Much like the rest of India, Mumbai is a little bit of everything. Its bustling port brings a melting pot for cultures from every corner of the country, and with it, all of India’s diverse traditions rolled into one. Grand colonial architecture towers over high-end boutique shops and chaotic bazaars, feats of engineering stand not far from shanty towns and slums, palm trees and pav bhaji (a tasty street snack) set the atmosphere for a lively evening on Juhu Beach.
Mumbai is perhaps most iconically, the home of Bollywood, where rhythm and music can’t help but spill onto the streets. Men play cricket in the leafy parks while dabbawalas industriously sort tiffins (lunchboxes prepared at home) onto trains for delivery to the city’s workers with unbelievable precision.
Allow for 2-3 nights in Mumbai depending on your fondness for cities. Much like New Delhi is the gateway to Northern India, Mumbai is the biggest hub for the safari parks in the country’s central states, and for the South. In the span of a couple of days, we recommend visiting the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (previously known as Prince of Wales Museum) which houses a vast array of sculpture, miniature paintings and porcelain from the Indus Valley; Elephanta Island (a designated UNESCO Heritage site featuring a labyrinth of ancient caves and temples cut into the basalt rock); and Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest outdoor laundry.
The Taj Mahal Palace is the city’s emblematic hotel, but if its grand scale and notable history aren’t what you are after, there are countless boutique and more economical options.