First-Time Visitor's Guide to Northern India

Using the first-hand experience of our travel experts, we have created this first-time traveller’s guide to the region to give you a flavour of what to expect as you travel through this amazing country.

July 2018 • Jules Verne

First-Time Visitor's Guide to Northern India

Your first tour of Northern India is always an intense experience, whether or not you’ve been to India before. The fascinating and rich region provides an onslaught to the senses, from the sounds, sights and smells to the variety of landscapes, cities and towns that can be experienced. Using the first-hand experience of our travel experts, we have created this first-time traveller’s guide to the region to give you a flavour of what to expect as you travel through this amazing country.

Northern India: The Basics

For those visiting India for the first time, the northern reaches are a quintessentially Indian way to start your exploration. Delhi, the capital of this sprawling country, is a microcosm of the nation. Here you will find modern, ancient and colonial architecture all jostling for position – from the Mughal-era Red Fort to the Jama Masjid Mosque to thrilling bazaars with their riot of sights, sounds and smells.

Moving out of the capital, there is an incredible array of smaller towns and villages to explore. Each has a unique character and feel, allowing the first-time traveller and the return visitor alike to immerse themselves in an endless stream of fascinating cultural experiences, each as singular as the next.

India’s colonial history, which the region’s architecture strongly reflects, means that English is spoken everywhere and, so it is easy to communicate with locals and tour guides alike. It is also easy to find local ATMs dispensing Indian Rupees, so you don’t have to carry all the money you expect to spend with you.

A particular draw of the region is the local cuisine. The incredible range of flavours and spices is only surpassed by the variety in the dishes themselves. Try Tibetan specialities in the mountains, and Indian delicacies in Delhi and the surrounding towns. With delicious dishes showcasing the fresh produce of the region, there’s sure to be food everyone will enjoy.

Packing for a trip to Northern India

The weather in Northern India can vary dramatically from place to place. You might find it is 17 degrees in the mountains, 35 degrees in Delhi, and a pleasant 20 degrees in Amritsar. We recommend packing layers, particularly when travelling earlier in the year.

Also remember that when visiting local temples and places of worship, it is important to respect local customs. Visitors are expected to wear long sleeves, and we recommend dressing modestly when possible so that you can always duck into an interesting building as you make your way round the region. Throwing a light scarf into your hand luggage helps, and it can also double as an extra layer in the cooler mountain regions if necessary.

The sun in India can be particularly strong, so even the most ardent sun-worshippers will need to pay extra attention to ensure they don’t get burned. Alongside topping up on sunscreen and wearing loose fitting, long clothing where possible, many tourists find it helpful to bring an umbrella to protect against the worst of the sun’s rays.

Another top tip is to pack baby wipes or similar. You will need to walk through temples barefoot, and your feet can pick up a surprising amount of dust and dirt.

Travelling to Northern India

For the first-time visitor to the area, a tour such as Sikhs and Exiles gives you a good introduction to the region. The tour takes you from Amritsar to Delhi taking in some of the most amazing sights along the way. As you travel, you will stay in some beautiful heritage hotels that allow you to experience the history of the region.

The Sikhs and Exiles tour lets you explore at length, and involves plenty of walking. Make sure you pack comfortable walking shoes and are ready to dive in head first. The region is hilly, and while this affords spectacular views from some of the hotels you will stay in, it can also mean there are plenty of steps along the way.

As the name suggests, this tour is ideal for those who want to explore the cultural dichotomy between Sikhs and Buddhists in the region. Spend time in Tibetan monasteries and Sikh temples and uncover the differences between the religions and the cultures they inspired.

Highlights of travelling in Northern India

Exploring Northern India means immersing yourself in a traditional way of life. Take yourself off the beaten path and visit the smaller villages and towns to really see the region.

Travelling with Jules Verne opens up a plethora of experiences that would be hard to access when travelling alone. Visit Dharamsala in the remote Kangra Valley, surrounded by dense forest where the scent of Deodar Cedar hangs heavy in the air. Here you will be able to take in a traditional Tibetan monastery, beautiful local crafts and the scenic views and fresh air. 

In particular for the first-time traveller, one of the main draws of the Sikhs and Exiles tour is the chance to stay in heritage hotels that showcase amazing colonial architecture, with old-world European charm and charisma. Take advantage of the luxurious plunge pools, stylish restaurants and extensive bars, as you immerse yourself into the history of the hotels.

The best way to explore India is undoubtedly by rail, and this tour takes advantage of this. Travel in the Himalayan Queen 'Toy Train' where you will luxuriate in the soft cushioned seats and enjoy impressive views from the window. You will also take the more modern Shatabdi Express, and enjoy a delicious meal on board as your snake your way across the country.

If you’ve been inspired to travel to Northern India, find our range of India tours online or download our brochure India, Nepal, Bhutan & Sri Lanka. For more travel inspiration and guides, browse our blog.