India - north or south?
India has long lured curious and adventurous travellers to its shores. Its rich culture and history is reason enough to visit and yet it has even more to offer with thrilling wildlife encounters and off the beaten track trekking routes to explore. The immense size of the country means that first time visitors have some tough choices to make. Unless you are lucky enough to have unrestricted budget and holiday time at your disposal, you’ll need to pick an area to focus on. For many people, this broadly speaking involves making a choice between visiting the north or the south. But how to decide? We asked two Exodus India enthusiasts to help.
Sales and Marketing Director Ben Roseveare lived and worked for over a year in Pakistan and took frequent forays into Northern India. ‘It's quite simply my favourite area in the world…’
The Himalaya rise dramatically out of the plains of Northern India and provide the ultimate lure for mountaineers. If you like it ‘tough’ ascend the 6000m peak of Stok Kangri in Ladakh, or take on a high altitude trek through the desolate mountains of Southern Zanskar to Moon Lake. Exodus has been operating a wide range of trekking trips in this very special region of the world for many years.
Wildlife parks such as Ranthambore, Kanha and Bandhavgarh are the best places in the world to see tigers in the wild. With expert wildlife guides and sensitively designed itineraries, Exodus offer trips that maximise your opportunities not only to spot, but also to contribute to the long-term survival of these magnificent animals.
Sacred cities and temples dot the plains of Northern India. The region’s diverse peoples and dramatic history are brought to life as you wonder at powerful architectural superstructures, intricate carvings and colourful hill forts. Despite its popularity (it is a busy site), the Taj Mahal is still considered by many travellers to be the most beautiful building in the world. Experience sunrise there for yourself and you can decide.
Once you’ve adjusted to the sensory overload of colour, noise and people you’ll go on to learn about the Hindu concept of ‘karma’ (spiritual peace and purpose) that pervades every facet of Indian life. For many, this understanding and learning is in itself relaxing. But more literally it is found on a dawn boat ride on the holy River Ganges in Varanasi, during an audience with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala or on a high pass in the Himalaya.
India Product Manager Emma Garrick spent a year backpacking in India. Since then she has revisited many times; she particularly loves the rolling hills and aromatic Indian cuisine.
It’s not size that matters! The Himalaya may have the altitude and the fame, but if you really want to see South India you should venture off into the rolling hills on our Spice Trails of Kerala trip. Experience gentle walking with picturesque views of a rich, verdant landscape and not a tourist in sight. There are peaks to be bagged as well as we climb Anamundi, a towering rock face at 2695metres and the highest point in Kerala.
Less known for its wildlife than the north, the advantage is that in the south, you simply don’t encounter as many people in the wildlife parks. The best way to explore Periyar Park is by boat on Periyar Lake, from which Indian elephants can be seen in abundance, plus sambar, a variety of deer, as well as over 240 different bird species. On our Kerala & Tropical India cycling holiday there is the very distinct chance of seeing wild elephants roam, as we travel through Mudumalai National Park.
The architecture of southern India is a reflection of the states that make up this wonderful region - a unique, colourful and complex mix of cultures and religions. See the most beautiful temple of them all in Madurai - the Meenakshi temple - an exquisite example of Dravidian art. There are palaces too, such as the magnificent Mysore, a majestic, opulent building that blends both Indian and gothic styles of architecture. By way of contrast, Cochin, which was discovered by the Portuguese in 1500, still boasts an abundance of Portuguese-style architecture.
South India appeals to those who prefer a more laid-back introduction to India. It certainly has a less frenetic feel, as the pace of life is generally more tranquil. This is epitomised by an overnight stay on a traditional Keralan houseboat (all our south Indian itineraries include this). Initially used to transport goods from the interior backwaters to the larger towns before the advent of roads, it is an unrivalled experience. Relax with a cool drink as you sail down a series of canals and experience traditional village life first-hand.