There is no destination quite as intoxicating as India, a heady mix of ancient wisdom and lost kingdoms, sacred temples and spice-laden markets. From rolling red dunes to dense jungle, honey-coloured beaches to sultry backwaters, and the formidable peaks of the Himalayas, every journey is cloaked in the delicious scent of cardamon, cloves and sweet, cinnamon chai.

Here’s our pick of the top ten unmissable experiences in India.

1. Witness the Iconic Taj Mahal at Sunrise and Sunset

Simply put: Agra is unmissable.

Home to the iconic Taj Mahal, no picture could ever do the magnitude, grace and beauty of this Moghul mausoleum justice.

Rise early to watch the first rays of dawn bathe the iconic white facade in silver, and return at dusk as the last waves of sunset wash it in pastels of tangerine and red.

2. Step Foot in Amritsar’s Spellbinding Golden Temple

Amritsar’s Golden Temple is utterly spellbinding. Made of marble and layered with 500 kg of pure 24-carat gold, it hovers over holy water where Sikh pilgrims come from all around the world to bathe in reverence.

An evening visit to the Golden Temple at dusk for the Palki Sahib night ceremony is a must-do. At sunrise, step inside the communal kitchen to see the Sikh community come together to prepare simple meals for the 35,000 pilgrims who visit the temple daily.

3. Observe Ancient Rituals on the Banks of the River Ganges

Varanasi is a sacred city on the banks of the river Ganga — where ritual, prayer, bathing and altered states make for the most captivating people watching you might ever see.

At dusk, be immersed in unforgettable spiritual experience of an aarti prayer led by saffron-robed gurus.

Hear the prayerful hymns and rhythmic drumming, and watch hundreds of candles float downstream, as lantern-bearing priests bid the gods a restful slumber.

4. Cruise the Kerala Backwaters on Your Own Houseboat

Cruising the beautiful Kerala backwaters on a traditional houseboat is a South Indian rite of passage.

With A&K, board your private houseboat for an overnight cruise, where you’ll float lazily through a landscape of lush paddy fields and mangrove forests as timeless local boats ply their trade.

Soak up the atmosphere as children play along the banks and fisherman reel in their daily catch, before indulging a feast of local cuisine prepared by your onboard chef.

5. Ride a Rickshaw Through Delhi’s Chandni Chowk Bazaar

The immense culture of Delhi offers spectacular pieces of architecture, a mouth-watering variety of food, and some of the most vibrant markets in the country.

Enter the intoxicating chaos of Chandni Chowk Bazaar on an exciting rickshaw ride.

An enduring hub of daily life in Old Delhi, the bustling market boasts stalls selling everything from antique jewellery and colourful textiles to food stalls offering delicious Indian-style omelettes and spicy, crisp samosas.

6. Walk On Set and Experience the Madness of Bollywood

For an entirely different insiders’ experience, come with us to experience the madness of Bollywood in Mumbai on a behind-the-scenes film and television tour.

Learn to dance Bollywood style, go backstage on a live set, attend a special screening, and record snippets of script in a sound studio —soaking up insider-news from industry experts along the way.

7. Seek Out the Elusive Bengal Tiger on Safari

Venture deep into the heart of tiger country, where you can seek out a range of spectacular wildlife, and, if you’re lucky, spot a Bengal tiger.

Our top pick for an unforgettable safari is Ranthambore National Park. Enjoy game drives and keep your camera handy for Bengal tiger, leopard, deer, wild boar, striped hyena, a variety of monkey and sloth bear, not to mention an orchestra of birdlife.

8. Visit the Home and Monastery of the Dalai Lama

Nestled in northern India’s Himalaya region is the majestic home and monastery of the Dalai Lama.

With beautiful views of the snow-capped Dhauladhar mountain range and the pristine Dharamshala valley, seeing his residence is a humbling experience.

Explore his monastery, Tsuglag Khang, the largest Tibetan temple outside of Tibet, home to over 200 monks and nuns, and witness them studying and chanting alongside mesmerising prayer wheels.

9. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Ruins of Hampi

Discovering the magnificent and expansive ruins of UNESCO World Heritage site Hampi.

Now a city in ruins, the magical landscape of the Vijayanagara Empire was once the ‘second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing’.

It is a must for all discerning history buffs. Unravel its many archaeological mysteries with expert guides and scholars, and marvel at the remains of the Queen’s sprawling recreational mansion.

10. Take a Curator-Led Tour of the Mehrangarh Fort at Twilight

Behold, the Blue City of Jodhpur, a web of winding, medieval streets painted sky-blue.

Spread over 1,200 acres, and burnished a bright red sandstone, the mighty Mehrangarh Fort sits in all its splendour 122 metres above the skyline.

With A&K enjoy an exclusive curator-led tour of the Fort as twilight descends, hearing tales of sacrifice and adventure, and basking in the sheer joy of discussing this fascinating collection with the expert.

For all the highlights, discover the following itineraries, or visit the A&K website for the full portfolio.

Splendours of Rajasthan
private itinerary, 9 days from $5,345 pp

Experience a bygone era of emperors and princes in royal Rajasthan. Discover Delhi’s colonial grandeur and delectable cuisine; be awestruck by the perfect symmetry and marbled elegance of the Taj Mahal; explore the dusky magnificence of Jaipur’s City Palace; and savour a sunset across the exquisite lake palaces of Udaipur — all while staying in India’s most regal hotels.
Take Me There

Taj Mahal and the Treasures of India
A Luxury Small Group Journey, 14 days from $17,430 pp

From the intense bustle of Mumbai and Delhi, journey through the Rajasthani countryside and gain a fascinating glimpse into rural life, before seeing the iconic Taj Mahal. Stay in palace-turned-hotels, travel deep into the wilderness in search of the elusive Bengal tiger, and take an intimate look at life and death in the sacred city of Varanasi.
Take Me There

All images: Supplied

This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with Abercrombie & Kent.

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