08/17/2011 06:40 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2011

Destin-Nation India: Off The Rails On The Subcontinent (PHOTOS)

India is a much-trumpeted cultural destination, but beyond the Taj Mahal and the Mumbai Gate lies a great deal of wild terrain. Deserts, picturesque lakes and winding rivers hide in the shadow of the Himalayas and all-but-empty white sand beaches line much of the southern coast. Just because a densely populated city is always nearby, doesn't mean adventure is hard to find. After all, many of the most interesting adventures India has to offer are urban.

One of the great advantages offered by the subcontinent is that many locals speak English, meaning getting lost is a choice, not a problem. Because India encompasses so many different peoples and varied cultures, describing Indians as welcoming and helpful is necessarily a little naive, but such a stereotype would jive well with most travelers' experiences.

And getting around is not terribly difficult. India's national railroads are one of the largest employers in the world and, except when the workers strike, trains can get adventurers willing to pack their food (buying it on the train is a terrible idea) almost anywhere overnight. For those looking for a little more efficiency, Spice Jet and Kingfisher Airlines offer cheaply priced flights from major cities to smaller hubs.

The major expense of Indian travel is getting in, but flight prices have been dropping and there are more and more direct options from the eastern U.S. and Europe. A flight from New York to New Delhi on Air India runs travelers who plan ahead a little less than $1000; a flight from New York to Mumbai about $100 less than that.

Photo: David Berkowitz/Flickr