Grandly protruding into the Indian Ocean, India is more of a continent than a country. This subcontinent covers every topographical wonder, from white sandy island beaches and tropical forests to high deserts and soaring mountain ranges. Discover 5,000 years of human history, beginning with one of the oldest civilizations of the Indus River Valley who merged with Aryan invaders around 1500 B.C.E. to create the classic Indian culture that still thrives today. With 26 World Heritage Sites sprinkled about the country, it is easy to be immersed in the intricacies of local culture in nearly each of the 28 states and 7 territories.
Thriving Cities and Clashing Cultures: The Beauty of the North
The northern region of India is an assorted mix of cultures, traditions, languages and arts. The vulnerability of this area to outside invaders throughout history has been both a blessing and a curse, bringing with the turmoil unique external influences and inspirations. The capital city of New Delhi, with its mix of four major religions, 7 reigns of power and 2500 years of history, is a prime example of coexisting realities. Wind your way through Old Delhi and be surrounded by remnants of the Mughal Empire, including the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid, and Humayun’s Tomb, a 16th century landmark of breathtaking Mughal architecture that would later be echoed in the Taj Mahal. New Delhi is almost a different world with its imperial architecture and broad stately boulevards. Colonial influence is abundant since the British declared Delhi the capital during their rule. The Taj Mahal is also in the north, about 200 kilometers from Delhi. This is the most iconic demonstration of Mughal construction and should not be missed.
A Light into the Heartland: Travel India’s South
Travel to the more culturally homogenous south of India and witness thousands of years of the caste system still in practice despite the more modern structure of India’s government. With its alluring tales of trade and independence, Goa is one of the most popular destinations along the Indian coastline. Among Goa’s ancient ruins stands the Vittala Temple, a monumental tribute to the capital city of the primeval Vijayangara Empire. Most notable are the temple’s musical pillars that represent different musical instruments. Goa’s intricate architecture and independent culture are also products of 450 years of Portuguese colonial rule. In the south, the traveler will also encounter a plethora of biodiversity and protected wilderness areas. The Western Ghats Range is classified as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots where Silent Valley National Park protects India’s last tract of virgin tropical evergreen forest.
When to Travel to India
Despite the gargantuan size of this subcontinent, there are distinct seasons during which travel anywhere in the country can be extraordinarily uncomfortable and stressful. From April to October, temperatures soar above 90F (45C) and humidity escalates to unbearable levels. October also marks the end of the monsoon season during which the southern and coastal regions are plagued with torrential downpour. The rest of the year is very pleasant and mild with consistently warm weather in the south and rather chilly evenings in the north between December and February.