India is a unique country, to put it mildly, and in many ways it is entirely different from what most westerners are accustomed to. Visiting India is a bit like traveling to another planet. With its ancient culture, incredible architecture, countless religions, glorious food and an abundance of rich historical traditions, India is truly in a league of its own. Read up on the magnificent Mother India and it people, fly with WOW air to India and experience the adventure of a lifetime.
India is the world’s seventh largest country and frankly resembles more of a continent, covering an area of over 3 million square kilometers. The official language is Hindi but many people speak excellent English.
Indians make up the second largest nation in the world, with over 1.3 billion people, lest we forget. Now any generalization about a nation so large is obviously quite a silly venture, but we’re doing it anyway. Indians are an incredibly calm people and sail through their chaotic and loud traffic with stoicism and relaxed hand gestures. In our experience, most Indians are friendly, conversable and quite helpful when they come across confused tourists looking for some world-famous monument.
India is home to a great variety of religions, with around 80% of the nation being Hindu, 14% Muslims, followed by Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists. As a result, there is an abundance of holy places in India and visiting these ancient places of worship is an amazing experience, especially the hindu, bahá’í and sikh temples, that to the average westerner seem quite exotic. Part of this experience is feeling how welcome tourists are in most of these places, as long as they respect the proper protocols and dress codes of course. Go out of your way to get a closer feel for India’s many religions but keep in mind that the temples are places of worship so respect is key.
Delhi is a “megacity” with over 26 million inhabitants. The inevitable culture shock is usually first brought about by the immense traffic of both cars and people. But this is also a place of great economic inequality and Delhi is a place of extreme luxury as well as extreme poverty. Delhi encompasses both Old Delhi in the north and the nation's capital, New Delhi in the south and they couldn’t be more different. Old Delhi feels like an opening scene in an action movie, complete with its rickshaws, donkeys, carriers and the colorful and grimy street culture. Strolling through the spice and textile markets is a remarkable and worthwhile experience. Here you really feel the heartbeat of the old city. It’s wise to bring something to cover your mouth and nose when walking through the spice stalls, the aroma might be divine but the air is dense with colorful herbs. Most travelers get over their germaphobia on day one in these markets but take it easy on the street food unless your digestive system has been around the block a few times. Also, remember to keep an eye on the thieving (although adorable) monkeys who hang out near the fruit stalls, waiting for their chance to grab a banana or two. New Delhi is also a unique destination with its carefully planned colonial areas from the time when the British ruled these parts. It’s home to glorious monuments, awe-inspiring palaces and beautiful gardens. You could spend years getting to know Delhi but we (and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre) recommend you start with a visit to the Red Fort, Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb. Don’t miss India Gate and the Presidential Palace and when it all gets too much, take a breather in the beautifully serene Lodi Gardens.
Agra is a city of 1.5 million people, a 3-hour drive south of Delhi. We can’t really recommend Agra as a destination since its neither beautiful nor particularly exciting compared to its bigger brother in the north. However, Agra is home to one of the most beautiful buildings in the world: the Taj Mahal. Take our word for it when we tell you that it is truly worth the drive. A professional Taj Mahal photographer recommends getting there at 6 am for the spectacular sunrise and to beat the daily traffic of tourists.
Varanasi is a longer drive southeast of Delhi but well worth the extra trip for those who want to experience up close the historical and rather magical relationship of the people of India and the river Ganges. Varanasi is an important religious center in India and the country’s holiest city, in both Hinduism and Jainism. There is plenty to see here but for most, the over 80 “Ghats” of Ganges top the list. Ghats are places where steps provide access to the river and we recommend a boat tour at sunrise to witness the daily rituals of people bathing and washing in their holy river. This city is a spiritual journey on its own and a trip to Varanasi will never be forgotten.
A lifetime wouldn’t do to sufficiently get to know the country of India and its culture but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Experience a real adventure in incredible India and start your journey in New Delhi.