India is the largest democracy in the world because of its population. Until China gives up communism, visiting India is the choice when it comes to seeing democracy in action.
No other place in the world generates such passion among travelers. Simply put, they either love or hate India. Those who love it point to the exotic culture, varied scenery, inexpensive budget and friendly people. Those that hate it point to the vast poverty that can be found, pollution, trash, pick pockets and so on. Who is right? Well, both are. Whether you ultimate love or hate India is only a decision you can make after visiting it.
Okay, you are committed to going to India. What should try to visit? Well, it is a big country, so here are some highlights.
Goa – If you want to sit on the beach, Goa is the spot. Located towards the southern tip of the country, Goa is a rather legendary area. It has a reputation of being very care free, a veritable hippie mecca. While this is generally true, there are rules. In general, it is a good place to relax so long as you are not expecting a lot of amenities. The beaches are nice, but things are a bit lax and rundown as is the case in much of India.
Mumbai/Bombay – Mumbai was formerly known as Bombay. It is city that really seems to encapsulate much of India for travelers. On one hand, it is home to the film industry in India. Often referred to as Bollywood, the films are musicals and made at breakneck pace. Travelers can often get roles as extras on them. On the other hand, Bombay has a lot of poverty and pollution. Pick pockets are legendary, so use some common sense when heading out. There are over 17 million people living in and around the city, so don't expect a lot of open space. All told, I enjoyed Mumbai for the short three days I was there. It is worth a visit.
Kolkata/Calcutta – Calcutta has been known as Kolkata since 2001. It is the second largest city in India and is known as the City of Joy, the cultural city of India. The name belies the city. Abject poverty is everywhere. I have traveled much of the world and am use to seeing some fairly grim things. Calcutta, however, definitely topped the scales. It is grim city. I am sure there are plenty of redeeming things in the city, but it is hard to look past the state that many people are living in. If you are looking for a destination that will give you a very powerful impression, this is the place for better or worse.
By no means are these three locations the only things to see in India. You could literally spend a few years and not get to everything worth a view. That being said, they are as good a place to start as any when exploring India. Given the fact it is insanely cheap, you might even stay for a while.