Delhi gives new meaning to the phrase sprawling capital. The city fans out for miles and miles, merging the fast-paced bustle of a modern metropolis with the charm of the old world.
The capital often leaves many visitors intimidated by its size and scope, but that’s not a problem if you know where to go.
For starters, you can visit Old Delhi, the cramped historic center of the capital. The narrow alleys lead to colorful bazaars and markets such as Chandni Chowk, where you can scour souvenirs, local crafts, and other good finds. Rising above the area is the Red Fort, an imposing remnant of the Mughal Empire. India’s oldest and largest mosque, Jama Masjid, is another enduring icon in Delhi.
The old British stronghold in New Delhi offers wide leafy parks, staid government buildings, and tree-lined avenues. The immense Rashtrapati Bhavan, where the president resides, is larger than the Versailles Palace in Paris. Other landmarks in New Delhi include Humayun’s Tomb and Qutb Minar.
Only 125 miles from the capital, Agra makes for a monumental weekend trip to India’s most romantic landmark, the ethereal Taj Mahal. Long hailed as a beautiful symbol of undying love, the iconic structure was built by the famous Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who reigned from 1627 to 1658, for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Shah Jahan is also credited for the construction of Agra’s Red Fort, the 1.5-mile long wall made from sandstone that protected what was once India’s premier city.
The same Mughal magnificence can be seen in city of Fatehpur Sikri, which was once the seat of the empire during the time of Akbar the Great. Attractions like the Buland Darwaza gate, the Jama Masjid mosque, and the five-storied Panch Mahal palace are also included in tourist itineraries.
Agra is located in the Uttar Pradesh state and forms a triumvirate known as the Golden Triangle with Delhi and Jaipur. This triumvirate is India’s favorite sightseeing route.
Northern India’s Rajasthan translates to “Land of the Kings,” an apt description for a region filled with golden palaces and impressive fortresses. It is also a favorite destination for safari treks and camel rides, with India’s oldest mountain range, Aravalli Range, providing an inspiring backdrop.
Jaipur, the state capital situated 265 kilometers from Delhi, has an acclaimed list of must-see attractions. The old walled section is called the Pink City; it is so named because of its intricately designed exteriors painted in red, an auspicious color among Hindus. The central figure inside the old city is the City Palace, the glorious residence of past maharajahs of Jaipur since its establishment by Jai Singh in 1728.
Erected on the edge of the palace complex is another magnificent structure, the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. The elaborate building was actually a viewing deck for the ladies of the court, offering them a discreet vantage point from which to view the streets and the bazaars.
Lush green hills and palaces casting a reflection on the glistening waters of Lake Pichola give Udaipur its legendary fame and romantic allure. Udaipur’s City Palace rises above the lake like a vision out of fairy tales.
The current maharana lives inside the palace complex as a custodian of the Mewar Dynasty after Udaipur became part of India.
Many of the Udaipur palaces, such as Shiv Niwas and Fateh Prakash, have been converted into heritage hotels. So if you want to experience the life of a Maharajah, you can book yourself a royal retreat in Udaipur.
Mumbai entices visitors to its cosmopolitan streets and the glamorous world of Bollywood movies. Primarily the center of finance and business in India, Mumbai is also one of the largest cities in the subcontinent. Daunting skyscrapers and impressive Victorian buildings are just some of the highlights of this fascinating city.
The Fort Area shows the influence of the British Empire with its cluster of Victorian buildings such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and St. Thomas Cathedral.
The Gateway of India, the Prince of Wales Museum, and the police headquarters are more examples of Mumbai’s architectural pride. And while you’re out admiring the urban landscape, visit the Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the oldest five-star properties in the country.
During your visit, spend some time shopping at the Crawford Market, although making your way through the crowded stalls requires a bit of muscle. Learn more about the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi from the collections and artifacts at Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum. And make sure to visit the Elephanta Caves, another popular Mumbai attraction because of the ancient Hindu stone sculptures that would be of major interest to worshipers of the deity Shiva.
Goa is the smallest of India’s states, but despite its size, it showcases a wealth of recreational opportunities.
In the 1960s, the beaches of Goa were hotspots for hippies – a fact that earned for the state its hedonistic reputation. Decades later, however, Goa has metamorphosed into a more rounded and diverse destination, serving up something for everyone.
Some of the best beaches in India can be found in Goa. Anjuna Beach, repackaged from its former hippie hangout status, caters to the trendy set with its bars and restaurants. Water sports, such as paragliding, and fun activities, such as dolphin watching, are popular in Arambol Beach.
The more laidback Benaulim Beach is an option for travelers wanting a little peace and quiet.
Busiest among the sandy selections are the beaches of Baga and Calangute.
Have your fill of bird-watching at Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. The mangroves also provide a habitat for crocodiles and other animals.
A short trip from Goa would take you to the Dudhsagar Waterfall and its recreational areas spruced up for hiking, picnics, and swimming.
Old Goa has a stunning collection of old churches that are worthy of a visit. St. Catherine’s Cathedral has Corinthian-style interiors. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a famous pilgrimage site for Christians paying their respects to the tomb of St. Francis Xavier. Resembling St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the Church of St. Cajetan.