If you’re not moved by something in Rajasthan, you might want to check your pulse. The lavish palaces of Jaipur, Udaipur’s lakes, romantic desert forts like Jaisalmer – the colourful state is home to many of India’s unmissable sights and experiences, and I’d definitely recommend first-timers in India consider starting here. And if you do, be sure to get a full cultural fix – the music can be wonderful and the handicrafts boast some of India’s finest workmanship. Many years ago we spent a couple of days on the waters in Kerala. It almost seems like a dream now – slipping silently along deserted rivulets that are hidden by bushes and palms, watching a farmer quietly tend his paddy fields as we drifted by, seemingly unnoticed as if we’d passed through a portal onto India’s secrets. I remember the smells as much as anything else – that dense, musky tropical smell that hangs heavily in the air, then wafts of Tamil cooking breezing through as we passed near houses. That visit must have fostered my love of Indian food. Goan fish curry, a Tamil thali, parathas bought from street vendors, a mango lassi – wherever you go, you’re bound to eat well in India. Sitting down to eat with an Indian family is one of the joys of a trip – if you’re extended an invitation, accept. The hospitality and welcome you receive is so warm, the family such an obviously strong and important unit in the country, that time spent in the company of some locals is both a great insight into the people of India and also simply just a really enjoyable (and invariably tasty) night out. It’s difficult to top the Taj Mahal for eye-popping exoticism. A couple of days spent first in Delhi and then at what I reckon is probably the world’s most beautiful building gives you a crash-course in India – incredibly chaotic then serene, exhausting then uplifting, always captivating and colourful. Varanasi is another must-see. To stand aboard a boat on the Ganges and witness the dawn devotion of thousands of devout Hindus is an extraordinary and very powerful experience. I want to head to the north. Ladakh looks and sounds like a world apart from the rest of India – little Tibet is its nickname – and I really want to check out its mix of rugged plateaus, high peaks and striking monasteries. It seems like another side of a country that has so many facets and that continually fascinate travellers. Come here armed with a sense of adventure and I guarantee India will happily offer you amazing experiences and unforgettable sights.
"It is hard to pick out one particular thing as every day brought something new and different. I suppose finally seeing the Taj Mahal and being able to walk around there and be overcome by the beauty."