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Amazing India: True Travelers' Tales

Get inspired by our readers' most memorable experiences in India

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india woman varanasi offering redProwling tigers, teeming cities, sun-kissed beaches, fragrant eucalyptus plantations, temples brimming with ancient treasures ... India's rich multitude of cultures and landscapes offers something for nearly every type of traveler. But this bounty of travel experiences can also make it difficult to decide where to start. Read on for inspiration from our well-traveled readers, who recount some of their most memorable experiences in destinations across India. Got one of your own to share? Send us your India trip report!

Assam: Scenic Cruising on the Brahmaputra River
"Cruising the mighty Brahmaputra River in the northeastern Indian state of Assam is like taking a step back in time. Sitting on your cruise vessel's panoramic sundeck at dawn, as the sun shows as an almost scarlet orb and the mist lifts to expose the remote landscape, one could be forgiven for imagining one's travelling companions are Mahatma Gandhi or Rudyard Kipling.

"My own cruise was seven nights aboard the 'Sukapha' from Silghat to Sibsagar, and included Majuli Island, regarded as the world's largest river island. It is a remote stretch of river with views varying from lush jungle through to barren stretches of sand and rice paddies. Because of annual river flooding, few villages are built on the banks, and those that we visited were often about a 30-minute walk inland -- easy treks with the reward being opportunities to mingle with tribes whose lifestyle has changed little over the past 50 years." -- Cruising India's Mighty Brahmaputra by John M.

Goa: "A Way of Life"
goa india boat beach waves ocean"One can never have enough of Goa; the beaches are so marvelous and long that we never felt like leaving them. All streets leading to the beaches have small cottages of the locals which they hire out to tourists. Colva Beach was fun as it was secluded and the sun-kissed waves came gently to the shore. Others like Calangute were flooded with people, as there are a lot of water sports like parasailing, water scooters, etc. offered by tour operators. Cruising on the Mandovi River for an hour at night we watched the local konkani dances amidst dancing lights in the river. ...

"Marketplaces are clean and women are seen everywhere working and managing shops, including wine shops! Tourists are never ill-treated and the ambience is relaxing. No wonder people say that 'Goa is a way of life.'" -- The Strawberry and Cashew Trail -- India by soumana datta

Tamil Nadu: A Temple Off the Beaten Path
"Thirunallam temple is nondescript from the outside. A 'feeding of the poor' (annadanam) was in progress. The friendly young priest, perhaps curious about us outsiders, warmly welcomed us and took us along for a darshan of the main Shivalingam. At our request, he gladly opened the locked shrine to reveal the ancient bronze idol of the Nataraja, and kindly permitted us to take photographs. The exquisite idol is eight feet high and five feet wide. The chamber is constructed around the Nataraja, such that the idol can never be removed. We were then shown several more beautiful ancient bronze idols of smaller Natarajas, Parvati and other deities, in an anteroom off the main Nataraja shrine. This is a rare experience, especially in a South Indian temple. These are the most beautiful bronzes we have ever seen." -- Ancient Heritage Sites of Tamil Nadu by Indiana

Uttarakhand: Tiger-Spotting at Jim Corbett National Park
india bengal tiger"We arrive in the dried-up bed of a river where about 15 Jeeps are vying for the best position to see a beautiful male Bengal tiger lying down more than 200 meters away from them! What madness to see all these people getting down from the Jeeps, which is prohibited, jumping from Jeep into Jeep by hustling all and all on their passage (impossible to take a good picture because of that) and shouting instead of keeping silent. Still more shouts, the animal condescends to rise and aproach us.

"The tiger, aggravated by the noise and the madness of the vehicles, decides to go up on a hill and disappears. Our driver (very professional and calm, I am always lucky to have the best one) places our Jeep in the way of the tiger; after 10 minutes of waiting, there it is on the road 10 meters in front of us." -- India - Tiger Safari by migyero

Kerala: Highlights of Cochin
"Cochin is the ideal place to stay as it is in central Kerala. You can access any tourist location in Kerala from here. Cochin is the largest city in Kerala, with an international airport and railway stations with direct flights to all major places in India. It has good restaurants, shopping centers, etc. Most attractions in Cochin are within city limits. So select a city hotel. ... All tour guides and Web sites give lists of attractions. But always ask the local people for recommendations. [Our hotel owner] suggested some excellent spots. For example, the Elephant Training Centre in Kodanad is not mentioned in many guides and turned out to be a gem of an experience." -- God's Own Country - Cochin, Kerala, India by Sam

Tamil Nadu: "Paradise on Earth"
"The next morning, after enjoying our langur friends' antics, we decided to take the trail into the huge shola behind our resthouse. The caretaker gave us an approximate idea of the route. At the beginning of the trail were many pretty high-altitude wildflowers, bright yellow, orange, blue; we have taken photos for identification. Part of the way was through plantation forests of eucalyptus, wattle and other Australian species; some shrubs were so overgrown that we had to literally cut our way through. Finally we entered the shola -- dense, dark and dripping with epiphytes of all sorts, interspersed with small waterfalls and pristine streams. We could hear but not see our langurs. One area was chock-full of ground orchids that had seeded.

"After quite some time we emerged into a eucalyptus forest, and some welcome sunlight! From here, the path became very narrow along the edge, though it was not that steep, and the air had a refreshing aroma of eucalyptus. By this time, according to our handy GPS, we had climbed around 350 meters and ended up in a place with fantastic views of Kolaribetta, one of the higher Nilgiri mountains. We decided to relax at this spot and enjoy the views. There were a few bushes of beautiful violet Nilgiri strobilanthes (Karvy - Kurinji pooh) in bloom nearby along with the very tall eucalyptus trees. Words cannot describe the peace and the pristine fresh clean air. If there is paradise on earth, this is truly it. And may it remain so always." -- My recent trip to the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India by Garvind

Assam: "Halfway to Heaven"
"Dusk in Assam at the border of India and Bhutan is like being halfway to heaven. On one side of the majestic Manas River is the lush national park which takes its name from the river, and on the other are the misty Himalayan foothills, which turn golden at sunset.

india manas national park elephants mist"It's not a destination for the average tourist, and more appealing to genuine travelers who enjoy getting off the beaten track -- a shame really, because Manas National Park is one of India's officially designated tiger breeding areas. The park is a splendid and unspoiled wonderland rich in animal, bird and plant life. Visitors prepared to explore one of India's more remote areas will see certainly see elephants, buffalo, deer, monkeys, giant storks, peacocks and hawks, and maybe even tigers and leopards." -- Bansbari Lodge -- Halfway between heaven and earth by John M.

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    --compiled by Sarah Schlichter
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