42 Best Cities to Visit in India

Best Cities to Visit in India
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India is a vast, amazing and diverse country. Its magnificent cities are a showcase for the wonderful wealth of tradition, culture and joie de vivre for which India is world famous. As the ultimate travel destination, India has so much to offer. From the southern states of Goa and Kerala with their laid-back open-mindedness to the dusty desert forts of Rajasthan, there is something ultimately enigmatic and enchanting about this vast and fascinating Asian giant.

A powerhouse of human power, India is pushing into modernity, creating cities that are a seductive smorgasbord of urban innovation. Technology, money, poverty, and ancient structures intermingle in developing cities.

Ancient markets bustle with people and goods, sacred rivers draw pilgrims from afar, and impressive forts preserve labyrinthine old towns. It’s an incredibly inviting destination, so here are the 42 best cities to visit in India.

42. Mumbai

Mumbai
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Mumbai is the Indian city of extremes.

It is the largest and most densely populated city in India with strong contrasts between rich and poor – at the same time Mumbai is quite modern and western by Indian standards, so the contrasts become even more obvious. Nevertheless, Mumbai is a good “entry point” for travelers to India, as one can find familiar things as well as discover new ones.

Just one symbol of the many faces of the city are the name changes – Mumbai was British Bombay, and in 1995 not only was the whole city given back its original Indian name, but quite a few British street names were changed as well. However, the old ones are still as present as the numerous monuments and traditions left by the British.

Mumbai’s landmark is the Gateway of India, a triumphal arch-like monument completed in 1924. Nearby are several buildings from the colonial era, such as the Royal Bombay Yacht Club. Some “practical” buildings from the British colonial era are also of historical and architectural interest, such as the General Post Office, the City Hall or the magnificent Victoria Terminus from 1888, which is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

41. Bangalore

Bangalore Indien
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India’s founder Nehru already had great plans for the capital of the southern state of Karnataka: Today, the “Garden City” is considered the intellectual center of India.

The “Silicon Valley” Bangalore is not only famous for its research institutes, engineering schools and IT industry: inspiring parks and architectural masterpieces make the city a popular travel destination, especially from September to March. The maximum temperatures do not exceed 35 degrees even in summer, while in winter the temperatures drop to 14 degrees.

The million-strong city (the name was officially changed to Bengaluru in 2006 to end its colonial past) has a lot to offer, especially for shopping and nightlife enthusiasts.

40. Chennai

Marina beach in Chennai City,
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Despite the extreme heat, many find Chennai (formerly Madras) on the Bay of Bengal to be relatively quiet and green.

Chennai is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, which is not only geographically but also culturally far from the north of the country. The language, the literature, the architecture show independent traditions, of which the locals are rightly proud!

The historic heart of Chennai is Fort St. George: the 17th-century fortress of the British East India Company now houses the History Museum (closed Fridays) with numerous documents and pictures. The Anglican St. Mary’s Church (also closed on Fridays) contains numerous relics of the colonial era.

A beautiful view over the old town can be had from the main tower of the Supreme Court, a former lighthouse. Also architecturally interesting is the imposing Chepauk Palace of the Maharajas from 1768, which today houses offices of the city administration.

In the quieter south of the city is the Cathedral of St. Thomas, built in 1505, with a small museum attached. The apostle Thomas is said to be buried here, although this is not historically undisputed. Although the interior of the Kapaleeshwarar temple is only accessible to Hindus, one can view the magnificent carvings and enjoy the religious atmosphere.

39. Calcutta

Calcutta
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Calcutta, despite its 300 years of history, is not a particularly old city, because in the 17th century it was still a village. All historical features date back to the time of European colonization and thus Calcutta has become the most splendid colonial city in the Oriental region, peaking especially in the trade-oriented period of the 18th and 19th centuries. The modern aspect of the Indian metropolis lies in the art and film scene, the spiritual in the Hindu place of pilgrimage with one of the most important Kali temples.

Most recommended is an exploration of Calcutta with a city tour along the Victoria Memorial, Dalhousie Square, the Writers Building, the Main Post Office, the Calcutta High Court, and St. John’s Church. The main sights of the city are Haora Bridge, Maiden Park with horses and shepherds, Victoria Memorial, a white marble colonial building dating back to 1921 and the Botanical Garden dating back to 1787.

38. Jaipur

Hawa Mahal in Jaipur
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Today’s capital of the state of Rajasthan, which is just under 250 years old, is relatively young compared to the country’s history. Maharajah Jai Singh II (1688-1743) created a spacious and symmetrical residence here in 1727 to escape the crowded confines of the old capital Amber. The most famous building of the “Pink City” is probably the “Palace of the Winds” located on the main street, which is by no means a palace. Jaipur’s landmarks also include the imposing City Palace. as well as the Observatory. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Jaipur, elephants and camels still dominate the cityscape. Lively hustle and bustle everywhere.

From Jaipur, it is worthwhile to drive to Amber, about 10 kilometers away, and visit the palace complex Fort Amber – a complex of magnificent palaces, pavilions, gardens and temples. Amber is considered the cradle of the Kachwaha princes.

37. Hyderabad

Hyderabad
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Hyderabad, the modern and vibrant capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh, is located in the center of the Deccan Plateau on the Musi River and is the fifth largest city in India. Next to Bangalore, Hyderabad is the most important location of the software industry and is therefore also called Cyberabad.

Although the bustling metropolis is now an important trade and technology center, visitors can still feel the atmosphere of 400 years of Mughal rule. Mosques, churches, temples and lively bazaars provide impressive evidence of the splendor of its past.

Temperatures in Hyderabad range from 18 to 43 degrees in the summer, with large fluctuations in the winter. The measured temperatures are then between 9 and 26 degrees. The rainy season is between June and October.

The city’s landmark is the Charminar, a four-minaret mosque built at the end of the 16th century to commemorate the end of the plague and still the heart of the bustling old town. In each of the minarets, a spiral staircase leads to the second floor of the house of prayer, from where you can enjoy a fantastic view of Old Hyderabad. Around the Charminar there is a lot of hustle and bustle. Merchants, stores, restaurants and markets form the cityscape.

36. Pune

Shree Swaminarayan temple, Ambegaon, Pune, Maharashtra, India
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The business city of Pune is located on a plateau about 170 km southeast of Mumbai. Due to its much more favorable climate – compared to the ever-sweltering Mumbai – it served as the “monsoon capital” for the British colonial rulers, then still called Poona. The ideal time to visit is from October to April.

In the old city are the ruins of the Shaniwar Wada Palace, which was built in 1736 and burned to the ground in 1817. The Vishram Bagh Wada Palace is not far away – it now houses several municipal offices and a post office.

The Raja Kelkar Museum and the Tribal Museum exhibit utensils of everyday Indian life and deal with the ethnic groups of the region.

The Aga Khan Palace now houses the Gandhi National Memorial. Gandhi was imprisoned at this site for two years under British rule.

Other attractions include St. Mary’s Church, the 8th-century Pataleshwar Temple, the Parvati Temple, and the Botanical Garden and Bund Garden.

35. Kochi

Sunset over Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
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Kochi is a port city located on India’s southwest coast and has seen many different settlements through its 600 year old history, from Chinese, Arab and Portuguese, Dutch and British seafarers. This has shaped the very diverse cityscape of Kochi today. Although the Hindu population makes up the majority in the city, there are also numerous large Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. The Franciscan Church, built in 1503, is the oldest church built by Europeans in all of India and, along with the Mattacherry Palace of the Portuguese, is one of the city’s greatest attractions.

A walk takes travelers through the narrow alleys around the synagogue, where local textile handicrafts can be purchased. It’s also worth a trip to Kochi Fort and its Chinese fishing nets dangling from lifting beams – especially in the mornings and evenings, and afterward, visit the fish market with its food stalls right next door.

34. Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad
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Ahmedabad is the fifth largest city in India. The city is the commercial center in the state of Gujarat. Several historical monuments, mosques, museums and art galleries are worth discovering.

The former home of Mahatma Gandhi, the Gandhi Aashram is located near Vadaj on a quiet stretch of the Sabarmati River. It was from here that the famous “Dandi March” started in 1930 as a protest against the salt tax imposed by the British colonial rulers.

Also visit the unique mosque of Sidi Sayed or Sidi Sayed Mosque, built of yellow stone. Marvel at the mosque’s 10 semicircular double-stone windows, a testament to ancient craftsmanship.

The royal fortress of Bhadra Fort, built by Ahmed Shah (founder of the city), exudes a special charm with its magnificent palaces and gardens. At the eastern end of the fort are the famous Teen Darwaza (three gates) with intricately carved and arched structures.

In the artificial lake Kankaria, dating back to 1451, there is an island in the middle with a garden and a summer palace called Nagina Wadi. Well known is the fountain in the complex, which attracts attention with music and light effects. The area surrounding the lake is a popular recreational area that is also home to a zoo. The Kamla Nehru Zoo is undoubtedly one of the best in all of India.

Also marvel at the impressive white marble Hathisingh Jain Temple. This temple is rich in intricate carvings depicting famous musicians, among others.

Another main attraction is the Juma Majid Mosque. The structure with 260 columns and 15 domes of different heights is located in the center of the city and is easily accessible.

33. Amritsar

Golden Temple of Amritsar
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The megacity of Amritsar is the largest city of Punjab and is located only 50km east of the Pakistani city of Lahore. Presumably, the name Amritsar was derived from Amŗit-saagar, which roughly means “nectar of immortality”.

The central and very worth seeing old town is also called “city of walls”. The narrow and winding streets from the 17th and 18th centuries give it a special flair. The city government even uses part of its budget to protect the historical and religious heritage and to preserve the religious shrines in the city.

Amritsar is home to the “Harimandir Sahib”, also known as the “Golden Temple”, the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion. This important Sikh temple attracts more visitors than the Taj Mahal in Agra and is the number one destination for non-resident Indians. Unfortunately, this city has gained sad notoriety because of the horrific incidents during the Amritsar Massacre in 1919 under British rule. On April 13, 1919, General Dyer ordered firing into an unarmed crowd, killing hundreds of innocent civilians.

32. Surat

Surat, India
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One of the oldest cities in Gujarat is Surat, which was once an important international trading city with its main port, not least because of its strategic location on the south bank of the Tapti River, which leads directly into the Arabian Sea.

The city is on the banks of the Tapti River, and was a major port during the British colonial era. However, due to damming projects, the Tapti River became unnavigable and a new port was constructed down stream at the suburb of Hazira. Surat is a major gemstone center, and over 92% of the world’s diamonds are cut here.

In the south of the state is Deva Patan, which is of great religious and historical importance to Hindus. The Somnath Temple is one of the 12 sacred tombs of Shiva and has been rebuilt on the same site after each of its seven sackings.

31. Madurai

Minakshi Sundareshvara Hindu Tempel - Madurai -Indien
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Madurai, the largest city in Tamil Nadu after the capital Chennai, was considered an important religious and commercial center from early times. The 2,500-year-old city was once the capital of the Pandavan kings and the center of ancient Tamil culture.

Today, Madurai is a metropolis of millions, with an excellent tourist infrastructure in addition to its unique atmosphere of bustle and religiosity. Despite the colorful hustle and bustle, there is a pleasantly peaceful atmosphere here, for which the patron goddess Meenakshi is possibly responsible…

Madurai is divided into two parts by the river Vagai: The new town in the north, which goes back to the Cantonment founded by the British and presents itself spacious and modern. And the touristically probably more interesting old town in the south around the Meenakshi temple. Designed like a mandala, the streets here are filled with merchants, pilgrims, market stalls and bullock carts. Conclusion: Madurai is an exciting city that should not be missed on any South India trip. Take your time to roam the alleys and markets!

30. New Delhi

Delhi Gate
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Delhi, the former capital of India (today: New Delhi) is the second largest city in India after Mumbai (Bombay). However, Delhi and New Delhi are a coherent urban unit.

Delhi probably has the most sights thanks to its millennial history. Discover the mega-city on the west bank of the Yamuna River, on the edge of the Ganges plain. Especially impressive are the magnificent buildings from the Mughal period, the numerous galleries, museums, theaters and universities.

Typical oriental quarters with narrow streets, bazaars, temples and mosques characterize Old Delhi. New Delhi was symmetrically designed as a garden city by British architects. Wide boulevards, gardens, colonial-style summer villas and shady avenues characterize New Delhi.

The ancient city is where the Mughals and Turkish rulers built several architectural wonders. India’s largest mosque, the Jama Masjid (Masjid-i-Jahan Numa) stands at the beginning of a very busy and popular street in the center, near the famous Chandni Chowk market.

Also marvel at the imposing fortress-palace Red Fort (also known as Delhi Fort), now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and marking the creative peak of the Mughal Empire during the reign of Emperor Shahjahan.

Don’t miss a visit to the world’s tallest stone minaret, the Qutub Minar in the Qutub complex in Mehrauli in South Delhi.

29. Chandigarh

Chandigarh
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The capital of Punjab and Haryaua is idyllically situated in the foothills of the Shiwalik Mountains. The Indians call Chandigarh “City Beautiful”.

There is controversy about the architect Le Corbusier, who developed the city of Chandigarh, which is divided into sectors.  The sectors (zones) are relatively monocultural, so in a zone is either lived, sold or worked. Examples are sector 17 (shopping zone) and sector 35 with many pubs and restaurants. Distances within the zones are covered either by car, by bicycle or by auto rickshaw via wide arterial roads.

Many architects make a pilgrimage to the monumental government buildings in Sector 1 on an artificial plateau, the head of the city. Next to it, a 250m long secretariat building impresses. Even from far away the buildings are very impressive to see.

One of the most famous and largest rose gardens in Asia, the Zakir Rose Garden displays a sea of blossoms, especially in winter that you must not miss.

A landscape art project covering over 10 hectares, the Rock Garden was designed by Nek Chand in the 1960s as a kind of counter-world to Le Corbusier’s modern planned city. Numerous fantasy images enliven the park.

Popular with residents and tourists alike is Sukhna Lake, an artificial lake created by a dam construction.

28. Dharamsala

Houses at McLeodganj, Dharamshala, India
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McLeod Ganj (Mcleodganj) is also known as “Upper Dharamsala”.

It is also known as “Little Lhasa” due to its high number of Tibetan exiles. The Tibetan government-in-exile also has its headquarters in McLeod Ganj. During the Chinese conquest of Tibet in 1959, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, came to India and found refuge in McLeod Ganj.

Tourism is an important industry in McLeod Ganj. The town is also known for Tibetan handicrafts, thangkas and typical clothing.

The Dalai Lama Temple Tsuglagkhang (Tsuglag Khang) is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the city. It has three magnificent statues, of Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, and a statue of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche).

27. Orchha

Palace in Orcha at sunset, Madhya Pradesh, India
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Orcha is a magnificent medieval town and is located on the banks of the Betwa River. The unspoiled beauty of this small town full of magnificent palaces and temples leaves visitors speechless with delight.

Orcha was built in the 16th and 17th centuries by bold, warlike Bundela Rajputs. Its buildings represent a rich blend of architectural styles, from Mughal to Jain architecture, and interspersed with Persian and European influences. A magnificent legacy that has turned to stone over the years and continues to captivate visitors even after so many years.

In the distance you can see the impressive fort surrounded by dense vegetation. The entire fort area is connected to the city by a 17th century bridge. This bridge is a masterpiece of bridge building and already gives a first idea of the architectural achievements of the rulers of Orcha in the Middle Ages.

Probably the most impressive structure in the fort is the symmetrical Jahangir Mahal (Palace of Jahangir). The delicate pretty windows with breathtaking views makes a visit to the palace a rich experience.

This magnificent palace was built by the most famous ruler of Orcha (Bir Sing Dev) to commemorate the visit of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the 17th century.

Close to the Jahangir Mahal is the Raj Mahal (City Palace) , known for its many corridors, where it is easy to get lost if you are not careful, and for its extraordinary murals. In addition to impressive and romantic palaces, Orcha also has some beautiful, unusual temples.

26. Leh

Bird's eye view of Leh City Ladakh India
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The city of Leh is located at 3500 m above sea level in the high desert of the Himalayas on a mountain slope on the northern side of the Indus River. It is now the largest city in the Ladakh region, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is also one of the highest permanently inhabited cities in the world.

The city of Leh is also traditionally described as the gateway to heaven. Not only because of its mountainous location, but also because of its beauty. The Tibetan Buddhist influenced city is located in the trekking region of Ladakh and therefore offers a travel mix of culture and sporting activities.

Besides Leh’s old town, a little outside there is the old palace and the Shanti Stupa to visit, a rather new Japanese temple in Ladakh of the Zen community, which was only completed in 1991. Here above Leh, visitors have a great view of the surrounding Indus Valley and can participate in meditation.

25. Varanasi

Varanasi
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Varanasi is one of the most sacred sites of the Hindus. It is the city of Shiva, the most important manifestation of the divine in Hinduism. Shiva is the god of ecstasy and destruction, but also stands for new beginnings. For over 2,500 years, masses of pilgrims have flocked to Varanasi to bathe in the Ganges, as bathing in the holy river is considered purifying. But also, those who die in Varanasi are considered blessed because they break the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth.

In the narrow, winding streets of the old city, where one can easily get lost, the visitor is overwhelmed by a multitude of impressions: the often aggressive for Western terms merchants, homeless people, traffic chaos, corpses that are carried to the river, and between all this cows, which of course also leave their dung everywhere.

The soul of the city is the Ganges, the religious, spiritual, cultural, but also the economic life takes place along the river. The river bank is characterized by the ghats, stairways that lead to the water and fortify the bank. These ghats are mainly used for praying and bathing, but there are also special Burning Ghats, where the dead are burned and their ashes are scattered in the Ganges.

24. Agra

Agra
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A visit to Agra is simply part of a trip to India. Seeing the famous Taj Mahal is an impressive experience. You will certainly not forget the sight so quickly – it is that beautiful. Akbar the Great (1556-1605) had once chosen the place at the river Yamuna for the seat of his capital of his Mughal Empire and had a magnificent city built here.

The Red Fort, which was expanded by his successors into a palace, was built during this period of prosperity and displays typical features of Mughal architecture. The Taj Mahal, however, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was not built until the time of Emperor Sha-Jahan (1628-1658). Today, the city in the western part of the state of Uttar Pradesh has an estimated population of 1.6 million. Visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal is almost a “must” of every India round trip.

23. Indore

Rajwada Palace, Indore
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Indore is the largest city in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is relatively young, having been founded only in the 18th century by Rani Ahalya Bai, the then ruler of the Holkar dynasty. However, Indore quickly developed into the capital of this dynasty and even today it continues to grow and is considered the economic center of Madhaya Pradesh.

Indore’s landmark is the Holkar’s Raj Wada Palace, located in the heart of the old city and overlooking the city’s palm-lined main square.

Another famous structure of Indore is the Jain temple Kanch Mandir, which houses huge mamoridols and impressive murals depicting the punishments sinners face in the afterlife. The glass mosaics inside the temple are also worth seeing, because although the faith this temple serves is known for its sobriety, this temple is very splendidly decorated. Around this temple are the colorful bazaars that invite you to stroll around the city.

The Lal Bagh Palace is located on the bank of the Kahm River. Through a wrought-iron gate decorated with the family coat of arms of the Hoklar dynasty, one enters the interior of the structure. Here is a unique insight into the wealth of Indore’s former rulers, as family treasures are displayed in the former Durbar Hall, which was used for state banquets.

22. Visakhapatnam

Colorful fishing boats near rushikonda beach Visakhapatnam City in India
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Visakhapatnam is the second largest city in Andhra Pradesh and one of the fastest growing cities in Asia. With its busy and natural harbor, this place is home not only to a shipyard, but also an oil refinery, a steel mill and other major industries. It is the only place on the east coast of India where the mountains and the sea converge.

The older inhabitants of the area claim that the name of the city is derived from the god Vaisakheswara. With its golden shining beaches and green mountains, the city offers various amusement opportunities. The city has been awarded the “Vrikshamtira Award” several times, which it has received for its large green areas.

Visakhapatnam is one of the most outstanding tourist destinations for those who want to experience relaxation on the beach and action in nature.

The 25km long coast line road from Visakhapatnam to Bheemunipatnam is breathtaking. Better known as Bheemili, the second oldest municipality in the country is located here. Also preserved here are a Dutch settlement with the ruins of a fort, Bell of Arms, and a 17th century Dutch cemetery.

Borra Caves is located on the way to Araku, 90km away. A trip to the million-year-old Borra Caves is an absolute must for any nature lover. The formations of stalactites and stalagmites offer a breathtaking arrangement of naturally formed splendor.

21. Udaipur

City Palace and Pichola lake at night, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
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Udaipur is undoubtedly the most romantic city in Rajasthan. Epithets such as “City of Lakes”, “Venice of the East”, “City of Palaces” or “Fairy Tale City” give an idea of how beautiful a vacation in Udaipur and the surrounding area must be.

Numerous artists were and still are inspired by the romanticism of this city. A vibrant city life awaits you at the foot of the city palace standing on a hill, which was built by Maharana Udai Singh as the capital of the Mewar Empire. The green cityscape with its numerous gardens also gives Udaipur the nickname “Kashmir of Rajasthan”.

Udaipur is famous for its Rajput palaces. Particularly famous is the Lake Palace, which covers an entire island in Lake Pichola.  Some of the palaces are now magnificent luxury hotels.

Today, as in the past, the mighty City Palace, one of the largest palace complexes in Rajasthan, dominates the surroundings. From there you can also enjoy a magnificent view over Lake Pichola. The palace houses a private residence of the descendant of the last king, two luxurious hotels, a museum and several stores.

20. Vadodara

Laxmi Vilas Palace in Baroda
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Before independence, Baroda, also called Vadodara, was the capital of the princely state of Gaekwad. Today it is a medium-sized city by Indian standards, with several museums, art galleries and a relaxing park.

Sayaji Baug Park is a popular meeting place in the evening. There is also a small zoo in it, and a miniature train rattles around the park. In the park you can also visit the Baroda Museum and Art Gallery. In the museum there is a collection of quite different things. The Art Gallery contains miniature paintings, but also a collection of paintings by European masters.

South of the city center, you will find the Royal Art Collection at the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, which includes works by European painters such as Raphael, Tizien and Murillo, as well as exhibits of Greco-Roman, Chinese and Japanese art, and Indian works.

Other places of interest: The magnificent Lakshmi Vilas Palace houses an extensive collection of armor and sculptures. However, the public is not allowed to enter. 50m north of the palace rises the Naulakhi Well

Naulakhi Well, a beautiful baoli (stair-shaped spring). Springs of this kind are a peculiarity of Gujarat. If you are interested in these springs, you can see others in Ahmedabad (Dada Hari) and a little outside the city (Adalaj Well).

19. Dehradun

Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun
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Dehradun is the capital of Uttarakhand. The city is located in the west of the state in the fertile Doon Valley, with the Ganges River to the east and its largest tributary, the Yamuna, to the west. Dehradun is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. The population is 578,420.

It is one of the oldest cities in India and was formerly the capital of the Garhwal rulers. In 1814 it was the destination of the British troops, who at that time ended the Nepalese rule in the region. Today, the city is home to numerous national institutes and organizations. Probably the best known are the Forest Research Institute and the Indian Military Academy.

Built by Guru Ram Raj during the reign of Aurangzeb, the Gurudwara is a spiritual place of great religious significance and is therefore popular with travelers.

Another place worth visiting is the Robbers Cave. It is located about 8 km from the city and invites visitors to picnic with its scenic surroundings.

18. Mysore

The beautiful Maharajas Palace in Mysore, Karnataka, India
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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.

Apart from numerous tourist attractions, the city enchants with the charm and flair of a glorious past. The shopping area around Ashoka and Sayaji Rao Road makes shopping a pure pleasure. An extremely wide range of handicrafts from sandalwood to the finest silk can be found here.

In the immediate vicinity is the Devaraja Market. With its expanse, the countless covered stalls and stocked with an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables, it is one of the most colorful food markets in South India.

Right in the heart of the city is the Maharaja’s Palace, built in the Indo-Saracenic style. During festive occasions, part of it is occupied by the royal family, while the other section houses a museum. On Sundays and holiday evenings, the palace is illuminated with several thousand lights – remaining a dreamlike and unforgettable sight.

17. Thiruvananthapuram

Padmanabhaswamy
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Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is often still known by its old name Trivandrum. Its history dates back to the year 1000 BC. The best time to visit Thiruvanathapuram is between October and January.

The absolute highlight is the two hundred and sixty year old Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It extends over 2,400 square meters and its main entrance, the entrance tower, rises thirty meters into the sky. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple, but even if you are not a Hindu, you can take a look through the entrance gate at the 365 carved pillars.

Also of interest is the Puthe Maliga Palace Museum, housed in the palace of the Tranvancore Maharajas. This structure was built 2,000 years ago in the architecture typical of Kerala. Between January and February, a classical music festival is held here every year.

A nice alternative to the city center is the newly renovated Zoological Garden, located a little further north. Between small woods and lakes there are enclosures with a wide variety of animals.

16. Lucknow

The Asfi Mosque, located near Bara Imambara in Lucknow, India
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In its present form, Lucknow was founded in 1528 on the orders of Babur, the founder of the Indian Mughal Empire. In the mid-18th century, with the growing influence of the nawabs (governors), the empire’s center of power shifted to the province of Avadh, whose capital became Lucknow in 1775. Although this marked the beginning of a period of state decline and decadence for India, the fine arts, literature, dance and music flourished in Lakhnau. Since then, Lucknow has been considered a multicultural city of culture. This begins with the language, for the purest Hindi and Urdu are spoken here. But Lucknow is also famous for its particularly refined culinary art.

Today, however, Lucknow is not only a city of culture, but also of business. Good schools, infrastructure, universities and research centers provide the basis for this. Almost all of India’s major companies have at least one representative in Lucknow, and the IT and biotechnology sectors in particular are flourishing.

Most of the monuments are located on or near the south bank of the Gomti, a river overgrown with seaweed that swells during the monsoon and is then crowded with fishing canoes.

To the west of the city, near the “Hardinge Bridge” bordering the “old” Lucknow, are several structures built by the Nawabs of Awadh, including several imambaras (“houses of the imams”), burial structures for imams. Most notable is the 18th century “Bara Imambara” (“Great House of the Imam”), which has one of the largest vaulted halls in the world – 15 meters high, 50 meters long and 16 meters wide.

Spanning the main street west of the main entrance gates is the colossal “Rumi Darwasa,” a triumphal arch modeled on the High Gate in Istanbul. Steps lead to open spaces with views of the monuments of Hussainabad.

15. Guwahati

Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati India
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Guwahati, with a population of about 960,000, is the capital of Assam and lies on both banks of the Brahmaputra. Situated amidst a beautiful region with rich flora and fauna, the city is the gateway to the northeastern states of India. The city is the commercial center for tea and oil in Assam.

Guwahati also has some impressive shopping to offer that should not be missed. There are some interesting and very lively places in the city. These districts contain the hotels, restaurants, shopping and business areas, Momos and Chicken Rolls are the popular fast food available in almost every restaurant. The many restaurants in Guwahati offer South Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisine in addition to Assamese cuisine. There are also some good bookstores and music stores.

Among the most important sights are the Kamakhya temple, an institution of Tantric Shaktism that attracts many pilgrims, and the Assam State Museum with large archaeological and ethnographic collections. The Brahmaputra River is also an attraction in itself, being one of the great rivers of India.

14. Bhubaneswar

View at the Brahmeswara Temple in Bhubaneswar - Odisha, India
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Bhubaneshwar is located in eastern India and is the capital of the Indian state of Odisha. The “City of Temples” is the commercial and religious heart of the region and was once the capital of the kingdom of Kalinga. The city owes its nickname to the hundreds of temples and shrines that can be seen throughout the city. The spire of the Lingaraj Temple, a technical and artistic masterpiece of early temple construction, towers particularly imposingly. But the beauty of a Vishwa Shanti stupa or the pink translucency of a Mahavira Jain temple are also examples of the extravagant style of Odisha temple architecture. The main tourist season is from October to February.

The Rajarani Temple is among the places of worship in Bhubaneshwar that are not dedicated to the goddess Shiva. The temple is one of the oldest and richly decorated, some sculptures are damaged. The Brahmeswar temple is also one of the older among the temples in Bhubaneshwar. Iron beams were already used for its construction, which indicates the outstanding achievement of architecture in Odisha.

The entrance to the Lingaraja temple is forbidden for non-Hindus. Nevertheless, you can admire the countless sculptures on the outer wall with binoculars even from a terrace. The temple was built in the 11th century. The sculptures depict mithunas, loving couples, and yakshinis, women.

13. Bhopal

Bhopal City Madhya Pradesh Indien
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Bhopal, a city of over a million inhabitants, is the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It was founded by King Bhoj in the 11th century in the course of a dam and canal construction project, which also created the city’s lakes. City of Lakes is therefore often called Bhopal.

In the 19th century and until India’s independence in 1947, Bhopal was an independent princely state in British India. Unusually for a Muslim state, it was ruled by four rulers (begums) in succession between 1819 and 1926. During this period, Bhopal was a loyal partner of the British Empire, the city was generously developed and modernized, and tolerance toward Hindus prevailed.

The real attraction of the city are the two lakes. The Upper Lake (Bada Talaab) was created by the construction of a dam under King Bhoj. In the water of this lake the king is said to have recovered from a skin disease that was considered incurable. The Lower Lake (Chota Talaab) was created during the Mughal rule.

On the shores of the Upper Lake is the Vav Vihar National Park, a wildlife sanctuary where one can directly observe tigers, bears, leopards, birds and much more, so to speak, in the middle of the city.

Bhopal today has two faces: The old city with its palaces, mosques and markets still gives an idea of the time of the Begums. Worth seeing here are, for example, the Jami Mosque or the Darul Uloom Tajul Mosque, which is one of the largest mosques in India. The new city, on the other hand, impresses with modern buildings, wide avenues and spacious parks and gardens. Here, Bhopal is cleaner and greener than most other cities in India. Incidentally, Bhopal also has a fairly well-developed network of public transportation.

12. Mangaluru

Mangaluru
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At the confluence of the two rivers Gurupura and Nethravathi, framed and surrounded by green hills, lies the city of Mangaluru (Mangalore). Mangaluru is an important port city in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, which enchants its visitors with numerous temples and churches. Old houses with red tiled roofs stand in the narrow streets, which are often adorned with palm trees. Around 485,000 inhabitants live in multicultural Mangaluru.

Especially in terms of economic aspects, the city is very important. Therefore, it is also called the land of spices and international traders. The port, by the way, is one of the largest in all of India. Especially coffee, cashew nuts and pepper are exported from there. New Mangaluru Port is the port of the city of Mangaluru, which until 2014 was still called Mangalore and is still mainly known by the old name Mangalore. The wholesale fish market right at the port is definitely worth a visit. Baskets full of lobsters, squid, mussels and other fish are offered. It is best to stop by here early in the morning.

In the city of Mangaluru you can clearly see the influences of the different eras of the Portuguese and British in the still preserved buildings – beautiful temples and churches adorn the city.

Nashik, one of the most preferred tourist destinations in the state of Maharashtra, has a great religious significance for Hindus. This city has got a complete makeover in the past few years and has come out to be a very big industrial hub in the state.

11. Nashik

Looking over a field of vines a vineyard in Nashik India
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Wine is currently rapidly gaining popularity in India. Parallel to this development, India is also experiencing a boom in wine tourism. Many Indian wineries now have tasting rooms so that wine connoisseurs can taste their way through the Indian wine-growing regions. Often, the wineries also offer accommodations, so wine lovers can book an all-around experience. India’s main wine-growing region is Nashik, about four hours northeast of Mumbai.

10. Aurangabad

Famous Makai Gate, Aurangabad
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Aurangabad is a city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra and has more than 1 million inhabitants. The city was founded in 1610 under the name Kharki by the Ethiopian general, politician and engineer Malik Ambar. Between 1682 and his death in 1707, the city was the seat of the Indian Great Mogul Aurangzeb.

Aurangabad has a university and is an important location for the cotton industry. The third largest city in Maharashtra looks somewhat unattractive due to its chaotic traffic and lack of a center. The main reason tourists stay in the city is its proximity to two of India’s most important sights: the Ajanta and Elora caves. Still, Aurangabad has a few interesting sights to offer.

Bibi-qa-Maqbara is one of the main attractions in Aurangabad and one of the last great mausoleums in India. It was built during the reign of Aurangzeb, the last great Indian Mughal emperor. After the death of his favorite wife Dilras Banu Begum, he commissioned architects Ata-Allah and Hanspat Rai to build a tomb to honor her. The construction took about ten years.

9. Panaji

Panaji
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“Am I in India or in Portugal?” this thought crosses my mind as I stroll through Goa’s capital. Panaji, better known by its old name Panjim, doesn’t seem Indian at all. In the small town, one feels transported back to the time of the Portuguese sailors. A sightseeing stroll through the old town.

It’s hard to believe that Panaji, with a population of just under 60,000, is the capital of Goa. It is much more like walking through a small Portuguese town.

The central square is Church Square with the city park. It is the green oasis in the middle of the city. From Church Square, the church is also not far. The “Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary” is enthroned brilliant white on the hill. It was consecrated in 1541 and was the first port of call for sailors from Portugal.

The most beautiful part of town to immerse yourself in the Indian-Portuguese flair is Sao Tomé. You can lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets, but despite the beautiful houses, you should always keep your eyes on the ground. Deep water channels along the streets suggest the masses of water that fall from the sky during the monsoon.

8. Jaisalmer

Panorama of the golden fort of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
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In the midst of the barren Thar desert, the golden city rises with its buildings of yellow-brown sandstone and appears like a mirage. The barren landscape all around further delineates the architecturally charming city. In the long sunny hours of the dry season, Jaisalmer’s rooftops shine with the sun, enveloping the city in a golden glow.

Explore the famous golden city with its mighty fort, the magnificent palace and the many golden buildings in the Thar desert and get to know the charming oasis with its warm inhabitants. In Jaisalmer unforgettable impressions of a unique city await you, which has retained a charm all its own.

It is located so remotely that few tourists visit it at all. However, the fascination of the city slowly attracts more and more travelers. But no one was disappointed when they were there. 

7. Udagamandalam

Udagamandalam
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Hardly anyone knows the Tamil name Udhagamandalam, because in common parlance the place is still called Ootacamund, or even better Ooty.

The mountain town in the Nilgiri Mountains, a foothill of the Western Ghats, is very popular as a summer resort. About 95,000 inhabitants live here permanently at an altitude of 2,250 meters. The air is fresh and clear, and in the evening it is not uncommon to have to light a fire in the fireplace because it gets quite chilly. A big difference to the hot plains of Tamil Nadu.

This is exactly why Udhagamandalam was “discovered” in the early 19th century by John Sullivan, a former secretary of the British East India Company. As in so many hill stations throughout India, the English sought coolness and rest here. Recognizing the area’s agricultural potential as well, Sullivan bought land and began growing flax, hemp, potatoes, fruit, and especially tea. In this way he was able to make a fortune within 20 years.

Sullivan and his British business friends built a town with an artificial lake, churches and stone houses. The whole thing reminded the colonial masters more of the Scottish highlands than of India, so in no time Ooty became the most popular mountain resort on the Indian peninsula. The entire colonial administration of Madras rested here during the summer months.

6. Jodhpur

The Blue City and Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Rajasthan, India
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After Jaipur, Jodhpur is among the second largest cities of Rajasthan and is one of the great sights of India. It is located on the edge of the Thar Desert. Jodhpur is also called the “Blue City” because most of the buildings in the city are painted blue. The cityscape is dominated by a massive fort that stands on the bare hill in the middle of the city. This city was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, the head of a Rajput clan, the Rathors. His descendants ruled not only Jodhpur, but also other Rajput princely states.

The kingdom of Rathore was once known as Marwar, the land of death. The old city of Jodhpur is surrounded by a 10 km long wall, built about a century after the city was founded. High up from the fort, you can clearly see where the old city ends and the new parts of the city begin. The old city consists of a fascinating maze of narrow streets, where a stroll is very varied. Eight gates lead out of the old city. Jodhpur is one of the most interesting cities in India. It was from here that the famous breeches (jodhpurs) – wide at the top and tight at the bottom – began their triumphal march around the world.

5. Shimla

Cityscape of Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh under Himalaya
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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 that passes beautiful mansions. 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. Also worth seeing in Shimla are the many markets and bazaars, which stretch up steps and steep alleyways.

The surrounding area offers several villages for hiking and trekking. Kufri is only 15km away. There, unforgettable horseback rides are also offered. Kasauli in the southwest also scores with beautiful hiking trails. Tip: A hiking tour from Kasauli to Sanawar, also an idyllic village in the mountains with a well-known college from the colonial era, is certainly one of the special experiences in this area.

4. Puducherry

Puducherry
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The cityscape of Puducherry appears surprisingly European. However, this is not surprising, since Puducherry was the capital of French India for 300 years. The old town with its avenues, elegant colonial houses and gardens exudes a Mediterranean flair. Your way leads you past colonial mansions, some of which have been converted into charming boutique hotels. A busy promenade runs along the Bay of Bengal and passes several statues, including a 4-meter-high Gandhi monument.

Puducherry became famous for the Aurobindo Ashram, founded in 1926, whose building can be recognized by its gray paint.  In addition, the ashram has now become an important economic factor, which also includes schools, hospitals and numerous properties.  In the afternoon, a specially trained expert will take you on a tour of the city’s historical heritage. During a walking tour, you will take a look behind the scenes of the historic buildings and learn more about the foundation’s efforts to preserve the city’s architectural heritage.

3. Shillong

Shillong
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Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is located in the Khasi Mountains area at an altitude of 1496 meters above sea level.

Due to the numerous waterfalls, the area is nicknamed “Scotland of the East”. Clear mountain streams and lush green pine forests add to the charm of the landscape.

The subtropical climate in Shillong is characterized by mild summers and cool winters.  Temperatures range from a maximum of 25°C in summer to about 5°C in winter. However, like all of northeast India, the area is subject to the vagaries of the monsoon. The rainy season starts in June and lasts until the end of August.

The Butterfly Museum is a highlight for botany lovers. Butterflies of all kinds are bred there to ensure species conservation. Caroline Waterfalls invites visitors to take a dip in its pool. Surrounded by orchids, one can enjoy the unique view of the landscape.

The highest viewpoint of Shillong is located at 1965m above sea level. From here you can overlook the whole city. Especially at night, the panorama takes your breath away.

2. Kozhikode

Calicut beach
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Kozhikode (until 1996 Calicut) is located on the coast of the Arabian Sea in the Indian state of Kerala and is a bustling port city

It was here that the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama landed in May 1498 on his first voyage from Europe to Asia. After that, the city experienced turbulent and eventful times and was even completely destroyed during the last attack by the Portuguese.

Today Kozhikode is mainly known as the center of the local martial art Kalarippayat, often called “Tantra Yoga of Martial Arts”, or for the traditional sailing boats, the Dhans, which are made of hardwood for many Arab customers.

Kozhikode has a tropical climate. Temperatures vary only slightly and are between 25 and 29 degrees. Rainy season is during the southwest monsoon, which begins in June and lasts until August.

The Tali Temple dates back to the time of Zamarin rule. It was destroyed under Sultan Tipu and Hyder Ali, but then rebuilt in the 18th century. Five different religious ceremonies are held here every day.

Mananchira Square was once the courtyard of a Zamarin palace, but today you can find an impressive library, the town hall and a park where you can get away from the noise and bustle. An almost untouched paradise where locals gather to enjoy the sunsets is Kozhikode Beach. An attraction are the piers, which are about 125 years old and reach far into the sea.

1. Srinagar

Srinagar, Kashmir, India: Landscape of houseboats on Dal Lake with snow mountain
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The capital of Kashmir is located on Dal Lake and the Jhelum River. Srinagar is a bustling, colorful city with a touch of Central Asia. The people are very different from the inhabitants of the rest of India. Those who travel south from Srinagar not infrequently say, “I’m going back to India.”

Srinagar is a little confusing at first glance because Dal Lake is part of the city, and this adds to the confusion. It is actually three lakes separated by “dykes” or “floating gardens”. So it’s not always easy to tell where one lake ends and the other begins. There are houseboats floating on the lake, but they are firmly anchored to the lake bottom. But there are also houses that look like houseboats and yet suddenly float away.

Most of the houseboats are located at the south end of the lake. But you will also find some on the Jhelum River and further north on Nagin Lake. The Jhelum River makes a big loop around the main part of town. A canal connects the river to Dal Lake, which has the effect of turning this part of town into an island. At the south end of this “island” runs the well-known road Bund.

On this “island part” of the city there are countless restaurants, stores, travel agencies and hotels. The modern part of Srinagar stretches south of the Jhelum River, and the older parts of the city are to the north and northwest. The boulevard along Dal Lake is an important address in Srinagar.