Think of India and it's likely that visions of formidable forts, palaces, and temples will come to mind, set against a backdrop of bright colors and history. That's exactly what North India provides -- and more! These top tourist places to visit in North India showcase the region's diverse beauty.
Most foreign tourists who visit North India land up in Delhi, India's capital city. Delhi airport has been modernized and expanded, with further works currently underway. Delhi strikingly brings to life the ancient past while at the same time showcases India's modern future. It's divided into two parts -- the crumbling old city of Old Delhi, and the orderly and well planned New Delhi -- which exist side by side, but feel like they're worlds apart. The city is dotted with evocative mosques, forts, and monuments left over from the Mughal rulers that once occupied the city. Many of these are set in beautiful landscaped gardens. This comprehensive guide to Delhi will help you plan your trip. Get some inspiration from these itineraries for 48 hours in Delhi and one week in Delhi as well.
The Taj Mahal in Agra is India's most iconic monument and one of the top historical places in India. Hence, it usually features prominently on tourists' bucketlists. You can't visit North India and not see the Taj! It looms like a fairy tale from the banks of the Yamuna River and has an eventful history dating back to 1630. The monument is actually a tomb that contains the body of Mumtaz Mahal –- the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Made out of marble, it took 22 years and 20 000 workers to complete. One of the most captivating things about it is the way its color appears to gradually alter in the changing light of the day. Agra and the Taj Mahal are commonly visited as part of India's famous Golden Triangle tourist circuit, which also incorporates Delhi and Jaipur. Most tourists choose not to spend much time in Agra as it's not a particularly pleasant city. However, there are some interesting places to visit in Agra and around. Ideally, for the best perspective, see Agra Fort before the Taj Mahal because it predates it.
Jaipur, Rajasthan's capital, is famously refered to as the Pink City because of the color of the walls and buildings of its Old City. Some of the states most identifiable historic attractions are located there (who hasn't seen photos of the Hawa Mahal?). However, in recent years, Jaipur has evolved to become quite hip with lots of trendy cafes and shops opening up. If traveling by road from Agra to Jaipur, make sure you stop at Abhaneri to see the incredible Chand Baori (step well). Its architecture is amazing! Check out this Jaipur city guide for more information.
Everyone who visits the exquisite the Golden Temple in Amritsar is invariably awestruck by it. The city is the spiritual capital of the Sikh religion. It was founded in 1577 by Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of Sikhs. The temple was built later, by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan. Its foundations were laid in 1588 by popular Muslim Sufi saint Miyan Mir (in keeping with the notion that people of all faiths are welcome) and construction was completed in 1604. The temple looks particularly arresting at night when it’s beautifully lit up, with its imposing pure gold dome illuminated. If you love street food, Amritsar is renowned for it! Amritsar's Old City is also worth exploring.The exhuberant flag lowering ceremony at the Wagah Border is another attraction nearby. This Amritsar travel guide has all the details.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Most likely, you'll either love or hate Varanasi! One of the top spiritual destinations in India, Varanasi is a sacred Hindu city with an ancient 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. Even a wash in the Ganges River is said to cleanse away all sins. The fascinating thing about this mystical city is that its rituals are revealed openly to along the many riverside ghats. Although Varanasi has been cleaned up a lot in recent years, it's still quite dirty and confronting. So, do be prepared for that. Staying at a hotel overlooking the river is highly recommended and memorable. Plan your trip there with this Varanasi travel guide.
Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Khajuraho is bit out of the way but don’t give it a miss on this basis. Nowhere else will you find such unique temples with meticulously detailed carvings. These ancient temples, which date back to the 10th and 11th centuries, are best known for their erotic sculptures. There are over 20 temples devoted to sexuality and sex. However, more than that, they show a celebration of love, life and worship. They also provide an uninhibited peek into ancient Hindu faith and Tantric practices. Besides the temples, Khajuraho is a peaceful little town to chill for a while. Have a read of this Khajuraho travel guide to plan your trip. Here are some recommended places to stay in Khajuraho as well.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Tourists often want to go on safari while in India with hope of seeing a tiger in the wild. Kanha National Park is one of the best places to do so. Most people who visit it end up falling in love with it and calling it their favorite national park in India. This huge park provided the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel The Jungle Book and an abundance of wildlife can be spotted there, not just tigers. As well as safaris, other activies such a night patrol and hiking along trails in the buffer zone are posible. It provides an all-round nature experience.
There's no better place to experience India's regal splendor than Udaipur. It really is India's most romantic city! Who could resist the allure of its enchanting old mansions, beautiful gardens, intricate temples, and grand palaces overlooking expansive shimmering lakes. The City Palace, which stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Pichola, leaves visitors spellbound with its artful combination of Rajput military architecture and Mughal style decorative techniques. The Mewar royal family still lives in a part of it too! Here's what to see and do in Udaipur. Try and fit in a few of these side trips and day trips from Udaipur too.
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan's fairy-tale sandstone city, features a remarkable living fort that was built in 1156 and overlooks the city. Inside are palaces, temples, some exquisite havelis (mansions), shops and other residences. Camels safaris into the desert are a quintiessential activity but there are plenty of other things to do in Jaisalmer. In order to protect the fort from damage from seepage, tourists are being encourage to stay outside the fort. Choose from these hotels in Jaisalmer with fort views. Or, stay in the desert at one of these Jaisalmer tent hotels and desert camps.
Many tourists find the "Blue City" of Jodhpur to be more appealing than Jaipur as it's smaller and more laidback. Choose from a plethora of atmospheric guesthouses and hotels near the fort where you can take a few days out to unwind. Mehrangarh Fort is the city's biggest attraction. It has been meticulously restored and turned into a superb tourist spot with royal museum, palaces, temples, and restaurants. Cultural musical and dance performances take place there every day. There are plenty of other things to do in Jodhpur including zip-lining and heritage walks.
While in Rajasthan, don't miss exploring rural village life. One of the most popular options is Bishnoi, a community of nature worshipers about 45 minutes from the Blue City of Jodhpur. It can be visited on a day trip but for the ultimate experience, stay overnight in traditional-style accommodations. The best options are Chhotaram Prajapat's Homestay, Bishnoi Village Camp and Resort, and Shambhu Prajapat Ecofriendly Stay. Bishnoi Village Safari organizes tours.
Haridwar and Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Haridwar and Rishikesh are holy places not far from each other at the foothills of the Himalayas. They're vasty different though! While Haridwar predominantly attracts Hindu pilgrims, Rishikesh is acknowledged as the birthplace of yoga and is more popular with western spiritual seekers. If you have time, do see both including the Ganga Aarti at each place. Otherwise, find out which one is best to visit. If you're thinking of doing yoga or mediation in Rishikesh, take a look at what these top Rishikesh ashrams have to offer.
Old Manali, Himachal Pradesh
There's Manali -- and, there's Old Manali. A little uphill from Manali town, the village of Old Manali is a world away from the crowds. You'll find traditional homes and quaint guest houses, surrounded by apple orchards and snow-covered peaks. Old Manali is one of the top destinations for backpacking in India and is refreshing place to relax in the pure mountain air. There are plenty of inexpensive places to stay in Old Manali to choose from, including a number of great new backpacker hostels. Plan your trip there with this Manali travel guide or find out more about the places to visit in and around Manali.
Remote Ladakh has become an increasingly popular tourist destination since it was opened to foreigners in 1974. Leh, the most common entry point to the region, is bounded by two of the world's largest mountain ranges and surrounded by alpine desert. Buddhist monasteries and trekking opportunities are the biggest draws for visitors. The Nubra Valley is a highly recommended side trip from Leh. Most tourists also go to Pangong Lake. There are many homestays in Leh for budget travelers. Find out more about the best time to visit Ladakh.
Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
Think Ladakh has become too crowded and touristy? Spiti is a similar but quieter option, although it has already been "discovered". This remote high altitude alpine desert region can only be accessed by a long drive either from Manali or Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. Fortunately, its relative inaccessibilty keeps a lot of people away. Take a look at these spectacular photos of the Spiti Valley and plan your trip there with this Spiti travel guide.