India is a country of diversity, adventure and hidden gems. Known for the friendly hospitality of its people and famous for the intense sensory experiences it offers, it is easy to lose yourself amongst the bright colours, sounds and flavours of this captivating country.
Home to one of the world’s oldest civilisations, India is a country heavily steeped in tradition with deep cultural roots. Yet, as it is being subject to an ever-accelerating pace of change, further contrasts and contradictions are being created in a country that is very much alive and evolving.
As India’s travel industry expands to cater to the luxury traveller, there has never been a better time to experience such fascinating juxtapositions. Seize the opportunity and visit in the cool, dry season between November and March to see the country at its best and read on to discover the top five reasons why you should visit India now.
Escape to the Andaman Islands
Situated 1,370km from mainland India, and as yet relatively undiscovered by most international tourists, the Andaman Islands are the perfect place for a remote island escape. Seize the opportunity to visit these magical islands now while their secluded luxury and untouched environment remain a relative secret; you can be sure that once the word is out it won’t be long before larger numbers of tourists flock to their shores.
Enjoy perfect seclusion as you stroll the length of snow-white beaches, marvel at colourful corals as you snorkel through azure waters, or trek through lush primeval jungle and mangrove forests. Catch glimpses of various local traditions and colonial history in the capital Port Blair, or journey through tribal reserves to experience the natural splendour of limestone caves in the northern islands.
A world away from the bustle of the Indian mainland, on these magical islands your time belongs to no one but yourself. Whether you’re seeking a romantic retreat or an energising escape, visit the Andaman Islands now before it is too late.
Rajasthan’s winter festivals
Known for its magnificent historic forts and the beauty of its colourful towns which rise from the desert landscape, the state of Rajasthan has always been a popular destination with visitors. But we believe that those who visit outside of the winter festival season are truly missing out. Take the opportunity to travel to this magical corner of India now, and create unforgettable memories as you witness its towns come alive over the winter months with a series of warm and vibrant festivals.
Travel to Pushkar in November to experience one of the world’s largest camel fairs, and marvel at the extravagantly dressed camels and eccentric entries to the turban and moustache competitions. Visit Jaipur in January and watch as thousands of kites fill the sky with colour during the International Kite flying competition, or lose yourself at the Jaipur Literature Festival – the largest free literary festival on earth. Wonder at the spectacular camel performances of Bikaner’s Camel Festival at the end of January, and take a trip to Jaisalmer in February for the three-day long extravaganza of music, dancing, handicraft fairs and unusual competitions that make up the Jaisalmer Desert Festival.
Time to trek
Mountain air is clearest in September to November, and from March to May, so there is no better time to marvel at the majesty of the Himalayan mountains, home to the world’s three tallest peaks, which dominate India’s northern states.
Arrange your mountain adventure now, before the winter snows come, to view crystal clear, panoramic views of Sikkim’s lush mountain landscape endowed with bursts of colour and spiritual meaning by whitewashed Buddhist stupas and fluttering prayer flags. Or plan ahead and secure your place in spring, when the hills blaze with brilliant rhododendron blossom, before the monsoon rains prevent you from exploring this magical mountain kingdom.
However as improving internet and road connections make mountain areas more accessible to visitors, it is hard to tell whether their current wild beauty will remain in its natural state in the years to come.
Indian safari season is nearly upon us, and as the country’s national parks prepare to open at the start of October, so you should start planning your own safari escape to explore the often forgotten wealth of wildlife and ecology that India offers. At a time of increasing concerns over shrinking big cat populations, now is the moment to experience viewing these majestic creatures in India’s ever-shrinking, beautiful wilderness.
Stay at Jawai Leopard Camp in Rajasthan and seek elusive leopards amongst the towering boulder outcrops that rise above the arid landscape and irrigated agricultural plains of Jawai, a corner of this majestic state as yet undiscovered by most international tourists. Visit the national parks of Kahna and Bandhavgargh for the chance to track the world’s largest cat, the Bengal Tiger, on safari through the lush forest and grassy meadows of Rudyard Kipling’s Madhya Pradesh. During your stay, don’t miss the chance to ride through the trees on an Indian elephant, and view the full splendour of an Indian peacock in its natural habitat.
February and March are considered the ideal time for Indian wildlife safaris as the national parks shed vegetation over this period, but as visitor numbers continue to climb, it is uncertain for how much longer sightings of such a variety of wildlife will be so common.
Catch the cricket excitement
Cricket is the most popular sport in India, and even those less interested in the game can’t fail to notice the buzz of interest and excitement that accompanies the start of the domestic cricket season in October. This year more than others, cricket lovers across the country, from the bustling metropoles of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, to the smaller towns and villages, are buzzing with a particular enthusiasm as they eagerly await the arrival of some of the best international teams which India is lucky to be hosting this season.
Time your visit to coincide with New Zealand’s tour in October, England’s tour in December and January, or Australia’s tour in February to discover for yourself the infectious thrill that spreads through Indian cricket supporters, and experience watching this highly popular game.