India, Indian Ocean
Encompassing more startling juxtapositions in one country than most continents, India is a compelling destination made up of an incomparable range of landscapes, cultures and people and it might just change your whole outlook on life. With the cacophony of sounds that greet you on every street corner, the visual explosion of sights and colours and the scents of a multitude of incenses and spices that fill the air, expect a sensory overload at every turn.
Stretching from the frozen summits of the Himalayas to the white sands and lush greenery of Kerala, as a first time visitor with so many alluring sights to see, it's hard to draw up a short-list, but who could resist a rickshaw tour of Delhi, taking in the Red Fort en-route and stopping at the iconic Imperial Hotel for afternoon-tea, Raj-style. Of course, it almost goes without saying that you should include Agra, aka the Taj Mahal, on your short-list - it's just 3 hours by car from Delhi so you can visit as a day trip, but don't miss seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise for the best light.
For a taste of Mughal culture, head to the romantic city of Udaipur, renowned for its delicious food and stunning textiles. Squeeze in a trip to the surrounding desert for some peace and tranquility. From here, it makes sense to head to the Blue City of Jodphur in Rajasthan. Other Rajasthan highlights must surely include the cenotaphs of the Maharajas in the Golden City of Jaisalmer. If the Himalayas are on your bucket list (quite right too!) Ladakh in the far North is home to 15th Century Buddhist monasteries and close to stunning blue Pangong Lake. Tea aficionados will be fascinated by the Himalayan hill town of Darjeeling and a few lucky visitors might even bump into the Dalai Lama himself if Mcleod Ganj features on your wish list.
If you need some time to relax after such an incredible journey of exploration, a restorative house-boat cruise through the peaceful backwaters of Kerala beckons with its traditional local villages and lush jungle a welcome contrast to big city bustle.
A former Portuguese colony with hippy credentials, Goa is the place to head for sun, surf, seafood and plenty of fun.
Watch this space as we're just starting to develop our India programme so will be adding more destination information soon, alongside some of our favourite hotel suggestions - prepare to be wowed!
when to go
Understandably, given its immense size and varying geography, there are numerous micro-climates in India, making it hard to offer a definitive best time to visit. Generally speaking, the best time for warm, dry and sunny weather is between October and March, when blue skies are the norm in Northern India. Be aware however that December and January are much cooler with potential fog, whilst the higher Himalaya can be very cold, but with clearer mountain views. Holi Festival - the famous paint-throwing festival which takes place in early March, is colourful, noisy and huge fun but definitely dress for mess! Expect higher humidity and storms as temperatures rise in April and May. If you're travelling south, we recommend waiting until December when the monsoon has ended.
Flights: The Flight time to New Delhi is approx. 8.5 hours with routes from the UK offered by key operators such as BA, Emirates, Qatar and KLM.
Time Zone: GMT+5 hours
FCO travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india