Introduction to India
India (Hindi: भारत), is the largest country in the Indian Subcontinent and shares borders with six fascinating countries including Pakistan, China and Burma. Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia are all close by too – making India a great choice for your gap year.
It’s the seventh largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, is second only to China in population. If you visit India on your gap year you’ll be rewarded with extreme diversity in geography, climate, culture, language and ethnicity. Vibrant, crazy and fascinating are all words often used to describe beautiful India – with a rich heritage and a wealth of fascinating religions and ethnography, a gap year in India will open your innocent eyes to the world.
India is full of intriguing historical architecture, most famously, the Taj Mahal in Agra. This white marble mausoleum was built in 1652 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to honour the memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Not surprisingly the Taj Mahal can get pretty busy so it’s best to get their early in the morning to get as fewer tourists in your photos as possible. In the evening you can take a boat down the Yamuna River and watch the colours of the sunset paint the building pink.
To really grasp the culture of India, the religious city of Varanasi in North India is worth visiting. This Indian city lies on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, and is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism, believed to be the favourite city of the Hindu Deity, Lord Shiva. The ancient buildings and holy people really make this place a unique experience.
If you plan your trip well enough, you could be lucky enough to participate in one of India’s biggest and brightest festivals, The Kumbh Mela. The celebration involves a huge pilgrimage of Hindus who gather at the sacred river, and is held every three years on rotation at either, Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik, and Ujjain. Brave backpackers can join the locals and sadhus by dipping themselves into the Ganges, Shipra, or Kushavart River, which is believed to cleanse the body and soul.
In the North of India, backpackers can test their limits by climbing the mighty Himalayas. Pack some warm clothes, a tent, a stove, and some friends, or better yet, a guide! There are several trekking routes through the Himalayas in India so you can pick the best one to suit your fitness levels.
Backpacking in India
Make sure to take a camera, and a strong constitution - they don't call it Delhi Belly for nothing!