India travel guide
India is a vast South Asian country with diverse terrain – from Himalayan peaks to Indian Ocean coastline – and history reaching back 5 millennia.
In the north, Mughal Empire landmarks include Delhi’s Red Fort complex and massive Jama Masjid mosque, plus Agra’s iconic Taj Mahal mausoleum. here we explained India best 20 tours ideas.
Pilgrims bathe in the Ganges in Varanasi, and Rishikesh is a yoga center and base for Himalayan trekking.
The eastern port Kolkata, the former capital of British India, is known for its colonial architecture. In the west, the megacity Mumbai is the seat of the Bollywood film industry, and the Malabar Coast, of spice-trade fame, features beach resorts.
A land of diverse spirituality, India is the birthplace of 4 major world religions, namely Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
Around the country are innumerable sacred sites, including ancient carved-stone temples. Its spicy cuisine is as varied as the country itself, and its many wildlife sanctuaries shelter tigers, elephants, and monkeys.
Best time to visit:
India is tropical in the south, subtropical in the center and alpine in the northern Himalayas. For much of the country, Apr-May is the hottest time of year, before the Jun-Sep monsoon rains. Typically, the winter (Dec–Feb) is dry and mild, with snow in the Himalayas.
Key Hindu festivals include Holi (Feb/Mar, dates vary), the festival of color; and Diwali (Oct/Nov, dates vary) the festival of lights. Islamic celebrations include Eid al-Fitr (dates vary), the breaking of the fast after the holy month of Ramadan.
India Best Places, Things to do, Real Facts
Agra is a city in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state. It’s home to the iconic Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built for the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal (who died in childbirth in 1631).
The imposing main building features a massive dome and intricately carved white marble inlaid with precious stones. This is set behind a reflecting pool inside a courtyard defined by 4 minarets.
Near the Taj Mahal are the 20m-high red-brick walls of Agra Fort, a grand Mughal fortress and palace, much of it dating to the 16th and 17th centuries. Across the Yamuna River is another striking tomb, Itimad-ud-Daula, which prefigures the Taj Mahal by a few years, earning it the nickname “Baby Taj.”
West of the city is the remarkably well-preserved “ghost city” of Fatehpur Sikri, whose red-sandstone royal apartments, harem quarters and pavilions date to the late 1500s, when it was briefly the capital of the Mughal empire.
Read full Agra Top Best Places to visit, Things to do, Real Facts
Delhi, India’s capital territory, is a massive metropolitan area in the country’s north. In Old Delhi, a neighborhood dating to the 1600s, stands the imposing Mughal-era Red Fort, a symbol of India, and the sprawling Jama Masjid mosque, whose courtyard accommodates 25,000 people.
Nearby is Chandni Chowk, a vibrant bazaar filled with food carts, sweets shops and spice stalls.
Other significant sites include Lodi Gardens, a park featuring monumental tombs and acres of greenery; Mughal emperor Humayun’s tomb, a precursor of the Taj Mahal; Qutub Minar, a medieval brick minaret; and the flower-shaped Lotus Temple, a Bahá’í house of worship.
Delhi also has a strong nightclub scene as well as many prominent museums, including ones dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, leaders of Indian independence.
Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. It evokes the royal family that once ruled the region and that, in 1727, founded what is now called the Old City, or “Pink City” for its trademark building color.
At the center of its stately street grid (notable in India) stands the opulent, colonnaded City Palace complex. With gardens, courtyards and museums, part of it is still a royal residence.
Across from the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, an open-air astronomical observatory from the early 18th century. Also nearby is the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), a former cloister for royal women fronted by a rippling 5-story screen of pink sandstone.
Several kilometers outside the city center, elephants carry visitors uphill to the imposing Amer Fort, which features elaborate wall carvings and paintings.
On the way to the fort, many visitors stop on the banks of Man Sagar Lake to photograph Jal Mahal, a partially submerged palace that famously reflects in the water.
4. New Delhi
New Delhi is an urban district of Delhi which serves as the capital of India and seat of all three branches of the Government of India.
The foundation stone of the city was laid by Emperor George V during the Delhi Durbar of 1911. It was designed by British architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker.
The new capital was inaugurated on 13 February 1931, by Viceroy and Governor-General of India Lord Irwin. Although colloquially Delhi and New Delhi are used interchangeably to refer to the National Capital Territory of Delhi, these are two distinct entities, with New Delhi forming a small part of Delhi.
The National Capital Region is a much larger entity comprising the entire NCT along with adjoining districts in neighboring states.
Varanasi is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites.
Along the city’s winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Boat cruises take visitors past the many ghats (steps leading down to the river) on the waterfront, including the Dashashwamedh Ghat to watch the fiery aarti ritual, performed nightly.
Manikarnika Ghat is the principal cremation ground of Varanasi, with 24-hour flaming funeral pyres. Another notable ghat is Man Mandir Ghat, topped by a large palace built in 1600.
Above the river, the Mughal-style Ramnagar Fort was the palace of the former Maharaja of Varanasi and is now a museum.
About 11km north of town, Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon at the site of Dhamekh Stupa, features ancient temples.
Mumbai (formerly called Bombay) is a densely populated city on India’s west coast. A financial center, it’s India’s largest city.
Mumbai Harbour waterfront stands the iconic Gateway of India stone arch, built by the British Raj in 1924. Offshore, nearby Elephanta Island holds ancient cave temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
The city’s also famous as the heart of the Bollywood film industry.
Landmark British colonial buildings include Chhatrapati Shivaj Terminus, an ornate train station melding Gothic Revival and Mughal architecture.
The castlelike Bombay High Court features octagonal turrets. Immense Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya is a museum displaying ethnographic and natural history collections.
Chor Bazaar is known for its antiques, while Mangaldas Market has textiles, and Zaveri Bazaar is filled with jewelry shops.
Marine Drive terminates at popular Chaupati Beach. On the city’s outskirts in Sanjay Gandhi National Park is Kanheri, a cave system carved by Buddhists beginning in the 1st century B.C.
Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 17th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations.
Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda.
Old Goa is home to the massive, Portuguese-style Se Cathedral and the baroque Basilica of Bom Jesus, which holds the remains of the state’s patron saint, Francis Xavier.
In Panaji, the capital, the Latin Quarter’s winding streets contain galleries, cafes and colonial-era Portuguese-style homes.
For shopping, visitors flock to Anjuna’s famous flea market and Mackie’s seasonal night bazaar.
On the coast, the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary provides a look at a native mangrove ecosystem.
Goa’s interior features small villages, quiet retreats, waterfalls and jungle trails.
Udaipur, formerly the capital of the Mewar Kingdom, is a city in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. Founded by Maharana Udai Singh II in 1559, it’s set around a series of artificial lakes and is known for its lavish royal residences.
City Palace, overlooking Lake Pichola, is a monumental complex of 11 palaces, courtyards and gardens, famed for its intricate peacock mosaics.
Lake Pichola boat tours take visitors past the 18th-century, white-marble Lake Palace, which covers an entire island and is now a hotel. Another island contains the domed Jagmandir Palace, former summer resort of the Maharanas, mostly constructed in the 17th century.
Elsewhere, in Udaipur’s sprawling old city, is towering Jagdish Temple, completed in 1651 and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.
The Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum of regional folk art is known for its traditional puppet shows, while the hilltop Monsoon Palace offers sweeping views of the city and the surrounding ridges.
Jodhpur is a city in the Thar Desert of the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan. Its 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort is a former palace that’s now a museum, displaying weapons, paintings and elaborate royal palanquins (sedan chairs).
Set on on a rocky outcrop, the fort overlooks the walled city, where many buildings are painted the city’s iconic shade of blue. Northeast of the fort is the Jaswant Thada, a white marble mausoleum in a lakeside setting.
On a hilltop to the southeast, the domed, marble Umaid Bhawan Palace is the residence of Jodhpur’s maharaja. It has gardens, a public museum filled with furniture, weapons and china, a display of classic cars and a luxury hotel.
The old city, the area around the iconic Ghanta Ghar clock tower, is home to a market where stallholders sell spices, food, clothing and jewelry. The city’s well-known annual Gangaur Festival focuses on women’s rituals.
Manali is a high-altitude Himalayan resort town in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state. It has a reputation as a backpacking center and honeymoon destination.
Set on the Beas River, it’s a gateway for skiing in the Solang Valley and trekking in Parvati Valley. It’s also a jumping-off point for paragliding, rafting and mountaineering in the Pir Panjalmountains, home to 4,000m-high Rohtang Pass.
The Mall Road and its bazaar are the town’s focal point, while the Old Manali neighborhood is home to traditional stone buildings, apple orchards and the Hindu Manu Temple.
Across the Manaslu River on a forested hilltop is wood-carved Hadimba Devi Temple, built in 1553 and dedicated to a Hindu goddess.
The Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art preserves local crafts and heritage. In the Tibetan quarter, the Buddhist monastery Gadhan Thekchhokling is recognizable by its yellow, pagoda-style roof. East of the Beas River is Vashisht, a village known for its hot springs.
Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of India’s West Bengal state. Founded as an East India Company trading post, it was India’s capital under the British Raj from 1773–1911.
Today it’s known for its grand colonial architecture, art galleries and cultural festivals. It’s also home to Mother House, headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, whose tomb is on site.
B.B.D. Bagh (formerly Dalhousie Square) is home to colonial-era landmarks like St. Andrew’s Church with its tall white steeple. It’s also a setting for the General Post Office, featuring a monumental rotunda, and the 18th-century Writers’ Building, which housed the East India Company’s administrative offices.
Nearby is the Maidan, a sprawling park with the Eden Gardens cricket stadium, a golf course and the white-marble Victoria Memorial, containing several art galleries.
Other notable sites include the Indian Museum, displaying fossils and Mughal antiques, and Kalighat Kali Temple, dedicated to Kolkata’s Hindu patron goddess.
Jaisalmer is a former medieval trading center and a princely state in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, in the heart of the Thar Desert. Known as the “Golden City,” it’s distinguished by its yellow sandstone architecture.
Dominating the skyline is Jaisalmer Fort, a sprawling hilltop citadel buttressed by 99 bastions. Behind its massive walls stand the ornate Maharaja’s Palace and intricately carved Jain temples.
Narrow alleys connect the fort’s many shops, restaurants and hotels. Dotting the town below are a number of “havelis,” or traditional Rajasthani mansions.
The Patwon Ki Haveli is a notable example, adorned with carved balconies and arches. The Desert Culture Centre contains historic Rajasthani relics, while the Thar Heritage Museum focuses more generally on the region’s history.
Gadsisar Lake is surrounded by small temples and the Folklore Museum, a trove of local arts and crafts.
The city is also a hub for scenic camel safaris through the nearby sand dunes.
Kochi (also known as Cochin) is a city in southwest India’s coastal Kerala state. It has been a port since 1341, when a flood carved out its harbor and opened it to Arab, Chinese and European merchants.
Sites reflecting those influences include Fort Kochi, a settlement with tiled colonial bungalows and diverse houses of worship. Cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, typical of Kochi, have been in use for centuries.
St. Francis Church was the original site of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s burial when he died in Kochi in 1524.
Santa Cruz Basilica is known for its pastel interior, including an imitation by Fra Antonio Moscheni of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Paradesi Synagogue, founded in 1568, features imported Chinese blue-and-white ceramic floor tiles.
The surrounding quarter, once home to a large Jewish community, is now filled with antique shops and old spice warehouses.
Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later renovated by the Dutch, showcases vivid Hindu murals.
Alappuzha (or Alleppey) is a city on the Laccadive Sea in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It’s best known for houseboat cruises along the rustic Kerala backwaters, a network of tranquil canals and lagoons.
Alappuzha Beach is the site of the 19th-century Alappuzha Lighthouse. The city’s Mullakkal Temple features a traditional design. Punnamada Lake’s snake boat races are a well-known annual event.
Bengaluru (also called Bangalore) is the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state.
The center of India’s high-tech industry, the city is also known for its parks and nightlife. By Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha is a Neo-Dravidian legislative building. Former royal residences include 19th-century Bangalore Palace, modeled after England’s Windsor Castle, and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, an 18th-century teak structure.
Krishnarajendra Market is a vibrant, old-fashioned bazaar, with fruit and flower vendors.
The Lalbagh Botanical Garden has a traditional glass house and tropical flora. Modern and contemporary Indian art is on view at National Gallery of Modern Art.
Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, with 13 museums, is known for local traditional art.
Dodda Basavana Gudi (“Bull Temple”) is an example of 16th-century Dravidian architecture.
The 1995 Iskcon Krishna Temple combines modern and ancient architectural styles. Just outside the city is Bannerghatta Biological Park, home to tigers, lions and elephants.
Munnar is a town in the Western Ghats mountain range in India’s Kerala state.
A hill station and former resort for the British Raj elite, it’s surrounded by rolling hills dotted with tea plantations established in the late 19th century.
Eravikulam National Park, a habitat for the endangered mountain goat Nilgiri tahr, is home to the Lakkam Waterfalls, hiking trails and 2,695m-tall Anamudi Peak.
The Tea Museum at the Nallathanni Estate presents the region’s history of tea production.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is an ecotourism site that protects numerous animal species. Northeast of town, Top Station is a 1,700m-high overlook and trekking site with views over the mountains.
Fields of blue Neelakurinji flowers bloom there once every 12 years. En route to Top Station, reservoirs at Mattupetty Dam and Kundala Dam are popular for boating and picnicking.
Aside from Lakkam, the region’s many picturesque waterfalls include Attukal and Chinnakanal.
Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu.
The city is home to Fort St. George, built in 1644 and now a museum showcasing the city’s roots as a British military garrison and East India Company trading outpost, when it was called Madras. Religious sites include Kapaleeshwarar Temple, adorned with carved and painted gods, and St. Mary’s, a 17th-century Anglican church.
The Government Museum houses Indian art and archaeological objects, notably bronze sculptures from the medieval Chola dynasty. Wildlife and plants can be seen at Guindy National Park, Arignar Anna Zoological Park and the Theosophical Society’s gardens.
Food stalls line Marina Beach, a popular spot for walking and flying kites. The Kalakshetra Foundation – comprising an art museum and several theaters – is one of many venues presenting Tamil performing arts throughout the year.
18. Ranthambore National Park
Major destination for seeing tigers in their natural habitat plus other wildlife, with scenic ruins.
Rishikesh is a city in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand, in the Himalayan foothills beside the Ganges River. The river is considered holy, and the city is renowned as a center for studying yoga and meditation.
Temples and ashrams (centers for spiritual studies) line the eastern bank around Swarg Ashram, a traffic-free, alcohol-free and vegetarian enclave upstream from Rishikesh town.
At the confluence of 3 rivers, the Triveni Ghat is regarded as a sacred bathing spot for spiritual cleansing. A fire ritual known as ganga aarti is performed there nightly, where oil lamps are floated downstream. Upstream, the pedestrian-only iron suspension bridges, Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula, join the banks of the river around Swarg Ashram. T
he elaborates, 13-story Trayambakeshwar temple stands by the Lakshman Jhula bridge. Numerous ashrams offer yoga courses, and local companies arrange trekking tours into the mountains, kayaking, and white-water rafting trips.
Darjeeling is a town in India’s West Bengal state, in the Himalayan foothills. Once a summer resort for the British Raj elite, it remains the terminus of the narrow-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, or “Toy Train,” completed in 1881.
It’s famed for the distinctive black tea grown on plantations that dot its surrounding slopes. Its backdrop is Mt. Kanchenjunga, among the world’s highest peaks.
Buddhist monasteries in the area include Bhutia Busty Gompa, known for its colorful murals and library full of rare texts. Another monastery, Ghoom Gompa, contains a 5m-high clay statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
Darjeeling’s colonial architectural heritage includes mock-Tudor houses, Gothic Victorian churches such as St. Andrew’s and the opulent Raj Bhavan, which still serves as the Governor’s summer residence.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is home to snow leopards, red pandas and Tibetan wolves. Darjeeling is also a popular base for treks and climbing expeditions in the mountainous state of Sikkim.
The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu temples and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh, India, about 175 kilometres southeast of Jhansi. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 by the Chandela dynasty.
Historical records note that the Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by the 12th century, spread over 20 square kilometers Of these, only about 25 temples have survived, spread over six square kilometers. Of the surviving temples, the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is decorated with a profusion of sculptures with intricate details, symbolism and expressiveness of ancient Indian art.
The Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views among Hindus and Jains in the region.
22. Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri is a small city in northern India, just west of Agra, founded by a 16th-century Mughal emperor. Red sandstone buildings cluster at its center.
Buland Darwaza gate is the entrance to Jama Masjid mosque. Nearby is the marble Tomb of Salim Chishti. Diwan-E-Khas hall has a carved central pillar.
Jodha Bais Palace is a mix of Hindu and Mughal styles, next to the 5-story Panch Mahal that overlooks the site.
Shimla is the capital of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills.
Once the summer capital of British India, it remains the terminus of the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla Railway, completed in 1903. It’s also known for the handicraft shops that line The Mall, a pedestrian avenue, as well as the Lakkar Bazaar, a market specializing in wooden toys and crafts.
Hindu shrines in the area include Kali Bari Temple near The Mall and Jakhu Temple on Jakhu Hill, dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman. The hill is Shimla’s highest point, also known for its sunrise views across the Himalayas.
The town’s British colonial architectural heritage includes Gothic Victorian structures such as Christ Church and the Gaiety Theatre. There’s also a mock-Tudor half-timbered library, and the Scottish baronial mansion formerly known as Viceregal Lodge, built in 1888 and now home to an academic foundation. Outside of Shimla are picturesque hill resorts such as Naldehra, as well as Chadwick Falls.
Dharamshala is a city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Surrounded by cedar forests on the edge of the Himalayas, this hillside city is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.
The Thekchen Chöling Temple Complex is a spiritual center for Tibetan Buddhism, while the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives houses thousands of precious manuscripts.
Lower Dharamshala comprises a largely Indian community, while a Tibetan enclave lives uphill in the suburb of McLeod Ganj.
Near the Dalai Lama’s main temple, Tsuglagkhang, is a Buddhist monastery known as Namgyal Gompa.
The Tibet Museum provides a historical overview of Tibet’s occupation. Cultural establishments include the Norbulingka Institute, a haven for traditional Tibetan arts and crafts, and the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts, which preserves Tibetan opera, music and dance.
The city also offers trekking trails leading across the mountains to Triund, the upper Ravi Valley and beyond.
Kovalam is a small coastal town in the southern Indian state of Kerala, south of Thiruvananthapuram.
At the southern end of Lighthouse Beach is a striped lighthouse with a viewing platform. Palm-backed beaches also include Hawa Beach and Samudra Beach. Heading south, Vizhinjam Juma Masjid mosque overlooks the busy fishing harbor. Inland, Sagarika MarineResearch Aquarium displays technology used in pearl production.
Hampi is an ancient village in the south Indian state of Karnataka. It’s dotted with numerous ruined temple complexes from the Vijayanagara Empire. On the south bank of the River Tungabhadra is the 7th-century Hindu Virupaksha Temple, near the revived Hampi Bazaar.
A carved stone chariot stands in front of the huge Vittala Temple site. Southeast of Hampi, Daroji Bear Sanctuary is home to the Indian sloth bear.
Pushkar is a town bordering the Thar Desert, in the northeastern Indian state of Rajasthan. It’s set on Pushkar Lake, a sacred Hindu site with 52 ghats (stone staircases) where pilgrims bathe.
The town has hundreds of temples, including 14th-century Jagatpita Brahma Mandir, dedicated to the god of creation, which has a distinctive red spire and walls inlaid with pilgrims’ silver coins.
On the edge of Pushkar, the Savriti temple sits on a hilltop overlooking the lake and the desert, and Gayatri temple is renowned for its sunrise views. Camel safaris visit nearby desert villages. It’s possible to study yoga, and to explore the surrounding desert on hiking, hot-air ballooning, horse-riding or motorbike trips.
Bazaars sell leather goods, traditional embroidered Rajasthani clothing and jewelry. The annual Pushkar Fair is a huge camel market that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. It incorporates bathing on the ghats, races and folkloric performances.
Mysore (or Mysuru), a city in India’s southwestern Karnataka state, was the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore from 1399 to 1947. In its center is opulent Mysore Palace, seat of the former ruling Wodeyar dynasty.
The palace blends Hindu, Islamic, Gothic and Rajput styles. Mysore is also home to the centuries-old Devaraja Market, filled with spices, silk and sandalwood.
The Jaganmohan Palace, a Wodeyar structure in traditional Hindu style, displays an extensive collection of South Indian art. St. Philomena’s Church is a grand, Neo-Gothic-style Catholic church featuring 53m-tall twin spires. Standing atop Chamundi Hills outside the city, Chamundeshwari Temple is an intricate Hindu shrine believed to date back to the 12th century.
At the base of Chamundi Hills, picturesque Karanji Lake is a habitat for numerous bird species. Further afield, Brindavan Gardens offers a vast spread of landscaped gardens, blooms and trees, as well as a boating lake and a musical fountain.
Amritsar is a city in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab, 28 kilometers from the border with Pakistan. At the center of its walled old town, the gilded Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) is the holiest gurdwara (religious complex) of the Sikh religion. It’s at the end of a causeway, surrounded by the sacred Amrit Sarovar tank (lake), where pilgrims bathe.
Within the Golden Temple complex, the Sikh Museum contains paintings, manuscripts & weapons. A free langar (kitchen) feeds tens of thousands every day. Stalls in the adjoining lanes sell traditional embroidered clothing and shoes.
Jallianwala Bagh is a memorial garden remembering the victims of a 1919 British army massacre. The Rambagh Gardens surround Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s summer palace, now a museum.
The Durgiana Mandir Hindu temple resembles the Golden Temple and has intricately carved silver doors. The elaborate daily changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the Wagah border with Pakistan has become a popular spectacle.
Kumarakom is a village on Vembanad Lake in the backwaters of Kerala, southern India. It’s laced with canals, where houseboats ply the waters.Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is home to many species including cuckoos and Siberian storks.
Nearby, the Bay Island Driftwood Museum displays wooden sculptures. In the lake, Pathiramanal Island is a haven for rare migratory birds. Ancient Thazhathangady Mosque is east of Kumarakom.
Haridwar is an ancient city and important Hindu pilgrimage site in North India’s Uttarakhand state, where the River Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills.
The largest of several sacred ghats (bathing steps), Har Ki Pauri hosts a nightly Ganga Aarti (river-worshipping ceremony) in which tiny flickering lamps are floated off the steps. Worshipers fill the city during major festivals including the annual Kanwar Mela.
Accessible by cable car or steps, the ornate hilltop temples of Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi offer panoramic views of the plains from opposite sides of the Ganges.
Another important pilgrimage temple is Maya Devi by Birla Ghat. Daksheswara Mahadev Temple lies amid havelis (mansions), sacred ashrams and an ancient banyan tree just south of Haridwar in the town of Kankhal.
Near Haridwar, Rajaji National Park in the Shivalik Hills offers jungle safaris to see tigers, elephants, leopards and more than 300 species of birds, plus rafting on the River Ganges.
Mamallapuram, or Mahabalipuram, is a town on a strip of land between the Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake, in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It’s known for its temples and monuments built by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries.
The seafront Shore Temple comprises 3 ornate granite shrines. Krishna’s Butter Ball is a massive boulderbalanced on a small hill near the Ganesha Ratha stone temple.
Inland, the Pancha Rathas are a group of temples intricately carved from single rocks. Arjuna’s Penance, also known as the “Descent of the Ganges,” is a huge relief carving depicting an episode from the Mahabharata epic, with animals and gods.
Mamallapuram is also home to several rock-carved cave temples, including the 7th-century hilltop Varaha Cave. The Government College of Architecture and Sculpture includes a museum documenting rock architecture in India. Farther north, Tiger Cave is believed to have hosted cultural events centuries ago.
Madurai is an energetic, ancient city on the Vaigai River in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Its skyline is dominated by the 14 colorful gopurams (gateway towers) of Meenakshi Amman Temple.
Covered in bright carvings of Hindu gods, the Dravidian-style temple is a major pilgrimage site. Millions attend the processions and ceremonies of April’s Chithirai Festival celebrating Meenakshi and Lord Vishnu.
Flower vendors near Meenakshi Amman sell fragrant heaps of jasmine and marigolds used as devotional offerings. Sound and light shows dramatize the history of Thirumalai Nayak Mahal, a colonnaded 1636 palace with Dravidian and Islamic architectural features.
The Gandhi Memorial Museum, in a domed 17th-century palace, documents the Indian struggle for independence. Beyond the old city lies Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, a vast temple tank filled by the Vaigai River.
Every January or February it hosts Madurai’s Float Festival, in which Hindu icons are placed into the tank on ornamental rafts.
Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum) is the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. It’s distinguished by its British colonial architecture and many art galleries. It’s also home to Kuthira Malika (or Puthen Malika) Palace, adorned with carved horses and displaying collections related to the Travancore royal family, whose regional capital was here from the 18th–20th centuries.
Mahatma Gandhi Road is the main boulevard, lined with art and antiques shops, carpet sellers and sari stalls. To the north, the ornate Napier Museum houses ancient Indian carvings, bronzes and natural-history specimens, while Sri Chitra Art Gallery holds miniature Indian paintings and work by lauded artist Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906).
Nearby is Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, home to Bengal tigers, Asian elephants and Indian rhinos. To the south, the giant Dravidian-style Padmanabhaswamy Temple is dedicated to Vishnu, with a 7-tier entrance tower (gopuram). Along the coast are the popular beaches of Shankumugham and Kovalam.
35. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The Andaman Islands are an Indian archipelago in the Bay of Bengal. These roughly 300 islands are known for their palm-lined, white-sand beaches, mangroves and tropical rainforests.
Coral reefs supporting marine life such as sharks and rays make for popular diving and snorkeling sites.
Indigenous Andaman Islanders inhabit the more remote islands, many of which are off limits to visitors.
Wildlife sanctuaries include the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, home to mangrove forests, coral reefs and a cluster of islands.
Cellular Jail, a colonial prison where British authorities held freedom fighters during the Indian struggle for independence, is a national memorial in Port Blair, the Andaman Islands’ capital.
Havelock Island, with beach resorts, is prized for its snorkeling and scuba spots. To its south is laid-back Neil Island. Ross Island is home to the ruins of the British administrative headquarters, abandoned in the mid-20th century following an earthquake.
36. Ellora taxi
Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. It is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world, featuring Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments, and artwork, dating from the 600–1000 CE period.
Cave 16, in particular, features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailasha temple, a chariot shaped monument dedicated to Shiva.
The Kailasha temple excavation also features sculptures depicting the gods, goddesses and mythologies found in Vaishnavism, Shaktism as well as relief panels summarizing the two major Hindu Epics.
There are over 100 caves at the site, all excavated from the basalt cliffs in the Charanandri Hills, 34 of which are open to public. These consist of 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves, each group representing deities and mythologies prevalent in the 1st millennium CE, as well as monasteries of each respective religion. They were built close to one another and illustrate the religious harmony that existed in ancient India.
37. Jim Corbett National Park
India’s oldest national park, opened in 1936, with a Bengal tiger reserve, visitor center & safaris.
Hyderabad is the capital of southern India’s Telangana state. A major center for the technology industry, it’s home to many upscale restaurants and shops. Its historic sites include Golconda Fort, a former diamond-trading center that was once the Qutb Shahi dynastic capital.
The Charminar, a 16th-century mosque whose 4 arches support towering minarets, is an old city landmark near the long-standing Laad Bazaar.
On the Musi River’s south bank, the Salar Jung Museum has an enormous, wide-ranging collection of global art covering several millennia. Chowmahalla Palace – built by the Nizams, Hyderabad’s princely rulers from the 18th to mid-20th centuries – is an opulent complex featuring courtyards and fountains.
North of the river, the contemporary, white-marbleHindu temple Birla Mandir occupies a hilltop with views over Hussain Sagar Lake, known for its 18m Buddha statue. On the outskirts, Ramoji Film City is a sprawling movie-production centre featuring studio tours and a theme park.
Bikaner is a city in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, east of the border with Pakistan. It’s surrounded by the Thar Desert.
The city is known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits. Nearby, the Karni Mata Temple is home to many rats considered sacred by Hindu devotees.
To the west is the 16th-century Shri Laxminath Temple, built of marble and red stone. Close by, the Jain Temple Bhandasar features an intricately carved tower and colorful murals. In the city center, the Ganga Government Museum exhibits clay pottery, old coins and Rajput weapons. Devi Kund Sagar, east of Bikaner, is lined with grand memorials dedicated to rulers of the Bikaji dynasty, who were cremated at this site.
Also on the outskirts of the city, the National Research Centre on Camel is a breeding center with a museum documenting the important role of camels in the desert.
Pondicherry (or Puducherry), a French colonial settlement in India until 1954, is now a Union Territory town bounded by the southeastern Tamil Nadu state. Its French legacy is preserved in its French Quarter, with tree-lined streets, mustard-colored colonial villas and chic boutiques. A seaside promenade runs along the Bay of Bengal and passes several statues, including a 4m-high Gandhi Memorial.
On the edge of Bharathi Park, the Pondicherry Museum displays carriages, stone sculptures and bronzes. Tranquil Paradise Beach lies south of town and can be reached by boat.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded in 1926, is a famous spiritual center devoted to integral yoga. Some 8km north, Auroville (City of Dawn) is a utopian community showcasing the Matrimandir structure’s futuristic golden sphere.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an early-20th-century Catholic church, has a neo-Gothic design. An elephant provides blessings at the entrance of Manakula Vinayagar Temple.
Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, was designed by the Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier. His buildings include the Capitol Complex with its High Court, Secretariat and Legislative Assembly, as well as the giant Open Hand Monument.
The nearby Rock Garden is a park featuring sculptures made of stones, recycled ceramics and industrial relics.
Chandigarh’s War Memorial, set amid the Bougainvillea Garden, lists the names of deceased soldiers since 1947.
Southeast, the man-made Sukhna Lake is a base for water sports and shelters migratory birds. The sprawling Zakir Hussain Rose Garden contains hundreds of rose varieties and forms part of Leisure Valley, a ribbon of themed city gardens.
The Le Corbusier Centre chronicles the history of the city and its designer. Just northwest, the Government Museum and Art Gallery displays paintings by Nicholas Roerich and Sobha Singh, plus Gandhara sculptures.
The International Dolls Museum displays dolls and puppets from around the world.
42. Pangong Tso
This remote, closed-basin lake in the Himalayas features brackish water, migrating birds & more.
Nainital is a Himalayan resort town in the Kumaon region of India’s Uttarakhand state, at an elevation of roughly 2,000m. Formerly a British hill station, it’s set around Nainital Lake, a popular boating site with Naina Devi Hindu Temple on its north shore. A cable car runs to Snow View observation point (at 2,270m), with vistas over the town and mountains including Nanda Devi, Uttarakhand’s highest peak.
Naina Peak, at 2,600m, is within hiking distance. back in town, Bara Bazaar is a popular shopping destination.
South of downtown Nainital is Raj Bhawan, a Victorian-era governmental manor offering tours of its grounds, plus a public golf course.
Elsewhere in the region, forested Jim Corbett National Park is a reserve for endangered Bengal tigers and other native wildlife. Naukuchiatal (9-Cornered Lake) and Sattal (7 Lakes) are rustic locales for boating and fishing.
Gangtok is the capital of the mountainous northern Indian state of Sikkim. Established as a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the 1840s, the city became capital of an independent monarchy after British rule ended, but joined India in 1975.
Today, it remains a Tibetan Buddhist center and a base for hikers organizing permits and transport for treks through Sikkim’s Himalayan mountain ranges.
Notable Buddhist sites include Rumtek Monastery, home of rare artifacts belonging to the Karma Kagyu order (also known as the “Black Hat”).
Enchey Monastery is built in the style of a Chinese pagoda. Whitewashed Do Drul Chorten is a giant stupa constructed in the 1940s.
The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology contains a museum housing a collection of rare manuscripts and Buddhist arts and crafts. Passing nearby, the Gangtok Ropeway gondola offers panoramic views of the city. The region’s outdoor recreation includes hiking, camping, mountain climbing and white-water rafting.
Pune is a sprawling city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. It was once the base of the Peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha Empire, which lasted from 1674 to 1818.
It’s known for the grand Aga Khan Palace, built in 1892 and now a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, whose ashes are preserved in the garden.
The 8th-century Pataleshwar Cave Temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Saras Baug Park features a Ganesh temple, dedicated to the elephant-headed god.
Parvati Hill, topped by another temple complex and the Peshwa Museum, affords panoramic views of Pune. Shaniwar Wada, an 18th-century fortified palace, was once the seat of Maratha Peshwas.
The Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum displays a whimsical collection of Indian lamps, puppets, hookah pipes and other arts and crafts.
The Darshan Museum tells the story of modern Indian saint and scholar Sadhu Vaswani through multimedia exhibits and a light and sound show.
The city also contains a commercial ashram retreat, the OSHO International Meditation Resort.
Kanyakumari is a coastal town in the state of Tamil Nadu on India’s southern tip. Jutting into the Laccadive Sea, the town was known as Cape Comorin during British rule and is popular for watching sunrise and sunset over the ocean.
It’s also a noted pilgrimage site thanks to its Bagavathi Amman Temple, dedicated to a consort of Shiva, and its Our Lady of Ransom Church, a center of Indian Catholicism.
Offshore, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial sits on a tiny island steeped in ancient legends, with a fortlike structure dedicated to Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda.
Another island is home to the colossal Thiruvalluvar Statue, adorned with elephant statues at its base. It was built to honor the Tamil poet, philosopher and author of “Thirukkural”, an important work of Tamil literature.
The Tsunami Monument commemorates the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Nearby is Gandhi Mandapam, built in the style of an Orissan Sun Temple, which marks the spot where Gandhi’s ashes were kept in an urn before being scattered in the ocean in 1948.
47. Periyar National Park
Reserve with a mountain, forests and lakes making a habitat for protected tigers and elephants.
Kodaikanal is a hill town in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It’s set in an area of granite cliffs, forested valleys, lakes, waterfalls and grassy hills.
At 2,000 meters above sea level, the town centers around man-made, star-shaped Kodaikanal Lake, bordered by evergreen forest.
Rowing boats can be hired, and hikers and cyclists follow the 5k Lake Road path around the shore.
To the west of the lake, Bryant Park’s renowned dahlias and roses are on show at summer horticultural events.
Nearby Coaker’s Walk, on the slopes of Mount Nebo, and to the south, the Green Valley View area both have panoramic views over the plains.
A viewpoint gives access to the Pillar Rocks that are massive, 122m pinnacles, frequently topped with mist. Founded by missionaries in the 19th century, Kodaikanal has many Christian churches, including the Anglican Church of St. Peter.
At Kurinji Andavar Murugan temple, the rare Kurinji flower blooms just once every 12 years.