Thinking of going to India, but not sure where to start?
Below, our Indian Subcontinent expert, Susan Geringer, shares her recommendations and general advice for that very first trip to this vast, intriguing country.
Farewell Travels: How much time should one allow to visit the country and—weather-wise—is one better off going during spring break, summer or the year-end holidays?
Susan Geringer: India is a big country with a lot of diversity. So anything less than 12 nights will not really do it justice. The best time to visit is from October to the end of March. However, summer is the time to take jeep safaris high in the mountains to places like Ladakh, when the roads are not covered with snow.
FarewellTravels: There are so many places we’ve all heard of and feel we must visit. What would you recommend for a couple or a family (with teenagers) who has about 2 weeks?
Susan Geringer: For the first time visitor, a combo trip to Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and Kerala would be ideal. Of course, most people dream of visiting the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO Heritage Site, in Agra. Rajasthan, the land of Maharajahs, is a most colorful state full of palaces, forts, the Thar desert, nature, bazaars and wonderful art, crafts, jewelry and textiles. Kerala is referred to as “God’s Own Country." It is a state famous for its tea plantations, backwater cruises, beaches, wildlife, eco-tourism and ayurvedic spas.
Delhi, India’s capital, with its own interesting history, monuments, architecture, restaurants and shopping, will be your arrival and departure point.
Farewell Travels: Can you tell us about any places within those regions that may not necessarily be top attractions but you think are worth seeing?
Susan Geringer: Yes, there is a small place by the name of Abhaneri on the way from Agra to Jaipur. It requires a 30 kilometer detour, but is really worth a visit. This place is famous for one of India’s deepest stepwells. Stepwells were used as royal baths and reservoirs. Visitors can also enjoy a camel cart ride in this small ancient village.
Farewell Travels: What have you found has been the most rewarding aspect of your travel to India?
Susan Geringer: India has been rewarding in every aspect. Be it history, culture, architecture, religion, relaxation, wellness or any other aspect, you name it. For me, though, it’s mostly about the people.They are all so warm and hospitable. I especially love visiting the small villages where family is everything.
My passion for India has grown with every visit, as each time, I discover something new. I think it’s important to go there with no preconceived ideas. Because it is a third-world and an Eastern country, the way of life is dramatically different from the life so many Westerners know. If you’re open to it, India will greatly reward you.
Photo credits: The doorway photograph is at City Palace in Jaipur. The tea plantation is in Munnar, Kerala. Both of these photographs were taken by Susan Geringer.