India's incredible attractions span a vast and diverse landscape, offering a tapestry of cultural, natural, and historical wonders to explore. From the iconic Taj Mahal to the mystical landscapes of Hampi and the vibrant streets of Delhi, India's treasures await discovery. Embark on a journey through this captivating country to experience its rich heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant traditions. To travel to India, you will need an Indian visa.
Nestled within the vibrant Chandni Chowk market in the heart of Old Delhi lies Gali Paranthe Wali, a renowned food lane celebrated for its unique Delhi-stylestuffed parathas. These delightful flatbreads, crafted from wheat dough and lightly fried in oil on both sides, are a culinary masterpiece. While the traditional potato filling is a staple, Gali Paranthe Wali offers an array of unconventional fillings ranging from cheese and squash to raisins, mint, mixed vegetables, cashews, and more.
For an immersive experience into the world of Delhi's iconic street food, consider embarking on a food tour of this historic lane. To reach Gali Paranthe Wali, simply take the metro to Chandni Chowk. Once you arrive, head east on Chandni Chowk until you reach the alley that leads to these paratha restaurants.
Nestled near the banks of the Yamuna River, Akshardham stands as an awe-inspiring cultural complex and one of India's most remarkable architectural achievements. This colossal temple is a testament to the skill and artistry of several thousand Indian artisans who painstakingly crafted its intricate carvings. The very sight of Akshardham is bound to leave you mesmerised, with its unique and almost otherworldly architecture that defies description even before you step inside.
Upon entering Akshardham, you'll find yourself immersed in a world of astonishingly detailed design, from the ornate pillars to the intricately adorned walls and the soaring domed ceilings that narrate the captivating story of Hinduism. Arriving an hour or so before sunset adds an extra layer of enchantment, as the temple is beautifully illuminated, etching an indelible memory in your mind.
Raj Mandir Cinema, b, stands as one of India's most renowned cinematic landmarks. This expansive art-deco masterpiece is my personal favourite destination in the country to indulge in a Bollywood movie. Its pastel-coloured interior design, impeccably attired staff, commodious theatre featuring comfortable seating, and the electrifying ambiance created by hundreds of enthusiastic Indian movie enthusiasts collectively give you the sensation of attending a grand movie premiere.
As an added delight, after the movie concludes, you'll find yourself just a two-minute stroll away from MI Road, where an array of Jaipuri lassi shops awaits. Join the queues, order a generous serving of sweet lassi, and relish its exquisite flavours to complete your cinematic experience.
Chand Baori Stepwell, a remarkable structure dating back over 1,200 years and regarded as one of India's largest "water tanks."Constructed during the rule of King Chanda from the Nikumbh Dynasty in 8000 BCE, this colossal rectangular well plunges to a depth of approximately 30 metres. Its defining feature is the intricate network of over 3,500 steps that crisscross in a meticulously designed labyrinth on three sides, creating a mesmerising interplay of sunlight reflecting off its various angles.
Upon venturing inside, do take a moment to admire the numerous statues depicting Hindu deities and religious scenes that adorn the outer walkway of the well, some of which have stood the test of time for a millennium. Entry to this architectural marvel is free, but it's customary to offer a token "tip" to the diligent local caretaker who ensures the site's immaculate upkeep.
Nestled slightly off the main route connecting Jodhpur to Udaipur, the village of Ranakpur exudes a serene ambiance, offering respite from the bustling world. In this peaceful enclave, you'll find more than just a few hotels and restaurants; the crown jewel is the Ranakpur Jain Temple, a revered Jain pilgrimage site with roots dating back to the 15th century.
Nestled within a lush forest, this architectural marvel is distinguished by its magnificent display of over 1,400 intricately carved pillars, each one a unique masterpiece. As you traverse the temple's courtyard, you'll be enveloped in an almost mystical atmosphere, akin to wandering through an ancient and never-ending maze.
While Udaipur offers a plethora of attractions for visitors, one lesser-known yet incredibly rewarding activity is spending a day or more volunteering at Animal Aid Unlimited. This remarkable organisation serves as a refuge, hospital, and sanctuary for injured and ailing street animals—a unique endeavour not commonly found in India, despite the ubiquitous presence of animals in the country.
Animal Aid welcomes visitors with open arms, offering guided tours by their knowledgeable staff or the opportunity to become a volunteer, whether for a short-term or long-term commitment. Your involvement will make a meaningful difference in the lives of these animals.
Natraj Dining Hall, a beloved establishment among Udaipur's locals, offers a unique opportunity to savour a traditional Indian thali, an experience less common for foreign visitors. A thali comprises a diverse array of dishes, typically served on a large, circular metal platter, providing a delightful culinary journey.
Located in the Bapu Bazaar area, it's a leisurely 30-minute walk from the City Palace. If you're fortunate, you may find yourself without a queue, but once seated, you can anticipate a swift and satisfying dining experience.
Natraj offers a delightful, all-you-can-eat dining experience featuring an array of flavorful vegetarian dishes, including chapati and chutneys, with some dishes carrying a spicy kick. Remarkably, this culinary delight is available at an affordable price.
In the picturesque town of Bundi, Rajasthan, an extraordinary guided tour led by the local legend, Kukki, offers a captivating journey. Kukki's incredible life story and unconventional discovery of ancient cave paintings and artefacts, despite minimal formal education or archaeology background, make this excursion remarkable. Highlights include 15,000-year-old cave paintings portraying hunting scenes and daily life, showcasing Kukki's astonishing discoveries.
Beyond the mesmerising cave art, Kukki's tour offers an extraordinary opportunity to explore seldom-visited corners of Rajasthan, listen to endless captivating stories from his life and work, and gain insights into the rich history of the region. Kukki's charismatic personality alone is reason enough to embark on this adventure, and if you find yourself in Bundi, there's no better way to spend half a day.
Varanasi, a city steeped in 3,800 years of history, may not be everyone's cup of tea due to its intensity and rawness, but it undeniably exudes an irresistible allure. This ancient city is a tapestry of religious ceremonies, countless temples, open cremations, labyrinthine lanes weaving through age-old markets, crumbling palaces, devout individuals immersed in prayers and purifying rituals in the sacred Ganges River, and free-roaming animals—all within the confines of one mesmerising destination.
Hidden in the Bengali Tola area of the Old City, the Jolly Music House, hosted by the welcoming Jolly, offers traditional Indian music courses and mesmerising evening concerts. This hidden gem promises an enchanting musical experience that may make you want to return every night during your stay in the captivating city of Varanasi, especially when you mention Earl's recommendation.
Orchha, the mediaeval gem enveloped by lush green jungles, frequently receives bus groups who make brief visits to explore a handful of temples before continuing their journeys. However, if you choose to spend a couple of nights here, you'll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the timeless beauty of this mediaeval city, where breathtaking temples and palaces adorn the landscape at every turn, and you can often have it all to yourself.
To savour an enchanting experience in this tranquil realm, rise early, rent a bicycle, and explore the scenic paths connecting temples, palaces, and forts. In the evening, head to the serene courtyard of the Ram Raja Temple, offering a rooftop vantage point for observing vibrant festivals and ceremonies as the tour buses depart.
Despite its small size, Orchha offers limited accommodations, but an excellent choice is to secure a homestay in a local family's residence through the NGO Friends of Orchha, providing you with an authentic and immersive experience in this historical haven.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, a symbol of spiritual richness, offers profound experiences amidst its glistening beauty and the constant influx of pilgrims. Don't miss the Langar Hall, where visitors, both Indian and foreign, are warmly welcomed to enjoy a simple yet delicious complimentary meal, serving up to 100,000 people daily in a unique communal dining experience seated on the floor.
Although there may not be much time for extended conversations, you'll likely find yourself waving and exchanging smiles with fellow Indians seated nearby, all curious about your presence. Once you step outside, you'll often discover the warm embrace of handshakes and lively conversations with those you shared your meal with, creating a unique and heartwarming connection.
This hidden gem exudes a relaxed charm, offering an affordable blend of beachfront huts nestled within a welcoming and easily traversable village setting. Here, pristine white sands stretch along the shoreline, bordered by towering palm trees. The azure waters are calm and ideal for swimming, while the consistently stunning sunsets paint the sky as the sun descends behind Monkey Island, a jungle-covered haven at the far end of the beach each evening.
You'll find an eclectic array of culinary options, simple yet lively nightlife, water-based activities, and a plethora of day trip opportunities to waterfalls, secluded beaches, snorkelling spots, canyons, and more—all while maintaining its laid-back and inviting atmosphere. If you're wondering where to stay in this enchanting locale, be sure to check out "A quick guide to Palolem, Goa" for valuable insights.
It's affectionately referred to it as "the loop," and if you're seeking a genuine Himalayan adventure, this mesmerising route through the Kinnaur, Lahaul, and Spiti Valleys, commencing in Shimla and concluding in Manali, stands as one of the most awe-inspiring options. Along this journey, you'll have the opportunity to visit captivating villages like Kalpa, Nako, Tabo, Dhankar, Kaza, Ki, and Kibber.
Surrounded by the breathtaking panorama of snow-capped mountains at every turn, you'll feel as though you've been transported to a concealed realm of unparalleled beauty, an experience that leaves an indelible mark on your soul. To truly relish this Himalayan odyssey, allocate 10 to 14 days for the loop, as it promises to be one of the most unforgettable chapters in your travel adventures.
This venerable city once engaged in trade with ancient Rome, a testament to its historical significance. Madurai beckons tourists with its crowning jewel, the Meenakshi Amman Temple, a sprawling architectural marvel that ranks among India's finest. Wandering through its labyrinthine corridors is a journey into the heart of Indian spirituality.
Madurai is adorned with ornate temples and ancient palaces that bear witness to its rich heritage. Remarkably, this city thrives not only on its historical legacy but also as a hub for information technology—an intriguing blend that defines its distinct character.
Notable to travellers is the Chithirai festival, celebrated during April. This festivity, known as one of the world's longest-running festivals, reenacts the sacred union of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar. It unfolds with vibrant local fairs and a grand procession of temple chariots, offering a captivating glimpse into Madurai's cultural vibrancy and traditions.
Nestled in the spotlight of India's tourism industry, Gandikota, often referred to as "India's Grand Canyon," is a captivating destination that has been gaining well-deserved recognition. This charming village is perched on the right bank of the river Pennar and is renowned for its Grand Canyon-like gorge, sculpted by the meandering river as it winds through the Erramala hills.
A prominent attraction in Gandikota is the historic Gandikota Fort, an imposing structure erected during the 13th century for defensive purposes. The fort's sprawling walls offer an exhilarating vantage point, allowing visitors to revel in the breathtaking vistas of the tranquil river below. Beyond the fort, the village boasts architectural wonders such as the Malyavanta Raghunatha Swamy Temple and the Madhavaraya Temple, both of which showcase exquisite craftsmanship and design.
Nestled in the southwestern state of Karnataka, Mysore beckons visitors to experience the refined life of a Maharaja. The city's crown jewel, the awe-inspiring Mysore Palace, stands as its foremost attraction—a resplendent three-story stone masterpiece adorned with marble domes and crowned by a majestic 44-metre-tall five-story tower.
It offers a wealth of experiences to enrich your itinerary. Stroll through the enchanting Brindavan Gardens, nestled below the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam, or embark on a wildlife journey at the Mysore Zoo, where you can marvel at a diverse array of birds and animals. Contemplate life's mysteries by the serene Karanji Lake, or be captivated by the sheer beauty of one of India's most exquisite waterfalls—the Shivanasamudra Falls.
While Mysore's nightlife may not rival its vibrant neighbour, Bangalore, the city compensates with its luminous evenings. For a surreal experience, ascend to the summit via the winding hill road, where the city's illuminated panorama unfolds before your eyes. On a clear night, the view from the top is nothing short of breathtaking, making it an unforgettable way to cap off your Mysore adventure.
A sojourn in Hampi transports you to a realm akin to a fantastical wonderland in a distant world. This captivating landscape is adorned with colossal boulders, undulating hills, and ancient ruins, juxtaposed against the backdrop of lush palm groves, verdant paddy fields, and thriving banana plantations. Situated in the state of Karnataka, Hampi is a haven for those seeking an offbeat and immersive experience, making it an undisputed gem among India's destinations.
Make your way to Virupapur Gaddi, affectionately known as "Hippie Island" among backpackers, and immerse yourself in the Sunset Jam Session at Sunset Point. An hour before the sun sets, the atmosphere comes alive with the melodic strains of strings, rhythmic percussion, and various musical instruments, beckoning individuals to dance and revel in the mesmerising spectacle.
Nestled in the Jammu and Kashmir region, Leh-Ladakh stretches beyond the majestic Himalayas, revealing awe-inspiring landscapes and an array of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries adorned with thousands of prayer flags. Aptly named the "Land of High Passes," this high-altitude haven is predominantly inhabited by Tibetans, who exhibit remarkable self-sufficiency in terms of food and fuel.
Traversing the winding roads of Leh-Ladakh unveils a treasure trove of stupas and monasteries, offering spiritual sanctuaries amidst the lofty mountains. Adventure enthusiasts will find their calling here, with opportunities for river rafting, trekking, camel safaris, and thrilling jeep expeditions that promise an adrenaline-packed journey.
Noteworthy is the enigmatic "Magnetic Hill," located approximately 30 kilometres from Leh on the Kargil Highway. Here, a fascinating phenomenon occurs: even when your car's engine is turned off, it mysteriously continues to move, adding a touch of mystique to your Leh-Ladakh exploration.
What are some must-visit cultural sites in India?
India is rich in cultural heritage. Don't miss the Taj Mahal in Agra, Jaipur's Amber Fort, Varanasi's Ganges River Ghats, and the ancient temples of Khajuraho.
Where can I experience Indian cuisine at its best?
Explore street food markets in Delhi, savour South Indian dosas in Chennai, and enjoy the flavours of Rajasthan in Jaipur. Also, consider trying thali, a traditional Indian meal with a variety of dishes.
What are some adventure activities in India?
Trek to the breathtaking Himalayan trails in Himachal Pradesh, go white-water rafting in Rishikesh, or take a camel safari in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan.
What's the best way to explore India's wildlife?
Visit national parks like Ranthambhore, Jim Corbett, and Kaziranga for a chance to spot tigers, elephants, and rhinoceros. South India's Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is also a great choice.
What are some unique experiences in India?
Attend a traditional Indian wedding, celebrate the colourful festival of Holi, or take part in a yoga and meditation retreat in Rishikesh.
What's the best time to visit India?
The best time to visit varies by region. Generally, October to March is pleasant for most of India, while the summer months can be scorching. Himalayan regions are best from April to October.
How do I travel within India efficiently?
India has an extensive railway network, and trains are a popular and efficient way to travel. Domestic flights are also available between major cities, and buses are an option for shorter distances.
What should I know about Indian etiquette and customs?
Dress modestly, remove your shoes before entering temples or homes, and use your right hand for eating and offering or receiving items. Respect local customs and traditions.