Mumbai (also still known as Bombay) will hit you full force with urban energy, more so than any place on the subcontinent. The streets are teeming with people, bicycles, rickshaws, cars, trucks, and wandering animals. With a population of 21 million, it can be overwhelming, but once you get adjusted, you will appreciate the city’s rhythm, culture, and peaceful neighborhoods — some facing the Indian Ocean, such as along the Marine Drive promenade.
What We Love
The Gateway of India: This ceremonial arch facing the Indian Ocean and near the Taj Mahal Hotel was constructed in 1924 during the height of the British Raj, and it is a favorite gathering place for locals and tourists.
Elephanta Island: After an hour-long boat trip from a dock adjacent to the Gate of India, you step ashore onto an island with an amazing stone temple complex that was partly constructed inside a cave during the period from A.D. 450 to 750. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Best Known For
Outstanding Architecture: The most stunning example is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, locally known as VT (Victoria Terminus), which combines Gothic, Islamic, Victorian, and Hindu elements into one spectacular setting from where trains fan out across the whole country.
The Markets: Mumbai's marketplaces are cities in and of themselves. Head to Mangaldas Market for textiles, Zaveri Bazaar for jewelry, and Mirchi Galli for spices.
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Who It's Best For
Experienced Travelers: India takes time to adjust to, but those who have open eyes and open minds will see what an amazingly energetic city this is, in spite of the noise, crowds, and chaotic traffic. Just being amid the activity is a thrilling experience.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Beggars and Touts: It seems everyone has something to sell you, but a firm and polite "no thank you" will often suffice. The beggars can be more persistent; say nothing and just keep walking.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.