A to Z of Adventure Travel: I is for India

12 03 2009

 indiandesert

 

No other country has so successfully integrated into western arts in recent years as India. Ever since Vikram Seth’s titanic “A Suitable Boy” became hotter than a Goan vindaloo 15 years ago, it seems as though there’s barely been a week when the work of an Indian author hasn’t appeared in the fiction bestseller lists. As if that literary presence wasn’t enough, it was a film set in India that dominated this year’s Oscars. Even though “Slum Dog Millionaire” may not technically be an Indian movie, there’s no doubt that it continued to increase interest in one of the world’s most populated countries.

 

India has long been a popular destination for intrepid travellers. Although the very wealthy packed their chests, monocles and house staff and voyaged there more than a century ago, it has really only been in the past few decades that it has featured prominently in the travel plans of the more average and less-wealthy wanderer.

 

For many people, India is the ultimate dream destination, just as an African safari or an Australian walkabout might be for others. Meticulously researched and carefully planned, their trip will fulfill a lifetime’s fascination and desire. For others, it is simply another spectacular adventure. But for everyone who visits the sub-continent, it is a life-changing experience that is never forgotten.

 

Most people returning from India first comment on the people: quite simply, the crush of humanity that overwhelms all but the most veteran or inured of traveller. Whether in one of its big cities or exploring a small village, it can be difficult for a visitor to find a quiet moment to themselves. However, most travellers become accustomed to the constant crowds and inevitable attention and admit that it did not detract from the wonders that the country has to offer.

 

India is renowned for its architectural treasures like the Taj Mahal, its temples, forts and royal palaces  – many of the latter of which have been turned into magnificent hotels. But there is so much more. Topping the list of events not to miss is the annual Pushkar Camel Fair which rises from Rajasthan like a scene from ancient times. No one who has ever witnessed the spectacle forgets it as thousands flock to trade livestock, race camels and engage in age-old entertainment and traditions. Be warned however, there’s very limited accommodation in Pushkar and arrangements should be booked well in advance to prevent a long commute to and from the Fair each day or the disappointment of missing it entirely.

 

If wildlife is more your thing, India is of course the best place to try and spy a tiger. Threatened by poaching, the continual growth of the population and encroachment of communities, anyone who wants to see this magnificent cat should travel now before it is too late. Tiger safaris are offered in open-backed vehicles, or for the more intrepid – from elephant back. While tigers may be synonymous with India, the country’s forests and jungles are also home to the handful of remaining Asiatic lions as well as leopard and rhino. Although nowhere near as plentiful or easy to see as in Africa, the thrill of catching a glimpse of any of these truly endangered species more than makes up for the effort and the likelihood that you certainly won’t see them all!

 

India boasts fantastic hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas, or exploring the desert by camel train and sleeping under the stars. Further south, there are superb beaches, often undeveloped commercially and reminiscent of palm-fringed desert islands – except with the scent of fantastic food drifting through the air.

 

Whatever excites you on your adventurous wanderings, India has it in abundance regardless of budget or choice of style.

 

 

Post by: Simon Vaughan

Photo by: Incredible India

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