India is part of the continent of Asia and is surrounded by water on three sides forming a peninsula. To the north, it holds the highest mountain range, the Himalayas, to the south east it is bordered by the Bay of Bengal, and the southwest it is bordered by the Arabian Sea.
India remains one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. The vast country holds differences in geography, climate, culture, language and ethnicity, and holds the reputation as the largest democracy on Earth and is the centre of trade in Southeast Asia. There are some amazing places to visit and here are 10 of them:
Agra is a major industrial centre known for its leather goods, cut stone, and handwoven carpets and, of course, tourism is a major factor in the city’s economy.
Agra is one of the most easily identifiable cities in the world; due to it being home to the iconic Taj Mahal, a mausoleum made of white marble built in the 17th century by the emperor, Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth.
The city holds the renowned Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University (formerly Agra University), founded in 1927. Many religious and cultural festivals are held in Agra most notably, Krishna Janmashtami, which is an annual hindhu festival which celebrates the birthday of Lord Krishna. There is also an annual 10-day arts, crafts, and music carnival, usually in February. This is called Taj Mahotsav, which is held in Shilpagram, a village close to the Taj Mahal.
Apart from the Taj Mahal, another stand-out building is the Agra Fort which was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty and is now a World Heritage Site.
This includes a mosque of white marble (Pearl Mosque) and the palace Jahangiri Mahal.
Amritsar is situated in the north western state of the Punjab and is the most important holy city for the Sikh religion.
Here lies the visually breath-taking iconic building, the Golden Temple, which was built over 400 years ago, entirely encased in gold and is the major attraction of the city.
Every Sikh tries to make at least one pilgrimage here during their lifetime. All visitors must remove their shoes and wash their feet by walking through pools before entering the temple. Everyone that enters the temple must remove their shoes and cover their heads, normally with scarves which are provided at a small price, if the individual does not have one.
The other attraction in the city is the Bazaar Ram Bagh area where you’ll see grocery shops selling food grains, cooking oils, cloth and jewelry markets and other local products.
New Delhi is the national capital on the west bank of the Yamuna River, located in the north-central part of India.
Delhi consists of 11 districts including Old Delhi and New Delhi forming a massive metropolitan city, considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world.
One of the outstanding sights in Delhi is the Red Fort, made from sandstone and built in the 17th century which is accessible through the Lahore Gate.
Another significant place to visit is Humayun’s Tomb built in 1570, which was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It’s design eventually inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal.
Apart from the many palaces that are scattered all over the city, there a many museums and religious buildings to visit.
#4 Ellora and Ajanta
There are sacred sites in the state of Maharashtra, central India, known as the Ellora and Ajanta caves. Here you will find complex shrines and temples dedicated to Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism religions.
Ellora is a UNESCO World Heritage site with over 34 monasteries and temples dating from 600 to 1000 AD spread over a distance of 1.2 miles (2 km). What is amazing about them is that they were cut from basaltic cliffs and have intricate facades and interior walls.
What is also most extraordinary from an already incredible site, is Cave 16, Kailasanatha, as it was excavated downwards, thus exposing it to sunlight. Construction of the temple occurred in the 8th century during the reign of Krishna I, where it is estimated that anything from 150,000 to 200,000 tons of solid rock were removed.
Another World Heritage site is Ajanta, which comprises of 29 caves covering Buddhist architecture, cave paintings and sculpture. The caves are situated in Ajanta village, north-central Maharashtra state, western India.
The site is older than Ellora, as the site was first built in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC but more caves were added in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Apart from being a tourist attraction, the caves are used by Buddhist monks for study and meditation.
Popular for its sandy beaches, markets, nightlife and places of worship, Goa lies on the western coast of India, which was a former colony of Portugal.
Goa has a cultural mix ranging from Christian and Hindu celebrations, to partying and art festivals. The most popular beach is Candolim Breach and holiday village with its restaurants and nightclubs.
The most notable attraction apart from the beach is the Aguada Fort built by the Portuguese in 1912 to ward off the Dutch and the Maratha invaders.
Dudhsagar Falls, a four-tiered waterfall located on the Mandovi River with its flora and fauna in abundance. This is a popular spot for photographers to capture the impressive waterfall which form a part of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park.
If you are interested in places of worship, try visiting the Bom Jesus Basilica, built in 1605 which is the final resting place of St. Francis Xavier, one of the original founding companions of the Society of Jesus. He is famed for his missionary accomplishments to the catholic church particularly in India, Southeast Asia and Japan.
One of the top places to visit in India is considered to be Kerala, a place of great natural beauty situated in the southwestern state of India.
National Geographic named it one of the ten paradise locations in the world. It is a tropical paradise known for its palm trees, idyllic backwaters, stylish houseboats, temple festivals, beaches and tea, coffee and spice plantations.
The heart of Kerala is found in the city of Kochi, a fishing port which was established in 1341 when a flood shaped out the harbour opening it to European, Arab and Chinese merchants. Not only a thriving fishing industry, Kochi is also a richly diverse city whereby you can visit a fort, a palace, a temple and even a Jewish synagogue in one day if you so desired.
Another landmark to visit is Periyar National Park, wildlife sanctuary also known as the Periyar Tiger Reserve, in the town of Thekkady. The park boasts a vast array of wildlife including tigers, elephants, wild pigs, dear and 4 species of primates and snakes, amongst others.
To the north of India lies Ladakh in the Himalayas, a mountainous area within the Kashmir region. Here you will find breath taking scenery, clear skies, mountains, adventure activities, a nomadic population, Buddhist Monasteries and festivals.
It is one of the remotest areas in india and travelers will normally visit the capital town of Leh which is home to the 16th century Shey palace and monastery once ruled over by the King of Lakakh.
Here Buddhism is very strong and the majority of its peoples are Tibetan Buddhists and the rest are mostly Shia Muslims. The town heavily relies upon trade but also is heavily involved in agriculture and fruit growing.
The current Shey Monastery was built in 1655 and known for its two annual festivals known as Shey Doo Lhoo (sowing season) and Shey Rupla (harvesting season). Both the festivals are the major attractions.
However, the main attraction is the 12m tall statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that covers three storeys of the building.
Mysore is situated at the southern point of India, and is noted for its heritage buildings, structures, and festivals where travellers flock to from all over globe.
Mysore is most noted for its magnificent Mysore Palace which is the epitome of opulence as built and renovated over five centuries. it is constructed from granite with domes made of deep pink coloured marbles, carved doors made of rosewood and ceilings of ivory.
Mysore is very busy for 10 days in October each year due to the Dasara celebrations marking the triumph of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, over the 10-headed demon king Ravana, who abducted Rama’s wife, Sita.
Udaipur is a city set around a series of lakes and located in the western state of Rajasthan. It is famed for its luxurious royal palaces and artificial lakes making it a beautiful place to visit. It is a city of intricate architecture, palaces, bazaars, courtyards and gardens.
The lavish City Palace built on the island of Lake Pichola is a standout place to visit, consisting of Medieval, European and Chinese Architecture built in granite and marble. It is a complex of palaces and whilst various rulers added to the structure all maintained a resemblance of each other. The City Palace is also home to the famous peacock mosaics.
One of the ‘must do’ things to do whilst you are there is to enjoy the sunset cruise on Lake Pichola. Here you can take in ‘a snapshot of life’ watching local fisherman pull fish from their nets, women washing their clothes on the banks, whilst children play and swim around the lake.
Varanasi is located in the north on the banks of the River Ganges and is reputed to be one of the oldest living cities in the world dating back some 3,000 years.
To the Hindus, Varanasi is a sacred city and the main pilgrimage destination whereby one can cleanse their soul from sin by bathing in the River Ganges. Here is the most famous site of the city, namely the ghats, which are a series of embankment steps leading down to the river.
Named the ‘City of Temples, Varanasi boasts thousands of temples scattered all over the city with the most notable being Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, the Temple of Shiva.
One of the most prominent trades in Varanasi is its silk weaving which is famous throughout India for its production of very fine silk and Banarasi saris.