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North India Tourism And Travel Guide
10° C / 50° F
October to July
10 to 15 Days
Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi)
North India is the land of the ancient Aryan Civilisation, the land where Vedas originated, the land that saw Hindu Rajas and Maharajas from the likes of Prithviraj Chauhan to the Mughals of Akbar’s caliber rise to power. North India, hence, is full of rich history and lots of Indian culture that breathes from the very pores in its soil. If you plan to visit this part of India, you must know that a week or two won’t suffice. There is so much to see and so much to do. Best visited in the winters and early summers (October to April), you have the option of flying into one of the many International Airports in North India (Indira Gandhi International Airport, Amritsar International Airport etc).
There is also a lot of stuff to revel in here, from circuiting the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) to exploring the temples of Mathura-Vrindavan, seeking some peace and depth on the ghats of Varanasi to going wild with adventure up in Leh-Ladakh. Tourism in North India never disappoints you and makes for one hell of a holiday memory. Here is a small guide to support your travel plans to North India.
How to Reach
North India is majorly landlocked and hence waterways are not an option. But the internal rail and road networks are praiseworthy, as are the many domestic airports and local carriers. North India boasts of 4 main International Airports.
North India is home to India’s capital Delhi and hence this makes this region rich with infrastructure and transport facilities, including airports. The Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi makes for one of the biggest and busiest airports of India. There is also Jaipur International Airport, Amritsar International Airport and Lucknow International Airport in various other parts of North India. Domestic flights in India are great and getting even better as we write. Some famous local aircraft carriers are Spicejet, Air India, Jet Airways, Go Air, Indigo, and Vistaara.
The Northern and Western Railways Of Indian Railways run operations in North India. They cover most of the major tourist destinations like Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin, Amritsar Junction, Haridwar, Mathura Junction, Agra Station and Chandigarh station. In mountainous Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand, railway stations are limited to major cities, namely Srinagar, Shimla, Rishikesh etc. The hill stations like Kasaul, Manali, Auli etc are mostly reached via road journey from the nearest railway station or airport.
India’s roadways are on three levels: The National Highways, State Highways and District roads. The NH1 starts from the northernmost state of India - Jammu Kashmir and winds downwards. Similarly, major chunks of destinations in North are interconnected via national as well as state highways. You can hire private cabs, taxis or vans for outstation travel or opt for the state run buses. There is also the option of private Volvo buses. You can also check out the Ola/ Uber apps to book taxis.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Weather in North India’s hinterland like Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Vrindavan, Rajasthan etc is great in winter and early summer, reaching a heated cliff by the end of summer and drenching in monsoon rains later. The Himalayan region of North India (Uttarakhand, Jammu-Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh) is blessed with good climate almost all year round, except the peak of winters from December to February.
Himalayas and Garhwal region become a getaway from summer heat with temperature range of 13-19°C. Jammu-Kashmir, Leh-Ladakh, Auli, Shimla, Kullu, Manali as well as pilgrims of Uttarakhand become ideal during summer.
The landlocked hinterland of Delhi, Agra, Amritsar and Mathura sees a very hot summer, with temperature reaching 40°C. May is the hottest month, with heatstrokes that may sometimes be life-threatening. Rajasthani cities, namely Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur are hotter and more arid than the hinterland.
Himalayas receive heavy rainfall between July to September, except a few upper parts of Kashmir and Ladakh. Travelling in this season may not be the best idea as roads get closed, landslides and downpour prevail. Budget travellers may find good deals but most outdoor activities in the hills and foothills are closed.
At the same time, rainfall brought by the South West Monsoon Winds follows through late June, July, August and most of September in the hinterland of India. Rajasthan gets very little precipitation, especially the Thar region of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. The month of August is perfect to visit Mathura-Vrindavan because the festival of Janmashtami (birth of Lord Krishna) is celebrated with great fanfare.
Winter in the Himalayas are freezing, and extremely beautiful. A 1000 m of ascent leads to a temperature drop of 6.5°C. Most of Kashmir, Ladakh, and Himachal come under snowfall. The Garhwal region (foothills) of Himachal and Uttarakhand reach freezing point but are still accessible. February is the coldest month in most areas.
On the other hand, winter makes for the perfect tourist season in the hinterland of India. With a temperature range of 8-20°C in most areas, places like Delhi, Amritsar, Rajasthan, Mathura etc are well explored. Taj Mahal is ideally visited in the afternoons and Holi (February-March) is celebrated with glee in Mathura-Vrindavan belt. Rajasthan is also quite cold and Diwali in October-November makes for an enlightened tourist experience in Jaipur, Udaipur and Nathdwara town. The New Year’s Eve is a memorable experience in Thar (Jaisalmer), revelling in a desert camp under the stars.
Therefore, winter is the best time to visit the hinterland of North India, while summers are perfect for the Himalayas.
Things to Do
Circuiting the Golden Triangle:
Tour the most famous tourist circuit in North India - the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur). When these three cities are plotted on a map, they make an equilateral triangle of sorts. This region in general and these cities in particular hold the rich culture and heritage form the deepest wells of India’s history. From Qutub Minar and India Gate in Delhi to the Taj Mahal in Agra, Fatehpur Sikri Fort to Hawa Mahal and Amer Fort of Jaipur, there is just too much to explore here.
Mathura and Vrindavan form major chunks of what is called Vraj Bhoomi, which was the birth place of Lord Krishna (the greatest Hindu God, hero of epic Mahabharata). Tour across these two towns and their wonders of temples including Krishna Janmabhoomi (the prison cell where Lord Krishna was born), Vishram Ghat of River Yamuna, Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan and Nidhivan (the fabled forest where trees become maidens and dance the raas, a romantic dance with Lord Krishna every night).
Ghats of Varanasi:
Explore the many ghats (embankments) of Varanasi that take you on a spiritual trip of what India holds in its centuries’ old civilisation. Meet hermits and celibates, penance seekers as well as dervishes, there are hippy photographers and amateur film-makers, each with their own stories to tell, wandering the ghats of river Ganga. Visit Assi Ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat and the famous Manikarnika Ghat (where dead bodies are cremated). There is a weird mix of the sublime and spooky on these embankments, but it all just settles into a tranquil vibration when Ganga aarti happens every dawn and dusk.
A heavenly retreat in Jammu-Kashmir:
Retreat to the heavenly mountains and valleys of Kashmir, visit some truly gorgeous locales that rival the descriptions of even paradise. From Srinagar’s Dal Lake, Mughal Gardens and Pari Mahal to the golden meadows of Sonmarg, Pahalgam and Gulmarg to Shopian; Kashmir is a feast for the senses. Trail down to Jammu and explore places like Akhnoor, Vaishno Devi and Ranbir Singh Pura.
Live the Maharaja Life in Rajasthan:
Live life king size in this land of Kings. From staying at the lavish Lake Palace and The Leela of Udaipur to exploring City Palace and Sajjangarh Fort, Hawa Mahal and Amer Fort in Jaipur to camping your night away in the sand dunes of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan is going to spoil you so bad, you would wish for loads of pampering every day after you return home.
Most North India cuisine is influenced by Punjabi and Mughlai styles of cooking, with some staples that are easily found everywhere - paranthe (stuffed Indian breads), paneer and chicken gravies, chhole (chickpea gravy), biryani (flavoured rice with veggies and meat) etc. While in Rajasthan, the cuisine is entirely different, with very little use of vegetables and dumplings put in its stead. There is dal-baati-churma, pyaaz kachori, samosa, ghevar and gatte ki sabzi on the traditional Rajasthani menu.
While in Punjab, in addition to the traditional Punjabi food, lassi is a must. It is a thick yogurt drink, found in sweetened as well as unsweetened form. Never deny your host’s offering of lassi, because lassi is considered the greatest sign of hospitality. Going north up into Himachal, Garhwali cuisine rules the roost, while in pilgrim spots of Uttarakhand, you will mostly find vegetarian food as Hindus do not partake non veg on pilgrimage.