There is no other word that can capture more convincingly the enigma that is India. Brazenly flaunting its diversity ranging from snow-dusted mountains to sun-drenched beaches, tranquil temples to exuberant celebrations, lit by lanterns from villages to towns that dominate the software world, the country presents itself as the most multifaceted and multidimensional nation. Whether you love it or hate it and most visitors pass from one mood to another, India promises a total involvement, and any location is your goal or whatever activity you choose to follow, is a country that does not forget.

More than a billion people live in the sub-continent, teeming with an eclectic mix of ethnic groups and the tourist translates into an intoxicating cultural cocktail. For those seeking spiritual support, India offers a wealth of sacred sites and moving epic philosophical background, while history buffs will encounter gems from the past almost everywhere - from grand vestiges of the British Raj, which dominate the their quiet splendor on the Spice Bazaar, the fortresses in degradation posed on the edge of steep slopes.

Meanwhile, those looking for excitement in nature can paddle the shimmering waters of one of the many quiet coves, go look for the big cats in an exciting safari to see the animals in the jungle or just breathe the air that smells of pine during a meditative walk in the forest.

And then the kitchen! The Epicureans can charge all kinds of tasty samples, from sticky idli (fermented rice cakes) to the typical South Indian curry deliciously spicy north of the country. Enough to set foot on Indian soil to discover the national obsession cricket, which dominates and makes all the animated conversations, along with the latest intrigue in the crazy world of Bollywood.

In India the climatic factors are so varied that it is impossible to choose a period meteorologically better than others for the trip, but, in principle, in much of the country, the most pleasant months are those that go from October to March. In the far south monsoons mean that, basically, the best time to go from January to September, while Sikkim and northeastern India are more attractive from March to August and Kashmir and the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh are the most viable between May and September.

The deserts of Rajasthan and the north-western Himalayan region offer the best of themselves in the monsoon season. trekking in the Indian Himalayas The season lasts roughly from April to November, although it varies greatly depending on the location, altitude and region. The ski season is from January to March.

The festivities in India are numerous, and many of them are so spectacular that it would be folly to lose them. It begins January 26 with the secular holiday of the Republic Day in Delhi here you will see elephants, a procession, military parades and Indian princely splendor in abundance. In February, Holi is one of the most exuberant Hindu festivals of northern India marks the end of winter and basically involves throwing colored water and red powder on as many people as possible in a day.

The Shiite festival Muharram 10 days, commemorating the martyrdom of the grandson of Muhammad with a grand parade and dedicated penitents scourge themselves with whips in religious fervor. The best place seen in Lucknow, the principal Indian Shi'ite city; for the next two or three years will be held in April / May. The great Kumbh Mela festival commemorates an ancient battle between gods and demons for the possession of a pitcher (kumbh).

During this battle, the jar fell four drops of nectar that ended on Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. It is held every three years, and rotation in one of the four cities, the last time it was held in Haridwar from 1 February to 11 May 1998. The grand parade of the wagon Rath Yatra is not a rally, but a show where there is Puri in May / June: the gigantic temple car of Lord Jagannath making its annual journey, pulled by thousands of eager devotees.

The number of people who practice the Indian Himalaya trekking tours is limited in comparison with those who climb on the trails of Nepal, so if you want to experience the peace of the largest mountain range in the world try to do trekking in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The ideal season runs roughly from April to November, but keep in mind that some roads are open only for a couple of months a year.

The main centers where you can practice this sport are Lahaul, Spiti and the valleys of Kullu and Kangra in Himachal Pradesh; north of Rishikesh northern Uttar Pradesh; Darjeeling in West Bengal; Yuksam in Sikkim; and Leh in Ladakh. The ski season runs from January to March and there are resort in Narkanda in Himachal Pradesh and Auli in Uttar Pradesh.

The services are rudimentary, but this only makes it more fun. There is usually only one ski-lift working and a place to rent equipment. After skiing enjoy ginger tea and chapatis. India is not famous for its beaches, but you can swim in the seaside resorts of Goa, just over the border of Karnataka Gokarna and Kovalam in Kerala. There are also beaches in Diu and Puri in Orissa.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal have beautiful beaches and have the unique opportunity to snorkel and scuba diving all over India. excursions by camel, which last from a few hours to a few days, can be arranged in the deserts around Jaisalmer and Pushkar in Rajasthan. The best season is from October to February. If you let the camel scorched and sore, try white water rafting on the rapids of the Indus. The excursions can be organized in Leh.

Religion permeates every aspect of Indian life. Despite being a secular democracy, India is one of the few countries in the world where the social and religious structures that define national identity survive intact for at least 4000 years despite invasions, persecution, European colonialism and the political upheaval. The change was inevitable predict, is taking place, as the modern technology penetrates more deeply into the social fabric, but essentially rural India remains what it has been for thousands of years.

Its social and religious institutions are so elastic that it has absorbed, ignored or rejected all attempts to radically change or destroy them. Hinduism, the main religion of the country, is practiced by 80% of the population. In numerical terms is the largest religion in Asia and one of the oldest religions in the world, and has a vast pantheon of deities, sacred texts and considers different that each of us experiences a series of reincarnations before reaching the final salvation of the spirit. With each new birth you can zoom in or out by the lighting; decisive factor is karma.

The main Hindu religious practices are three: the puja, or worship, the cremation of the dead and the rules and regulations of the caste system. This religion knows no proselytizing, since we can not convert if you were not born Hindu. Buddhism arose in northern India in 500 BC, and spread rapidly when it was embraced by Ashoka, but was gradually reabsorbed by 'Hinduism. Currently Hindus consider Buddha as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Today Buddhists in India are only 6.6 million but there are still, in the north, Buddhist sites like Bodhgaya, Sarnath (near Varanasi) and Kushinagar (near Gorakhpur), important places of pilgrimage.

Even Jainism was born as an attempt to reform Hinduism emerged in the same period of Buddhism, and for similar reasons. Today Jains are only 4.5 million and are located mainly in the western and southwestern regions. This religion has never found adherents outside India. The Jains believe that the universe is infinite and was not created by a deity; also believe in reincarnation and final salvation of the soul obtained following the dictates of the prophets of Jains. Muslims in India are more than 100 million, and make the country one of the largest Islamic nations of the earth.

Islam is the dominant religion in the neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh and there is a Muslim majority in Jammu and Kashmir. The Islamic influence in India is particularly evident in the architecture, art and cuisine. The Sikhs are about 18 million and mainly reside in Punjab. This religion originally wanted to be a synthesis of the best aspects of Hinduism and Islam; his doctrine is similar to that of Hinduism, with one important difference: the Sikhs are opposed to caste. The most sacred temple of the Sikh religion is the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

There is no Indian language per se, and this partly explains why English is so widespread yet almost half a century after the departure of the British. 18 languages ​​are officially recognized by the constitution, but during the 1991 census was compiled a list containing over 1600 minor languages ​​and dialects. The language issue is highly politicized, partly because many state boundaries were drawn along linguistic lines. Efforts to promote Hindi as the national language, gradually displacing the English, have been enormous, but the main obstacle is the fact that while Hindi is predominant in the north, has little in common with the Dravidian languages ​​of the south where there are few to speak it.

The English language continues to be reserved for the elite educated, making it as much a symbol of their status as a passport to the world of international business. In fact, only about 3% have a good command of the language. Indian art is basically religious in theme and to appreciate it you need to have at least some knowledge of the basic beliefs of the country. The forms of art are more interesting dance, architecture and sculpture (hard to tell where one begins and the other ends) of the Hindu temples, the military architecture and urban planning of the Mughal miniatures painted and the hypnotic music Indian.

The latter is rather tricky for Westerners because it is devoid of the sense of harmony as we know it, but you should not be discouraged by this difficulty. Indians love the film and the Indian film industry, with its center in Bombay, is one of the largest and most interesting in the world. The films produced are for the vast majority rather cheesy melodramas based on three key ingredients: love, violence and music. Contrary to popular belief, not all Hindus are vegetarians officially. Though you'll find vegetarians everywhere, strict vegetarianism is more prevalent in the south (not influenced by meat eaters Aryans and Muslims) and the Gujarati community.

The differences between north and south is considerable, both because of the climate for both historical influences. To the north you eat a lot more meat and the cooking is often inspired 'Mughal', a close relative of the cuisine of the Middle East and Central Asia. The emphasis is more on spices to the chili ('chilli'); cereals and bread are the most popular rice. To the south you eat more rice, vegetarian cuisine is more widespread and the 'curry' (dish of meat and / or vegetables with hot spices) is usually more spicy. Another feature of vegetarian cuisine of the south is that you do not use cutlery to eat; collects the food with your fingers but not those of the left hand.

The curry can be vegetables, meat (usually lamb or chicken) or fish and spices are fried in 'ghee' (clarified butter) or vegetable oil to release all their flavors. Both in the north and in the south the curry is accompanied by rice, but in the north it can also be eaten with one of the various types of bread. then there are several dishes that are not real curry, but for western tastes are quite similar to these. The 'vindaloo' is marinated in vinegar and is usually more spicy curry.

The 'korma' is a rich and hearty stew that can be meat or vegetables. The 'Navratan korma' is a very tasty vegetable dish with nuts, while the 'malai kofta' consists of meatballs with vegetables and cheese served with a rich sauce made ​​from cream. Probably the most popular Indian dish is the dhal; it can be found virtually everywhere, as a side dish for curry or as a simple meal with 'chapati' (bread) or rice.

Other dishes are very popular the 'mattar paneer', peas and cheese in gravy; the 'saag gosht', spinach and meat; Aalu dum, potato curry; the 'palak paneer', spinach and cheese; Aalu chhole, diced potatoes and chick peas in sweet and sour sauce. Other vegetables are the 'Paat gobi' (cabbage), the 'phuul gobi' (cauliflower), the 'baingan' (eggplant) and 'mattar' or peas.

In India there is an amazing assortment of sweets and desserts. The latter are made ​​of rice or milk and often consist of a set of various types of nuts, or are made ​​of pulp and immersed in the syrup. Here are some examples. The 'kulfi' is a great dessert similar to ice cream with pistachio and widespread. Another Indian dessert very common is the 'ras gullas', which consists of balls of cream cheese flavored with rose water.

The Gulaab jamun are small cakes dipped in syrup; are prepared with boiled milk and thickened ('khoya') flavored with cardamom and rose water and then they are fried. The 'jalebi' sweets are orange flavored syrup; are prepared with flour colored and flavored with saffron. The 'ladu' yellow balls are made ​​with chickpea flour. Among the drinks, in addition to tea and coffee, typical is 'payasam', a sweet drink consumed in the south made ​​with coconut milk, mango pulp, cashew nuts and spices.

The first major civilization flourished in India for a thousand years, from around 2500 BC on the banks of the Indus River. The most important cities were Mohenjodaro and Harappa (who is currently in Pakistan), where a complex civilization flourished governed by a class of priests, in which you can trace the origins of Hinduism. The Aryan invaders plundered the south starting from Central Asia between 1500 and 200 BC, ensuring control of northern India until the current Vindhya hills of Madhya Pradesh to the south and pushing the original inhabitants of the area, the Dravidian. The invaders brought with them their own gods and traditions (livestock and habit of eating meat).

During this time he formalized the caste system that separated the Aryans subjugated them by the Indians to secure the position of the Brahmin (priests). Buddhism arose around 500 BC, and his condemnation of the caste constituted the greatest challenge Brahmanical Hinduism. Buddhism began to radical swathe through Hinduism in the third century BC when it was embraced by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, who reigned over a part of India than any ruler up next to the Mughals. After the collapse of the Mauryan different empires rose and fell, but the most impressive was the gupta, which lasted from the fourth century AD until 606. was a golden age for poetry, literature, art, and some of the finest work being carried out at Ajanta, Ellora, Sanchi and Sarnath.

In this period there was a return to Hinduism and began the decline of Buddhism. The invasion of the Huns signaled the end of the Gupta and the north of India broke into a number of separate Hindu kingdoms; for a really unified again until the arrival of the Muslims. The far south India was unaffected by the rise and fall of the kingdoms of the north, and Hinduism in this region, has never been threatened by Buddhism or Jainism. The prosperity of the south was based on established trade relations with the Egyptians, Romans and South East Asia. Among the great empires rose in the south were the pandya, the chera, the Chalukyas, the Pallavas and Chola.

Whilst the Hindu kingdoms ruled the south and Buddhism was fading in the north, the Middle East, Muslims began to penetrate India. In 1192 the Muslim power and settled permanently in the space of 20 years the entire Ganges basin was under his control. The Sultans of Delhi, however, were an inconsistent bunch and Islam failed to penetrate to the south, which remained under the Hoysala Empire 1000-1300 AD Two great kingdoms arose later in the current Karnataka: the mighty Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar , whose capital was located in the beautiful Hampi, and the Bahmani Muslim kingdom that broke up into five domains, those of Berar, Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golconda and Ahmedabad. stand Mughal emperors in Indian history. They marched into Punjab from Afghanistan, defeated the Sultan of Delhi at Panipat in 1525 and opened the doors to a new golden age for the architecture, art and literature.

Their rise to power was swift, but was equally quick decline, and among them only six Mughal emperors were truly great. The Maratha Empire grew during the seventeenth century thanks to the great enterprises of the lower caste of Shivaji, and gradually took possession of ever larger parts of the reign of the Mughals. The Marathas consolidated control of central India until they fell to the last great imperial power, the British. British power in India was initially exercised by the Company of the East Indies, who established a trading post at Surat in Gujarat, in 1612.

The British were not the first nor the only Europeans present in India in the seventeenth century the Portuguese had control of Goa since 1510 (even before the Mughals arrived in India) and the French, Danes and Dutch also had trading. The Power of Great Britain gradually spread from the Clive retook Calcutta in 1757 to the British victory in the Fourth Mysore War in 1799. Long British struggle with the Marathas finally ended in 1803, and almost the entire country under the control of the Company of East Indies. Brits essentially perceived India as an economic resource and did not care in the least of the culture, beliefs and religions of its people. They increased the extraction of iron ore and coal, the cultivation of tea, coffee and cotton and began the construction of the vast Indian railway network.

The complex network of lagoons, lakes, canals and rivers that adorn the coast of Kerala make the lifestyle of this region very particular, so it is fascinating to navigate these waters. The boats cross shallow lakes and fringed with palm trees, with the Chinese fishing nets, and pass through narrow channels and shady where they are loaded on the boats 'coir' (a fiber derived from coconut), copra and cashew nut. It makes a stop at the small villages where people live the careful cultivation of tiny plots of land a few meters and you can see the traditional boats from the gigantic sails with the bow carved in the shape of a dragon.

The most popular of these boat trips is the eight-hour journey from Kollam to Alappuzha, but in this case the majority of your fellow passengers are Westerners. If you are looking to experience the indigenous or simply prefer a shorter trip, there are local boats ranging from Alappuzha and Changanassery in Kottayam. Kollam is on the way Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulum well served by buses and is part of at least four different railway routes. It's not a problem to reach one of the main cities in the south, but it is very far from Delhi, 2756 km.

One of the big events of the year in Kerala is the Nehru Cup Snake Boat Races, a boat race that takes place on the second Saturday of August on the stagnant waters of Alappuzha (Alleppey). The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in August / September, dedicated to the popular elephant-headed god Ganesh. It is celebrated a little 'everywhere, but with particular enthusiasm in Maharashtra. Shrines are erected, firecrackers let off, clay idols are immersed in rivers or in the sea and everyone is trying not to look at the moon because it is believed to bring bad luck.

In September / October is the time to head for the hills to see the wonderful Festival of the Gods in Kullu, which is part of the Dussehra festival, particularly spectacular in Mysore and Ahmedabad. November is the huge and colorful Camel Festival at Pushkar in Rajasthan. Diwali or Deepavali is the happiest festival of the Hindu calendar and celebrations, always in November last 5 days. Sweets, oil lamps and firecrackers are the protagonists of these rites in honor of different deities. Maybe a scene all too familiar, but the only place worth being at Christmas is a beach in Goa.

Delhi is unlikely to make a good impression at first glance, especially if it is also the first place you visit India. Most likely you'll notice the pollution, overcrowding, bad smell, the noise and the constant harassment before you discover the most seductive city. But it is worth persevering, because you will find everywhere the marks of its fascinating history: the bazaar of Paharganj are a great introduction to India backpacker, the monuments of the city are some of the most amazing architectural works of the country and the food is outstanding.

Delhi is the capital city and is also the tourist center of northern India. It is an excellent base for visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal, is less than a 5 hour journey from the Pink City of Jaipur in Rajasthan. If you're heading north towards the Himalayas or east to the chains of Varanasi, probably will pass through Delhi.

Mumbai is the glitter of Bollywood cinema, the cricket on the maidan over the weekend, Bhelpuri a snack on the beach at Chowpatty and red double-decker buses. It is also the infamous cages of the red-light district, the largest slum in Asia, the separatist politics and powerful mafia lords. All this against the backdrop of a landscape reminiscent of a prosperous Victorian England's industrial cities of the nineteenth century, more than you'd expect to find on the Arabian Sea.

It's a shame that Goa has to support the weight of a reputation a little 'equivocal, because here there are only sun, sand and psychedelia. His real peculiarity is that it is quite dissimilar from the rest of India and is small enough to be explored and understood in a way that is impossible in other Indian states. It is not only the family members of European colonialism residue or glossy exoticism that make it seem so accessible, but it is rather the prevalence of the Catholic religion and a form of social and political liberalism that make you feel closer to the West. Although Hindus outnumber Catholics, there are many more skirts and saris that people exhibit a liberality and a civilization that hardly come across elsewhere in India.

The capital of West Bengal is sprawling along the east bank of the Hooghly River. Former glorious capital of British India, its horrible history of urban squalor and hunger only began with the Partition the split between India and Pakistan, and the resulting massive influx of refugees. This reckless city, however, likes to call City of Joy, and if you give even half a chance only proves one of the most fascinating and pleasurable of the country, the intellectual capital of the nation, leading in the field of politics and art.

The 'lung' of the modern city is made ​​up of the Maidan, a huge open area used by the inhabitants for football and cricket matches, political rallies, yoga classes and grazing cows. The area is large enough to accommodate the massive Fort William, still in use: tourists can access it only if they have a special permit (which is rarely granted). At the southern end of the Maidan is the great Victoria Memorial in white marble, with a clumsy statue of Queen Victoria in front, which houses a large collection of historical objects Anglo-Indians.

The administrative center of the city is the BBD Bagh (Dalhousie Square). In the square live extravagant and brutal aspects on the one hand there is the Writers' Building with a Kafkaesque labyrinth of corridors and large rooms, while modules in quintuple copy and carbon copies stacked up against the walls; the other side is the main post office, built on the site of the legendary 'black hole of Calcutta'. It was here that, in an unpleasantly humid night in 1756, more than 140 British citizens were locked up in a cellar in force: the morning after many of them had died of suffocation.

According to legend, when the body was dismembered the wife of Shiva, one of his finger fell on the site where now stands the Temple of Kali, still a place of pilgrimage extremely messy. In the morning, the temple is cut throat goats to satisfy the bloodlust of the goddess. Among other things to see in town is the interesting Indian Museum, the biggest and probably the best museum in the country (but dusty and neglected for lack of funds); the Botanical Gardens, home to a 200 year old banyan tree, in second place among the trees with the foliage of the wider world (the first is in Andhra Pradesh), and the scenic bridge cantilever Howrah Bridge, considered the busiest bridge in the world.

In Chowringhee, south of Howrah Bridge, there are a number of hotels, clubs and cheap bars. Sudder St, at Chowringhee Road, is a focal point for those traveling on a budget. In this area there are also many cinemas, where they are screened Indian films, new films and their Hollywood cousins ​​of Bollywood. Calcutta is not a paradise for shoppers, especially since a 'clean-up campaign' has driven the hawkers from the pavements, but the New Market, north of Sudder St, is a good place to negotiate the price of goods ranging from clothing to tools made ​​of bamboo.

Calcutta is part of the international air circuit and sometimes you can get tickets at reduced prices at the offices of airlines around Chowringhee. The Indian Airlines Kolkata has frequent domestic flights to major destinations such as Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Lucknow. In principle, it is better to travel by train rather than by bus, but if you are looking for a bus try those of 'Rocket Service' to stop the Esplanade. As for the trains, go to the Howrah station on the west bank of the Hooghly River where direct trains into the city, or at Sealdah station, on the opposite side from where you can go in the direction of Darjeeling and other northern regions.

Climbing on a ridge at an altitude of over 2100 m in the extreme north of West Bengal, Darjeeling has been a very popular mountain resort by the British since he chose it as a place of rest and recreation for the troops in the middle of the 800. The city is still very busy and offers visits to Buddhist monasteries, trips to the tea plantations, shopping in the bustling bazaars and high altitude trekking in the north. As with many places of the Himalayas, the fun lies in large part in the journey to reach it with his famous miniature train, which climbs to the curves from the plain grinding km and puffing in a transit of 10 hours.

Sightseeing in the city is the Passenger Ropeway, the first chairlift built in India, which connects Darjeeling with Singla Bazaar on the Ranjit small river. It is a wonderful journey, but be careful if you suffer from vertigo. Unfortunately, the chair does not always work; it is best to call ahead to inquire. Nearby is the Zoological Park with rare Siberian tigers and red pandas, which live in conditions barely acceptable, however, and also the animals are victims of Indian tourists that bother you without mercy. If you are interested in the complicated process of preparation of tea, go to the Happy Valley Tea Estate; You can also taste a bit 'impressive Gymkhana Club, once a' home game 'Raj, you start a little' recalcitrant toward the twentieth century.

The easiest and most convenient way to reach Darjeeling is the plane, but will take you about 90 km from the city. The airport is located on a plateau near Siliguri, Bagdogra, but there is a shuttle bus service between the airport and the city. Even outside Darjeeling are different bus lines in service.

The Taj Mahal, described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, it has become the de facto tourist emblem of India. This exciting Mughal mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his second wife Mumtaz Mahal, whose death in childbirth in 1631 had left him so distressed that, as the story goes, her hair from evening until morning. The construction of the Taj began that same year and was only completed in 1653.

Taj is an amazing grace seen from any angle, but the most amazing thing are the details. Semi-precious stones are inlaid in the marble, forming beautiful patterns, a process known as 'hard rock'. The precision and care used back in the design and construction of the monument are just as exciting if one admires the other side of the river or from half a meter away. Remember that the Taj is closed on Mondays.

The other main attraction of the city is the imposing red sandstone Agra Fort, also on the banks of River Yamuna. The colossal double walls of the fort headset rising to over 20 m in height and measure 2.5 km in circumference. They are surrounded by a fetid moat and inside there is a maze of superb halls, mosques, chambers and gardens that form a small city within a city. Unfortunately, not all buildings are open to visitors and among these the Pearl Mosque, in white marble, considered by some the most beautiful mosque in India.

The buildings of Mughal Other not to be missed are the Itimad-ud-Daulah, many of which decorative elements were used for the construction of the Taj, and the Mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra which coexist reasons Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Christians, in perfect agreement with the syncretistic religious philosophy that Akbar tried to develop. Agra is close enough to Delhi (200 km) can be a destination for a day trip. It is part of the main tourist circuit, so you can choose to get there by plane, bus or train.

For over 2000 years Varanasi, the eternal city, it was the religious capital of India. Built on the banks of the sacred Ganges, is said to combine in himself the virtues of all other places of pilgrimage and anyone who ends his days here, whatever his creed, and though it may have sin, will go directly to heaven. Varanasi, the easternmost city of Uttar Pradesh, is an important intellectual center and is the home of novelists, philosophers and philologists. He had in fact play an important role in the development of Hindi language, what's the closest thing to a national language of India.

There are over 100 ghats in Varanasi where you bathe and proceed to cremations; the most sacred is the Manikarnika Ghat, one of the most auspicious in which a Hindu can be cremated. The bodies are prepared by outcasts called 'chandal' and transported along the alleys of the old city to the holy Ganges on a bamboo stretcher, wrapped in a cloth. See huge piles of firewood along the top of the ghat, and each strain is carefully weighed on giant scales so as to calculate exactly the cost of cremation.

To this you can attend without problems since at Manikarnika death is a daily affair; But leave the hotel in the camera. The best way to observe the activities that take place along the river is the Dasaswamedh Ghat, where you will find a lot of people that reaches not only for a ritual bath but to do yoga, to offer prayers of thanksgiving, buy 'paan', sell flowers, get a massage, play cricket, swim, shave and do something good for their karma by donating money to beggars. It is also the best place to take a boat trip, since there is a great competition among the boatmen.

Aside from the many ghats along the river, you can also see the Golden Temple, built in a square surrounded by walls with stunning golden towers; the famous markets for ornamental items copper, lacquered toys, shawls, silk and sitar (Ravi Shankar lives right here); you can lose yourself in the narrow and labyrinthine alleys that wind around the ghats; visiting the nearby Buddhist center of Sarnath and make the obligatory trip on the Ganges, slowly descending the river at dawn. Varanasi is included in the main tourist circuit, about 580 km east of Agra and 780 km southeast of Delhi, and you can reach by plane, bus or train.

The summer capital of British India sprawls on a ridge crescent moon at an altitude of over 2100 meters in Himachal Pradesh is Shimla. Before independence, it was the most important mountain resort of the country and social life during the summer months, when the British came to seek shelter from the scorching heat of the plains, was legendary: dancing, bridge tournaments and parades went hand in hand with gossip, intrigue and romantic stories. Today, officers, directors and mannered lady of the Raj have been replaced by masses of tourists, but the echoes of the past British Shimla remain strong.

The famous main street, the Mall, still runs along the edge of the ridge, lined with mansions in the English style. The church Christ Church, Gorton Castle and the former Viceregal Lodge lodge, like a fortress, British intensify the flavor of the place. Having done the inescapable walk on the Mall dreaming Kipling, Burton and Merchant-Ivory, it is worth exploring the narrow steep streets leading to the colorful local bazaars.

There is also an interesting walk to Jakhu Temple, dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman. It is located near the highest point of the ridge and you can enjoy beautiful views of the city, the surrounding valley and the snow-capped peaks. Other spectacular sights are the Chadwick Falls, 67 m high waterfalls, Prospect Hill, ideal for a picnic, and Wildflower Hall, site of the former estate of Lord Kitchener (whose motto was 'Your country needs you'). The ski resort of Kufri is just 15 km to the east, although recently it has fallen so little snow that is expected to suspend activities to do. If there is snow, the ski runs are suitable for beginners and anyone with a pair of thick pants and a windbreaker decent.

The period when the snow is best from January to February. Connecting flights with Shimla are not as numerous as is the case with other Himalayan destinations, but there are a couple of airlines that operate flights. This deficiency is more than offset by the many trains and buses. These are of three types: public, private, and belonging to Himachal Pradesh Tourist Development Company (HPTDC), which connect Shimla to Delhi and have several trips a day. The so-called toy-train to Shimla is however big enough to take you to Kalka, in the north, after which you can change to the New Delhi Queen, large and comfortable than the previous one, which arrives in New Delhi.

The capital of Rajasthan is known as the Pink City because of the ocher pink hue of its old buildings and crenellated walls of the city. The Rajputs considered pink color of hospitality, and seem to have repainted the city in anticipation of the visit of Britain's Prince Alfred in 1853. This tradition, combined with a cozy and relaxed atmosphere of Jaipur, persists today.

Jaipur owes its name, the foundation and careful planning to the great warrior-astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II (1699-1744), who took advantage of the decline of the Mughals to move the fortress, perched on the slopes of nearby Amber to a new site on the plains in 1727. He planned the city with the surrounding walls and six rectangular blocks, according to the architectural principles established by the Shilpa-Shastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on architecture.

Today, Jaipur is a city full of wide boulevards, characterized by extreme architectural harmony, built on the bottom of a drained lake and surrounded by barren hills. The city is colorful and definitely in the twilight radiates a warm glow full of magic. Today the city has about 1.8 million inhabitants and has expanded beyond its borders fortified, but most of its attractions are all within the walls of the 'Pink City', in the north-east. There are still all seven gates of the old city, one of which leads to the Johari Bazaar, the famous market of the jewelers.

The most characteristic element of the old city is the Iswari Minar Swarga Sul (literally minaret piercing the sky) built to control the entire city, but what is most striking is the five-storey beautifully decorated facade of 'Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. It was built in 1799 to enable the ladies of the court to observe the daily life in the streets and watch the processions, and is part of the City Palace complex that forms the heart of the old city.

Towers in Jaipur are located numerous international airlines, while for domestic flights is easier to book them through one of the leading travel agencies. We make daily flights to Delhi, many of whom continue to Mumbai via Jodhpur, Udaipur and Aurangabad. Rajasthan State Transport System covers major cities of Rajasthan, as do the deluxe private bus companies. Most of these places are reachable by train.

The most romantic city of Rajasthan, built around the lovely Lake Pichola, has inevitably been dubbed the 'Venice of the East'. Founded in 1568 by Maharaja Udai Singh, the city is a harmonious blend of white buildings in lime, marble palaces, lakeside gardens, temples and havelis (traditional estates). It has an enviable heritage and should be proud of its reputation in the field of entertainment and the amount of water available to it, all of which have helped make it an oasis of civility and color in the middle of a dull dryness.

Pichola Lake constitutes the heart of the city and contains two delicious island-palaces: Jagniwas and Jagmandir, that well illustrate the imagination of the Rajputs. The first has been transformed into a beautiful hotel. The huge City Palace towers over the lake and is adorned with balconies, towers and cupolas. It contains a museum, some beautiful gardens and several other luxury hotels. Worth seeing are also the gates of the old walled city and its charming alleys; the beautiful Indo-Iranian Jagdish temple, dating from the mid-seventeenth century, and the Bagore ki Haveli on the lake shore, a time for guests to court today and become a cultural center.

Inspite of the long list of things to do, the best way to appreciate Udaipur is to stay in a beautiful guest house by the lake, looking down on the activity of the 'ghat' (long bleachers built near rivers), listen to the rhythmic sound of cloth beaten by laundresses and record slight changes in the light on the water with the slow passage of the day.

The Indian Airlines have daily flights to Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai and Aurangabad. State-owned bus services run frequently from Udaipur to other regional centers like Delhi and Ahmedabad. If you take a bus, choose the Express, otherwise forever to get to your destination. The railway lines have only the one-meter gauge; is scheduled for conversion to a gauge higher, but no one knows when it actually comes into force. In most cases the bus trip is more rapid. The taxi can take you to other places in the region, but train yourself to negotiate the price before you climb.

This fortress in the desert near the border between Pakistan and Rajasthan, it seems taken verbatim from a fairy tale Arabian. Founded in the twelfth century as a refreshment station for camel caravans traveling between India and Central Asia, Jaisalmer is a city in golden sandstone surrounded by crenellated walls, with a magnificent fortress, exquisitely carved stone and wooden havelis. Viewed from afar at sunset, shines a light on mirage.

The splendid Jaisalmer Fort surmounts a hill 80 meters high about a quarter of the city's 60,600 inhabitants live within the city walls. Little has changed over the centuries, and if ever a man has endeavored to encompass as many houses, temples and palaces in a confined space, here has broken all records. The fort is crisscrossed by a network of winding paths and formidable gates, the palace of a maharaja, a courtyard for ceremonies and beautifully carved Jain temples. The most beautiful havelis built by wealthy merchants of Jaisalmer are Patwon-ki-Haveli, Salim Singh-ki-Haveli and Nathmal-ki-Haveli.

Though an incredibly picturesque place, just look a little more careful to understand that Jaisalmer is undergoing a rapid process of dissolution. Finally, however, has attracted the attention of local groups, the government, tourists and archaeologists who have come together in a campaign 'Save Jaisalmer', recently launched in the UK.

trekking by camel is big business in Jaisalmer and is a great way to see the desert. Make sure you get exactly what you paid for, because you might encounter many disappointments. The trips usually last three or four days, and the best time to undertake them is between October and February.

The bus network in Rajasthan is quite reliable, as well as that station, so reaching Jaisalmer is not particularly complicated. It may be that you will find work in progress undertaken recently on the railway lines, which would have the effect of making connections faster, so check local times for updates and changes. If you want to experience how the other half lives, book a place on the Palace on Wheels Jaisalmer passing along the royal route. It is a hotel on wheels that mimics a traditional carriage Maharajas, expensive but luxurious. Jaisalmer is 795 km from Delhi.

This charming city with a relaxed atmosphere has long been very popular with tourists for its small size, good climate and the decision to keep intact and promote its heritage rather than groped to replace it. The city is famous for its silk and also for sandalwood and incense, but do not expect that the air is more fragrant than elsewhere.

Till Independence, Mysore was the seat of the 'maharaja' of Mysore, a principality that covering about a third of the Karnataka. The Indo-Saracenic palace of the Maharaja is the main attraction of the city, with its kaleidoscope of stained glass, ornate mirrors, carved mahogany ceilings, solid silver doors and colors.

Devaraja Fruit and Vegetable Market, in the heart of the city, is one of the most colorful of the entire India. Not to be missed is the stairway of 1,000 steps leading to the top of Chamundi Hill, topped by the gigantic Temple of Chamundeswari. The stairway is guarded by the famous Nandi (the bull of Shiva) 5 m high, carved into the rock. The festival of Dussehra period of 10 days, which takes place in October, culminating with a spectacular procession of richly caparisoned elephants, liveried servants, cavalry, marching bands and images of Hindu deities framed by flowers.

There are flights to Mysore; the only chance of achieving it are the bus and the train. Every 15 minutes a bus to Bangalore loud splashes off like a bat out of hell on the run, as well as do several other direct services to various locations in the region, including the Bandipur National Park. There are several buses operated by private companies that will take you, at a pace much quieter, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai and Hyderabad.

It is rare that there are to do in long queues for a ticket at the station in Mysore and there are four express trains a day to Bangalore, in addition to the Shatabdi Express, high-speed, air-conditioning, which leaves at 14.10 every day except Tuesdays. The Shatabdi goes to Chennai.

The port city of Kochi is located on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas. The oldest part of the city is a strange mixture of medieval Portugal, Holland and an English country village grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast. Here you can see the oldest church in India, winding streets with houses dating back 500 years ago, Portuguese, Chinese fishing nets, a Jewish community whose origins date back to the time of the Diaspora, a synagogue of the sixteenth century, a palace containing some of the murals finest in the country and shows the famous Kathakali dance theater famous all over the world.

The ferries run through Kochi far and wide and often, in the harbor, you can see the dolphins. Much of the historical sites are located in Fort Cochin and Mattancherry. On the mainland, in Ernakulam, you can stay in cheap hotels.

Indian Airlines has daily flights to Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Goa and Chennai. If the plane is too expensive, there are many buses from Kochi at regular intervals, direct to any destination except the sea. You can easily reach the surrounding regions with state or private bus, but there is the possibility of booking. Join those who wait and hope for the best, or to find a place to sit. In the worst cases, there remains the train: the train will depart daily to major destinations along the coast.

Khajuraho, this quiet, pleasant but dusty village in northern Madhya Pradesh is home to a large number of temples, universally known for mithuna, erotic figures that represent the Kama Sutra, and also for the beautiful decorations in the hands of the Chandela period, a dynasty that survived for five centuries before succumbing to the advent of Islam. You can also attend a dance festival in the month of March, which meets here some of the best classical dancers in the country; temples flooded with light forming a spectacular backdrop.

Temples largest and most important are located in scenic Western Group, which consist of externally curvilinear towers with adjoining groups of smaller towers, recalling the tops of mountains converging around a large central bud.

Around the outer walls there are two, sometimes three, rows of gods, goddesses, heroes and kings, courtesans united carnal embrace and, in some cases, friezes depicting various forms of bestiality. The interiors are also rich in decoration, with an open porch that leads to the main hall, followed by a vestibule, beyond which there is an inner sanctuary containing the image to be worshiped, without support. The sculpture and architecture, in fact, seem to blend so harmoniously the result of a single (and very carnal) mind.

Arrive in Khajuraho can be very complicated. It really is on a remote desert road and require long bus trips along small country roads. Easier reach by air: Indian Airlines has a daily flight to Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi, but should book well in advance to find place. Buses leave from Agra, Jhansi and Ghansi; but if you take the train to Jhansi to get off and take a bus to Khajuraho.

Kanha is one of the largest and most secluded national parks of India; covers 1945 square kilometers of forest and undergrowth, fueled by an extensive network of rivers and streams. This area is the scene of 'The Jungle Book' by Kipling, and there are animals such as leopards, chital, sambar and most famously, the tiger. You can make trips to the park on elephant back early in the morning and in the evening, although it is increasingly unlikely to see the tigers because of gangs of poachers. You can always see the animals, but it is easier in the warmer months, March and April, when you move away from the woods to go in search of water. The park is closed from July 1 to October 31.

There is a direct bus service from Jabalpur twice a day. It is battered old bus and space is limited (at least until Mandla), therefore limited luggage. The nearest railway station is less than two hours by bus, but if you love the train is worth making the trip.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, this strip of about 500 tropical islands located in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar and extends almost to Sumatra. From the point of view of ethnic islands are not part of India and until recently have been inhabited only by indigenous tribal peoples. The Andaman and Nicobar islands are mostly uninhabited, surrounded by coral reefs, with white sand beaches and transparent waters. It's a great place for snorkeling, scuba diving and lazing on the beach to sit. The Indian tourists can come and go freely, but foreigners must obtain a permit 30 days allowing you to travel only in a limited way. We make regular flights to Port Blair, on South Andaman, from Calcutta and Chennai (Madras); permits are issued at the airport upon arrival. The boats from Calcutta and Chennai are infrequent and takes four days to reach the islands; if you arrive by boat you must obtain permission in advance.

Once a starting point for the caravans of yaks direct in Central Asia, is situated in a small valley just north of the Indus Valley. Today it is in the central part of strategic military and tourist town. His pride is the main Leh Palace, built in the sixteenth century but now abandoned and very damaged as a result of the war against the Ladakh Kashmir in the last century. The Zanskar mountains, across the Indus River, they seem very close. The building was sold to the Indian Archaeological Society Ladakhi royal family and is currently an ambitious renovation project. Just ask one of monaco open the door of the central hall of prayer is dusty and dark, with huge masks that appear in the dark. It is worthwhile to avoid the souvenir shops and eateries to stroll through the maze of the Old Quarter and take a look at the city as it was before hosting tourists.

Starting from Leh you can take a hike to Tikse Gompa, a 20 km away, situated on a hill overlooking the Indus River. It has an important collection of Tibetan books and some excellent works of art. You can also attend religious ceremonies. The Hemis Gompa, 45 km from Leh, is the largest and most important Tibetan monastery in Ladakh, well known for the Hemis Festival, which usually takes place in late June or early July, the place for processed masked dances for two days, which assists an enthusiastic crowd. If the adrenaline rush caused by the arrival in Ladakh there is not enough (see Travel and Transport, indoor), you can arrange rafting trips on the River Indus through various agencies operating in Leh and you can go trekking in the valley of Markha and Indus.

Arrive and depart smoothly from Leh depends on the period: air travel between June and September are usually not a problem, but in the winter months move becomes more complicated. If weather conditions permit, you can fly to Delhi and Srinagar Jangmur. There are only two bus routes from Leh and in both cases you can not buy tickets until the night before departure, the risk that the races are canceled. In the absence of planes and buses, jeeps and taxis are more expensive than the bus but with the advantage of being always available.

India is a vast territory, triangular, located in South Asia, bordered on the north by the long chain of the Himalayas and reaching the Indian Ocean to the south. It is bordered by Pakistan to the northwest, with China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. Sri Lanka is the teardrop-shaped island hanging off its southern tip. India covers an area of 3.28759 million sq km, although this figure is somewhat arbitrary disputed borders with Pakistan and China.

It is the seventh among the greatest countries in the world. Northern India is home to the snow-capped peaks and deep valleys of the Himalaya and the vast plains of the Ganges, which separates the Himalayan region from the southern peninsula and stretches from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. South of the plains, the land rises to form a triangular plateau known as the Deccan, whose altitude varies from 300 to 900 m. The plateau is flanked by gathi eastern and western ranges of hills that run parallel to the east and west coasts and separate the fertile coastal strip.

Wildlife in India seems to enjoy a privileged and protected thanks to the religious ideals and feelings of Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, but these traditions are now largely lost. Extensive hunting by the British and the Indian rajahs, the large-scale deforestation to make way for agriculture, poaching, pesticides and the continuous increase in population have had disastrous effects on the environment. Only about 10% of the territory is still covered by forest and only 4% is protected by national parks and reserves. During the last decades the government has taken serious steps to improve the management of the environment and were founded more than 350 parks, reserves and protected areas.

Pets are most characteristic of Indian wildlife lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, elephants and rhinos, but the country is also home to a wide variety of deer and antelope, wild buffaloes, massive Indian bisons, sloth bears, striped hyenas, wild boars, jackals and wild dogs in India. Among the monkeys are made, the monkey from the cap, and the langur. Among the reptiles, the magnificent king cobras, pythons, crocodiles, large freshwater turtles and monitor lizards, while the diverse birdlife includes large hornbills, serpent eagles and fishing owls, the elegant peacock country.

The climate is very varied, from arid deserts of Rajasthan to the cool highlands of Assam, allegedly the wettest place on earth. Basically, however, are three seasons: hot, wet and cold. The heat starts to build up on the northern plains around February and by April it becomes unbearable. The first signs of the monsoon in May with a high humidity, short rainstorms and violent electrical storms. The monsoon rains begin around June in the extreme south and sweep north to cover the whole country by early July.

You can not say that the monsoon has an effect just refreshing, but it is a great relief, especially for farmers. The main monsoon comes from the southwest, but the southeastern coast is hit by a short and very wet northeastern monsoon, which brings rain from mid-October to late December. The main monsoon ends around October, and December in the cities of northern India the climate is cold and dry. In the far south, where it's never cold, you have a pleasant warmth more than a big warm.

The main international airports in India are Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi, but also many international flights arriving in Calcutta and Chennai (Madras). Generally flights from Europe arrive in India in the early hours of the morning, which can be quite inconvenient if you have not booked the hotel and you do not like to wander in the dark for an unknown city.

The place where you can buy tickets cheaper price is Delhi, followed by Mumbai and Calcutta. The direct international flights to neighboring countries can be very cheap: especially between Kolkata and Dhaka (Bangladesh), Delhi and Karachi (Pakistan) and Tiruchirappalli and Colombo (Sri Lanka). journeys by air The most common between India and Nepal are Birganj-Raxaul, Gorakhpur-Sunauli and Kakarbhitta-Siliguri. Phuentsholing is the border point in and out between India and Bhutan, but it is necessary to have a visa to enter the bhutanese country which must be requested at least 15 days before embarking on the journey at an agency accredited by the Department of Tourism of Bhutan.

If you're heading from Kathmandu or Pokhara to Delhi or other places of northwestern India, the entry point Sunauli is the most convenient; to reach Kolkata or most of the city in eastern India, Birganj is the best place to cross the border; and arrive in Darjeeling is easier with a stopover in Kakarbhitta. It's pretty easy to travel by air between Calcutta and Dhaka. The only currently open border between India and Pakistan is located between Lahore and Amritsar. The crossing can be by train or by road; the border, in other places, you can cross only on the road. It is currently operating a bus service between Lahore and Delhi making runs four times a week.

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