Contrary to its reputation as a city primarily of poverty, Calcutta is a warm, welcoming metropolis with a rich history of art, music and theatre. Littered with graceful colonial-era buildings (the crown jewel being the breathtaking Victoria Memorial), Calcutta’s multitude of galleries and festivals are the places to immerse yourself in its authentic Indian art. Stay in the lap of luxury in regal hotels such as the Oberoi Grand, take an exclusive tour of tantalising Bengali cuisine on the hotel’s Spice Route and make sure to exploit its unparalleled central location, a stone’s throw away from the grand Indian Museum.
The North-east – India’s ‘Seven Sisters’
India’s ‘Seven Sisters’ is a region like no other. Fenced by the dramatic slopes of the Himalayas, the impenetrability of the rough terrain means much of the wild north-east is still unexplored. Marvel at the rich biodiversity of the forests, nurtured by the hot monsoon rains; immerse yourself in the equally diverse culture of a region shaped by Tibetan, Bangladeshi and Bhutanese influence. With harsh winding roads and challenging topography, the north-east is not for the faint-hearted, but is a haven of raw adventure.
Assam and Around
Lacerated by the twisting glacial Brahmaputra River, the region of Assam sprawls across luxuriant evergreen forests and deep valley plains. Indulge in the distinctive Indian-Bengali fusion cuisine, with gastronomic specialities such as as curried maasor tenga, tangy ou khatta chutney (and if you’re feeling brave enough, spiced silkworm is a tribal delicacy!). If you’re a chai enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place. Pleats of fragrant, deep-green tea garden splotch the patchwork of golden rice paddies – the perfect setting to enjoy a cup of refreshing Assamese tea. Before you leave the region, make sure to explore the tranquil Kamakhya mandirs, marvel at the elusive one-horned rhino, and feel the pounding taal as you watch the Bihu folk dancers twirl.
Head north to wild and unspoilt Arunachal Pradesh to see majestic snow leopards and experience the rich archetypal culture of 26 native tribes. To the east, northern Nagaland is an untamed realm of stunning valleys and rustic tribal villages. Hike or mountain bike your way around the dramatic hilly splendour for unmissable views.