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India holds an unparalleled wealth of historic monuments, and a sophisticated cultural legacy dating from the very dawn of human civilization. Yet perhaps more than any other country on earth, it’s the patina of everyday modern life – where moments of transient, poetic, surreal beauty appear amid the rampant chaos – which tends to linger longest in travellers’ memories.
Having recently emerged from a decade of civil strife and political upheavals, Nepal has resumed its place at the top table of sub-continental travel. Experience the cultural wonders of the Kathmandu Valley, whose Hindu and Buddhist monuments date back 2500 years; the spine-tingling sight of Machapuchare’s eternal snows reflected in Pokhara’s lake; and the thrill of tracking rhinos by elephant back in Chitwan
With its tropical beaches, fabulous monuments, lush tea gardens and vibrant wildlife – not to mention a compellingly eclectic culture with ancient roots – Sri Lanka could be a byword for ‘exotic’. Few destinations host such extravagant festivals, or can boast a cuisine as refined and flavoursome. Moreover, now that the war is firmly in the past, such delights are more accessible than ever.
The quirky kingdom of Bhutan offers everything you could wish for of a Himalayan adventure: awesome mountain scenery; otherworldly Buddhist monasteries overlooking patchworks of terraced fields; atmospheric places to stay, and unforgettable journeys between them, whether you’re travelling by road or on foot. Nor is the cost of visiting anything like as prohibitive as you might have heard . . .
Strung out like a garland across the equator, the Maldives consists of more than a thousand tiny coral islands spread over twenty-six atolls. With a year-round warm sunny tropical climate, these islands abound in lush coconut palms swaying over white sandy beaches. The islands, surrounded by the crystal clear water of the bountiful Indian Ocean, many with rich coral reefs, vary in size and range from the ‘no shoes, no news’ eco-paradise to top of the range international luxury. Many hotels offer the opportunity to stay in ‘Water Bungalows’, rooms on stilts over the sea. The Maldives is one of the best snorkelling and diving locations in the world.