20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in India

Jul 22, 2021

India, one of the world's oldest and most powerful nations, is truly a marvel.

Be it the great monasteries of Buddhist stupas, some of the most dramatic Hindu temples in the world, ancient ruins, temples and shrines of the Hindu gods and goddesses, mysterious tribal villages, magnificent forts, colorful bazaars, or any of the ancient forts and palaces that are preserved throughout India, India has many historic gems and is a delight to visit.

An incredibly rich and diverse culture, from its ancient traditions to its rich cultural heritage, India offers a limitless variety of places and experiences for the traveler. Many of its attractions are religious in nature, yet many others, such as the Taj Mahal, are merely a marvel for the eyes.

This travel guide will take you on a tour of India, highlighting some of the most popular destinations, and providing tips and advice to help you visit India and not miss a moment of its magnificent culture. Discover the best places to visit in India with our list of the top tourist attractions in India.

Goa

Goa has been the theme of many movies, most recently 2010's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Rich with beaches and temples, Goa is also a popular holiday destination, offering a full range of attractions and activities, including trekking through the forested hinterland of the state and boating along the island-studded coastline. The capital, Panaji, is an ideal base from which to explore Goa's many attractions, including the historic churches at Old Goa and the former Portuguese fort, Arjuna's Palace. Goa's colorful Christian churches are among the best-preserved in India. Spend the night in a traditional Goan house, rajma-chawal channa curry, or Goan sea-food restaurant. And don't miss out on the beach! There are approximately 75 beaches in Goa. Some of the best are Bhagwan Mahavir, Anjuna and Anjuna Beach. Goa International Airport is 30 km north of Panaji. There are direct daily flights from London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New Delhi and Mumbai. The Indian railway has a daily Thiruvananthapuram to Panaji train. Daily flights connect Panaji with Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and New Delhi.

Varanasi

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Varanasi: en.wikipedia.org

Located on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is India's holiest city and its largest city in both size and population. Although Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, its enchanting temples, large cremation ghat (place of the dead), holy bathing areas, Hindu temples and other sights date back more than 2,000 years. Founded as a Brahmin settlement in the 5th century BC, Varanasi has been home to many different religions and cultures throughout history, making the city a hotspot for traveling and filming. Hindu pilgrims flock here for the holy Ganges, which are the region's sacred source of life. Varanasi's ongoing religious significance led UNESCO to declare the city a World Heritage Site in 1984, which was the first time the heritage site status had ever been granted to a non-European city.

The Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal: en.wikipedia.org

One of the seven wonders of the world, The Taj Mahal is built on the site of the cremation ground of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1630. The Shah's sixth, imperial son, Aurangzeb, later ordered the construction of the most magnificent monument in the world, with nearly 20,000 workers using fine white marble from around the Mughal Empire, exquisite inlay designs and intricate, high-relief carving. The monument honors Mumtaz Mahal, as well as her husband and sons, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Umee-Karim. The Taj Mahal translates as "Crown of the Palace" and has a remarkable design of delicate white marble petals, curves and arches that hold four corners with a central spire. The Taj Mahal is on the southern bank of the Yamuna River, 30 km (18 miles) west of Delhi. One of the world's most visited monuments, the Taj Mahal and its sprawling grounds are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. To ensure a peaceful and reverential visit, be sure to dress and behave respectfully and dress moderately.

Udaipur

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Udaipur: en.wikipedia.org

Udaipur is a city of fairy-tale palaces, towers and temples set amid waterlilies and lakes on the shores of Lake Pichola in the eastern state of Rajasthan, India. It is renowned as the 'queen of the hill stations' (because of its cool climate and lush surroundings) and is packed with lakeside palaces that once belonged to the rajas, the ruling kings of Rajasthan, which are now home to luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, and cafes. Today, the picturesque city is a popular tourist destination and, after Delhi, is the most visited city in India. Udaipur is a city of impressive buildings and monuments, including the 17th century Jagdish Temple, Swaroop Sagar Lake, Bhitari Lake, City Palace Museum and more. If you're looking for a more intimate glimpse of life in India, Udaipur is the perfect destination for an Indian wedding or a quiet holiday. Families with children can visit the famous Junagarh Lake or explore the Monkey Park, where you can feed the black panthers and, more thrillingly, hold a jungle "zip line" above the serenity.

Tirupati

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Tirupati: en.wikipedia.org

Kamakshi temple is one of the oldest and biggest temples in Tirupati, India. The temple was built by Cholas, a dynasty in the south India around 950 AD. Today, the presiding deity of the temple is Kamakshi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Parvathi. The temple is notable for its Vishnu and Brahma statues, Kamakshi's idol, and for the sheer grandeur of the structure, which is a must-see. The temple attracts millions of people annually and thousands travel from the whole world to pay homage to their favorite goddess. Visitors can pay obeisance to Kamakshi on her birthday and for nine days during the Tamil New Year, which is celebrated in the month of Thai. The temple is just west of the A.P. Highway. The distance from Tirupati to Chennai is about 160 km and from Chennai to Hyderabad is about 50 km.

Ajanta Caves

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Ajanta Caves: en.wikipedia.org

Ajanta Caves were built between 200 BC and 400 AD. They're usually referred to as "the Thousand Buddha Caves" because of the number of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, carvings and paintings found there. Other sites in the region date back to the 1st millennium BC, though they weren't excavated until several centuries later. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ajanta also offers excellent rock-cut architecture. The most interesting and impressive of the caves here are Ajanta Ellora, a series of rock-cut Buddhist caves close to each other, and Mahakuta, which was found by a British archaeologist. Ajanta also has a large Hindu cave, carved out of a single massive piece of limestone, which is best accessed by a guided tour. The best season for travel to Ajanta Caves is November through February, but April to October is a popular time to visit.

Mysore Palace

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Mysore Palace: en.wikipedia.org

Perched on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Tungabhadra and Beas Rivers is Mysore Palace, a magnificent 19th-century palace built for the Wodeyars of Mysore. This was the summer palace of the Maharajah, but today it is used for state and ceremonial functions. A thorough survey of Mysore Palace is done in the Mysore Palace exhibition, housed in the recently restored Lal Mahal Palace. It displays an eclectic collection of artwork and curiosities brought by the Wodeyars from their many travels. Most visitors to the palace approach it from the west, either from Bangalore via Mysore or Kolar via Belur. The best approach is from the north through the countryside where the palace is located. A 20-minute drive from the city centre on NH 212 will take you there.

Rajasthan

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Rajasthan: en.wikipedia.org

Rajasthan is a great destination for historical sightseeing, with wonderful ruined forts and fortresses that have withstood the test of time. The forts, whose exact function remains a mystery, date from the time of the region's many invasions by foreign rulers. Itinerary highlight of a visit is the Jaisalmer Fort, which was once the main palace of the rajas, an historical ruler. Located among rolling hills and dotted with several mosques, you can also visit the imposing Naurangi fort and Hindu temples. On the outskirts of Jaisalmer, in Karok Palpur, is one of India's most beautiful but under-visited tourist attractions: the famous Bada Sthan. A giant sand dune, this is the largest of its kind in the country, and a typical sunrise or sunset here is breathtaking.

Pondicherry

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Pondicherry: en.wikipedia.org

Brimming with a sense of history, India's smallest state and administrative capital of Puducherry is an attractive place with a tranquil, monastic atmosphere. The town of Puducherry itself has a charming blend of French colonial style and neo-Palladian architecture, and its walled old quarter is unique in India. It's a delightful place for a wander through some of its exotic sights, such as old houses full of murals and galleries showing off the many works of art produced by its ancient inhabitants. As you wander around the walled area of Puducherry, be sure to stop for a drink and snacks at the low-key cafes on Rue Nizam-Ud-Doula. Among the best known is Café Asia, a French-run eatery specializing in a variety of Asian dishes. A short stroll from the Old Town of Puducherry is the bustling market at Kadamkulam. It's a good place to find produce and spices. Other places to visit in Puducherry include: the Puducherry Museum, housed in a 19th-century French-style mansion; the small and imposing Jesuit Church; and the small area of Elephant and Castle that lies just outside the city. There are regular buses from Puducherry to the rest of the country. The railway station on Auroville road is the departure point for trains to and from Chennai, Trichy and points in Tamil Nadu.

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

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Jantar Mantar, Jaipur: en.wikipedia.org

The world's largest functioning astronomical instrument was built in Jaipur, India, in 1727 by the astronomer Jai Singh, better known as Maharaja Jai Singh II. Jantar Mantar is a gigantic structure that includes at least 10 octagonal observatories for tracking celestial movements and the movements of the Sun, Moon, and planets. Each of these is a white marble enclosure built around a series of 61 equidistant stone pillars that mark the successive zodiacal constellations and planets. The most distinctive element of this impressive structure is a brilliant crystal ball some 2.5 meters in diameter that is suspended from a series of 22.8 meters-high iron arms and used by the astronomers to record celestial movements. Visitors who are able to see inside the ball will be treated to a splendid view of the sky. However, the amazing thing is that this function is used less and less as more modern equipment has taken over.

Fatehpur Sikri

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Fatehpur Sikri: en.wikipedia.org

Fatehpur Sikri, which translates as 'A city of happiness' is a picturesque city in northern India which dates back to the 16th century. Begun by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jehan, who established his capital here from 1585 until his death in 1627, Fatehpur Sikri was one of the largest cities in the Mughal Empire and became a pilgrimage site. Today, it is a pleasant town to explore. A number of fine 17th and 18th-century palaces are located here including the Hanging Palace. The buildings which house the small national museum are unique in that they were built inside a series of concentric ring-like corridors. Adjacent to the large lake are the ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery. Another feature of Fatehpur Sikri is the old royal town. It is made up of narrow streets with 16th century buildings and courtyards. Like an ancient fort, the city is surrounded by a moat and was entirely encircled by a high wall and large ramparts until 1876. Fatehpur Sikri is located in Uttar Pradesh, about 255 kilometers from New Delhi and 2,000 meters above sea level. It is accessible by flights from Delhi or Lucknow.

Uttar Pradesh

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Uttar Pradesh: en.wikipedia.org

If there's one state that you need to see for yourself before making any claims on the subcontinent, it's Uttar Pradesh. From the moment you enter the state, you'll be hit with the heat and the smog of Delhi, the capital, and within hours you'll be in the realm of the majestic Himalayas. Not only is Uttar Pradesh one of the most populated states of the country, it is also one of the poorest. The state's vast, dusty plains contrast starkly with the Himalayas and the northern borders of Uttarakhand. It is blessed with natural beauty, both physical and spiritual, but its poverty is brutally apparent as you travel throughout the state, even at the scenic hill towns. You'll find the great Indian trinity here – scenic mountains, magnificent palaces, and vast, bustling cities. The cities, like Varanasi, are the most densely populated and polluted in the nation, but the rest of the state has some of India's most magnificent mountains, where you can explore temples and monasteries and, especially in the southern region of Garhwal, you can ski amid snowy landscapes. The towns of Samaleshwarnath and Manikarnas, only a few hours north of the capital, are picturesque. In recent years, the city of Rampur, west of Lucknow, has risen to national prominence.

Ellora Caves

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Ellora Caves: en.wikipedia.org

Just outside the city of Aurangabad, in a small city called Bhimashankar, lies Ellora Caves. The site is one of India's earliest rock shelters, containing early rock art and even traces of settlements dating back to the Neolithic period. The impressive cave temples can be reached by bus from Aurangabad, or reached via a long trek from a settlement nearby. The rocky terrain can make the climb daunting, but the stunning cave temples, with carvings of vivid carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses from 500-300 BC, are well worth the sweat.

Sarnath

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Sarnath: en.wikipedia.org

Sarnath is a lovely little town that lies only four miles from Varanasi, the famous Hindu holy city. The peace of this pretty colonial village feels very different to the hustle of the city with a soft, pleasant pace which makes for a more memorable visit. The temple, or ghat, which is where the ghat - a stepway - was placed for pilgrims to move around the temple's temple, was built in the second century BC, and has suffered a few disruptions since, like the damage caused by the earthquake of 1934, but remains in good shape. Today, the grand steps remain a symbol of Hindu devotion, rising from the ghat to a height of 44 meters (142 feet) to reach a golden stone gate, said to represent the doorway to heaven. The city's peaceful charm is sure to leave a lasting impression and make for a pleasant journey. It is not only a spiritual place for Hindus to visit, but it is also famous for its vegetable markets.

Agra Fort

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Agra Fort: en.wikipedia.org

Built by Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century, Agra Fort (Gurjara ka durg), one of the five major forts in Agra, stands on a rocky promontory 10 miles from the Taj Mahal, surrounded by the waters of the river Yamuna. Originally housing many Mughal emperors and ministers, Agra Fort was the administrative and political center of the Mughal empire from 1571 to 1803. Today, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with major portions of the imposing fort and related buildings still intact. The 1572 Sansi Gate is the most impressive of the fort's many gateways. Inside, the magnificent Diwan-I-Am (Hall of Public Audience) is the largest such Mughal-era room in India, though it's more for visitors' eye-glazing than for getting one's feet dirty. Some of the fort's lesser-known buildings are the 17th-century Royal Chhota and Bhawani talabas, which are large storerooms, and the Agra Fort Museum, which holds one of the best collections of Mughal artifacts in India. Also noteworthy is the Agra Canal, a 17-mile-long system of small, man-made lakes created in 1592 during the Mughal reign of Emperor Akbar to supply water to the city, Agra Fort, and his capital city of Fatehpur Sikri.

Tamil Nadu

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Tamil Nadu: en.wikipedia.org

Tamil Nadu is not all temples and beauty queens, though these do exist, and it is indeed an awesome sightseeing destination for the average traveler as well as the well-travelled visitor. It is the cradle of the indomitable Dravidian language (but isn't that true of all of India) and has two of the most celebrated ancient religious sites in India. The first of these is the legendary Vishnu temple at Madurai and the second is the marvelous Ellora Caves which have some of the finest examples of early Buddhist art. If you have two days to visit the area, you really can't go wrong and should head for either one or the other. But the real gem of the state is the palace of Amaravati which is set high in the foothills of the Nilgiri Hills and is a living, breathing monument to royal splendor.

Mumbai

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Mumbai: en.wikipedia.org

Mumbai, India's commercial capital, is often called Bombay. It has been in the news a lot over the past few years because of the political conflict in the neighboring state of Gujarat. But Mumbai is also a remarkable city, especially for its food and its people. Mumbai is India's first international metropolis, the epitome of globalization. In terms of size and natural beauty, Mumbai, its name means'mouth of the sea,' its beaches are amongst the best in the world. With some 7.3 million residents, Mumbai is also a major center for film, television, music, and international commerce. Foreign trade accounts for some three quarters of the city's income, and Mumbaikars also enjoy leisure and culture, thanks to its many museums, art galleries, and theatres.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Mumbai

Jantar Mantar Observatory, Jaipur

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Jantar Mantar: en.wikipedia.org

The Jantar Mantar Observatory (Jantar Mantar) in Jaipur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II (r. 1627-1711) as a means of determining the movements of the stars. At more than 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) above sea level, it covers a field of view of approximately 27 kilometers. It was originally built in 1724. Each year, on the first day of the new moon, the astronomer-king of Jaipur pronounces its astrological interpretation, the Jaiya, on a new tablet, and offers it to the public. On a clear night, under a dark sky, the mountain of the observatory offers many opportunities to enjoy the wonders of the universe. The Aavishkar Observatory on the top of the mountain contains one of the world's largest, the 200-meter (660-foot) telescope. The observatory, designed by Albert Einstein, was named after the USSR scientist Nikolai Aleksandrovich Aavishkar.

Golden Temple, Amritsar

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Golden Temple: en.wikipedia.org

The Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib (Dharamsal in Hindi), is a unique temple in India that has long been the focal point for Sikh and international pilgrims alike. The temple was built in the late 18th century, and it was at the site that Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh leader, took refuge from the British forces of the time and began teaching that led to the foundation of the Sikh religion. The temple has one of the largest domes in the world at 140 feet in diameter and a height of 206 feet, and is gilded with 530 kilograms of gold. Inside the temple are thirty-one palaces, a royal assembly hall called the Darbar Sahib, a museum, a library, and over 80 chapels. It is protected by a forest of golden parasols and features over 100,000 figurines. A famous story about the temple goes that the English Empress Elizabeth arrived in a pariah horse when she came to India in the late 19th century. A Hindu, who had ridden the horse back to the temple on his white steed, let it free, and told the Empress that the horse had found a home in the temple.

Charminar, Hyderabad

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Charminar: en.wikipedia.org

Built as a mark of honor in 1587, Charminar is one of the oldest Muslim monuments in India. It is a graceful white sandstone building with two towers, which can be climbed for wonderful views of the city and the bazaar below. The original building, its western wing and the modern extensions at the back are connected by a covered passage through two beautiful pavilions. According to legend, a beautiful princess had been imprisoned here by the king of Golconda and it was to this spot that her son, Mir Ghulam Ali, was carried by his faithful vizier, Abdalla Khan. He is said to have reached the top of the mosque only to find a column of fire blocking his way. It is also believed that, in 1412, the city's residents seized the pavilions for the defense of the town when Hyderabad was threatened by Babar, founder of the Mughal dynasty. It's easy to find a guided tour at the Charminar for a small fee. There are also shuttle bus and auto-rickshaw tours from outside the Charminar. The sarai (restaurant), one of the few remaining vestiges of the original Hyderabad, is a superb place for a traditional curry meal or a good cup of tea.