A trip to India challenges all pre-conceived notions one may have of a quickly modernizing society built on ancient traditions. India’s earliest civilization originated in the Indus Valley, now estimated to date back to nearly 8000 BCE, and the vast nation has no shortage of sacred rituals, colorful festivals, and cultural highlights - including 36 UNESCO Heritage Sites, among them the legendary Taj Mahal and Ajanta Buddhist cave monuments. As one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, India boasts an incredible range of flora and fauna that is increasingly under protected status, with more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries and over 100 national parks; a number that has increased from just five in 1970. India is also home to over half of the world’s remaining wild tiger population. From frozen Himalayan peaks to arid deserts, and from verdant British tea plantations to an archipelago of more than 1,000 alluring islands, extreme activities like mountaineering and paragliding exist alongside more spiritual pursuits like exploring its temples and sacred sites, meditation, and learning about the many styles of yoga and wellness that find their origins here. From its inviting and welcoming people to its remarkable palaces, from its striking heritage hotels to its diverse national cuisine, travelers who approach India with an open mind are in for the adventure of a lifetime.
India has taken strides towards creating sustainability policies and developing metrics to monitor their success as the tourism industry drives national development forward. Launched in 2014, the Comprehensive Sustainable Tourism Criteria for India (STCI) evaluates accommodations, tour operators, and natural areas based on global standards and those created by local stakeholders. Government conservation efforts to protect their native Bengal tigers appear to be paying off, with reports of wild tiger populations on the rise in India for the first time in over one hundred years. Starting with India’s Tiger Project Act of 1973, the country has focused on protecting and monitoring habitats, eliminating poaching, and building community-based sustainable tourism around tiger reserves. Today India is an important contributor to the Worldwide Wildlife Fund’s ambitious Tx2 initiative that aims to double the global population of wild tigers by 2022.
India sums up one of the primary reasons we travel – to experience societies and sights uniquely different from our own. India is a nation that is at once past and future traveling the same road. High tech cities hurry ahead while rural villages are steeped in the past. Traveling off the well-worn path takes in such locations as Haridwar and the sacred Ganges River, where travelers can experience a twilight aarti ceremony. India’s remarkable palaces, heritage hotels and desert camps offer unexpected adventures in luxury. Yet, with all its gems, India continues to change in ways barely imagined in the past. Issues such as gender equality are starting to become a part of the discussion. In support of the economic wellbeing of local communities, Big Five hires women guides, both for their unique insights into the local culture, as seen through a woman’s eyes, and as powerful way to elevate women into the workforce, beginning in Delhi. With all its many facets and welcoming people, India will captivate you.Why the Tiger Ranking?