5 Best Places to Visit in India
Mark Twain famously claimed that India was the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of modern speech, and the “great grandmother of tradition.” For tourists, therefore, the billion-strong country has a lot to live up to. India might look like a single country when viewed on the map. But, as any seasoned traveller will tell you, it is an enormous region, replete with different cultures, traditions, religions, and food. Therefore, whittling down where you’re going to visit to just five places is a Herculean challenge. Ajay Singh wrote an article on his blog that lists the top 10 places in India, and we have condensed that into our best 5:
The Kaziranga National Park
People imagine India to be a heavily-populated country with only a smattering of remaining wildernesses. But, interestingly, the subcontinent remains a veritable haven for wildlife. Many rare species that have gone extinct in other parts of the world still thrive here.
The Kaziranga National Park is the crown jewel in India’s wildlife offering and set up for keen tourists looking to spot rare rhinos and tigers. The park formed in 1908 under the recommendation of Mary Curzon and is now home to around 2,200 Indian one-horned rhinoceros – roughly two-thirds of the global population. Since its inception, it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covering some 90 square miles.
You can find the nearest major international airport in Tezpur, about 1 hour and 20 minutes to the east of the park by bus. Kaziranga Park authorities offer both a morning and afternoon Jeep safaris, starting at 8 am and 2 pm.
Jaipur – sometimes called the “pink city” after the color of local stone – is where you go if you want to experience Indian finery and decadence at its best. Nestled in the heart of the Maharajas, forts, palaces, and temples speckle this unique settlement, providing you with a bevy of exciting sites to explore.
The Palace of the Winds – also named the Hawa Mahal – is perhaps the city’s most famous and coveted attraction. Rulers constructed this impressive building in 1799. Its beautiful facade soars skyward and features five stories of layered micro-turrets in traditional Kachhwaha Rajput dynasty styling. Keen observers will note that it emulates the crown of Hindu Lord Krishna.
Those looking for something even more visually impressive should head to the south of the city to the Birla Mandir, also called the Lakshmi-Narayan Temple. Architects began building this enormous structure entirely of white marble in honor of Lord Vishnu in 1966. Inside, you’ll find large marble panels with artwork dedicated to an assortment of deities, including Ganesha and Rama.
Jaipur’s other famous tourist traps include the City Palace built between 1729 and 1732 by Sawai Jai Singh II, the Jah Mahal, or “Water Palace” in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake, and the Nahargarh Fort, also built by Jai Singh.
If you’re more of a mountain goat, you’ll want to check out Sikkim in the north of the country, nestled between the Himalayan kingdoms of Bhutan and Nepal. Sikkim is one of the most isolated parts of India and the country’s newest state. It only officially became a part of the country in 1975. Before that, it was an independent kingdom, owing to its sheer remoteness.
Gangtok is the region’s primary town – and one of the most spectacular built-up areas in the country. Residential apartments cascade down the sides of the mountains, like water from a waterfall. And in the town center, tall buildings encircle the central park areas like an ancient amphitheater.
Sikkim offers the nature-loving adventurer glaciers, lakes dense forests and jagged peaks to explore. Most of the surrounding countryside is practically untouched by humans, allowing visitors to entirely escape the trappings of civilization and live like their ancestors.
The culture here is also different from most of India. The majority religion is Buddhism, not Hinduism or Islam.
Goa is India’s party-state and more akin to a western beach resort than a traditional Indian settlement. Anjuna and Armbol are the most popular among tourists, with Baga and Calangute, reserved for locals. You’ll also find beautiful seafood caught locally, and some of the most spectacular, UNESCO-listed architecture in the country.
Goa is famous for the many festivals in hosts throughout the year, including the Goa Carnival and New Year Celebrations. As you might imagine, locals don’t like to take life too seriously – so much so that they even coined the word “susegad,” which means “being laid-back.”
Panjim, located on the Mandovi River, is the capital city and well-connected to the local airport and the city’s floating casinos. Younger tourists love it for its ridiculously low prices. Tea and coffee here go for between 15 and 30 rupees or about $0.25 to $0.50 per cup. A kingfisher beer will set you back just 90 cents.
Mysore is definitely not an eyesore. This resort at the southern tip of India is the capital of the Wodeyar dynasty and famous for its eponymous palace.
If you visit the town, make sure that you check out the palace at night when the stewards turn on the lights. The exterior facade glows spectacularly and is much bigger than you might imagine from pictures in travel brochures.
Everything about the palace evokes opulence, from the rosewood doors to the ceilings covered in ivory (back when elephants in India were a dime a dozen). Despite its traditional appearance, builders only completed the first phase of the palace’s construction in 1912. Later, the Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar – the last Maharaja of Mysore – expanded it into a massive compound, blending Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic architectural styles.
Adults over the age of 18 must pay full price to enter, but there are discounts for students and children. Allocate at least two the three hours to look around. If you want to stay for the light and sound show, you will need to wait until it gets dark. Furthermore, if you would like to take part in the palace’s Dussehra celebrations, visit on the 10th day of Ashvina (September-October).
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