India is a land of contrasts. From the hustle and bustle of Delhi and Mumbai to the laid-back vibe of Goa, there's something for everyone in this diverse country. And with so many different places to see, it can be tough to narrow down your options.
To help you plan your trip, here are 11 of the best tourist places to visit in India:
- Taj Mahal, Agra
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is a must-see for any first-time visitor to India. This stunning mausoleum was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and is set amidst manicured gardens and reflecting pools. While the Taj Mahal is undoubtedly the star attraction in Agra, don't miss out on seeing the nearby Agra Fort, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Often referred to as the "spiritual capital of India," Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Situated on the banks of the Ganges River, this holy city is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims who come to bathe in the river and perform funeral rites. Visitors can also explore the narrow alleyways lined with temples, shops, and homes, take a boat ride on the river, and watch as the city comes to life at dawn and dusk.
- Amber Fort, Jaipur
The pink city of Jaipur is filled with beautiful Rajasthani architecture, and the Amber Fort is one of the best examples. This imposing fort is built from red sandstone and white marble and is set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake. Inside the fort, you'll find a complex of courtyards, gardens, and halls, as well as the famed Sheesh Mahal, a room entirely decorated with mirrorwork.
- Lake Palace, Udaipur
Udaipur is often called the "Venice of the East," and its beautiful Lake Palace hotel is one of the main reasons. This white marble palace sat on an island in the middle of Lake Pichola and was once the summer home of the Maharana of Mewar. Today, it's a luxury hotel, and guests can enjoy stunning views of the lake and city and indulgent treatments at the spa while staying here.
- Leh Palace, Leh
Leh is a small town in the Himalayan region of Ladakh and is the perfect place to escape city life's hustle and bustle. The Leh Palace is one of the main attractions here and was once the home of the royal family of Ladakh. The palace is now in ruins, but the views from its hilltop location are worth the climb. Other popular activities in Leh include exploring the nearby monasteries, trekking in the Himalayas, and, of course, taking in the stunning scenery.
- Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
The Meenakshi Temple is one of India's largest and most famous temples. Situated in the city of Madurai, this Hindu temple is dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi and is a beautiful example of Dravidian architecture. The temple complex is made up of four gopurams (gateways), each covered in colourful sculptures, as well as a thousand pillars. Visitors can also see the ceremonial wedding of Meenakshi and Sundareshvara, which is held every day inside the temple.
- Gateway of India, Mumbai
The Gateway of India is one of the most recognizable landmarks in India. Built in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai, this massive stone archway sits on the waterfront in Colaba. Today, it's a popular spot for tourists to take photos and enjoy the views of the Arabian Sea. The nearby Taj Mahal Palace hotel is also worth a visit, both for its architecture and tragic history (it was the site of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai).
- Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur
The Brihadisvara Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important temples in South India. Built in the 11th century by Chola Emperor Raja Raja I, this Hindu temple is dedicated to Shiva. It's known for its impressive architecture, particularly the soaring vimana (tower) over the sanctum, as well as its bronze statue of Nandi, the bull.
- Ellora Caves, Aurangabad
The Ellora Caves are a series of rock-cut temples and monasteries dating from the 5th to the 10th century. Highlights include the Kailasa Temple, a massive temple carved from a single rock piece, and the Buddha and Bodhisattvas sculptures in the Ajanta Caves. Situated in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, these caves are a must-see for any history or religion buff.
- City Palace, Udaipur
The City Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Udaipur. Built by the Maharanas of Mewar over the centuries, this massive complex blends Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. Inside, you'll find a maze of courtyards, gardens, and halls and a museum with a collection of armour, paintings, and artifacts. The views of the city from the City Palace are also not to be missed.
- Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Kerala
The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a paradise for bird lovers. Situated on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, this sanctuary is home to over 200 species of birds, including ducks, herons, cormorants, and egrets. You can also spot turtles, amphibians, and fish in the lake, making it an excellent place for an arcadian stroll or boat ride.
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