A top 10 list for India

sunrise along the ganges river in varanasi india

Sunrise along the River Ganges in Varanasi is magical. Photo by Terri Colby

Every visitor to India will find moments that astound. It would not be too difficult to compile a list of the Top 100 things to do or places to visit in India. But I’ll narrow my list to the Top 10 magical moments from my first journey to India. I’m leaving the Taj Mahal off my list, because it’s a given. So after that, in no particular order, here are my favorites:

1. The ancient city of Varanasi and a boat ride on the Ganges at sunrise, when it’s quieter and the early-morning bathers are ubiquitous. Truly feels mystical.

2. A bicycle rickshaw ride through Old Delhi, costing about $2 and delivering up-close images that are astounding.

village in Darjeeling in India

Picturesque village dot the hillsides throughout the Indian region of Darjeeling, famous of course for its teas. Photo by Terri Colby

3. The mountain town of Darjeeling and a stay at the Windamere Hotel , a Heritage Hotel that was originally a bachelor rooming house for British and Scottish tea planters.

4. Seaside at Calamari Bathe and Binge near the Santana Beach Resort , grab a cold Kingfisher beer and fresh fish before wading into the Arabian Sea in this resort region of Goa, where western women in tiny bikinis share the beach with Indian women in saris. It was once a Portuguese colony and has its own unique vibe and cuisine.

5. Nadesar Palace Hotel in Varanasi, where you are welcomed with leis of marigolds, and a sumptuous breakfast is served on the patio while peacocks strut in the garden and a turbaned flute player entertains. A very welcome respite from the noise, crowds and heat of the city.

6. Rajasthan, the dessert state of maharajahs of old, a place where elephants, camels and snake charmers are part of the scenery. It almost makes you believe in magic carpet rides.

Tree of Life hotel India

The luxury Tree of Life hotel in the Indian state of Rajasthan has private villas, some with pools and outdoor spa areas with massage tables within your walled garden. Photo by Terri Colby

7. A stay at the Tree of Life hotel outside Rajasthan’s capital of Jaipur, where sustainability meets quiet elegance and luxury, especially in a villa where your private, outdoor garden comes with pool, massage tables, outdoor shower and soaking tub positioned to view the sunset.

8. Ask your tour guide, or another local, to take you to one of the ayurvedic healers in Varanasi, where they’ll serve you tea and offer advice on the healing powers of essential oils.

9. Tiger safari at Ranthambhore National Park, where even if you don’t see a tiger you’ll be treated to myriad animal species and the ruins of an ancient fort.

Oberois Vanyavillas Ranthambhore

The resident elephants outside the entrance to Oberoi's Vanyavillas Ranthambhore, name the best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure in 2010. Photo by Terri Colby

10. At least one night at the uber-luxurious but uber-expensive Oberoi Vanyavillas, Ranthambhore, where a king-sized bed and claw-footed tub seal the deal at this 24-tent property, named the best hotel in the world in 2010 by Travel + Leisure magazine. The hotel keeps a pair of friendly pet elephants.