This well populated metropolitan capital of India is diverse and many people come to this mega-city to experience culture like no other.
With its reputation for its infamous film industry - Bollywood, to some of Asia's biggest slums, Mumbai also offers a lot of history, British architecture, museums, beaches and culture galore. Although at first it may seem overwhelming, if you explore the city you’ll uncover unique bazaars, hidden temples, hipster enclaves and India’s finest restaurants and nightlife.
Most people would use Mumbai as a stopover to different points of interest in India but here are some activities worth doing:
- Taking a tour and visit a Bollywood studio to experience this infamous film industry.
- Visit the Gateway of India a well known landmark located at the tip of Apollo Bandar a popular spot with tourists and locals.
- Take a trek through Sanjay Ghandi National Park filled with wildlife, waterfalls and caves.
- Girgaum Chowpatty is an inner city beach not suitable for swimming but a favourite evening spot with plenty of stalls at the beach’s southern end and is an essential part of the Mumbai experience.
- Celebrate Holi, the festival of colours that welcomes spring and calls for blessing from the gods for fertile land and a good harvest.
- Pani puri (fried spicy Indian bread) and bhel puri (puffed rice dish) at Elco Vegetarian restaurant, famous for its fast-food styling and Mumbai snacks, Mumbair.
India is an enormous country so most travellers focus on travel around the four major cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
Known for its atmospheric hill stations like Dharamsala (the home in exile of the Dalai Lama) and Shimla (British colonial retreat), this mountainous region includes Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Other attractions include the ashram town of Rishikesh (made famous by the Beatles and the Maharishi), the hippy hangout Manali in the Kullu Valley, the British hill station Mussoorie and the forests and tigers of the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
Travel further north to discover the remote and beautiful Sangla Valley and Leh, one of the highest inhabited cities in the world and has unique landscapes that include snow-capped peaks, green valleys and high altitude desert.
It may be flat and occasionally dusty but this region takes in some of the country’s richest spiritual centres and poorest economic states. You will inevitably pass through its megalopolis capital New Delhi, a modern city with attractions such as the Red Fort and Qutub Minar, as well as Agra with the Taj Mahal and the holy city of Varanasi.
If you are interested in yoga or spiritualism, you might also find yourself on one of the holy cities located along the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, such as Mathura, Varanasi, Bodh Gaya and Allahabad (location of the infamous Kumbh Mela).
Western, Southern, Eastern and Northern India
Magnificent palaces, vast forts and the famous coloured Rajput cities of (blue) Jodphur, (pink) Jaipur, (gold) Jaisalmer and (white) Udaipur – Travellers have long had a love affair with Rajasthan in Western India.
Western India also includes the huge and vibrant city of Mumbai, the country’s business hub and famous for attractions like the Bollywood film industry, rock caves at Ajanta and the monolithic temple at Ellora. Ahmedabad in Gujarat is famous for the Gandhi Ashram and the place where the Spiritual Teacher began the 1930 Dandi Salt march.
Halfway down the coast, you’ll find Goa, the former Portuguese enclave with more than 100km of palm-fringed beaches is halfway down the south-west coast.
Most people travel to Southern India to visit the sandy beaches and backwaters of Kerala, specifically Cochin, or the former French colonial town of Pondicherry. This vast, hot region also includes the remote Andaman and Nicobar archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, new economic cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai and the lost temple city of Karnataka.
Although this region is less developed than other parts of India, it includes Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, “cultural capital” of India and the former capital of British India. Bishnupur in West Bengal is famous for its terracotta temples and classical Gharana music. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim is a hill-station in the middle of the many-hued mountains of Sikkim.
This region includes the seven small states known as the seven sisters: Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh. It’s known for its beautiful untouched landscapes, tribal peoples, endemic flora and fauna and tea gardens of Assam.
From the airport
Private transfers are always recommended from the airport, and can be easily arranged at Mumbai airports or prebook a reasonably priced private transfer.
Train travel or private car (with driver) between cities is a good way to see the landscapes and culture of the country. Domestic flights between cities are plentiful.
In and around the city
Once inside the city, taxis and auto-rickshaws are the best way to get around the cities. Negotiate a fee with the driver at the beginning of your journey.
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