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.
Assam is the largest of India’s seven north-eastern states. It occupies the floodplains and middle reaches of the Brahmaputra River. A spectacular region, Assam is famous for its sprawling tea plantations, spectacular wilderness areas and the oldest working oilfield in the world, which was first tapped in 1901 at Digboi. The region has been hailed as one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world. Its pristine wild places, most notably the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Kaziranga National Park and the Manas National Park, shelter the endangered one-horned rhino, Asiatic elephant, Bengal tiger, gaur and many other fascinating species.
The Brahmaputra is one of the world’s great rivers and surprisingly, one of the least known. It is largely unimpeded with no dams or barrages, no locks and very few bridges block its flow from the Tibetan Plateau, cutting through the eastern Himalaya and flowing through Assam and Bangladesh to merge with the Ganges, disappearing into the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra brims with life and annual floods rejuvenate the vast landscape. The waters sustain millions of people and some of India’s finest wilderness areas, but it remains, in essence, a rural river. In the plains the river has traditionally been an artery of transport and communication, but this became less with the introduction of roads, railways and air travel.