Not everybody wants to visit India. Most of my friends don’t even want to hear about traveling here.
People say it is too dirty, hygiene standards are lower in India than anywhere in the west and not to mention the chaos. Others say it is extremely tiring and difficult to get around so you can ruin your vacation.
Well, honestly, it is all true!
But there are so many other things why you should consider visiting India and so we did! We decided to travel to the north, and chose a travel agency to do so since we wanted to make the most out of our 10 days here and avoid losing time chasing transportation or waiting in line to enter the sights.
India is a huge and very diverse country with more than 1.2 billion people. Different regions have their own distinct cultures. Language, religion, food and arts are just some of the various aspects of Indian culture. Not to mention the landscape: from the Himalayan Mountain Range to the vast region of the Thar Desert; from the exotic destinations of Kerala to the green valley of the north.
After traveling to Northern India we made a list with some of the things why you should visit it.
Takes you out of your comfort zone
Well, this is the most important thing.
If you are looking for a relaxing and confortable vacation, obviously this trip is not for you, because India is about experiencing. It’s about testing you limits and learning about yourself and about others. After visiting India you will learn to appreciate more and more your european standard of living. It is one of the few countries that can have a huge impact on your senses.
You can get a rickshaw ride and lose yourself in the chaos of Old Delhi
Chandi Chowk Bazar is the commercial part of Old Delhi and one of the oldest markets of India.
This is a must thing to do while in Delhi, it is so intense that for sure it will be a lifetime experience.
Here, on the small narrow and busy streets you can find all the activities you can thinks of.
The streets are fully packed. The area is a dense chaotic center of trade for food, or spices and an indian way of life.
All your senses will come alive, as you will see the many captivating sight and sounds. It is really chaos, but surprisingly, things are somehow working.Every second, while riding through the streets we had the impressions that we will crash into something. We were in the middle of the famous Old Delhi Traffic: rickshaws, bikes, motorbike, cards, pedestrians, monkeys and many other things.
This is the real feel of India.
You can be romantic on a Rooftop facing The Palace of the Winds (Jaipur)
Hawa Mahal is known as the Palace of the Winds and one of the most beautiful palaces in Jaipur.
It has 953 windows covering the facade of the Palace, specially designed to allow the ladies of the royal family to watch the street drama unobserved from behind their sumptuous windows, because ladies of the royal family where not allowed to walk freely in the city.Theses facade is really amazing and it is one of the finest examples of Rajput architecture in India.
The palace faces the main street of the Old City, and it looks amazing early in the morning when it has direct light from the sun, but especially in the night, when it is lighted up.
The best place to admire the Winds Palace is at the Wind View Café, on the rooftop of the opposite building.
It is the perfect spot to be romantic enjoying a drink or a cup of masala chai.
We had a great and relaxing time here. Love it!
Relax at the Qutab Minar Complex (Delhi)
Qutab Minar is one of Delhi’s top attraction and our favorite one.
This tower is very old. It was constructed by the first ruler of Delhi, using marble and red sandstone and it is the tallest brick minaret in the world.
It has a spiral staircase, which takes you to the top. Unfortunately, the interior can’t be visited. After an accident, it was closed.
We loved the complex of Qutab Minar. Once housed 27 ancient Hindu and Jain temples. These have unfortunately, been destroyed but some ruins can still be seen around the complex. It was a pleasure to walk around these ruins in a green oasis, a lovely park in the middle of chaotic Delhi.
Get an ayurvedic treatment
Ayurveda is practiced in India for over 5,000 years and it is a traditional Hindu system of medicine which is based on the idea of balance using herbal diet, treatments and yoga breathing.
Ayurvedic resorts and Spas in India have become very popular as destinations for relaxation.
Therefore, while in India you should try at least a session of Ayurvedic massage.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the time to do it, but next time in India, we will make sure to try it.
Play with the monkeys, in Monkey Temple (Jaipur)
Galta Ji is a large Hindu temple complex 10 km away from Jaipur. The temple itself is not that impresive but the main attraction is that it has a large monkey colony. All of them roam around freely and this is the reason why the temple is nick named – The Monkey temple.
Barun Mishra, our guide, arranged for us a visit to this temple “hiring” the most famous Monkey Man on the planet.
In the beginning, we were not having great expectation from the man, but slowly we realized that this man can somehow communicate with the monkeys and they seem to understand him.
With his help we could get very close to the monkeys without ending up with bite or scrath marks. We petted and fed them and one of them wanted was in the mood to be carried on my shoulder for a long walk inside the temple.Although Monkey Man was not a guide, he was more than happy to show us the temple and tell us more things about the monkeys. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the guy, but for sure you can find him on facebook as he is very famous and has his own documentary.
The temple complex is set on 3 different levels. The actual temple was at ground level and then somewhere up there are 2 separate water pools, one of women and the other for men.
Coming here was a very good decision. We really enjoyed our visit and we recommend it.
Visit the Taj Mahal (Agra)
What can I say about Taj Mahal that hasn’t already been said?
The monument is a temple of love constructed by Shah Jahan in honor of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, as you all know.
The structure is striking from the minute you set eyes on it.Visiting Taj Mahal at any time of the day is exciting. It changes color depending on what time of day you visit. Try early morning for purples and pinks, late morning for bright gleaming white and late afternoon for soft orange and peach.
We would have loved to see it under bright sun, but it was not the case for us. Unfortunately, we had many foggy days during our tip. The morning when we visit the Taj Mahal was not an exception. Even so, Taj Mahal in the mist is a unique experience.
We spent some time walking along the complex and it was not enough. It is never enough.
There are many different perspectives to see Taj Mahal: One of them is across the Yamuna River to the Mehtab Bagh Gardens, from where you can see the Taj reflecting romantically in the calm waters and the second one is during the night. Once a month on the full moon, Taj Mahal is open for nighttime visit. Sadly, we missed this rare opportunity.
You can enjoy a colorful celebration or festival
India is a very religious country with a diversity of religions and beliefs, from Hinduism, Buddhism, Janism to Sikhism. Almost every day there is a festival or a celebration somewhere in India.
Be sure to participate in these festivals because they are quite fascinating, enchanting and very colorful.
You can have a strol in the Old Streets of Bikaner (Bikaner)
Bikaner is one of the most popular city in Rajasthan, known for its beautiful palaces and havelis, having excellent architectural design. The city was established along the flourishing trade and of course because it had a wealthy merchant class that profited from the trade route. They were responsible for the opulently decorated houses in the city center.
It is a pleasure to walk around these havelis. They style is unique combining of Rajput style perfectly blend with Victorian and Mughal architecture.It is like walking in an open-air museum. The old city has a few gorgeous havelis, each more beautiful then the next. Most remained empty and locked up, once the owners moved along the new commercial routes.
The pride of Bikaner si Rampuria havelis, which was the home of Merchants family, Rampuria.
For us it was a trill to have a walk along this amazing place caught in a time warp.
Stay in a real Maharaja’s Palace, The Lallgarh Palace Hotel (Bikaner)
In the early 20th century, the royal family of Bikaner moved into the new sparkling Lallgarh Palace. It is a three-story complex, which represent a mix of British, Rajput and Mughal architecture and huge lawns.
The royal family divided the palace in three parts. They kept one wing as the private royal residence. Is where the family still lives.
The Lallgarh Palace Hotel wing, which is still run by the current members of the royal family.
The Laxmi Niwas Palace Hotel wing, which is put under a trust and run by a private entity.
We spent the night in Lallgarh Palace Hotel.
Here we had the experience of staying in a palace and have a glimpse of the royal life.The first thing that we did was to enjoy the gardens and have a walk around this beautiful gem.
The rooms of the hotel have retained much of heritage value with old furniture, chandeliers and a well-maintained paintings and hunting trophies collection.
Everything had a certain old vibe, which we liked. We think that it added a lot to the real character of the place.
If you travel to Bikaner, don’t miss this hotel.
Food. Try Rajasthan’s dishes
In India most of the restaurants serve local food, so you will have to try some.
Indian food means spices and I mean a looot of spices and I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Indian food, instead Costin loves it.
It is a symbol, a cultural heritage and a way of life. The food here is exactly like India. There are 29 states in India and each of them with its own traditions. Head 100 km in any direction and the religion, language and culinary customs will be completely different.
The food experiences vary based on the landscape and climate, not to mention historic immigration patterns, spices, trade links, rulers and religions.
In northern destinations, you might find flatbreads and tandoor-grilled kebabs, while southern Indians dine on sweet coconut fish curries and rice.
We tried mostly Rajasthan cuisine which is more of a fusion of influences. It was influenced by warriors and the availability of ingredients in this arid region.
Basically, clay ovens known as tandoors are popular in the North, giving dishes like Tandoori Chicken and Naan bread (Yamm) their distinctive charcoal flavor. Milk and yogurt are all used regularly and Samosas, fried pastries stuffed with potatoes and occasionally meat, are a distinctive snack. Korma is a creamy curry of coconut milk or yogurt, cumin, coriander. It can be served with different meats, usually chicken or lamb and as well with a vegetarian dish.
You can visit the spectacular Agra Fort (Agra)
Taj Mahal overshadows one of the finest Mughal fort in India – the spectacular Agra Fort also called the Red Fort, which is a treasure of Mughal architecture. It is complex mixture of different cultures.
It is more of a walled city than an actual fort and it was used as the capital of the Mughal Dynasty until it was relocated to Delhi.The beauty of the palace is something that must be seen to be believed.
It was a pleasure to walk through courtyard after courtyard of this red sandstone fortress in the light of the sunset.
The palace has a unique story. The fort was built initially as a military structure, but Shah Jahan, the emperor that constructed Taj Mahal, transformed it into a palace, and later on it became his prison, for eight years after his son seized power.
Ride a Camel cart in Suroth village – One in a lifetime experience (Suroth village)
This was one of the highlights of our tip to India. Wandering around a non touristic village and visiting a local family was the perfect way to understand the real and authentic India.
Camel carts are used for transportation almost everywhere in Rajasthan. For centuries, before the buses, cars or motorbike, camel and camel carts were the main way of transportation.Barun, our guide, came with the idea of booking some carts to go and see the local life of the villagers and we agreed almost instantly.
It was such a strange feeling to sit on that unstable cart dragged by a camel, but it was lots of fun.
We wandered through the village in that misty morning. We went down many narrow street observing the daily life.
At some point stopped to visit a local family. People open their house to us, showed us everything. We got a chance to learn about the life of family residing here and explore the houses made of clay.
While preparing masala traditional chai, the lady of the house was telling us about her life, the priorities in her life and the importance of the education in her children life.It was a very interesting way of seeing things, way different from our western understanding of a good life.
This particular moment, makes you understand that life is not about material stuff, is not only about yourself and it is not about the titles and riches.Sadly, the most happiest people we met during our trips around the world, where not rich or famous. They barely had a home and food to feed their families, but they were happy with themselves and their life.
The camel cart ride is a totally non-touristy way to enjoy the Rajasthan countryside, and it is an unique experience.
Step back in time in Fatehpur Sikhri (Agra)
Near Agra, there is a place called Fatehpur Sikhri, or the City of Victory, that one was the proud of the Mughal Empire.
The Great Emperor Akbar constructed this city with huge expectation, but no long after the city was complete, it had to be abandoned by its own people because the water supply was insufficient.
Today the red sandstone city is a ghost place but it is a very good place to see well preserved Mughal architecture and imposing monuments. We loved the Palace complex where the Emperor Akbar and his three wives lived. This is actually the main attraction of the place, because the city is in ruins.
Well, India is the perfect place to buy some special things, like spices, which are famous all over the world. From the ancient time, spices were exported through spices routes.
There are also the famous and colorful indian textile. India is still among the first produces of silk and cotton the in world, so India is the perfect place to buy some perfect souvenirs.Indian jewelry are as old as the Indian civilization. Jewelry is considered auspicious for women in India, even the poorest of the poor women will have some kind of jewelry with them. Gold used to symbolize wealth of a family.
Follow the royal steps in Amber Fort (Jaipur)
Located very close to the “Pink City” of Jaipur, amber Fort was the original home of Rajput royalty and has a lot of magnificent palaces, halls garden and temples inside.
The construction of the fortress-palace of white and red sandstone began in 16 century.
Amber it is a must see because more than a ford and a spectacular palace, it offers a wonderful view over Jaipur.
Learn about rural life off the tourist trail in Suroth Village
Suroth is la large village located in Karauli district of Rajasthan.
On our in Indian adventure, we had a stop here for the night, at Suroth Mahal. Arriving early, we had the chance to have a walk through the village.
In the beginning we were little afraid, because it was so rustic and authentic like never seen before, but soon we understood that the villagers were so friendly.People of this village are living a very peaceful life having agriculture as the main activity.
As we wandered the streets, we were more and more fascinated by the locals and they were fascinated by us.
We had so much fun just interacting and talking with the children. I have to say that here was the perfect way to see the real life of India where people are authentic.
You can stay in a 700 years old fortress at Suroth Mahal – a heritage hotel (Suroth village)
This is a unique experience.
A renovated old palace built on a 700 years old fortress in the middle of a local village.
The place looks fantastic, like in the old stories of maharajas.The first step we did inside was to have a wow moment and till the time of our departure we haven’t had a dull moment.
Suroth Mahal may not have been the most modern hotel on our India tour and it may not have had the greatest facilities, but what it offered by far was the most amazing things!
Watch a Bollywood theatre show (Agra)
I think everyone knows about Bollywood. While in India, you shouldn’t miss a Bollywood style show. It add flavor to your Indian Tour.
We had the chance to see a show that depicts the love story of Emperor Shajahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal and the story of Taj Mahal, in Agra. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures or to film to show you some insights so you will have to trust us that it is one in a life time experience.
The live show is in Hindi but interpretation is available in many languages through headphones.
Costume are great, the energy and dancing was really nice and adds to the joy of the night.
You can visit the largest Hindu temple in the world (Delhi)
Near the Yamuna River there is one of the most impressive structure of India –Akshardham.
At the sight of the complex, we were breathless. It was such an impressive piece of architecture.
It is a quite new temple, because it was constructed in 2005 by thousands of artisans who carved breathtaking pieces of art using traditional methods.
The temple is a house of worship dedicated to devotion, education and unification and the spiritual premise is that each soul is potentially divine.Everything is spectacular and you shouldn’t miss visiting it.
Unfortunately, photo equipment of any kind is not allowed. In fact, no electronic devices like phones are allowed either.
Our Northern Indian was possible with the help of Nefertiti Travel (Romania), partner of Karpaten Travel (Romania), partner of Sita Travels (India)