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India is a diverse land in its entirety- there is diversity in the landscapes, there is diversity in the climate, there is diversity in the flora and fauna found throughout the country, and there is a huge diversity among the people, cultures, and religion found in this place. If you want to get a small taste of Incredible India, you’ll find its diversity shouting through the pages of William Dalrymple’s book “Nine Lives”. However, no book can ever record the grandeur of one of the most majestic nations in the world. There are huge metropolitan cities, the daunting Himalayas among which you can see some of the highest peaks in the world including Mt. Everest, huge expanses of dessert as well as forests, brilliant displays of architecture, and what not! You have to be in India to get a true taste of the land and here are some of the best places that you have to visit while you are planning a trip to this amazing land!
“Dil walon ki Dilli" (city of big-hearted people) is the capital city of India and a truly amazing place to visit. It is a colorful place that sees the perfect confluence of the traditional and the modern. While you get to see some remarkable landmark sites in Old Delhi such as Jama Masjid, Red Fort, and Chandni Chowk, New Delhi brings you closer to the rampant global modernization. While you are browsing through the streets in Old Delhi, be sure to try some of the delectable street food available in the region- these are some of the best street food items available throughout the country! There are so many marvelous architectural features to be explored throughout this immense city and heart of India. The Lotus Temple, India Gate, Qutub Minar, the everlasting Iron Pillar, Humayun's Tomb, Red Fort, etc. are some of the major architectural features that you have to go through while you are in Delhi.
While you are visiting Delhi be sure to take a day or two to explore the nearby city of Agra. This city in Uttar Pradesh has one of the most remarkable landmarks of the world- the Taj Mahal. Regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world, the beauty of this eternal symbol of love can be best witnessed as you stand in front of the palatial building. Try to go for a moonlight tour when the Taj Mahal is said to glow as it basks in the moonlight
If you want to see an even more cosmopolitan side of the country, a trip to Mumbai will satiate your hunger! The coastal city is the capital of Maharashtra and an important economic center of the country. It is home to some of the richest entrepreneurs in India as well as the heart of Bollywood cinema being home to the most happening actors of the country. You will find anything between gourmet restaurants to roadside cafes to try all kinds of food items. The coastal city will also give you a terrific view of the coastline as you take a drive down the Marine Drive, catching glimpses of the dazzling Art Deco buildings.
Mumbai is old and if you want to bustle along with the famed crowds of India try places like Churchgate Railway Station. This is a significantly monumental building, the immenseness of which you'll only believe when you see. You could also go to Chor Bazaar or the Thieves’ Market to buy all kinds of souvenirs- just be sure to bargain your way! The Sanjay Gandhi National Park will take about an entire day to visit. You should also check out the nearby Kanheri Caves which date 2000 years back!
Kolkata, the city of joy, is the third-largest city in India! It is filled with monuments built during the British colonial era which are a delight to explore. The Victoria Memorial is one of the most popular attractions in this romantic city. You should also take a walk down Park Street, especially during Christmas to see it transform into a small, warmer, Christmas wonderland! Kolkata is a lively city where you will find all kinds of restaurants, cafes, and roadside vendors throughout the day and night! The grand Howrah Bridge would amaze you, while the grandeur of Marble Palace (Mullick’s Rajbari) is going to mesmerize you. Nearby places that you could try are Dakkhineshwar Temple, James Princep Ghat underneath the Hooghly Bridge, Fort William, South Park Street Cemetery, Rabindra Sarovar Lake, the Botanical Garden, a walk through Maidan, and so much more! If you want to move away from the crowd and loud sounds, go to nearby Darjeeling, a quaint city amidst the hills.
The word Rajasthan roughly translates to the "Land of Kings" and it is a just name to this spectacular place. Rajasthan should be on every traveler's list of places to visit in Rajasthan if you want to get a truly majestic feel of India. One of the best ways to tour through the state would be taking a ride on the Maharaja Express, a 5-star train ride that takes you through the most majestic places that Rajasthan has to offer! Jaipur, with its pink buildings, is often called the "Paris of India" because of the beauty the city emanates through the lavish palaces and amazing jewelry stores. Jodhpur, the Blue City, is a truly exceptional visit as you look over a sea of blue buildings through the elusive, mysterious Mehrangarh Fort! Udaipur has a magnificent City Palace Complex where the royal family yet resides along with a plethora of other forts and castles! And if you go to Jaisalmer, you will get the feeling that you have been transported to one of the stories from the "Arabian Nights"- this is the place where the desserts begin and have lots of yellow sandstone structures and grand "Havelis”.
Rishikesh, often dubbed as the "Yoga Capital of the World", has attracted travelers since as early as the 1960s. it was during this time that the exotic Beatles band visited this place to reside in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Ashram, learn sitar from Pandit Ravi Shankar, and go for overall holistic development. The ashram, now fondly called the Beatle's Ashram, is a deserted site but welcomes tourists and ardent fans of the band to explore the place. It is a small town situated in the foothills of the Himalayas and you could easily reach the place from Delhi. The town is a gateway into the Himalayas and you could go further up to enjoy scenic treks and pilgrimage sites such as Tungnath, Chandrashila, Kedarnath, Rudraprayag (the confluence point of Bhagirathi and Alakananda Rivers to for the Ganges), Devprayag, and so on.
The Ganga flows down from Rishikesh, through Haridwar, into Varanasi, the holiest city in India. Varanasi is also said to be the oldest city to have been continuously inhabited by people. The Ganges in this region is a site for spiritual activities, and you will always find people partaking n some kind of holy, religious activity along the river. There are numerous exotic activities that you could partake in such as a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges or being amazed by the grandeur of the Sandhya Aarti or the evening prayers which is an immersive experience of its own!
Amritsar is regarded as the "Jewel of Punjab" with the Golden Temple sitting at the heart of the city. The entire dome of the Golden Temple is made from pure gold and thereby rests the mystery of the elusive name. It is one of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs throughout the world. It's a truly amazing sight to behold be it early in the morning as it reflects the light from the sun or in the evenings when the entire structure is lighted up and reflected in the surrounding water body. It also boasts of the largest community kitchen in the world and feeds in the range of 100,000 diners every day, twice a day! While you are in Amritsar you should also visit the Jalianwala Bagh, a singular monumental structure that stands tall to commemorate the martyrs brutally killed in the area during India's freedom struggle. You should also visit the nearby Wagah Border shared with Pakistan to enjoy the energy-filled Beating Retreat Ceremony held every day as the border closes in the open up for some time for passage of vehicles between the countries.
India has a huge coastline with terrific beaches running down both the eastern and western sides of the country and Goa is one of the most stunning seaside locations ever. The golden sea beaches in Goa are washed by the Arabian Sea and make way for excellent sunset views. The laidback lifestyle in Goa is addictive and it is a place where you could party to your heart's content. It is also a beautiful place having much Portuguese influence since colonial times and there are a plethora of beautiful churches to browse through in this small city. You’ll find a mix of Portuguese culture even in the cuisine of Goa and you have to try such delicacies as vindaloo curries and other seafood dishes while you are in Goa.
If you head towards the southward side of Goa, you'll come upon the enticing land of Kerala, often dubbed as" God's Own Country"! Kerala is a calm and quiet state with an engrossing coastline along the Western Ghats, dense forests, and riverways cruising through the entire land. It will give you a much different experience of India compared to the densely crowded cities like Delhi and Mumbai or the dry majesty of Rajasthan. In one word, this place is "beautiful"! you could even stay in one of the thatched-top houseboats in the backwaters of Alleppey and float through lagoons and rivers between palm forests. This will also give you a chance to witness wildlife as you enjoy some delicious recipes cooked from the freshest of ingredients.
Ajanta & Ellora Caves
The Ajanta and the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra are a short distance away from Mumbai but demand a special mention. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so since both of them are an intricate structure of caves that dates back 1,500 years, to say the least.
The Ajanta Caves are more ancient than the Ellora Caves. They were built into stone which dates back to about the 2nd century B.C. and are of special significance to Buddhists. The Caves feature Buddhist monuments such as shrines and residential areas that are carved onto the stone in the caves.
The Ellora Caves are situated about 100 km away from the Ajanta Caves towards the southwest side. These caves have been collectively built by Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus over the centuries and comprise od about 3 dozen such carvings! Cave 16 or the Kailasa Temple is the most famous one out of all the caves in this region. It is a shrine devoted to Lord Shiva and features life-size elephants carved from stone.
The state of Himachal Pradesh is situated towards the north of Delhi and is a popular destination for travelers looking for quiet times among the hills or adventurous activities. Among the many exotic destinations that Himachal has to offer, Shimla is one of the most popular ones. The hillside city is calm, quiet, beautiful, and brings to you the much-coveted freshness that big cities like Delhi and Kolkata cannot provide. The Kalka-Shimla Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you have to take the 96.6km ride to feel all the glory of Himachal. You could also plan numerous treks into the surrounding Himalayan mountains from Shimla including some of the most trying, high-altitude treks in the world.
For a more peaceful destination, you could take a trip down Lahaul-Spiti Valley or the Parvati Valley. Destinations such as the Manikaran Hot Springs will charm you beyond measures. You could also visit the Kinnaur-Kailasa mountain range to get some of the most stunning views of the mountains!
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