India is almost a collection of countries due to its vast size and dazzling regional array of languages, cuisines and religions. The topography of the country varies from colossal Himalayan peaks in the far north of the country to the forested tiger country of the centre; from the dramatic Ganges delta wetlands of the Sunder bans in the northeast, to the exotic deserts of Rajasthan. There are walled cities and citadels, desert villages and colonial hill stations, national parks and great rivers lined with temples and Ghats. The north Indian cities are also unique: Delhi, the capital, is divided into the bustling, labyrinthine Old City and the majestic colonial avenues of New Delhi. Mumbai (Bombay) is famous for its massive population, thriving business culture and Bollywood film industry. Calcutta (Kolkata) sees itself as the capital of contemporary culture.

Jaipur and Jodhpur are the great princely cities of the north-west, with thriving textiles industries and wonderful faded buildings. Few people visit the north without fitting in the luminously beautiful Taj Mahal and nearby red sandstone Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri. Many visitors come to Rajasthan to see the impossibly glamorous palaces and forts of the maharajas, many of which have become luxury hotels.

The southern states stretch from the palm-lined beaches of Goa down to the quiet Kerala Backwaters and across the Western Ghats to the thriving city of Chennai – once a hub of the British East India Company – with Bangalore, the “Garden City”, on the plains in between. The state of Andhra Pradesh spans a huge part of the east coast, with Hyderabad, which is famed for its nawabs and markets at the heart. In Tamil Nadu, visitors can explore elaborately carved stone temple complexes with towering gopurams visited everyday by hundreds of pilgrims, such as the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.

Chennai and the former French colony Pondicherry each have their own distinctive style of architecture. Besides the many fun beach resorts, Goa has a wealth of churches, a legacy of more than 400 years as a Portuguese colony. Few tourists make it to the remote, ruined Vijayanagara city of Hampi in Karnataka but those who do are left overwhelmed by its beauty and atmosphere. The trick with India is probably to do less, rather than more, and plan to go back.

Getting There
There are direct flights from almost all parts of the world to Delhi & Mumbai (Bombay). India has an excellent network of domestic flights and combining the north and south is easy.

Visa Requirements
All visitors to India must obtain a visa prior to departure. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your return from India and have at least 2 blank pages. If you are arranging your own visa, you can apply online at VFS Global. All visas are valid from the date of issue. You will need to give the name of two India referees with your visa application. For this and any other information, please contact Ecoilyn Travel consultant.

Health Advice
For information on vaccinations and health requirements, we suggest you contact your GP 2 months prior to departure for advice and to arrange immunisations. Recommended vaccinations for travel to India are polio, tetanus, typhoid, meningitis and hepatitis A. We would also recommend you take anti-malarial tablets, but please consult your doctor for his/her advice.