• Image about India

Get ready to toss any preconceived notions you might have about India, because underneath its exotic history exists a welcoming country with a uniquely modern edge. And it’s begging to be explored.

WHEN HEART-POUNDING ADVENTURE found Ryan Oliver, he was carefully making his way down a steep, dank staircase in a sixteenth-century mausoleum in northern India. Nearby, on the other side of an age-pitted stone wall, a lineup of ornately carved sarcophagi provided the centerpiece of a sprawling tomb complex.

But it wasn’t the specter of death that had his chest heaving and his dark-brown eyes as wide and round as rupees.

Adventure had arrived on dark wings.

My son, a strapping high school football player from South Texas, froze as a scattering of spooked bats fluttered around his head in a wild rustle.

Only a day into a nearly two-week stay in India, Ryan had discovered something intriguing: It’s a country that will impact your heart, in one way or another, at almost every turn.

It was a truth that played out time and again during our stay in and around the famed Golden Triangle of the vast South Asian country.

Like most people unfamiliar with the region, we expected to find the romantic India of Rudyard Kipling, with its foreboding landscapes, mysterious locals, exotic wildlife, and the type of archeological delights that seduced Indiana Jones.

Indeed, all of those do exist in India.

But today, a democracy that encompasses nearly 1.3 million square miles and hosts an estimated 1.2 billion people finds itself torn between ultramodern, capitalistic ambition and a rich history that’s showcased in centuries-old architecture, staggering cultural wealth, and incredible religious diversity.

These days, the ancient temples, monuments, and tombs erected by worshipers, feudal rulers, and nobles are tucked hard against cell phone towers, highways hewn out of mountainsides, and the bricks and marquees of office buildings.