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A Guide to India for First-Timers

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

A land of interchanging terrain, India is home to vast deserts, tranquil backwaters and snow-capped Himalayan peaks. The country is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours and flavours. It’s time to experience India.

Map of India

1. Spend the night in luxury

Intimate heritage hotels dot the Indian countryside, each offering respite from the hustle and bustle of busy cities inside stylish, and often colonial, buildings. The stylish Dera Mandawa in Jaipur, family-run Chanoud Garh between Udaipur and Jodhpur and boutique Kumarakom hotel Purity on Lake Vembanadm, have characteristic flair and luxury sorted.

2. Visit the highlights of the desert

Explore hilltop forts and royal palaces, visit villages and colourful bazaars or spot wildlife from a jeep in India’s desert state. Discover India’s history-rich capital in Delhi, travel by rickshaw to Humayun’s Tomb and the country’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid and witness the world’s famed monument to love, the Taj Mahal in Agra. End with a visit to The Pink City, Jaipur, a labyrinth of fascinating bazaar and opulent palaces.

3. Safari in style

Rajasthan is home to some of the most luxurious glamping experiences in Asia. With wildlife to rival Africa’s Savanna, tented camps offer a spectacular way to safari in style. Check out our top tented camps in India.

4. Soak up the culture

Rich in tradition and atmosphere, India’s colourful cities and bustling lanes house everything from heritage monuments to bazaars and architectural masterpieces. Our top picks are Mysore in the country’s southwest and Jaipur, the country’s pink city and capital of Rajasthan.

Amanda in the Himalayas

5. Hike the Himalayas

The mighty Himalayas stretch from the far northwest to the far northeast of India and offer spectacular landscapes, remarkable indigenous people and beautiful scenery. Travel by World Heritage listed Himalayan Queen ‘toy train’ to the Himalayan foothills, stay aboard a houseboat on Kashmir lake surrounded by snow-capped Himalayan peaks and visit Glenburn, a colonial-era tea estate surrounded by stunning peak views in Darjeeling.

6. Tuck in to the local cuisine

Indian food combines vibrant colours and a rich history to produce hearty and flavourful dishes. Pull up your cushion and tuck into varied cuisines from vindaloo and dosai to tandoori and rice. Avoid street vendors unless you can guarantee their cleanliness and don’t take to the more powerful spices until you’re used to them.

7. Elephant-spot in the national parks

India is the last stronghold for the Asian elephant, Asiatic lion, Indian one-horned rhinoceros, and the Royal Bengal tiger. Embark on safari at Ranthambore National Park and spend the night in palatial lodges which resemble traditional Rajput hunting palaces. Alternatively, visit lesser-known Nagarhole National Park, home to India’s largest remaining herd of elephants or Kaziranga Rhino Safari, one of the world’s great wildlife reserves.

8. Take a dip in the ocean

India’s best beaches line the west coast of the country, covering the land in pristine sand. From remote sandbars to commercial hubs, India’s coastline has it all. Goa is the most popular beach but it’s also the most commercial. Head to Kerala and Radhanagar beaches for more secluded shorelines.

9. Embrace the festivities

The glitz and glamour of Hollywood has nothing on India’s entertainment industry, known as Bollywood. If you can handle the crowds, get creative and colourful at one of the country’s many festivals. Check out our guide to India’s festivals.

10. Catch a match

Cricket is more of a way of life than a sport in India. Many players are treated as Gods but everyone in the country takes part in the game now and then. Pick up a bat and join in the fun.

Cochin fishing boats

Tips and tricks

Where to stay

For the best hotels in India, check out our latest India brochure.

Getting there

Flights operate directly between Australia and India.


The Indian climate is affected by the Thar Desert and the Himalayas and changes depending on the location within the country. March to June are considered the hot season with temperatures across the country ranging from the low-teens to the low 30s. Monsoon season is July to September when rains are prominent and temperatures relatively high. The cool season brings surprisingly cold nights and day time highs of just 13 degrees in the Himalayas.

India's climate

When to go

October to March is considered the best time to visit India however climate changes depending on the location within India. For more information, read our guide on when to visit India.


The currency used is the Indian rupee.

Did you know?

India has the largest postal network in the world.

Top Tip

Don’t try to cram too many things in one visit! India is a vast country with lots to see so pick what interests you most and take your time to experience it well.

Experience India now on one of our small group journeys or check out our range of private tours.