Spiritual India: 6 Top Destinations You Shouldn't Miss

Where to Best Experience the Spiritual Side of India

Spiritual India, rich in holy places, traditions and rituals, offers much for those seeking knowledge and awareness. Visit these popular sacred destinations of various faiths to maximize your spiritual experience in India.

  • 01 of 06
    Varanasi
    ••• Christopher Pillitz / Getty Images

    Varanasi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the seven sacred Hindu cities with a very old history. Known as the city of Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction, it’s believed that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation.  The fascinating thing about this mystical city is that its rituals are revealed openly along the many riverside ghats. It's an intense city that attracts Hindu pilgrims and foreigners alike. Consider staying at a riverside hotel for a more immersive experience.

  • 02 of 06
    Haridwar.
    ••• Exotica.im / Getty Images

    Ancient Haridwar (the "Gateway to God") is another of the holiest places in India, and one of the oldest living cities. Located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, it's particularly popular with Hindu pilgrims who come to take a dip in the holy waters of the fast-flowing Ganges River and wash away their sins. Unlike Varanasi, the water is clean and fresh in Haridwar. The evening Ganga Aarti holds special appeal. Another popular attraction is the Mansa Devi Temple.

  • 03 of 06
    Rishikesh.
    ••• Kay Maeritz / Getty Images

    Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, is a popular place to come and meditate, do yoga, and learn about other aspects of Hinduism. It’s situated on the banks of the Ganges River, surrounded by hills on three sides, not far from Haridwar in Uttarakhand. Rishikesh lures those seeking knowledge and peace with its numerous ashrams and yoga institutes. It's particularly popular with spiritual seeking foreigners, while Haridwar holds more significance for Hindu pilgrims. Because of their close proximity, many people come to Rishikesh and Haridwar in the same visit. Read about Rishikesh hotels and guesthouses for all budgets to find a great place to stay.​

  • 04 of 06
    Golden Temple, Amritsar.
    ••• Vishwaneet Singh / Getty Images

    Amritsar, in the state of Punjab, was founded in 1577 by Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of Sikhs. It’s the spiritual capital of the Sikhs and gained its name, meaning "Holy Pool of Nectar", from the body of water around the Golden Temple. The exquisite Golden Temple attracts pilgrims from all over the world. It looks particularly arresting at night when it’s beautifully lit up, with its imposing pure gold dome illuminated. The Wagah Border is a popular side trip from Amritsar.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06
    Meditating at Mahabodhi temple.
    ••• Amos Chapple / Getty Images

    Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage place in the world. Located in the state of Bihar, it’s here that Lord Buddha became enlightened during intense meditation under a Bodhi tree. The exact spot is now marked by the sprawling Mahabodhi Temple complex. The town is also home to dozens of Buddhist monasteries. Those who are interested will find plenty of meditation and Buddhism courses and retreats on offer. You can visit Bodhgaya on the Mahaparinirvan Express Buddhist Train.

  • 06 of 06

    Tiruvannamalai

    Mount Arunachala
    ••• Mount Arunachala. © Sharell Cook

    Located around four hours from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Tiruvannamali attracts spiritual seekers to its Sri Ramana Ashram and Hindu pilgrims who walk around holy Mount Arunachala and pray at Arunachaleswar Temple, where Lord Shiva is worshiped as the element of fire. Mount Arunachala is called the "most silent place on earth" as its powerful energy has the astonishing ability to quieten the mind. Meditate in a cave up the mountain and discover it for yourself. If you would like to connect with a remarkable guide and healer, Ashok from Bougainvillea Tours is highly recommended.