Ready for the next big thing?
You’ve weaved your way across Southeast Asia, South America holds a whole host of incredible memories, and Australia stole your heart but where next?
Roll in the Indian Subcontinent: India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. A region of ever-changing landscapes, unique wildlife, pulse-pounding cities, aromatic flavours and an intriguing, completely different way of life that is deeply ingrained in the culture (but a total shock to yours). It’s an area that will take you on a journey and leave you desperate to return over and over.
So, although we could write essays (well, novels) on each here’s a little snapshot of what to eat, where to sleep and what to do in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
A foodie haven of endless curries, spiced veggies, aromatic chai tea, naans, chapatis, tangy chutneys, fresh seafood and, well you get the picture, India’s edible creations are expansive and vary from region to region.
Embrace the flavours of the south and lap up Keralan fish curry with roti.
Snack on chaat – a delish blend of chickpeas, chopped onion, tomatoes and those all-important spices, as you wander Jodhpur’s blue streets.
Cool down with a creamy lassi topped with Rabri and rose essence in the holy city of Varanasi.
Develop an addiction to Paneer curry – keeping it vegetarian is highly appropriate in India. Cows are holy, so beef is off the menu, and chicken could send you rushing to the nearest bathroom. For days. But paneer = cheese. Cheese. Curry – it really works. Trust us!
Dig in to Jalebis, Indian sweets which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Get sharpening your sweet tooth.
For a different sleeping experience and a unique way to take in India’s landscape, stay on board an Indian Sleeper Train from Delhi to Amristar.
If yoga’s your thang or you’re in need of a little TLC, head to Rishikesh and unwind on a 4-day yoga retreat with 2 daily sessions, relaxing spa massages, meditation and yum veggie food all included.
Take to the waters
Marvel at the Ghats from the holy River Ganges in Varanasi as you cruise by boat at sunrise or sunset. Heading South? The backwaters of Kerala are not to be missed. Drift down stream on a traditional house boat passing slow grazing cows, kingfishers darting through the forests and locals climbing coconut trees *sighs*.
Drop and give me zen
This is land that gave birth to Yoga. Embrace India’s spiritual side with all types of yoga sessions offered nationwide. In need of a few days to work out those travel kinks? Head on a retreat in the yogi-haven Rishikesh at the foothills of the Himalayas.
Don’t know your lizard pose from your downward facing dog? No worries. There’s heaps for beginners, and meditation is something all of us can benefit from. So, it doesn’t seem intimidating to normal folks who don’t go to yoga studios all the time.
Cities of colour
Ah India… a country that conjures up visions of vibrant colours, from the food and the clothing to the nature and buildings that surround you.
Explore the maze of streets in the Golden city of Jaisalmer that stands on a ridge of yellow sandstone. Spot indigo houses from the top of the Meheragarh Fort in Jodhpur.
Next stop Jaipur, a city clothed in pink-stucco and home to the magnificent Palace of the Winds and the Amber Fort. See it from the skies in all its warm pink glory with a sunrise balloon ride.
Travelling at the beginning of March? See the cities and its people come alive with multi-coloured powder, music and dancing for Holi festival.
The Palace Quo
From the greatest monument to love ever built, the Taj Mahal, Udaipur’s romantic lakes and Raj-era palaces to Pushkar’s Hindu temples and so much more. India is crammed full of impressive architecture to ogle at every turn.
Get ready to treat your taste buds to a tongue-tingling sensation. Much like Indian food Sri Lankan cuisine packs a punch.
Get your (sanitised) hands at the ready to scoop up fluffy rice, curry refills (seriously), fruity chutneys, coconut sambal and pillowy parathas to dip in fragrant dahl.
Make sure you try the lunchtime staple hoppers – a thin bowl shaped crispy pancake made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk served sweet or savoury depending on the fillings.
Feeling a little hungover? There’s nothing a killer kottu and a cooling coconut can’t cure (often for as little as £1 too!). Listen to the rhythmic beat of the kottu vendor as they slice and dice roti and veggies with the option of egg, meat and cheese.
Camp perched on stilted platforms directly over the Kelani River at Borderlands River Base Camp, Kitulgala.
Stay in a rustic dorm lodge surrounded by Sri Lankan wildlife as part of the Elephant Conservation Project at Wasgamuwa National Park.
Sleep under the stars, right on the beach at Arugam bay’s many beachfront huts and lodges. Nothing beats falling asleep to the sound of rolling waves.
Let’s get cultural
Set your sights on Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. Visit the unique Dambulla Caves Rock Temple and spend the day wandering Polonnaruwa with its spectacular statues. Wake up early to avoid the heat and tackle the 1,200 steps to the top of the UNESCO-listed Sigiriya Rock Fortress and take in sweeping views of Sri Lanka’s tropical landscape.
Witness swarms of elephants gather in Minneriya National Park , enormous blue whales break the ocean’s surface off the coast of Mirissa, monkeys leaping across rooftops, wild peacocks in the grass and even spot leopards in Yalla National park (if you’re lucky). Sri Lanka is home to an abundance of exotic wildlife to discover – just be sure to check the season with our handy when to go guide.
Get off the rails
The journey from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is more than just a means of getting from A to B. Watch the Sri Lankan hills, spiralling tea plantations and lush jungle whizz by as you swing your feet from the doorway of a train carriage. Book your tickets ahead to get the very best view (we recommend 2nd class, left hand side).
Cruise the coastline
Not only rich in culture and wildlife, Sri Lanka is equally a beach bum’s dream with its rugged coastlines, epic surf spots and buzzing beachfront bars where you can sip a cold one at sunset. Cruise the South Coast, beach hopping from Hikkaduwa, near Galle, all the way to Mirissa beach. For a slice of boho-beach heaven head west to the less crowded Arugam Bay for rolling waves, sunset yoga and fresh coconuts whilst swinging in a hammock. Ah, bliss.
Due to its mountainous location and consequential trade difficulties, Nepalese cuisine focuses on locally grown produce but is nonetheless inspired by neighbouring India, Tibet and China.
Dig into juicy steamed dumplings known as momos, the lentil soup staple dal bhat, masala lentil patties Maas ko Barra and even Nepalese pizza Keema chatamar.
Fancy something sweet? Pick up some chaku stuffed yomari’s with a smooth, caramelly dip. With all those Himalayan hikes we reckon that allows for 5 meals a day, right?
Experience Local Living in Nepal whilst staying with a family in a farming village, steeped in culture and tradition. Share stories, learn about Nepalese customs and enjoy cooking demonstrations from your homestay hosts, all after working up your appetite by hiking though surrounding towns.
Relax overnight in teahouses nestled in the mighty Himalayas where you’ll reconnect with ancient ways long forgotten by the modern world.
In need of a little luxury? Check in to the beautifully decorated Shambalang boutique hotel, one of Boudha’s first guesthouses used by Tibetan pilgrims.
City in the sky
The intriguing Nepalese capital, Kathmandu is the perfect spot to kickstart your Nepal journey. Mingle with locals and animals amid Durbar Square’s monuments, head up to the aptly named Monkey Temple and soak up the views or hit up the bars of the lively Thamel District. Take a visit to the G for Good Sisterhood of Survivors project, a grassroots organisation designed to help woman rescued from the trafficking trade and watch as they demonstrate how to make those all-too addictive momo’s.
It’s tiger time
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chitwan National Park, renowned around the world for its concentration of rhinoceros and Bengal tigers (and a LOT of birds). If that isn’t epic enough watch out for elephants, leopards and bears as you set off in a 4WD and explore the lakes wetland area by canoe.
Get your hike on
If you’re mad keen on your trekking or are simply looking for a challenge, Nepal is a hiker’s dream! Take in the Himalayan views of the Annapurna range as you pass thundering waterfalls of melted snow and treat yourself to a well earnt dip in natural hot springs. Go one step (or a fair few) further and complete a once in a life time achievement, following Sherpas through forest, towering glaciers and mountain villages to reach Everest base camp. The Himalayan peaks, Roof of the World view and clear starry skies are worth it, we promise.
Envisioning yourself there already? We don’t blame you! Head on over to our Indian Subcontinent Travel guide for cheap flights, adventure tour deals and travel advice.