Varanasi is one of India’s oldest pilgrimage sites. // © 2014 Thinkstock/antialiasing
With affluent travelers turning a keen eye to the abundance of diverse offerings in India, the country is emerging as a top travel destination for 2014. Americans are seeking new frontiers, and India is still a relatively untapped market. Several regions in India have made critics’ best travel destinations lists for 2014, thanks to the country’s wealth of natural beauty, exotic culture and affordability. Ian Swain, owner of luxury tour operator Swain Destinations, believes that India offers a perfect solution for travelers who want to find rare and unusual experiences without sacrificing comfort.
“With the globalization of the planet, people are becoming more and more aware of what is available for them far afield,” Swain said. “Americans are seeking a luxury travel experience with increased diversity, mainly focusing on combinations of cultural, leisure and/or recreational activities.”
This already makes India a top choice, considering that it is a country known for ancient art, history, intriguing culture, traditions and spirituality. Outside of the bustling city centers, India’s rural landscapes are some of the most stunning sights in the world, from the Himalayas in northern India to the Deccan Plateau in the south.
“India is extensively varied and, therefore, outshines the imagination and expectations of travelers in various aspects,” said Swain.
In a country this diverse, there are certain unforgettable experiences that should not be missed. Varanasi is one of the oldest pilgrimage cities in India, often referred to as the “city of temples,” where visitors will witness devotees praying and washing away their sins in the Ganges River. Another growing trend is house boating at the Vembanad backwaters of Kumarakom, where luxury houseboats take travelers to the center of the scenic lake, passing by paddy fields, coconut groves and mangrove forests.
The Himalayas are popular with spa and leisure travelers who want to immerse themselves in pure tranquility in an unforgettable setting. Swain has seen a steady rise in tourism in the lower Himalayas, particularly Shimla, a calming resort town already frequented by locals and outdoor enthusiasts. Cars are banned from the main part of town, and Shimla is full of intriguing architecture and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Swain Destinations works with Wildflower Hall, Shimla in the Himalayas, a luxurious property set at 8,250 feet above the Himalayas and sprawling 22 acres.
Perhaps the most enticing reason to visit India? The food.
“Indian cuisine has gained great international recognition, partly because authentic Indian cuisine has become more readily available here in the U.S.,” said Swain. “It’s so good that Americans to want to try it in the country where it originated.”