One of the oldest civilisations in the world, India is a mosaic of multicultural experiences. With a rich heritage and myriad attractions, the country is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It covers an area of 32, 87,263 sq. km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity.
Fringed by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. As you travel the expanse of the country, you are greeted by diverse nuances of cuisines, faiths, arts, crafts, music, nature, lands, tribes, history and adventure sports. India has a mesmeric conflation of the old and the new. As the bustling old bazaars rub shoulders with swanky shopping malls, and majestic monuments accompany luxurious heritage hotels, the quintessential traveller can get the best of both worlds. Head to the mountains, enjoy a beach retreat or cruise through the golden Thar, India has options galore for all.
Statue of Unity
It’s huge, almost gigantic! That is the first reaction most people have as they speed down the winding road leading to the towering Statue of Unity (SoU). A long bridge connects the mainland to the Sadhu Bet Island, on which the statue stands. Silhouetted against the surrounding Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges, the colossal statue almost seems to pierce the skyline.
The legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s Iron Man, lives on in the form of this massive statue dominating the Narmada river basin. He towers over the landscape, as if, keeping an eye over the land he helped become independent. Standing at a height of 182 m, the Statue of Unity, is the tallest in the world. It depicts Sardar Patel in a walking pose, clad in his characteristic simple attire. About 100 times the height of a five-and-a-half-ft-tall person, one can see the statue from as far away as 8 km. The SoU was inaugurated on October 31, 2018, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to commemorate Patel’s 143rd birth anniversary.
The statue has been built on a star-shaped geometric base that covers the entire Sadhu Hill. It has a viewing gallery at 135 m, at the statue’s chest level, that can be reached via two high-speed elevators. The gateway to the elevators is through an exhibition gallery, in which you can marvel at a model of the statue and an elaborate blueprint, among other exhibits. The elevators travel 150 m in half a minute and can carry 26 people at one time. From the viewing gallery, reinforced with steel grids, you can take in the breathtaking views of the surroundings and of the Sardar Sarovar reservoir at a distance. Interestingly, it’s not just the statue that throws light on Patel’s life and achievements, but also a spectacular laser show, which talks in detail about the statesman’s life. It traces the life of Patel and talks about why the statue has been erected in his honour. The show also outlines the leader’s contribution to the nation. However, what really fascinates are the realistic projections that show Patel in different phases of his life: in a lawyer’s garb, images from his ‘Bharat Chodo’ movement (asking the British to leave India) and in his characteristic kurta pajama.
Constructed by engineering giant Larsen and Toubro, SoU was built in a record time of 33 months. It is 177 ft taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha statue (the second tallest in the world), which took 11 years to build. The SoU comprises two semi-joined, composite concrete cylindrical cores surrounded by a steel space frame to support the external cladding. The face of the statue is particularly noteworthy and 93-year-old sculptor Ram Sutar has made it to have a poised countenance. Patel’s head is held high with his arms at his side, and the leader is supposed to appear to be walking on water towards the Sardar Sarovar Dam, with his left leg placed slightly forward. It is said that figuring out the perfect posture for the statue was a challenge. The engineers scanned around 2,000 photographs, and consulted several historians to choose the final picture. Finally, a 2-dimensional image was converted into a 3-dimensional model.
A lush carpet of rolling green, interrupted by low rises of mountains of the gorgeous Western Ghats, Munnar, in Kerala, is dotted with huge emerald plantations and pristine waterfalls. No matter where you go in Munnar, a mixed scent of tea, coffee and cardamom will follow you everywhere. With a bountiful of natural treasures, Munnar leaves one rapt with its spectacular and awe-inspiring views. Such is the beauty of the myriad shades of green of the landscape that Munnar is often called the Kashmir of South India.
Nestled at the confluence of three gushing rivers- Mudrapuzha, Nallathanbi and Kundala-Munnar literally means three rivers. During the blooming season, every 12 years, the town of Munnar is transmogrified into an artist’s canvas, when the beautiful and vibrant Neelakurinji flower carpets the land in hues of purple and blue. It is truly a sight to behold as the town acquires a paradisiacal setting.
Replete with picturesque greenery, valleys and mountains along with a plethora of flora and fauna in its teeming national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Munnar is an exhilarating and peaceful travel destination. It offers a respite from the chaos of daily life and all its stress with cloudy skies, constantly pleasant weather, delectable cuisine and hillocks and greenery.
Munnar is also home to the highest peak of South India, Anamudi, at a height of 2,695 m. This peak has a number of trails that make it a must-visit for trekkers and backpackers. Given its tourist appeal, the state government has guaranteed that access to this hill town is easy – it is well-connected to Bengaluru, Kochi, Mysore and other larger cities, ensuring an influx of travellers all year round, including the rainy season, when the Munnar is its most vibrant and fragrant self.
The region around Munnar was once the summer retreat of the erstwhile British Government and several maharajas of the Travancore Kingdom. It was once known as the High Range of Travancore.
Peak of Thrill
Spirit of Adventure/ Allure of Adventure
Scale the heights of thrill, or plummet to the depths of excitement or if you’re truly daring, survey gorgeous lands and waters, while suspended in the sky. All this and more awaits you as you explore land, water and sky adventures in the country. From trekking, mountain biking and mountaineering in the secluded snow-capped Himalayas to surfing, rafting, scuba diving and snorkelling, there are a multitude of options for thrill seekers.
India’s diverse terrain ensures optimum adrenaline-pumping for those looking to tread on the exhilarating side of a holiday. The north beckons adventure seekers with the gregarious spirit of the Himalayas that offer visitors thrilling experiences in destinations like Manali, Dharamsala, Ladakh, Srinagar, and Kedarnath. In south, you can visit Ootacamund and Yercaud, while Goa, in the western part of the country, is a delight for water-sport enthusiasts. In the east and northeast, you can head to Kurseong (West Bengal), Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), Sikkim, Dirang (Arunachal Pradesh), and Bhalukpong (Arunachal Pradesh) for a tryst with adrenaline. Rest assured that trained professionals make sure everything on your adventure-filled itinerary follows the strictest standards of safety. All you have to do is sign up and enjoy all the activities on offer!
Yoga & Wellness
Rejuvenate the Soul
Retreat, Recharge, Rejuvenate
From yoga ashrams to spas and wellness centres, India offers a host of sites.
India’s sun-kissed coastlines, peace-permeated hill stations and breezy riversides offer a host of nutritious food, spas, yoga, detox therapies, Ayurveda, naturopathy, Vedanta and meditation techniques, retrieved and curated from the most ancient of sciences and arts. With innumerable ways to keep both the mind and body aligned, peaceful and in perfect health, the country is the perfect stopover to holiday at a softer pace.
It’s all in the mind, and reflected on the body… And our ancestors were well versed with this simple concept, owing to which many ancient sciences and techniques are still in practice. These have received worldwide renown and still continue to grow.
Most famous in India
India is a remarkable tourist destination that offers a plethora of experiences to travellers. From the grandiose Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, to opulent palaces and forts, India displays a variety of heritage riches that were crafted hundreds of years ago.
As its bustling bazaars promise to give you the shopping experience of a lifetime, its serene natural retreats assure a scenic respite from the din. The various wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, along with adventure sports opportunities add to the thrill of a holiday. India is a delightful place with lots to explore and discover. As you script your odyssey travelling through the country, be prepared to be awed by the splendour of the country that beckons time and again.
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, said that the beauty of the monument made “the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes”. It has also been described as a “teardrop on the cheek of eternity” by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Every year, thousands of tourists from around the world make a beeline for this breathtakingly ethereal marble monument, considerd by many as the most beautiful building constructed by man. The monument was built as a memorial by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
It is one of the seven wonders of the world and is a monument of pride for not just Agra but also India. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is featured in almost all literature about India and is one of the most enduring images of the country. Its name is believed to have been drawn from the Persian language: ‘taj’ means crown and ‘mahal’ means palace, thus making this the palace of the crown. Interestingly, the queen it was built in memory of, originally named Arjumand Begum, held the name Mumtaz Mahal, which meant the crown of the palace. Although it is best known as a symbol of love, a grieving emperor’s ode to his deceased queen, another legend sees the Taj Mahal as an embodiment of Shah Jahan’s vision of kingship. The story goes that he sought to build something akin to heaven on earth, a spectacular, unbelievably beautiful monument that reinforced the power as well as the perceived divinity of the monarch as next only to the Almighty.
It is also widely believed that emperor Shah Jahan invited artisans from Italy and Persia to work on this marble monument. It is said that Ustad Ahmad Lahori was the chief of the project while Ustad Isa Afandi made the site plan. The calligraphic work has been credited to Amanat Ali Khan Shirazi. A fascinating aspect of this structure is that it looks the same from all four sides, except the one that faces River Yamuna. This side is said to have been especially embellished to serve as the main entrance for the emperor. Shah Jahan would approach the Taj Mahal from the river, aboard a barge, while the entrance used by tourists today served, at the time, as an entryway for soldiers and common people. There are intricate inscriptions on all four entrances, while marble carvings and pietra dura mosaics adorn the walls. Lapis-lazuli, cornelian, mother of pearl, agate and emerald are some of the precious gems and stones that were once used in its design. It is said that work on its construction began in 1631. Legend has it that it took 20 years to complete this architectural marvel!
It is also riddled with optical illusions and masterful architectural safeguards. As one first beholds the monument from the main gate, for instance, the Taj Mahal looks large and imposing, but as you move closer, it appears to shrink in size. Also, the minarets surrounding the edifice, while perfectly upright to the naked eye, have actually been constructed to lean away from it so that, should a disaster like an earthquake come about, they would fall away from and not on the mausoleum.