Top 25 Highlights of India for travel

Top 25 Highlights of India for travel

1. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Taj Mahal rises from the beaten earth of Uttar Pradesh as it dies in dreams, but even the wildest imaginings leave travelers underprepared for that breath-stealing moment when its gates are traversed and this magnificent world wonder comes into focus. Photographs cannot truly capture its grandeur. While this is true for most photos, it seems especially true for this almost perfectly proportioned tomb of Mumtaz Mahal and its creator, Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal ruler.

2. Holy Varanasi,  Uttar Pradesh

Everyone in Varanasi seems to be dying or praying or hustling or cremating someone or swimming or laundering or washing buffaloes in the sewage-saturated Ganges. The goddess river will clean away your sins and help you escape from that tedious life and death cycle. Varanasi is the India of your imagination. One of the most colorful and fascinating places on earth, surprises abound around every corner.

3. Backwaters of Kerala

It’s unusual in India to find a place as vast and tranquil as the backwaters of Kerala. It’s a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) of Kerala state in southern India.  The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes, and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways, and sometimes compared to the American Bayou.

There is no way to experience that peaceful and intimate as a few days on a teak and palm thatch houseboat. Float along the water as the sun sets behind the palms, or while eating to die for Keralan seafood, or as you sleep under a twinkling sky and forget about life on land for a while.

4. Alluring Darjeeling

Up in a tippy-top nook of India’s far northeast is storied Darjeeling. It is noted for its tea industry, the spectacular views of Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Darjeeling grew in prominence during the mid 19th century when, because of its climate, the British first established a hill station thereafter leasing it from the Chogyal of Sikkim and later discovered that the area was particularly well suited for tea plantations.

Undulating hills of bulbous tea shrubs are pruned by women in colorful dresses, the majestic Himalayas peak through puffy clouds as the sun climbs out from behind the mountains and little alleys wend their way through mountain mist, past clotheslines, and monasteries. ride the Toy Train and drink it all in the tea and the town’s legendary enchantment.

5. Goan Beaches

There is no better place in India to be lazy than on one of Goa’s spectacular beaches. Bounded by Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the east and south, the Arabian Sea forms its western coast. One of the biggest tourist attractions in Goa is water sports. Beaches like Baga and Calangute offer jet-skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, water scooter rides, and more.

The sand is peppered with fellow travelers and beach- shack restaurants. Goa’s treasure is for fans of creature comforts who like their seafood fresh and their holidays easy.

6. Sexy Khajuraho

The Temples of Khajuraho have sensuous statues, the Kamasutra, Tantric examples for initiates, or allegories for the faithful. They are definitely naughty fun, with hot nymphs, a nine-person orgy, and even men getting it on with horses.

Historical records note that the Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by the 12th century, spread over 20 square kilometers. Of these, only about 20 temples have survived, spread over 6 square kilometers. Of the various surviving temples, the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is decorated with a profusion of sculptures with intricate details, symbolism, and expressiveness of ancient Indian art. Once the titillation passes, you will be pleasantly absorbed by the exquisite carving of these thousand-year-old temples and the magical feeling of 11th century India.

7. Yoga in Rishikesh

Rishikesh is called the Yoga Capital of the World. It is surrounded by three districts: Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, and Haridwar.

It has numerous yoga centers that attract tourists. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to the attainment of moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it. From the US, Europe, and China, and Australia, serious yoga students come to learn asanas and kriyas that will help them lead healthy life.

8. Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest fully preserved fortified cities in the world. It is situated in the city of Jaisalmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

The 12th-century citadel looks like something from a dream. The enormous golden sandstone fort, with its crenelated ramparts and undulating towers, is a fantastical structure, even while camouflaged against the desert sand. Inside an ornate royal pace, fairytale mansions, intricately carved temples and narrow lanes conspire to create one of the world’s best places to get lost.

9. Delhi’s Market

Shopaholics be careful not to lose control. Delhi is one of the world’s finest places to shop and its markets Old Delhi, Khan market, or the specialty bazaars have something you want. The vibrant atmosphere of Delhi markets can make shopping lots of fun. In fact, Delhi has the best markets in India, selling a huge array of items including handicrafts from all over the country.

The range of technicolor saris, glittering gold and silver bling, mounds of rainbow vermilion, aromatic fresh spices, stainless steel head massagers, bangles, and bobby pins, heaping piles of fruits and marigold and coconut offerings is simply astounding.

10. Ellora Cave Temples

Indian rock-cut architecture, these astounding cave temples were chipped out laboriously through five centuries by the generation of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks. Ellora rock-cut caves containing carvings are the finest example of Indian paintings and sculptures.

They are the queen of Sahyadri hills buried by thick forests all around. The greenery that surrounds the caves keeps the atmosphere pleasant and fresh. This visit will induce a sense of discovery, a discovery of the self, and of the divine.

11. Tiger Safaris

You have to be lucky to spot a tiger in India, but it can be done. Follow the trail of the elusive wild tiger across India’s best game reserves. Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan is one of India’s most exciting experiences to steal through the undergrowth, surrounded by birds and butterflies, in search of a tiger.

And even if you don’t catch sight of one, the other wildlife and the deep forest setting of most tiger reserves will prove a breathtaking distraction.

12. Dreamy Hampi

Today’s surreal boulder escape of Hampi was once the glorious and cosmopolitan Vijayanagar, the capital of a powerful Hindu empire. Still glorious in ruins, its temples and royal structures combine sublimely with the terrain: giant rocks balance on skinny pedestals near an ancient elephant garage; temples tuck into crevices between boulders, and round coracle boats float by rice paddies and bathing buffaloes near a gargantuan bathtub for a queen. Watching the sunset cast a rosy glow over the dreamy landscape, you might just forget what planet you’re on.

13. Mumbai Architecture

Mumbai has always absorbed everything in her midst and made them her own. The architectural result is a heady mix of buildings with countless influences. The art deco and modern towers are flashy, but it’s the eclectic Victorian-era structures – the neo-Gothic, Indo-Saracenic, and Venetian Gothic hodgepodge – that have come to define Mumbai and make her the flamboyant beauty that she is. All those spires, gables, arches, and onion domes make for a pleasant walk through the city’s past.

14. Tibetan Buddhism

Up north, in places such as Mcleod Ganj, where the air is cooler and crisper, quaint hill stations give way to snow-topped peaks. Here, the cultural influences came not by coasts but via mountain passes. Tibetan Buddhism thrives, and multilayered monasteries emerge from the forest or steep cliffs as vividly and poetically as the sun rises over golden Khangchendzonga. Weathered prayer flags on forest paths blow in the wind, the sound of monks chanting reverberates in meditation halls, and locals bring offerings and make merit, all in the shadow of the mighty Himalaya.

15. Meenakshi Amman temple

Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her consort, Shiva, here named Sundareswarar. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500-year-old city. It is one of India’s key places to experience the vibrant wonder of religious life.

16. Kochi

It’s easy to be beguiled in the ancient Keralan port of Kochi. Its most charming district, Fort Cochin, displays a tantalizing cocktail of influences, the Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch, and Portuguese have left indelible marks on the history and development of Cochin. Cochin has outgrown its original bounds and is now the general name given to much of the region adjoining the original town, which now includes Cochin, Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Ernakulam, and many other nearby towns and villages.

17. Puducherry Savoir Faire

A little pocket of France in Tamil Nadu? Pourquoi Pas? In this former French colony, yellow houses line cobblestone streets, grand cathedrals are adorned with architectural frou-frou, and the croissants are the real deal. But Puducherry’s also a Tamil town – with all the history, temples, and hustle and bustle that goes along with that – and a classic retreat town, too, with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at its heart. Turns out that yoga, pain chocolate, Hindu gods, and colonial-era architecture make for an atmospheric melange.

18. Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

India is full of incredible, fantastical forts, but one of the most memorable you will see is Mehrangarh Fort.  Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur is one of the largest forts in forts. It is also the most magnificent fort in Jodhpur, in fact, in the whole of Rajasthan. The fort is amongst the popular tourist places in India. It is situated on a 150 m high hill. It was founded by Rao Jodha in 1459. The Mehrangarh Fort can be reached from the city, 5 km below, through a circular road.

19. Kerala’s Tea and Spice Plantations

The southern state of Kerala is famous for its beaches and backwaters, but one of the region’s highlights is its lush plantations in the hills. Munnar is always synonymous with the tea plantation. A trip to Munnar will be incomplete without having a visit to these tea plantations. Munnar is a place known for its beautiful tea estates and tea cultivation. No one will return home without tasting or shopping for the tea essence of Munnar.

20. Darjeeling Toy Train

India’s quintessential journey is still the long train ride. Domestic flights are increasingly common, but as the train’s 20 million daily passengers will tell you, you can’t watch the Indian landscape change from dry valley to lush mountain forest to lime-green rice paddies on a plane.  Darjeeling Toy Train’s one of the prettiest and quaintest journeys is the narrow gauge train trip on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

The journey offers breathtaking views of the mountains, valleys, forests, tea gardens, and local villages on the way.  The toy train track has several zigzags and loops on the way that help the train to negotiate steep gradients.

21. Udaipur

The romance of Udaipur a town seemingly sculpted from faded lace and built around several beautiful lakes, framed by pale blue hills. Udaipur’s center is still mostly intact and has been saved from the worst ravages of rampant development. You can walks its narrow streets and whilst dodging cows and heavily-laden donkeys, gaze upwards at intricately carved Havelis, palaces, and temples and easily imagine yourself transported back in time a couple of hundred years.

22. Camel Rides

Love out a maharajah fantasy and take desert safaris around Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. You will lollop through the rocky terrain atop the tall, goofy creatures, camp out among sand dunes under star-packed skies, and visit remote villages where dessert dwellers’ clothes flicker like flames against the Landscape, gaggles of children run out and musicians sing about local life.

23. Amritsar’s Golden Temple

The Sikhs’ holiest of shrines, the Golden Temple is a magical place designed for people of all religions to worship. Seeming to float atop a glistening pool named for the ‘nectar of immortality’, the temple is a gorgeous structure, made even more so by its extreme goldness (the lotus-shaped dome is gilded in the real thing). Even when crowded with happy pilgrims, the temple is peaceful, with birds singing outside and the lake gently lapping against the godly abode.

24. Delhi

India’s capital has had several incarnations over the last few thousand years, which partly explains why there’s so much going on here. Dust, noise, and chaos aside, Delhi is full of stunning architecture, culture (its residents come from all over the country), good food, and even better shopping. The Mughal legacy is one of its biggest attractions: Old Delhi is all crumbling splendor, with the majestic Jama Masjid, the massive Red Fort, and other monuments of the historic Mughal capital adorning the old city like royal jewels.

25. Mysore Palace

Undoubtedly over the top, this 100-year old Indo-Sarcenic marvel is a kaleidoscope of stained glass, mirrors, and gaudy colors – is undoubtedly over the top. The decor is further embellished by carved wooden doors, mosaic floors, and a series of paintings depicting life in Mysore during the Edwardian Raj. The way into the palace takes you past a fine collection of sculptures and artifacts. Don’t forget to check out the armory, with an intriguing collection of 700-plus weapons.

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.