It's easy to get poetic when describing India. It's a country to enchant you with beauty, delight you with pageantry, stun you with modernity and overwhelm you with hospitality. Here, the ancient and the contemporary exist side by side, along with startling contradictions that give a texture to life. Our friends at Western & Oriental already know this. They specialise in luxury holidays for the discerning traveller, and have worked with us to nominate 20 unmissable Indian adventures whether you are a new or frequent visitor.
1) Taj Mahal at sunrise in Agra. Of course this is our number one – and you'll see why. Sunrise captures the crimson colour and different shades of this marble mausoleum, one of the world's most recognizable locations, featured in Treasures of the Indus as part of the recent BBC India Season.
2) Two options for a unique and panoramic view: Hot Air Ballooning in Jaipur or Udaipur or a helicopter tour in Udaipur.
3) The Jawai Dam in Rajasthan is a testament to the coexistence of man and nature. This is a formidable place to spot leopard and flamingos, as Professor Brian Cox showed in his series, Human Universe.
4) Feel on top of the world with a flight over Mount Everest. You can also a take a private chopper to Everest Base Camp and enjoy the roof of the world.
5) Travel like royalty and experience the upscale living of a bygone age, on board luxury trains. We recommend the Deccan Odyssey and the Maharajas’ Express, which is the best such locomotive in the country.
6) Hunt for the Royal Bengal Tiger cubs - with your camera, binoculars and an exclusive jeep with personal private naturalist. Possible venues include the national parks in Tadoba, Kanha, Pench or Ranthambore, where you can also take a hot air balloon trip.
7) Cruise through the lazy and romantic backwaters of Kerala – watch the life of locals unfold in front of you (people washing up, children playing or someone simply catching fish for dinner) – following the likes of Rick Stein, Michael Wood and Kate Humble.
8) Experience the sound of bells and chanting during Aarti (prayer) ceremony on the Ghats of the sacred river Ganges in Varanasi – a myriad of beliefs, like the transforming moment you witness people dipping into the Ganges to cleanse their sins. Evening prayer at Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is also a unique must-do experience.
9) Flower market tour followed by cruise on the Hoogly river – the tour also includes visits to fruit, vegetable and fish markets to experience the daily routine of a local –you may have seen something similar on Kolkata with Sue Perkins.
10) Visit the famous Golden Temple at night when it is quieter. One can visit all the areas and get much richer experiences of this holy temple of the Sikhs.
11) Meet the famous historian Raaja Bhasin (an advisor on Channel 4's drama Indian Summer) and learn of the legacy of the Raj, experience the Himalayan railways (one of the Unesco world heritage sites) as seen in the brilliant series Indian Hill Railways.
12) Spend a day like a Maharaja. Ride on an elephant with a Royal Palanquin and do a city tour in a vintage car (this is possible in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur).
13) Sit on a private terrace or balcony of your suite at Ahilya Fort and watch the ever-changing drama of life unfold (people bathing, washing clothes, offering prayers, doing yoga, or spy boatmen simply taking passengers) on the Ghats of the Narmada River.
14) Take a slum tour of Dharavi (one of the largest slums in the world and home to ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) with a twist to witness prospering industries worth over $650 million dollars. This was the location for Kevin McCloud's documentary, Slumming It. A tour can also be arranged in Delhi.
15) Gordon Ramsay, Rick Stein and others have enjoyed a spice tour. Now it's your turn. The tours are private and interactive, you get to choose vegetables, spices and other ingredients before you have them cooked by an Indian family.
16) Experience the colours and celebrations in popular ancient monasteries during various famous festivals in Bhutan. Also, meet and interact with a local Buddhist monk.
17) Walk the trails and scenic foothills of the Himalayas in Northern or Eastern Himalayas or the beautiful valleys of the Annapurna range in Nepal.
18) Enjoy the Sufi music in Delhi every Thursday at Nizamuddin Dargah or experience Indian theatre to get a taste of Bollywood at Kingdom of Dreams. There is also a famous Sufi Music Festival in Naguar and Jodhpur every February.
19) Experience the celebrations, colours and festive mode of India during the festival of Holi (festival of Colours) or Diwali (festival of lights).
20) Finally, try a heritage walk or shopping tours with personal shoppers. These can be arranged in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur.
Create your own very special Indian getaway with us.