India is such a vast and diverse country that it’s impossible to capture every incredible experience in just one trip. Many travelers find themselves returning again and again as they discover the richness and variety that India has to offer. There are some essential Indian experiences which can allow you to immerse yourself in the true essence of India. These encounters will help you achieve a deeper understanding of India’s ancient culture and history. Here’s our definitive India Bucket List.

Take a slum tour

Much has been claimed about the rights and wrongs of slum tours. Are they exploitative or ethical? Dharavi slum in Mumbai, one of the largest in the world and home to 700,000 people, is the location for many of these popular tours. Slum visitors have written about the educational value of the tours as well as the economic impact that such visits have on the locals. As one writer says, it’s an experience that is guaranteed to get you under India’s skin.

Learn about efficiency from the dabbawallahs


The dabbawallahs provide India’s famed hot lunch delivery system, delivering hundreds of thousands of lunches from homes and restaurants directly to schoolkids and workers every day. They have a minuscule error rate and an extremely high customer satisfaction rating. Why not tag along and see what you can learn from these masters of customer service?

Experience the joy and chaos of a big fat Indian wedding

Indian Wedding

There are few rituals as colorful or chaotic as a traditional Indian wedding. They are a riotous mixture of solemn ceremony and frenzied partying. If you don’t happen to know someone in India who is getting married, you may get lucky while you’re traveling and be invited along to the party. Just make sure you bring the right gift!

Witness the extravagant ritual of the Wagah border crossing ceremony


If all you know about the relationship between India and Pakistan is their history of decades-long conflict, you’re in for a treat. The nightly ritual of the closure of the border crossing between the two countries at Wagah is a delightfully camp display by border guards in glorious costumes.

Get lost or find your way on an Indian train


India’s railways are a perfect example of the maxim that the journey is more important than the destination. There are few experiences more likely to wrap you in India’s culture and history than taking a train. You’ve got thousands of options to choose from – there are nearly 40,000 miles of train routes, 6,800 stations and a complex ticketing system to match!

Watch the world glide by from a houseboat in Kerala

Kerala houseboat

The famous Kerala backwaters were historically plied by Kettuvallams carrying local produce to the port of Kochi. With the advent of contemporary transportation, these traditional houseboats were repurposed to provide unique and luxurious experiences for travelers. There are also other ways to explore the waterways of Kerala if the houseboat concept isn’t for you.