India is an intriguing yet overwhelming place. It is a melting pot of several religions, several hundred languages, and several million people. Due to its staggering size, it can be difficult to know where to start when planning a trip there. Luckily a helping hand isn’t far away. We’ve stripped India back to basics, compiling a list of India’s highlights and more importantly, how, where and when to see them. Exploring the nooks and crannies of its cities, discovering its ancient charm, experiencing its age old rituals, and falling under the spell of India’s irrepressible charm makes for an adventure you will never forget.
India is famed for its wildlife. Its national parks are home to some of the world’s most fragile eco-systems, a mosaic of mangrove swamps, alpine meadows, dense rainforest and arid desertscapes. Whilst India’s call of the wild is the famed Bengal tiger, keeping your eyes peeled for an array of endemic flora and fauna as you scale the country’s national parks is bound to delight. So whether it’s coming face to face with big cats, or simply soaking up the natural splendour of India that whets your appetite, we’ve handpicked a selection of India's best national parks to visit throughout the country.
Only after stepping foot in India will you realise that Indian cuisine, as you know it, just doesn’t exist. To paint both the delicate and punchy flavours of India with the same broad brushstroke overlooks the smorgasbord of dishes on offer from north to south. Tried and tested recipes balance coriander, cumin and cardamom with almost scientific precision, guaranteeing a culinary experience you will never forget.
Ric Duncombe, Imagine India specialist: “Cat vs Dog is something that always seems to be churning away in my mind. I will purr to feline fanciers and bark the right bark to canine lovers… Sitting on the fence seems to be my overwhelming attribute. However, when it comes to Central India there really is only one top dog. And it’s a cat. I recently visited India’s national parks to try and show that with a little bit of luck, this most elusive of animals could not only be seen, but also photographed by a rank amateur such as myself. Choosing Bandhavgarh National Park, renowned for its high concentration of tigers, I headed out on just three drives with two of Imagine’s favourite lodges to try my luck. Here are my favourite snaps, and also some small stories behind each one, to get you in the mood to explore the real-life Jungle Book. All photos are taken with a Canon 5D SLR and Canon 300mm F/4L lens."
Enjoy a sneak peek into daily life in India by staying at a haveli or in a homestay. If only for a few nights, you will be shoehorned into a family, enjoying traditional Indian hospitality, sampling home cooked food and exploring the path less travelled. Staying at one of these unique lodgings will give you an incredible insight into real India, and you will be welcomed with open arms by hosts whose wealth of local knowledge knows no bounds. Coming in all shapes and sizes, from plantation bungalows to historic houses, majestic forts and charming cottages, a short stay in one of these unique properties allows you to immerse yourself in India rather than simply visit it.
When to go to Central India
The best time to visit central India is between November and March, as temperatures will remain comfortable.
Winter - October to April
Night time winter temperatures can reach 20°C, whereas days are sunny and pleasant. This is the best time to visit Goa. The peak tourist season is from mid-December to mid-January, when the weather is near perfect, with daytime temperatures rarely going beyond 32°C. Hyderabad experiences maximum temperatures of 29ºC with minimum temperatures near 13ºC.
Summer - May to September
Central India has a tropical climate. Summer (April-June) temperatures can get as high as 43-44°C, while early mornings and evenings are pleasant (18-24°C). In Goa, the monsoon season begins around June, when the hot temperatures of summer are cooled with an influx of clouds and rain. On average, the hottest months of the year are April and May. In the National Parks, summers are hot, though this is the time when one has the best chance of encountering the wildlife.