Walk the streets of any Indian city and you’ll rub shoulders with representatives of several of the world’s great faiths, encounter temple rituals performed since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, onion-domed mosques built centuries before the Taj Mahal, and quirky echoes of the British Raj on virtually every corner. From the towering icy peaks of the northern mountains to the sun-washed beaches of the southern coast, India’s dramatic terrain is breathtaking. Along with abundant natural beauties, exquisite temples rise majestically out of pancake-flat deserts and crumbling fortresses peer over plunging ravines.
Aficionados of the great outdoors can scout for big jungle cats on wildlife safaris, paddle in the shimmering waters of beautiful beaches, take blood-pumping treks high in the Himalaya, or simply inhale pine-scented air on a meditative forest walk. India tosses up the unexpected. This can be challenging, particularly for the first-time visitor. The poverty is confronting, Indian bureaucracy can be exasperating and the crush of humanity may turn the simplest task into a frazzling epic. Even veteran travellers find their nerves frayed at some point, yet this is all part of the India ride. With an ability to inspire, frustrate, thrill and confound all at once, adopting a ‘go with the flow’ attitude is wise if you wish to retain your sanity. Love it or loathe it – and most travellers see-saw between the two – to embrace India’s unpredictability is to embrace its soul.