Something I get asked a lot is ‘why do you love India so much?’ It’s a good question and one that I have thought deeply about.
My love of India seemed to come from no where. In 2011 my husband and I came into a little bit of money and decided to spend it on a holiday to somewhere far away. Some how we ended up picking India and we fell in love with it.
We had had a tough year in 2010 for various reasons, but as soon as we landed in India it was like a huge weight lifted off our shoulders. The country is so very different from the UK and from anywhere I had visited before. It was like escaping to a different world. Every time the going gets tough, I feel the need to go to India. It is like a therapy. I don’t know if it’s the people, the spirituality or something else all together, but India to me is like a pill. So here are 11 reasons why you should visit India.
1/ The people
I’m under no illusions – life in India is tough for many, but when you see people with so little who are so happy, it really makes you pause for thought and consider what’s important in life. Also whenever you need help, everyone is always keen to try…they might not be able to but they will do their best!
2/ The cultures
India’s land mass is 3,287,240km, there are over 700 languages spoken and although the main religion is Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity and Islam are all represented in India along with many other religions. This all makes the culture of India incredibly varied and as you travel around, visiting places and speaking to people, you’ll notice that. The North is different from the South, the East is different from the West. You can hop on a train from Bangalore with its modern shopping centres and girls in Western clothing and get off at a town in rural Karnataka just a couple of hours away with countryside girls dressed in traditional clothing. India is so culturally diverse that it is like a million different countries in one.
3/ The food
So curry is said to be our national dish in the UK but it couldn’t be any more different from genuine Indian food. Leave your impression of what you thought a Korma was at home in the UK and try one in India. You will be surprised!
Like its culture, Indian food is diverse. Each region has its own regional dishes that are worth checking out. And don’t just eat meat because that’s what you do in the UK. India is arguably the best place in the world to be a vegetarian with so much variety and so many tasty dishes. India is so big on vegetarian food that menus have sections labelled ‘Vegetarian’ and ‘non-vegetarian’.
4/ The animals
Cows are everywhere! It can take some getting used to a taxi stopping to let a cow cross the road but they are a sacred animal to Hindus. The state of Mahrashtra has even just banned the sale of beef.
It isn’t just free range cows that you can see in India. Tigers, elephants and rhinosaurus’ can all be seen on safari, as well as many species of deer and bird. Look out for the monkeys too. It is great to watch them swinging from roofs and treetops but be careful they don’t steal your food! And have you heard about the rat temple? That’s definitely worth a daytrip!
5/ The variety
There are few two week holidays where you can visit temples, explore cities, learn about royalty, swim in the sea, go white water rafting, visit a tea plantation and go on safari but India has all that and more. It’s a big country but the excellent internal transport network means it doesn’t take long to visit anywhere!
6/ Railway adventures
The trains of India are famous worldwide and can be a real adventure. Overnight trains mean you can travel real far and save on a hotel, and trains are always a great place to meet locals.
Train journeys in India are an amazing experience and although they can get busy, it is definitely worth taking at least one journey during your holiday. Make sure you try train chai as well. It’s just 15RS and is a refreshing drink.
7/ The festivals
There always seems to be a festival in India and if you are lucky enough to be in the country during a festival, you won’t have seen anything like it before. Whether it is Diwali, the festival of light celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs alike, or Holi, the festival of colour, festivals in India are really a spectacular site.
We celebrated Diwali in Delhi in 2011 and it was amazing – people decorated houses, hotels and the streets with garlands, candles were lit everywhere and fireworks exploded at all hours of the day and night for the full five days. If you have the chance to go to India during Diwali then go for it.
8/ The Keralan backwaters
Probably the second most popular destination for Brits visiting India, only behind Goa, the Keralan backwaters are a network of waterways which meander through the lush green countryside of Kerala. Here you can hire a rice boat to travel down the river, staying in it overnight moored up in a secluded spot.
For a small extra cost, we were offered the opportunity to be taken out in a rowing boat on some narrower stretches of the backwaters. Here we met men, women and children who lived and worked along the river and had the opportunity to watch them go about their daily business.
The following morning, as we made our way back to the port, we watched children making use of the waterways to get to school.
9/ The Taj Mahal
The worst thing about going to see a site like the Taj Mahal is worrying that it’ll be an overrated dissapointment. Breaking news: The Taj Mahal is even more spectacular than you expect – it is not a disappointment!
OK, so I don’t want to big it up too much or you’ll visit and be unimpressed but we really did love it. We also realised that we didn’t actually know the history behind it but when you visit, you learn all about it.
10/ The beaches
India has some beautiful beaches from those in Goa and Kerala on the West coast, to the ones in Tamil Nadu on the East coast.
My personal favourite is the beach in Varkala, Kerala. The town has a hippy vibe to it – it is a little how I imagine Goa was in the 60s. Above the sea is a cliff path with numerous restaurants serving amazing fish (try the prawns – they are huge), shops and hotels (I recommend staying in the beach huts on the cliff). It’s a magical place.
11/ The history
From the palaces of the Maharajahs to the numerous forts around the country, India has a rich and interesting history that you are sure to learn about while visiting the country. Many of the temples and buildings have a deep and ancient history and you just can’t believe someone built them such a long time ago!