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I share some magical moments from my trip to India – some of the incredible places…
I recently visited India for the first time, and it was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world and all of the different sights, smells and tastes collide and hit you like a metaphorical sucker punch as soon as you step out of the airport. Everything feels heightened, with vibrant colours, potent smells, and the blast of the tuk-tuks ringing at a near-constant. My ears have barely recovered.
As it was my first time visiting, I went as part of an 11-day group travel tour with the travel company Intrepid, along with my twin sister. We started off at the capital, Delhi. Before going on to visit Varanasi, Agra, Tordi Gahr and Jaipur, and heading back to Delhi to catch our flight home. Here, I share five of the most magical moments from my trip…
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Magical moments from my trip to India: Overview
- Ganges in Varanasi
- Taj Mahal in Agra
- Overnight train
- Tordi Gahr
- New Delhi
Watching the sunrise on the Ganges in Varanasi
As you’ll see throughout this post, there were A LOT of early starts on this trip. The earliest was 4 am! However, as much as it was pretty painful to drag myself out of bed at that time it was always worth it. Doing the sunrise boat ride on the Ganges was no exception. We’d done the sunset boat rise the night before. But I think I preferred this one. As the light and the stillness of the river in the morning was just gorgeous. We crowded down at the shore before dawn to watch the fire ritual. Which is performed every morning, and then took the boat down the river to see the sunrise.
In case you don’t know, Varanasi is known as the spiritual capital of India. It is significant to those of the Hindu faith for being the holiest of the seven holy cities. It’s also known for being the place where families travel from all over the country to cremate their loved ones. You can see the funeral rituals taking place on the ghats throughout the day. Hindus also believe that they can wash away their sins by bathing in the holy river. Just to warn you, it’s super important to be respectful and not take photos. It might not be everyone’s cup to tea but for me, it felt like a real privilege to see the significance of the river to the Hindu people in Varanasi. It’s certainly not something I’ll forget in a hurry.
Visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra
I couldn’t write a post about memorable moments in India without including our trip to the Taj Mahal. I was incredibly glad that we were on a group tour with an experienced tour guide at this point. As our guide Sana knew how to make sure we all got the most out of the experience. The two most important things were 1) getting up at the crack of dawn so that we’d be able to take photographs against the backdrop of the hazy morning light and 2) not taking anything in our bags aside from the bare minimum: phone, wallet and keys. They’re super strict about what you bring in with you. So if you get stopped at security you could be stuck for ages.
As for the Taj Mahal itself, it’s just as breath-taking as you would imagine. It’s not every day you get to see one of the seven wonders of the world, right?
Getting the overnight train
When I say the overnight trains were memorable I mean it… but I’m not entirely sure I’d want to repeat the experience. That’s not to say it was all bad, however. We took two overnight trains over the course of the trip. The first one felt like the moment when everyone in the tour group really bonded for the first time and that was lovely. A lot of us were grouped in a space together. We basically all sat and chatted the whole night until it was time to go to bed.
One of my favourite moments from the trip was us all crowding around to watch a true-crime documentary on one of the group’s iPads – it just felt like a real moment! It wasn’t all rosy however, the toilets were absolutely awful and all women are instructed to always go to the bathroom accompanied by a man to ensure their safety.
The trains are also prone to lengthy delays. The train we got was delayed by about three hours. Which wasn’t too bad because it meant we had a bit more time to lie around in bed. But our guide Sana told us about some trains that had been delayed by six or seven hours. Like I said, I’m not sure I’d want to repeat the experience. But if you’re travelling in a mixed group, have a sense of adventure and can handle a grotty toilet for 12 hours or so then give it a go – it’s certainly a good way to be able to visit multiple cities on your trip.
Watching the sunset in Tordi Gahr
Tordi Gahr is a small village in India that we stayed in for one night on the way to Jaipur. It was the fourth place we’d visited on our tour so far, after Delhi, Varanasi and Agra, and it was in the middle of the countryside. It was so delightfully still after the hustle and bustle of the previous locations. I think all of us were relieved to have a break from the constant blare of the tuk-tuk drivers’ horns.
In the afternoon we wandered around the fields and visited a nearby step well before taking a jeep up the sand dunes to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, the jeep couldn’t go all the way up. So we had to climb the final (incredibly steep) sand dune ourselves but it was worth it for the view. We watched the sun sink in the sky with chai masala tea and biscuits and it was one of my favourite moments of the trip.
Wandering around New Delhi
I wanted to include this because having time to explore New Delhi at the end of the trip completely transformed my opinion of Delhi as a whole. We’d started off the whole trip wandering the streets of old Delhi. I think all of us were a bit overwhelmed by it – all I could remember was the total assault to the senses of noise, and smells, and more noise. Having the chance to explore New Delhi was a game-changer. I loved the sense of space after being crammed into the tiny alleyways of the old city.
As we wandered along the wide, leafy avenues it felt like you could be somewhere else entirely. The only thing I can compare it to is the French Concession area in Shanghai. We ended up visiting a beautiful stepwell as well as the India Gate. Which was built in 1921 to commemorate British Indian soldiers from WWE. We then got a tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel where the driver went so fast we all thought we were going to die. W we literally had to tell him to slow down – but don’t let that put you off. Definitely try and make time to explore the two different halves of Delhi if you get a chance.
Thank you for reading 5 magical moments from my trip to India!
About the Author
Lucy runs a blog called Lucy Lives here.
(All pictures provided by Lucy)