Must See India Destinations That Capture India’s Diverse Charm
Planning a trip to India? What are the most popular top tourist places in India?
It’s always difficult to choose where to start and what all to include when it comes to India. No matter how much time you have in your hands, it’s impossible to cover the whole diversity of India in one visit. Although some places do offer a sneak peek into the cultural diversity and thus have become all time favorites for tourists. Have a look at these top 20 Must See Indian destinations which capture the diverse charm and essence of India.
This capital city is the destination to start with most first time travelers to India. Although be prepared for a cultural shock when you land up in the chaos called Delhi. From the luxury of five-star hotels to the crowded lanes of Old Delhi, the sudden jump could be too much to handle at times. But give it some time, for Delhi teaches you the patience in everything. Be it the famous traffic jams or the spicy Indian food causing you ‘Delhi Belly’, India will test not just your patience but your senses too. Delhi’s top attractions include the Mosque, Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Akshardham Temple, India Gate, Qutub Minar along with the wholesale markets in Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi.
The magnificent Taj Mahal – a poetry in white marble is always included in must see tourist attractions of India. But once you are in Agra, don’t just limit yourself to Taj Mahal – there are many other monuments and activities to do which include the visit to two other World Heritage monuments – Agra Fort & Fatehpur Sikri – the deserted ghost city of Akbar. Also, not to miss is the monument called Baby Taj or Itmad-ud-Daula which is considered as precursor to the design of Taj Mahal. If you are staying overnight in Agra, don’t forget to sample unlimited Indian food at the very popular Agra Food Walk – Explore Agra by Mouth.
The spiritual capital of Sikh religion, this city is famous for Golden Temple. This one monument rivals Taj Mahal in the number of visitors it gets. Take an early morning visit to the Golden temple, if you wish to beat the crowds. Later in the evening, drive to the famous Wagah Border to watch the flag-lowering ceremony between India & Pakistan.
Take a dip in the holy waters of Ganges and witness the many Hindu rituals in this ancient city of Lord Shiva. Have a sunrise boat cruise on the riverside ghats to witness the holy bathing, washing clothes and Hindu cremation grounds. Later in the evening, don’t miss out the Ganga Aarti on the ghats of Varanasi along with a flavored Lassi at the hugely popular Blue Lassi Shop.
The most romantic city of India, also known as ‘Venice of the East’ is full of lakes. Enjoy the must see cultural dance performance at ‘Bagore ki Haveli’ in the evenings and take a boat ride on the lake waters during the day. And don’t forget to explore the very famous, 5 star luxury of Lake palace Hotel which was featured in James bond Movie – “Octopussy”.
The erotic carvings that adorn Khajuraho’s three groups of temples are among the finest temple art in the world. The temples are finest examples of Indo-Aryan architecture, but it’s their Kamasutra carvings that have made Khajuraho famous. The temples have several thousand statues and art works, with Kandarya Mahadeva temple alone decorated with over 870. And in case you are visiting Khajuraho in February, don’t forget to attend the Khajuraho Dance Festival held every year in the month of February which features various classical Indian dances set against the backdrop of the Temples.
Ajanta & Ellora Caves
Amazing hand crafted with only hammer & chisel into hillside rock around 400 kilometers from Mumbai are the Ajanta and Ellora caves. There are 34 caves at Ellora which are the mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain; carved between the 6th and 11th centuries AD, and 29 Buddhist caves at Ajanta dating back to between the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD. Ajanta’s unique selling point is the extraordinarily detailed (and often sexually explicit) wall paintings.
If you have a day or two free in Mumbai, make sure to include this in your itinerary as this trip could be the best part of your crazy Indian journey.
Come for late night parties and lazy days to India’s number one beach destination. The three essential elements that attract 2 million visitors every year to Goa are white sand beaches, sparkling waters and moving palm trees. The Portuguese merchants first landed in Goa in the 15th century and existed for about 450 years, until India took over in 1961. Try not to miss the Goan cuisine which is unique and famous for strong Portuguese influence. Relax on white sand beaches, explore the many Portuguese-built monuments and churches of Old Goa or drink ‘Fenny’ – the local alcoholic drink made of cashew.
If you are of those kinds who stay away from the very touristy places, avoid the hustle and bustle of Goa and head over to the serene backwaters of Kerala. Hire a houseboat and get lost in the lush green landscapes or try the many alternative therapies like Ayurveda in the form of therapeutic massage, enjoy the tea gardens or learn the very Indian Yoga in this God’s own country.
The architectural ruins of Hampi are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hampi is charismatic even in its ruined state, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Try your hands at rock-climbing in this last capital of Vijayanagar, one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India’s history.
Explore the strong British colonial influence in the many architecturally diverse buildings, ranging from crumbing ruins to Victorian treasures. Have a look at the museum located in Victoria Memorial, visit the Mother Teresa Home or walk around the British tombstones at Park Street Cemetery. And if you get tired, stop for a Prawn Cocktail at the famous Peter Cat Resturant or try the yummy Chelo Kababs. Later in the day, walk around the famous Howrah Bridge and attend the evening prayer at Belur Math. Don’t forget to try the authentic Bengali Sea food and please, eat with your hands.
Walk on the historic “Silk Route” located in Jammu & Kashmir state in this “Land of High Passes” or take a drive around the scenic routes of Manali-Leh highway, visit the many beautiful monasteries or trek along the Markha / Nubra Valley – there is no end for adventure in this area which is open for tourists only in summers. Don’t forget to ride on a Yak while visiting the famous Pangong Lake, also featured in the famous Bollywood Movie – ‘3 Idiots’.
The Yoga capital of India, situated at the base of Himalayas has a strong spiritual influence. Come here to learn Yoga at one of the many ashrams or rafting in the cold river waters or just meditate on the rocks and find the answers within yourself. The Beatles came here in search of Nirvana in 1968 and discovered their eastern spiritual side here.
Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
The Great Rann of Kutch which is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, is known to be the largest salt desert in the world. This place is the home of the Indian Wild Ass and during winters it becomes the breeding ground for flamingos and pelicans. The Rann of Kutch is also worth visiting for the local people who have preserved their customs and traditions through the ages, who express themselves artistically in the form of handicrafts and beautifully designed day-to-day objects and their homes. Don’t miss the chance to get moon-washed on the full moon nights.
Sharing the border with Pakistan, Jaisalmer is the desert town with yellow sandstone walls of the ‘Golden city’ that rise from the Thar desert. Enjoy the camel safari and folk dances in the middle of desert during the nights and go for “Dune Bashing” during the day in a four-wheel drive safari.
Forget the very touristy Darjeeling, and head to Gangtok – the capital of the state of Sikkim. Enjoy the local monasteries specially the Rumtek Monastery, cross the Nathu-La pass, play with snow at Zero point, taste homemade chocolates or explore the beautiful Kanchenjunga mountain range from Pelling. While in Pelling, stay at Elgin hotels – the best in luxury.
If you wish to see only one temple in South India, it should be the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. This 4,000 years old city is known for Tamil culture and learning. Although Chennai may be the capital of Tamil Nadu state, but Madurai claims its soul.
The birthplace of Lord Krishna and one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus, Mathura (about 60 Kilometers from Agra) attracts both Indian and foreign tourists especially during Janamasthmi (Lord Kirshna’s Birthday) and Holi festival in February / March. While you are in Mathura, don’t forget to visit the Government Museum to explore the Buddhist ruins. Nearby is Vrindavan, the small town which started the ISKCON movement of Krishna consciousness. The prominent sites include ISKCON temple & the newly built ‘Prem Mandir’ or Love Temple.
The ‘Pink City’ is a popular destination among the travelers who take the Golden Triangle Tour (Delhi – Agra – Jaipur). This capital city of Rajasthan state has some marvelous forts and monuments like Hawa Mahal or the Wind Palace, Amber Fort, Albert Hall Museum, City palace and Observatory (Jantar Mantar). In the evenings, try the local Rajasthani cuisine at Chokhi Dhani which is a tourist village or watch a Bollywood classic at Rajmandir Cinema. Not to miss are the local sweets and snacks like Mawa ki Kachori, Mirchi Vada, Pyaj ki Kachori.
The ‘Blue City’ of Jodhpur in Rajasthan is known for the blue houses, Mehrangarh Fort, Rajasthan International Folk Festival and the bangle shopping near the Clock tower. Not to miss is the roof top dinner at Pal Haveli – situated at the base of Mehrangarh Fort and offers splendid night view of both Clock Tower & the Fort.