This vast country on the Asian subcontinent abounds in sights, and to do justice to all of India’s most spectacular sights would involve a journey lasting at least a year. For travellers with less time available the best plan is to decide on one or two regions to visit, and fully exploit the opportunity to take in the awe-inspiring sights of major attractions and incredible scenery.
Few visits to India would be complete without experiencing one of the world’s most iconic buildings, the Taj Mahal. It is situated at Agra, some 130 miles south of Delhi, the capital of India and chief destination for the majority of international flights to the country, available on numerous airlines through travel experts such as Expedia.co.uk. The Taj Mahal is a huge mausoleum built of dazzling white marble, erected by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favourite wife. Construction began in 1631 and was completed in 1648. It is considered to be the nation’s pinnacle of Muslim art, and is universally admired as a masterpiece of world heritage.
In addition to the Taj Mahal, Agra has an equally important Mughal monument – the Red Fort. Built in the 16th century, it is an enormous fortress made of red sandstone and was the Mughal Empire’s imperial stronghold. Enclosed within its one and a half miles of walls are two beautiful mosques, a number of fairy-tale palaces such as the Khas Mahal and Jahangir Palace, built by Shah Jahan, and several audience halls including the Diwan-i-Khas.
This mysterious mountain range thrusting to the skies to the north of India is a legendary destination, not simply as home to the world’s highest mountain, Everest, but for its rich natural and physical history. The main destination for most travellers, backpackers, trekkers and mountaineers is the mystical Kathmandu, capital of the kingdom of Nepal. Although the bulk of the Himalayan mountain range lies in Nepal and its northern neighbour Tibet, there are plentiful Himalayan delights on the Indian side of the border.
Valley of Flowers National Park
High in the western Himalayas is the Valley of Flowers National Park, a magnet for botanists, zoologists and trekkers. This gentle landscape, although at high altitude, is home to many endemic alpine flowers including the Blue Poppy and the Cobra Lily, and its meadows are vistas of outstanding natural beauty. Rare animal species roam here too, and visitors may be lucky enough to catch glimpses of Asiatic black bears, brown bears, blue sheep and the elusive snow leopard.
Nanda Devi National Park
In contrast to the adjoining Valley of Flowers National Park, Nanda Devi National Park is much more of a rugged mountain wilderness, surrounded by snow-covered slopes and with peaks that rise to over 25,000 feet. The park is a trekker’s paradise and forms a transition zone between the Zanskar mountain range and Great Himalaya range.
The north of India can also be a stepping stone for treks to one of the Everest Base Camps, one of which is in Nepal, the other in China. With so much to see, a new-year holiday to the Himalayas could be the perfect tonic and the gateway to a never-ending source of fascinating, challenging experiences.