India Travel Guide


India Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration

PureTravel Says; Incredible India is one of the oldest countries in the world and also one of the most diverse, which is amply represented within its history and culture. Home to one of the largest populations, India boasts many rich climatic zones with diverse flora and fauna. This is also the home of 30 impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from the impossibly romantic Taj Mahal to the tiger reserves of the Sundarbans National Park.

Holiday Highlights

Walking & Trekking – Be it a desert, jungle or a mountain trek, India is home to some of the best treks in the world. The deserts of Rajasthan are famous for their treks and camel rides. Jungles across this south Asian gem offer thousands of trails but the real treks that will challenge any tourist lie in the Himalayas. The middle to higher Himalayas offers many long and challenging treks with crossings over some high passes. Treks in the Zanskar Valley include trekking along the Indus valley - one of the birthplaces of Indus civilization and trekking in Sikkim offers highly challenging treks to any visitor.
Treks to the highest mountain, Nanda Devi, or trekking to many of the places of pilgrimage in the Himalayas are for those who seek ultimate trekking adventures. Even treks to the higher lakes within the Himalayas presents a unique possibility. One of the popular treks in the Himalayas is to the valley of flowers, located in the state of Uttaranchal.

Culture & History - Relics of ancient culture from the archaeologically excavated sites of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, suggest that Indus valley civilization is one of the oldest surviving civilizations on the planet. Four of the major religions of the world namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism began and flourished in India at various times in history. Christianity and Islamic religion did not originate in India however one can find many holy places belonging to these religions spread across the country. All these religions have hundreds of places for pilgrimage and other rituals.
This is the ideal destination for a religious tour. One can choose to visit places of significance related to one religion or you can visit a region and choose to visit places of all the religions specific to that region. Temples and shrines are part and parcel of life of an average Indian. Rituals and religious ceremonies are countless and every day there is usually a religious festival or the like.

Rafting – Thousands of kilometers of river water in the Himalayas and other regions of India offer ideal locations for river rafting. One may find several variations in the rafting conditions. These variations include conditions suitable for beginners, that of a grade 0 and those for highly skilled professionals of a grade 5 and higher. Some of the rivers where rafting is possible are the Ganges (Rishikesh), Indus (Leh), Tista (Sikkim) and Beas (Kullu).

Wildlife – India shows amazing diversity in its flora and fauna throughout its regions and is home to more than 1,200 species of birds and 350 species of mammals. All of these species enjoy protection in 59 national parks and reserves and 372 sanctuaries of varying sizes and shapes. Tigers, one-horned rhinos and the highly endangered Indian elephant are just a few of the magnificent animals that this country is well-known for. One can watch these animals in their natural habitat in various wild life reserves spread across the country. The Peacock is the national bird of India and is exquisite to view while it is dancing. The spectacular colours in the wings of this bird are unique and breathtaking.

Beaches – With more than a 6,000km coastline, India is blessed with hundreds of virgin beaches. Anjuna beach, Calungute beach, Majorda beach and others in Goa offer world class facilities. Most of these beaches are safe for swimming and sun bathing. If one wishes to tan, ample sunshine is always available in these areas. Beaches in Goa and Kerala offer perfect holiday locations for the stressed-out city- dwellers. Also, some of these beaches also offer facilities for adventure sports like scuba diving, water skiing, water biking, angling and parasailing.

When to Go

Trekking season for Himalayan treks starts in May or June and may last through September or October. May through August is hot and humid in the plains and comfortable in the lower reaches of Himalayas.
You can visit the beaches throughout the year, although rain typically occurs from June to August.
You can visit the wild life reserves and sanctuaries for the majority of the year. Just remember India has extreme climate, in summer it is very hot with temperatures rising to the mid-forties in most parts of the plains. Winter is harsh in the plains and chilling in higher reaches of the Himalayas. Always check the weather ahead of your scheduled visit.

Top Tips

- When walking and trekking seek a specialist tour guide who will have invaluable local knowledge.
- Take time to acclimatize yourself while going for higher tracks.

Holidays In Focus

Walking and Trekking

India is a haven for trekkers. With smaller mountain ranges, vast jungles and awesome Himalayas, these offer immense possibilities for walks and treks. The Himalayas extend for more than 2,000km from east to west and has been divided into many ranges horizontally and vertically. Zanskar valley in the Himalayas offers many treks that will test the skills of any trekker.
These treks offer tourists to visit the famed Zanskar Valley encountering it up close to imbibe the spirit of the pristine and virgin heights of the mountains surrounding the valley. The deep gorges, wild flowers and the greenery of the fields are all very breathtaking. Watching and walking along Zanskar River in the trek offers an amazing experience. Throughout the winters, the valley is full of snow and can be accessed for a few months in summers through high passes.

The treks to the region come with different itineraries and will normally take one to Ladakh and Zanskar passing many Buddhist monasteries. The architecture of these monasteries exhibits Tibetan influence. One will also come across prayer flags fluttering in the wind along the way. Any of these places along the way may fill one with calmness and inner peace. The local culture of the valley has maintained its purity, leaving the people of the valley loving and warm-hearted.

The eastern side Sikkim offers many adventurous treks. Its lush green jungles and lofty heights present an ideal mix. Treks in this region let you experience many species of flora and fauna unique to the region taking one amid wilderness and the thick forest cover, which is bound to enchant any nature lover.

Sikkim is home to over 500 varieties of Orchids, most of which are native to the area. Their stunning colours and shapes must be seen to be believed. Sikkim, known to be home to many wild animals and birds, encompasses its wildlife with many being native to the particular area. Along with the rich and varied natural resources, the beauty of Sikkim lies in its unique and pristine trails.

The Kanchenjunga Mountain, the third highest mountain in the world offers a backdrop to many memorable treks. Kanchenjunga is a collection of 5 peaks, three of which are in Sikkim leaving two in Nepal. Kanchenjunga is a scared Mountain and is respected all over Sikkim. Two of the best treks in Sikkim take one to the north eastern and southeastern sides of the Kanchenjunga Mountain.

Culture

Home of many major religions of the world, India is an ideal destination for a religious tour. Travel destinations for such tours may be broadly classified in the following major categories on the basis of destinations belonging to different religions.

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions and majority of Indians (83%) are followers of Hinduism. Pilgrimage to their holy place is one of the rituals in Hinduism. Through the centuries, Hindus have been paying homage to their places of worship in this way. There are thousands of places of worship but some of these are special for historical and mythological reasons.

- Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath
- Hridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi
- Pushkar
- Mathura, Vrindavan, Dwarka
- Allahabad, Ujjain, Nasik
- Konark, Puri, Bhubaneswar
- Khajuraho
- Ayodhya, Rameshwarm
- Amarnarh
- Thanjavur, Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram and Trupati

Jain religion is close to the age of the Hindu religion. There are hundreds of shrines and temples devoted to the Tirthankars. Tirthankar in the Jain religion is one who has attained ultimate reality and is also a Guru. In the Jain religion there are 24 Tirthankars with the last of these Tirthankars being present about 2500 years ago. Some of the important Jain temples are:

- Dilwara Temple
- Khandagiri Caves and Udaygiri Caves
- Jain temples in the state of Uttar Pradesh

Buddha was born in a kingdom in Nepal and attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. After enlightenment for most of his life Buddha was traveling in the area covered by the present day states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India. In one of the last sermons to his disciple Ananda, Buddha said that the four most significant places of pilgrimage are Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar. A visit to these four places of pilgrim will constitute a Dharma Yatra.

Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji founded the Sikh religion. Guru Nanak and Panth (his followers) built the first Sikh temple at Katarpur in the state of Punjab in Northern India. There was a succession of nine Gurus from Guru Nanak's death until 1708 with Guru Gobind Singh ji remaining the last guru in the succession. Most of the holy shrines of the Sikhs are located in the state of Punjab in north India. Places of pilgrimage include Anandpur Sahib, The Golden Temple, Hemkunth Sahib, Damdama Sahib and Manikaran Sahib.

Shrines of these Muslim saints are popular places of pilgrimage even today. Most popular among these shrines is Ajmer Sharif in the state of Rajasthan. Historic churches of Goa are famous places of pilgrimage among Christians and can be seen.

Rafting

India has a number of Mountain Rivers which you can try. This makes it a world class destination for rafting. Some of the rivers that offer ideal locations for adventurous rafting are Ganges (Rishikesh), Indus (Leh), Tista (Sikkim), Beas (Kullu) and Sutlej (HP and Panjab).

One of the popular rafting expeditions is along the Alaknanda River, one of the tributaries of River Ganga. This expedition starts at Rudraprayag and ends at Rishikesh. Total expedition is about 130 km. On the course of expedition one will come across grade 3 and grade 4 rapids.

If you seek challenging rafting, then perhaps a rafting expedition along the river Sutlej would offer more satisfaction. This expedition offers up to level of 6 rapids. As one of the most difficult rivers to raft, the Sutlej River is wild with its rapids being tough and tricky.

Wildlife

The lush green forests in India are home to a wide variety of wildlife to see on your journey. The 59 National parks and numerous reserves and sanctuaries in the country offer safe home to its rich variety of flora and fauna. In the winter these wild life reserves also play host to a large number of migratory birds.
Some of the National parks, popular among locals and visitors are:

- Gir National Park for Asiatic Lion
- Jim Corbett National Park famous for Indian Tiger
- Ranthambore National Park
- Kanha National Park
- Valley of Flowers National Park
- Periyar National Park

There are also many bird and wildlife sanctuaries. Some of the popular among these are Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary and Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. The best way to explore these parks is through jeep safaris and elephant safaris.

Beaches

States along the east and west coast of South India and union territories are famous for their beaches. Most popular among these are Goa and Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar, Chenni, Karnataka, Andhra and Orissa.

Classic Itineraries

- Trekking to the Zanskar valley, Indus Valley, Sikkim destinations.
- Trip to Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Islamic & Christian places of pilgrimage.
- Rafting expeditions Subansari River Expedition, Glasshouse on the Ganges, Alaknanda River Rafting, Zanskar River Rafting Expedition, Rafting in Ganges and Sutlej River Rafting Expedition.
- Pilgrimage to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
- Trip to Beaches of Goa, Kerala and Orissa.
- Trip to Gir National Park for Asiatic Lion, Jim Corbett National Park famous for Indian Tiger and Periyar National Park.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

There are 30 World Heritage Sites within in India:
Cultural sites

- Agra Fort
- Ajanta Caves
- Ellora Caves
- Taj Mahal
- Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
- Sun Temple, Konârak
- Churches and Convents of Goa
- Fatehpur Sikri
- Group of Monuments at Hampi
- Khajuraho Group of Monuments
- Elephanta Caves
- Great Living Chola Temples
- Group of Monuments at Pattadakal
- Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
- Humayun's Tomb, Delhi
- Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi
- Mountain Railways of India
- Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
- Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
- Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)
- Red Fort Complex
- The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
- Hill Forts of Rajasthan

Natural sites

- Kaziranga National Park
- Keoladeo National Park
- Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
- Sundarbans National Park
- Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
- Western Ghats

National Holidays in 2014

The culturally diverse country of India celebrates literally hundreds (if not thousands) of different festivals, events and holidays throughout their annual calendar. There are a multitude of religious festivals: Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and more are all recognised, alongside India’s three national holidays.

Republic Day: 26 January 2014
Independence Day: 15 August 2014
Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday: 2 October 2014

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By Julie Bowman

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