10 Awesome Experiences You Should Try in India as A First Timer

visit india the first time - pocket guide on what to visit

As a super civilizational country of over 1.4 billion people, India is one of the world’s greatest travel destinations and a micro-cosmos of its own!

On offer in this amazing country are a spellbinding history, heritage, culture, and warm hospitality, which make it hard to find a parallel to India elsewhere in the world. 

With so much diversity and variety, India can be an intimidating place for first-time visitors.

Travelers to India on their maiden trip often describe a feeling called “sensory overload.”

For the new and inexperienced novice to India, sometimes the dizzying sights, sounds, scents and noises can be so much to take, all at once.  It can get jarring!

That is why, we have compiled for you a list of the 10 best things you can do as a first-time traveler to India.

These simple, but must-do things will help you get a hang of things in India before venturing on more challenging journeys through less-known and hidden Indian places.

Let’s dive right in! 🙂

1. Witnessing the Ganga Aarti Ceremony at Varanasi

Varanasi, India

The ganga aarti ceremony is an act of holy homage and submission.

It takes place every evening on the ghat (embankments) of the holy ganga river in Varanasi—the spiritual capital of India. 

In an elaborate and intricate ceremony, brahmin priests pay tribute to the holy river ganga that has sustained life in India since the beginning of human civilization.

The ceremony involves singing of hymns and verses from the ancient scriptures, ringing of ceremonial bells and cymbals, and many other ancient rituals.

Millions of first-time visitors to India attend this ceremony every year.

In addition to that, Varanasi is also famous for its pyres, where more than 100 bodies every day are cremated on the river’s ghats and the ashes of the deceased thrown in the river (Indians believe that, by giving the ashes to the Gange, people will be free from the reincarnation circle).

Of course, that’s a ceremony out of the ordinary which some faint-hearted might find rather disturbing, but it’s also an incredible experience that shows how normal and close is the relationship between life and death in India!

2. Visit the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, India

The majestic Taj Mahal, considered the quintessential ode to eternal love, is one of India’s greatest and most visited landmarks.

Located in the city of Agra in utter Pradesh, the Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum that was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (who reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Today, the Taj Mahal draws millions of international visitors every year and it’s considered the number one landmark of India.

If you’re into photography or you just want the best experience possible, try to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise: there will be less crowds around, and the light will be just perfect to take a memorable shot that will last a lifetime 😉


3. Attend a religious or cultural festival

(Holi or Diwali)  

holi color india

As a land of over a billion people, India has been the birthplace of some of mankind’s most revered religious and spiritual traditions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

It is also a pluralist land where adherents of other religions like Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and the Baha’i, live and practice their faith.

As a first-time visitor, if you are lucky enough to visit the country during the major festivals like Holi (festival of colors – held at the end of March) or Diwali (festival of lights – beginning of November) you’ll be treated to lots of festivities, hospitality, and an unmistakable vibe of acceptance and universal love.

If you have the chance, we highly recommend that you time your visit to coincide with a major indian cultural/spiritual festival: the experience will make your trip double-epic!

4. Explore the Otherworldy Backwaters of Kerala

kerala, India

Kerala, also commonly called “God’s own country”, is the Southern-most Region of India and one of India’s top tourist destinations if you are looking for a luxury trip to india.

The region is famous for its warm climate, seaside beaches and backwaters.

If you’re wondering what we mean by “backwaters”, Kerala backwaters are a network of brackish lagoons and canals lying parallel to the Arabian Sea of the Malabar coast of Kerala state in south-western India. 

They include interconnected lakes, rivers, and inlets, all of which form a labyrinthine water system formed by more than 900 kilometers (!!!) of waterways.

Every year millions of tourists from the northern hemisphere and other parts of the world flock to its beaches and backwaters.

The Keralan backwaters are a one-of-a-kind experience that is ideal for first-time visitors to the country.

The most famous backwaters are those of Alleppey and Kumarakom, which are a dream world of picturesque lakes, water bodies, fluttering palm trees, and sleepy fishing villages.


5. Go on a Wildlife Adventure

bengala tiger in rahjastan, India


India is a land of natural beauty and wildlife wonder.

Between the most incredible animals that find their home in the country, there are the majestic royal Bengal tiger, the one-horned rhinoceros, the gaur (Bisons), and the Asiatic elephants, among many other exotic animals native to the Indian sub-continent. 

For a tiger safari, the Ranthambore national park in Rajasthan is your best bet.

For rhinos and elephants, the Kazi Ranga national park in Assam is the place to be.

For birdwatching, the Ketolide National Park in Bharatpur (Rajasthan) is highly recommended.

6. Treat yourself to an Ayurveda and Spa therapy

ayurveda therapy india

Ayurveda is one of the oldest medicinal traditions in the world.

This ancient Indian form of healing is wholesome and organic.

It uses a combination of herbs and plant-based medicines, meditation, and massage therapies.

The goal of ayurveda is to treat not just the body, but also the soul.

While you can avail of ayurveda therapies pretty much everywhere in India, we highly recommend the southern state of Kerala.

This state is known not just for its beaches and serene backwaters, but it is also considered the ayurveda capital of India.

Here you can find the largest Spa and Ayurveda centers for spending a day or two in complete Indian relaxation!

7. Explore New Delhi’s Mughal Splendor

red fort dehli

New Delhi, India’s proud capital, is a place of historical splendor.

The city is famous for its Mughal heritage, iconic bazaar, delicious cuisine, and colonial legacy. 

If you’re wondering who are the Mughal, they were the dinasty of emperors that defeated the last Indian sultan and that ruled India between 1526 and 1857, for over 300 years. According to the legend, they were the descentants of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane too!

If you’re visiting Dehli, the one thing we recommend that you do not miss out is a heritage tour of its historical landmarks dating back to the Mughal empire

Must-see sights in Delhi include:

  • Red fort: fort-residence of the emperor of India
  • Humayun’s tomb: a massive UNESCO world heritage site housing emperor humayun’s mausoleum.
  • Jama masjid: a fine exhibit of indo-saracenic architecture and one of the world’s most important mosques.
  • Chandni chowk: delhi’s oldest bazaar famed for its old-world mystique and allure.

If you want a more inclusive heritage tour then we can also recommend:

  • Lodhi gardens: Pre-mughal era gardens dating back to the Lodhi dynasty
  • India gate: war monument dating back to the British era.
  • Lotus temple: important place of worship of the Baha’i faith.
  • Gurudwara sri bangla sahib: place of worship of Sikh faith
  • Akshardham temple: Hindu temple showcasing the heritage and history of thousands of years of the faith.


8. Visit a Bollywood Studio or Watch a Film Screening

in Mumbai (ex-Bombay)

bollywood in mumbai

Mumbai, the land of Bollywood and home to 22 million Indians is the financial hub of India.

This mammoth capital of the state of Maharashtra, is the heart and soul of a modern rising India.

There is no better place to get a feel of the Indian pulse, dream, and ambition for the future than Mumbai.

While in Mumbai, do take time out for a visit to the Film City Studio—one of the largest film studios in the world.

We also would recommend you to attend the screening of a new movie featuring one of bollywood’s biggest stars, if you get the chance!

The excitement, the delirium, and the hype are unlike anything you’ll see in the world of entertainment and showbiz, ever! 😉

9. Hike in the Himalayas


The Himalayas are the tallest and mightiest mountain range in the world.

While its two highest peaks are located in Nepal (Everest and K2), many other top peaks (just couple of hundred meters shorter) are found in the stretch of mountains that’s located in the Indian subcontinent.

No trip to India would be complete without a sojourn in the bliss of the Himalayas.

There are so many idyllic hill stations that you choose to have a quiet time in the mountains and enjoy hiking, nature trails, and walks (yes, because you don’t have to climb the top of the Himalayas to enjoy Himalayas! ;D ).

Here are few that you might want to consider:

  • Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, noted for its colonial charm and heritage.
  • Nainital, Uttarakhand. Known as the ‘lake district’ of india.
  • The capitals of Jammu and Kashmir, known for their beautiful mountains and serene lakes.
  • Spiti valley and manali, located in Himachal Pradesh, are among the most pictoresque location in Northern-India
  • Ladakh: the “land of mountain passes” famous for its high-altitude mountain passes and cold deserts (perfect for offroading and jeeping), and himalayan beauty of course!


10. Live like a Maharaja in a Rajasthani Palace

rajasthan palace, india

At the time of independence in 1947, india had some 584 “princely states” that enjoyed nominal autonomy under the british empire.

These states were assimilated into the indian union.

Nineteen of these states were located in what is now the state of Rajasthan— one of india’s most coveted travel destinations – and many of these princely states’ old palaces and havelis (castle mansions) have then been converted into heritage hotels.

As of today, you can now avail yourself a taste of a maharajas’ way of life by checking into an actual ex-palace of royalty.

Among the craziest and most special places there are:

  • Taj lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur (once the summer retreat of the royal family of the kingdom of Mewar)
  • Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur (old Home of the Jodhpur royal family and world’s sixth-largest private residence)
  • Taj rambagh palace in Jaipur (once the residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur)
  • Samode haveli in Jaipur (a traditional Indian Mansion in Jaipur)


Indian Train

 And here we are at the end of the article! 🙂

In this post, we have seen 10 cool experiences you can consider trying on your first journey to India! 😀

Of course, India is enormous, and you can easily consider what we’ve just seen as a small cherry on top of the kaleidoscopic complexity of Indian heritage, culture and natural beauty! Said that, somewhere we need to start, and we hope this list gave you some inspiration to get started with your planning 😀

Before going I would like to ask you:

  • Did you enjoy the read?
  • Have you been to India before? 🙂
  • Do you know any other place that you believe could make it to this list?

LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! (We always love receiving feedback and exchanging a chat 🙂

Last but not least, before going, I will leave you here some articles you might want to check out too:

As always, thank you for reading,

And see you in the next article! 😀




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