The Wanderlust Guide to the Best of India

From the foothills of the Himalaya to the verdant south, India is a kaleidoscopic assault on all of your senses. Here’s where to start

4 mins

Many travellers coming to India for the first time choose to visit the ‘Golden Triangle’ – a trio of the capital Delhi, Agra with its world-famous Taj Mahal, and Jaipur, the 'Pink City' with Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds. After a week on the move you'll start to understand why so many visitors to India end up staying for months – or years.

And there are so many alternatives, too. Rajasthan in the northwest is the India that many people imagine: women dressed in brightly-coloured saris, majestic palaces and forts, and camels swaggering through the desert. Mumbai is a deceptively modern city and home to Bollywood. Head south and the pace slows, with rice-boats cruising idyllic backwaters of Kerala. And at every turn, you'll find reminders of thousands of years of historical and religious tumult.

What’s not to love?

Holi in India (

Holi in Delhi, India (Shutterstock)

Looking for inspiration?

OK. Let’s get you started. David Abram has put together a handy guide to planning your trip to India, with suggested itineraries, depending on what side of India you want to see. If you’ve got the time, you might want to combine all six.

David has also put together more specific guides to exploring the ancient temples of Hampi, the tightly knit backstreets of Jodhpur, and Kutch, a region the Indians regard as a ‘land apart.’

Dan Linstead, on the other hand, wants you to follow him down some dusty desert tracks to the hidden corners of Rajasthan, Martin Symington wants to make you a cuppa in Darjeeling and Paul Bloomfield is heading off on a walking tour of Indian villages and suggests you come along too.

If your soul needs soothing, Piers Pickard has advice on how to find Nirvana in India. And the Wanderlust Team have put together the ultimate top 5 guide to India’s spiritual HQ, Varanasi.

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How to plan your trip to India – David Abram

Hampi: Visit Ancient India – David Abram

Jodhpur: The Sapphire City – David Abram

Kutch: A land apart – David Abram

Desert tracks: Exploring the hidden corners of Rajasthan – Dan Linstead

Trekking in Darjeeling – Martin Symington

A walking tour through India’s villages – Paul Bloomfield

Finding Nirvana in India – Piers Pickard

Ultimate top 5 guide Varanasi – The Wanderlust Team

Tiger in India (Dreamstime)

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

India’s wildlife superstar is undoubtedly the tiger. Indeed, spotting one of these magnificent beasts slowly padding through the forest is a highlight for many travellers.  Paul Goldstein has made it his life’s mission to save these amazing creatures, and offers 6 tips for watching tigers in India that reward both you and the tiger equally.

William Gray discusses tracking tigers on foot and sings their praises in a piece entitled The Wonderful Thing About Tigers. (As if you need telling!). If you’re all tigered-out, Lyn Hughes has the latest on seeing rhinos in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park. And Rom Whitaker offers tips on the best places to see leopards. (You may be surprised to learn that the outskirts of Mumbai is one of them.)

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6 tips for tiger watching in India – Paul Goldstein

Tracking tigers on foot in India – William Gray

The Wonderful Thing About Tigers – William Gray

Rhinos in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park – Lyn Hughes

India’s leopards with Rom Whitaker – Peter Moore

Man riding train in India (

Man riding train in India (Shutterstock)

Staying on the rails

India’s railways have long been the lifeblood of the nation and are arguably the most important legacy of the Raj. For travellers, they offer an affordable and exciting way to travel around the country – and fully immerse yourself in its chaotic and colourful rhythms.

Anthony Lambert has spent much of his adult life on the rails in India and shares his wealth of experience in this guide to India by train. He has also put together 5 rail itineraries for those with a lot of time on their hands, as well as 10 short-hop journeys for those who don’t.

For more practical advise of booking tickets and carriage etiquette, check out Monisha Rajesh’s 6 tips on travelling by train in India. Invaluable.

More information

India by rail – Anthony Lambert

5 Indian rail itineraries – Anthony Lambert

Top 10 short-hop India rail journeys – Anthony Lambert

6 tips on travelling India by train – Monisha Rajesh

Woman covering her face (

Woman covering her face (Shutterstock)

India’s secrets revealed

It is said that it is only over time that India truly reveals herself. With that in mind, we’ve called upon a network of expatriates to reveal the secrets of their particular corner of the country. Liam Kennedy sheds light on the hidden corners of Jodhpur, Kathleen McCaul offers an insider’s guide to Goa, and Liz Cleere suggests 10 things to do in Darjeeling for under 450 rupees. She also lists 10 things to do for free in Kolkata and 10 tips for a trip to Kochi, a part of India that she knows like the back of her hand.

Not to be outdone, the Wanderlust team offer up their 10 best-kept Indian travel secrets. And Katy Pannell lists her favourite five homestays in India.

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Discovering the secret corners of Jodhpur – Liam Kennedy

An insider’s guide to Goa – Kathleen McCaul

10 things to do in Darjeeling for under 450 rupees – Liz Cleere

10 things to do for free in Kolkata – Liz Cleere

10 tips for a trip to Kochi – Liz Clere

10 of India’s best-kept travel secrets – Various contributors

Top 5 homestays in India – Katy Pannell

Indian cuisine (

Indian cuisine (Shutterstock)

Finding foodie nirvana

Any Indian will tell you that there’s more to their food than curry. Indeed, every region has its own specialities and the locals will be delighted to introduce you to it.

Aussie chef Christina Manfield spent three years travelling around India collecting  ‘heirloom’ recipes, special dishes handed down through the generations, from every corner of the country. She presents her favourite ones here. Alana and Fanfan present 10 tasty treats from the Himalaya while Anirudh Arora and Hardeep Singh Kohli go further afield to discover 7 recipes from rural India. Looking for something completely unexpected? Kumar & Suba Mahadevan present 3 alternative Indian recipes.

Finally, if garlic is your weakness, Meera Sodha explains how it is the heart of every Indian meal – and gives you three terrific recipes to prove it.

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Indian heirloom recipes to try at home – Christine Manfield

10 tasty treats from the Himalaya – Alan and Fanfan

7 rural recipes from India – Anirudh Arora and Hardeep Singh Kohli

3 alternative Indian recipes – Kumar & Suba Mahadevan

Why garlic is the key to Indian cuisine – Meera Sodha

Fish boy, Kolkata (Dreamstime)

Capturing it all on film

With a population of over 1.2 billion, chances are you’re going to want to take a photo of one of the locals during your travels in India. Luckily, Steve Davey has put together an essential guide to photographing people that gives tips on approaching subjects and putting them at ease, through to the ideal settings for the best results.

If it’s inspiration you’re after, make sure you check out the photos taken by our readers on their travels on the sub continent.

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Perfect portrait photographs – Steve Davey

Reader’s photos of India

Wooden statue of Krishna ( 

Wooden statue of Krishna (Shutterstock)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our India Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by India Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from India too.

If your first port of call in India is Delhi, you’ll want to check out our guide to your first 24 hours there. Martin Symington has put together a similar guide to your first 24 hours in Calcutta.

India presents its own particular challenges to travellers. With that in mind, Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth has put together a guide on how to dodge Delhi Belly and other ailments in India. And Sally Howard advises on how to travel safely as a woman in India.

If you have a particular question about India, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about India. The answer to yours might already be there.

More information

India Travel Guide – The Wanderlust Team

India Essential Info – The Wanderlust Team

Travel news about India

First 24 hours in Delhi – Joe Bindloss

First 24 hours: Calcutta, India – Martin Symington

Dodging Delhi Belly and other ailments in India – Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth

How to travel safely in India as a woman – Sally Howard

Community content about India

Forum posts about India

 House boat in Kerala (

House boat in Kerala (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From specialist tiger tours and trips to the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland to rice-boat tours of Kerala, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in India

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