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With its dazzling breadth of experiences and deep spirituality, India never fails to delight the senses and uplift the soul.

This is a giant of a country, and from the cool climes of the Himalayas to the sultry beaches of the south, India’s landscapes are diverse and exhilarating. Feast your eyes on the architectural splendour of the Taj Mahal, gaze across the tea plantations of Darjeeling and gain a powerful insight into Hindu beliefs on the banks of the sacred River Ganges in Varanasi.

The exotic spice and colour of Indian cuisine is a real joy to discover too, whether its the diverse regional fare, vegetarian delights or seriously sweet treats. Travelling in India is always an adventure – just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, up pops another anomaly. But it’s this very unpredictability that makes travel here so inspiring – no one ever forgets their time in mind-bending India.

 

Things to do

Saga’s holidays to India strive to reflect the sheer breadth and diversity of this incredible country. Whether you’d like to book the classic Golden Triangle tour visiting New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, roam the princely realms of Rajasthan or explore the balmy south in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, we’re sure to have a tour to suit you.

Film buffs can track down the locations of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Udaipur, while railway enthusiasts can board a train winding its way from Kalka through the foothills of the Himalayas to Shimla, the summer home of the British Raj. Tea aficionados (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) might like to sup their way through the hill stations of Darjeeling and Gangtok into Bhutan, while wildlife photographers can head to Ranthambore National Park in search of tigers.

There’s really no end to the adventures of India, and we’ll hazard a guess that once you’ve tasted it, you’ll be back for more.

Rajasthan

Bordering Pakistan in the north and the states of Punjab and Gujarat, Rajasthan is characterised by flowing desert landscapes, camel trains, wild tigers and some of the finest historical architecture in the country. From the pink palaces of Jaipur to the temples of Ajmer and Pushkar, and the mighty fort at Jaisalmer, the list goes ever on… Rajasthan is also celebrated for the quality of its fabrics and crafts, not to mention its splendid cuisine, all of which are fit for a Maharaja!

Uttar Pradesh

One of the country’s largest states, Uttar Pradesh doesn’t do things by halves – it’s home to Agra and the glorious Taj Mahal after all. This is also where you’ll feel India’s religious fervour to the fullest – along the banks of the Ganges in spiritually charged Varanasi, during early morning devotional prayers in Allahabad and amid the ancient Buddhist monuments of Kushinagar and Mathura.

Kerala

Long, slim and fringed with palm-clad beaches, Kerala stretches nearly 400 miles along the Arabian Sea in India’s southwest. Behind the beaches lies a network of inland waterways where handsome houseboats glide on tranquil waters. The foothills of the Western Gnats rise up beyond, creating perfect conditions for the cultivation of tea and spices.

Tamil Nadu

Draped around the Bay of Bengal, Tamil Nadu takes up the southeast portion of India. The capital Chennai (formally Madras) is a dynamic coastal city, and this ancient land is dotted with age-old temple towns. The written history of the Tamil people stretches back an incredible 2,000 years and their traditions live on through dance, poetry and language.

West Bengal

Between the mountains and deep blue sea, West Bengal is a diverse state with its head in the cool foothills of the Himalayas and its feet in the balmy Bay of Bengal. In-between you’ll find Kolkata (formally Calcutta), once the seat of the East India Trading Company. The city is grandly decorated with colonial landmarks of the British Raj and is home to the final resting place of Mother Theresa.

 

Culture and history

A melting pot of several cultures, India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Marriages are still arranged in most communities – and the divorce rate is 1%. Indian cuisine varies widely but tends to be spicier the further south you travel. The wildlife of India has had a profound impact on popular culture, not least of all through Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. And of course the country has had a long romance with dance, music, drama and theatre, and you only have to look at the Taj Mahal to see the importance of architecture.

Cricket is virtually a religion here and the film industry – Bollywood – is considered to be the largest in the world in terms of films produced and tickets sold. Condensing India’s history in to a few paragraphs is a tough challenge indeed, but we’ll give it a go. Evidence of human life in the country dates back many thousands of years and initially sprung from the Indus Valley region close to the border with present-day Pakistan.

Nomadic tribes slowly began to settle into urban living, and by 2,500BC there were several large cities in the region and a thriving culture known as the Harappan. Over the centuries various tribes filtered into Northern India from Afghanistan and central Asia and new dynasties began to gain power. Then came the early days of Hinduism, which can be traced back to around 1,000BC when the ancient Vedic scriptures were written down.

A little later came Buddhism and Jainism and it’s during this period that the caste system was formalised. From the 1st century AD many separate, mainly Hindu, kingdoms ruled India, and music, art and culture flourished throughout. Trade was strong, especially so in the south, which formed an integral part of the Silk Road trading with the Roman Empire, the Egyptians and China.

Meanwhile, in the north, there were to be several Muslim-led invasions, and from around the 11th century they gained power, taking over much of the northern territories. In the following centuries these different empires wrangled for power, but all was eclipsed with the coming of the Europeans. The first to arrive were the Portuguese when Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and landed in Kerala at the end of the 15th century.

Though they controlled Goa until 1961, it was the French and the British who wielded the majority of power. Throughout the 1600s the British-owned East India Trading Company set up posts in Madras, Bombay and Gujarat. The French vied for control of European/Indian trade, establishing a trading post in Pondicherry, but ultimately the British prevailed and by the early 1800s India was under British rule.

During this time many of the bureaucratic systems of the British were introduced, along with English as the common language. The farming of cotton and tea increased in scale and India’s famous rail network began to take shape. By the beginning of the 20th century opposition to British rule ramped up.

The independence movement, led by Gandhi, was interrupted by two world wars, but eventually in 1947 an independent India was born.

 

See All Holidays to India

Unveiling the highlights of India's famed Golden Triangle, this exciting tour allows you to contrast Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. And you may even spot a tiger on safari in Ranthambore National Park…

Unveiling the highlights of India's famed Golden Triangle, this exciting tour allows you to experience the contrasts between Delhi, the regal splendour of Jaipur and the romantic lure of Agra.

Himalayan Heritage Trail

Escorted Tour Pace 2

Awaken your senses on this incredible journey through Northern India.

India: Beyond the Taj

Escorted Tour Pace 2

Discover northern India by train, plane and road on this memorable tour from Delhi to Lucknow.

Rajasthan The Princely State

Escorted Tour Pace 2

Discover the palaces, temples and hilltop forts of Rajasthan on this two-week tour and experience the luxurious Rajasthani lifestyle with stays in three heritage hotels.

Awaken your senses on this incredible journey through Northern India in the company of other solo travellers

Unveiling the highlights of India's famed Golden Triangle, this exciting tour for solo travellers allows you to contrast Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. And you may even spot a tiger on safari in Ranthambore National Park…

Discover northern India by train, plane and road on this memorable tour from Delhi to Lucknow.

Soul of Kerala

Escorted Tour Pace 2

Our tour of Kerala reveals enchanting backwaters, wildlife-rich forests and tea and spice plantations, before you take time out on the Malabar coast.

Temples and Tigers

Escorted Tour Pace 1

Travel from India to the Himalayan country of Nepal, visiting cities including Delhi, Jaipur and Kathmandu, the Taj Mahal and national parks.

South India: A Grand Tour

Escorted Tour Pace 2

Explore ancient temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu, wonder at opulent royal palaces, relish the cultural delights of bustling cities, and experience the calm of an ashram.

Discover the palaces, temples and hilltop forts of Rajasthan on this two-week tour and experience the luxurious Rajasthani lifestyle with stays in three heritage hotels.

Discover northern India by train, plane and road on this memorable tour from Delhi to Lucknow.

Temples and Tigers

Escorted Tour Pace 1

Travel from India to the Himalayan country of Nepal, visiting cities including Delhi, Jaipur and Kathmandu, the Taj Mahal and national parks.

The Himalayan Trail to Bhutan

Escorted Tour Pace 3

This enchanting tour takes you from the bustling capital of India into the foothills of the Himalayas.

The Spice Route

Cruise World

Cross the Bay of Bengal to experience the sights, sounds and smells of South-East Asia on this cruise from Chennai to Singapore.

Our tour of Kerala reveals enchanting backwaters, wildlife-rich forests and tea and spice plantations, before you take time out on the Malabar coast.

This enchanting solos tour takes you from the bustling capital of India into the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sydney to London

Cruise World

Your adventure from the Southern Hemisphere gets underway from Australia's most cosmopolitan city, Sydney. Discover the beauty of the Indonesian islands before cruising to some of Asia's most intriguing destinations. Finally, delve into the past as Magellan visits a string of ancient ports in the Mediterranean.

A Grand Voyage

Cruise World

Set sail on this cruise of a lifetime as the graceful Magellan makes her maiden voyage around the world, visiting no less than 42 ports.

Join Black Watch on this epic voyage circumnavigating the globe and discover some of the world's most breathtaking destinations.

Language

Hindi,English -

There are 18 different languages in India, including Hindi, which is the national language and spoke by about 30% of the population. English is widely spoken.

Tipping

Tipping is not ingrained in the British culture so we often feel uncertain when it comes to offering gratuities, but in India tipping is the norm and helps to make up the salaries of some poorly paid service staff. If you wish to tip porters or waiting staff about INR 50-100 per person is the average.

Should you wish to show your appreciation to the coach driver/assistant on your tour, we suggest INR 150 per person, per day, and for your local tour manager INR 250 per person, per day. This is of course entirely at your discretion but we know that some people appreciate an insight into appropriate amounts.

Population and size

With 1.2 billion inhabitants, India is the second most populated country in the world.

They say size doesn’t matter, but India is a whopping 13.5 times larger than the UK. Mind you, it’s only half the size of Australia.

Currency

Indian Rupee -

India’s currency is the rupee.

Import and export of rupees is forbidden but sterling can be exchanged without difficulty by banks and authorised money-changers.

Phrases

Attempts to speak the local lingo are always appreciated. Here’s a few words of Hindi to get you started…

Yes - ji ha

No - nahi

Please - meher bani

thank you - dhanyavad

hello - namaste

do you have a  beer? - Kya aapke paas beer hai

Timezone

India is five-and-a-half hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity

A huge variety of electrical sockets are in use so you’ll be best off bringing an adaptor with you. Mains voltage in India is usually 230 volts AC (50 hz).

Climate

It’s mostly hot in India and between March and June, it can be very hot.

Monsoon rains occur in most regions between June and early October. It’s cooler from December to February. As a general rule, loose-fitting cotton or linen clothes are the order of the day.

Health

Mozzies operate in this part of the world so take a can of insect repellent and cover your arms and legs, particularly in the evening.

Tap water is unreliable so you are advised to stick to bottled.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Passports and visas

It’s a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport with you. You will need a visa to enter India but don’t worry, Saga will sort that out for you.

Smoking

You are not allowed to smoke in public places in India, but there are designated outdoor areas where smoking is permitted.

Flight time

London to Delhi is just over eight hours, London to Cochin is eleven hours and London to Bangalore is ten and a half hours.  



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