The view of an Indian desert dune from the hump of a camel would have to be one of life’s supreme travel moments. The textures and colours of the dunes in the late afternoon light are quite wondrous, as is the tranquility of rolling along on the backs of these gentle beasts. Matched only by watching the wide desert sunset, sleeping under the stars and waking to a soft silent sunrise.
Everything about Udaipur aka the City of Lakes is a highlight: view of the surrounding mountains from the hilltop lookout, palace on the hill, palace on the lake, twinkling night views from the lakeside restaurants, sunset boat trip, monkeys in the trees, cookery lessons, traditional dancing performances and miniature paintings on our thumb nails. Don’t miss it.
The best part of the Blue City, Jodhpur, is its fort: allow half a day to explore the buildings and another half day to zipline around its walls. This was the first time we’d ziplined. It wasn’t nearly as scary as we expected and the views of the city’s blue painted houses were spectacular.
The Amber Fort near Jaipur is amazing. So is Fatehpur Sikri outside Agra, the Qutab Minar in Delhi and the Kama Sutra temples complex in Khajuraho. The crumbling still-lived-in fort in Jaisalmer is also fascinating. India has such beautiful buildings.
Varanasi is truly an assault on the senses but in an ‘I can’t believe this is happening in this day and age’ kind of way. Let’s forget about the overwhelmingly frenetic throng of people and vehicles in the city itself and smash our senses in the great Ganges. Go out on a boat at sunset and see the large piles of wood ready to be used and the continuously rotating funeral ceremonies and burning pyres, shrouded bodies and the eventual deposit into the holy river itself, apparently now cleared of all sins, of the ashes of a life once lived. This is a sight not soon forgotten and the gaining of a fuller understanding of the deeply religious culture still firmly entrenched in Indian society.
Small towns Orchha and Basari exhibit the loveliest rural beauty, the views seeming sometimes like paintings sprung to life. Orchha has a wide rock strewn river next to its imposing fort, a perfect place to perch and watch the sunset. Basari has fields, farms and friendly people, as well as a beautiful heritage hotel and mini lake palace.
But the most memorable highlights of India are the animals and the food. Everywhere you go there are cows, goats, cows, dogs, cows, pigs, cows, elephants, cows, camels and did I mention cows? The variety of food is amazing. We never had the same meal twice. And the yoghurt lassis were to die for: every town had its own speciality from the buttery rich lemon lassis in Jodhpur to the refreshing cool coconut ones at Open Sky rooftop restaurant in Orchha.
There’s no denying that India is absolutely full on. At times you feel utterly overwhelmed by the dirt and dust. But it is truly unique. So grit your teeth, outlast the Delhi belly and build memories of a lifetime.
Written by Michael and Elizabeth Fab. Michael and Elizabeth have travelled with Tucan Travel on many of their tours in different regions around the world. This blog post was inspired by the Wonders of India and Nepal tour.