15 Best Places to Visit in India
If there is one destination that stands out for its vibrant and spiritually enriched character, it is India. No matter which part of the country you're in, you'll be touched by the myriad ancient temples, sacred sites and heritage treasures. Despite being the second-most populous country in the world, there's also plenty of peace to be found in the serenity of its wildlife sanctuaries and natural settings. If you're yearning to plan your trip, peruse this list of 15 best places to visit in India:
Residing in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populated state, is the fascinating city of Agra. Located on the banks of River Yamuna, Agra has secured its spot on the World Heritage map by being home to one of the seven world wonders, the Taj Mahal. Take a sneak peek into the architectural history and legacy of the Mughal empire by admiring the 17th century ivory-white marble mausoleum. Couples visiting this breathtaking monument will especially be enchanted by its widely regarded reputation as a symbol of eternal love. Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to honor his favorite wife who died while giving birth, Taj Mahal offers lovebirds a feast for the eyes.
Beyond India's most famous attraction, feel free to also check out Agra Fort, a colossal masterpiece built out of red sandstone. Culture enthusiasts can see for themselves why this massive structure served as the capital of the Mughal Empire until 1638. Make sure not to miss all of the buildings inside the fort, especially the iconic embodiment of aesthetic perfection, Jahangir Palace. No Mughal monuments tour is complete without Itimad-ud-Daulah's Tomb, often regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal, or the picturesque Akbar's tomb, lying on the outskirts of Agra. Moreover, make some time for a trip 40 km from Agra to see the famous Fatehpur Sikri, a charming attraction for art and history lovers.
Head to the bustling Sadar Bazar for a memorable shopping experience boasting local clothes, accessories and leather goods. For another enthralling local adventure check out the annual Taj Mahotsav, a splendid festival celebrating India's rich arts, crafts, cuisine, and music.
Apart from its crowded cities and mausoleums, India provides tourists a wide array of incredible beaches, nightlife and local seafood in the delightful state of Goa. Take in another side of India in this former colony of Portugal stretching across the western coast.
Check out the splendid golden sand by sunbathing at the popular Candolim Beach. What's more, make sure not to miss the view of the Arabian Sea at sunset from the top of the nearby Fort Aguada. For another panoramic view of the coastline, the majestic Chapora Fort right at the footsteps of Anjuna Beach is a great option.
Veiled by a gorgeous forest of coconut palm trees, Palolem Beach is the hotspot for both laid back beachgoers and adventure junkies. Watch the tide go in and out in this sunny pocket of paradise as you learn the sport of catamaran sailing and enjoy a memorable session of dolphin sighting. Parasailing, speed boat riding, snorkeling and jet skiing are only a few of the other water activities adventurers can choose from. Outdoor lovers are spoilt for choice as they can also trek to Dudhsagar Falls (translated to "sea of milk"), one of India's tallest waterfalls and a must-see destination amidst the Mollem National Park.
Architecture buffs will be glad to find out that there are plenty of Baroque cathedrals in Old Goa that celebrate the fusion between the Indian and Portuguese cultures. Onlookers will be in awe as they arrive at the Roman Catholic Basilica of Bom Jesus, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another portrayal of Goa's cultural bonanza is the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception located in Panaji, Goa's state capital. What's fascinating is that the chapel stays true to its name since the immaculate sparkling white façade encloses a similar simple interior.
Immerse in the blend of Portuguese and Indian cultures even more by also experiencing the famous authentic cuisine. Head to a restaurant in the city center of Panaji and have a taste of vindaloo curry or exotic seafood dishes that will seduce even the most jaded palates.
3. New Delhi
Part of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, the national capital of India is known for being a nerve-center for the nation's political affairs. With its fascinating blend of historical monuments and modern high-tech industry, you'll be marveled by the colorful and vibrant New Delhi experience.
Soak up the spiritual and cultural majesty of the city by visiting the Lotus Temple. This eye-catching structure celebrates the important symbol that holds a special place in Indian culture across all its many religions. Notable for its flowerlike shape, this edifice celebrates the excellence of modern Indian architecture as well as the Baha'i faith. Also check out the fusion between the old and the new at the contemporary Krishna temple complex, ISKCON Temple, that features a modern take on an eclectic array of traditional architectural styles.
Don't miss the monumental sandstone arch of India Gate either. This war memorial sprawling along the Rajpath was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and inspired by the Arc de Triomphe. If you want to delve into the past and have a taste of the history of the Mughal dynasty, step inside Humayun's Tomb and admire this UNESCO World Heritage Site of harmonious proportions. Moreover, you can't leave New Delhi without visiting Qutub Minar, India's tallest minaret. This soaring tower of victory was built in 1193 by Qutub al-Din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi's last Hindu kingdom, and it's no wonder that it finds its well-deserved spot on the World Heritage map like many other Indian attractions. Stay mesmerized in front of the masterpieces of Indo-Islamic art you'll find inside.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be happy to explore the lush Lodi Gardens while discovering the spellbinding tombs and ruins from the Lodi period pre-1600s. Make sure to head towards the nearby Khan Market afterwards. Explore the wide array of options ranging from luxury brands to local delicacies in one of the world's most prestigious shopping districts.
India's most cosmopolitan city offers tourists a vibrant experience replete with entrancing architecture, Bollywood megastars and Hindu culture. Once you get accustomed to the bustling crowds, you can rest assured that Mumbai can offer you a full authentic Indian encounter.
A surprising must-see attraction in Mumbai whether you need to catch a train or not is definitely Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus. This 19th century railway station is an impressive sight due to its architectural mix of Victorian Gothic Revival and traditional Indian features. For a less offbeat location to spot an architectural wonder, check out Haji Ali Dargah, one of Mumbai's oldest and most famous temples. Admire this spectacular edifice dedicated to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, and step through the ornate gate in order to see the marvelous shrine inside. Moreover, archeology enthusiasts can spend a day exploring the 2,000-year-old Kanheri Cave carvings at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Mumbai is a coastal city, which makes the opportunity to relax on a cruise down the well-known Marine Drive hard to pass. Next, gather by the Gateway of India and spend a few mindful moments watching the yachts and ferries taking off to sea. If you enjoy having delightful vacation photos, make sure to walk to The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai and Tower, one of the country's most photographed places. India's first luxury hotel is more than a century old and admired for the grandeur of its brownstone exterior.
Finish your trip by tasting Mumbai's famous street foods such as chaat from the popular food stalls near Churchgate Station, or by taking a Bollywood tour around the most famous film studios.
Another corner of the Golden Triangle tourist circuit, which also includes Agra and New Delhi, is Jaipur or the Pink City. Dubbed "The Paris of India", the lavish capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan is known for its characteristic pink buildings, forts and temples, as well as for its more cosmopolitan side replete with high-end malls and restaurants galore.
Revered for being the heart of the Old City of Jaipur for nearly three centuries, City Palace is a stunning display of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. Immerse yourself in this fairy-tale setting which is still home to Jaipur's modern-day royal family. Getting lost while you roam around the sprawling complex of buildings and the garden courtyards has never sounded so good. Get an even richer taste of Jaipur's picturesque surroundings by standing mesmerized in front of the salmon-pink facade of Hawa Mahal. Not only can you admire the honeycombed exterior that resembles the crown of the Hindu god Krishna, but also take a look at the armor collection inside the palace's small museum. Another must-see attraction is Jantar Mantar, an open-air observatory whose collection of 18th century astronomical instruments bears a resemblance to abstract masterpieces in an art museum.
Trekking enthusiasts will be happy to take a short hike to the top of a hill near Jaipur in order to arrive at Amer Fort, one of the most magnificent palaces in India. The meaning of the expression "As above, so below" takes a literal meaning as you are free to explore both the lush green courtyards, as well as the fort's shrouded underground tunnels.
After an exhausting day full of visiting, recharge your batteries by strolling around Handicrafts Emporium across from Ajmeri Gate, and taking your time in treasuring the local artifacts. Nevertheless, if you don't feel like skipping the hustle and haggle experience, check out the buzzing Johari Bazar, the oldest bazaar of Jaipur.
Rajasthan, India's largest state and one of the most culturally diverse places in the world, deserves its own spot on this list. Rajasthan's reputation as "Land of Kings" precedes itself since it is home not only to the Great Indian Desert, Thar, but to shimmering palaces, monumental forts, and high-spirited festivals as well.
The first city you should step foot into when you visit this vibrant western state is definitely Jodhpur. Prepare to get mesmerized by the spectacular hilltop Mehrangarh Fort and dive into the royal lifestyle of the kings who lived inside its magnificent thick walls. Don't miss a chance to also walk through the enchanting streets of this "Blue City" sprawling across the edge of the desert. Lord Shiva's sacred association with the color blue has influenced its followers to paint their houses in blue hues, which reflect nicely against the all-year-round sunny weather. Adventure 100 km away from Jodhpur and you'll arrive in another splendid gem hiding in Rajasthan. Ranakpur is home to one of the most stunning temples in Jain culture. Admire the carvings of the light-marbled Jain Temple and get in touch with the sacredness of Jainism, the Indian religion that emphasizes non-violence and asceticism.
Last but not least, before you leave Rajahstan make sure to add Jaisalmer to your itinerary as well. Known as the "Golden City" due to its position right in the heart of Thar Desert's stark landscape, the enthralling city will blow you away with its yellow sandstone architecture. Don't miss out on the chance to visit the most precious jewel of the city, Jaisalmer Fort. This breathtaking structure epitomizes a great proof of Indian artwork and military glory. Moreover, the sight of the intricate sandstone-carved balconies and ornate latticework of Patwon-ki-Haveli, Jaisalmer's first haveli, will leave you gasping with appreciation as well.
For a change of scenery, why not visit the "Venice of the East"? Udaipur has gained the renowned moniker "City of Lakes", and a trip to the mesmerizing Pichola Lake will make you see why.
Resting in the heart of Udaipur, this serene artificial lake was built in 1362 during Maharana Lakha's ruling period and is probably the most visited tourist place in Rajasthan. For a memorable view that exudes romance, hop on a boat and travel to Jagmandir Palace, sprawling on the southern island of Lake Pichola. For an even more picturesque atmosphere, go to the Lake Palace, located on the island of Jag Niwas in the midst of the same lake. Even if you're not checking in as a guest of the hotel, you can spend an afternoon visiting this former summer palace of the royal dynasty of Mewar. Take notice of the staggering architecture resembling 16th century Indian aristocratic comfort styles.
While on the banks of the enchanting Pichola Lake, make sure to also explore the inhabited royal City Palace that oozes with romance. The fusion between Medieval, Chinese and European architecture is quite a sight to behold. Moreover, the marble and granite structure consists of 11 hypnotizing palaces resembling each other, but built by different rulers. Roam mindlessly around the many domes, arches, towers and corridors, while you inhale the magic atmosphere of the most spectacular and largest palace complexes of Rajasthan.
Museum enthusiasts also get the chance to visit the Vintage and Classic Car Museum, a mecca for all motor lovers. After the tour, take a peaceful stroll around the nearby Gulab Bagh, the largest garden in Udaipur. Saunter at the edge of this paradise for fauna and flora admirers and end your day with some mouth-watering traditional Rajasthani thali at the Garden Hotel.
Get ready to experience the charm of the old-colonial era buildings in this lasting showpiece of former British India. Kolkata holds its status not only as the third-most populous metropolitan city in India after Mumbai and Delhi, but also as the evolving intellectual, cultural, and artistic capital of the country.
Both history and art connoisseurs will have their hearts full while visiting the Victoria Memorial. This white marble opulent landmark was built to commemorate Queen Victoria between the years 1906 to 1921 and has now been transformed to host a tremendous collection of ancient artifacts in its 25 stunning galleries. Its discreet design of Indo-Saracenic touches is definitely a treat to an architecture enthusiast's eye as well. Feel free to also cherish the finest collection of contemporary paintings and Egyptian mummies relics at the Indian Museum, or the navaratna style of Bengali architecture at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple.
Asking any local about the most iconic attractions in Kolkata, they'll definitely guide you to Howrah Bridge as well. Admire one of the longest and busiest Cantilever bridges in the world against the backdrop of the splendid River Hooghly. If you're looking for a more spiritual element for your trip, the Mother House is considered a holy and serene place for those searching for meaning in life. It's the resting place of Mother Teresa as she was buried in the tomb inside the house.
Don't forget that trips are not only about visiting cultural attractions, but also about having a little fun. Unwind on Park Street, a famous avenue that also embodies Kolkata's most vibrant hangout spot since the 1940s. You don't have to dress to the nines to have the time of your life. Just enjoy the local nightlife by grabbing a drink at one of the myriad pubs peppered among the historical street houses. The fascinating blend of India's old and new has never been clearer than here.
If you're looking for a fairy-tale atmosphere to base your holiday in, the northernmost geographical region of Kashmir might be the place. Prepare to be enchanted by the lofty lush Himalayas and relax in a boat house during summer, or pack up your skis for an adventurer's dream winter holiday.
Row your way on a boat in the famed Dal Lake. This serene water has almost become a visual synonym to the beguiling city of Srinagar where it resides. Apart from water activities, bird watching and trekking are only a few of the other splendid peaceful activities you can pursue in this dazzling landscape. Connected through a channel to the northeast of Dal Lake, the Mughal Gardens are another must-see attraction that owe their grandeur to the green richness of bright flowerbeds and fountains. Flora lovers should also pay a visit to the celebrated Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. However, if you're into panoramic views, check out the breathtaking top view on Shankaracharya Hill near its temple.
Don't miss out on a chance to take the best vacation photographs in Sonamarg or the "Meadow of Gold". Looking as if it was taken straight out of a postcard, this beguiling setting is an ideal haven for camping and nature walks. The rolling meadows against the magnificent mountain scenery will make you never want to leave. If you want to postpone your return home even more, try out horse riding in Aru Valley where reality and paradise coexist.
In case you're planning on visiting Kashmir during the winter, hop on the Gulmarg Gondola and relish in an aerial view of the snow-covered valleys, mountains and forests. Hosting the world's second largest and second highest cable car project, Gulmarg offers you the chance to reach Apharwat Peak. Dare to ski or take a bobsled from here for the adrenaline ride of your lifetime.
10. Ranthambore National Park
Another point of interest in the renowned Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park, is most famous for its large tiger population. Ever since the Indian government started Project Tiger in 1973 and assigned an area of 155 sq km of the park as a tiger sanctuary, Ranthambore National Park has bloomed and has become India's most famous national park. Watch these dangerous wild predators in their natural wild habitat from up close for a unique experience that will give you the perfect rush.
Apart from the sighting of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Ranthambore National Park boasts an abundance of other mesmerizing wild animals as well. Right at the periphery of the tiger reserve zone, the Kachida Valley is definitely a haven to escape the mundane lifestyle due to panthers, sloth bears and leopards being common appearances here. Go for the mandatory Jeep Safari Ranthambore ride to explore the steep outcrops, small valleys, and ravines in their entirety. For a view worth remembering, make sure you visit early to catch a glimpse of the sunrise in this magical setting.
If you're tired of walking and are in the mood for a dose of culture instead, keep in mind that there's a great variety of heritage sites at your disposal. Discover the mighty Ranthambore Fort that furnishes not only the long history of the Rajput rulers since 944 AD, but a staggering panoramic view of the forest as well. Moreover, feel free to explore the Trinetra Ganesh Temple situated inside the premises of the fort. Its red Karauli stone design and the focus on the wisdom symbolism of the third eye creates a sacred atmosphere you can gather your thoughts in. Next, walk 500 meters away from the fort and you'll find the iconic Jogi Mahal, a hunting lodge built by the royalties of Jaipur for their entertainment and recreation. Relax in this small palace delicately veiled in the wilderness and take photographs of the huge banyan tree situated nearby. You can refill your food and beverage supplies by the nearby Padam Talao, which gets its name from the blooming lotuses in the water. If you're lucky, you might encounter a deer or a monkey roaming through Ranthambore forest.
Temple enthusiasts who can't get enough of India's sacred atmosphere have to make sure not to miss the thousands of temples stretching across Varanasi. This northern city sprawled on the banks of the River Ganges is enchanting enough to make you want to meander aimlessly around the city's labyrinthine streets all day.
Pay homage to Lord Shiva in acclaimed ancient temples such as Kashi Vishwanath Temple. See for yourself why Varanasi has earned the nickname "City of Moksha" (salvation) by delving deeper into its religious significance for Hindus at more holy edifices such as the Durga Temple and the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. Next, rest on the steps of one of the renowned ghats, the broad flight of steps situated on the Ganges riverbank. Check out the oldest and main ghat, the Dashashwamedh Ghat, and unwind by taking a dip in the river. Make sure to return at sunset to watch the devotional performance of Ganga Aarti, which consists of releasing floral and candle offerings down the Ganges. If you don't believe in the story about the river absolving your sins or if you simply don't feel like bathing, try out yoga or relax with a massage at Manikarnika Ghat. Here you can also witness the memorable ceremonies of Hindu cremations and rituals of death anniversaries.
Museum lovers can step into the past at the 18th-century red sandstone Ramnagar Fort. The comprehensive collection of weapons and vintage cars will definitely leave you bewildered. For an appetizing snack that will make your taste buds explode, try street food such as chaat at one of the small hand-carts stationed on Godowlia-Luxa road.
The southwestern state of Kerala entices you the moment you're surrounded by its pristine beaches and palm-fringed rivers. Take a break from the bustling asphalt jungles found in other Indian states and get ready to sunbathe in this tropical paradise tucked between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats instead.
Discover the immense net of calm waterways best encapsulated in the magical Alleppey. Go on a houseboat tour on the Kerala backwater canals whose rich marine and bird life will leave you in awe. Lovers of outdoor activities can get their dose of adrenaline by witnessing the world-renowned Snake Boat Race. Watch this unique sporting spectacle taking place every year in the Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha district.
Nothing beats the experience of visiting Periyar National Park, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world. Evergreen forests and quaint valleys blend together in this wildlife sanctuary that will make your eyes glimmer with excitement. Enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go on an elephant ride or bamboo river rafting. Enthusiasts of mellow activities need not worry as they can also rejoice in the unmatched relaxing tour of spice or coffee plantations.
End your Kerala tour with a visit to the imposing port city of Kochi where civilization and nature merge together beautifully. Embrace the multicultural Arab, Portuguese and British influences dribbling at every corner. Visit the Dutch Palace resting in the eclectic Mattancherry area, or explore Fort Kochi. Here you can admire the emblematic Chinese fishing nets and enjoy a few moments of silence at the Santa Cruz Basilica. Take a quick dip at the Fort Kochi Beach if you're not ready to say goodbye to Kerala's splendid natural settings just yet.
Get in touch with the sacred roots of the Indian subcontinent by visiting one of India's most spiritual cities. Located in the northwestern state of Punjab, Armritsar is widely regarded as the religious focus point for Sikhism. Whether you're planning a devout pilgrimage or simply a cultural visit, this stirring heritage center will embed a dose of enchantment to your trip to India.
The first stop on your itinerary has to be the heart of this vibrant city, the Golden Temple. Don't forget to remove your shoes and cover your head before entering this place of assembly and worship for Sikhs called a Gurdwara. This legendary edifice covered in real gold is not only the most significant shrine in Sikhism, but also an architectural landmark. Don't let the splendid details slip away. Take notice of the Arabesque intricate floral designs on the walls' marble panels, and pay attention to the arches that include scripture verses in gold letters. For a complete experience, take a bath at the adjacent artificial lake Amrit Sarovar before sunrise. This celebrated ritual is considered a holy dip replete with therapeutic and healing qualities. Right behind the Golden Temple you can pay your respects to the victims of the 1919 massacre at the public garden of Jallianwala Bagh. The poignant atmosphere of the memorial site is complemented by the bullet holes in the walls and by Martyrs' Gallery's portrait display of Indian independence's important figures.
Recharge your batteries by having a bite 10 minutes away from the Golden Temple at the famous Bharawan da Dhaba. Being a city staple since 1912, this eatery serves you the most authentic buttery Punjabi dishes. Cross the street and diagonally from the eatery you'll spot the Partition Museum. It's not only history enthusiasts that will be mesmerized by the artifacts and audiovisuals that tell the story of the largest migration in human history. Every tourist that steps inside will be moved by seeing this brought to life.
South India's attractions are a breath of fresh air, and proof of this is Mysore, the cultural capital of the state of Karnataka. Pinpointed at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, the former capital of the Wodeyar dynasty draws millions of tourists each year due to its ornate palaces, temples, celebrations and silk sarees.
You'll definitely want to set the bar high by visiting the magnificent Mysore Palace. It's hard to look away once you spot its Indo-Saracenic design that explains how this opulent structure assured its spot on the World Heritage map. For a memorable sight, pay a visit to the dazzling edifice after sunset to see it lit up with thousands of bulbs. If you fancy a spot of nature, make sure to swing by the ornamental Brindavan Gardens to get a whiff of the grassy green slopes scent. Dance to the rhythm of the soft music and in the vibrant lights of the swirling musical fountains that turn the setting into a true fairy land at dusk. The majestic wall of the KRS Dam staged in the background just gives it an otherworldly feel.
The Gothic St. Philomena's Cathedral based on the Cologne Cathedral in Germany and the 11th-century Chamundeshwari Temple atop 1,000 steps on the city's outer edge make for mind blowing cultural visits. Mysore's epitome of cultural mecca is also showcased during the renowned 10-day Mysore Dasara Festival taking place in autumn. Watch the hypnotizing massive procession with elephants, musicians and dancers celebrating the folk arts on the streets of the city. Put your party clothes on in the evening and head to the Bannimantap Parade grounds for the torchlight parade. Before you leave, bring the true essence of Mysore at home with you. Shop for locally grown produce such as Kumkum powder, sandalwood and chai tea in the bustling open-air Devaraja Market on Dhanvantari Road.
With a history of sages having visited Rishikesh since ancient times in search of higher knowledge, this pilgrimage town in Uttarakhand is regarded as one of the holiest places for Hindus. Staged on the bank of the sacred River Ganga, Rishikesh does not miss an opportunity to woo its visitors with its renowned reputation as a haven for yoga and wellness enthusiasts.
Travel back in time to the legacy of the 1960s spiritual counterculture by visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram, where the Beatles learned to meditate. The now abandoned site is worth the ticket as its picturesque tombs and illustrious graffiti artworks made by trespassers pack a memorable visual punch. If you're interested in learning yoga right from the source, you can visit one of the wide array of ashrams. The biggest and finest of them is the Parmarth Niketan in the lap of the verdant Himalayas, whose comfortable stay doesn't offer just a yogic way of life but also rejuvenation by way of its scenic views. Nevertheless, every corner of Rishikesh feels like a majestic yoga studio. All you have to do is take a glance at the spirituality pervading from the numerous temples, where kirtan and bhajan sessions can be enjoyed daily. Head to the heart of the city for Raghunath Temple near Triveni Ghat, the most important place for religious ceremonies. You can try to find Nirvana by bathing in the adjacent Rishikund, a natural hot spring pond considered sacred. Moreover, consider swinging by Triveni Ghat at sundown to witness the every day evening ceremony of Ganga Aarti.
If you want to celebrate the pristine nature that Rishikesh boasts in other ways, adventure junkies have plenty of activities to feast on. Just head towards the two splendid suspension bridges Ram Jhula and the lengthier Lakshman Jhula to try out river rafting, hiking, or even bungee jumping.
So what's it going to be? Deciding on which Indian destination to visit first can be a tough choice since this magnificent country is teeming with a bit of everything. Whether you're the type who wants to relax by a temple or raft in rapid waters, a vacation to India is the perfect blend of cultural bliss, spirituality and connection to nature.