India’s landscapes are as fantastically varied as its cultural traditions. From the snow-dusted peaks of the Himalaya to the sun-splashed beaches of the tropical south, the country has a bounty of outdoor attractions. You can scout for big jungle cats on scenic wildlife safaris, paddle in the shimmering waters of coastal retreats, take blood-pumping treks high in the mountains, or simply inhale pine-scented air on meditative forest walks. Among all these natural treasures is a wealth of architectural gems, from serene temples rising out of pancake-flat plains to crumbling forts peering over plunging ravines.

A go-with-the-flow attitude will help keep your sanity intact when traversing the chaotic canvas that is India. With its ability to inspire, exasperate, thrill and confound all at once, be prepared for unexpected surprises. This can be challenging, particularly for first-time visitors: despite India’s wonders, the poverty is confronting, the bureaucracy can be frustrating and the crush of humanity may turn the simplest task into a frazzling epic. Even veteran travellers find their nerves frayed at some point. But love it or loathe it – and most visitors see-saw between the two – to embrace India’s unpredictability is to embrace its soul.

With its sumptuous mix of traditions, spiritual beliefs, festivals, architecture and landscapes, your memories of India will blaze bright long after you’ve left its shores.

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