India is a wonderful subcontinent, known for its diversity and beautiful vibrancy. There are more than twenty major languages in India (with over 700 dialects!) and its people practice at least nine recognised faiths, including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.
It is made up of huge and bustling cities like Delhi and Mumbai, the mammoth, imposing mountains of the Himalayas, Kerala’s verdant paddy fields, Rajasthan’s arid desert, Goa’s beaches, central India’s verdant forests…the list goes on and on.
Such climatic diversity means there is so much to see and do within one country. But it also means that your vaccination needs will be greater and more varied. It is also important to research the weather conditions in your intended destination in the period you’ll travel. Kerala may be best in December, for instance, in a lull between the breath-taking heat and the drenching rains, and many higher areas can be made impassable by winter snows.
We’ve created a list of a handful of our favourite places to visit, or travel to in India in 2018. These will get you inspired, (and also to highlight the health requirements of such a trip).
Vaccinations and health recommendations for travel to India
Make sure you’re up-to-date with all routine inoculations for life in the UK, and then be aware that each location in India is likely to have different vaccination requirements. Courses/boosters usually recommended are Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio, Hepatitis A, and Typhoid.
Vaccinations to consider (dependent on your holiday destination and activities) include Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis B and Cholera. Yellow fever is not present in India; however certification is required if you hold a passport from a country in which yellow fever is present. You should also make sure to consider if there is a malaria risk, and get the necessary medication if needed.
Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya fever which are mosquito borne diseases are also present. Therefore, strict insect bite avoidance is necessary, during the day and at night. Careful consideration and planning is advised if high altitude is part of your travel plans.
Although famous sites like Agra’s Taj Mahal, Delhi’s Red Fort, Goa’s beaches and the bustling conurbations of Mumbai all warrant a trip, we thought we’d focus on some of the lesser-known spots. It’s such a large country with so many attractions that it’s likely to have you returning on many more trips, after all…
From a distance, this spectacular desert city looks like the most intricate sandcastle known to man. Visit the ancient fort, one of only a handful of forts in the world that is still inhabited (almost a quarter of the old city’s population lives within its walls). From Jaisalmer, head into the Thar Desert by camel. There you will see spectacularly star-strewn skies, wander undulating sand dunes and meet very friendly local village communities.
Side step the usual tourist track from Rajasthan to Mumbai with a stop in Gujarat. The capital, Ahmedabad, offers amazing architecture, and the Gujarat is home to some of the world’s best-loved vegetarian cuisine (which we think is ample reason to stop off for a few days and fill your belly!). Head to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Champaner for rolling hills dotted with ancient forts, palaces, tombs and temples.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
One of North India’s biggest and most renowned national parks, Ranthambore offers the opportunity of spotting the most majestic of all felines - a tiger. Covering an astounding 392 square miles, Ranthambore was a famous hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur; (Jaipur being the nearest city, around four hours’ drive from here). Undertake a hunt of your own – shooting the magnificent flora and fauna with your camera.
Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
The Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh, creating a salt desert stretching for more than 7,500 square kilometres. The Kutch desert wildlife sanctuary offers refuge to amazing wildlife, including flamingos and Indian porcupines, and you will also find the buried Harappan city of Dholavira here. This archaeological dig site has turned up evidence of settlement as far back as 2650 BCE, and as-yet undeciphered Harappan signs which may be the earliest writings yet found.
This is a strange one. India’s ‘breadbasket’, Kashmir has been subject to violent border disputes between India and Pakistan, leaving its astounding beauty off the table to travelers for more than twenty years. But times are changing.
Although tensions are still present, Kashmir is becoming more accessible again. Gulmarg, known as ‘the meadow of flowers’, is increasingly popular with adventure enthusiasts and keen skiers. This hill station offers meadows flanked by snow-topped mountains, Himalayan panoramas perfect for powder hounds. For those less snowsport-focussed, head to Shimla, the previous summer resort of British colonials wishing to escape the heat.
Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Although Chennai is Tamil Nadu’s capital, the ancient city of Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India; Madurai was a great capital long before Chennai. This jasmine-scented, culturally rich city is dotted with monuments, temples and religious sites. The Medieval temple of Meenakshi Amman ranks as one of the most awe-inspiring in all of India.
India is rich in places to explore – whether you have days, weeks or months. The above are just our top picks when it comes to the best places to visit in India this year, however there are lots more fantastic places that are worth travelling to. Explore all of the health risks associated with your destination, and look at our India travel pages for further information on vaccinations.