India is a land of contradictions â here youâll find everything from busy marketplaces to quiet temples, lush forests to snowÃ¢ÂÂtopped mountains.
Its cities are a whirlwind of colour and exuberance, and are home to fascinating cultures and traditions. But this can also feel like the land that time forgot, with sleepy villages, overgrown fortresses and ancient hillside monasteries.
If youâre planning a trip to India, check out this handy travel guide for tips on the best things to see and do.
Â Explore the Taj Mahal - one of the most beautiful buildings on earth.
On their first holiday to India, many people choose to travel around the soÃ¢ÂÂcalled âGolden Triangleâ circuit. This threeÃ¢ÂÂstop journey takes in the cities of Delhi and Jaipur, as well as the worldÃ¢ÂÂfamous Taj Mahal building in Agra.
At Delhi, be sure to visit the cityâs stunning red sandstone monuments, such as the Qutab Minar Complex with its magnificent Islamic calligraphy. Or, invigorate your senses with a tour of the cityâs spice market â the largest of its kind in the whole of Asia.
Next, on to the Taj Mahal, described by some guides as the most beautiful building in the world. This soaring white edifice can be seen as the ultimate romantic gesture: it was designed by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Finish up in Jaipur, known as the âPink Cityâ because of the distinctive roseÃ¢ÂÂcoloured stones used in many of its most famous buildings. Take in an eagleâsÃ¢ÂÂeye view of the city at the majestic Nahargarh Fort, or dive in to the cityâs many bustling bazaars and try to grab a bargain.
If youâre after a more mystical experience, India has a multitude of sacred sites to offer. Weâd recommend heading to Varanasi, Hinduismâs holiest city. Here, on a series of wide steps (or âghatsâ) leading down to the Ganges River, Hindus gather to wash away their sins or to cremate their relatives.
At night, Varanasiâs ghats are the site of joyful celebrations. Worshippers light flickering candles and send them out onto the water, and the sound of bells echoes against the ancient riverside buildings.
Indian flavours are truly mouthÃ¢ÂÂwatering, and there are a dazzling variety of different dishes and cooking styles to sample across the subÃ¢ÂÂcontinent.
As a rough guide, food in India can be divided into the cuisine of Northern India and the cuisine of Southern India. In the north, they favour rich meat and vegetable dishes with onion, tomato and yoghurtÃ¢ÂÂbased sauces.
Southern Indians tend to prefer wholly vegetarian dishes, flavoured with a different range of ingredients including chilli and coconut. They also make greater use of rice â either as a sideÃ¢ÂÂdish, or as the base for making savoury pancakes and flatbreads.
If this talk of food has left you feeling thirsty, how about a cup of tea? India is the secondÃ¢ÂÂlargest producer of the tea leaves in the world, after China, and the drink has been enjoyed here for thousands of years.
For an authentic experience, be sure to purchase a steaming hot cup of chai tea from a street vendor in one of Indiaâs busy alleyways.
If youâre visiting India as a tourist, you should definitely budget for some time in the tropical paradise of Kerala.
One of Indiaâs southernÃ¢ÂÂmost states, Kerala is an emerald jewel in the subÃ¢ÂÂcontinentâs crown. This is a land of tea plantations, winding backwaters, and lush forests.
The best way to see more of Kerala is to hop on one of the many houseboats that cruise along its palmÃ¢ÂÂfringed canals. As you glide past paddy fields and rural villages, youâll experience the true nature of relaxation. Â
Come face-to-face with a tiger at one of India's wildlife reserves.
Or, why not travel to Indiaâs Western Ghats area, one of the worldâs biodiversity hotspots, for an ecotourism holiday? Head to one of the country'sÂ wildlife sanctuariesÂ to come faceÃ¢ÂÂtoÃ¢ÂÂface withÂ a tigerÂ â or spend a night camping in the jungle, if youâre brave enough!
Ecotourism is a great way to experience the countryâs enchanting wildlife, as some of the proceeds from your trip are usually reÃ¢ÂÂinvested into vital conservation work.
Lastly, journey to new heights with a visit to Indiaâs incredible Himalaya mountain range. This is a magical place, where youâll discover craggy peaks, ancient monasteries and brightlyÃ¢ÂÂcoloured prayer flags fluttering in the breeze.