India. You either love it or hate it, is often said with leaving no room for middle ground. But while it is definitely a beast, there are probably more than a hundred reasons to visit India. And yes, it can be an assault on the senses, but it will make you feel alive. There’s so much beauty to be found, ancient history and such geographical and cultural diversity it really offers an allround experience.
When I traveled to India for the first time, over 10 years go, I essentially had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I had read about Varanasi and the Ganges, the palaces, about sprawling cities and the spirituality of temples, but when I arrived, I was completely taken aback by the India that overwhelmed me. It had all of those things, but so much more. Sure, all the cliches I’d heard about India are true, but that didn’t stop me from going back several more times.
9 reasons to visit India
The culture shock
There’s no other country in the world that will shake you up like India. It smells, it is loud and hot, and the amount of people is tantalizing. It grips you and doesn’t let go easily. India comes with rituals, customs and scents you’ve never known before but when you put in the effort and get to know it, it will teach you things you’ve never thought of before.
From the cows in the street and the monkeys on the roofs, the colorful sarees of the women and the chaos on in the streets to yes, the many curious stares you’ll get, it will exhaust you and excite you.
Did you know that the Bollywood industry is actually bigger than Hollywood? When you think of Bollywood movies you may think of cheesy lines and lots of songs and dance, but Bollywood movies could actually give Hollywood a run for its money. Budgets are huge, there are no concessions in quality and while there are the typical ‘masala’ movies, there are most definitely tons of excellent, good story telling movies to counter that. Though arguably, masala movies might be the most fun to watch!
Going to see a movie in an India cinema is an experience you should not miss! Movie goers do not sit quietly in their seats, but will dance along, cry, laugh and shout at the screen. If that doesn’t make you happy!
For the longest time, foreigners would try to be cast in movies as extras, and hang around the studios in Mumbai. While not saying it’s impossible, connections certainly do help.
Taking one of those famous train rides was one (of many) reasons to visit India for me. The train network is enormous, and Indian Railways itself one of 3 largest employers in the world. The trains go pretty much everywhere and are quite the experience in themselves!
A heavily traveled route is Agra – Varanasi, especially for those traveling Rajasthan, but one the most beautiful rides is the Mumbai – Goa route that will take you to the mountains, the Western Ghats and crosses many bridges. Or take the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, that stretches from Mettupalayam to hill station Ooty in 5 hours rides through tea plantations and green forests.
Dharamsala is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. More specifically, McLeod Ganj actually is, but Dharamsala is your gateway. Here, up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, you will find Tibetan temples, schools and meditation centers. It is a popular destinations for both tourists and Buddhists, but there is a quiet and peaceful charm about it.
McLeod Ganj also houses a library with the largest collection of books on Tibetan history and religion. Not the kind of books you’re thinking of, but ancient prints wrapped in linens.
If you’re hoping to catch the Dalai Lama, make sure he is actually in town by checking his schedule. Even if he is not there though, walking around the compounds is plenty impressive.
The Wagah border
Promise you’ve never seen a border like it! The border between India and Pakistan, very close to Amritsar, is closed ceremonially every night with a true spectacle. A very patriotic and tiny bit aggressive (yet friendly) ordeal in which the Indian and Pakistani officials close the border, complete with parades, song and dance. Stands have been set up on both sides of the border, and people come prepared. Flags, drums, you name it. I’d never seen anything like it. It was awesome.
Come early, because people literally make a run for a good seat. This video should give you a good impression!
For decades, people have been coming to India looking for mindfulness, a deeper meaning in life or do some soul searching. Whatever you might be looking for, fat chance you’ll find in in India. Whether Rishikesh calls to you to spend some time doing yoga in an ashram, you’re looking to immerse yourself in ayurveda or learn about religion and its many deities, it’s all at your fingertips.
Experience life (and death) at India’s most sacred river in Varanasi, take part in an Aarti ceremony in Haridwar, explore gurudwaras and temples and know that India has 2 millions gods, and worships them all.
Probably India’s most popular state by tourist cities, and for most travelers, the main reason to travel to India. Rajasthan offers majestic forts and palaces, desert and desert cities. It’s also known for its art and food culture, and it could be hard to avoid a festival here. The desert around Pushkar is the annual scene for the camel fair, where people come from far away places to sell their animals, the international Kite Festival in Jaipur and Jodhpur and the Teej Festival in Jaipur.
Traveling around India, you will undoubtedly come across things you may not encounter at home. As you should on any trip, really! Need a set of fake teeth? Funky spelling mistakes on restaurant menus, cars being blessed by priests or cows wandering into places they shouldn’t, all of it just adds to the charm that is India!
In a place where there’s so much diversity, cultural, geographical, religious and has that amount of people, you are bound to be surprised.
While some of these tend to be somewhat ‘alternative’ reasons to visit India, the more obvious ones like yoga, food and the fact that it’s really budget friendly certainly shouldn’t be overlooked! All of these combined will give you a stellar experience. And remember; you’re never prepared for India, but India is always prepared for you.
That’s how we keep this crazy place together – with the heart. Two hundred fuckin’ languages, and a billion people. India is the heart. It’s the heart that keeps us together. There’s no place with people like my people, Lin. There’s no heart like the Indian heart.*Shantaram
Got you convinced? Here are some resources!
- 🚃 for train bookings: 12GoAsia
- 🛏. for hotel bookings: Booking or Agoda
- 🥾. find an exciting tour to join, for example this Jaipur street food tour
- ✈️. where else? Check cheap flights on Skyscanner
- 📖 don’t forget your Lonely Planet guide