Delhi was established over three thousand years ago and is today the capital of the largest democracy of the world. A mixture of bustling international metropolis, medieval chaos and regal splendour, the city is crammed to bursting point with the relics of past empires; tombs, temples, monuments and ruins, all of which exist side by side with modern suburbs and glass and chrome skyscrapers. In this quintessentially Indian city a surprise lies around every corner. Colonial architecture in New Delhi is combined with ancient Islamic and Mughal ruins, modern suburban developments and even a touch of rural India. The city houses two UNESCO World Heritage sites; Humayun’s Tomb and The Q’tub Minar.
Kaziranga National Park
Slightly over 100 years ago, a small patch of wetland on the southern side of the Brahmaputra River was protected for a tiny population of greater one-horned rhinoceros. Today, Kaziranga is a World Heritage Site, a tiger reserve and home to some of the finest wildlife viewing in Asia. The national park has been recognised as a conservation success where a small population of 12 rhinos has increased to almost 3 000. Everything appears larger than life at Kaziranga – even some of the largest snakes in the world, including the reticulated and Indian pythons, king cobra and branded krait, are found here. The reserve is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with almost 500 species encountered here.
Jumbled and chaotic, Kolkata nevertheless retains the title of India’s friendliest metropolis, as well as the country’s intellectual and cultural capital. Once the birthplace of the British Raj, the city is filled with now-crumbling remnants of colonial architecture that seem to both complement and contradict its quintessentially Bengali soul. Buzzing with creative energy, Kolkata’s many museums, galleries and theatres sprawl along the east bank of the Hooghly River. Crowded bazaars and teeming streets appear alongside upmarket shopping centres and restaurants where visitors can sample the mild, fruity tang of Bengali cuisine.
Kanha National Park
Discover the natural wonders of Kanha National Park, which boasts the ideal habitat for both tigers and their prey species. Prime tiger wilderness, Kanha National Park was one of the first areas to be protected under Project Tiger, aimed at preserving this magnificent animal, and remains a renowned conservation success. This picturesque reserve is one of India’s largest national parks and is renowned not only for its high number of tigers but as the last remaining habitat of the hard ground barasingha, or swamp deer. Lush sal and bamboo forests are interspersed with vast grassy meadows known as maidens, while the Banjaar River, which forms the park’s southwestern border, provides a steady water source for the abundant wildlife.
Mumbai is an endlessly fascinating hive of activity. India’s largest port is also the country’s commercial and industrial centre, fashion capital and the heart of Bollywood (India’s thriving movie industry). A melting pot for cultures from every corner of the country, Mumbai embodies a little bit of all India’s diverse traditions rolled into one. Expect a jumble of captivating contradictions; grand colonial architecture rubs shoulders with chaotic bazaars, trendy restaurants, exclusive boutiques, slums and shanty towns, all interspersed with beautiful, tropical palm trees. This bustling cosmopolitan metropolis offers everything from pavement stalls and ancient markets to glitzy malls and designer outlets. Set along the shores of the Arabian Sea, the city sprawls from a series of islands onto the mainland, with most of the tourist attractions located in Colaba, at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. In the middle of Mumbai Harbour lies Elephanta Island, with its labyrinth of ancient caves and temples, cut into the basalt rock.
Gir National Park
Located in Gujarat, Gir National Park is the last remaining habitat for Asiatic lion, and is a vast haven for other extraordinary wildlife such as leopard, three smaller cats (jungle cat, desert cat, and rusty spotted cat), Indian fox, nilgai, chinkara, sambar deer, jackal, wild boar, and striped hyena. Be sure to keep an eye out for the shy chowsingha, a four-horned antelope which is an incredibly impressive sight. The terrain is dry and deciduous, ideal for the resident lion and an abundance of birdlife, notably the under-threat white-backed and long-billed vultures that perch on stark trees. The Kamleshwar reservoir is a perfect setting to look out for stealthy marsh crocodiles and over 40 species of reptiles and amphibians.