India Pictures

Taj Mahal and Yamuna River, Agra, India

The Taj Mahal at dawn, Agra, Uttar Pradesh state, India. Photo by Steve Evans.

Visiting India

India tourism offers the wide-eyed tourist an amazing, chaotic kaleidoscope of culture, colour, spirituality and claustrophobic insanity.

Must-see attractions in India range from the Taj in Agra to the forts, palaces and moustachioed men of India’s prime tourist state – Rajasthan, naughty but nice temples in Khajuraho, pilgrims bathing in the Ganges River at Varanasi, wandering cows on hectic roads, bizarre sadhus, vermilion saris, medieval silver jewellery, snake charmers, wild wedding parties, hilarious head waggles and much, much more.
Beaches goa on for ever, towns are crazed but absorbing (absorbing too many people on the whole! ) and Indian festivals – of which there are a staggering number – are mind-boggling.
India is generally safe, low cost, has fine weather if you go to the right place at the right time and is populated by relaxed, amiable people, though rather too many of them.

Goa beach aerial, India

India’s beaches, big and small, crowded and tranquil, but still best in Goa. Photo by Ryan Mascarenhas.


Smog in Dehli, India

Smog in Dehli. Photo by Wili Hybrid.

• air pollution. In 2016 Delhi was the  eleventh worst polluted city in the world, causing the death of over 10,000 people every year. In 2017 Delhi’s chief minister described the city as a ‘gas chamber’.

• Amitabh Kant, Indian tourist officer said this: ‘We have hoardings obscuring heritage sites, we have terrible roads, we have sewage and solid waste problems. And we have some of the lousiest airports in the world. ‘
On the other hand, a vehicle with English-speaking driver will cost not much more than a normal self-drive car, so spoil yourself, get a chauffeur!

• the huge numbers of people in the streets, trying to board buses and trains, on beaches, wandering the great sights can feel claustrophobic, especially if they’re all staring at you.

• the food suits some but not everybody and western food outlets are not found widely.

• beggars can be loud and demanding or severely crippled and depressing, or frequently all four simultaneously.

• women traveling alone may be troubled by male attention at best and in danger at worst.

India’s best tourist places

Jaipur, Amber Fort, India

The Amber Fort, on the outskirts of Jaipur, Rajasthan. Photo by A. Savin.

Rajasthan is quintessential India, priority viewing, a magical, historical region the size of France loaded with extraordinary forts, extravagant Rajasthani palaces, monster moustaches, red saris, orange turbans, yellow deserts, blue homes, camel and elephant transport systems, fantastic shopping created by artisans imported by Rajput princes and amazing bedrooms owned by the same royalty but occupied now by tourists. Rajasthan Weather.

Red Fort in Delhi, India

The Red Fort in Delhi. There are some great sights in the city, along with too many people, and serious air pollution.

India’s capital city, Delhi, is maddening, chaotic, polluted and crowded, but – unlike Mumbai – also offers the resilient tourist a good variety of places to visit and tranquil spaces.
The most congested but lively and colourful part of the city is Old Delhi, particularly around Chandni Chowk bazaar area, while just southwest of there is the more spacious and British colonial section of New Delhi, with plenty of attractions.
New Delhi is officially the name of the capital of India but few people aside from bureaucrats (who are not, let’s face it, really people), take any notice of the prefix.

Kerala backwaters life, India

Kerala backwaters in southern India. Photo by Rainer Haefner.

Boating on the Kerala backwaters is one of the most relaxing and delightful activities a tourist can enjoy in a mostly hectic India.
The backwaters are a series of calm natural lagoons and lakes, partially salty, that have been connected by canals to form a waterway stretching hundreds of kilomtres along half of Kerala’s length. On either side of the backwaters rural Indian life drifts quietly on, fishing, duck, coconut and coir farming, while foreign travellers chug by.

Vittala Temple in Hampi, Karnataka, India

Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Karnataka state. Photo by Ashwin-Kumar.

Hampi village is situated inside the extensive, monumental ruins of the capital city of the Vijayanagara empire which controlled much of southern India from 1336 to 1646.
This is a little-visited UNESCO World Heritage Site, a delightful change from most of the historical India tourism, a place where wandering in calm contemplation is actually possible (apart from affluent begging kids! ). Try that in Agra, Jaipur, or Varanasi!

Khajuraho temple carvings, India

Khajuraho, erotic temples in a green and remote UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Aminesh Arya.

Khajuraho village is a bit off the beaten track but well worth a trek 600 kms (385 miles) south-east of Delhi in Madhya Pradesh state. It’s a magnificently calm UNESCO World Heritage Site of gorgeously proportioned and fascinating Hindu and Jain temples.
Khajuraho temples were built around 1, 000 AD and 25 remain out of 80 – many were destroyed by Muslim invaders in later years – in an area of 21 sq kms (8 sq miles).

Varanasi ghats and the Ganges River, India

Varanasi, washing and watching in and on the Ganges River, Uttar Pradesh state. Photo by Dennis Jarvis.

Varanasi, also known as Benares, is one of India’s holiest cities and the one hundred ghats stepping down to the River Ganges are loaded with temples (in some cases overloaded as they are sinking into the river) venerated by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and visited by 1, 000, 000 pilgrims a year.

The Golden Triangle

India’s most popular tourist package is the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur triangle, taking about a week. This tour not only covers some of the country’s top attractions but also gives a whiff of India’s downsides of crowds, noise, dirt, poverty and chaos.

Delhi’s main sights include the imposing Red Fort, Jama Masjid mosque, Qutb Minar minaret and Humayun’s Tomb, as well as New Delhi.

In Agra the attraction is not only a visit to the Taj Mahal but also to Agra’s Red Fort which is surpisingly large and interesting – surprising until you know that the fort was also built by Shah Jahan.

Jaipur in Rajasthan is home to four major attractions, the City Palace complex, the awesome facade of the Palace of the Winds and the fascinating Jantar Mantar Observatory, an astronomic sculpture park and the hilltop Amber Fort just outside the city that is frequently reached on elephant-back.
Some tours also include a visit to the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri or to Bharatpur, a popular bird sanctuary.

There are two ways to see the Taj, travelling individually or signing up for some kind of tour package, big or small. Tours range from a private car with personal guide or traveling in a group.