A great way to learn about new cultures and experience different ways of living is by traveling the world. Although it may feel intimidating to think about jet-setting across oceans, I did my research and carefully planned my trip, and it helped to greatly ease my anxiety. One place I hadn’t really considered as an awe-inspiring vacation spot was India. It’s one of the largest countries in the world with more than 1.3 billion people and covering more than 1.2 million square miles. There’s varying terrain, plenty of large cities, and some amazing landmarks I didn’t want to miss.
Tips for Travelers
It’s definitely easier to book cruises from NJ than to plan an international excursion. Few people are seasoned travelers when it comes to India, which is why it can be helpful to know a few tips before landing in a foreign country. The first element to my fun trip was staying calm at all times. Bustling cities with vendors, traffic, and locals all packed into a small area can be disorienting, but it was important not to be scared or panic. As with all metropolises, there were people looking to take advantage of tourists by selling overpriced goods or offering fake services. I had to remember to keep my common sense and not give into pestering salespeople. Another way I kept stress at bay was by pacing the trip so I could enjoy everywhere I went. It was tempting to pack as much as possible into each day in a new country, but that mindset can lead to exhaustion and frustration before having a chance to check everything off the travel list. I let myself spend a few days in all the cities I visited and built in time to rest in my hotel room between activities. I even found ways to escape the busy cities and enjoy India’s countryside for a day or two as a way of relaxing and decompressing from the fast pace.
Another helpful hint I discovered was to be mindful of food and drinks to avoid an upset stomach. India’s tap water is not always safe for drinking, so I opted for a bottled option to ensure I wasn’t afflicted with any water-borne illnesses. I even extended this rule to avoiding things that used tap water, such as fruit that was washed in it or ice made from it. Another food decision was to let myself acclimate to the way Indians cooked and the spices they used before diving head first into the cuisine. I did this by staying away from super spicy foods and street food vendors for the first few days of my trip until I figured out how my body reacted to the different flavors. I’ve heard if someone is concerned about their gut health or has a sensitive stomach, it’s not uncommon for visitors to keep vegetarian while in India to significantly reduce their risk of food-borne illnesses.
Finally, I took lots of time to make sure I chose the right route for my trip. As I mentioned earlier, India is a huge country with a plethora of amazing sights, so I chose the landmarks I especially wanted to see and made a plan to reach them all. To make the trip even easier, I could have picked a category of destination and found plenty of options to visit—such as religious sites, famous locations, beaches, mountains, or wildlife areas—but I wanted to see it all!
Some of the most famous sites in India are in its large cities, such as Delhi and Jaipur. One gem in Delhi was Akshardham, a cultural complex beautifully carved to resemble a palace. It has an awe-inspiring outside matched by a beautifully decorated interior, and the nearby Yamuna river provided sustenance for the lush gardens surrounding the temple. Next, I wanted to take a peek at the Bollywood scene, so I visited the Raj Mandir Cinema in Jaipur. It’s one of the best known theaters in the country, and its elegant design and staff made me feel like part of the elite. Another amazing site was the stepwell in Abhaneri, which was built in 8,000 B.C. and looks like a sunken village connected by stairways. This was just a little ways off the main road from Jaipur, so it made a great stop along the way from the cinema to my next destination. Another famous city for visitors is Udaipur, in the northwest region. Luckily, my stomach had adjusted by the time I reached this city, so I stopped in at the Natraj Dining Hall to experience some truly local cuisine. This stop isn’t a hub for tourists, so I tasted the real flavors of India.
Many people think of India as a religious and spiritual country, so I was determined to see as many temples as possible. Luckily, there was no shortage of holy places. I was traveling on the road from Udaipur to Jodhpur, so I stopped at the Ranakpur Jain Temple. This is one of the oldest Jain temples in the country, estimated to have been built sometime in the 15th century. Its massive structure was supported by roughly 1,400 pillars, and it was tucked back in the quiet jungle of the area to create a truly transformative experience. In Amritsar, I saw the most photographed temple in the country: the Sikh “Golden Temple.” Recognized by it’s gold-tipped towers and gold-leafed exterior, this temple is one I wasn’t going to miss. To round out my temple experience, I visited the Khajuraho Temples in Mahdya Pradesh. There were roughly 25 temples at this UNESCO World Heritage site, and they were all beautifully preserved examples of medieval era architecture. They’re famous for the intricate carvings in the buildings and the erotic statues scattered throughout the grounds.
The emotional toll of seeing famous landmarks and sacred places finally urged me to take a break and find some sites that weren’t so popular with visitors. Along the way to the famous travel destination Ladakh, I found a stop where I disembarked at Keylong and traveled to Lahaul, a beautiful valley area full of locals and serene energy from the predominant Hindu and Buddhist religions. It was a great place to enjoy a mountain escape without being surrounded by other travelers. For a more traditional escape, I wandered south to Karnataka, a favorite beach resort spot for local families. I enjoyed a sandy beach and explored the temple towns, fishing villages, and port cities along the way. For a more adventurous excursion, I ventured into northeast India and enjoyed the multitude of small cities nestled into the mountains and jungles. There were national parks chocked full of wildlife, tribal villages with unique people and customs, and an entirely different culture from the rest of India due to its proximity to southern Asia.
A trip to India can be a transformative experience, and there is certainly a lot to see. Keep the traveler’s tips in mind and be sure to plan a route according to what’s possible and how fast you could reasonably travel without wearing out. There are plenty of big cities with traditional attractions, but also options for those hoping to see a more authentic India and experience nature.