India travel experts pick the best places to visit in India in 2021
This post was last updated on January 2, 2021.
India is such a big country it will be hard for you to decide which area to visit. Personally, I’ve been to India twice and did different two different regions because I wanted to take my time. Please note that traveling around India can be really tedious so it’s best to focus on one region, most especially if you don’t have the time.
If it’s your first time in India, you can explore the best backpacking India route for first-timers. If you don’t have that much time, I would recommend for you to visit the Rajasthan area. It’s super pretty and is very tourist-friendly. Of course, you don’t have to listen to me – it’s entirely up to you which regions to visit. Feel free to browse this list of the best places to visit according to travel bloggers who have traveled India extensively. Let me know which one you’re eyeing!
40 places to visit in India: about the list
Of course, I have never been all over India. I only covered a few states. To come up with this post, I contacted 40 different travel bloggers who are experts in India travel. Each destination here is written by different people. For every section, you will see their blogs and I hope you will support them! If you have any questions about this list, feel free to get in touch with them, too!
Ready? Here are the best places to visit in India according to 40 travel bloggers.
#1: NAWALGARH, RAJASTHAN
Contributed by James, Travel Collecting
Nawalgarh in northeast Rajasthan is most famous for its painted havelis – merchant houses that are completely covered in colorful, intricate paintings – but it has much more to offer. We stayed at the Tourist Pension, which is nothing fancy, but the painted walls and ceiling of our room gave it a rustic charm. We had all our meals at the Pension – simple but delicious meals of curry, chapatis, and yogurt. Our host Rajesh gave us a walking tour through the dry, dusty streets to visit Havelis with ornately decorated arches and dark cool interiors, and the chaotic market.
We squeezed past Hindi women in brightly colored saris and Moslem women in black veils, tuk tuks, cows, camels, and goats to reach tiny shops of sweet fried dough and incredibly cheap tie-dye turbans. He also arranged private lessons for us in traditional tie and dye (at Apani Dhani, a farm on the outskirts of town with accommodations), Indian cooking and resin bangle making, as well as a camel cart ride to neighboring farms. This low-key town is the perfect place to experience India.
#2: GOKARNA, KARNATAKA
Contributed by Jub Bryant, Tiki Touring Kiwi
Located between Goa and Kerala, is the ever increasingly popular beach destination Gokarna. Once a hot spot for pilgrims, the beaches draw in tourists who are happy lounging around all day.
The number one thing to do in Gokarna therefore is, you guessed it, beach hopping. Gokarna Beach is the largest of the beaches, but you’ll want to start your beach hopping at the much nicer Kudle Beach and keep hopping further south along the trails connecting to Om, Half Moon, and Paradise Beaches. The walk from Kudle Beach to Paradise Beach takes 1-2 hours each way. It’s a moderate hike but you can always catch a boat back to your desired beach if you get tired, but be prepared to haggle.
Each of the beaches has various accommodation options, mostly comprising of basic guest rooms you won’t find on the internet (Paradise Beach is camping only). The most developed of the beaches, Kudle, has some nicer resorts which are the best place for families. In terms of restaurants, you’ll find the largest selection on Kudle Beach too, with the other beaches offering a few simple restaurants.
For an awesome sunset overlooking the ocean walk along the trails following the cliffs north of Kudle Beach to the Gokarna Library where you can see a trail directing you to a peak nearby. It’s a great spot with lots of places to sit and rounds out a nice day at one of the most relaxed and best places to visit in India.
#3: MUNNAR, KERALA
by Sinjana Ghosh, Backpack & Explore
The Western Ghats of India was declared a World heritage site by UNESCO because of the unique landscape and the diversity of flora and fauna. Munnar in Kerala happens to be the queen of this fairyland, the most sparkling ruby in the bejeweled crown of the Ghats.
While the entire place looks like a dream, especially in monsoon, here are my top five things you should not miss:
- Kolukkumalai tea garden, the highest tea garden in the world which can be reached by trekking or by a bumpy jeep ride
- Eravikulam National park is the safe abode of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr and also the world’s largest garden of Neelakurinji flowers, which are seen in full bloom once in twelve years
- Periyar National park is one of the best places in India for wildlife seekers. Elephants, deer, antelopes, and even tigers can be seen here with some luck.
- Chinnaar Wildlife sanctuary – a paradise for bird-watchers
- Matupetty Dam – a scenic dam with a great sunset view
Monsoon is the best time to visit when the seasonal waterfalls come alive creating a visual spectacle in the valleys.
#4: MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA
by Parampara and Parichay, Awara Diaries
India is known to be a versatile and colorful country. Over 5000 years of history and culture are spread across 29 states, 7 union territories, and thousands of villages with something unique to explore at every corner. My pick for one of the best cities to visit in India is Mumbai also known as Bombay.
Mumbai is a must-visit for a myriad of reasons. Also known as the City of Dreams, Mumbai is all of India in one city as hundreds of people come each day to the city in search of work and to fulfill their dreams. However, the starriest part of Mumbai is the base of Bollywood, the Hindi film industry in the city. The popular attraction in the city include homes of popular film actors such as Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Salman Khan.
Mumbai is also the city that never sleeps and you’re most likely to find buzzing streets, late-night eateries and clubs open even past midnight.
When in Mumbai, don’t forget to try out the street food like Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji at the Chowpatty, explore the old school charm in South Bombay, bargain at Colaba Causeway, enjoy a ferry ride at the Gateway of India, explore the street art of the city and watch a movie at a single screen theatre to enjoy the spirit of Mumbai.
#5: The state of Goa
by Lavina Dsouza, Continent Hop
When people think of visiting India, the places that sit at the top of their list usually include the Golden Triangle, Kerala, and Goa. While many may claim too many visitors throng to Goa, it is rightfully so, as Goa, even if tiny, is a place that will never fail to surprise you. There’s an abundance of natural wonders like the Dudhsagar waterfalls and the Arvalem caves in addition to numerous beaches. Some may be more crowded than others, but there are always many waiting to be explored.
There are also beautiful churches and temples scattered across the state that have interesting stories behind them. If you like activities, you could go fishing in the sea, climb forts like the Aguada or the Chapora fort, go parasailing or just go swimming in the sea.
The food in Goa is delicious and lip-smacking. If you’re in the North of Goa, on Calangute beach, Souza Lobo is a restaurant you must try for traditional dishes. Fish curries, Xacuti and Vindaloo, are some of the dishes you must try!
#6: Havelock Island
by Nafisa Habib, My Own Way To Travel
Havelock Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is one of the best places to visit in India. If you’re a beach lover, then Havelock Island is the perfect destination for you. Many pristine and beautiful white sandy beaches in Havelock Island are the main attractions, and so became one of the most popular islands in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Here every beach is unique and offers you a breathtaking landscape along with azure waters and the dense of many Mahua and Coconut trees.
To avoid the crowd and enjoy the serene beauty of the beaches the beginning of the monsoon (May – June) is the best time to visit Havelock Island. You’ll find many standard accommodations and local restaurants near the beaches. Various South Indian dishes and seafood are must-try during your trip to Havelock Island.
Some must-visit beaches are Radhanagar Beach, Vijaynagar Beach, and Kalapathar Beach. The beaches of Havelock Island are also best for many water sports. You can do scuba diving, snorkeling and even sea walking. But scuba diving is just perfect to try in any season on Havelock Island.
#7: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
by Inma Gregorio, A World To Travel
My Indian trip came as a huge surprise after being selected to take part along with other 30 bloggers in the first Kerala Blog Express to explore the Southern part of the country.
After two intense weeks, I continued exploring the country on my own and so I made my way from the Southern tip to the North, stopping in many iconic destinations like Goa, Jaipur, and Jodhpur. However, it wasn’t until I reached Jaisalmer when I truly fell for the Indian architecture and the Thar desert.
For some reason, even when this city is fascinating and hyper touristy, it wasn’t crowded at all when I visited. That way, I was able to experience a slow pace for a few days, and rest after some hectic weeks. I named it my favorite city in India a long time ago and although I know this country is like a continent and has lots more to explore, I am not so sure I will find the serene beauty I found there anywhere else. Time will tell.
#8: Bundi, Rajasthan
by Rachel Rodda, Adventure and Sunshine
Bundi is a small town in Rajasthan mid-way between Jaipur and Udaipur. The town is famous for its well-preserved palace, the ancient Taragarh Fort high on the hill overlooking the town, and a number of impressive step-wells.
It is a steep, sometimes slippery, walk to the top where you are free to explore the dizzyingly steep step-wells and crumbling fort. On the way back down take a detour to Bundi Palace. The gardens and frescoes are worth exploring before admiring the panoramic views of the town painted blue.
What makes Bundi unique? It has an old-world charm and a relaxed vibe that captivated us. The chaotic noise common in other parts of India wasn’t present here. Plan to stay longer than you think.
You will be tempted to buy artwork from the welcoming artists plying their trade from small shopfronts. Enjoy dinner at one of the many rooftop restaurants. Wander the narrow alleyways and admire the decorative murals. Take a walk around the lake for great views of Bundi Palace.
In our month travelling through Northern India with kids, Bundi remains a standout memory – a jewel in the heart of Rajasthan.
#9: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
by Priya Vin, Outside Suburbia
The largest of the four metropolitan cities in India, Chennai is a vibrant gateway to South India Chennai is known for the friendly Tamil-speaking people, delicious food, and its wonderful cosmopolitan way of life. Also known as the Detroit of Asia, Chennai is the auto hub of India. Chennai displays a mix of cultural heritage blended in by the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British Chennai.
There are many places to visit in and around Chennai. Pick from a colonial fort, its beautiful beaches, churches and temples, water sports and amusement parks, shopping centers and street markets, fine-dining, and luxury hotels. Also head to the 6th-century Hindu temple for Lord Shiva at Mylapore, the early 19th century Thousand Lights Mosque or the 16th century Roman Catholic Church at Santhome.
Fort St. George, the first British fortress in India, promises some interesting stories for the history buff. There are a few resorts by the sea which are the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. After experiencing Chennai make sure to plan a day trip to Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Shore Temple is a must-visit.
Chennai has a tropical climate, but being on the coastline, it is humid throughout the year. With mainly two seasons in a year, Chennai can get hot in summers; however, monsoons (October to December) bring rain.
#10: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
by Nina Ragusa, Where In The World Is Nina
Rishikesh is one of those places that you can get totally lost in, and in a good way! The surroundings are captivating and drop-dead gorgeous and it’s pretty cheap too. Rishikesh is where yogis come to ashrams to meditate and to learn. It’s where adventure seekers come to play by hiking the foothills or rafting down the river. And it’s where anyone can come just to simply enjoy the stunning surroundings.
The Ganges River runs through and splits Rishikesh into two sides. You could simply spend a day hanging around the river’s shore watching monkeys steal food, cows sunbathing, and locals going in for a dip. Little Buddha Cafe was one of my favorite places to grab a bite to eat as it has a fab view of the river (and great food too!)
#11: McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh
by Victor Eekhof, Victor’s Travels
If you want to get away from the chaotic and intense cities and spiritual hotspots of India, taking to the north is a great way to do it. McLeod Ganj is a curious little village on the foothills of the Himalayas, with spectacular views and soaring Indian eagles. With an average elevation of about 2000 meters (6800 feet), the area gets more bearable temperatures than the rest of India in summer, with an average of 25-35 degrees Celsius.
One of the things that makes this little town special is that the Tibetan government (including the Dalai Lama) is currently in exile here, which got the town the nickname “Little Lhasa”. There is an interesting mix of Hindu, Punjabi, and Tibetan culture, food, and people here. If it’s the food you’re after, try the Tibetan Quality Bakery and the Tibetan street food snack called “Momo”.
To learn more about Tibetan history, you can visit the Tibet Museum, which boasts more than 30.000 photos and an interesting documentary about the journey of Tibetan refugees into exile across the Himalayas. You can also volunteer to teach English to Tibetan monks at a local NGO called Tibet World.
I can recommend to start in Delhi and take a train to Amritsar. After a few days exploring this interesting city (I can vouch for staying at the excellent Jugaadus hostel), you can take the bus to Dharamshala and change on the bus to McLeod Ganj from there.
#12: Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
by Arti, My Yatra Diary
If ever there was a city that could tip Varanasi off the meritorious popularity it enjoys owing to its intense sacredness, it is this vintage city in the northern parts of Uttar Pradesh – the capital of Braj, the holy city of Mathura! Such is the passionate fervor of the residents that the traditional honking bell by the rickshaw pullers in the narrow bylanes of the city is instead replaced by the melodious chime of ‘Radhe Radhe’ echoing a love for their rich lineage, the reputed birthplace of their famous hero and demi-God Krishna.
One of the best ways to explore the city is to take a boat ride along the Yamuna River either at sunrise or sunset and watch the Ghats come alive with pilgrims immersed in chants and prayers. The various temples dotting the town are very interesting too as they help in tracing the numerous acts of the Lord and outline His life in an immortal manner.
There is a lot to walk and explore in the town including delectable dishes that tantalize your taste buds no matter where you are. Kachori, Samosa, Lal Peda, Lassi, Mava, Khurchan: the list making up the famous food in Mathura is endless – food that is as flavorful and appealing as the city itself!
#13: Kolkata, West Bengal
by Marco Ferrarese, Monkey Rock World
In the popular imagination, the capital of West Bengal doesn’t have a great reputation. Among Indian cities, Kolkata is the one that is most often associated with images of poverty and suffering. Truth be told, it’s quite the opposite, as Kolkata offers a legacy of impressive colonial buildings, is famous as a thriving cultural center, and impresses with the sheer diversity of its humanity.
To enjoy a more serene face of Kolkata, go to the Maidan, the city’s biggest open space on the eastern bank of the Hoogly River. It has playgrounds, cricket fields, and colonial monuments such as the stunning white-marble Victoria Memorial. From the Maidan, walk north to the exquisite pavilions of the Indian Museum, established in 1814. And for a more “human” experience, visit the Khalighat Temple dedicated to goddess Kali, one of India’s most important shrines.
At last, spare an afternoon to pay a visit to the district of Kumartuli where a colony of potters produces impressive clay statues of the goddess Durga year-round. They are venerated and then thrown into the river during the Durga Puja, one of the best festivals in Asia.
#14: Jaipur, Rajasthan
by Alex Waltner, Swedish Nomad
Jaipur is one of the most popular cities in India, and there are lots of good reasons to visit. This ancient city is the capital of the Rajasthan state and is home to several historic places. Some of the most notable tourist attractions include Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, City Palace, Jal Mahal, and the Jaigarh Fort.
These are all possible to visit in 1-2 days, but I suggest staying for at least 3-4 days in Jaipur, preferably 1 week to really experience the city.
I recommend the Peacock Rooftop Restaurant for a nice Indian meal. Also, Jaipur Modern Kitchen is quite good. Otherwise, just go to the side streets of the city and find some nice street food, it’s cheap and delicious. And of course, don’t forget to drink some chai!
There are many hotels to choose from in Jaipur, but I like the Rajasthan Palace Hotel for budget accommodations and the Taj Rambagh Palace for a more luxurious and extravagant hotel experience.
#15: Hampi, Karnataka
by Patrick Muntzinger, German Backpacker
After backpacking India extensively, Hampi is probably still my favorite place of the entire country! While getting to Hampi is rather a detour on the usual traveler’s itinerary in India, a visit is certainly worth it.
While Hampi is nowadays only a small town, it was the capital of a kingdom several decades ago – and therefore, the whole area is full of historic and ancient ruins and temples! The town is divided by a river which can be crossed in small boats and if you’re lucky, you can also spot the holy elephant of the village – Lakshmi – getting a bath there.
Besides the incredible historical heritage in Hampi, I also fell in love with the landscape and surroundings of this village. Hampi is surrounded by rice paddies and huge rock formations, which create a breath-taking landscape. I highly recommend renting a bicycle or scooter for a day and to explore the surroundings of Hampi.
In the evening, many travelers and locals gather on top of the rocks to watch the beautiful sunset – the view certainly won’t disappoint you!
#16: Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir
by Shweta Singhal, Zest In A Tote
With the Himalayan range bordering north India, it is surprising that one doesn’t think of snow when you first think of India. Gulmarg in Kashmir, a popular hill station in summer transforms itself into a white beauty from December – March.
Gulmarg Gondola is a cable car that takes you to 2 stops, first to Kongdori at about 3000 m and further to Aparwat mountain at about 3950 m. You get scenic 360-degree views of snow-capped Himalayan range all around from Aparwat mountain, also known as the Second Stage.
My daughter loved the jet mobile experience that glides on fresh snow with crazy speed. There are several operators just outside the first stop of the cable car ride at Kongdori mountain who offer this.
There are nice resorts, rental shops to hire ski gear, beginners and intermediate slopes and a few operators with good local teachers if you want to learn how to ski in Gulmarg. Evenings are meant for making snowman, drinking Kashmiri kahwa (or hot chocolate, toddy if you prefer) and cosying up in a warm room.
Gulmarg is about a 2-hour road trip from Srinagar. The drive via Tanmarg itself is quite picturesque and offers good restaurants for local food.
by Natalia Shipkova, My Trip Hack
Alleppey backwaters is a unique experience whether you stay in a luxury houseboat, hire a shikara boat for a few hours or opt for budget government ferries.
In my opinion, villages are the highlight of a backwater experience. During your journey, you can see some unusual tropical fruits growing on the palms, old architecture, churches, schools, shops, interesting bird species, and flowers.
It is actually a possibility to know more about the lifestyle of simple people in the area, yet you have to be ethical about it. Don’t click photographs of people from the boats, rather step on the shore and take a walk. There are many local people who are genuinely interested to talk to visitors.
Accommodation choice will depend on your budget. If you don’t book in advance, you will get the first offers at the bus stop once you arrive. There are hosts, agents, and hotel owners offering deals to foreigners. See also the best hotels in Kerala for future reference!
Besides backwaters, you can visit the famous Marari Beach near Alleppey to chill on the white sand and catch blue waves.
#18: Agra, Uttar Pradesh
by Jenny, TraveLynn Family
No trip to India is complete without a visit to the iconic Taj Mahal. However, because of its popularity, it’s important to plan your visit to get the best out of your time. Indeed we visited the Taj Mahal with kids (our boys were aged 2 and 3 at the time), so planning was paramount.
The best months to visit are the shoulder seasons of March/April and September/October, which avoids the uncomfortably hot monsoon season and overcrowded peak season. Also, try and arrive for sunrise, when there are fewer crowds and the air is cooler; and note that the Taj is closed on Fridays.
After your early visit, be sure to head to one of the rooftop restaurants to the South for views of the Taj whilst tucking into your morning dosa and chai. Then head back to your accommodation to decompress and relax (we stayed at the DoubleTree Hilton, a perfect oasis after the morning’s exertion).
There’s more to Agra than the Taj, however. A visit to Agra Fort is a must for more superb views back to the Taj and exploring the incredible fort in its own right. Most people only plan for a day or so in Agra, but if you have more time these are all worth a visit; Itumad-ud-Daulah (nicknamed Baby Taj), Kinari Bazaar (for some shopping) and Mehtab Bagh (a lovely park with gardens and even more special views of the Taj).
#19: Mettupalayam, Tamil Nadu
by Clemens Sehi, Travel Archive
Mettupalayam is a small town in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located in the district of Coimbatore at the foot of the Nilgiri Mountains. The city lies at an altitude of 305 meters and is situated on the bank of the Bhavani River. The next largest city is Coimbatore about 50 kilometers south. Most tourists come here by train. There’s a reason for that too.
Mettupalayam Station is the terminus of a Coimbatore wide gauge line and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which heads to Udagamandalam and overcomes 2000 meters of altitude difference over a 46-kilometer stretch. No wonder that the town is a popular overnight stopover for guests to take the heritage train to Ooty the next day.
As there not many things to do here, the best thing is to wander around the place and explore a typical mountain town of Tamil Nadu with all its little markets and restaurants. A good accommodation option is Hotel Soorya International with a good hotel standard.
#20: Udaipur, Rajasthan
– Campbell Louw, Stingy Nomads
When travelling in Rajasthan state in India visiting Udaipur is a must! The beautiful city, often referred to as ‘the Venice of the East’, is surrounded by beautiful lakes and lush green hills. With spectacular landscapes, impressive palaces, and mesmerizing cultural sites it is clear why Udaipur is the most romantic city in India.
I loved walking around the fascinating city, discovering little shops and restaurants in the alleys; the city just has such a laid-back vibe. The narrow paths lined with stalls in the medieval historic center are an excellent place to shop for paintings and souvenirs. The flamboyant Udaipur City Palace located near Lake Pichola at the city center was built over a period of 400 years. The palace with its panoramic views is the most famous site in the city and one of the most beautiful buildings we saw in India. Do not miss the Jagdish temple a large Hindu temple just outside the royal palace, it has been in continuous worship since 1651!
The magnificent architecture decorated with beautiful ornate carvings is fascinating and can keep you busy for hours. The James Bond Movie ‘Octopussy’ was filmed in Udaipur and is often screened in local restaurants, a very touristy thing to do, but watching it was quite fun! It is fantastic to stay in one of the many hotels situated around Lake Pichola to end your days with a spectacular sunset!
#21: Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
by Jon Algie, Jon Is Travelling
Gwalior is the perfect day trip destination in India. It’s only a couple of hours away from Agra (where almost everyone visits due to this little thing called the Taj Mahal) and there are some incredible things to see.
The highlight of any day trip to Gwalior is exploring Gwalior Fort, which is home to Man Singh Palace, one of the most colorful and imposing fort/palace exteriors that you’ll see in India. There are also a couple of other ruined palaces to explore and some great views over the city. On the way up to Gwalior Fort make sure to stop off at the set of 24 Jain sculptures which were carved out of the hillside in the 1400s.
There isn’t a lot else to do in Gwalior (outside of Jai Vilas Mahal, which is a far more recent addition to the Gwalior landscape) so a day trip should be sufficient. You can catch a train from Agra which around two hours and then rent an auto-rickshaw driver to take you to the fort.
by Angela Corrias, Chasing The Unexpected
Chaotic, noisy, and with constant mental traffic, Delhi is India’s capital so impossible to miss if you are visiting the country for the first time. The city is packed with important historical and artistic sites.
Some of the best things to do in Delhi include a walk around Old Delhi to visit the Red Fort and Jama Masjid Mosque as well as the open markets, the modern and candid-white Lotus Temple, also called Baha’i House of Worship, a lotus-shaped temple opened to the public in 1986 to celebrate all religions, and Humayun’s Tomb UNESCO World Heritage Site, a beautiful garden-tomb built in 1565 in Persian and Indian architectural style and decorated with Islamic patterns.
If you want to devote more time to Delhi, don’t miss the cool Hauz Khas Village where you can amble about trendy boutiques, nice restaurants, and nightclubs, a favorite hangout place among Delhi youth.
The city is also full of delicious restaurants. Some of the best we’ve tried are SodaBottleOpenerWala serving Persian/Indian dishes in the lovely Khan Market, Punjabi By Nature for a taste of Punjabi food in Connaught Place, and the two restaurants Sagar Ratna for North Indian and South Indian food in Defense Colony, absolutely mouthwatering.
23. Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
Mahabalipuram is one of the most fascinating places that I have been to in my life. Located in Tamil Nadu on the east coast of India, Mahabalipuram is a quaint little town. What draws people to this town isn’t its modern-day architecture. In fact, it is the quite the contrary.
Mahabalipuram houses a UNESCO site which encompasses a large area of land. In fact, I may even so far to say that it encompasses the whole village. The interesting part about this UNESCO site is the numerous temples and archaeological remains that have been uncovered. These range from the gorgeous Shore temple and a gorgeous park which contains numerous ancient temples.
If you plan on visiting I would suggest visiting the Shore temple at dawn. The view at sunrise makes a beautiful backdrop. The lighthouse at the top of the hill in the park is the best place to get a view of the coast. It is something that you should not miss! Oh and don’t forget to taste the seafood while you are in the area!
– Penny Fernandes, Globe Trove
24. Bikaner, Rajasthan
Bikaner is not so crowded unlike other touristy cities of Rajasthan. We loved Bikaner in many ways, some were quite interesting.
We were pretty surprised when I first saw Junagarh Fort because it is one of the few major forts in Rajasthan not built on a hilltop! Don’t forget to see some mahals there, my favourite is Badal mahal (Cloud palace) painted in traditional Rajasthani style. A major feature of this fort is the stone carving done in red and gold coloured sandstones.
There are several temples in Bikaner, each one with a distinct feature. Laxminath Temple, Ghee temple where instead of water 40,000 KGs of ghee was used in its foundation. But the one who takes the cake is Karni Mata temple. It is famous for rats that live and are worshipped here. The temple attracts visitors from across the globe for blessings, as well as to satisfy their curiosity.
Another thing which you shouldn’t miss in Bikaner is grand havelis belonging to different merchant families who flourished and made Bikaner their home. We absolutely recommend a Haveli tour.
There are museums, palaces, and arts workshops to see. Major ones being Usta art and miniature paintings. Plan your visit between October and March when Rajasthan is at its best. Here are the top 15 things to do in Bikaner. Have a look!
– Nisha & Vasu, Lemonicks
25. Fort Kochi, Kerala
Fort Kochi has to be my favourite city in Kerala. Started off as a small fishing village, it became the first European township in India. There is so much history here, that you can feel it all around you. But not only that, there are so many things to do in Fort Kochi.
Going to see the Chinese Fishing Nets at sunset is a must. Their silhouettes against the oranges and purples of the sky are just magical. Visiting Jew Town and the Paradesi Sinagogue has to come second. So much history about a fast disappearing community! But you can still enjoy shopping at one of the oldest antique markets in India. Here you can also find spices, all sorts of garments such as kurtas, scarves, etc and plenty of souvenirs. Another iconic thing to do in Fort Kochi is watching a Kathakali performance, a classical dance from Kerala that involves elaborate make us and bright costumes. Definitely worth watching!
And as sunsets in Fort Kochi are epic, we mustn’t forget about taking a sunset cruise. Enjoy cruising along the backwaters of Kochi, taking in the peaceful views and you never know, you might even spot some dolphins!
– Teresa Brogan, Brogan Abroad
26. Amritsar, Punjab
Amritsar, meaning “pool of ambrosial nectar”, comes from the Sanskrit for “immortal” or Amrit and is “a syrup considered by Sikhs to be divine”. The name refers to a lake that exists where Amritsar’s most famous landmark is erected, The Golden Temple, a sacred pilgrimage destination for Sikhs worldwide and their holiest shrine.
The temple is magnificent and always filled with devotees and visitors walking around the lake, bathing in holy waters, praying or simply admiring its beauty. At the center of the large complex is the Golden Temple, always radiating and surrounded by 24/7 queues of pilgrims wanting to pay their respects to Sikhism most sacred scriptures, taken out every day for display in the temple.
But this is not the only thing to do in Amritsar, the city also has some other heritage landmarks and fantastic food. Amritsar is well known for its famous kulchas, a sort of parathas filled with potatoes, cottage cheese and other ingredients that are cooked in hot tandoori ovens across the city. Most of the food in Amritsar is quite unique and largely vegetarian due to the relevant proportion of Sikhs.
Amritsar is also near the border with Pakistan and the closest city in India and so it is a reference point for those wanting to see the border closing spectacle every evening, a must-see show.
– Mar Pages, Once In A Lifetime Journey
27. Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Manali is one of the best places to visit in the Indian Himalayas and our favourite destination in India. Located 500km away from Delhi, at the state of Himachal Pradesh, this adorable town offers a wide range of things to do and places to visit year-round. In the summer months, it’s amazing to rent a scooter and explore the area by yourself, driving through apple orchards, pristine waterfalls and beautiful Hindu temples made of wood and stone. The sports lovers can also go rafting, paragliding, trekking and go skiing in the winter months. If you’re lucky to go around Mid-August, you might even join the locals in the apple picking!
The area is popular among foreign tourists, so you’ll find a good range of restaurants with food from all over the world, especially Italian pasta, English breakfasts and even Kosher food. There are plenty of options of accommodation for all pockets – from cheap hostels in the Old Manali area to mid-range and luxury hotels with a wonderful view of the Himalayas. An unforgettable experience!
Leticia Sales, Happee Travelers
28. Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Madurai in Tamil Nadu is a charming place to visit – it’s a decent sized city to visit but without the overwhelm that comes with a lot of larger Indian cities. A must-see is the incredible Sri Meenakshi Temple complex comprising 14 intricately decorated towers that soar into the sky. There are over 33,000 colourful depictions of gods, animals and demons and the highest tower is 52 metres high making it an impressive sight.
Another highly recommended activity is to take an early morning visit to Madurai market. It’s a truly authentic experience of people going about their daily lives and each street has its own produce on sale so you can wander down chilli street, onion street and into the banana market.
A great place to eat in Madurai is Anna Meenakshi restaurant at New College House. It’s the best place to try a traditional Southern Indian thali served on banana leaf. The waiter comes around and dishes out the food from tins onto your leaf and you eat strictly with your hands – no cutlery allowed!
– Kylie Gibbon, Our Overseas Adventures
29. Lava, West Bengal
One of my favourite destinations in India is the hill town of Lava and Loleygaon which is situated in East India in the Kalimpong district. The hamlets are situated at an elevation of more than 8000 ft above sea level and intrigues travellers from around the country. They are the entrance to the famous Neora Valley National Park which requires entry permits to pay a visit and watch the wildlife thriving in the park.
Lava and Loleygaon are composed of Tibetan and Lepcha villages surrounded by the captivating mountains of Eastern Himalayas. Glorious sunrise views and spectacular natural scenery can be spotted in and around the hamlets which makes it a treasure for the nation.
Accommodations are available in the localities and it is worth staying day or two to witness all the endless charms the place has in store for travellers. There are also some hanging bridges and important peaks and summits like Tiffin Dara and Rachela peak in these locations which adds flavour and enigma to the sorcery.
– Somnath, Travel Crusade
30. Gangtok, Sikkim
The contrasts between West Bengal and Sikkim are really quite extraordinary, as you escape the lower sprawls of India into the scattered settlements of the Indian Himalayas. As geographically Sikkim really is quite unique, with an unlikely mix of cultures from surrounding borders of Nepal, Chinese Tibet, Bhutan, and Indian Bengali. Then add in the colonial British influences which are found throughout. So the best base would have to be the former British hill station of Gangtok, however, travel through Sikkim is a must, where one of the more notable attractions would have to be Kangchenjunga (the world’s 3rd highest mountain) found towering over the backdrop of many excursions throughout.
But my own fascination was in the local Tibetan temples, like Enchey Monastery in Gangtok, and the Rumtek Monastery in remote hills. Where you find spinning prayer wheels, fluttering prayer flags, and shroudings of mountain mists. It really is a fascinating part of the world. A handful of the more exciting excursions then include Changu Lake, on the borders of China, as well as the remote Temi Tea Gardens where the Cherry Resort overlooking the rippled tea hills.
– Allan Wilson, Live Less Ordinary
31. Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Awarded with the epithet of “Queens of Hill Stations,” Ooty is a hill station in the state of Tamil Nadu and is located in the Nilgiri Hills. The beauty of Ooty is hypnotic and can mesmerize everyone. With Emerald colour lakes and unending meadows, Ooty makes as one of the most favourite holiday destinations in India. Every year, many people visit Ooty with the hope of spending some peaceful days in its natural bliss.
Ooty is not only famous in the present time, but its beauty attracted the British people too and they enhanced the beauty of this small hill station by adding more to it. This is the reason that Ooty in addition with the natural splendour also represents great British architecture.
There are many places to visit in Ooty and there is no way that you can fulfill your itinerary by visiting a handful of them. You may leave a few, but in order to witness what actual Ooty looks like, you must cover most of them. The list of must visit places includes Pykara Falls and Lakes, Madumalai, Tea EstateView Point, Avalanche Lake, Ooty Lake, Emerald Lake, Botanical Gardens, and Dobbabetta Park. Also, make sure to taste the South Indian cuisine here because Tamil Nadu is famous for their authentic way of preparing South Indian dishes.
Ooty is a place that matches the elaboration of a poet’s imagination. The beauty will hypnotize you and you won’t ever feel like going back.
– Seema Gurnani, Panda Reviewz
32. Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Jodhpur is one of the Rajasthan’s highlights. Also known as the Blue City, it is a mix of Mughal architecture, colourful buildings, and friendly people. Although most people only spend a maximum of two days here, it is well worth to extend your stay to explore it properly.
There are many things to do, but you shouldn’t miss the mesmerizing Mehrangarh Fort which is visible from almost anywhere in the Old City, as well as the nearby Jaswant Thada, a memorial build entirely of white marble. The Umaid Bhavan Palace is also worth a stop, home to the royal family of Jodhpur and also a luxury hotel.
But the best way to get to know Jodhpur is by wandering around the narrow streets of the Old City, admiring the blue house and watching locals in their daily lives. You can also choose to take a Jodhpur tour on a bicycle which will get you to some off the beaten path attractions, as well as to places where locals like to spend their time.
– Andra Padureanu, Our World To Wander
33. Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
The medieval city of Orchha is about a 4-hour train ride from Delhi. The city of Orchha was founded in 1531 by the first King of Orchha, who also built the Fort of Orchha.
You can visit the fort which is built along the Betwa River. Orchha Is a small village that used to be a powerful empire. The King even built a palace here that he stayed in for one day so it is aptly nicknamed the One Day Palace.
There are many temples, palaces, and forts located here and my favourite is Jahangir Mahal which is a beautiful piece of architecture that has elephants carved into the pillars.
The best place to eat in Orchha is Open Sky Restaurant. They have everything there you could want and the staff are so friendly. My favourite activity though was heading down to the river to watch the sunset over the Betwa River.
– Nicole La Barge, Travelgal Nicole
34. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi is among the nicest places to visit in India, for it is a beautiful city that has a lot to offer to travellers. The city is the cradle of the Hindu religion, and is thought to be holy. It is a crowded, chaotic place – like many in India. But amidst the chaos, ti is possible to find peace. Among the unmissable things to do in Varanasi, there’s taking a walk in the narrow alleys of the Old City – they are so narrow that no cars can go through, making it blissfully quiet compared to the rest of the city. Another thing to do is a walk along the Ghats, and, at night, attending the Ganga Aarti ceremony, during which fire is donated to the Mother Ganges, at Dashashwamedh Ghat. A sunrise boat tour is a must to admire the most dramatic funeral ceremonies – though remember it is prohibited to take photos of the cremation ceremonies.
A good place to sleep in the city is Marigold P Guesthouse. It has small but comfortable rooms and is managed by Sonu, a sweet, welcoming local. The Old City has the best eating options. Spicy Bites and Bona Café are among the most popular places for travellers. The best lassi is at Bana Lassi, but if you care to try Bhang Lassi (made with an extract of flower heads and leaves of cannabis) search for Blue Lassi, nothing more than a small hole in the wall outside the Old City.
– Claudia Tavani, My Adventures Across The World
35. Darjeeling, West Bengal
Darjeeling, a beautiful destination in the eastern Himalayan region is one of the most charming hill stations of India. With the magnificent views of the Kangchendzonga ranges and the rolling green tea gardens, Darjeeling is simply a breathtaking place. The best thing to do in Darjeeling is to roam leisurely around the Mall or Chowrasta. The Mall is at the centre of the town and has many boutique shops around.
At Darjeeling, you should not miss the Sunrise at Tiger Hill. With the first rays of sun falling on the top of the snow clad mountain ranges, the sunrise is a treat for the eyes. The other places of attraction are the Darjeeling Zoo, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Japanese Peace Pagoda, Batasia Loop and the Ghum Monastery. A joy ride on the Darjeeling toy train (Darjeeling Himalayan Railways – a UNESCO World Heritage Site) should also be on the list. Darjeeling is famous for tea. Darjeeling Tea is known and imported worldwide. So while at Darjeeling, explore the tea gardens and do not forget a trip to the Happy Valley Tea Estate.
If you want to have a sumptuous English breakfast, head to Keventers. Glenary’s too serves great cuisines. For Nepali dishes, you can try Sonam’s Kitchen. Darjeeling has a number of accommodation options at all types of budget. Windermere, Cedar Inn, Mayfair are few of the Upscale options; while Broadway Annex, Classic Guest House, Main Bellevue Hotel are few of the budget options.
– Amrita & Agni, Tale of 2 Backpackers
35. Pune, Maharashtra
One of the places to visit in India that’s often overlooked is Pune, Maharashtra. Located only 150 km from Mumbai, it is not only easily accessible but also offers plenty to see and do. Once the seat of the Maratha rulers, it is Maharashtra’s cultural and historic capital. As such, there are many places to visit in Pune.
Starting with historic monuments, such as the Shaniwar Wada, a Maratha fortress dating back to 1732, to excellent museums, such as the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Pune has a lot to offer. Take a tour of the city, visit the historic university, the impressive Aga Khan Palace, or marvel at one of the city’s beautiful temples, such as Dagadusheth Temple. Meditate at th world famous Osho ashram or haggle your way through Laxmi road. Then head to Koregaon Park for dinner, a hotspot for nightlife and restaurants.
Pune is also one of the best places from which to explore the UNESCO-listed Western Ghats, an extraordinarily bio-diverse mountain range featuring lush green forests, rushing waterfalls, and friendly wildlife. Just make sure to pack a couple of bananas for the monkeys along the road! One of the best views can be enjoyed from Tamhini Ghat less than 2 hours drive from Pune.
– Mihir and Jacky, Nomad Epicureans
36. Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
One of the best road trips in India has to be the one we took to Spiti Valley and Chandrataal lake last year. It is one of the most pristine locations in India but getting there can be a challenging journey. Even though the route from Shimla is open throughout the year, the preferred route is through Rohtang Pass from Manali and is open only during the months of June-October. Public transportation is available until a particular point but most people either drive themselves or hire a shared cab from Manali or Shimla. Chandrataal lake, Hikkim (the highest post office in the world), some of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world are few of the places you can visit in Spiti valley. You will find camping facilities near Chandrataal lake and you can find some really basic accommodation options in the valley.
– Soumya Nambiar, Travel, Books And Food
37. Mysore, Karnataka
If you’re planning a trip to South India, Mysore is a city that has to be on your list! Most commonly known as the city of palaces (there are 5, including one converted to a hotel that you can stay in), Mysore is also a haven for yogis coming to India to practice and learn yoga.
One of the best things to do in Mysore, in fact it’s something you cannot miss, is visit Mysore Palace. Mysore was once a kingdom and went through several rulers, the most notable being the Kings from the Wodeyar family, who are responsible for the all the palaces in Mysore and the culture you will find throughout the city. The best two times to visit Mysore Palace are in the morning just as the doors open — it’s the least crowded time of day and you’ll get a chance to marvel at the true grandeur of the interior — and on the weekend when the palace’s Indo-Sarcenic exterior is illuminated for an hour beginning at 7:00pm.
Fun fact: Part of the palace is off-limits to tourists as it is still the residence of the current Wodeyar family!
– Christabel Lobo, Where’s Bel
38. Ganges River
When visiting India, you must make a stop by the Ganges! This 2,525 km river runs through India and Bangladesh and is the third largest river in the world by discharge. The Hindus consider it one of the most sacred rivers and it is a vital lifeline to the millions who live along the river. Indians travel from all over India, even from southern Karnataka, up to worship at the Ganges River.
There is much to see along the river. The river is a great location for dolphin watching although pollution has been a big problem lately because of the bathing and washing and ceremonies that take place inside the river. The Ganges dolphin lives in the river and often travels in packs so keep an eye out! The Banaras Haveli is a great place to dine along the river, offering beautiful views, delicious food, and attentive service. The Hotel Ganges Rivera is a great 3-star hotel located in the vicinity of the river that will only set you back $15.
– Kaila Yu, Nylon Pink
39. Bangalore, Karnataka
We had an amazing family vacation in Bangalore a few years ago when our kids were 1, 5 and 8. We particularly enjoyed our visit to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, an outdoor oasis within the crowded city. We hired a guide and toured the lush gardens in a golf cart. Our other favorite activities included eating magnificent meals, shopping and watching cricket. Our family’s all-time favorite restaurant is Tandoor, and we ate there twice during our visit and often dream of going back. We shopped on Brigade Road and Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road, on Commercial Street and at Forum Mall, India’s first shopping mall. We visited during the Twenty20 cricket tournament, and my husband and sons were able to attend a match. Bangalore may be known more as an IT mecca than for tourism, but this “Garden City of India” is a great place to experience India.
– Catherine D’Cruz, We Go With Kids
40. Varkala, Kerala
If you’re planning a Kerala backpacking trip, make sure Varkala is on your itinerary. This beach resort is four hours south of Cochin International Airport and has beautiful views over the sea. If you’re on a budget, stay at the basic bungalows at the Cliff Garden Beach Resort. For mid-priced accommodation, the Green Palace Sea Side Hotel is clean, contemporary and well-located. Varkala is simply a great place to chill out. Browse the arts and crafts market stalls or go for a wander along the clifftops and discover the black sand beach to the north or the mermaid sculpture to the south. On the resort’s wide sandy beach, watch fishermen haul in the day’s fresh fish and seafood to be served in the area’s many cafés and restaurants.
Recommended are the top-quality dishes and friendly service of the ABBA Restaurant & Everest German Bakery and the bohemian vibes of the nearby Heart Café. If you’re looking for activities, why not try a yoga class, an Indian cooking class or an Ayurvedic massage. If you are spiritually inclined, you can pay your respects at one of the area’s ornate Hindu temples, where you may receive a blessing.
– Claire Drinkwater, Backpacking Bella
What are the best places in India you can recommend?
Have you been to India? When did you go? What did you eat? Where did you stay? Which activity did you enjoy the most? I’d like to hear your thoughts! Please leave your ideas and suggestions (that may not be in this post) in the comment box below!