The world’s seventh largest country is complex, bewildering at times, mainly magnificent and, as a family holiday, it has no equal anywhere.
There are 29 states and a population of 1.2 billion people, so choosing where to go isn’t always easy. Some areas are best avoided and if you’re in any doubt, check UK travel guidelines online.
Very young children may struggle with the crowds and chaos in Mumbai and Delhi but the cities of Rajasthan are wonderful and an easier introduction to the hectic that’s part of every day life here.
But whether you go to see tigers, play on the beaches, explore the desert, dive into the great metropolis or trek with teenagers in the Himalayan foothills, travel wisely, with an open mind and you’ll fall in love with India, because everyone does.
Direct flights all year round from London to Mumbai, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.
India has the world’s third largest rail network after Russia and China: over 63,000km of railway, 6800 stations and at least 5 of the greatest all time rail journeys including: the Goa Express, the Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express and the Indian Maharaja Deccan Odyssey from Mumbai to Delhi.
India has a total of 6100km of coastline washed by the Indian Ocean.
India has 35 World Heritage sites including the Taj Mahal, the Mountain Railways of India and the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area.
In 1970, India had five National Parks today it has 166. Kaziranga National Park in Assam has the largest known tiger population in the world.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are known as India’s Maldives and float between the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, closer to Burma than India.
The country’s mountains include the Eastern Himalayas, Sulaiman, Kirthar, Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges.
Down in the south west, Kerala mixes up wildlife with outdoor adventure, adds in more than a few of the mesmerising sights which make India such an enchantment and is just about perfect for kids. Blissfully free of the country’s big, relentless, chaotic and often daunting metropolis and more given to ancient cities, quaint towns, rivers and rice fields, this is the state that could convert kids to the magic of India for life.
Goa’s beautiful beaches give the southern state more of a party reputation than it entirely deserves. There are areas where life’s livelier than most families want in a holiday, but they’re not difficult to avoid in favour of a calmer sort of seaside fun. Goa’s also one of India’s most revered pilgrimages and the temples, shrines and World Heritage sites are just as stunning as the white sand and blue, blue Arabian sea.
In the north west, Rajasthan is the land of high desert, Mughal palaces, lakes, majestic forts and spectacular cities like Jodhpur, Ajmer, Udaipur and Bikaner. Indian families holiday in this state to escape stuffy cities and the humid south in summer. And, if you have an image of ancient India in your mind, it probably looks very similar to Rajasthan.
Driving in India is a bit of an art and one you’re unlikely to feel like mastering on holiday. Train services are excellent and widespread. Inter-state air travel is inexpensive and the best way to cover longer distances in this huge country. Water taxis are good on the coast at Goa and if you’re in cities like Kochi, take tri-taxis with kids, they’re fun, and everywhere.