How to travel to India so you can actually explore Incredible India

How can you have any expectations before you travel to India for the first time? Whatever we imagine or thought it might be, it all fell down this hole in Bengaluru, from which a huge rat came out to say “Incredible India!”. We went with the flow at our India itinerary so we could actually explore India with its contrasts, magical places, overwhelming situations, and bustling personas.

India – a country of contrasts or a country of action?

We knew about our journey to India for a really long time and still, our plans changed every day until the day we left. Even the members of our traveling team changed – thankfully, for the better. Our newly-formed touristic company with its unique identifier – the blue tourist scarf, was ready to conquer India. Until the last moment we were looking for hotels, we were adding destinations to our Indian journey and we were arranging all kinds of details. We made sure we had our own unique identifiers – the scarfs. We don’t have many photos because we had to trade one of the scarfs for something more valuable in Fatehpur.

Getting a visa for India

Getting a visa for India was a bit of pain in the ass because I applied for a tourist visa together with two people going for business visas. It took some effort to convince the council that I’m just going on a vacation. Nowadays it’s much better because you can get a visa for India easily and painlessly with this website.

My special welcome to India

Apart from our planning and realizing the journey in India, the time was passing by fast and each of us arrived by their unique combination of flights and buses in Bengaluru. I was the lucky one who arrived last. I am saying lucky not because I spent less time in India, of course, but because I got welcomed like this. Two Europeans, well-dressed as Indians, presented me with a colorful kurta and a wreath of flowers (obviously they wanted to point out something about my smell). At the end of our trip, I went shopping for a nice sari (or saree, if you prefer) – and I love the one I got – emerald green with golden ornaments. India is just a heaven for those in love with shopping. You can get some amazing souvenirs from India that will keep your memories from the country of contrasts vivid.

However, dressing up and sleeping can make miracles. Sleeping reminds me of another contrast – on many days we woke up early in the morning, before the sun has risen, to get on our way to our next destination. At the same time, we haven’t missed an opportunity to sleep for a little while. That is even when we are waiting for an airplane, we are riding in a taxi or we are 10000 meters above the ground. We have beaten our personal records for most flights in 8-9 days. This happened because the distances in India are huge. And even the not so great distances are traveled very “fast” by car… I wonder why. And when it starts to look like India is impossible to travel around, you realize that some people actually travel solo in India. And this is just another contrast.

The contrasts of India

What are all these contrasts in India? Let’s say that with under a minute of walking you get from a nearly destroyed building with garbage all over it to a super luxurious mall. People living like kings and people begging on the street. In a moment you can eat to your heart’s desire and in the next, you can’t find drinking water. You notice a situation on the street and you laugh, then you realize you’re actually crying. Mood swings as much as your personality starts to question every bit of its existence and every decision you ever took. Incredible India!

Welcome to India, streets of Bengaluru

Explore India: our Delhi itinerary

The capital of India – Delhi – will always have a special place in our hearts. We did a one-day tour in Delhi twice – first time with a car, second time walking and exploring the dynamics of the city. Our Delhi itinerary was absolutely spontaneous and improvised.

We expected to face long distances and crowds of people. Our first surprise was the hearse-like rickshaw that took us to the hotel. After a few minutes of wandering around the hotel, we finally managed to find it.

This hotel will also leave a mark in our hearts. Entering our room we were welcomed by the noise from the street on the one side and the smell and the noise from the restaurant on the other.  If you looked more closely at the walls you could find an ant or two crawling on them. However, we are not fans of the luxurious so it was not a problem for us. Especially after we got our towels right after the third reminder we gave to the staff.

One-day Delhi tour with a car

We spent our day sightseeing in the city by car and a driver. He was waiting for us for as long as we needed while we were enjoying the sights of our Delhi itinerary and then was taking us to the next stop. And we were passing the Presidential Palace, India Gate, Qutb Complex, mistery palaces in the mist…

Is Delhi in November a good idea?

The thing that really surprised us in Delhi was the mist.

It is extremely inconvenient if you want to see anything or take photos. And it is not supposed to be misty at the beginning of November. This just proves that climate changes are affecting India, too. After all, it was the beginning of the winter and we were sweating over and over again.

We should not miss paying our honors to one of the tastiest Indian lunches. At least I was licking my fingers (just the ones on the right hand, though) after it. The dinner was quite honorable, too. Delhi made up for the not-so-good weather.

Akshardham complex

The first day of our Delhi itinerary ended with Akshardham. It is a complex that gives you the opportunity to get to know the Indian culture and history over a wide period of time – 10000 years.

The experience started with a long, tiring waiting in a queue. We got so close to the people next to us that every time the barrier was raised we were just wondering how not to crush each other. After we finally managed to get to the checkpoints, where we were supposed to have almost nothing with us apart from a bottle of water we were separated by gender. The huge distances between the people at this point felt like a great luxury. In this marvelous place, no electronic devices are permitted. I guess this way we can protect the images in our heads for longer, at least I hope so.

Since it was getting dark as we were waiting, the lights were piercing the mist and we could see everything in HD. Huge gardens, monuments, fountains, and in the middle of all of this – the temple. We left our shoes at the shoe place (oh, heavens) and barefoot, with the slightest feeling of inconvenience, we started running up the stairs of the temple. Inside everything was shiny and bright, just like in the fairy tales. The best part of the night was the show at the fountain, where, while we were seated on the rocks, we were charmed by the colorful dances of the water. Here are some photos from the official website of the complex: http://www.akshardham.com/.

One-day Delhi walking tour (DIY)

As our first one-day itinerary in Delhi was a bit tiring (lots of people) it was not until our second day (this time walking and using the metro) in Delhi, after we came back from Agra and Jaipur, that we understood what it is like to meet those few million citizens for a few hours.

Since we are always trying to do what the locals do, we decided to try the subway. At first, we were told that the subway station is far from the hotel, so we tried to arrange a rickshaw to get us there. This didn’t work out. So then we started walking. Six minutes later we reached the station, we bought tickets and followed the crowd. We had to change the subway lines a few times. So, not only did we get really close to the other passengers, but we always had to be at the edge of our toes not to miss our next station. The tickets are prepaid to a certain station, so if you make a mistake or if you try to cheat it can be a problem when you try to get out.

Going back a really nice gentleman told us that in the subway there is a special part for women. That was a game-changer for us. There it was nice, not crowded, smells of flowers and not too hot. Nace almost came in with us, but he got a warning. It is not bad to be a woman in the Delhi subway. Even the security checks, just like in many other places, were separated by gender. This makes it a lot faster and, at the same time, you get checked behind the curtain if you have to be.

Even if you don’t feel like a princess in the subway, as the three of us did, when we came off of it we had to walk to the place we wanted to see. Then it was really hard on us. We had to pass by holes filled with garbage, puddles with suspicious ingredients, and markets on the ground. Some people were lying/sleeping on the ground. Crowds everywhere. Scary. Even at a beautiful place like Red Fort. It is full of small playful squirrels, cute tiny mosques, and beautiful views, that make you want to chill out, hang around, and do some yoga.

Still, you cannot ignore the contrast that is just a few meters away. The streets are in no walking (but good for flying over, though) condition. It’s safer on the almost destroyed pavement in the middle of the road. Be careful not to get hit by something on the street. Those who persist in having “real” Indian spices, can look no further. They are probably most tasty when combined with the trash all-around.

How to cross a street in Delhi?

It was impossible to take photos as we were walking in circles, trying to find our way to the subway station or at least to grab a rickshaw, since we were scared of walking. Unfortunately, every walking itinerary in Delhi and every travel to India would require street crossing.

On the so-called sidewalks, 5 people were walking where there was a place for only one. The crossing was a dangerous sport. None of these thousands of people with cars, bikes, rickshaws, etc. doesn’t care that you want to get on the other side with all of your toes still attached to your body. Crossing the street is some kind of survival of the fittest. If you are fast you can survive. If someone is looking after you, you might survive as well. We were so tired of walking, crossing, and the entire craziness that we just wanted to catch some kind of rickshaw and take a rest at a safe place. We also had no water and just before it was too late we finally managed to find some, so we could bring some of our strengths back. With the last of our energy, we reached a boulevard. Between its two huge lanes, we were jumping over obstacles of different kinds and finally we managed to get a rickshaw. It was time for the driver to make the effort and we sat back and took photos of the traffic and the surroundings…Incredible India!

Travel to India, spice market in Delhi

Explore India: visiting Agra and Jaipur

It is dark in India that early in the morning. Delhi is still asleep, but we are not. We do our best in order to wake all the parts of our bodies so we can start our long-expected and long-desired journey to the Taj Mahal.  We will go to Agra and Jaipur – the other two of the Golden Triangle in India. But that is not all of it. It is not an ordinary day, it is my birthday. After the nice and half-sleepy congrats from Bistra and Martina, I went to take my present from the still sleeping staff of the hotel. At the reception, everything was calm and peaceful, especially the soft snoring of the receptionist and the valets.

Traveling from Delhi to Agra

had to bring some chaos to this morning’s peacefulness when I understood that our taxi will be late by an unknown amount of time. Half an hour later things started to get into place. Everything was normal, or at least as normal as it can be in India. The taxi driver came with a big sleepy smile on his face, wished us a good morning, and apologized for the “normal” delay. We were finally on the road! Great! The distance between us and the Taj Mahal was getting smaller slowly but consistently.

We had some breakfast at a tourist restaurant on the side of the road. After a few hours of light sleeping and occasional small talks with the driver, who turned out to be a real Indian driver since he made us feel safe, we arrived at Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

“This is a small place, sir”, playfully commented the driver “as a matchbox”. It turned out he was right. Only a couple of million people live there. So it is just a village!

Entering the Taj Mahal

People, camels, lots of cars, dogs, and monkeys were everywhere around us. Our local guide was waiting for us and together we went to the western entrance of the Taj Mahal.

We didn’t have to queue for a long time. This must be due to the fact that we arrived early or because we were foreigners and there is a separate queue for us. This is normal the ticket’s price is 37,5 times higher for foreigners than it is for locals. While we were waiting we managed to give an interview for a local electronic journal. They told us that the Taj Mahal used to be closed because of an official political visit. That was also the reason for the local journalists to wonder what we think about this case.

Visiting the Taj Mahal – a dream come true

And finally, the time has come. In front of us was the white architectural miracle and the monument of an insanely huge royal love – the Taj Mahal. When you enter you have to put on special overshoes (most foreigners do that) or just take your shoes off (Indians do that).

Apart from being impressive from the outside, it is just as beautiful and surprising from the inside. The white marble and the special windows direct the sunlight. the special stones, that are used so pieces of art can be inserted in the white marble, all give the impression of magnificence. One of the stones reacts differently to the light and creates a really beautiful “fire” effect.

Bistra and Marti are definitely kind of stars around here – so many fans wanted to click photos with them. I thought they were all here because of my birthday…anyway!

Fatehpur Sikri

Our next stop is Fatehpur Sikri. It is an ancient city about 40 kilometers from Agra. It is built on a stony hill combining Hindu and Muslim architecture. We visited a few palaces and a fortress, where the famous grave of Salim Chishti is placed. He was a saint who could do miracles. That’s why nowadays many people go there to leave their wishes at the saint’s grave, hoping they will come true. People from all religions can be seen here.

Inside you must cover your head and when you are going out you get a light touch on the top of your head. This is done for health and happiness. The windows were made with marble carvings. They look like they have glasses. We were told that this happens because the windows on one side of the hallway have smaller holes than the ones on the other side. The fact that it is dark inside just contributes to the end result. The women inside can walk without covering their heads and no one from the outside can see their faces.

On the outside, the sun was still fighting the mist, but the view was great. Before leaving we wanted to buy some small marble elephants that have another elephant on the inside. The artist said he loved my scarf and so I gave it to him and he gave me one of those elephants.

Nearby was the palace of one of the Indian rulers who had 3 wives (Hindu, Muslim, and Christian) and had separate palaces for each of them. The biggest one was for his Hindu wife because she gave birth to a boy. No comment.

From Agra to Jaipur

From there on a few hours of driving during the night followed, so we could reach Jaipur – the third point in the Golden Triangle of India (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur). There we spent the night at a nicer hotel but we didn’t even have the chance to celebrate my birthday with a beer. Yep, beer only in specialized bars and super fancy hotels, but it was too creepy to walk the dark streets for just a beer.

Visiting Jaipur – the Pink City

On the next day, after a nice breakfast in the hotel’s garden, we enjoyed Jaipur and all it had to show us. It is called Pink City or Indian Paris. We saw some of the famous palaces in the city.

The Amer Fort

It was time to visit the Amer Fort. It is located on a hill with a view over the Maota lake which is 11 kilometers away from Jaipur. There you could go to the top of the fortress on an elephant, but we didn’t do that because the queue was huge. Instead, we enjoyed the view and then our car took us to the top. On the inside, it was full of life – music, monkeys, elephants, tourists, and traders. The local guide was really good at telling us the history of the fortress and the details about the architectural achievements there.

The astronomical observatory

Our next stop was the astronomical observatory. There were some astrological aspects there, of course, but India without its horoscope would not be the same place. It was really impressive to be able to walk around the biggest building of this kind in India, which is still functioning. Jantar Mantar and many other giant astronomical facilities were a total highlight. Our Bollywood stars again made their fans happy with a few photos.

The royal tombs (Gaitor Royal Tumbas)

On our way to the royal tombs, we made a quick stop at a Sikh temple. The royal tombs were a very quiet place. Also, quite peaceful and full of beautiful buildings. At the entrance, we were welcomed by a very friendly and happy boy. He was rewarded, of course. Here even the stories didn’t take lots of time since we wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet. There were no other tourists, no traders, just the sun and us. It is really hard to find this kind of peace in India.

Incredible India, sir!

It was time to say goodbye to our guide and to get on the road to Delhi. To sum up I will share with you my favorite saying from our driver: “Incredible India, sir!”.

Explore India: our Kerala itinerary in God’s own country

Just when it was time to give ourselves some rest from the fast pace of India, we arrived in Kerala. We traveled through the Thar Desert (in Rajasthan). Then we visited the crowded Delhi and the modern Bengaluru. It was time to travel south – towards the tropical climate of the green place in India, towards God’s own country. Here us our Kerala itinerary.

Fort Kochi

We were surprised by the nature around us from the beginning – on our way from the airport to the city of Kochi. Our eyes had forgotten what green looks like. We ended up being surrounded by many plants and high humidity. It was really warm, too. But we wouldn’t let this stop us from visiting Fort Kochi. On our way to the Jewish neighborhood, many friendly locals welcomed us. We were hurrying to explore as much as we can before it gets dark outside.

Shopping in Fort Kochi

We wouldn’t miss going shopping for some spices.

We are a little bit old-fashioned. That’s why we didn’t buy spices from the old ladies that were selling them from the ground in Delhi (they were really close to big piles of junk, too). However, Marti finally tried some coconut milk from a young coconut.

The rickshaws here were far more modern and better looking. The drivers were friendlier, too. One of them even managed to persuade us to watch a Kerala show and even took us there. An unexpected stop in our Kerala itinerary.

Traditional music and dance performance

We saw different types of dances. They looked more like some musical performances filled with emotion and costumes than any dance we have ever seen.

Kerala backwaters – houseboats in a God’s own place

Kerala area, and Alappuzha more specifically, were widely advertised as “God’s own place”. So we decided to visit it. It was quite different than all the places we visited in Rajasthan so we were right to put it on our Kerala itinerary. At first, we were impressed by the beautiful nature and the amazing views it gave us. Then, though, we saw the so-called backwaters and we forget all about everything else. It was great! It is actually a system of swamps, lagoons, and other sweat-water pools, that are connected with canals. Some of these canals are so narrow that only a canoe can pass. Others are wide enough to have large dryland parts with villages or resorts on them.

On our boat, we had a captain, a cook, and an assistant to give us everything we want. We even had a Jacuzzi in our bedroom, but we never used it. While sailing on the water there was a light breeze. Putting it in combination with the views of palm and lotus trees, boats, and small houses, results in a very relaxing journey. Instead of plates, we used banana leaves. We got them from a short stop to the mainland, where our cook cut them off. After that, he washed them and served us lunch in them. So tasty!

After the tasty food and exploring the amazing surrounding we felt like having an afternoon nap. I was an exemplary photographer and stayed awake. As it turned out – it was worth it. After that, we had a late afternoon meal – breaded banana and some Indian tea oils. We played some backgammon and enjoyed the view some more. The lazy hours of enjoying nature were passing by way too quickly.

Visiting tiny islands in Kerala backwaters

It started getting late and so it was time to moor. We were going to sleep in a hidden place with an extraordinary sunset. We walked on a narrow piece of land. We were surrounded by water and flora. Even the birds were singing to mistake the experience even nicer. While walking around we visited an old man, too. He was living in a cottage. In his home, he had an electric pump that moves the water from one part of the swamp to another. We really wanted to talk to him, but it was hard since we had no common language. However, he was really positive, and meeting him was great.

And this is not all. It was time for the sunset and many colors started playing games in the sky. The palm trees were dancing with the last sunlight. We had no choice other than to take a lot of photos.

Issues in houseboat paradise

So far everything is perfect. It is truly a paradise for the newlyweds. Once the sun is gone though, the fauna comes to play. Even the large glasses of beer (600+ ml) couldn’t help us with the thousands of flies. They were everywhere, including on us. If you are either a nature lover or really well dressed you can survive it. Supposedly, in some countries, you can even pay to get gently massaged by thousands of flies.

Advice: Do not postpone going to Kerala for your honeymoon as many couples do. The place is incredible and combines the tropical with the specific charm of India! Visit it as soon as possible.

Alappuzha beach

On the next day, we arrived at the harbor full of energy after our Kerala itinerary, ready to visit the beach in Alappuzha. It was a wide and almost empty coastline. It really tempted us to get comfortable with it. However, the heat and the upcoming time for our flight stooped us from doing that. We flew to Bengaluru where we did some shopping and had dinner. After that everyone went back the way we came and got to Bulgaria.

Explore India: Bengaluru, Bangalore, or the Silicon Valley of India

Bengaluru, or Bangalore, a.k.а. The Silicon Valley of India – is the main city in Karnataka state. Recently it is getting overpopulated due to the many software companies that are opening offices there. This way it has gotten more modern, with more buildings and way shinier. Apart from that, some unpaved sidewalks can still be found. One of the deep holes to the canals was a part of an unforgettable experience for Marti. One of her legs fell into it during a very rainy night and after that neither the hairdryer, nor the showers could help her sneakers. The saddest part was that a dead rat was found in the same hole the next day. The details around its death are still unknown. Was it trying to follow her? Or was it just going for a swim?

However, this is the worst that can be said about the city. It was full of all kinds of restaurants, huge buildings and places build in different styles. Even if you come from Texas and you have to stay in Bengaluru for a while you won’t have the chance to miss the Texas cuisine and atmosphere. We ate at a typical Rajasthan (another Indian state) restaurant and at a Japanese restaurant.

Sightseeing in Bengaluru and how to get there

However, our adventures in Bengaluru were not limited to eating and drinking Kingfisher. Far from it. We were very active and for just a day managed to see all the main sightseeing places. For longer distances, we used auto rickshaws. Rickshaws were our new best friends. The scarf helps with the unpleasant smells that can hit your nose from time to time. But in Delhi, we really understood what a long-distance is, especially when you are unable to get any kind of transportation and your feet start to hurt.

A motorcycle parked in the park.
A police motorcycle parked in the park.
A police motorcycle with a leopard print.
A police motorcycle with a leopard print parked right next to a no parking sign.
An idiot pretending to be a cat next to a police motorcycle with a leopard print.
Priceless!

Bengaluru’s main shopping street

Bengaluru has a lively commercial street or otherwise said “the main street”. I visited it two times – once just for sightseeing and the second time, on our last night in India, to buy some souvenirs and a sari (or saree). I cannot lie – I liked it despite the crowd and the noise.

When you’ve had enough of the city, you can set off to a place nearby for some chill. Here are some amazing weekend getaways from Bangalore ideas!

We planned a trip to India. We traveled to India for the first time, only to be lucky enough to discover Incredible India. This term is carved into every memory we have of that deeply-contrasted country, and its alliteration really marks the simple truth. India is incredible!

What was your first experience with India? Would you recommend other places to travel to India? Let us know!

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3 Responses

  1. […] not usually found in Indian itineraries. Neither is it something that you will stumble upon as you explore India. You have to go looking for it. And that is what makes it so special and […]

  2. […] Also Read – How to travel to India so you can explore Incredible India […]

  3. […] also need to know that traveling in India can take a lot of time and trains are often late. From Delhi to Jaipur, even if there are only […]

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