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.
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India's capital city, Delhi, is unavoidable if you're visiting north India from another country. Delhi airport has been renovated and upgraded to be the largest in India, and your flight will land there. 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.
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One of top historical places in India, it would be a huge loss to visit India and miss out on seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra. After all, it's India's most famous monument -- and certainly the most identifiable. It looms like a fairy tale from the banks of the Yamuna River and has a rich history dating back to 1630 AD. The Taj Mahal 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 incorporates Delhi and Jaipur.
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Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple, 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. If you love street food, Amritsar is renowned for it!
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One of the top spiritual destinations in India, Varanasi is a sacred Hindu city 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. 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. It's filthy and confronting though, so do be prepared for that! Staying at a hotel overlooking the river is highly recommended and memorable.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Although Khajuraho is a little out of the way, 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.
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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. The way it has been constructed is exquisite, with Rajput military architecture and Mughal style decorative techniques both combined together. The Mewar royal family still lives in a part of it too!
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Jaisalmer, Rajasthan's fairy tale sandstone city, features a remarkable living fort that was built in 1156 and is perched high on a pedestal overlooking the city. Inside, it houses five palaces, several temples, and some exquisite havelis (mansions), as well as shops and other residences. Camels safaris into the desert are another highlight.
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While in Rajasthan, don't miss exploring rural village life. Bishnoi is a community of nature worshipers around 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.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Haridwar and Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Haridwar and Rishikesh are holy places situated not far from each other at the foothills of the Himalayas. 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!
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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.
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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.
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Srinagar, in predominantly Muslim Kashmir, is a place of splendid natural beauty, with serene lakes and Mughal-style gardens. Srinagar is most well known for its houseboats, a legacy of the British that has rapidly multiplied. Although civil unrest has been a concern in the area, harming tourism in the past, calm has been restored and visitors are returning to the area. It's often referred to as the "Switzerland of India". Head there in early April to catch the magnificent Tulip Festival.