Some people think that there's nothing interesting in India. They associate this country with trash, beggars, slums, and poor people. Of course, all of these are present in this country, but it's not defined by either poverty or dirt. It has so much to offer to the travelers that it makes me sad that some people skip this country, choosing to hold on to their stereotypes.
In reality, if people put off their stereotypes, they'll see how amazing India is. This enormous country has most kinds of natural zones, from tropics to snowy highlands. Its cuisine is delicious and it doesn't only revolve around rice. It's an incredibly spiritual country, which makes it an ultimate destination for those people, who are seeking liberation from the shackles of body and mind. And its cultural heritage is even bigger than you can imagine.
Few countries can have as deep of an impression of travelers, as India does. If you come here for a long enough time, you can't help but embrace all its oddities in favor of the amazing experiences it offers. Keith Bellows from the National Geographic Society has put it perfectly:
"There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds… I had been seeing the world in black & white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor."
Are you ready to learn why exactly India is so amazing and why you're going to fall in love with it after the first visit? There're at least 20 reasons!
20 Friendly, Hospitable, And Helpful People
You might think that people in India are keen on swindling tourists. Well, you're not entirely wrong, because there are scammers. However, there're even more good and friendly people, who are always ready to come and help.
When I was in India, I met a lot of friendly locals. Some of them helped me to buy railway tickets. Others facilitated the process of finding the accommodation I booked. And some just wanted to have a small chat, asking simple questions like, "Where are you from?" and "Do you like India?"
They don't want anything from you - they're just really helpful and curious. They believe in karma, after all, and know that whatever they do to others will return to them.
19 Amazing Food Options
India is a heaven for foodies, and especially for vegetarians. Being a foodie and a vegetarian, I couldn't but appreciate their national cuisine, when I was in India. They use a huge amount of spices that make their food flavorful and delicious. Due to their seemingly magical cooking abilities, they turn even the simplest ingredients, such as lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, and rice, into a gastronomic masterpiece. And if you're into spicy food... Well, just mark my words and go to India as soon as you get a chance to try it all by yourself!
It's interesting that traditional cuisine in India is completely different in the north and south of the country. So if you visit both, you'll get two different gastronomic experiences!
18 Myriad Of Different Temples
In any city you visit in India, whether big or small, popular or not, you are sure to find a number of beautiful temples. In Delhi, the country's capital, you can attend the Lotus Temple that'll amaze you with its splendor. In Rishikesh, the renown capital of yoga, you'll see a number of temples and ashrams that rival in their simple beauty. In Dharamshala, the residence of the Dalai Lama, you can take a walk in and around the Kalachakra Temple and feel its peaceful atmosphere. In Bodhgaya, visit the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, where Buddha attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago. One of the biggest numbers of ancient temples you'll find in Bangalore, the capital of the southern state of Karnataka, that's also called the City of Thousand Temples.
So whether you're a believer or not, you just have to visit some of the temples, while you're in India!
17 And One-Of-A-Kind Architecture
Not only temples but many other constructions in India also have unique architectural designs that won't remind you of anything else in this world. For example, the jaw-dropping architectural marvel you can see in the photo above is Mahabat Maqbara. Located in Junagadh, a historic city in the western state of Gujarat, it presents an amazing mixture of Gothic and Islamic ornamentation and serves as a tomb to Bahar-ud-din Bahar.
Nalanda, a Buddhist center of learning in Bihar, Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, impressive man-made Ajanta caves in Maharashtra, as well as numerous palaces and mausoleums. And I don't even want to talk about the world-renown Taj Mahal! Can you believe that you may see it all in a single country?
16 Wonderful Nature Everywhere You Look
India is a vast country. For this reason, going to different parts of it, you're going to be amazed by the varying natural zones, from mountains and hills to seas and oceans, to steppes and grasslands. And in each one of these zones, you're also going to see impressive wildlife species. Sure, no one can be amazed by monkeys, who literally live all over the country. But what about elephants and rhinos? Lions and tigers? And, of course, green Indian ring-neck parrots? If you have never seen these and many other species of animals, come to India and visit one of its numerous natural parks. The experience will be unforgettable!
So if you love nature as much as I do, you're certainly going to enjoy visiting India!
15 The Most Magnificent Mountains In The World
Speaking about mountains, be sure to visit the majestic Himalayas that span 5 northern states of the country, as well as its two eastern states. This is a very important region for the entire country because it's responsible for providing water to a large part of the Indian subcontinent. The mountains also have a huge spiritual significance for the people in India. Some of them are even considered to be the abode of gods. For example, the famous Mount Kailash is the abode of Lord Shiva and believers often make a pilgrimage to its foot to meditate and feel the atmosphere of this special place.
If you want to gaze at these magnificent mountains and have a trekking trip there, the best cities to visit in India are Shimla, Leh, Srinagar, Dharamshala, Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dehradun, and, of course...
14 Numerous Options Of Spiritual Development
... Rishikesh. The World Capital of Yoga, this city became a favorite destination for a lot of travelers (including me) for a reason. Located in the footsteps of the Himalayas, it's not only incredibly beautiful, but it's also full of opportunities for those, who strive for spiritual development. There are numerous ashrams, including the large Parmarth Niketan that hosts the International Yoga Festival every March, as well as Sivananda Ashram, Swami Dayananda Ashram, and the currently abandoned ashram of Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, aka the Beatles Ashram, where The Beatles had a three-week meditation retreat back in 1968.
All functioning ashrams, as well as a number of hotels and yoga studios, offer yoga courses to everyone who'd like to embrace this ancient technique.
13 The Country Of Music Lovers
Music is an essential part of people's lives in India. It's not only a form of entertainment, but it's also a means of connecting with the divine. Indian musicians sing mantras to improve their concentration and meditate. And they also create special forms of melodies called Ragas that have a divine quality in them and create a special meditative atmosphere. It is even said that some of these Ragas need to be played at a certain time of the day to get the most benefit from them.
In India, there's a huge amount of traditional instruments that play distinctly from those we're used to. For example, do you know about sitar, sarod, sarangi, tabla, and shehnai? If you're interested in what these and other Indian music instruments are, go here.
12 Anyone Can Find Good Weather For Themselves
Since India is so vast and it covers a number of different natural zones, weather all across the country is completely different. While some of the southern regions feature tropical climate and are hot and humid all year long, northern parts of India (especially those located in the mountains) can even get some snow during winter months. So you'll certainly find a perfect spot for yourself, whether you like heat or cold, oceanic tides or snow, humidity or mild climate.
According to many travelers, the best climate in India can be found in Bangalore, Karnataka. The city known as an IT hub of India, it's located at an elevation of 900 meters above the sea levels and it features a very mild climate with cool winters and not too hot summers.
11 Taking A Dip In The Holy River
For people living in India, Ganges is a holy river whose waters can wash away all sins and cure of any illnesses. Of course, it sounds too good and too easy to be true, but the river still has a huge significance for the Indian culture.
You can certainly take a dip in the Mother Ganges, as Hindus call this river, but only if you know where to do it. For example, in Varanasi, a sacred city, where all Hindus dream to have their bodies burnt, you can see a lot of locals taking a dip, swimming, and even drinking water from the Ganges. But foreign tourists shouldn't follow their lead, because the water is extremely contaminated.
But if you go to Rishkesh, a city located not far from the river head, you can safely take a dip, because the water there is much, much cleaner (but still, don't drink it!).
10 India's Culture Is Richer Than You Can Imagine
India is an abode of cultural heritage. It's a country of people of different sects and religions, who have learned with time to respect each other's beliefs and coexist peacefully. Every part of India has its own dialect and it makes its own contribution to the culture of the entire nation. People in India believe in their traditions and they strive to preserve their culture as much as possible.
Can you realize that throughout the ages this country has been invaded by different nations more than once or twice? Its political and economic regime changed multiple times. But against all odds, India managed to preserve its cultural heritage. Doesn't it make this country amazing?
9 Haggling Is Fun!
When you come to the market in India, don't expect sellers to give you a good price right away. Most likely, they'll tell you a price that exceeds the real one by 2, 3, or more times. So be ready to haggle, and haggle a lot!
Don't think that when sellers name a high price, they want to fool you. Sometimes they do, but most often they just want communication. If you begin to haggle, it means that you begin chatting with them. Just do it once and you'll see how the look on their face will change! Both of you will certainly have a lot of fun agreeing on a price and you'll have one more thing to remember from your trip when you come back home.
8 Incredible Photography Options
If you like taking photos, India will become a paradise for you! Wherever you look, you'll see some great photography opportunities. For example, if you come to Jodhpur, a city in the state of Rajasthan, that's also called the Blue City, you're going to feel like you got into a fairy-tale. Or do you want some other colors? Then go to Jaipur, the Pink City, or Jaisalmer the Golden City. If you prefer a burst of colors, visit India during the Holi festival (we'll talk more about it in the next entry).
And even if you don't expect anything in particular, you'll certainly find some great photography options. Cows strolling along the streets, Sadhus sitting near the Ganges and meditating, and even women sweeping up trash and wearing a colorful sari - wouldn't you want to add these photos into your personal collection?
7 Catch A Festival And You'll Come Back For More
India can be called a land of festivals. There are lots of religious festivals, such as the birthdays of Krishna, Ganesha, or Buddha. They also celebrate harvest festivals that will supposedly help them gather an even larger harvest next seasons. And, of course, there're Diwali and Holi, probably the most famous celebrations in India. Let's discuss them in more details.
Diwali, aka the Festival of Lights, is held in November. At this festival, people light numerous candles and burst firecrackers. Holi, aka the Festival of Colors that marks the beginning of spring, is usually celebrated in March. On this day, people throw brightly colored powders all over the place and dance underwater sprinkles. If you happen to be at either of these festivals, you'll have so much fun!
6 Beach Vacay, Anyone?
In case a vacation at a seaside is what you want, India can provide it, as well. This country features 7,500 kilometers of coastline. Unfortunately, not all of it is pristine and some of the beaches need extensive cleaning. But you can still find some wonderful stretches if you know where to look for them.
Come to Kerala or Goa, if you want to have your vacation in a touristy place and meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world. And if you want to stay away from the crowd, you might prefer Tarkarli in Maharashtra, Gokarna in Karnataka, and, of course, the Andaman and Nicobar islands. In any place you choose, you can certainly find accommodation to your budget and enjoy your stay.
5 Take A Train Ride, Or Two (Or More)
Indian Railway system is fascinating. Not only is it the largest employer in the world, but it also gives tourists an unforgettable traveling experience. Depending on how adventurous you are, you can choose one of several classes. There's an unbelievably cheap sleeper car, where all locals are traveling, AC-3 that's preferred by those, who like more comfortable trips, AC-2 and AC-1, where you can get some more space and privacy.
Whatever class you choose, try to get a seat near a window, because you're going to see a number of incredible sights.
A little note to keep in mind when booking a ride: Trains are almost always late (at one of my rides in India, the train was 8 hours late to the destination). So if you have plane tickets or other important plans at your destination, consider the possible delay and plan accordingly.
4 You'll Look At Everything Differently After Visiting India
If you stay in India for a long enough period of time, it'll certainly change you, at least a little bit. After seeing the slums, you'll become more compassionate and appreciate the way you live. After communicating with locals, you'll be amazed at how friendly and helpful people on this planet can be, even when they literally have nothing. After contemplating the incredibly rich culture of this country, you'll realize how little you know about this world. After witnessing the burial rituals in Varanasi, your attitude toward death will become completely different. And after taking a meditation retreat or a yoga course, you'll find out a little bit more about yourself and acquire the aspiration for spiritual development.
3 It's Impossible To See All In One Trip
India is incredibly large and it has so many interesting places. It's absolutely impossible to visit all of them in a single trip, even if you spend there a whole year (it's unlikely that you will because traveling during monsoon is almost impossible).
There are grand cities that feature marvelous architecture and have a rich history. There are temples and shrines that will inspire you to meditate and, perhaps, do yoga. There are national parks, where species of numerous animals live and prosper. And there are also mountains, beaches, grasslands, and many other natural sights that will amaze you with their beauty. You will surely want to come back to this fascinating country to see them all!
2 India Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity
If you want to restore your faith in humanity, come to India. And to get the biggest effect, come to Amritsar and visit the famous Golden Temple. It's the most sacred place for the Sikh religion that accepts thousands of pilgrims daily. Its dining halls, aka langars, offer food for all these people every single day, for free. Most of the people who cook it are volunteers and most of the products are donated.
Please note that the food is being cooked there all day long in a non-stop mode and the place is never closed for worshipers and travelers alike. No one has ever turned away and everyone is welcome to the feast. How amazing is it?
1 It's Crazy, But It'll Steal Your Heart
When I first came to India, I was shocked by the hectic lifestyle, crowds of people, piles of trash lying here and there, and crazy traffic. Of course, the first city I saw was Delhi, which is kind of insane, but still...
But then, little by little, I got used to India. Seeing other cities of this vast country and diving into its cultural heritage, I learned to appreciate it. I'll tell you more - I fell in love with it. Now, when I hear about India, I have a special yearning in my heart. I feel the desire to come back there, explore more of it, and let it change me a little bit again.
It's interesting that I'm not the only one, who fell in love with this crazy country because a lot of travelers had a similar experience. Are you ready to have it, too?