Why is India awaiting discovery? India made world news headlines recently as the country’s GDP grew 7.6 per cent in the 2015/16 fiscal year overtaking China’s economic growth at 6.7 per cent in the same fiscal period.
Economics aside, the country has progressed from a popular hippy and backpacker hangout – to a vibrant destination oozing with fascinating cultures, nature and history – exhilarating even the most discerning and jaded world traveller.
Encompassing an area of over three million square kilometres, the destination is home to 1.2 billion people. The world’s second most populous country is endowed with immensely rich cultural and natural diversity.
“In India, about every three kilometres, the dialect of the people change, reflecting the diversity of the country,” says Runeep Sangha, executive director of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), India Chapter who was speaking to the travel trade at the PATA-India and India Tourism presentation in Vancouver yesterday.
The Land of Yoga embodies a kaleidoscope of colours, aromas, wildlife, landscapes and ancient ruins. “Incredible India has plenty to offer”, remarks Anil Oraw, director of India Tourism-Toronto.
Unique Fauna and Flora
Gir National Park in the Northeastern state of Gujarat is the only natural habitat in the world for Asiatic (also known as Indian or Persian) Lions, one of the five big cats that live in India, alongside the famed Bengal tiger and the three leopard species, namely the Indian, snow and clouded leopard. Flowers dot the landscape of Jammu and Kashmir. In spring, Asia’s largest tulip garden transforms the valley into a floral paradise.
Rich Culture and Food
Hindi and English are the country’s official languages, but over 1,500 mother tongues are known to exist, according to Census of India 2011. Every village and/or dialect has their own specialties. A gourmet traveller can eat all year round in India and not have the same recipe twice. On arrival to India, Oraw recommends first time travellers to transition to Indian food slowly to avoid ‘palate shock’.
If you are staying at the luxury Leela Palace Hotels & Resorts in New Delhi, The Qube would be an ideal restaurant to ease your taste buds into Indian cuisine. “One of my favourite Indian dishes is Laal Maas, a fiery and delicious Rajasthani mutton dish served at Jamavar, The Leela’s signature Indian restaurant,” says David Kartagener of Kartagener Associates.
Assam Tea and Wild Silk
The best time to visit Northeastern India is during the cooler months of October through April, recommends Hemanta Das of Network Travels based in Assam. They also offer tours to neighbouring Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar – and India’s Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
Assam is famous for its wildlife (one-horn grey rhino), tea plantations and wild silk.
For a customized experiential holiday, Jatinder Taneja of Travel Spirit International, says his company can customize programs to fit virtually every client’s travel need. Their tour packages range from cultural, heritage to adventure, wildlife tours in India and to neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Time Out in Goa
India’s smallest state, Goa was liberated from the Portuguese in 1961. It was spices, ivories and silk that made Goa an important Portuguese trading port for centuries.
Three of its beaches (Agonda, Palolem and Radhanagar) were rated among the top 10 Asian beaches by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice this year.
“It’s warm water and there is no shark”, says Nikhil Desai of Goa Tourism Development Corporation. He added that Goa has an important Christian heritage with a vibrant legacy of Saint Francis Xavier. A Catholic Jesuit, Xavier is deemed one of the world’s greatest Christian missionary after St. Paul. The food and drink capital of India, its many beautiful beaches made Goa an ideal destination to time out, and experience local cuisine at its best.