India borders Pakistan to the northwest. Other borders exist with Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. It occupies most of the Indian subcontinent. The name is derived from the river Indus.
The highest mountain in India is Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain on earth. An important river in India is the Ganges, whose source is in the Himalayan Mountains.
After China, India is home to the largest number of people on Earth, and its population is growing steadily. The latest estimates are 1.4 billion. This makes India the largest democratic state on earth.
India, so diverse, intense, magical and simply different, attracts with its unique architecture, exciting traditions and varied activities. A trip to India is an unforgettable experience that captures all the senses. Whether colorful palaces and temples, colorful, lively cities and of course the fabulous Taj Mahal.
Travel Owl presents you the 12 best places to visit in India here below.
Mysore is an absolutely charming, old-fashioned city in Karanataka India. It is located in the southern highlands of Deccan, about 125 km southwest of Bangalore.
Mysore is an uncluttered city with wide tree-lined streets, parks and palaces, and a serene, relaxed atmosphere. Mysore is center of sandalwood carving, side and incense stick manufacturing. Considerable share in the economic development of Mysore has now gained tourism.
Mysore is also one of the most important tourist centers of Karnataka. Especially the heritage of the former Maharadashas of Mysore attracts many domestic and foreign visitors to the city. Mysore is also an ideal starting point for the most popular sightseeing in Karnataka.
Mysore not only offers tourist attractions, first and foremost the Maharaja’s Palace, but also invites you to stroll around. The stylish buildings from the time before India’s independence give the bustle of the city center the flair of faded elegance.
The Golden Temple of Amritsar is one of the must-see places in northern India. The name of the city in the Indian state of Punjab is derived from the lake in the middle of which the Golden Temple was built. The waters of Amrit Sarovar, also called Nectar Lake, are considered sacred by the Sikhs. Year after year, thousands of believers make a pilgrimage to the city of 1.1 million inhabitants to bathe in the waters of the lake. The golden temple of Amritsar is considered the spiritual center of Sikhism.
It is located in the middle of a rectangular basin, whose golden silhouette is reflected in the water. Pilgrims walk clockwise on a wide path around the lake, which is surrounded by a palace complex. The fascinating beauty of the temple, which is actually called Harmandir Sahib, the Temple of God, leaves a lasting impression that is heightened by countless Sikhs in their traditional robes.
In the temple, up to 80,000 pilgrims are provided with food and drinks free of charge every day. This only works because a large community is formed in which everyone takes on assigned tasks, such as cutting vegetables or doing the dishes.
Ladakh – Tibetan India. Nowhere in the world can you experience Lamaistic Buddhism more alive and vital than on a Ladakh trip. Ladakh is located in the former Western Tibet in one of the most fascinating landscapes on earth.
Not for nothing Ladakh is also called “Little Tibet” – all over the country you will find picturesquely situated monasteries. On a trip to Ladakh you should not miss to make a side trip to Dharamsala, the exile seat of the Dalai Lama! Further worth seeing is Leh, the old capital of the kingdom of Ladakh. Leh is the ideal starting point for a Ladakh trekking or a Ladakh round trip, for example to the Nubra Valley and Zanskar.
The sacred sites here, among them probably the most famous – Alchi and Lamayuru – house unique works of art, murals and sculptures, which have long since become world heritage sites. Less known regions like the Kumaon Himalaya or the access via Spiti to Ladakh are also worth a trip. It is also possible to travel on to Kashmir again.
9. Goa Beaches
South along the west coast you reach Goa. The first Europeans (Portuguese) landed here around 1500 A.D. Among them was the famous circumnavigator Vasco Da Gama. At the latest since the 1970s, this state of India is known worldwide as a beach paradise and is one of the most popular destinations in the country.
Here, one dream beach follows the next. The architecture of Goa’s coastal regions is still strongly influenced by the Portuguese colonial era, adding to the idyllic charm. However, along Goa’s coasts, only very few beaches untouched by tourism can still be found. Among the most famous beaches are, in addition to Arambol:
Candolim Beach: Beach with water sports like paragliding and jet skiing, well developed for tourism.
Palolem: Located in the very south of Goa, small bay in the view of the Ghat Mountains and lined by a palm grove, the accommodations are simple but close to the beach.
Anjuna: rather simple accommodations, not directly on the beach, but in the village of Anjuna, wide beach with steep coastline in the south, hippie market every other week
Calangute and Baga beach: formerly a secret tip of the hippies – touristically well developed – be careful when swimming in the surf
Benaulim beach: southern Goa, spacious, clean and currently not yet overcrowded, restaurants, water sports and infrastructure, the water is occasionally too murky for snorkeling, however, the current is suitable for swimming
Even if the times of the flower children, the 70s mysticism, the spirit of the immigrants who strived for freedom, exoticism and self-realization has given way to a large extent to normal package tourism, the remnants of the hippie culture are still noticeable in the core. This includes the hippie market in Anjuna, but the fact that this is also part of the India marketing concept and is exploited commercially cannot be completely denied.
New Delhi as the capital of India should be number 1 on the itinerary. It is a good introduction to a very different culture. The city is incredibly diverse. It is not only the top rated sights of Delhi, but especially the permanent spectacle in the alleys, with many fascinating but also stressful moments, which are typical for India. They can give you a taste of your time in India.
In the center of Delhi, almost 19 million people live in a very small area, and it feels like they are all moving on the streets at the same time. Loud horn concerts sound, crisscrossing cars, buses, tuk tuks, mopeds, but also cows, dogs and with a little luck an elephant or camel share the streets.
Therefore, be sure, you will see and experience things that you could not imagine before your trip to the capital of India with certainty.
7. Ellora & Ajanta Caves
Near the “City of Gates” – Aurangabad, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, lie the two cave temples of Ajanta & Ellora. The caves are both classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1983, likewise they are among the most visited cultural sites of India.
The Buddhist Ajanta Caves are located in a U-shaped valley basin. Built during the Vakataka dynasty in the 2nd to 5th centuries, most of them were built by Buddhist monks, of which 29 are accessible today and 3 are purely cult caves. You can see there the many murals of the life of Buddha or a statue of him.
Ellora is a complex of 34 Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples. The whole complex was carved out of a rock face running from the southeast to the northwest for over 2 kilometers as part of the Deccan architecture in about the 5th and 11th centuries. In total, all the caves of Ellora were made between 1100 years.
Varanasi, also called Benares or Kashi, is one of the oldest and at the same time most mysterious cities in India. Already in the great epic of the country, in the Mahabharata, the city plays an important role and until today the city on the Ganges is considered one of the most important and sacred places for Hindus around the world. For particularly devout Hindus, it is extremely desirable to bathe in the waters of the Ganges or to be burned on its banks after their death.
For these religious ceremonies, the kilometer-long step-like bank fortifications, the so-called ghats, were specially built to make it easier for believers to access the holy river. But beware, the first impression of Varanasi is usually a culture shock: noisy, crowded, chaotic traffic and dirty, many pushy vendors, agreed donations and prices sometimes no longer apply after the service. The river also takes some getting used to, given its pollution.
Varanasi is the destination of many backpackers and is perceived by many travelers as quite exciting – but it is also a polarizing city.
Kerala has much to offer. Especially the scenic beauty distinguishes the state. In the Periyar National Park, an animal sanctuary and tiger reserve, you can go on guided walks, raft trips and game drives over an area of 350 km². As early as 1895, the British dammed the Periyar River, thereby irrigating the adjacent drylands and expanding their tea plantations. To stop this and to preserve his hunting grounds, the Maharaja of Travancore declared the area around the reservoir a reserve. Today, in addition to hordes of monkeys, you can see elephants, sambar deer, gaurs and, if you’re lucky, even tigers.
Munnar, a mountain town in the Western Ghats, is known for the tea plantations that surround it for miles. The high altitude and the pleasantly cool climate, even in midsummer, was a reason for the town to become a popular resort for the English in colonial times. At the many vantage points, the view sweeps over the waving green of the tea plantation, which is only interrupted by the jungle-like cardamom plantations.
Kochi is the most visited city in Kerala, which is also due to its beautiful location, spread over several islands and headlands, the cultural diversity and the good tourist infrastructure. Even today, the former colonial influences can be felt and seen here. The Chinese fishing nets at the harbor, the old Jewish quarter with its synagogue and many stores, the Portuguese church of St. Francis with the tomb of Vasco da Gama and the Mattancherry Palace, built by the Dutch, are a must of every city tour.
The backwaters are a unique ecosystem that stretches from Kochi to Kollam over a total area of 1900 km². The area includes many lakes and lagoons, natural waterways and man-made canals. A houseboat tour on a converted traditional kettuvallam (cargo boat) allows you to experience life on and in the water in a relaxed atmosphere.
Agra is a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the central region of India. With a population of over 1.3 million, the city is located on the banks of the Yamuna River.
With some interruptions, Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1526 to 1648, which reached the peak of power at that time. From here, the Great Mughals ruled over a vast empire that stretched into what is now Afghanistan.
After wars and lavish wealth brought the empire to its knees, the power of the Mughal Empire finally ended in the 19th century with the deposition of the last Mughal by the British. Evidence of the heyday of Agra and the Mughal Empire are the imposing buildings that can be seen in the city today, the sight of which is guaranteed to be unforgettable for visitors.
The Tai Mahal mausoleum in Agra is one of the most beautiful and important buildings in Indo-Islamic architecture. In a 17-year construction period, this mausoleum was built by a total of 20,000 craftsmen and completed in 1648. The Tai Mahal is one of the most important tourist attractions in India and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The red fort of Agra was built in the 16th century as the residence of the Mughals. Red sandstone was used as construction material for most of the buildings and for the walls. The interior of the forts houses magnificent palaces, mosques and beautiful parks.
A popular excursion destination from Agra is the ancient capital of Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri, which lies 40 km to the west and is a World Heritage Site with its palaces and mosques worth seeing. This area should be visited in any case once, if you are in the vicinity.
In the west of India lies the state of Rajasthan, a region full of contrasts, characterized by plains and mountains, artificial lakes and deserts devoid of people. It is a land that has experienced a history all its own in the past. If you want to see impressive Maharaja Palaces, experience the solitude of desert towns and gain deep insights into culture and Indian mythology, a trip through Rajasthan is just ideal. Discover the Golden Triangle, formed by the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and with the cities of Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranakpur and Udaipur further treasures of Rajasthan, each of which radiates a very special flair. Impressive and world-famous monuments, fabulous palaces and impressive temples provide unforgettable impressions.
The “Queen of Hill Stations”, as the city of Darjeeling is also called to this day, was already extremely popular with the British as a refuge from the sultry climate in the Ganges plain during monsoon season. At times during the hot summer months, Darjeeling became the de facto seat of government for the British in India, giving the architecture a Victorian feel. Scenically, Darjeeling lies at the foot of the Himalayas very idyllic amidst tea plantations, orchids, rhododendron, rice paddy terraces and Mountain Rivers.
Darjeeling offers breathtaking views of the foothills of the Himalayas and the third highest mountain on earth, Kanchenjunga. This can be enjoyed especially at sunrise and sunset at the famous viewpoint “Tiger Hill”.
Shimla, the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, is located at an altitude of over 2,000 meters above sea level on a ridge of the central Himalayas.
The name comes from the Hindu goddess Devi, a reincarnation of the goddess Kali revered in Hinduism.
The main street “The Mall” opens beautiful views of the city itself and the Himalayas. Outside the city, the street turns into a magnificent promenade passing beautiful villas. Until the Second World War, Indians themselves were not allowed to enter “The Mall”; banks, tea salons and stores of the British colonial society were located here.
The formative architectural style of the British of the 19th century is still omnipresent today. On “The Mall” there is also an octagonal bandstand and an old Protestant church with a Tudor tower whose bell was cast from captured cannons. Especially worth seeing in Shimla are also the many markets and bazaars, which extend over steps and steep alleys.
In 1891 the line of the Kalka-Shimla railroad was built from the small town of Kalka to Shimla, today the narrow-gauge railroad is an important destination for all railroad tourists. Some come here especially for this reason.
On almost 100 km the Kalka-Shimla railroad climbs about 1,500 meters, passing 103 tunnels, driving over 864 bridges and through 919 curves. The journey time is around six hours for the 96.5-kilometer route. Now powered by diesel locomotives of German origin, the “Toy Train” is a living testimony to British engineering.