13 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN INDIA

13 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN INDIA

As crazy as it sounds, I’ve never been to India. I know, right? It’s high up on my list of places to visit but, with so much to see, I’m just saving it for a time when I can have a long visit. But, until that time, my friend Wandering Earl is picking up the slack. Wandering Earl is my other half – a hard core budget traveler who loves exploring the world. We’re two peas in a pod. As he gears up for his nineteenth trip to India (leading yet another sold out tour), I asked him to share some of his favorite locations in the country to give you (and me) some ideas on what to do in a country so vast! Enter Earl:

Everywhere you turn in India, there is something to do or to see that you probably have never done or seen before. There are experiences to be had — whether fascinating or shocking or rewarding or confusing or educational or frustrating — all day long, no matter where you happen to be.

When I traveled to India for the first time back in 2001, just my first two weeks in the country involved camping at a pristine lake in a remote tribal region, hiking in the Himalayas, visiting Tibetan villages and monasteries, drinking mango lassis for the first time from a market stall in Kolkata, playing cricket with a group of Indians I met at a Hindu temple, and spending an evening with the family of a taxi driver who invited me to his home for dinner.

That’s what happens when you visit India.

The result of such an incredible variety and frequency of memorable experiences is exactly what has happened to me and countless other travelers: we simply can’t get enough and constantly feel the need to return over and over again for more.

And though one post on India could never do the country justice, today I want to share 13 of my favorite things to do in India after 18 visits there, both as a traveler and a tour guide:

A famous food lane in the heart of Old Delhi in the middle of the Chandni Chowk market. On this lane are a handful of well-known eateries, all serving up the same dish: unique Delhi-style stuffed parathas, a type of flatbread made from wheat dough and lightly fried in oil on both sides. While the usual filling is potatoes, on this street you can get them stuffed with anything, from cheese to squash to raisins to mint to mixed vegetables to cashews and more. Some of the places have been around for over 100 years, and it doesn’t take long to see why these hole-in-the-wall eateries are almost always full of Indians enjoying this tasty meal.

Akshardham (Delhi)

This cultural complex located near the Yamuna River is, to me, one of the most impressive structures in all of India, with its massive temple constructed from the carvings of several thousand Indian artisans. When you see it for the first time, it will blow you away with its unique appearance and seemingly otherworldly architecture — and that’s before you go inside. Inside, you’ll find yourself amidst a scene of absurdly detailed design, from the pillars to the walls to the domed ceilings high above, all helping to tell the story of Hinduism. Arrive an hour or so before sunset and you’ll also be treated to the beautiful temple all lit up, helping to further etch itself in your memory.

Raj Mandir Cinema (Jaipur)

It’s one of the best-known cinemas in India. Opened in 1976, this large art-deco structure is my favorite place in the country to catch a Bollywood film. The pastel-colored interior design, the efficient suit-clad staff, the spacious theater with its comfortable seats, and the lively atmosphere deriving from hundreds of excited Indian moviegoers all make you feel as if you’re attending a major movie premiere. As a bonus, once the movie is over, you’re only a two-minute walk away from MI Road, where you’ll find several Jaipuri lassi shops. Join the lines, order a large sweet lassi, and sit back and enjoy its pure deliciousness!

Chand Baori Stepwell (Abhaneri)

The first time I visited the tiny, dusty village of Abhaneri, some 10 kilometers off of the main Agra-to-Jaipur road, I thought I was going to see a small well in the midst of a ruined ancient city, take a photo, and then continue my journey. An hour and a half later, though, I was still staring at this spectacularly striking, 1,200-year-old “water tank,” one of the largest in India. Constructed by King Chanda of the Nikumbha Dynasty in 8000 BCE, the massive rectangular well is approximately 30 meters deep and consists of over 3,500 steps intertwined in a precise maze-like pattern on three sides, playing with the sunlight reflecting off of its angles. When you are inside, be sure to have a look at the dozens of statues of Hindu gods and religious scenes that line the outer walkway of the well, some dating back a thousand years. There is no entrance fee, but the local caretaker, who keeps the place immaculate, will ask for a “tip” as you leave.

Ranakpur Jain Temple (Ranakpur)

This cultural complex located near the Yamuna River is, to me, one of the most impressive structures in all of India, with its massive temple constructed from the carvings of several thousand Indian artisans. When you see it for the first time, it will blow you away with its unique appearance and seemingly otherworldly architecture — and that’s before you go inside. Inside, you’ll find yourself amidst a scene of absurdly detailed design, from the pillars to the walls to the domed ceilings high above, all helping to tell the story of Hinduism. Arrive an hour or so before sunset and you’ll also be treated to the beautiful temple all lit up, helping to further etch itself in your memory.