highest motorable pass in the world!

The flight to Leh offers views of spectacular mountains and valleys, as well as possible glimpses of the scenic Zhanskar river. Leh is a capital city right out of the most vivid fairytale; from the nine storey royal palace that dominates the area (built over four hundred years ago), to the ruins of the hilltop fort built even before the palace, from the bustling fascinating shops of the main bazaar and the Tibetan markets, to the Buddhist Temple Jo-khang, from the impressive Sankar Gompa to the imposing 17th century Mosque. The Gompas (Monasteries) of Ladakh are among the most spectacular in the world, and among the greatest of them is Alchi. It is made up of five ancient temples, with a fascinating collection of paintings and images. The triple storied Sum-Tsek has remarkable murals created a thousand years ago.

The people of Ladakh are a simple, sturdy kind, and life here operates at a much more elementary level than other parts of India. The farmers pray for enough snow-melt so they can water their crops, the shopkeepers sell handcrafted treasures like many generations before them. Other ancient monuments and ruins as well as a few charming mountain villages can be viewed within a few kilometers from Leh.

Madurai Description:

Madurai is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India. The city is over 2,500 years old and is considered the cultural heartland of Tamil society. There is a popular axiom with Tamils that states “Chennai is the heart of Tamil Nadu while Madurai is its soul”.

Madurai has a rich history of cultural development and the city has figured majorly in the rise of various south Indian political orders including Dravidian, Islamic and British Colonial. Even today, Madurai is one of the most important industrial centers in Tamil Nadu as well as a cultural hub that is the seat of the Tamil literary and poet’s societies. The Tamil language is said to be spoken in its purest form in the city.

Anyone touring Madurai will be awe-struck by the city’s signature attractions. The principal attraction of Madurai is the massive Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex. Spread over 6 hectares, the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex in Madurai is one of the largest temple complexes in South India and was one of the top 30 contenders for the “New Wonders of the World” list. The Temple complex is home to a staggering 33,000 sculptures that are painstakingly detailed in their richness and finesse. The sculptures depict the many deities and their stories straight from the holy scriptures of the Hindu faith.

Another highlight of any tour of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex in Madurai is seeing the complex’s gigantic Gopurams. The Gopurams are huge gateway towers. The Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex in Madurai has 14 tall Gopurams. The tallest of these juts 170 feet into the sky above the complex. Each of the Gopurams in the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex in Madurai is covered with intricate carvings that are colorfully painted, depicting the various religious and mythological characters from Hindu annals.

The Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex in Madurai is dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Paravati (Meenakshi) and her consort Lord Shiva (Sundareswarar). While the present temple complex at the site is around 400 years old and was built during the era of the Nayak rulers of Madurai, the original temple built here is reported to be over 2,000 years old. The predecessor to the present grandiose Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex was said to be equally grand and was destroyed by invaders from North India.

A must-see part of any tour of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex in Madurai is viewing the “Hall of One Thousand Pillars” within the temple. The hall, as the name suggests, has one thousand pillars, each of which is placed at an equal distance from one another in a precision laid grid. Each pillar has been individually carved with the same painstaking detail as the fine carvings on the temple exteriors and Gopurams.

The Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex in Madurai is always a beehive of activity with pilgrims coming in and out of the complex. There are always a number of prayer and religious services that are being conducted in the complex, some of which are out of bounds for non-Hindus visitors. Particularly popular activities with visiting tourists at the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex are the dance performances that are held every weekend at the temple as well as the daily evening prayer service.

Other attractions in the city of Madurai include the Gandhi Memorial Museum. The museum is dedicated to India’s freedom struggle and has some great exhibits highlighting India’s march to freedom. Another point of interest nearby is the Madurai Government Museum that focuses on the pre-historic aspect of the city of Madurai and has great displays of the rock carvings, bronze statues as well as costumes and paintings that have been unearthed at various times during excavations in the Madurai region.

Another iconic monument in Madurai that is very famous with foreign visitors is the Thirumalai Nayak Palace. The Thirumalai Nayak Palace was the former opulent residence of the Nayak Kings of the Madurai region and is a great example of the confluence of Dravidian, Islamic and European architectural influences. The Thirumalai Nayak Palace was built in the year 1636 and was designed by an Italian architect. The palace was commissioned by King Thirumalai Nayak and was counted amongst one of the most regal palaces in all of southern India.

In near proximity to the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex is a major pond called Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam. The Pond is the ancient water supply of Madurai and is connected to the city by an ingenious network of underground channels. The pond itself is as large as the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex and has a temple and prayer hall on the premises.

Best Time to Visit Madurai:

Madurai has a tropical weather that is typical of South India and Tamil Nadu. Since Tamil Nadu state is close to the thermal equator, most of its cities do not see significant temperature variance throughout the year.

The northeastern Monsoon from mid-October to mid-December brings the most rains to Madurai while for the rest of the year; the city remains hot and humid.

Many people time their tour of Madurai in line with the major festivals that are celebrated in the city. Prominent festivals include the Meenakshi Tirukalyanam Festival that is celebrated in April – May every year and marks the symbolic marriage of the presiding deities of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex. The festival is also known as the Chithrai Festival and has over 14 days of special ceremonies and prayers rituals. Another major festival that has been the subject of traveler interest is the Teppana Float Festival that is celebrated in January - February every year.

How to get to Madurai:

Madurai is located in the southern-most Indian state of Tamil Nadu. While Madurai does have a domestic airport providing limited access to larger Indian cities such as Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai and Delhi, it does not provide many convenient connection options.

Most visitors coming to Madurai, tour the city as part of a larger tourist itinerary of South India. This usually involves visiting many other locations of Tamil Nadu including Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, Chettinad as well as the Periyar National Park and Backwaters in the neighboring state of Kerala.

Most convenient international gateways to Madurai include the major aviation hubs of Cochin, Chennai or Mumbai that offer convenient international connections to a host of destinations around the world. From here, visitors have multiple options of South India tour itineraries that include stopovers in Madurai and visits to its many attractions.

Madurai Highlights:

Madurai being the heartland of Tamil culture would be of immense interest to enthusiasts of history, culture, mythology, philosophy as well as comparative religion. Also the many attractions of Madurai particularly the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex are awe-inspiring structures which would be a major draw for anyone interested in photography as well as architecture.

For fans of food and drink, Madurai is an amazing place to sample great Tamil cuisine and authentic Tamil fare such as meals served in banana leaf platters.

Madurai is also a center of excellence for Tamil handcrafts as well as for textiles. The city has a number of famous tailors that can take visitors’ choice of fabric and spin it into any original creation or design that is required at a couple of hours’ notice.

Appropriate Attire:

It is worth remembering that the major attraction at Madurai, the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Complex is a functional Hindu temple and a center of pilgrimage for devotees from India and around the world.

The dress code therefore for gaining entry to the temple is very strict. Visiting tourists are required to dress modestly covering arms, legs and shoulders as well as avoid clothing that is too form fitting and revealing. Visitors to the temple will also be required to remove shoes in certain parts and prayer halls so wearing slip-on shoes with socks is a good idea.

Mahabalipuram Description:

The town of Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamallapuram) is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India. The town is around an hour’s drive from Chennai, the largest city in South India and is home to a group of over 40 phenomenal monuments including the largest open air bas-relief in the world.

Mahabalipuram is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites that include the structural temples, the five Rathas (chariot temples), the Mandapas (cave temples with bas reliefs) and the rock reliefs of the area.

The area also has a great beach and a vibrant fisher-folk community nearby. This provides the visitor a unique window into the culture of these communities in south India which have not changed much since the age of the ancient Dravidian civilization about 5,000 years ago.

The present town of Mahabalipuram was founded around 2,000 years ago as a major port and a second capital by the reigning Pallava Dynasty of the time. The city was widely featured in the chronicles of the age as a major trading post frequented by sea-farers of Africa, the Middle East and the Orient.

It is easy to take a tour to Mahabalipuram as part of a day trip as all of its main attractions are in close proximity to one another. Among the most prominent of these are the five Ratha Temples are shaped like gigantic chariots with intricate stone carvings which are dedicated to the five Pandava princes from the ancient Indian Vedic epic the Mahabharatha and their common wife Darupadi. The Rathas were constructed during the 7th century and are complemented by fine stone carvings as well as enormous stone animals including an elephant.

In the immediate vicinity of the five Rathas is a massive stone carving etched into a singular gigantic boulder called Arjuna’s Penance. This intricately carved relief dates back to the 8th century and depicts rich scenes of Indian mythology, bursting with magical beings and tales of heroism of Arjuna, the most skilled warrior amongst the Pandava princes.

Another interpretation of a part of this massive bas-relief is titled the “Descent of the Ganges” which is said to depict the penance of an ancient Indian sage Bhagaritha that caused the holy river Ganges to descend to the Earth to wash away the sins of mankind.

On the northeast of Arjuna’s Penance is the Ganesh Ratha, which was a temple initially dedicated to the worship of Shiva but is now dedicated to the worship of his son Ganesh, the elephant headed God. The Ganesh Ratha is one of the most picturesque attractions at Mahabalipuram primarily due the presence of a large boulder titled “Krishna’s Butter Ball” which is precariously balanced atop a hill as if by magic.

Other major attractions in Mahabalipuram include the Cave Temples or the Mandapams. These are located in a hill in the immediate periphery of Mahabalipuram. The larger of these include the Varaha Manadapa, the Kirshna Mandapa and the Mahishamardini Mandapa.

These cave temples were built at various times after the 7th century by various Pallava Kings to honor Hindu deities such as Brahma (The Creator), Shiva (The Destroyer) and Vishnu (The Preserver). The temples are a fine specimen of the finesse of ancient Indian artisans and the architectural development of the age. They are replete with fine carvings of various Indian Vedic scriptures and depict the tales of various Hindu deities.

Other minor temples in the Cave Temples complex which are frequently visited by tourists and are famous for the intricacy of their artwork include the Kotikal Mandapa and the Varaha MandapaII. Many visitors touring Mahabalipuram also make it a point to visit the remains of the nearby Olakkannesvara temple and the interesting Trimurti Cave Temple which is dedicated to the worship of all three Hindu deities with dedicated shrines to each of them.

For temple watchers though, the star attraction of any tour to Mahabalipuram is the Shore Temple. The Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram represents the architectural pinnacle of the Pallava period. The Shore Temple was constructed out of blocks of solid granite at the coastline of the Bay of Bengal. Archeologists and historians believe that the temple was used not just as a site for religious worship but also as a major nautical waypoint to aid shipping thereby displaying the considerable maritime ambitions of the Pallava Empire.

Constructed in the 7th century, the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram is famous for the finesse of its architecture as well as for the intricacy of its stone carvings, many of which have eroded over the centuries. The temple, while not amongst the larger ones in India, is still notable due to the depth of its design and concept. The Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram has held the interest of temple enthusiasts from around the world because of its excellent proportions, impressionist embellishments and supreme quality of carvings. The spire of the Shore Temple has often been quoted as one of the finest examples in all of India.

The Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram has been conceived as the perfect cosmic body with its head and heart located over the spire. Inside the temple there are three main shrines two of which, facing east and west respectively, are dedicated to Shiva. These two shrines have been designed to catch the earliest and the last rays of the sun to illuminate the temple. The third smaller shrine is dedicated to Vishnu.

It has been long theorized that the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram was part of a larger temple complex that housed multiple temples which have been destroyed due to the loss of coastline and cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal that periodically hits the region. This theory found new credence after the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 when the receding waters revealed the remnants of what may have been sister temples to the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram.

Other points of interest to the visitor on a tour of Mahabalipuram would include the famous Sculpture Museum that is home to over 3,000 sculptures excavated at various times in Mahabalipuram. Also frequented by visitors is the nearby Mahabalipuram Lighthouse as well as the Tiger Cave which is another rock-carved cave temple dedicated to the worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga.

Best Time to Visit Mahabalipuram:

Mahabalipuram has a tropical weather that is typical of South India and Tamil Nadu. Being a coastal town and close to the thermal equator, the city does not see much temperature variance throughout the year.

The Northeastern Monsoon from mid-October to Mid-December brings the most rains to Mahabalipuram while for the rest of the year, the town remains hot and humid.

In recent years, the Mahabalipuram Dance Festival, a four week event showcasing Tamil dance, theatrical arts as well as traditional puppetry has become a point of interest for tourists. The Mahabalipuram Dance Festival is held near Arjuna’s Penance every December-January and showcases performances of Bhartiya Natyam, Kathakali, Kuchi Pudi and other tribal dances as well as musical renditions and other performances.

How to get to Mahabalipuram :

Mahabalipuram is about an hour’s drive from Chennai which is India’s fourth largest city and is the capital of Tamil Nadu.

The most convenient way to get to Mahabalipuram is by taking a flight to the Chennai International Airport which is serviced by a significant number of regional and international carriers.

The airport offers convenient connections to all cities in India as well as a number of international destinations across Asia, the Middle East, Far East and Europe. From the Chennai International Airport, you can travel to Mahabalipuram in a luxury SUV.

Since Chennai offers a plethora of top-end luxury hotels, most foreign visitors choose to stay in the city and explore Mahabalipuram as a day excursion.

Mahabalipuram Highlights:

Mahabalipuram with its unique attractions and UNESCO World Heritage site status on four categories of monuments is sure to attract the interests of fans of ancient Indian history, world religions as well as enthusiasts of culture, archeology, art, architecture and spirituality.

The monuments at Mahabalipuram thanks to their convenient location and proximity can easily be visited during the course of a single day thereby making it a perfect cultural excursion for all age groups.

Appropriate Attire:

It is worth remembering that all the major attractions at Mahabalipuram including the Shore Temple and the Five Rathas are all Hindu temples with significant religious importance for locals. It is therefore required that visiting tourists dress modestly covering arms, legs and shoulders.

Since all attractions in Mahabalipuram are within close walking distance to one another, many visitors prefer exploring the town on foot thereby requiring some walking. It is therefore advisable that light, breathable cotton clothing is worn along with appropriate protection against the sun so as to best help visitors adjust to the hot and humid weather of Mahabalipuram.

Mumbai Description:

Mumbai is India’s financial and commercial capital for the last two centuries. The city has come a long way from being a tiny fishing village of “Koli” fisherman to a bustling metropolis of over 21 million people that can best be described as New York meets Los Angeles along with another half a dozen prominent cities from around the world, thrown in the mix.

Mumbai is located on what is South Asia’s finest deep sea harbor. This has made it a point of interest of all major powers that have claimed India in its sphere to influence. The Portuguese were the first colonial power to recognize the potential of this harbor of seven islands and replaced the local Guajarati and Marathi powers of the day to bring the area into their suzerainty. The Portuguese influence was later replaced by the British as they ascended to become the dominant power of India in the late 18th century. It was under the watch of the British that Mumbai really took off and there has been no turning back.

Today Mumbai maintains its position as India’s largest urban agglomeration. The city is home to India’s financial and business nerve center, largest stock market, busiest port as well as the world largest movie industry (dubbed Bollywood) in terms of output. All this and more is the reason why an increasing number of foreigners are flocking here on tours to Mumbai.

Being so central to the Indian success story since the late 17th century, Mumbai is dotted with a number of attractions that reflect the various powers that have established their writ on the city over the ages. Attractions in Mumbai include buildings with fascinating colonial architecture from the British Raj such as the Victoria Terminus (now known as Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus ), the monolithic Gateway to India arch on the sea front as well as the Rajabai Clock Tower near the iconic University of Mumbai just to name a few.

Other attractions in Mumbai include sightseeing at more spiritual locations such as the city’s historic Mahalaxmi Temple (dedicated to the worship of the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity) and the famous Haji Ali’s Mosque.

Being a multi-cultural city, Mumbai is said to be home to the houses of worship of at least eight prominent religions and their various denominations including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. A lot of these places of worship accept tourist visitors and can enrich any tour of Mumbai immensely.

To get a uniquely Mumbaikar (which is Mumbai’s traditional Demonym) experience, one can head out to the Saat Rasta Dhobi Ghat, which is the traditional hand-washed laundry center of Mumbai since times of yore. Also of interest is the Worli Fishing village. The residents at both locations and their occupations have not changed much in the last six hundred years thereby giving visitors a great chance to view life in pre-urbanized Mumbai.

To broaden horizons and exercise the grey matter of anyone on a Mumbai tour, there are a number of museums scattered across the city as well as an abundance of art galleries these include the Prince of Wales Museum (now known as the Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum and Gallery) as well as the National Gallery of Modern Art along with the Jawarharlal Nehru Center and Planetarium.

For the shopaholic, any tour of Mumbai is hugely rewarding. Being India’s commercial capital, Mumbai has seen a level of urban migration that is almost unparalleled in modern history. This has made the city’s bazaars, markets and shopping emporiums the best place to shop for bargains, specialties and knick-knacks from across India. Added to that, the city has a vibrant social and nightlife scene that revolves primarily around its more upscale suburbs of Malabar Hills and Juhu which are home to Mumbai’s rich and famous, captains of industry as well as Bollywood glitterati.

In the immediate periphery of Mumbai there are also great tourist attractions such as the ancient Elephanta Caves that boast a fine array of temples and beautifully carved cave art.

Also another point of interest for enthusiasts of nature and wildlife fauna is a tour of Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park which is considered one of the finest places to watch indigenous bird species in the western part of India.

Best Time to Visit Mumbai:

Like most of India, Mumbai has a tropical climate, however being a coastal city it has greater humidity as well as more pronounced rainfall during the Monsoon season.

A popular time to tour Mumbai is the traditional high tourist season between October and March.

Many tourists, however also schedule their Mumbai tours during one of the many colorful festivals that occur with frequency throughout the year. One of the most popular ones to watch is the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, which is celebrated with considerable zeal across the city.

How to get to Mumbai:

Mumbai is India’s largest city and its commercial hub. The city is located in Maharashtra state on the western coast of India and is connected to the world by the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport.

The airport is serviced by most international carriers and offers convenient connections to a host of international destinations.

Mumbai’s proximity to North and South India as well as its convenient international accessibility makes Mumbai a great starting point for any tour of India.

Mumbai Highlights:

Being India’s undisputed financial and commercial hub, Mumbai gets a lot of tourists who come to the city on business and find reasons to stay on and explore the many attractions of Mumbai.

Also the city’s colonial architecture, history and window to Hindu and Maratha culture makes it a point of interest for fans of culture, history as well as religion and spirituality.

Furthermore Mumbai is home to a dynamic urban landscape that has a vibrant nightlife, fashion and cultural scene. It is also India’s movie capital – home to the most prolific movie industry in the world and thereby attracts fandom from across the planet.

Food connoisseurs will appreciate the city eclectic culinary scene which combines the best of traditional Marathi, Keralan, Mughlai, Goan and Mangalorean cuisines. Over the course of the years, massive urban migration has ensured that Mumbai is the food capital of India with every conceivable Indian culinary delight being available in the city.

Appropriate Attire:

Being one of India’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan urban centers, Mumbai is an extremely liberal and forward looking city. Casual wear and the western clothes are not just acceptable but are the rave at many of the city’s clubs and top end establishments. However like any large metropolis in the developing world, your attire needs to reflect to the demands of your present location. Visiting temples, mosques, religious sites as well as some of the cultural artifacts, national monuments and street markets may require more modest dressing including the covering up of arms, legs and shoulders by both genders.
Nurla Valley is a high altitude cold desert with limited vegetation (meadows), located to the north east of Ladakh valley. You will be driven to Nubra Valley from Leh via the incredibly scenic route that includes a photo opportunity at the Khardong La Pass. At 18,380 feet (5602 meters), this lays claim to being the highest motorable road in the world. Visit to the Double Hump Camel Breeding Center, a fascinating campus that ensures the survival of this rare, exotic animal. You will explore Diskit village and its market on foot with your guide. It is the largest village in Nubra Valley, and is also the headquarters of the present administrative setup of the region. In stark contrast to many of the most popular destinations in India, you will not see the extremes of poverty in Ladakh. Life here is not easy, but there is a prevailing air of tranquility and contentment that is apparent in the faces of the villagers, young and old, monastic or secular, as they go about their everyday tasks and assignments. It is also very contagious! You will visit to the Diskit Monastery, which is situated on a hilltop and offers a grand view of the Nubra Valley towards the North. You will also enjoy a photo opportunity at the massive golden Buddha statue located on a bluff near the monastery.
Located in the lush jungles of Kerala, Periyar National Park offers among the best opportunities to view elephants in the wild. A visit here includes a boat cruise in the fabled Kuttanad region, as well as a day spent in and around historic Kochi (Cochin).

The terrain is hilly and the elevation of the park ranges from a few hundred feet to about 6000 feet above sea level. Periyar is home to just under a thousand elephants and also over 60 other mammal species including tigers, bison, deer, wild boar, and wild dog. There are over 300 species of birds, and even 160 species of butterfly's.

The park is situated around an artificial lake. Boat cruises around the lake offer great opportunities to view wildlife. Guided treks are available for the more adventurous. You can also observe from a few strategically placed watchtowers. Like Corbett National Park, Periyar is very scenic country, and could easily pass for a resort area just on the merits of it's lush jungles, big lake, and surrounding hills.

Periyar Sights

Western Ghats

Located in the lush jungles of Kerala, Periyar National Park offers among the best opportunities to view elephants in the wild. A visit here includes a boat cruise in the fabled Kuttanad region, as well as a day spent in and around historic Kochi (Cochin).

The park is situated around an artificial lake. Boat cruises around the lake offer great opportunities to view wildlife. Guided treks are available for the more adventurous. You can also observe from a few strategically placed watchtowers. Like Corbett National Park, Periyar is very scenic country, and could easily pass for a resort area just on the merits of it's lush jungles, big lake, and surrounding hills.

Puducherry (Pondicherry) Description:

Puducherry (Pondicherry) is a small, former French colonial town in Southern India. French architecture still lines the shady streets and canals of this seaside city that has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers since The Life of Pi was filmed here.

The French left nearly a century ago, but the colonial heritage of Puducherry draws many guests on luxury tours of India to delight in sleepy blend of Eastern and Western cultures unique to the region. The flavors of France are still palpable in the local boutique shops, quiet parks, and splendid wine and food pairings.

The four beaches (Paradise, Auroville, Serenity and Promenade) easily accessed from the city are splendidly pristine, perfect for casual strolls at dusk, and free of the usual hustle and bustle of beach destinations like Goa.

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram of international fame is also located here. The ashram draws a mix of spiritual visitors and creative types who help reinforce the bohemian atmosphere of Puducherry.

Best Time to Visit Puducherry (Pondicherry):

Warm year round, the monsoons in July and August offer respite from the heat and easy booking for travelers extending their India tours to the South of the country.

The high season for Puducherry is October through February, and travelers should make advance plans if they choose to visit this bohemian-chic destination during this time frame.

How to get to Puducherry (Pondicherry):

The administrative seat of a small Indian state sharing the same name, Puducherry township sits on the shore of the Bay of Bengal beside the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The city is easily reached by private car from Chennai International Airport in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.

Puducherry (Pondicherry) Highlights:

Offering an almost shocking mix of cultures, the bohemian atmosphere, quiet parks and gardens, lovely beach strolls, and wonderful French influenced restaurants offer a unique experience in Southern India that has led the area’s star to shine in the travel scene. Travelers come for the mix of serenity and artistic panache that gives the locale its unique flavor, and leave with lasting memories of one of the most unique places in Southern India.

Appropriate Attire:

Puducherry is a cultural melting pot that draws guests of all stripes. Western wear is perfectly acceptable, but if your day plans bring you to any holy sites, it’s best to cover your shoulders, arms, and legs as a sign of modesty.
Named after the once imposing 10th century fort whose ruins preside over the park from a nearby hilltop, Ranthambore National Park offers the best statistical chance of seeing a tiger in the wild. In the 18th and 19th centuries the jungles here were the royal hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur. In the mid-nineteenth century, the British Officer in charge of the area started a program of conservation for the fast dwindling wildlife. It became a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1955 and a National Park (as part of Project Tiger) in 1973.

The park is surrounded by the Vindhya and Aravalli mountain ranges and is one of the greener parts of the mostly desert state of Rajasthan. It is bordered by rivers on its north and south, and there are many streams inside the park. Dry deciduous forests covers much of the park, and the rest of the terrain can vary from flat grasslands to massive boulders to steep ravines. There are six man made lakes in the park that serve as watering holes for the wildlife.

Over 30 different animals are found here, including tigers and leopards. There are three different types of antelopes, over 250 kinds of birds, and a decent number of snub nosed marsh crocodiles. You can also find sloth bears, wild boars, monitor lizards, jackals, and jungle cats, just to name a few.

The park has a number of ancient ruins of royal structures, and the combination of the jungle, the wildlife, and the ancient ruins can be a photographers delight. Unlike Corbett and certain other parks, there are no native elephants at Ranthambore, and safari's are conducted on board 4WD vehicles.

Sarnath Description:

Sarnath is one of the most sacred places on the planet for Buddhists. The Buddha is said to have given his first sermon at a deer park here after attaining enlightenment under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya.

The first Buddhist monastery is believed to have been formed here, and under the patronage of the Buddhist King Ashoka many temples were built. The Dhamekh Stupa was built to commemorate Asoka’s first pilgrimage to one of the four most important Buddhist sites in the world. The stupa is supposed to mark the exact spot of The Buddha’s first sermon.

The Sarnath Archeological Museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts from throughout the area’s history including the 4 lion sculpture capstone of the Ashoka Pillar, which is used as the national emblem of India.

Best Time to Visit Sarnath:

The best weather in the region is from October through March. April to June the weather is hot, and July through September rains cool the region considerably.

How to get to Sarnath:

Sarnath is about a 10 mile drive from Varanasi in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Sarnath Highlights:

Sarnath is one of the four most important Buddhist pilgrimage points in the world. The chance to experience the birthplace of one of the world’s oldest religions is one of the most memorable excursions on our luxury India tours.

Appropriate Attire:

Dress for warm weather with cool clothing, but keep in mind that many of the religious sites require the removal of shoes upon entrance. While visiting temples or other holy areas, dress conservatively by covering your shoulders and knees.

Shimla Description:

The British Colonial elite seeking relief from the summer heat on the Indian plains turned a remote village in the mountains of Northern India into the crown jewel of British hill stations.

By the middle of the 18th century, the England-like climate and beautiful scenery in Shimla (Simla) had lured thousands of colonial officers and civil servants to the area. Seeking all the comforts of home, the colonials built hundreds of homes and European style structures transforming the alpine landscape into a chalet skiing village filled with Tudor-style homes and neo-gothic architecture. In 1863, Shimla became the summer capital of the British Rule in India, and every year the entire governing body moved state affairs 1,000 miles from Calcutta to the green city in the mountains.

The Viceregal Lodge is easily the most stunning of the structures left behind by the colonials. The massive mansion was built in 1888 as the summer home for the British viceroys of India. The gothic building’s arched porches and manicured lawns are now home to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. A few hundred feet from Viceregal Lodge, the Himalayan Bird Park protects a variety of rare avian species like the Himalayan Monal pheasant.

Jakhu Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman perched atop a hill that’s overflowing with macaque monkeys. The interior of the shrine has a series of murals depicting Hanuman’s exploits, and outside on the temple grounds a 100-feet-tall statue of the monkey deity has been erected as a recent addition.

Best Time to Visit Shimla:

Shimla’s cool climate is what has made the city such a popular summer escape for the last two centuries. October through November the skies are clear, and the evenings chilly. Snow fall is consistent between December and February, which makes for excellent skiing. March through June the temperature steadily rises, but even the hottest days are considerable cooler than the temperatures found on the Indian plains to the south.

How to get to Shimla:

Shimla is the capital city of the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It’s best reached by private vehicle departing from Delhi while on one of our luxury tours of India.

Shimla Highlights:

Quaint, beautiful, and cool, Shimla is a wonderful summer retreat. Its proximity to other Northern Indian destination like Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile, make it a great starting point to explore the country’s northern culture.

Appropriate Attire:

In the summer months dress for warm weather, but bring along a light jacket as the evenings are often cool. In the winter, cold-weather gear is recommended as the town and surrounding mountains will be consistently snowcapped.

Srinagar Description:

During the summer months, the capital of the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir moves to Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley near the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains.

Buddhism thrived in the region until the Mughals arrived in the 14th century from Persia conquering much of Northern India. The Mughal rulers left behind a plethora of Persian style gardens featuring pools and canals bisecting lush green spaces encased in low walls. Chesmashahi, Nishat, and Shalimar gardens provide panoramic views of the beautifully placid Dal Lake to the south of Srinagar.

The calm, mirror-like waters of Srinagar's Dal Lake are best known for the flotillas of brightly colored shikara boats that glide across the tranquil waters. The gondola-like boats are used for a variety of reasons like the transportation of goods to floating markets and taxi services for travelers on luxury tours of India. Dal Lake is also home to numerous elaborately decorated and furnished house boats that operate as, which are particularly popular among both Indian and international tourists, especially when the floating gardens (rad) of lotus flowers are blooming during the summer months.

The various religions and cultures that have ruled over the Jammu and Kashmir region of Northern India left behind numerous monuments, temples, and palaces to be explored while traveling in the area. The top of Hari Parbat Hill is a great example of the intersecting cultures and religions that have flowed through Srinagar over the centuries like the waters of Jhelum River that bisects the city. Hindu devotees believe their deities Vishnu and Durga summoned a demon from Dal Lake to the hill, and defeated the mythical beast so humans could populate the area. Followers of Islam climb the same hill to offer prayers at Makhdoom Sahib Shrine, which is dedicated to a Muslim saint who brought the teachings of Islam to the Kashmir Valley. An imposing Mughal fort crowns the hilltop, and though its current inaccessible to the public, it’s particularly stunning at night when lit.

Best Time to Visit Srinagar:

The best time to visit Srinagar is between October and March. The temperatures steadily rise between April and June, but the climate here is much cooler than plains to the south because of the elevation. Seasonal rains start in July and continue through September, and it’s during this time that the many gardens are at their most beautiful.

How to get to Srinagar:

Srinagar is the capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It can be reached by direct flight from Delhi.

Srinagar Highlights:

The stunning waters of Lake Dal and the festive multicolored shikara boats that glide through the placid waters are a favored sight for guests on our India tours. The stunning Mughal gardens along Lake Dal’s shore and the throngs of floating lotus gardens on the lake surface are a must-see while visiting Srinagar.

Appropriate Attire:

Long sleeves and pants are recommended while visiting Srinagar. Though the area is rarely cold, it can feel particularly brisk, especially when coming to the region from the warmer reaches of Northern India.
The Great Living Chola Temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and your day will start with a guided visit to the most amazing example of these, the Brihadishwara. This awe-inspiring Temple Complex is constructed solely of granite, a material so hard that no architect today, with all our current technology, would even dream of building a structure with the incredible detail and mammoth scale of the Brihadishwara. These are just a few of the reasons why this monument is one of India’s most treasured architectural achievements.

This ancient temple’s crown is a massive granite monolithic cupola. This temple was built by the great Chola King Rajaraja Chola 1. Construction commenced in 1003 AD and the height of the main structure is 216 feet, which means that the 80 ton cupola had to be raised about 200 feet and placed at the top of the structure. The temple itself is decorated with carved panels depicting mythological events. An immense Nandi (the Bull) stands in front of the main shrine - carved out of a single piece of granite and measuring 16 feet long & 13 feet high. The incredible detail and complexity of the carvings is matched by the vibrant colors and talented artistry of the elaborate frescoes inside the structures. The colors used are said to have lasted this long because they were achieved by locating stones in those natural shades and grinding those stones to a paste.

After your exploration of the Brihadishwara, if time permits, you can enjoy a guided tour of the Saraswati Mahal Library and Art Gallery. The Gallery houses a large collection of ancient Chola bronzes, and the building is an architectural marvel.
Chola Temples Brihadisvara, Mahabalipuram

The celebrated Saiva temple at Thanjavur, appropriately called Brihadisvara and Daksinameru, is the grandest creation of the Chola emperor Rajaraja (AD 985-1012). It was inaugurated by the king himself in his 19th regnal year (AD 1009-10) and named it after himself as Rajesvara Peruvudaiyar. Architecturally, it is the most ambitious structural temple built of granite. It has been regarded as a ‘landmark in the evolution of building art in south India’ and its vimana as a ‘touchstone of Indian architecture as a whole’. The temple is within a spacious inner prakara of 240.9 m long (east-west) and 122 m broad (north-south), with a gopura at the east and three other ordinary torana entrances one at each lateral sides and the third at rear. The prakara is surrounded by a double-storeyed malika with parivaralayas. The temple with its massive proportions and simplicity of design provided inspiration for future designs in constructions not only in south India but also in south-east Asia.

The sikhara, a cupolic dome, is octagonal and rests on a single block of granite, a square of 7.8 m weighing 80 tons. The majestic upapitha and adhishthana are common to all the axially placed entities like the ardha-maha and mukha-mandapas and linked to the main sanctum but approached through a north-south transept across the ardha-mandapa which is marked by lofty sopanas. The moulded plinth is extensively engraved with inscriptions by its royal builder who refers to his many endowments, pious acts and organisational events connected to the temple.

The brihad-linga within the sanctum is 8.7 m high. Life-size iconographic representations on the wall niches and inner passages include Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati and Bhikshatana, Virabhadra, Kalantaka, Natesa, Ardhanarisvara and Alingana forms of Siva. The mural paintings on the walls of the lower ambulatory inside are finest examples of Chola and later periods which depict the contemporaneous scenes with legendary ones.

Sarfoji, a local Maratha ruler, rebuilt the Ganapati shrine. The celebrated Thanjavur School of paintings of the Nayakas is largely superimposed over the Chola murals. The temple is rich in iconography as well as inscriptions which provide an account of events showing achievements, financial arrangements, donations and bearing an impression of contemporary society.

Two great Chola Temples of the 11th and 12th centuries have been added to the 11th century Brihadisvara temple of Thanjavur, inscribed in 1987. The Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of South India and the neighbouring islands. The site now includes the three great 11th and 12th century Chola Temples: the Brihadisvara temple of Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikondacholapuram and the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram.

The Temple of Gangaikondacholapuram, built by Rajendra I, was completed in 1035. Its 53-m vimana (sanctum tower) has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur. It has six pairs of massive, monolithic dvarapalas statues guarding the entrances and bronzes of remarkable beauty inside. The Airavatesvara temple complex at Darasuram, built by Rajaraja II, features a 24-m vimana and a stone image of Shiva. The temples testify to the Cholas brilliant achievements in architecture, sculpture, painting, and bronze casting.

Saraswathi mahal library

Since 1918 the Saraswathi Mahal Library has been a possession of the state of Tamil Nadu. Its official name of the Library was changed to "The Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji's Sarasvati Mahal Library" in honour of the great royal Marathan patron.


In Thanjavur District, Papanasam is one of the historical cities. There are two Temples, one Pallavanatha swamy Temple constructed by Chola King another one 108 Sivalayam Temple. There are also a granary (Store House of paddy) Breath 86 feet height 36 feet capacity of 3,000 Kalam (measure) constructed by Nayaks in 1600 - 1634. State Archaeological Department declared it as a monument. There is also a famous Mullaivananathaswamy Temple at Thirukarukkavoor. One can see the 108 Sivalingam in one temple in Papanasam Town only.

Thiruvidai Maruthur

This place is about 8 kms from Kumbakonam and 48 km away from Thanjavur. It is spelt in ancient books as Thiruvidaimaruthur. The village is also called Madhyarjunam. The presiding deity is Mahalingar and goddess is known as Brikatkunchautsa. People suffering from mental affliction visit the place for relief.

Uppliyappan Koil

This place is 6 km, from Kumbakonam and 46 km away from Thanjavur. Lord Venkatesaperumal dedicated like Tirupathi Balaji "Oppil Upper" is the other name. It is connected by bus route from Kumbakonam to Nachiarkoil.

Poondi Madha Shrine

The Poondi village is about 35 km from Thanjavur nearest Railway Station is Budalur. It is also one of the Roman Catholic Pilgrim centre another like Velankanni. It attracts more Pilgrims all over India. Accommodation provided to the Pilgrims by Church Authorities.

Udaipur Description:

Nestled amidst tranquil lakes and the scenic Aravalli Mountains in Southeastern Rajasthan state is the city of Udaipur. Udaipur is one of the most prominent tourism destinations in Rajasthan and is famous around the world by a number of monikers including “City of Lakes”, “Venice of the East” and “Lake City”. The city was also dubbed as the “most romantic spot in India” by British Colonial administrators who favored Udaipur as a scenic holiday retreat. That reputation has permeated to this day and Udaipur is a choice destination of honeymooners as well as holidaying families from India and around the world.

Added to that, Udaipur, thanks to its centuries of trysts with Mewar royalty is home to a greater number of heritage hotels, palaces, traditional Rajasthani Havelis than any other city. This makes a tour of Udaipur a must-see on the list of enthusiasts of architecture, history and culture who come in droves to marvel at the many attractions of Udaipur.

The modern city of Udaipur was founded in the year 1559 AD by Maharana Udai Singh II. The city was conceived as the capital of the Kingdom of Mewar after the loss of the ancient capital and fort of Chittorgarh to an expanding Mughal Empire under Emperor Akbar. Maharana Udai Singh II chose the present location of the city after an encounter with a sage and for the natural defenses that the site provided. These natural defenses over the centuries have also given Udaipur much of its scenic beauty. Being the bustling capital of a prosperous kingdom such as Mewar, Udaipur grew incrementally and the kings of the ruling Sisodia Dynasty spent lavishly to make their capital a showcase of the kingdom’s prosperity.

The modern city of Udaipur is built around a number of great lakes namely Fateh Sagar, Rang Sagar, Pichola, Swaroop Sagar, Doodh Talai and Udai Sagar. These lakes provide much of the lifeblood of any tour of Udaipur and boat trips on these lakes is a big part of the tourism industry of the city. The most famous site of boat trips is the Lake Pichola. The lake is home to the world famous Lake Palace of Udaipur. The Palace, situated on the riverine island of Jagniwas, is now a major heritage hotel and was the setting of the famous James Bond movie “Octopussy”. While the hotel and its grounds are only open to resident guests, a boat ride near the Palace is an amazing experience in itself. Also nearby is the Jagmandir Island temple which is a fascinating specimen of Rajasthani temple building.

On the other side of the Lake Pichola is the City Palace of Udaipur. The City Palace of Udaipur is the largest royal palace in all of Rajasthan. The palace is a collection of fascinating buildings that have been built over many generations. The City Palace is today part heritage hotel plus a series of many museums, gardens, galleries and armories all of which are open to tourist visitors as well as resident guests.

The City Palace can be entered through any of its massive doorways known as “Pols”. The most famous of these are the Haathi Pol (Elephant Gate), Badi Pol (Large Gate), Sheetla Mata Pol and Tripolia Gate. The City Palace has many attractions that would interest visitors to Udaipur. These include Tiger and Leopard traps at the Manek Chowk, the interesting City Museum at Ganesh Chowk, the gardens of Rai Angan and Badi Mahal as well as the peacock mosaics of Mor Chowk. Other famous areas of the Palace include the Zenana Mahal which was the traditional ladies quarters as well as the galleries of palanquins and howdahs at Lakshmi Chowk.

One of the most iconic exhibits in Udaipur is the Crystal Palace. This is a collection of Maharaja Sajjan Singh and has an amazing array of crystal items ranging from the miniscule to the magnificent. Inclusions in the collection range from minor fixtures to large items such as crystal beds, chairs and tables that never cease to amaze visitors to Udaipur. Other attractions nearby include the iconic Jagdish Temple which is a traditional Rajasthani temple shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu as well as an interesting garden titled Saheliyon Ki Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honor) which has interesting carved statuettes as well as pools and fountains. The garden was reportedly made for 48 female attendants that came in the dowry of a Princess.

Another prominent attraction on a tour of Udaipur is the Government Museum which is a good source of information on the history of Udaipur as well as on the Mughal-Mewar rivalry that has been so instrumental in the development of the city. The museum has a fine collection of miniature paintings, weapons as well as artifacts that would interest visitors on a tour of Udaipur.

Udaipur with its vast number of heritage properties offers visitors a rare glimpse into the glorious past of this region. The Bayone Ki Haveli which is a 100 plus room heritage property that was built by a Mewar Prime Minister offers an interesting set of exhibits (including the world’s largest turban) and galleries of this bygone era. For a bird’s eye view of Udaipur as well as to indulge in a regal adventure trek, visitors to Udaipur can visit the Monsoon Palace which is also known as Sajjan Garh. The palace is built on a hill perched high above Udaipur and provides some amazing elevated vantages for tourists coming to the city.

Like the Crystal Palace, another iconic attraction unique to Udaipur in Rajasthan is the Automobile and Vintage Car Museum. The museum is based out of the former Royal Garage of Udaipur and is home to some great vintage cars of both European and American makes that belonged to the erstwhile princely rulers of Mewar.

Best Time to Visit Udaipur:

The post summer and post monsoon period between September and April is traditionally the high season to visit Udaipur. The weather is comparatively pleasant (even at the height of winter, daytime temperature in Udaipur average around 28 degree Celsius) thereby making it easy for foreign tourists to enjoy the many attractions of Udaipur.

Since Rajasthan is home to some of India’s most famous and colorful festivals, many visitors plan their trips to Udaipur in time for one of these events. The most prominent festival in the city is the Mewar Festival, which is Udaipur’s version of the traditional Rajasthani Gangaur spring festival. There are abundant cultural performances in Udaipur during the period of the Mewar festival which is celebrated every April.

More recently, many Rajasthani festivals such as the Pushkar Camel Fair (held every October / November) and the Teej Festival (held every August) have become very popular with international tourists and many people time their tours of Udaipur to coincide with these festivals happening in other parts of Rajasthan as well.

How to get to Udaipur:

Udaipur is situated in the North-west of India in the state of Rajasthan. The city is a high tourist traffic destination due to its amazing monuments, rich cultural scene and extremely interesting history.

Udaipur is connected to the rest of India by a domestic airport called the Dabok Airport / Maharana Pratap Singh Airport. The airport offers connections to Indian cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Jodhpur.

Most visitors however come to Udaipur as part of a more comprehensive tour of Rajasthan and usually arrive in the city via the NH-8 highway that connects the city to Jaipur, Delhi and Mumbai. Most luxury tours of Udaipur involve guests coming into see Jaipur and then driving down to Udaipur in a luxury SUV.

The drive distance between Jaipur and Udaipur is approximately 6 hours and the ride between the two cities has some interesting stop-overs along the way including Ranakpur and its world famous Jain Temple as well as Chittorgarh with its iconic fort. Udaipur is also on the itinerary of the uber-luxury trains “Royal Rajasthan on Wheels” as well as “Palace on Wheels” that regularly traverse through Rajasthan.

Udaipur Highlights:

Udaipur being one of the larger urban centers of Rajasthan has a plethora of attractions to hold the interests of all types of visitors. Udaipur’s attractions are very popular with enthusiasts of culture, history, architecture, photography as well as mythology, chivalry and romance.

As many of Rajasthan’s cities such as Jaipur and Jodhpur become more established on India’s tourism circuit, an increasing number of people are making the journey to Udaipur to further delve into the proud history and traditions of this region. Udaipur is particularly famous for performances of traditional Rajasthani dances and folk-art. There are a number of venues in Udaipur where local artist performances can be viewed by visitors conveniently.

Udaipur has much to offer for fans of food and drink. The city has a multitude of restaurants specializing in the finest of Rajasthani and North Indian cuisine that is becoming ever popular with global tourists.

For fans of shopping, Udaipur’s markets and bazaars are a great source for traditional Mewar handicrafts as well as souvenirs.

Udaipur has a number of popular markets which are excellent sources of items like ornate knives, miniature paintings, camel bone handicrafts, wood carvings, traditional Rajasthani jootis (sandals), spices, textiles as well as handmade paper notebooks and leather goods.

Udaipur is also home to some of India’s finest luxury hotels and heritage properties. The city and its many lakes have a number of phenomenal palaces and havelis that have been converted into iconic heritage properties. For regal indulgence, visitors to Udaipur can live it up in world famous palace hotels such as the Taj Lake Palace, the Lalit Lakshmi Villas, the Oberoi Udaivillas and the Udaipur City Palace.

Appropriate Attire:

Udaipur is in Rajasthan which is mostly desert with hot weather for the greater part of the year. Visitors touring Udaipur should ideally wear loose cotton clothing that is breathable. Clothing for both males and females should ideally cover arms, legs and shoulders as that would ensure that visitors avoid any unwanted attention and is in line with local traditional sensibilities.

Furthermore, as there is considerable outdoor walking and traveling during all tours of Udaipur, visitors should take adequate protection against bright sunlight. Some of the attractions in Udaipur still function as religious sites and may require female visitors to cover their hair and may require visitors to remove their shoes upon entry. Therefore wearing slip-on shoes as well as socks in summers considerably increases comfort for visitors.

Varanasi Description:

Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world and one of the most popular tourist destinations of North India. The origins of Varanasi can be traced as far back as the year 1200 BC. The city however has been destroyed and re-built several times over because of attacks by a spate of conquerors interested in sequestering Varanasi’s immense wealth. Varanasi today is the pulsating heart of the Hindu religion and the unquestioned religious epicenter of India. Called the city of temples, knowledge and lights, Varanasi is one of the seven holiest cities in the Hindu religion. This makes the city a microcosm of India and gives the visitor a matchless insight into the dominant religion and social mores of the country.

Visitors on a tour of Varanasi can expect a thrilling rollercoaster ride that is replete with exposure to instense religious ceremonies, serene rituals as well as a colorful landscape dotted with temples, mosques and other heritage architecture.

Varanasi is of particular importance to devout Hindus. The city is on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River. This makes it a place of constant pilgrimage where devotees come to pray and bathe in the holy waters of the river. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganga can wash away a lifetime of sins. The other major belief surrounding Varanasi is that dying in the city breaks the Hindu reincarnation cycle of birth, death and rebirth thereby ascending the soul to “Moshka” which is eternal peace. This makes Varanasi one of the largest public cremation grounds in India as well as home to a thriving hospice community.

For the visiting tourist, any tour of Varanasi commences at the spiritual center-point of the city which are the Ghats. The Ghats can be defined as a long stretch of steps leading to the western bank of the Ganga River. While the Ghats are a beehive of activity with religious ceremonies being performed all day long, the best time to witness the pinnacle of these ceremonies is either at sunrise or sunset.

Visitors can take boat rides along the many Ghats of Varanasi and see a flurry of activities ranging from women discreetly taking baths while still wrapped in their saris, male devotees and ascetics taking bold dunks to immerse themselves in the river as well as babies being christened by the riverside. Another common sight at some of the Ghats is the presence of funeral pyres of recently deceased Hindus as well as of kin scattering the ashes of their recently deceased relatives in the holy waters of the Ganga.

There are two major religious ceremonies at the Ghats at sunrise and sunset respectively. The sunrise ceremony is called “Puja” whereas the sunset ceremony is termed as “Ganga Aarthi”. Both ceremonies have interesting rituals and are must see events for visitors touring the Ghats by boat.

There are over 80 Ghats in Varanasi. While some Ghats are exclusively for private ceremonies and are reserved familial spaces; others are open to the public. Each Ghat is an interesting site in its own right and has a local legend or story attached to it. Each of the major public Ghats in Varanasi has a name such as Dasaswamdeh, Assi, Tulsi, Bachraj, Shivala, Dandi and Hanuman Ghats. Some Ghats such as Marnikarnika and Harischandra Ghats are famous as cremation grounds. Some Ghats have associated temples or attractions near them such as Balraj Ghat which is the site of three Jain temples. Similarly, the Meer Ghat was built by the Nepalese Royal family and has an interesting temple famous for its erotic sculptures in its periphery. Other prominent attractions at the Ghats include Charanpaduka Ghat that has a footprint that Hindus believe belongs to the deity Vishnu. In a surprising twist of religious pluralism, one of the Ghats, the Panchganga Ghat is dominated by the structure of the historic Alamgiri Mosque, one of the largest places of Muslim worship in Varanasi.

Beyond the Ghats, Varanasi has many other attractions as well. These include the impressive Ramnagar Fort and Museum. The fort is the site of the annual Ram Leela Drama Festival and the accompanying museum has an interesting collection of vintage cars, weapons as well as an interesting astrology clock. Another attraction that is popular with visitors and is in the periphery of the Ghats is the Marnikara Well. Legend has it that the well was created when Lord Shiva stared to dig the earth at this location in order to recover a lost ear-ring of his consort the Goddess Parvati. Hindus believe that the divine sweat of Lord Shiva filled this eternal well thereby making the Marnikara Well a point of pilgrimage in Varanasi.

The Ghats at Varanasi and the Ramnagar Fort are open to all visitors. However a number of the attractions in Varanasi including some temples are open only to practitioners of the Hindu faith and have restrictions on photography as well. Prominent attractions in the city that only allow Hindu visitors the right of access include the historic Vishvanath Temple, which is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and is made out of 000 kilograms of solid gold. Another attraction open only to Hindu visitors is the Gyan Kupor Well. Devout Hindus attribute great qualities to the waters of the well and therefore it is another important point of religious observances in the city.

Best Time to Visit Varanasi:

Varanasi is located in the eastern part of the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and has a sub-tropical climate. The city is subject to great temperature variance between summers and winters and has a reputation in India for very hot days and very cool nights sometimes during the same season.

The city gets its share of the annual Monsoon rainfalls between July and October, therefore the best time to visit Varanasi for foreign visitors is during the traditional high tourist season in India between November and April.

Being one of the spiritual anchors of the Hindu religion, Varanasi is the site of a number of colorful festivals that are celebrated with considerable fervor across the city. Prominent festivals include the traditional Hindu celebrations of Diwali, Dussehra, Holi, Raksha Bandhan and Janasthami. Another major festival that has been of considerable interest to foreign visitors is the Purnima Festival, which celebrates the birth of Buddha and is a major event in the nearby town of Sarnath in Varanasi’s periphery.

How to get to Varanasi:

Varanasi is situated in the eastern part of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The city is nearly 000 kilometers away from the Federal Capital of New Delhi.

Varanasi does have its own international airport called the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport but it offers extremely limited international connections within South Asian nations only. The airport functions better as a domestic airport connecting Varanasi with various Indian cities.

The most efficient way to reach Varanasi is to fly to the major international aviation hub of north India in New Delhi and take a convenient connecting flight to Varanasi. The flight-time between New Delhi and Varanasi is around one hour.

Varanasi Highlights:

Varanasi is considered the cultural heartland of the Hindu religion and is often called a microcosm of Hindu India. The city is an immense fresco of strong sensations and is a sight to behold. Most foreign visitors agree that a journey to Varanasi and a boat ride along its Ghats is by far the best experience to understand the true spirit of India.

Varanasi with its pronounced spirituality and history is bound to be an amazing journey for enthusiasts of religion, culture, history as well as mythology. The city and its near constant stream of religious ceremonies and icons will provide interesting subjects for fans of photography and videography.

Visitors seeking indulgence in food and drink will find Varanasi to their liking. The city is a great place to sample the wonders of North Indian cuisines ranging from Mughali, Punjabi as well as traditional Hindu vegetarian fare.

The food in Varanasi is known for its extensive preparations and is famous for its liberal use of spice, condiments and large servings. Varanasi is also the Lassi capital of India and is one of the places in the country where eating fruit is one of the gastronomic passions of the populace. Varanasi is also one of the best places to discover and eat many of India’s world-famous mango varieties during summers.

For the shopaholic, Varanasi has much to offer. The city is a world famous center for silk textiles and brocades. The Banarasi Saree is famous the world over and is much sought after by women of South Asian heritage across the world. Other major must-have souvenirs of Varanasi include silk scarves, pashmina shawls, traditional wooden musical instruments like the Tablas and the Sitar, brass ornaments, Bhadohi carpets and traditional gold jewelry.

Appropriate Attire:

Being the spiritual heartland of the largest religion in India, one can never be too far from conservatism in Varanasi. Nearly all of the city’s attractions are religious in nature and are sites of extensive ceremonies at different parts of the day. Visitors should therefore wear clothing that is appropriate to the weather during their stay and ensure that arms, legs and shoulders are covered. Also clothing that is too form fitting should ideally be avoided.

Certain temples and shrines in Varanasi have sections that are only open to the members of the Hindu faith and will not allow visitors beyond a certain point. Also photography at some of the locations may be prohibited. Some locations may require guests to remove shoes and for women to cover their hair. Therefore wearing slip-on shoes and carrying headscarves might be convenient for visitors.