After a lifetime of travel I’ve found the easiest way to differentiate the traveller from the tourist is to ask the simple question: “what do you think of India?” Travellers can’t get enough of it over many journeys; tourists find the crowds and the chaos off-putting.
If you look upon the daily street scene of any Indian city, a maelstrom of turbans, taxis, tuk tuks, beggars, trucks and camel carts and give a sigh of contentment, you're addicted to travel.
The Indian markets are a riotous blend of colour and scents
On the other hand, a friend of mine was halfway towards Delhi from the airport when he had the driver turn around so he could catch the next flight home. I don't think he's left Australia since.
Travel in India gives you highs and lows that are so much more extreme than anywhere else in the world. There may be moments of frustration balanced by times of great humour. Above all, there's the Indian people themselves who are the most gentle and spontaneously generous people I've met.
“The trouble with writing about India,” a fellow travel writer once complained to me, “is that it always comes down to a series of anecdotes. An Indian Tourism official confided that everything that anyone has ever said or written about India is true. How do you deal with a destination that leaps straight from a visit to the post office to the metaphysical?”
There are some parts of India that should be on any traveller’s “Must See” list. The Taj Mahal in Agra tops that list – it’s perfect from when you first see it in the distance across the river to when you look at the stone inlay work from mere centimetres away.
But whole cities and regions of India are equally engaging. Houseboating on the backwaters of Kerala to the south has gained a lot of interest in recent years – especially when tied in with a visit to the beautiful tea plantations in the nearby hills.
The majestic Taj Mahal in Agra has well earned its reputation as one of the new 7 wonders of the world
Delhi offers both its modern new city and the Red Fort-dominated old city. Udaipur’s Lake Palace Hotel has featured in many films and, like all of the other palace hotels, is simply a beautiful place to stay. Rajasthan is a perennial favourite.
Then there’s the holy city of Varanasi on the Ganges where pilgrims come from across the country. It’s intense and mystical – an encapsulation of the whole intriguing nation of India.
There’s everything to be said for planning ahead before travelling to India – or handing the whole trip over to professionals. When I took a look at what was offered by Wendy Wu Tours it was hard to pick a trip I didn’t want to do.
The tours have been cleverly divided into categories from fully escorted tours to “Discovery Tours” that are immersive and explore parts of the country in great depth.
The holy city of Varanasi on the Ganges
Wendy Wu’s Grand Tour of India does a good job of encompassing the impossible: seeing the highlights of India over 28 days. Of course there’s Mumbai, Delhi and the Taj but there’s also time at Ajanta and Ellora caves (think Passage to India), the carvings of Khajuraho and the ethereal desert city of Jaisalmer.
There’s boats, houseboats, rail and coach travel so you’ll have a chance to discover that India is much more than just a series of cities; there’s a lot of countryside, too.
One of the Discovery tours (the Trans Himalayan Journey) takes you down the Manali Road from Leh through the part of India known as “little Tibet”.
A Classic Group Tour (Highlights of India & Nepal) takes you into Nepal after seeing the highlights of India. Another option is a Deluxe Group Tour with upmarket accommodation.
An often overlooked advantage of using a tour operator to India is that you’ll go places in the right season. India is a large country with a wide range of climate zones. Tours don’t operate out of season so Delhi’s sweltering pre-monsoon will only house hapless independent travellers passing through and wishing they were somewhere else.
A visit to the India area of the Wendy Wu website is inspiring. If you’ve been to India before it’ll be difficult to avoid rekindled enthusiasm as you discover tours that take you back to places you know or other tours that take you in a whole new direction.
The ancient fort of Jaisalmer rising out of the desert offers a unique, isolated experience
If you’ve never been to India you can get excited about finally exploring the ultimate travel destination with experts who’ll accompany you to make it easy. Your Indian visa will be arranged as part of the tour.
India is endlessly fascinating. Now it’s easier to explore than ever.
Have you travelled to India before? Where was your favourite destination?
(Images courtesy of Wendy Wu Tours)