If you're jetting off to see some of the Cricket World Cup, you'll no doubt have some time off to indulge in some of the delights of the Indian subcontinent. From fabulous food to bargain buys, culture and history to bars and beaches, there are more than enough activities for when you're not at a match. Below we present a selection of diverse distractions in this year's World Cup cities...
Cricket: Wankhede Stadium. Notable matches: Cricket World Cup Final. April 2nd.
By day: A long and diverse history means Mumbai has much more to offer the curious than can be easily covered in a short stay. Top of the unmissable sights list would be the Elephanta Caves on Gharapuri Island just outside the city. The collection of ancient Hindu and Buddhist carved rock networks still baffles historians as to its exact origins and never fails to inspire awe in the visitor. Look out for the wild monkeys too.
By night: As India’s most populous city, Mumbai also has the widest range of cultures and cuisines, meaning evenings have as much on offer as daytimes. For the most hip and modern experience, hit Escobar and find a space at its 77 foot-long bar. If you want a Mumbai institution, Leopold Café, established in 1871, represents the multicultural city at its best with great Indian, Western, Chinese and other dishes on offer.
Cricket: Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. Notable matches – England’s first match: England v Netherlands, February 22nd. India v South Africa, March 12th.
By day: Famous for its oranges, Nagpur is one of India’s greenest cities and has plenty of parks and open spaces. Take a stroll and a picnic to the best of them, the landscaped gardens around the gorgeous Ambarazi Lake, 6km outside the centre. Or, if you have time, take the train 100-or-so km out of the city to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve for a walk on the wild side.
By night: Eating out in Nagpur can range from cheaper than chips street food to high-end international cuisine. The Sadar area is home to several of the best eateries, including the well-established Ashoka, known for its exquisite continental and sizzler dishes. For meat lovers, Barbeque's grilled Punjabi dishes should be first choice.
Cricket: Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. Notable matches – South Africa v West Indies, February 24th.
By day: As India's largest city (by area) Delhi has no shortage of distractions and even an extended stay may only scratch the surface. The three UNESCO World Heritage sites, The Red Fort, Humayan’s Tomb and the Qutub Complex, are the must-sees of course. The gardens of the latter also serve as great spot for a picnic lunch. If you're staying for more than a day, get a 3-day tourist pass for the metro and get down to Dilli Haat, pick up handicrafts and taste dishes from every region of the country and enjoy a calm – especially for urban India – shopping experience.
By night: After a spot of shopping in the Western-styled but Indian-priced Connaught Place, drop into Aqua, the easygoing poolside bar at the Park Hotel. Food-wise, Delhi is the place try chaat (North Indian savoury snack food) and Haldiram’s in Chandni Chowk is the spot to get it, especially if you’re wary of street vendors.
Cricket: M. A. Chidambaram Stadium. Notable matches – first Group A match: New Zealand v Kenya, February 20th. England v South Africa, March 6th. England v West Indies, March 17th.
By day: The gateway to Southern India, Chennai is a mix of disparate influences with plenty of interesting religious monuments: churches, mosques and hindu temples including the especially beautiful Ramakrishna Math Universal Temple in the Mylapore area. If buildings aren’t for you, a walk along the Marina Beach or Elliots Beach is great for unwinding, especially now before the oppressive summer heat hits.
By night: Chennai is one of the homes of Bharata Natyam, a traditional Tamil dance style and performances can usually be seen somewhere all year-round. As it’s the base of the ‘Kollywood’ Tamil film industry, it’s also well worth catching a movie while in town, especially as many now feature (some) English dialogue and songs.
Cricket: Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium. Notable matches: first match of the World Cup: India v Bangladesh, February 19th. Two of the Quarter Finals – on March 23rd and March 25th.
By day: If you're keen enough to travel all the way to Dhaka for a match or two, leave some space in your case for some shopping. Bangar Bazaar is packed with thousands of stalls selling super cheap clothing and more, while the New Market is equally huge but a little more upmarket.
By night: Eating out in Old Dhaka means low cost classic Bangladeshi food and there are plenty of places to choose from. The king of them all is the ground floor restaurant of Hotel Al-Razzaque, which bustles with businessmen and locals at all times. For variety, the Gulshan neighbourhood has an array of upscale and authentic ex-pat owned international eateries including ‘Traditional Japanese Kitchen’, Izumi.
Cricket: R. Premadasa Stadium. Notable matches – Pakistan v Australia, March 19th. One of the semi-finals, March 29th.
By day: After a day out at the National Zoo of Sri Lanka or The National Museum of Colombo, the 13 acre Galle Face Green promenade on the coast is the place to head for a spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean.
By night: Naturally, there's no way you can miss out on a visit to the memorabilia-laden Cricket Club Café for drinks and simple Sri Lankan or Western tucker. For a touch of elegance The Mango Tree, offers a mouth-watering mix of classic and contemporary cuisine from the subcontinent.
Virgin Atlantic operate daily flights to Delhi. Our Flying Club partner JetAirways fly to 40 destinations around India including all the above mentioned cities. Find out more about Flying Club membership.
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About the author: andrewAndrew Bowman
Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.