Home to more than 1 billion people, India is a country that is as varied as it is beautiful. From the towering Himalayan mountains in the north, the dusty camel routes of the west, the spiritual rivers of the east and the tropical forests of the south - India tours offer a whirlwind of emotions while exploring one of the most colourful countries on earth.
Found in South Asia and bounded by the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, human remains found in India indicate the region has been inhabited for over 30,000 years. During this time, the Indian subcontinent was home to the Indus Valley civilization developing in 3000 BCE. This bronze age civilization is one of the world’s oldest along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
While the Indus Valley Civilization eventually declined, the area remained a powerful centre for culture in ancient times. Two prominent religions would start within India, Hinduism and Buddhism. On India tours, a couple fascinating stops are at Sarnath, the centre of the Buddhist world where Buddha preached his first sermon, and Varanasi, the religious capital of the Hindu faith since the dawn of history.
During the rise of both religions, many empires and kingdoms with chaste systems would begin to flourish and as the centuries wore on, India would become trading partners with the Roman Empire and Eastern Asia.
Early India established itself as a strong power and through maritime networks the influence of South Indian culture and political systems were exported as far as Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Java.
By the medieval ages, several centuries of flourishing sculpture and architecture design led to expanding cultural diversity. From the simplistic scenes of everyday life carved onto the temples of Mamallapuram, to exquisitely carved temples in Belur and Halebid, to the temples of Khajuraho which are among the most creative examples of Indian architecture, there seems to be no shortage of temples across this country.
Islam first reached the northern borders of India in the 10th century and would become the religion of choice for the Mughals, a strong empire that would rule over much of India in the 16th to 19th centuries. Their capital was Agra, with the Taj Mahal being credited as one of the finest masterpieces created during their reign.
Before the Mughals, European expansion had already reached India’s lands. The East Indian Trading company had already established coastal posts such as Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai, and Kochi. The Portuguese established themselves in Goa after Vasco da Gama sailed down the coast in 1498 in search of "Christians and spices."
With the threat of intruders and the wealth from trade deals rising, many forts and palaces were erected in the later centuries. Rajasthan is a region comprised of many opulent palaces such as Udaipur, Jaipur and Jodhpur each as serene as they are detailed.
India tours are just as much about the culture as they are about the landscape. India is considered one of the world’s most biodiverse countries and with such a vast geography, one is able to stand in the shadows of Himalayan glaciers near Leh, cruise a magnificent backwaters of Kerala and admire rolling forest-clad hills of Orchha.
Travelling to India is an explosion to each of the senses. With so much to see it is truly a rewarding destination.