India is a complex blend of religions, races, castes, languages and cultures. Existence of harmonious relations despite such differences is bound to impress others. India also has ample architectural and natural marvels to hold tourists spellbound. Though this tropical country is much smaller than many other countries in its neighborhood, its geographical formations make it a kaleidoscope of climate as well as rich flora and fauna of the region. The large sand dunes of Jodhpur in India are as alluring as lush green tea estate in Munnar. India is a good tourist destination because there is always somebody around who knows English, thanks to outsourcing contracts in the last couple of decades. In fact, outsourcing has increased traffic to its major cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkatta, Ahmedabad, and Hyderabad. But the quintessential tourist continues to favor Agra, Jodhpur, Aurangabad, Mysore, Darjeeling and Gulmarg.
Agra is almost synonymous with TajMahal. This is one monument that simply cannot be ignored. The majestic white construction with intricate carvings and inlays looks all the more spectacular in different hours of the day thanks to the way the light falls on it and creates its reflection on water. The monument was dedicated by the Moghul emperor, Shah Jahan to his beloved wife, MumtazMahal, because of which it has become a symbol of love. Agra is not very far from New Delhi. Therefore, a visit to this city can be combined with a visit to New Delhi as well. Delhi boasts of its own set of forts and grounds, which are quite impressive.
From New Delhi, people can travel to Jodhpur. This city is in desert but what is striking here is the architecture. The tall regal palaces of kings who lived here about 500 years ago still exist and are converted into hotels. The architectural excellence ensures that these do not become as hot as the surrounding sands. The wavy sands near this city are often seen on postcards. Colorful clothes and artifacts from here can make good souvenirs.
A bit further down is the city of Aurangabad in the State of Maharashtra. The famous Ajanta and Ellora caves are located around this city. The temples and pillars here are said to have been chiseled around 600 AD or 900 AD. The dyes of that era have survived to this day and require little restoration. The details and perfection on each such stone can leave people in awe about the workmanship and make them wonder how such things were managed without using contemporary tools. Before Moghul architecture became integral part of Indian architecture, structures were mostly like these. Most of Indian temples and carvings even in places such as Khajuraho, and Hampi bear evidence to that excellence. There is a beach close to Aurangabad for those who cannot resist sea water.(image by Arian Zwegers).
Mysore in south is a well-planned city, again on mountainous terrain but it showcases architectural tastes of ancient Maharajas of the region. The palace here is really striking. There are ample gardens and parks out here. Traveling to Nilgiris and Munnar from this city is easier. Nilgiris are mountains in the State of Tamil Nadu, and Munnar is hilly region in the State of Kerala. Both are covered with lush green tea gardens. In fact, almost the entire state of Kerala is naturally blessed. But it is the greenery all around that impress thanks to the tea gardens that instill a sense of calm and tranquility. The silence here is pleasant because the birds can be heard from afar. Many places surrounding Munnar can be included in the itinerary if the time permits because Kerala is one of the most beautiful states in the country. There are rivers, mountains, waterfalls, and beaches in this State, which are breathtakingly beautiful.
A bit towards North East is Darjeeling, which is again a lush green region thanks to tea estates. However, the mountain peaks that can be seen from here are snowcapped because they form part of Himalayas. (image by Thunderbolt Tea).
Finally, it is time to head towards New Delhi, but not before visiting Gulmarg. Gulmarg is often referred to as an Alpine destination. There are striking similarities, though the place is not very large. There are many other cities in the mountains around this place which can offer picturesque view of the surroundings and these views differ in each season. Trekking and mountaineering is one possibility during summers, which in this part of the world is from late March to early June. Even the neighboring state, i.e., Himachal Pradesh has several picturesque cities located at considerable height since there are ample mountains in that state as well.
People planning to visit these cities would require a visa to India. Nowadays, people can apply for it online. The site indianvisaonline.gov.in, is dedicated for visa applications. Tourists can obtain relevant details from this site. Regardless, more recent travel news reveal that India now considers providing visa on arrival for 180 countries. This will definitely change the number of tourists visiting India every year.
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Feature image by Marcin Baranowski