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The most beautiful part of India
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10 Best Places to Visit in North India

Covering an area of around 1,420,540 sq. kilometers with a population of around 543 million, North India is a melting pot of customs, cuisines, religions and traditions that are as diverse as its topography — the Himalayas to the north, the Thar Desert, and the Indo-Gangetic plains. Featuring sub-tropical forests, glaciers, and wildlife reserves, the north holds some of the best places to go in India, but it pays to know where to look. Here are ten of our favorite destinations in the north.

1. Agra

The famous Taj Mahal in Agra in India on a sunny clear day.
Lady Diana Chair is the perfect spot for a stunning photograph at the Taj Mahal.

Home to the famed Taj Mahal, Agra, the chosen capital of Akbar the Great, overflows with a rich history and offers many things to do for travelers. Agra also features two more UNESCO World Heritage sites for travelers looking for some eye candy—the Fatehpur Sikri and the Agra Fort. Take a guided tour of Agra Fort, sample regional heritage dishes at the city’s best restaurants, and go shopping at Sadar Bazaar for souvenirs. Those with more time to spare can marvel at Agra’s other architectural marvels like Akbar’s Tomb and Itmad-ud-daula's Tomb.

  • Good to know: Hordes of tourists visit Agra on a daily basis for the iconic Taj Mahal, so if you’re planning on visiting this marvelous marble mausoleum, arrive as early as possible (think 6:00am!) or you’ll have to brace against the crowds.
  • Things to do: Explore the Jahangir Mahal, discover serenity at Jama Masjid, and relish the sunset on a boat ride on the Yamuna River.
  • Places to stay: Hotel Taj Resorts and Hotel Bhoomi Vilas are reasonable choices with large, comfortable rooms and are close to the Taj Mahal.
  • Best time to visit: Visit Agra in winter (November to February) to avoid heavy rains and scorching heat. In February, visitors can check out the Taj Mahotsav event for cultural performances, food festivals, literary events and more.
  • Famous for: The Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid, Yamuna River, Taj Nagri, Sadar Bazaar, Kinari Bazaar, Mughlai cuisine, Shilpgram and the Taj Nature Walk.

2. Delhi

Humayun's Tomb in Delhi during summer.
Humayun's Tomb is a definite not-to-miss attraction in Delhi.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in India, the massive capital city of Delhi is a merging of both old and new. A visit to Old Delhi feels like stepping into a time machine with its ancient Mughal architecture, laborers carrying spices, and rustic bazaars. In stark contrast, modern New Delhi boasts colonial-era parliament buildings, skyscrapers, and upscale malls. The city is a cornucopia of cuisine, craft, and history, with countless activities to keep you entertained. Gorge on street food, visit Humayun’s Tomb, explore the Red Fort, or shop for Indian crafts in flea markets like Janpath and Sarojini Nagar. It’s easy to lose yourself in this city, both literally and figuratively! With all that Delhi has to offer, it’s easily one of the best places to visit with friends. 

  • Good to know: Gawking at monuments, forts and mosques are typical Delhi activities, but once you’re done try something a little more offbeat. Explore Gadodia Market for the largest spice collection, check out the vibrantly painted houses at Naughara, or watch folk artists perform underneath the Shadipur Depot bridge in west Delhi! 
  • Things to do: Stroll through the Jama Masjid, soak in twilight from the Qutub Minar and take memorable pictures at the Hauz Khas Fort.
  • Places to stay: The Corus Hotel and the Royal Plaza are close to busy markets and popular areas like the India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhawan, and Connaught Place.
  • Best time to visit: Visit Delhi from October to March. These months have the best weather as the temperature is cool with less rain and fog. Plan your visit to Delhi in November for Diwali — the festival that engulfs the city in fireworks and floral decorations in the streets and shops.
  • Famous for: Dilli Haat Market, Khan market, Hauz Khas village, Safdarjung's tomb and Greater Kailash market.

3. Amritsar

The Golden Temple in Amritsar in India.
An instagram-worthy picture at the Golden Temple is a must when in Amritsar.

Punjab’s epicenter of Sikhism, Amritsar is home to the spectacular and ever-popular Golden Temple. Include this in your itinerary but know that there’s more to discover. After taking an Instagram-worthy pic at the Golden Temple, immerse yourself in history by exploring the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum — a museum that pays tribute to the founder of the Sikh empire. All the dawdling around will make you hungry and you're bound to find amazing street food almost anywhere you look—try Amritsar’s famous kulchas, a type of bread soaked in butter and often stuffed with potatoes.

  • Good to know: The best times to take in the majesty of the Golden Temple are before sunrise and during the cooler evenings when temple lights set the surrounding waters aglow. Dress conservatively when visiting the temple and mind the mischievous monkeys that have a penchant for stalking people who lug around food.
  • Things to do: Learn about Punjab’s fascinating history at the Gobindgarh Fort and the Partition Museum. Dera Baba Jaimal Singh Ji, a spiritual center, is an architectural delight.
  • Places to stay: One Earth GG Residency is a stone’s throw away from the Golden Temple. Another nearby option is the Hotel Golden Lagoon Amritsar.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Amritsar is between September to December and February to March. These months offer the most pleasant weather and are perfect for sightseeing.
  • Famous for: The Golden Temple, Wagah border ceremony, Central Sikh Museum, Gobindgarh Fort and Hall Bazaar.

4. Manali

The city in Manali with snowcapped mountains in the background.
Manali is the gateway to adventure in India.

Manali, one of the most well-known hill stations in India, is located in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Often touted as the “gateway to adventure”, this high-altitude Himalayan town provides splendid access to Hampta Pass for trekkers and Solang Valley for skiers. It is also a popular jump-off point for rafting, mountaineering and paragliding. The city provides a humble range of attractions that are still worth the visit — explore the magnificent 500-year-old Naggar Castle, gawk over the extremely picturesque surroundings of the Solang Valley, reflect on life at the revered Manu Temple, and hob-nob with the locals at the little eateries of Old Manali.

  • Good to know: If you’re new to paragliding, there’s no better arena in the world for starters than Solang Valley in Manali!
  • Things to do: Test your endurance by hiking to Bhrigu Lake and Rohtang La. Then feast on piping-hot Himachali Siddus.
  • Places to stay: The Manali Lodge is a luxurious yet budget-friendly option located only a short walk away from the central market.
  • Best time to visit: May to June is the best time for outdoor activities such as hiking and river rafting. Visit from December to January for snow-clad peaks and impressive views.
  • Famous for: Hadimba Devi temple, the Great Himalayan National Park, the Jogini Falls, Bhuttico handloom, Tibetan handicrafts, and Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa.

5. Kashmir

Boats on the Dal Lake with mountains in the back in Kashmir during winter
Take a boat ride in Dal Lake while visiting Kashmir during your trip to India for an unforgettable experience.

Contrary to popular opinion, Kashmir isn’t just a destination swarmed by tie-dyed hippies. Dubbed the “Switzerland of India”, the Kashmiri countryside features an unbelievably beautiful landscape of snow-clad ranges and alpine peaks with people from all walks of life. Visit Srinagar and ride a shikara across the calm Dal Lake, snap a photo of the skyline at the peak of the Shankaracharya Temple, and call it a night at any of the iconic houseboats. For thrill-seekers, the options are endless. Visit the snow paradise of Gulmarg for skiing, trek to the Thajiwas Glacier at Sonmarg, or paraglide across the Kashmir Valley. This is one of the best places to visit in North India for adventure travelers!

  • Good to know: One of the most unforgettable experiences in Kashmir is staying a night in a houseboat. Tip: agencies take a large cut of the rental when you book from them. Rent directly from the locals to benefit the boat owners.
  • Things to do: Binge on popular delicacies like nadru yakhni and gushtabaat at Old Srinagar and hop on picturesque pony rides through Pahalgam and Sonamarg.
  • Places to stay: Regenta Central Srinagar is a budget-friendly option while the Apple Orchard Resort and Spa marries opulence with coziness – both are agreeably located near major landmarks.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Kashmir is between spring and summer (March to August). These months offer ideal weather to take in the scenic beauty of Kashmir.
  • Famous for: Wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, Buddhist monasteries and Kashmiri carpets.

6. Varanasi

A traveler enjoying the view of the city from a boat in the Ganges.
Take a boat ride down the Ganges at either sunrise or sunset.

Known as the spiritual capital of India, this complex and chaotic but incredibly poetic Indian city in Uttar Pradesh houses around 2,000 temples, including the popular Golden Temple dedicated to Shiva. If you’re looking to kick back and relax with a cosmopolitan in hand, ditch Varanasi in favor of Thailand’s Koh Tao. This isn’t a place for leisure but for life lessons. Take a spiritual boat ride along the Ganges River, visit the picture-perfect temples, and take a breathtaking sunset stroll along the River Ganga amongst other activities. The Varanasi weavers at the Sarai Mohana village craft some of the world’s most beautiful saris — a must-buy if you’re planning to take home souvenirs.

  • Good to know: The Evening Aarti Ceremony is a definite inclusion to your itinerary. Best viewed from the Dashashwamedh Ghat, this surreal and spellbinding Hindu worship ritual involves offering chants, flowers, and massive brass lamps of about 4.5kgs to one or more deities.
  • Things to do: Shop at Thateri Bazaar, which comes alive with trinkets, food and fabrics, and eat at Kachori Galli.
  • Places to stay: Experience a palatial living experience at the Palace on the Ganges or enjoy a comfortable stay at Hotel de Bougainvillea.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Varanasi is during the dry months between October and February.
  • Famous for: Banarasi silk sarees, Banaras Hindu University, and local sweets like gulabi meenakari and lal peda.

7. Leh-Ladakh

Prayer flags moving with the wind with Buddhist Monastery in the distance in Leh-Ladakh, India
Leh Ladakh is dotted with monasteries and decorated with thousands of prayer flags.

This mountainous region located in the Jammu and Kashmir area extends beyond the Himalayas and features breathtaking landscapes and picture-perfect Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Also known as the “Land of High Passes”, this high-altitude destination is home to mostly Tibetans who are largely self-sufficient in food and fuel. Drift across its winding roads to come across stupas and monasteries, go river rafting, trekking, or go on a camel or jeep safari. A plethora of adventure activities await travelers looking for an adrenaline rush.

  • Good to know: Around 30km from Leh on the Kargil Highway is what the locals call the “Magnetic Hill”. Even if your car’s engine is turned off on this mysterious spot, it will still keep moving.
  • Things to do: Climb 500 steps to the Shanti Stupa, surround yourself with breathtaking vistas at Nubra Valley, and find serenity at Tso Moriri.
  • Places to stay: Hotel Caravan Center incorporates the Tibetan style of architecture while the Silk Route Ladakh champions intricate woodwork and is surrounded by greenery.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Leh Ladakh is in summer (June to September). Most roads open during these months and the season is ideal for hiking and trekking, camping, and exploring high-altitude lakes such as Tso Moriri.
  • Famous for: The Indus River, motorable passes, Tibetan wolves, Himalayan pashmina shawls and Kashmiri carpets.

8. Rajasthan

Panoramic view of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, one of the places to visit in India.
The scenic city of Udaipur with Lake Pichola is a must-visit during your trip to India.

Jaipur’s home state in northwest India, this arid destination features the expansive Thar Desert and the Aravallis, one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges. Arrive by sleeper train and take in the breathtaking views. Visiting Rajasthan feels like stepping into a surreal world with a mish-mash of different elements from ornate Mughal palaces to vast deserts. The places to visit in Rajasthan itself are overwhelming. Colorful festivals and rich wildlife make this destination one of the top places to visit in India.

  • Good to know: Experience the best of India’s wildlife with far fewer tourists. Head to the Keoladeo National Park (known formerly as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary), a popular avifauna sanctuary, to spy on over 230 species of birds, or check out the Sariska Tiger Reserve for jungle cats, leopards, chowsinghas and hyenas.
  • Things to do: Get blown away at the Hawa Mahal Palace, channel your inner Mughal-E-Azam (the great Mughal) at the Amer Fort, and visit the Lake Garden Palace.
  • Places to stay: Hotel Sarang Palace in Jaipur is Rajasthan packed in a bottle while Lake Pichola Hotel in Udaipur offers spectacular views of the lake.
  • Best time to visit: You can visit all year but the best time to visit Rajasthan is in winter (November to March) for temperate, less humid weather and cooler nights.
  • Famous for: Historical forts and palaces like Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jaisalmer Fort and City Palace, the Jantar Mantar and Pichwai paintings.

9. Meghalaya

The lush greenery and hills of Meghalaya.
High hills filled with pine trees and waterfalls await visitors in Meghalaya.

Famous for being the world’s wettest place, this popular monsoon destination dubbed the “abode of clouds” separates the plains of Bangladesh from the Assam valley. Pine trees, rocky cliffs, impressive waterfalls, and some of Asia’s most expansive caves make this state a popular destination for travelers looking to rough it out. Head to Dwaki and kayak across the pristine Umngot River, walk across bridges completely entwined with roots, go waterfall rappelling at Elephant falls or spelunking at Krem Mawmluh. There are a lot of activities to satisfy the daredevil in you!

  • Good to know: Go off-the-beaten path and head to Mawlyngot, just a two-hour drive from Shillong, for an unforgettable experience away from the touristy crowd. Sign up for day treks across expansive tea gardens, learn about how tea is processed, sample some of the best teas across all of North-eastern India, and learn about how the state’s love for the herbal drink was instrumental for their new-found progress.
  • Things to do: Indulge in hearty meals of Makham-Bitchi and Jadoh, challenge your stamina at the David Scott Trail, and visit Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia.
  • Places to stay: The Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort is a complete “nature resort” while the San Nael La Resort in Meghalaya offers panoramic views.
  • Best time to visit: The months between April and June are pleasant and cool(er) in Meghalaya, especially compared to other scorching parts of the country, and you can catch spectacular views of the waterfalls.
  • Famous for: The Elephant Falls, Bara bazaar and Baghmara reserve forest.

10. Rann of Kutch

A camel dragging a cart during sunset in Rann of Kutch in India.
Take a camel safari in the salt desert of Rann of Kutch.

Located in Gujarat’s Thar Desert and measuring 10,000 sq. kilometers, the Rann of Kutch is the world’s largest salt desert. During the monsoon season the entire expanse becomes submerged in water, but come October, it dries up and transforms into a vast and desolate flatland. Villages around Kutch are home to a plethora of tribal groups who are renowned for their quality textiles and handicrafts. For those who want to explore, the options are endless. Visit Kala Dungar, or Black Hill, for splendid panoramic views of the entire desert, or explore the Vijay Vilas Palace where a number of popular Bollywood films are filmed. A Rann Utsav festival is held every November until February, where food stalls, handicraft bazaars and luxurious tents are scattered around the Gateway to Rann Resort at Dhordo.

  • Good to know: Textiles from Kutch are among the world’s most famous. Head to Bhuj and learn about its flourishing textile trade. This small city is home to nomads who barter and sell vibrant tribal ware that features hand-stitched embroidery, mirrors and hand-printed patterned fabrics.
  • Things to do: Experience flamboyance at Aaina Mahal Palace, relive history at Kutch Museum and enjoy a camel ride at Mandvi Beach.
  • Places to stay: The Rann Resort Dholavira is located on the bay of the white Rann while the Khadir Homestay Resort Dholavira is located in Ratanpar.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Rann of Kutch is between October and February. These months offer optimal weather for sightseeing and you can also partake in the Kutch Festival.
  • Famous for: Siyot caves, Kutch Bustard sanctuary and Prag Mahal.

10 Best Places to Visit in South India

If the North boasts of peaks and plains, the South boasts of sights and solitude. For those looking for respite from the slew of tourists the Taj Mahal brings, the culture, cuisine, and people of South India offer a more relaxing but still unmissable experience. Making up around 19% of India's area, the south consists of 5 states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala. South of India is also arguably the most beautiful part of India: Coastlines, tropical forests, and rolling hills make up most of the land but sophisticated modern cities like Bangalore and Chennai offer a more comprehensive view of urban life.

1. Varkala

Travelers enjoying their time at Varkala beach in India
Make your way to Varkala beach during your trip to India. The sheer beauty of the landscape makes for an unforgettable experience.

Flanked by the majestic Arabian Sea on the south, Varkala is a quaint and sleepy town in the state of Kerala. While the town may be relatively small, it offers something for everyone. Adventure seekers can kayak through the mangrove forest in Nedungolam while those with a more spiritual side can visit the Sivagiri Mutt, a popular ashram of Shri Narayan Guru, or the Ponnumthuruthu, which has a 100-year-old Shiva and Parvati temple. Varkala is most popular for Varkala Beach, which is often compared to the likes of popular beaches in Goa like Palolem and Arambol. Varkala Beach is peaceful and offers solitude only 10 kilometers away from the city center. It is one of the best places to visit in India with your family. 

  • Good to know: The Edava beach in Varkala is still largely untouched and a fantastic hamlet of tranquility. Located to the north of Varkala, the vast stretches of virgin lands are surrounded by a blue lagoon. Just five kilometers away from the Varkala Railway Station and two kilometers away from Kappil Beach, Edava also offers some spots for adventure sports.
  • Things to do: Ascend the Varkala cliff, spot wildlife at the lush Ponnumthuruthu Island and revel in history at the Kilimanoor Palace.
  • Places to stay: The Akhil Beach Resort has different styles of stay, including private huts and the Organic Villa Sea View Cottages are a humble yet clean choice.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Varkala is in winter (October to March). The weather is pleasant and offers the best views of the city.
  • Famous for: Odayam beach, Varkala formation, Varkala lighthouse, Anchuthengu, Anjengo Fort, yoga retreats.

2. Pondicherry

Pondicherry and its endless coastline on a clear day.
Pondicherry is a quaint town of bright houses and endless coastline.

Located in the state of Tamil Nadu and heavily French-influenced, Pondicherry (also known as Puducherry or Pondy) was under French rule until 1954. The vestiges of French colonialism are still downright evident, from the lifestyle shops and restaurants that sell French-inspired fare and ware to the people who up to this day still speak the European language. Brightly painted houses, large boulevards, French road signs, colonial buildings, and massive gothic churches are what make Pondy famous, but if you’ve been in India for a long time, its unique French cuisine is a breath of fresh air. Think steaks and lots of beer!

  • Good to know: Tucked away in a quirky design shop at 59 Suffren St. is Domus, a laid-back, all-veg secret café set amidst turquoise pillars and red walls. Try building your own sandwich with a wide selection of bread, seasonings, and fillings, dig into their European-inspired ‘thalis' salad and wash it down with smoothies, juices, and their delicious espresso.
  • Things to do: Visitthe experimental “universal town” of Auroville, chase sunrise at the Promenade beach, and peruse artisanal wares at Casablanca.
  • Places to stay: Glutotel and Sun Farm House are surrounded by greenery and also offer complimentary breakfast.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Pondicherry is from October to March. The weather starts getting cooler and allows for perfect views and outdoor activities like water sports.
  • Famous for: Rock beach, the French War Memorial, Gingee fort, ISKCON Pondicherry and Goubert Avenue.

3. Goa

Palolem beach in Goa with colorful houses.
The postcard-perfect beach of Palolem in Goa welcomes all those who choose to unwind and relax.

With coastlines stretching all the way to the Arabian Sea, the state of Goa offers lots of water activities for sun worshippers and beach lovers. A Portuguese colony until 1961, Goa features preserved 17th-century churches and a flavorful Indo-Portuguese culinary style that's unavailable anywhere else in the country. Its beaches are the ultimate selling point, and there's one to cater to every type of whim — from the backpacker famous Arambol to the wild and boisterous Baga. The varied landscape and plethora of activities Goa offers arguably makes it the top tourist destination in India.

  • Good to know: Mario Miranda is a revered Goan cartoonist and his works that illustrate the unique Goan experience is to be found in many restaurants and cafes. Below Aroma Hotel at Panjim is a little store that pays tribute to Mario’s artistic career. Here you’ll be able to find an excellent selection of souvenirs like bowls, cups, and illustrated books all displaying his quirky illustrations.
  • Things to do: Explore the rural landscape on scooters, partake in water sports at Calangute and scuba dive at the Grande Island.
  • Places to stay: Moustache Goa Luxuria is close to beaches like Anjuna and Baga. The Palm Beach Lifestyle Resort is close to Palolem Beach.
  • Best time to visit: Visit Goa in between November and March. The clear weather makes these months ideal for beach visits, sightseeing and water sports.
  • Famous for: Titos Bar and Restaurant, Chapora fort, port wine, Portuguese architecture and intricate churches.

4. Wayanad

Boats traveling in the river in Alleppey in Kerala Backwaters in Wayanad.
Alleppey is the Venice of India, taking you through the backwaters of Kerala.

To the southwest of India lies another travelers’ paradise in Kerala—the picturesque town of Wayanad. Tucked among the majestic mountains and rolling hills of the Western Ghats, Wayanad is home to pristine meadows and enchanting waterfalls, making it a hiker’s paradise. Explore the Edakkal Caves located 1200 meters above sea level, make your way to Chembra Peak, the highest peak in Wayanad, find tranquility at the Pookode Lake, experience river dipping at the Kabini river, and visit the Banasura Sagar Dam, the largest dam in India.

  • Good to know: Pozhuthana in Wayanad is a great place to visit with family and friends for a quick weekend trip. Sprawling with lush tea estates and dense forests, it offers scenic views and a chance to unwind with nature.
  • Things to do: Chase waterfalls and mountain streams as you trek to Sahibukkunu and look for majestic wildlife at the Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Places to stay: Experience treehouse living at the Hiliya Resort and wake up to chirping birds in the lap of nature at Le Eden Resorts.
  • Best time to visit: Winter season (November to February) is the best time to visit Wayanad. The weather isn’t as harsh and offers the perfect time for honeymoon trips.
  • Famous for: The Lakkidi viewpoint, the Karapuzha Dam, Thirunelli temple festival, Soochipara Falls and the Dubai shopping center.

5. Hampi

Virupaksha temple in Hampi surrounded by hills.
Make sure to visit the impressive Virupaksha temple in Hampi during your trip to India.

A visit to Hampi is like discovering a fantasy land in a far-off place. A landscape dotted with giant boulders, hills, and ancient ruins juxtaposed by lush palm groves, paddy fields, and banana plantations create a destination that’s popular for those looking for something offbeat. For backpackers and seasoned travelers, this is easily one of the best places to visit in India. Located in the state of Karnataka, every nook and cranny of Hampi has a story to tell and is best explored via a bicycle and a tour guide in tow. Visit the many temples, go rock climbing, climb Matanga hill for spectacular views, or ride a ferry along the Tungabhadra River — your method of exploration is ultimately your choice.

  • Good to know: Head to Virupapur Gaddi (also endearingly called Hippie Island by backpackers) and join the Sunset Jam Session at Sunset Point. An hour before the sun sets, the area buzzes with strings, percussions, and musical instruments beckoning people to dance.
  • Things to do: Delve into the annals of time at the Royal Enclosure and pay tribute to Lord Shiva at the Virupaksha temple.
  • Places to stay: Leo Woods Resort boasts private huts right by the riverside and Greenstone Resort brings a bohemian aesthetic.
  • Best time to visit: Visit Hampi during the winter season (November to February) for ideal weather and perfect sightseeing opportunities.
  • Famous for: Hampi Falls, the underground Shiva temple, Lotus Mahal and the Vijayanagara Empire.

6. Andaman & Nicobar Islands

People enjoying the beach at Andaman and Nicobar island in India.
Several pristine beaches wait for visitors in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Looking for the best way to cap off your Indian adventure? Head to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a far-flung sun-toasted coastal destination that offers exceptional diving possibilities with its prolific marine life and vibrant reefs. Pristine turquoise waters are surrounded by mangrove forests and thick jungles, creating an otherworldly setting that's breathtaking, to say the least. The islands are located closer to Southeast Asia than the Indian mainland, so you'll be brushing shoulders with a mix of South and Southeast Asian settlers. Only around a dozen islands of the 572 islands are open to tourists with Havelock being the most popular and jam-packed. The Nicobar Islands are off limits due to protected tribal areas.

  • Good to know: Barren Island in the Andaman Sea is home to the Barren Volcano, the only active volcano in South Asia. Book a seaplane for a breathtaking panoramic view of this magnificent volcano.
  • Things to do: Enjoy a boat voyage to Snake Island, indulge in watersports at Corbyn’s Cove, and tour the limestone caves at Baratang.
  • Places to stay: The Havelock Island Beach Resort and the Island Cliff are located right next to beautiful beach views.
  • Best time to visit: October to April are considered peak tourist seasons and an ideal time to visit Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Water sports and outdoor activities are also considered safe at this time.
  • Famous for: Mount Manipur National Park, coral reefs, whales and dolphin watching.

7. Madurai

Meenaksi Amman Temple Madurai in India.
Meenakshi Amman Temple is the biggest attraction in Madurai.

The third largest city in the state of Tamil Nadu is an ancient metropolis that once traded with ancient Rome. Hailed as one of the oldest cities in India, Madurai boats of a rich history that began during the 4th century BC. Tourists come here for the ever popular Meenakshi Amman Temple, a massive, labyrinth-like architecture that ranks among India’s best temples. The city is dotted with ornate temples and ancient palaces while being economically powered by information technology — an interesting dichotomy that truly brings out the unique character of the place.

  • Good to know: The city hosts the Chithirai festival, one of the longest known festivals in the world, during the month of April. The festival reenacts the wedding of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar and includes fun local fairs and a massive procession of temple chariots.
  • Things to do: Rejuvenate at the Kutladampatti Falls, shop extensively at Puthu Mandapam, and be captivated by the architecture of Thirumalai Nayak Palace.
  • Places to stay: Go back to nature at the minimalist Heritage Madurai or choose M3 Boutique Hotel for a budget stay.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Madurai is between October and March. The weather is pleasant and ideal for exploring Madurai’s historical architecture and ancient temples.
  • Famous for: Jasmine plantations, the Meenakshi Amman temple, and Vilachery pottery village.

8. Gandikota

Wide angle view of Gandikota in India.
Gandikota is dubbed 'India's Grand Canyon' for all the right reasons.

Dubbed as “India’s Grand Canyon”, Gandikota is a small village that sits on the right bank of the river Pennar and is slowly getting its much-deserved limelight in the tourism industry. It is popular for its Grand Canyon-like gorge that is formed as river Pennar cuts through the Erramala hills. The Gandikota Fort, one of the largest forts in India built during the 13th century as a defensive wall, is one of the destination’s most popular highlights with many walking along the wall to enjoy a breathtaking display of the serene river below. After your Fort exploration, be sure to check out the Malyavanta Raghunatha Swamy Temple and Madhavaraya Temple located in the village proper for an amazing display of architecture.

  • Good to know: Don’t forget to check out the Belum Caves in Belum Village — a 3km long cave system that allows you to peek into the depths of the earth. Spelunk across narrow passages and massive echoing chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites. This complex cave system was reported to have sheltered Buddhist and Jains monks many centuries ago.
  • Things to do: Be dazzled by the Pennar River Gorge viewpoint, admire the architecture of the Jamia Masjid and take spectacular photos of the canyons.
  • Places to stay: The AP Tourism Haritha Resort is a government-run establishment that’s well-maintained or you could also try something new at Gandikota Camping.
  • Best time to visit: Visit Gandikota during the months of October to February. These months offer the best weather for adventure sports.
  • Famous for: Gandikota Fort, Pennar Gorges, Raghunatha Swamy Temple, Madhavaraya Temple and Belum caves.

9. Mysore

Flowers in full bloom with Mysore in the background in India.
The breathtakingly opulent Mysore Palace is the city's biggest drawcard.

Experience the life of a genteel Maharaja in Mysore, a city located in the southwestern Karnataka state. The destination’s drawcard is the breathtakingly opulent Mysore Palace, a three-storey stone structure complete with marble domes and a five-storey tower that’s 44m tall. The city, however, is more than just its royal palaces, as there are other worthy inclusions to your itinerary. Visit the picturesque Brindavan Gardens located below the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam, spy on birds and animals in the Mysore Zoo, mull over your life’s purpose at Karanji Lake, or gawk over one of the most beautiful waterfalls in India — the Shivanasamudra Falls.

  • Good to know: Nightlife in Mysore pales in comparison to its more boisterous neighbor, Bangalore, but the city makes up for it by lighting up at night. Take in a surreal view of Mysore by driving up to the summit via the popular winding hill road, and if the skies are clear the view from the top will definitely take your breath away.
  • Things to do: Spend the morning at Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, offer prayers at St.Philomena's Cathedral, and buy handcrafted Mysore silk sarees.
  • Places to stay: The Parklane Hotel has a restaurant and pool while the Royal Orchid Brindavan Garden Palace & Spa is a more luxurious option.
  • Best time to visit: Visit Mysore during the winter season (November to February) to enjoy sightseeing trips, wildlife tours, and outdoor adventures like camping and trekking.
  • Famous for: Mysore Palace, stone sculptures, Mysore pak (a sweet), and Mysore sandal soap.

10. Ooty

Panoramic view of tea plantations in Ooty, India.
Ooty is the ideal destination for anyone looking to escape the bustling cities of India.

Ooty can be rough and chaotic in its centre, but it’s remarkably easy to escape the hustle and bustle of its busy town life and head out into more peaceful areas where you can commune with nature. Revered as the “Queen of Hill Stations”, this municipality in Tamil Nadu features towering pine tries, gigantic botanical gardens, Hindu temples, and pristine lakes. Vestiges of its British-colonial past are still evident in its Raj-era bungalows, adding high-culture flair to its gritty Indian influences. Highly active adventurers won’t run out of things to do. Go trekking at Doddabetta Peak, boating at Ooty Lake, hiking at Mukurthi National Park, or mountain biking at Ooty’s popular Mountain Bike Park. End your adventure on a sweet note with Ooty’s famous chocolates!

  • Good to know: The Ooty Rose Garden is a must visit. Gorgeous terraced lawns are bedecked with over 20,000 rose bushes of around 2000 varieties. Perfect for a relaxing stroll as it provides great views of the Ooty hillside.
  • Things to do: Learn history at the John Sullivan Memorial, absorb heavenly aromas at the tea factory, and visit the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
  • Places to stay: Nahar’s Residency Hotel and Hotel Glanton Manor are popular choices. Book in advance as these hotels fill up quick.
  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Ooty is during summer (March to June). The air is less misty and the roads are safer for travel.
  • Famous for: Ooty tea and chocolates, Modern Stores/Moddy’s Chocolate, Doddabetta Peak, Pykara waterfalls, and Nilgiri mountain railway.
  • Insider's Tip: If you are in Ooty, don't forget to spend an extra day in Coonoor which is just 22km away and you get the same charm and climate of Ooty minus the crowd. — by Soumya Nambiar from Travel Books Food

India is a country like no other, and is a veritable treasure trove for curious explorers and cultural travelers. Whether you wish to unwind amidst the Nilgiris, dip your toes in the sandy beaches of Goa, wake up to golden mountains in Himachal Pradesh, or enjoy a strong cup of adrak chai (ginger tea) in the streets of Purani Dilli, India is a bucket list destination.

If you’re planning a trip to India, make sure to read our travel guide. We cover an array of topics such as when to visit India, how many days to spend and much more. If you’re overwhelmed with ideas, talk to our travel experts who are more than happy to create a customized trip to India for you.

India Tours
Published by Marie Storm, updated on April 15, 2024

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