Wanderlust Wednesday - Starter's Guide to India by Brendan Murphy

Hi, I’m Brendan and I am a Groups and Destination Specialist at ecruising.travel. Below is my starter's guide to India.

India evokes equal amounts of wonder and fear among potential travellers who have never set foot in the country before. For those that can leave their preconceptions at home, you will be rewarded with a life changing experience.

I confess, I am a self-diagnosed India tragic having travelled there 5 times myself over the last 15 years. My sixth trip was planned for this year but I have already moved my dates to 2021. I think I can safely say it is my favourite country!

India is a place like no other, a unique society that operates in way I like to describe as “organised chaos”. Everything from sights, smells and noises are supercharged in the big cities but apart from that it is the wide variety of experiences, scenery and people that keep me going back.

Each corner of the country is completely different whether it is the hustle and bustle of the west (Mumbai), the traditional North (Golden Triangle), the mystic East (Varanasi) or the European influenced South (Goa, Kerala).

I would like to share my suggested itinerary below with some additional highlights that can be added on depending on time.

 

Cruise Itinerary

More and more cruiselines are now including repositioning sailings from Asia to India as part of their programs with the most popular being the Singapore to Mumbai route.

Highlights of theses itineraries are overnight stays in Yangon, Myanmar, and Colombo, Sri Lanka, which allows you to explore these two destinations in much more depth.

Below are two sailings with Silversea in 2021 - these combined with an India land tour is an experience not to be missed.

Silversea Silver Spirit: https://www.ecruising.travel/product/78154/singapore-to-mumbai

Silversea Silver Whisper: https://www.ecruising.travel/product/79271/singapore-to-mumbai

 

Mumbai

There is nothing like the first day you set foot in Mumbai. Bustling and modern, this city is both the future and past of India. The “Gateway of India”, as the city is referred to, offers a myriad of interesting activities and well worth a 1 or 2 night stay.

From taking in a Bollywood tour to see where the magic happens, visiting the Dhobi Ghats where you can experience the worlds largest open air laundry which is unique to the city or seeing the cities famed ‘dabbawallas’ or ‘lunch box carriers’ in action delivering 175,000 lunches every day to workers, you won’t be sitting idle in Mumbai.

 

 

Golden Triangle

The traditional north in the state of Rajasthan has some of the most recognised sites in India, among them is the most famous, the iconic Taj Mahal. A Golden Triangle tour will take you 5 or 6 days but can be extended to include other cities and regions, some of which I have highlighted further on.

From Mumbai you would fly to the capital Delhi and at least an overnight stay in Delhi is always recommended as it has some sights well worth your time.

Whilst in Delhi some of the highlights which can be combined as a day tour include Humayun’s tomb which was an architectural precursor to the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar -  a minaret located in a sprawling 14th century complex and the Red Fort – a 17th century imperial palace which is now a museum.

 

The next stop on the itinerary will be Jaipur, home to the imposing Amber Fort. The drive from Delhi takes a bit over 4 hours (280 kms) and the great part about doing the Golden Triangle by road is all the weird and wonderful things seen along the way as well as travelling through smaller cities and towns seeing a different side of India to the big cities.

In Jaipur, along with a visit to the Amber Fort a day tour can take in other sites of the city including Hawa Mahal, an ornate pink and red sandstone palace and Janta Manur, a fascinating 18th century observatory with various astronomical instruments.

 

 

The best is kept to last on the Golden Triangle - Agra and the Taj Mahal. The journey by road from Jaipur takes around 4 hours (240 km).  Agra only requires a one night stay as, apart from the Taj Mahal, there are not too many other sites for tourists in Agra.

On arrival on the first evening I would recommend heading to Mehtab Bagh, a park located across the river from the Taj Mahal where you can enjoy an amazing sunset viewing and an opportunity for some wonderful pictures.

The following morning it is an early start to get to the Taj Mahal for sunrise. Getting there as early as possible allows you to view the mausoleum as it changes colour as the sun rises. Apart from the main structure itself there are some beautiful gardens to walk around and take in.

After a few hours exploring the complex, head back to Delhi which takes about 3 ½ hours (230 kms) and an overnight stay.

 

 

If you have some additional time and wish to explore India further I would suggest the below cities and regions;

Jodhpur

If time permits, there are other Rajasthan cities well worth visiting, none more so than Jodhpur in my opinion. Known as the “Blue City” due to its buildings and rooves being painted blue, this is a sprawling city which has the impressive Mehrangarh Fort perched on a nearby hill overlooking the city.

Enjoying a late afternoon drink on one of the roof top restaurants or bars whilst looking up to the fort as it slowly turns from light to dark is a particular highlight. The fort is lit up at night giving travellers a chance for some great photos!

This stop can be added into the start of a Golden Triangle itinerary as there are direct flights from Mumbai to Jodhpur then direct flights from Jodhpur onto Delhi.

 

 

Varanasi

When people talk about the mystical side of India there is no comparison when it comes to Varanasi. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, as well as being the holiest city to Hindus, you can’t help but get drawn in by its aura.

A boat ride along the River Ganges is a must when visiting this city. It is the best way to see the city and the day to day life of it’s people. The river is the lifeblood of the people and as such most things take place along it.

Negotiate the narrow and winding alleys of the old city with a walking tour. Here you will be exploring the ancient part of town on foot and see everyday life for the locals and the way life revolves around the River Ganges.

Varanasi can be added at the end of a Golden Triangle itinerary with direct flights from Delhi to Varanasi daily.

 

South India

For anyone that likes a bit of rest and relaxation, South India is the ideal foil to the North’s frenetic way of life.

South India has an altogether different feel to the rest of India with a more relaxed and laidback lifestyle. The influence of the Dutch and British is evident throughout the region whether it is the Catholic and Protestant churches or the more western style of clothes worn by the locals.

This is the place to go for seafood with catches coming straight off the boat and into the restaurants each morning. Whilst in Kochi, visits to the Church of St Francis (this first church built in India) and Fort Kochi are a must as well as a walk along the shoreline to look at the Chinese fishing nets, an iconic site of Kochi.

You can add the South onto the end of a Golden Triangle tour. There are daily direct flights from Delhi to Kochi and also direct flights from Kochi to Singapore for flights back to Australia.

Any questions or enquiries, please email Brendan at cruiseadmin6@ecruising.travel or call 1300 369 848

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