Mumbai is modern India in a nutshell: an exuberant metropolis packed with gleaming skyscrapers where, in stark contrast, around half the population live in shanty towns. It’s the largest city in the country, and can be a little overwhelming. However, it’s worth persevering to experience the host of impressive buildings, notably the vast Gothic central railway station, the mighty India Gate, and the Bombay High Court. When you’re not visiting the museums and historic landmarks, haggle for souvenirs at the Chor Bazaar Thieves Market. As the sun sets, mingle with locals and snack on street food on Chowpatty Beach.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Social equality is very important to all of us, and this can feel especially challenging when visiting places like Dharavi. Deciding whether to visit this area, in the past described as one of the largest slums in Asia, is a very personal choice, but daily life in Dharavi is a reality for more than a million people. It’s where they live, work (in a staggering number of different industries), shop, go to school and worship. It can be hard to see such vast inequality within the same city as so much modern opulence, but a couple of hours with a local guide, gaining a unique insight into local life and meeting the friendly and hard-working residents, is important in giving visibility to these harshly stereotyped communities.
Exotic sets, dazzling costumes, storylines ranging from comic and romantic to dark and dangerous, the possibility that the actors might break into song and dance sequences at any moment; it’s hard not to be a little enthralled by Bollywood. Mumbai is the hub of an industry that is nothing short of epic, with studios producing an incredible 1000+ films each year. If you’re an aficionado, or would just like to see another side to Mumbai, visit the neighbourhoods that are home to the films’ stars, get behind the scenes at a studio and, with a bit of luck, even witness a live shoot. And don’t worry - all visits end with a show of some classic song and dance numbers!
An hour's boat ride from the Gateway of India you’ll find Elephanta Island, home to an amazing rock cut temple dedicated to Shiva; perfect when you need a break from wandering through the busy city. If Elephanta piques your interest, a short flight from Mumbai leads to Aurangabad and the spectacular Ajanta and Ellora cave temple complexes. Their intricate prayer halls and ancient statues were all chiselled into the rock cliffs by hand. Buddhas peep out from niches, full-sized stone elephants tower above you, and many of the walls are adorned with beautifully coloured frescos.
Take your best shot at spotting wildlife with an itinerary that includes not one but three different parks, all located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This allows you to explore some surprisingly diverse scenery, see myriad bird and animal species, and hugely increase your chances of spotting one of these elusive big cats.