India and Bhutan

India has long held a magnetic attraction for adventure travellers and its appeal is stronger than ever.

Dragoman have been operating overland trips around India for over 30 years and there is still no better way to see this vast country.

More recently the Kingdom of Bhutan has also opened up to tourism and our trip there has been popular from the start.

Last but not least, no trip to this region could be considered complete without a visit to the spectacular Nepal.

 

The Taj Mahal 

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The Taj Mahal is one the most famous and iconic buildings in the world. It is the mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s 3rd wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. It was built the 1630s and 40s, one of the most prosperous ages of Indian civilisation, and employed more than 1000 elephants to transport the construction materials and 20,000 artisans and craftsmen from throughout the empire. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as the jewel of Muslim architecture in India, and remains as one of the world’s most celebrated structures and a symbol of the country’s rich history.

Varanasi

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Varanasi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism, where over 60,000 pilgrims come to daily to wash away their sins in the sacred waters of the Ganges or to cremate their loved ones on the ghats (the steps leading to the shore). Observing the fascinating intimate and colourful rituals that take place in Varanasi is an incredible experience that certainly lives long in your memory. Varanasi is also near to the ancient Ashokan city of Isipatana, where Buddhists believe that Buddha gave his first sermon after obtaining enlightenment.

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Mehrangarh Fort

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Jodhpur is the ‘Blue City’, so-called because of its blue houses. The Mehrangarh Fort dominates the city and is the largest fort in all of Rajasthan - rising perpendicular and impregnable from a rocky hill that itself stands 120m above Jodhpur’s skyline, Mehrangarh is an incredible sight that dominates the surroundings. The fort was founded in 1458 as the site of Rao Jodha's new capital, and the city has grown around it - in the 500 years that have passed the fort has never been taken by force. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings, expansive courtyards, and fascinating museums. 

Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a collection of villages straddling a high ridge in the Himalayas, surrounded by terraces of rice, tea, quinine and fruit trees – for many, it’s the definitive Indian hill station. The cool climate and slow pace of life here are an abrupt contrast to the rest of India. It’s a pleasant place to explore, with monasteries and tea plantations to visit and Tibetan craft shops and markets to browse through, as well as offering fantastic views over the rivers below with Mount Kanchenjunga (the world’s third highest mountain at 8,586m) in the background.

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Delhi

Delhi is India’s bustling and thriving capital. Steeped in history, the Delhi area has been inhabited since at least the 6th Century, with many incredible sights spanning all eras of its history, from the Lok Sabha and President’s Palace to Qutab Minar and the magnificent Red Fort. But it also pulsates with modern life, with colourful bazaars and markets and many shops and restaurants. Old or new, it’d take months to exhaust exploring all of Delhi’s fascinating nooks and crannies.

Mumbai

Mumbai is India’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, and the birthplace of the largest film industry in the world: Bollywood. Full of high-drama, romance, and suspense, Bollywood films are all-singing, all-dancing extravaganzas – if you haven’t seen one before, this is the place for it. There’s plenty else to do, too, from exploring the beautiful old colonial architecture and Art Deco buildings and shopping in the bazaars to treating yourself to a meal in one of the country’s best restaurants and joining colourful crowds of people at the famous Chowpatty Beach in the evening.

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Kerala Backwaters

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The Kerala backwaters are a set of brackish lagoons and lakes on the Malabar Coast of southern India. Formed by 900kms of waterways, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state, the backwaters have a unique ecosystem as freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. The area is famous for its incredible house-boat tours that drift smoothly through the tree-fringed backwaters and explore the beautiful green landscape - these boats are traditional small cargo boats called 'kettuvallams' that have been converted into floating cottages, and are a wonderful relaxing escape from the chaos of India!

Odisha Region

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Although one of India’s more remote regions, Odisha is also one of its most distinctive. The region is home to people of 62 diverse ethnicities who, although they are co-dependent, fiercely guard their own distinct traditions. Many of the 'Hill Tribe' people are thought to be descendants of pre-Aryan aboriginal inhabitants, and maintain a way of life relatively unchanged throughout centuries. There are many weekly markets in the area, including the main Monday market in Goudaguda - this is a melting pot of indigenous cultures, where independent tribes gather and trade local produce once a week. There's an incredible atmosphere of sights, sounds and aromas as local tribal people barter, buy and sell their excess produce and stock. Many handicrafts are available, from colourful saris, handmade textiles in traditional patterns and earthy tones, to exclusive jewellery pieces.

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Mysore

Mysore is one of India’s cleanest and most attractive towns, and unlike some of India’s biggest cities, it feels quite manageable in size, with wide and well laid-out streets and many lovely gardens. It was once the capital of the Wodeyar dynasty, ruled by this same family from 1399 until 1950 (except for a brief interruption in the late 1700s). Today it’s considered the cultural capital of the state of Karnataka, and home to some beautiful buildings packed full of history – the Maharaja’s Palace, the Lalitha Mahal (Summer Palace) and Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery are each well worth a visit.

The Tiger's Nest Monastery

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The Paro Taktsang Monastery, more commonly known by tourists as the Tiger's Nest Monastery, is a Himalayan Buddhist temple built 900m up on the cliffside of the upper Paro valley in Bhutan. It was first built in 1692 next to a cave where the mystical Buddhist character of Guru Padmasambhava (or more commonly known as Guru Rinpoche in Tibet and Bhutan) is said to have meditated for exactly 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours in the 8th century. Guru Rinpoche is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the guardian deity of the country - according to the legend, he flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress, which gives the location its name. It is an incredible site and feat of traditional engineering, and the most iconic image of Bhutan.

Goa

For many people, the tranquil state of Goa is all about the beaches, and it’s fair to say that the soft white sand and sparkling blue water of the Arabian Sea are among the main attractions here. But it’s also an area that’s rich in history and culture, retaining much of its old Portuguese colonial architecture, traditions, religion and lifestyle, and being home to some fantastic cuisine, including classic Goan pork vindaloo, many fish-based curies, and Feni, a local spirit made from coconut and cashew nuts. The locals say that time moves more slowly in Goa, so it’s an ideal stop if you’re looking to escape the frenetic nature of the rest of the country for a few days.

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