Mathura & Vrindavan
By Mike of Live Travel Teach
Holi is the most beautiful festival that I’ve ever seen and India’s Mathura & Vrindavan are where it all started. This festival of color and love celebrates the changing of the season and the Hindu Lord Krishna. Today Holi takes place all around the world and is a fun, family-friendly festival where people gather with colored powder and paint that they throw at each other while dancing to through the streets. Some places celebrate or “play” holi on the beach or in other public areas but when you head to India Holi takes over and can be celebrated just about everywhere.
Protip: Mathura and Vrindavan get VERY crowded during Holi. If you don’t like crowds then you can still have a wonderful time but look for a smaller destination to celebrate this beautiful festival.
I wasn’t satisfied with celebrating “anywhere” and instead sought out the heart of it all, Krishna’s birthplace in Mathura and neighboring temples in Vrindavan. These small Indian towns become a major pilgrimage site during the festival as countless Indians make their way to Mathura during the preceding week. Everyone comes with colored paint and creating a rainbow in the air, on clothes faces and even cows that roam the streets.
By Priya of Glorious Sunrise
Kodaikanal, also known as Kodai, or fondly, the princess of hills, is a dreamland for nature-lovers in Tamil Nadu, a state in South India. Though Indian summers can be brutal, Kodai is pleasant all through the year and tourists can enjoy its beauty and magic in all seasons except the rainy season (July and August).
For locals, Kodai is a cool spot for a honeymoon, sightseeing and also a summer escape. This hill station has so much to do and see like its gorgeous lakes, Three Pillars scenic lookout point, Guna caves, colorful forests, and waterfalls. They even have flowers that do not wither for about a whole year!
The highlight of Kodaikanal is Coaker’s Walk. A short walk at this place will have you literally floating in the clouds. It is a magical place with gorgeous views of the valley and town below. Also, visit Dolphin Nose Point and Berijam lake to experience surreal natural beauty.
Because of its location deep south, many international tourists do not know about this secret gem of India.
By Allan of Live Less Ordinary
Located in Sikkim and the Indian Himalayas, the hill station of Gangtok was once a British trade town located between Tibet and the lower lands of India, now bringing an unlikely mix of cultures, with an ethnic Nepali majority, dabbles of Bhutan, Tibetans (Bhutia) and Indian Bengalis. Not to forget the colonial British influence. These days it is, however, more of a base for further travel, given the remote, mountainous location beneath Kangchenjunga (the world’s 3rd highest mountain), as most tourists travel to Gangtok to explore surrounding Sikkim and the Himalayas.
A handful of the more exciting excursions include; Rumtek Monastery, the Temi Tea Gardens, and Changu Lake on the borders of China. However, the town itself is as fascinating to explore, starting at the pedestrianised New Market area (M.G Marg /Mahatma Gandhi Market) where steep stepped lanes link between markets and colourful shopping streets. Also, Enchey Monastery, Gangtok’s local Tibetan Buddhist monastery, is also a must visit, with its fluttering prayer flags, spinning wheels, and mountain mists.
By Rohan of Travels of a Bookpacker
There are literally hundreds of stunning palaces, forts, and temples in India but Mysore Palace is a real stand-out. This 100-year old palace is the centrepiece of Mysore and the reason for most of the tourist visits, both international and domestic. For just 50 INR you can wander the halls of this spectacular palace and admire the intricate decorations, carved doors and lavish details. Make sure you visit again on a Sunday evening to see the entire palace illuminated but nearly 100,000 lightbulbs, a truly breath-taking sight!
By Somnath of Travel Crusade
Yumesamdong is a magical destination in India which is covered with snow throughout the year. It is accessible only at specific times due to road blockage and variations in temperature. The destination is in North Sikkim and can be reached by travelling for a total of twelve hours in a safari, jeep, or a car of your choice with one stop at a place known as Lachung. You can spend the night at Lachung to acclimatize oneself and get rid of all the exhaustion from the journey.
Yumesamdong is also known as Zero Point as the road ends here and there is no passage after this. There are mountain ridges in the region and a breathtaking view of the snow-clad mountains of the Eastern Himalayas. There are military camps operating in the nearby region but unfortunately, there is no provision for staying in the region so you must return to Lachung.
By Anjali of Travel Melodies
Jaipur. A City of Royals. Pink City. The Desert Capital of India. As varied as its names. The city’s unmatched stunning architecture, alluring history, rich cultural heritage and traditional Rajasthani cuisine get everyone hooked. The Pink City is celebrated for its ancient and natural beauty. There’s a reason it’s one of the most Instagrammable cities. Jaipur is one destination that tops the list of tourists and travelers from India and abroad. It is a part of the famous Golden Triangle route along with Agra and Delhi.
The most visited attractions include City Palace, Amber Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Jal Mahal and Birla Mandir. Jaipur’s colorful and vibrant markets never fail to tempt you to go on a shopping spree. You just can’t resist the charm. It is famous for blue pottery, Mandala tapestries, gems and artistic handcrafted jewelry. You can even meet the artisans, watch them working and buy their artwork while you visit Friends of the Museum in City Palace.
Chokhi Dhani is a one-stop destination that allows you to soak in the authentic Rajasthani culture and lifestyle. The best way to enjoy the beauty and vibrant colors of the city is to get a mesmerizing bird’s eye view from a hot air balloon.
By Aditi of Travelogue Connect
Leh-Ladakh is a slice of heaven on earth and a dream destination for many travelers. If you have not visited Ladakh, you have not done justice to yourself as a traveler. This place is not to be missed in this lifetime. Ladakh is incredibly beautiful and scenic! Mother Nature will leave you spellbound and make you wonder in awe at the landscapes and the majestic Himalayas.
Leh-Ladakh can be visited via Delhi and Manali on bikes and SUVs. Some of the popular and offbeat places to visit in Leh-Ladakh are Leh, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Nubra Valley, Hunder Sand Dunes and Kargil. The best time to visit Leh-Ladakh is from June to September when one can witness different colored mountains, lush green valleys, deep blue lakes and more.
Chadar Trek is one of the toughest treks in the world which happens in Leh-Ladakh during the winter months. Tibetan-Buddhist Culture prevails in Ladakh and the local people of Ladakh are ever-smiling, innocent and helpful! One must experience it to believe it!
By Sarah Carter of ASocialNomad
The Golden Temple of Amritsar, also known as the Harmandir Sahib is the most important place of pilgrimage in the Sikh faith. It means, quite literally, “Abode of God”. As equality is a key tenet of Sikhism the temple is open to all. At the centre of a square complex, surrounded by the waters of the Pool of the Nectar of Immortality (which is what Amritsar means) is the Golden Temple. It’s a combination of Islamic and Hindu architecture that looks incredible whatever time of day you view it. It is a place of reflection and of peace and it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
By Andra of Our World to Wander
Jodhpur is one of the reasons for which my heart will always be in India. And I have been there not once, not even twice, but actually three times. It’s not difficult to fall in love with India’s Blue City or Sun City. It’s one of Rajasthan’s gems, one that deserves to be explored and discovered.
The old part of the city is what makes it so enchanting. And you will say I am right once you wander around its alleys, with the imposing Mehrangarh Fort watching over you. The tints of blue make you feel like in a fairytale, embellished with details from Mughal architecture. Although my favorite activity in Jodhpur is walking around and exploring, you sure have options. You can visit the Jaswant Thada, a beautiful mausoleum, gaze at the Umaid Bhawan Palace, adventure with ziplining from the top of the Fort, or maybe go in the desert at Osian.
Jodhpur’s charm will surely make you love India.
By Raphael of Journey Wonders
When it comes to wonderful destinations around the world, Munnar in Kerala is one of my all-time favorite ones. Located in South India, Munnar is blessed by the majestic landscape of the mountains and its fertile ground which allows for tea plantations to thrive.
One of my best recommendations? Go hiking through the hills and into the tea plantations while wearing a lunghi, an Indian traditional skirt-like item of clothing. Not only will you feel super fresh in the scorching South Indian heat but you will also look wonderful in those photos!!!
To reach Munnar you can take a local bus from Kochi, India which is the number 1 most popular place to visit in Kerala. There are plenty of cool yoga retreats, boutique hotels and luxury accommodations in Munnar although you can also find some budget hotels if you search for them.
Are you ready to visit this wonderful destination?
By Liz of It’s a Drama
From the minute you step onto the streets of Udaipur in India, you feel as though you are somewhere special. Udaipur. A city filled with fairytale palaces, temples, havelis and countless crooked lanes, some leading to a colourful bizarre the other to an art-filled cafe. A city which holds the title for being the most romantic city in India, and rightly so. Who could not be charmed by the glistening lake with its arched bridges?
Sit in one of the many city rooftop bars and watch the sunset over the city of lakes, sparking in the moonlight, backed by the wooded Aravalli hills in every direction. Be prepared to be mesmerised. This, after all, is Udaipur.
By Nicole of Travelgal Nicole
The medieval city of Orchha is found near the Betwa River about 4 hours train ride from Delhi. It is a town frozen in time and was the capital of Central India in the 15th century.
Orchha is full of palaces and historical sites. The Fort Complex is the biggest and most interesting site in the city. The palaces are quite plain on the outside but most contain murals and have ornately designed roofs. You can climb to the top of the palaces to see all of the other palaces there. One palace has been nicknamed the ‘One day palace’ as the king only spent one night in the palace and it was never used again. You will also find large monkeys with long tails running through the palaces. Stay out of their way! It’s also worth heading to the river to watch the sunset over the palaces.
By Pujarini of My Soul Travels
Dharamshala is a picturesque city in Himachal Pradesh state of India. In the foothills of Himalayas, this city is also the home of exiled Tibetan monk Dalai Lama. The best way to reach this beautiful hill station is by road, enjoying the beautiful cedar trees on the hillside and amazing views of the Himalayas. But if you need a faster way, you can fly in from Delhi.
While most people visit McLeodGanj for the Buddhist monasteries, there are many other places to visit if you have time in hand. There are all types of budget-friendly accommodation options available in McLeodGanj and around. The market is a great place to explore some Tibetan and local cuisine.
If you are seeking some spiritual time along with some adventure, a trek up the valley would be perfect to reach Triund, a serene place for some meditation with a gorgeous view.
By Lavanya of Nature Traveler
The capital city of India is divided into New Delhi and Old Delhi. While the newer part buzzes with modern life full of malls and multiplexes, the old is steeped in history and presents a more authentic cultural experience. At the crowded outdoor market at Chandni Chowk, you can buy anything from spices to sarees.
Nearby, the awe-inspiring Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in the country, an architectural wonder with two towers with alternating red sandstone and marble stripes, invites you to take in its majesty.
From almost anywhere in the city, one cannot miss the Qutub Minar, a 240 ft red brick tower inscribed with verses from the Quran. The manicured grounds and preserved buildings surrounding the structure provide a respite from the noisy streets.
The Red Fort, Delhi’s most iconic monument, stands as a testament to the glory of the Mughal Sultanate who ruled the country until the British Raj. India now celebrates Independence Day at the Fort. Delhi may well be your first stop on your adventure in India, but it will certainly leave a lasting impression.
By Natalia of My Trip Hack
Alleppey, also known as the ‘Venice of the East’, is one of the most popular places to experience backwaters in India. The original name of the city – Allapuzha – literally means water and river. This city is known for its natural beauty, culture and scenic neighboring villages on the water surrounded by palm trees and forests.
You can experience the backwaters in Alleppey on any budget – from posh houseboats to budget Government Ferries. Being part of Kerala – a very authentic state rich in traditions – you can immerse yourself in Kathakali performance in a cultural center, learn basics of martial arts or attend one of the Ayurveda sessions. If you visit in August, you can witness Onam – the festival of harvest with snake boat racing.
Other than natural beauty and culture, Alleppey also offers authentic Indian seafood experience with its own Kerala Masala (famous for centuries). If you can handle the spiciness, the food variety will not disappoint you!
By Patrick from German Backpacker
After travelling all around India for two months, Hampi is probably my favorite place in the country. The small village is a little bit difficult to reach and off the main tourist trail, but the detour is worth it. Hundreds of years ago, Hampi was the capital of a huge kingdom – therefore, the place is full of UNESCO world heritage temples and a great spot for everyone interested in culture and history.
The village is also beautifully located on a river, with rice fields and rock formations all around. If you’re at the river at the right time, you can even see Lakshmi, the holy elephant of Hampi, taking a bath. While Hampi itself is easily walkable, I recommend renting a scooter or bicycle to explore the nature and the small villages around. For sunset, everyone gathers on top of the rock formations just outside of town – the views are incredible. Put Hampi on your bucket list, it’s worth it!
Kochi Old Town
By Clemens of Travellers Archive
The city of Kochi is located around a natural harbour on the Malabar Coast in northern Kerala. With around 600,000 inhabitants, it is the second largest city in the state. During a flood in 1341, the port of Kochi was created, at the same time, the port of the neighbouring town of Kodungallur was destroyed.
Shortly after 1500, the first Portuguese traders came to Kochi, and they left their mark. Among them was Vasco da Gama, who died in Kochi in 1524. As a result, it was the Dutch, later the British, who used the port of Kochi for the spice trade. The old town of Kochi is located on the peninsula; at its northern tip is Fort Kochi, which is a district with beautiful buildings from the colonial era. South of it lies Mattancherry, once the center of commerce. The best sights in Fort Kochi range from the St. Francis Church to the Santa Cruz Basilica and the Indo-Portuguese Museum.
By Sally from Our 3 Kids V the World
The Taj Mahal at sunrise is everything you could hope for and more. The history of the Taj Mahal is both sad and romantic, the white marble mausoleum was built in 1632 by Shah Jahan for his favourite wife. Soon after it was complete, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his youngest son who imprisoned him in his own white marble palace inside Agra Fort. From his palace prison, the balcony had a view across the river to the Taj Mahal where he would sit and look at it every day for 8 years.
By Jub from Tiki Touring Kiwi
Goa might be one of the more well-known places in India, but 60km south is the town of Gokarna. Located on the beach, Gokarna was primarily a pilgrimage town before tourists started discovering the relatively empty beaches. They are the primary attraction to Gokarna (besides the Shiva temple) with many opting to stay in huts and bungalows of various levels of comfort on Gokarna Beach and Kudle Beach.
While most opt to relax, Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach are only accessible by hiking over the hilly terrain surrounding the town which is a great way to spend a few hours with the reward of empty beaches. The last beach that hasn’t been mentioned is Om Beach, another great spot with cheap huts and restaurants on it.
By Liza from Tripsget
The city of Lucknow in India might not ring a bell to many people outside of India, however, it’s a very authentic city that is definitely worth paying a visit. Lucknow is the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh and has its own airport, so getting there is not a problem. But why getting there at all?
Well, Lucknow has many fabulous landmarks – the incredibly beautiful Bara Imambara, a large and impressive Ambedkar Memorial park with plenty huge stone elephants (that looks especially impressive from the terrace of the Mariott hotel), Rumi Darwaza and Chota Imambara. The best thing about Lucknow is that it’s not very touristy yet and you can actually enjoy the city before it gets popular!
By Soumya of Travel Books Food
It is no wonder that Lonely Planet has included the Lahaul and Spiti region as one of the regions to visit in 2018. It is one of those pristine locations in the world and the beauty of the place cannot be described in words. Spiti Valley is an arid cold desert valley in the Himalayas in India very close to the Tibetan border. It is one of the most gruelling road trips I have been on and you need to mentally prepare yourself before you decide to travel there. When you are in Spiti, don’t forget to visit the Tabo and Key monasteries. On the way back, stop at the gorgeous Chandrataal lake (moon lake).
By Crystal from Castaway with Crystal
It was like something out of Aladdin. Perhaps it was the sandy streets with high castle walls shimmering golden from the sandstone or the rows of shopfronts selling carpets and silk scarves that gently flapped in the wind, or maybe it was the vast desert that surrounded and stretched out from the castle as far as the eye could see.
Everything in this World Heritage Site was magical. Especially the camel safari I took from the town out into the Thar Desert. I was blown away by the glittering orange sand, contrasted by the occasional brightly coloured sari worn by a desert-dwelling woman. As we sat and watched the vibrant purple sunset dip behind our happily grazing camels, we thought to ourselves; “this place is absolutely beautiful!”
By Victoria of Follow Me Away
Varanasi is one of the most unexpectedly beautiful places around the world that you need to put on your bucket list. It is located in India on the banks of the Ganges River. The whole city sprawls down into the river which makes the river bank quite a magical place to visit, especially at night. The way the homes and buildings fit together like building blocks, all the way to the river bank, stretches on for miles and is ever changing as you glide along a twilight boat ride on the Ganges.
Varanasi is famous for its silk weaving and there are many authentic brocade shops to visit and take home a piece of this city with you. If you are into history, Varanasi has that too! Varanasi is the very first place that Buddha taught after he came out of his time in the mountains.
It is also known as the Hindu God Shiva’s city. As a result, there are, on average, 300 cremations a day on the banks of the Ganges as Hindus believe that Shiva is the direct link to the afterlife. Varanasi is beautiful chaos. The city itself is bustling and full of life. Taking a boat ride on the sacred Ganges allows you to step back and view the life of the city from a distance. Varanasi will surely steal your heart as a chaotically beautiful place to visit!
By Jenny from TraveLynn Family
Spirituality radiates from the River Ganges, which carves through the Himalayas and gathers in the sacred town of Rishikesh. Here, travellers are drawn to the yoga and meditation courses in search of spiritual enlightenment, alongside pilgrims who gather to cleanse in its magical waters. Temple hopping, interspersed with a coffee break overlooking the River Ganga, is a perfect way to spend the afternoon. Or find a spot on the silky white beach and watch the personal ceremonies take place, whilst local kids splash around having fun. If you need to get the adrenaline pumping, try some white-water rafting or even bungee jumping.
The highlight, however, is witnessing first-hand the noise, mystique and colour of a Ganga ceremony. The incredible levels of devotion shown by the pilgrims are breathtaking and the choreography of flames fascinating. If you want a more intimate setting, I recommend going to the ghats to the left of the ferry crossing at Ram Jhula. It is one of the few quiet spots, where you can sit on the ghats with a clear view, without vying for space. Once the ceremony ends, light a candle in a wreath of flowers, place it in the river, and watch your prayer join the chatter of flickering flames as they drift downstream.
By Shivani of The Wandering Core
The small yet a gorgeous Kanda lake is hidden in the mountains surrounding the Sangla Valley. Encircled by snow-capped mountains, greenery and deep valleys, the lake situated at 3500 feet is a sight to behold. The Kanda village on the mountain holds a profound and narrow valley going down to the Black River. Rumored to be cursed, the slightly black colored river ultimately merges with the Basra river in the Sangla valley.
The lake, apart from a stunning natural beauty, also serves as a pit stop for trekkers going towards the ruin pass. The lake also has basic camping facilities for those wanting to spend the night there. Although, the weather is really unpredictable, so keeping safety in mind is recommended. It is not easy to reach the lake in Kanda village. Only 4X4 vehicles should be used with trained local drivers. Otherwise, and hiking is the best way to go to the Kanda Lake.
Have you found the perfect place to add to your India bucket list? Or maybe far one than one! This list of the most beautiful places in India will have you wanting to book your trip as soon as possible. What are you waiting for?!
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