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.
Bangalore is also known as the “Garden City” because of its several parks and green areas.
In the heart of the city is Bangalore Palace, which resembles Britain’s Windsor Castle. There is also Bull Temple, a 16th century structure and home to the statue of Lord Shiva’s sacred bull.
Families will love Bangalore’s fun attractions such as the Bangalore Aquarium, the Jawahar Bal Bhavan amusement park, and the Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens.
Within Cubbon Park, tourists can find museums, libraries, and a wide expanse of verdant recreational grounds. At the northern tip of the park is Vidhana Soudha, an imposing remnant of the British colonial period.
Bangalore is the ideal base for starting explorations into South India. Nearby attractions include Ramanagaram, a favorite spot for hiking and rock climbing; Nrityagram Dance Village, where traditional Indian dances are performed; and Ramohalli, the home of the huge 400-year-old banyan tree.
Kashmir is found at the northernmost part of India, resting at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains.
It is a place filled with luscious scenery, enhanced by a plethora of lakes and rivers. The major body of water, Jhelum River, is a constant source of inspiration for artists and poets. Other lakes, such as Wular Lake and Manasbal Lake, provide an abundance of sightseeing options for the visitor.
The entire state is a popular pilgrimage site, with its multitude of temples, monasteries, and other religious sites, such as the Hazratbal Mosque, the Amarnath Cave, the Martand Temple, and the Shankaracharya Temple, which add to the area’s splendor.
Also taking the spotlight in Kashmir is its wide range of handicrafts, including stone jewelry, silverware, papier-mâché, and the elegant pashmina shawls.
When the British Empire ruled over India, hill stations were created as holiday retreats, for the military officials and their families to escape the heat of the city. Located in West Bengal, the Himalayan town of Darjeeling was the first vacation spot to be established thus.
Mostly recognized for its exquisite black tea, Darjeeling also provides enthralling views of India’s third highest peak, the Kanchengjunga. Then there is Tiger Hill, a grand destination that offers a mystifying view of the sunrise.
There are trekking options to be found near the Nepalese border, much to the excitement of avid climbers and adventure-seekers. To see more of what Darjeeling has to offer, take the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway for a scenic ride.
With so many hill resorts found around India, choosing which one to visit can be difficult if one is pressed for time. Ooty, however, will quickly put an end to your predicament. Dubbed as the “Queen of Hill Stations,” Ooty has an undeniable tranquil charm that makes this hill station in Tamil Nadu simply the best.
In Ooty, you will find the Botanical Gardens, a vast area covering 22 hectares of landscaped greenery and hundreds of species of plants. It is a popular venue for many of Ooty’s cultural showcases and yearly events, such as the summer festival. Other than sightseeing, you can also go fishing or boating on Ooty Lake.
Shutterbugs are in for a treat when they visit Ooty. The amazing landscape yearns to be captured from every angle possible. To do so, you only have to go to Dodabetta Peak, a six-mile drive from Ooty, to see far-flung areas such as Coimbatore and Mysore.
The backwaters of Kerala are a constant part of sightseeing tours in the southern region for a good reason: these lagoons encompass half of the state, linked by canals, estuaries, rivers, and lakes.
Boat journeys along the Kuttanad area reveal dense tropical foliage and local fauna, certainly a far cry from the urban madness. The coastal resort of Kovalam, meanwhile, promises a sampling of the best beaches and hearty vegetarian cuisine. Cochin offers diverse architecture influenced by past colonizers such as the Portuguese, Dutch, and British.
Forests and wildlife are not the only things to see in Kerala. The route to the lowlands and hills are marked by tea, rubber, and spice plantations.
Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, is located on top of the hill and is an essential jump-off point to Kovalam and the hill station of Ponmudi. Within the city itself, there are some fine architectural delights to see, such as the Puttan Malika Palace, and Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
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