The top 15 most amazing destinations in India

Spread the love

Witnessing India’s incredible diversity of attractions is essential for true belief. Travelers dedicate their lives to exploring both renowned and lesser-known sites due to the perpetual allure of this amazing nation.

Amidst tall Hindu temples, Mughal palaces, and mountain monasteries, a rich tapestry of history unfolds, inviting exploration and discovery. From vanished kingdoms to sophisticated cities, each locale competes for attention, weaving a narrative of cultural diversity and resilience. As you traverse through elegant hill stations nestled in the Himalayan foothills, a sense of awe and wonder envelops your journey. In a nation resolutely eschewing colonial heritage, India asserts its dominance as a global force, blending tradition with modernity. With such vast variation, the question arises: where to begin this captivating exploration of a nation embracing its multifaceted identity?

Considering the vastness of India, it’s advisable to avoid overwhelming yourself during a single visit. Start by selecting a region, like the northern plains or the tropical south. Allocate enough time to fully appreciate each destination on your list. Pause frequently to absorb the local ambiance, making your journey more enriching. Whether exploring the Himalayan mountain valleys or the vibrant culture of the south, a focused approach ensures a memorable experience.

Anticipate awe-inspiring splendor and heart-pounding moments when you travel through India. The country’s rich history, combined with tranquil moments, creates an irresistible charm amid chaotic beauty.

While this was no easy list to compile, we’re proud to present our pick of the ten best places to visit in India.

1. Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Best for romantics and fans of Mughal history

At the pinnacle of everyone’s desires, the Taj Mahal is truly as magnificent as one envisions: a mesmerizing tribute to lost love. Crafted from pristine marble, it stands gracefully. A highlight of any Indian journey is witnessing this breathtaking structure above the hazy Yamuna River, framed by a Mughal gateway.

Beyond the Taj Mahal, the former Mughal capital beckons with wonders. Extend your stay to explore Emperor Akbar’s grand tomb.Venture into the vast Agra Fort, a testament to India’s architectural prowess, and witness the allure of Fatehpur Sikri.Crafted from rose-red sandstone, Fatehpur Sikri, the old Mughal capital, awaits your exploration. Agra’s perpetual allure captivates millions of annual visitors.

2. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Best for intense spirituality

Varanasi, the sacred Hindu city, beckons with allure. Daily, ancient death rituals unfold on Ganges River ghats, prompting profound introspection. Exploring labyrinthine lanes reveals startling truths, challenging one’s cosmic place.

Brace yourself for challenges as you navigate the ancient city, where the streets echo with the struggles of life and death. Despite the adversities, injustice prevails, casting a shadow over the lives of many in India’s oldest continuously existing city. Amidst the hardships, tranquil moments emerge, especially during early mornings at the ghats, where Varanasi reveals its spiritual essence. Experience the city’s serene side as people gather at the riverside steps, focusing on the holy river, unaffected by tourist commotion.

Planning advice: From a rowboat in Varanasi, the renowned ghats are best admired. Along the west bank of the Ganges, boat stations await, offering timeless vistas at first light. The boatmen, from sunrise, showcase a riverbank that remains unchanged for seven centuries.

3. Mumbai, Maharashtra

Best for urban explorers and Bollywood hopefuls

Mumbai, an ideal locale to sense contemporary India, is a vibrant mix of Bollywood stars, market vendors, bankers, executives, and rooted fishermen families. In this populous metropolis, where a modest village once stood, diverse lives intersect seamlessly. Embark on a socially conscious journey with Reality Tours & Travel through Mumbai’s impoverished Dharavi district, gaining insights into modern-day disparities. The company generously donates 80% of its profits to meaningful social projects, aiming to uplift those overlooked in the city’s pursuit of success.

Explore the city’s diverse street cuisine, a great equalizer, before embarking on a must-do adventure: a boat voyage to Elephanta Island’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed rock-cut temples. Explore the city’s diverse street cuisine, a great equalizer, before embarking on a must-do adventure: a boat voyage to Elephanta Island’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed rock-cut temples. Immerse yourself in the unique flavors and cultural richness, making your visit unforgettable. Indulge in this culinary delight; don’t leave Mumbai without trying Bhel poori.

4. Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir

Best for an extraordinary taste of Tibet

The erstwhile Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh, situated in India’s far northwest, is culturally and geographically closest to western Tibet. Shielded from the monsoon by the Himalayan rain shadow, Ladakh’s high-altitude moonscape features towering Tibetan monasteries blending into desolate rock. On the road linking Ladakh to Himachal Pradesh, don’t miss the spectacular Hemis and Thiksey monasteries with their awe-inspiring architecture.

The majority of travelers start their Ladakh journey in Leh, a charming city serving as a gateway to exploring surrounding valleys. Homestay treks and excursions lead visitors to turquoise salt lakes and vibrant masked dances at historic monasteries in Ladakh’s valleys. For independent travelers seeking authentic Tibetan culture, Ladakh remains a unique destination, untouched by the impact of China’s Cultural Revolution.

Planning tip: Embarking on a journey to Ladakh is an exhilarating experience, with half the joy found in the journey itself. Even during the winter months, flights to Leh are available, providing access to this breathtaking region nestled in the Himalayas. However, the most delightful option involves traveling by car, either from Srinagar in Kashmir or from Manali in Himachal Pradesh. From June to the end of September, buses and shared 4WDs operate along the scenic roads, offering a shared adventure with fellow travelers. Each mode of transportation provides a unique perspective, ensuring that the journey to Ladakh becomes an integral part of the overall experience. Whether soaring above the mountains on a flight or navigating the winding roads by car or motorcycle, the journey captivates with its diversity. In all seasons, the routes present their own challenges and charms, contributing to the overall allure of reaching Ladakh.

5. Kolkata, West Bengal 

Best for culture vultures

Formerly known as Calcutta, Kolkata served as the capital of British colonial India until 1911, shaping its rich historical significance. Today, as India’s third-largest city, Kolkata stands as a vibrant hub for intellectual and creative arts, showcasing its dynamic energy. Exploring the city’s vibrant bazaars, sophisticated museums, and iconic British-era sites captivates visitors and reveals Kolkata’s multifaceted charm. Immerse yourself in the local culture by enrolling in a Bengali cooking class, a delightful way to connect with Kolkata’s culinary traditions. A visit to the holy Kalighat temple, where offerings are made to the goddess Kali, offers a spiritual insight into Kolkata’s religious diversity.

For those with extra time, consider scheduling an overnight wildlife viewing trip to the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, a habitat for the royal Bengal tiger. Transitioning from the urban to the wild, the Sundarbans provide a unique opportunity to witness nature’s wonders in close proximity. This juxtaposition of cultural immersion and natural exploration allows visitors to experience the diverse facets of Kolkata and its surrounding areas. Whether delving into the city’s rich history or connecting with its contemporary vibrancy, Kolkata promises an enchanting and memorable journey. As you explore the city and its surroundings, each moment unfolds a new layer, strengthening the infatuation with Kolkata’s magnetic allure.

Planning tip: Try to time your visit to coincide with the festival of Durga Puja in September or October, when vividly colorful effigies of the goddess are displayed in pandals (ceremonial tents) all over the city. 

6. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Best for desert drama

Rajasthan, a desert state, reflects a soft-filtered, romantic India, capturing shifting desert sands, mirage-like camel caravans, palaces, forts, traders, and vibrant colors. Due to its picturesque charm, the experience is shared with many tourists, anticipating encounters with ice-white lakeside palaces in Udaipur. Meanwhile, the pink-sandstone monuments of Jaipur captivate visitors, offering a breathtaking glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of the region. Similarly, the views of blue-hued Jodhpur from its tall fort add to the awe-inspiring sights that make Rajasthan a traveler’s paradise. Amidst all these wonders, Jaisalmer stands out, seemingly sculpted from the living rock of the desert, providing a sensory-shocking experience.

With its winding streets, the town exudes the charm of One Thousand and One Nights, capturing a timeless, enchanting allure. The majestic castle stands proudly, an architectural marvel that transports visitors to a bygone era of regal splendor. Adorning the landscape are exquisitely decorated haveli, each telling a story of traditional elegance and intricate craftsmanship. As the sun sets, the adjacent desert unfolds, providing an evocative backdrop that sets the stage for memorable overnight camel safaris.

Planning tip: While it is possible to stay inside the fortified city, visitor numbers are having an impact on Jaisalmer’s historic heart. We recommend staying outside the walls instead – there are plenty of hotels and guesthouses within strolling distance of the fort.

7. The Kerala Backwaters

Best for lovers of slow travel

Contrasting the arid northern plains, tropical South India offers a more serene tourist experience, especially in the lush Kerala backwaters. Embark on a leisurely canal boat journey through Kerala’s emerald-green waterways, spanning 900 miles, revealing the vibrant tapestry of South Indian life. Opt for a multi-day adventure by renting a traditional houseboat in Alappuzha, where your personal chef crafts delectable Keralan seafood stew.

As the sun sets, casting a golden hue on waterways and palm fronds, enjoy a culinary delight aboard your houseboat. Transitioning from the tranquil backwaters, a quick coastal trip leads to historic Kochi, renowned for Kathakali dance theaters and iconic fishing nets.

8. Bodhgaya, Bihar

Best for budding Buddhists

India’s sacred terrain boasts various faiths, such as Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, including the revered Bodhi tree, where Siddhartha attained enlightenment.

Surrounding this sacred site, a town with Tibetan and Southeast Asian-style temples and monasteries flourishes. Here, spiritual seekers find a bustling schedule of Buddhist classes and teachings.

For an enriching experience, arrive early at the Mahabodhi complex. Sit beside chanting Tibetan pilgrims, meditating on impermanence, absorbing the rhythms of Bodhgaya.

Immersing oneself in the profound travel experience of Bodhgaya allows for a deep connection with the spiritual essence of this sacred location.

Planning tip: Bodhgaya is just one stop on the so-called “Buddhist circuit,” taking in key locations from the life of the historical Buddha. Local buses run to nearby Rajgir, the site of one of the first Buddhist monasteries, and Nalanda’s ancient Buddhist university complex. 

9. Darjeeling, West Bengal

Best for a premium cup of tea with a view

Darjeeling, with its captivating charm, easily captures the hearts of visitors, surrounded by meticulously maintained tea estates and refreshing Himalayan breezes. The destination offers mesmerizing mountain views, especially during the sunrise, showcasing the majestic 8586-meter Kangchenjunga.A plantation tour unveils the nuances between first-flush and white teas, immersing visitors in the world of tea cultivation. Followed by this educational experience, Windamere Hotel provides a perfect setting for a relaxed afternoon tea. The region has other fascinating places to visit besides Darjeeling. From Darjeeling to Kalimpong, another ancient municipality with vibrant Buddhist monasteries, views of the Himalayas, and charming flower farms, shared 4WDs are a buzz.

Embark on an elegant journey via the classic narrow-gauge toy train, ensuring the enchanting steam service is operational; reserve tickets beforehand for a seamless experience. Alternatively, the diesel train follows the same route, though lacking the charm of its steam-powered counterpart; consider this option if convenience trumps charm. Explore the city adorned with numerous Buddhist gompas, each offering a glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry; these spiritual sanctuaries are a must-see. Among the many, the ancient Yiga Choeling Gompa, nestled on the outskirts of Ghum beneath Darjeeling, holds a unique and captivating charm; plan a visit to experience its allure.

Planning tip: The region has other fascinating places to visit besides Darjeeling. From Darjeeling to Kalimpong, another ancient municipality with vibrant Buddhist monasteries, views of the Himalayas, and charming flower farms, shared 4WDs are a buzz.

10. Hampi, Karnataka

Best for a full immersion in history

With 3700 stone monuments scattered across a peculiar plain at Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagar empire, a fascinating historical panorama unfolds.Home to half a million people from the 14th to the 16th centuries CE, Hampi now stands virtually abandoned, echoing its glorious past.As you explore, immerse yourself in the intricately carved masonry, visit abandoned shrines, and admire remnants of the region’s stunning stone temples.Meandering among the rocks, each step reveals the rich history embedded in the ruins, a testament to South India’s architectural prowess.

Planning tip: From the hamlet of Hosapete, take a short bus trip to Hampi. Alternatively, take an overnight train from the beaches of Goa, the mediaeval city of Hyderabad, or the bustling southern metropolis of Bengaluru.

11. Arunachal Pradesh

Best for stepping off the map

The eight Northeast States of India are concealed near Bangladesh, forming the nation’s remote and untamed boundary.This region, comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Sikkim, remained largely inaccessible until the 1990s.Even now, not many people venture into this wild expanse, earning those who do the title of legitimate explorers.Sikkim is the most renowned destination in the Northeast, but we suggest heading east to Arunachal Pradesh for a unique experience.

Arunachal Pradesh’s forested foothills and rugged mountains beckon with tribal communities practicing diverse traditional belief systems. From the animist Apatani people in the Ziro valley to the Buddhist Monpa people of Tawang, rich cultural experiences await. These tribal communities offer a glimpse into a world largely untouched by mainstream tourism, fostering a sense of genuine exploration. Consider venturing beyond the well-trodden paths to truly discover the hidden gems of the Northeast, a region steeped in cultural diversity.

Planning tip: Arunachal Pradesh requires some work to get to; you have to apply for a permit to enter the state, and there isn’t much local transport. Having a driver and a chartered 4WD is by far the most convenient method to explore; this may be arranged in Guwahati, Assam.

12. Amritsar, Punjab

Best for experiencing the power of devotion

India boasts numerous pilgrimage sites, yet Amritsar’s Golden Temple stands out, a vibrant jewel box amid the sacred pool’s reflection.The Golden Temple, the most revered in Sikhism, captivates with its shimmering beauty, attracting an overwhelming number of devoted pilgrims.Religious beliefs aside, anyone can feel the powerful rhythms at Sri Harmandir Sahib, the gold-paneled shrine at the complex’s heart.The experience becomes profoundly moving when spending a night in pilgrims’ hostels surrounding the shrine, fostering a deeper connection.

Lodging may involve a donation, but pilgrims are warmly welcomed, creating an inclusive atmosphere for all, regardless of means.Another remarkable aspect is the opportunity to dine at the temple langar, a kitchen serving an astonishing 100,000 people daily for free.Donations are appreciated, yet the emphasis remains on hospitality and generosity, making the temple a symbol of unity and compassion.

Planning tip: Explore outside the Golden Temple. there are bustling bazaars all around that provide a plethora of goods from brass and polished steel pots and pans to embroidered chappals (sliders).

13. Mysuru (Mysore), Karnatak

Best for feeling like a Maharaja

In the evocative marketplace of Mysuru, the ancient home of the Wadiyar maharajas, visitors are drawn to the city’s diverse attractions.Towering temples and the almost impossible-to-afford Mysuru Palace showcase the opulent lifestyles of India’s royal emperors.Each chamber in the Mysuru Palace is a work of art, with embellishments serving as a rich family legacy.The bustling bazaars, noteworthy museums, and traditional Dravidian-style Hindu temples surround the magnificent palace.

Exploring the streets reveals the vibrant charm of Mysuru, offering a glimpse into its cultural and historical richness.Climbing Chamundi Hill is a must, leading to the awe-inspiring Sri Chamundeshwari Temple with its ancient significance.Indulge in the culinary delights of Mysuru by savoring spicy vegetarian thalis at the city’s diverse and enticing eateries.

14. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Best for tiger encounters

Madhya Pradesh national parks provide an unparalleled opportunity to encounter royal Bengal tigers up close, a cherished memory.Despite the joy, the sobering reality of the declining tiger population in the wild tugs at the heartstrings.Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, situated near Jabalpur, stands out for the rich animal density, especially in the central Tala range.

Personal preferences dictate one’s favorite tiger reserve, showcasing the diverse appeal of these natural habitats.The arid woodlands host approximately 70 tigers, along with leopards, monkeys, deer, and the formidable Indian wild buffalo, gaurs.Dedicated 4WD safaris over several days increase the likelihood of spotting elephants, with a caution against hazardous elephant rides.

Planning tip: The greatest time to view tigers is first thing in the morning – safaris start at 5:30am to catch tigers before they stake out a shaded area in the undergrowth to sleep through the heat of the day.

15. Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Best for religious splendor

Hindu temples in South India showcase vibrant representations of deities, both inside and out, creating a jubilant celebration of the holy.The Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, boasts majestic gopurams that provide a three-dimensional overview of Hindu deities.Revered for over 2000 years, the temple’s present structure was built in the 17th century during the Pandya empire.Meenakshi, the queen and avatar of Parvati, played a significant role in the temple’s historical and religious significance.

For a breathtaking experience, visit the temple early in the morning to witness the sunrise casting an illuminating glow on its intricate architecture. After your visit, indulge in the culinary delights of the region by heading to the nearby Murugan Idli Shop. This popular eatery is renowned for serving some of the best idli, a steamed rice and lentil dish, in South India.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *