With the couple of billion inhabitants, India can inspire, astonish and enlighten many who tread her soil, her innumerable challenges and chaotic madness can also overwhelm and exhaust unprepared first-timers. Or even put them off completely.
I think the formula to a successful visit to India is not to cover too much. Most visitors are unaware of its vastness and each area is almost like a little country. If you rush around too much, you will miss some of the more interesting facets and magic that this incredible destination has to offer.
The best way to approach a holiday to India is by exploring one region properly and then moving on to the next one as a separate trip. It’s always best to see a fewer number of places and spend more time at each place thus allowing yourself to soak into this diverse, complex, creative and colourful country.
A perfect introduction for a first-time visitor to India would be a journey through Rajasthan; marveling at the Taj Mahal, heading out on a tiger safari, exploring the hidden side to the bustling cities of Jaipur and Udaipur, and also having time to experience Rajasthan’s magical rural heartlands.
Rajasthan means ‘land of the kings’, and it certainly lives up to its name. Meander through timeless forts and palaces revealing countless colourful stories, with guides who are hand-picked to bring it all to life, totally around your interests.
Rajasthan’s rural villages are awash with colour, from the sari-clad women going about their daily lives, to the blue, yellow and green turbaned men who work the fields.
Striking the right balance between town and country is crucial and it can be achieved very well in Rajasthan. Of course being your first time to India, ensure you have somewhere wonderful to stay at night. You can explore as much as you want by day, but we all know we like to retreat back to a great hotel for a cold glass of wine, fantastic food and a great bed.
The state has some incredible hidden gems for places to stay. Some smaller forts have been partly restored and converted into hotels offering mouthwatering cuisine, or former hunting lodges between Jodhpur and Udaipur have been converted and still offer an opportunity to track leopards and other wildlife in the heart of Rajasthan.
There are also private residences of minor members of the royal family set in stunning landscapes away from the madness of Indian cities, where you can ride a Marwari horse or go out in the desert on an old Willis jeep. These are a wonderful way to get an insight to tribal life in the desert. Or why not stay at a lovely luxury tented camp overlooking a lake full of birdlife surrounded by farmland ideal for walks? At the right time of year you could even experience the Pushkar Camel Fair.
All this should be done at a leisurely pace, as Rajasthan often requires early start for trains and some longer drives, hence the need for a few days in each location to enjoy the surroundings of the hotel, or give you more time to immerse yourself a little more in the destination through more unique experiences.
Even if it is your first time, India can provide the most remarkable experience. The more you explore and get off-the-beaten track, the better India gets. With amazing guides, hotels and drivers, it is indeed possible to ensure you return home smiling about your adventures.