India is an extremely diverse country, with every state offering something different. This can make planning a trip challenging. Where to go? What to see? And all in so little time! This guide to India tourist places by region provides a roundup of all the highlights of each state in India to give you an idea of where you should focus your attention.
Interested in the best of what India has to offer? Narrow it down with these 11 Top Tourist Places in India. Or, if you'd rather venture away from the tourist trail, here are 12 of the Best Places to Visit in India Off the Beaten Track.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
India isn't just mainland. Around 1,000 kilometers off the east coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, the pristine Andaman and Nicobar Islands also fall under Indian territory. Havelock Island is the most popular place to visit and offers snorkeling and scuba diving. Intermediate and advanced surfers also head to the Andaman Islands to catch some of the best waves in India. Foreigners need a permit, issued on arrival at Port Blair. Wondering where to stay? Here are the 5 Best Havelock Island Hotels for all Budgets.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
Andhra Pradesh is predominately visited by Hindu pilgrims, who go in droves to the temple at Tirupati. The capital of Telangana, Hyderabad, also draws visitors to the Charminar, Golconda Fort, and royal tombs. This City of Nizams is full of glorious Islamic heritage from centuries of prosperous rule, and is definitely worth exploring. Here are 8 Essential Things to Do in Hyderabad.
Bihar has changed and improved a lot in recent years, and now has huge potential as a tourist destination in terms of spiritual and rural tourism. One of the main reasons you'd want to visit Bihar is to explore the birthplace of Buddhism in India, including Bodhgaya and the Mahabodhi Temple. A convenient way of doing this is by taking the Buddhist tourist train. The Sonepur Fair is an interesting rural-style fair.
Goa has always been one of the most popular tourist places in India. People to flock there for its beaches and bars. However, that's not all the state offers. Adventure activities and watersports, shopping, spice plantations, nature, and history are added attractions. Also check out these 8 Cultural Things to Do in Goa Beyond the Beaches and Bars.
Gujarat, a state known for its entrepreneurial ability, doesn't commonly feature on the tourist trail in India. Yet, it does have some notable attractions. Most famous is the Sabarmati Ashram that Gandhi founded in Ahmedabad, and which served as his headquarters during India's struggle for independence. The Great Rann of Kutch white salt desert, Indian wild ass on the salt plains of the Little Rann of Kutch, tribal villages and textiles in the Kutch district, and lions at Gir National Park are other things worth a look. If you're there for the Navaratri festival, don't miss the famous Gujarati garba dancing!
Want mountains? Himachal Pradesh is the place! Its mountainous landscape, at the foothills of the Himalayas, is made up of a series of valleys and snow covered peaks. Himachal Pradesh is deservedly sought out by adventure lovers. Alternatively, the state provides a refreshing escape for those who are craving crisp mountain air. Enjoy historic toy trains, Buddhist meditation and philosophy, remote high altitude villages, and even skiing during the winter!
Jammu and Kashmir
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is one of India's most controversial tourist places and one which many people don't feel comfortable visiting. There has been significant unrest there in the past, particularly between Hindu Jammu and Muslim Kashmir. However, plenty of visitors head to Leh, in the Buddhist Ladakh region. The region offers some outstanding treks. Otherwise, visitors tend to prefer the hill station of Srinagar where house boating is popular. The Shiva caves in Jammu and Kashmir also attract pilgrims, along with the Buddhist monasteries.
Karnataka, in south India, has a lot to offer. Unfortunately though, travel to Karnataka is often overlooked in favor of more popular places in Goa, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Those who visit Karnataka's tourist places will be rewarded with a memorable mix of ancient ruins, royal heritage, coffee plantations, yoga, national parks, and beach.
Kerala, in south India, is often referred to as "God's Own Country". This coastal state has grown to be one of the most popular tourist places in India, up there with Rajasthan and Goa. It's rich in distinctive traditions and culture, and lush unspoiled tropical beauty. Most of all, Kerala is known for its elephants, elaborate temple festivals, and the tranquil backwaters. The pace of life is slow, making Kerala the perfect place for a leisurely vacation. However, there are plenty of things to do in Kerala for those who want to be active. Discover when's the best time to visit Kerala.
Madhya Pradhesh, in central India, draws visitors with well preserved remnants of its compelling history. Its many abandoned cities provide an intriguing window to the past, so different to the congested India of today. In further contrast, the national parks of Madhya Pradesh offer some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities in India. However, the erotic temples at Khajuraho are the most famed attraction.
Maharashtra is a very large and diverse coastal state that attracts visitors with ancient cave temples, forts, mountains, wineries, tribes, and beaches. Of course, there is cosmopolitan Mumbai as well.
The North East of India is made up of seven adjoining states plus Sikkim (see below) and is the most tribal regions of India. Although the mountainous scenery is arresting, the northeast region remains the least visited part of India due to its remoteness and permit requirements. You'll find everything from Buddhist monasteries, to tea plantations and natural caves there.
Odisha is one of India's lesser frequented states, as it's predominantly rural and "off the beaten track". However, tourist interest in Odisha's unique combination of attractions including temples, tribes, and traditional dance festivals is growing. Silver jewelry is a specialty, along with an endearing array of specialized handicrafts.
Punjab, with its fertile farming land, is one of India's most prosperous states. Home to bhangra music, the brotherhood of the Sikh religion, the Golden Temple, and Wagah border, it has a lively culture. Capital city Chandigarh is a modern day planned city that's different to any other in India. However, to get a real taste of Punjab, it's necessary to venture further afield to discover the simplicity and charm of rural life, amidst an ever-growing urban life.
Rajasthan is one of the most visited states in India. It's not surprising because it shows India at its most colorful and exotic best. All the things that come to mind when you think of India can be found in Rajasthan -- palaces, forts, desert, camels, elephants, twirled mustaches, and snake charmers.
Bordered by China, Nepal, and Bhutan, Sikkim has long been regarded as one of the last Himalayan Shangri-las. Because of its remoteness and the fact that permits are required, Sikkim isn't the most accessible area to visit in India. However, it certainly is one of the most energetic and refreshing. There's something very soothing to the soul about the mountainous beauty and ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture in Sikkim. Trekking is a popular activity as well.
Tamil Nadu, in south India, is a fascinating state full of ancient Dravidian architecture. Intricately crafted temples, rock carvings, and classical dance are some of the attractions in Tamil Nadu. The hill stations are also popular destinations. Most importantly, Tamil Nadu is one of the best states in India for solo female travelers.
The vast area of Uttar Pradesh is home to some of India's much loved, and well known, spiritual and historical destinations. These include the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, and Varanasi. Rural Uttar Pradesh, the poorest part of India, is best avoided, however. There is little to see there and women travelers may feel uncomfortable.
Uttarakhand, bordered by Nepal and Tibet, and shadowed by towering Himalayan peaks, is full of unspoiled natural beauty. It's divided into two regions -- Garhwal in the north, and Kumaon in the south. Ancient holy places, forests and valleys, national parks, and an abundance of trekking options are some of the attractions that make travel to Uttarakhand worthwhile.
India's cultural cauldron of West Bengal combines the arts, the city, the countryside, mountains, and nature. Whether you're intellectually inclined and want to be among writers and wandering minstrels, or adventurous and want to be among elephants and rhinoceroses, there's something for everyone!