India is an enormous and diverse destination. Bordered by Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, not to mention the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, means that there are many different sides to the country.
More than 20 official languages, multiple religions and a variety of cuisines exist within India’s borders. To truly experience the breadth of Indian culture and history, travel is key. Head to as many of these best places to visit in India as your itinerary allows.
The southwestern state of India known as Kerala is a place of tropical beauty. Palm trees, white sand beaches and eco-tourism are all big reasons to explore the region. Besides its famous backwaters, elegant houseboats and temple festivals, Kerala is also home to Thekkady, a tiger preserve which allows you to admire flora and fauna without crowds. The hub of Kerala is the city of Kochi, where you can see the local fishing industry thriving along with modern high-rises and colonial architecture. Kochi is ethnically and religiously diverse, and in a single afternoon you can explore a Jewish synagogue, a Dutch palace, the Portuguese Pallipuram Fort and the Hindu Thrikkakara Temple.
Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest living cities. Located in North India on the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi has been an important center of learning for ages as well as a chief pilgrimage destination for many Hindus. It has some of the most significant temples which includes the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva, the Durga Temple and the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, which is known for housing numerous monkeys.
Probably the most famous sites of the city are the ghats, the series of embankment steps leading down to the Ganges River, where many people gather to bathe. The oldest and main ghat is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The Manikarnika Ghat is a burning ghat where Hindu cremations and rituals of death anniversaries are frequently held. Yoga, shaves and massages are other activities available here. The best way to see the ghats is by taking a morning boat ride at sunrise.
Northwest India is where you’ll find the state of Rajasthan, which borders Pakistan and is home to the Thar Desert. Whether you’re interested in Rajput history or views of the Aravallis Mountains, Rajasthan contains some of the best places to visit in India. Jaipur, or the Pink City, is the capital of Rajasthan and a wonderful place to begin your trip. It is home to an array of incredible architecture, including three forts, many temples and the extraordinary City Palace. Also in Rajasthan and worth visiting is Jodhpur, the so-called Blue City that is the gateway to the Thar Desert as well as the home to the spectacular Mehrangarh Fort.
If you’re spending any time in Northern India, you will almost certainly visit the capital city of Delhi. The enormous sprawling destination is home to several districts, and it is considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world. One of the top sights in Delhi is the Red Fort, or Lal Qila, which was built in the 17th century. The Red Fort is made from sandstone, and you will be able to walk through its Lahore Gate, into the bazaar, through the jewel palace and even into the former residence of the sultan. While in Delhi, you should also make time for the many museums and religious structures that make up the city.
In northernmost India, in the heavily disputed Kashmir region, is the mountainous destination of Ladakh. This region is large, but it has a low population density and a number of nomadic residents. Breathtaking, pristine scenery is a major draw to the area, but virtually all travelers will also spend time in the town of Leh. The town is located at a very high elevation, and it is also home to the 17th century Palace of the King of Ladakh. Buddhist culture is also prominent in Leh, and you may wish to explore some of the many Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Old Town.