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Where to go in India – Planning your India itinerary

If you’re trying to decide where the best places to go in India are, you’re spoilt for choice. This is a country known for its diversity, from its chaotic cities teeming with architectural wonders to its beautiful national parks abound in rare flora and fauna. 

First up has to be the city of Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. The jewel in India’s crown, it’s not to be missed, but be warned that the hustle (in all senses of the word) of the unofficial tour guides and ticket touts requires a robust constitution. Shy and retiring they ain’t. 

Onto Delhi, which is a glorious mash-up of old and new – Old Delhi is all labyrinths of narrow lanes and eclectic bazaars, while New Delhi boasts a shiny new Metro network, skyscrapers and shopping malls. Don’t miss the imposing India Gate war memorial, reminiscent of the famous arcs found in Rome and Paris. 

Building in India

If you’ve come for the wildlife, then your next stop should be Bandhavgarh for a mind-blowing tiger safari at Bandhavgarh National Park. This small reserve has a thriving tiger population, so you’ll have a great chance of spotting one in the dense green valleys and arid rocky hills.

To Mumbai! Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is home to Bollywood stars and India’s biggest fashion houses, all powered by the wheeling and dealing of the city’s finance district. 

And finally, Goa. Three words: sun, sea and sand. Goa is a heady mix of Indian and Portuguese cultures (it was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years) and the north and south have two distinct personalities – head north for the markets, water sports and nightclubs; go south for sparkling white sands and luxe hotels. With so much to see and do, it’s easy to understand why Goa has long been one of the best places to travel in India.

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Locations to add to your India itinerary


A one-time hippie traveller haven – now a loved-by-all beach getaway – Goa is not to be missed. It may be a tiny little state on India’s east coast, but it’s got a big heart. As well as being the undisputed king of sunbathing spots, sleepy traditional fishing villages, imposing colonial architecture and pumping nightlife also await in Goa.

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Like Delhi, Mumbai is an all-encompassing city, being home to 18 million people, the world’s biggest slum and the most expensive house on Earth. From authentic street food to the Bollywood lifestyle, there’s much to see, and even more to do. Visit gigantic museums, historic train stations and watch hundreds of locals washing their clothes on the ghats.

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Home to 17 million people, India’s capital city is chaotic, colourful and always full of surprises. It has two distinct sides to it, so you can spend the morning whizzing round the historic Old Town in a tuk tuk – bartering for treasures and dodging the cows – and the evening sipping cocktails in the hipster bars of New Delhi. 

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Also known as the 'Pink City', for the terracotta colour of its buildings, Jaipur is one corner of India’s Golden Triangle – and you’ll soon discover why it’s such a draw for visitors. It’s big, it’s bold, and there’s heaps to do and see. If you’re into history, this city has got you covered; you’ll be instantly transported back to another age as you wander around its palaces and forts.

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The gleaming white city of Udaipur, arguably one of the most romantic settings in the country, sits on the edge of a lake, surrounded by a magnificent mountain range. Also known as the ‘City of Lakes’, Udaipur is renowned for its royal palaces – and is regal and relaxing in equal measure.

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Most famous for the Taj Mahal, Agra is a city of imposing forts, marble tombs and romantic history – if you’re a fan of Mughal architecture, this is the place to come. And as well as the ancient splendor, there’s Old Agra, where you can get lost within the winding streets, barter with the locals at the late-night markets and peer into tiny temples.

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Slow and relaxed, Alleppey is a step away from the colourful chaos of India. It’s been coined the Venice of the East - a watery world of palm trees, gentle backwaters, houseboats and lush green rice fields. The charming old town is a great place to wander; stop and chat to vendors at the wholesale market and sample sweet treats at the food stalls.

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There’s something special about each area of Cochin, which is a weird and wonderful combination of ancient fishing traditions, colonial history and modern character. Don’t believe us? Then check out the resident Banksy-style graffiti artist and see for yourself. With so much to do here, there’s not a moment to lose.

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Kovalam’s a sunny beach spot that hasn’t lost any of its Indian charm. Expect white sand and palm trees – but don’t be surprised if you’re sharing the beach with a cow or two. Head down to the shore for sunrise and watch the dozens of men and boys heave their fishing nets on to the beach at sunrise, or climb up the iconic red and white striped lighthouse that stands impressively on the rocks of Lighthouse Beach.

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Life in Kumarakom – a rural village surrounded by water and a collection of islands – moves at a sedate pace. You won’t be dashing from temple to monument here, but instead immersing yourself in the local way of life. Watch boatmen haul their morning catch, barter at fish markets, visit working farms and learn about rubber production. It may be a tad off India’s traditional tourist trail, but will be all the more rewarding.

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If you’re a temple lover, then Madurai’s the place for you – but that’s not its only attraction. The city’s a hub of aromatic cooking, and the place for those who have learnt to love India in all its chaotic glory. Peppered with colourful, ornate temples, you’ll probably visit Madurai to take photos of its impressive buildings, but we reckon you’ll stay for the flavours.

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If you’re craving the comfort that only a good cup of tea can bring, then head to Munnar - a cool, misty hill station offering a calmer pace of life. Visit a plantation and savour the taste of your cuppa while learning how it was made – from planting to packaging. It’s the ideal place to enjoy a much-needed breather, with beautiful scenery to boot.

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The shimmering white-marble and copper-gilt Golden Temple clinches top spot here, but Amritsar has heaps more to offer than one, admittedly awe-inspiring, building. Other must-see attractions include Jallianwala Bagh, which commemorates the hundreds of Indians killed by British forces in 1919, and the beautiful Ram Bagh gardens. The city also boasts fantastic food and a fascinating history, and comes with a healthy slice of colourful Indian chaos.

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Visit Bandhavgarh National Park and you’ll be out in the jungle with your binoculars, spotting magnificent royal Bengal tigers and leopards. If that’s not enough animal excitement for you, there are also sloth bears, sambars, wild boar, vultures and eagles – plus an ancient, crumbling fort in the middle of the park for the history buffs among you.

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The city of Jodhpur rises out of the yellowy Thar desert like a vision of faded grandeur. And it’s blue. Very blue, with the houses all painted the same vivid colour – a quirk that imbues the city’s maze of narrow, winding streets with a magical, out-of-this-world quality. Looming high above Jodhpur is the Mehrangarh Fort - one of the most breathtaking and best-preserved in India.

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Kanha National Park is said to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 classic The Jungle Book – so if you fancy seeing a magnificent royal Bengal tiger in the wild, this is the place to be. As well as a big cat or two, prepare to meet sloth bears, chitals and a huge variety of birds. If you’re interested in seeing how the locals live, you can visit the picturesque rural villages surrounding the national park.

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Home to ‘the sexiest temples in India’. Yep, you read that right. The wall carvings on these ancient monuments in Khajuraho depict humans and gods in a variety of erotic positions. Built more than 1,000 years ago, the temples are incredibly well-preserved, graphic examples of Indo-Aryan art and architecture and are listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site.

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It’s got a fort to rival those in Rajasthan, but Ranthambhore’s stunning national park is the place to get in touch with your wild side. There’s nothing like spotting a tiger track, or catching a glimpse of their distinctive colour through the trees as you trundle along in the back of your safari vehicle.

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It might seem an odd combination: grand Victorian buildings from the colonial era nestled in the Himalayan foothills. But in Shimla, which was the official ‘summer capital’ of British India, it works. Visit the Viceregal Lodge, hop on the famous ‘toy’ train for a two-hour trip through the lush mountains and hike around the Elysium Hill.

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Once you’ve discovered some of the vibrant cities that India has to offer, chances are you’ll be in need of a break. Fear not – Thekkady meets that need, and more. Coffee, tea and numerous spice plants thrive in this cooler climate and it's all there for the taking. 

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