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India's 13 most popular tourist destinations

Last updated on: November 10, 2011 09:07 IST

India's 13 most popular tourist destinations

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Metro cities continue to capture top spots among the 10 most popular cities for travelers, according to the latest Hotels.com's Hotel Price Index.

Tourism in India is the largest service industry, with a contribution of 6.23 per cent to the national GDP and 8.78 per cent of the total employment in India.

India's history of more than 5,000 years, its length, breadth and the variety of geographic features make its tourism basket large and varied.

It presents heritage and cultural tourism along with medical, business and sports tourism.

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Image: Sixth century paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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New Delhi

Delhi is said to be one of the oldest existing cities in the world, along with Jerusalem and Varanasi.

Legend estimates it to be over 5,000 years old.

Indira Gandhi International Airport, located in the west of the city, is the arrival point for many visitors into Delhi.

Trains arrive at one of four main stations: Delhi Junction, also called Old Delhi or Purani Dilli; the second at New Delhi which lies in Central Delhi; Hazrat Nizamuddin a few kilometers to the south; and the upcoming Anand Vihar station to the east.

The fast-growing Delhi Metro network provides a cheap, quick, hassle-free and air-conditioned way of zipping around the city.

The Red Fort (Lal Qila) is one of Delhi's top tourist sights. Among the others are - Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, Gandhi Smriti, India Gate, Lodhi Garden, Lotus Temple, Jama Masjid, Akshardham Temple, Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Parliament House, etc.

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Image: Purana Qila - ruins of Shergarh.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Mumbai

Mumbai was originally a conglomeration of seven islands on the Konkan coastline which over time were joined to form the island city of Bombay.

Famous monuments in Mumbai are the Gateway of India, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus) building, the Municipal Corporation and Police Headquarters and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sanghralaya (formerly, the Prince Of Wales museum).

The famous Taj Mahal hotel is located just opposite the Gateway of India. The Mumbai University buildings and the High Court are also excellent examples of colonial architecture in the city.

Mumbai has quite a few beaches - Girgaon Chowpaty in South Mumbai, Juhu beach in the western suburbs and Aksa Beach in Malad.

Other attractions include the city zoo (Veermata Jijabai Udyan), the Hanging Gardens, Haji Ali Dargah, Siddhivinayak and Mahalaxmi temples.

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Image: Gateway of India.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Bengaluru

Once called the 'Garden City of India' and the 'Pensioner's Paradise', Bengaluru, is now popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India.

Landmarks in Bengaluru include - Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore Palace, Tipu Sultan's Palace, the Bull Temple, Lord Shiva Temple, Holy Trinity Church, Ulsoor Lake, among others.

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Image: Bangalore Palace was built in 1887.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Chennai

Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, Chennai accounts for 30 per cent of the country's automotive exports and 40 per cent of the auto components, which leads it to be called as 'The Detroit of Asia'

Important tourist spots include, the Marina Beach, Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas, St. Mary's Church, Wallajah Mosque, Kapaleeswarar Temple, Valluvar Kottam, Guindy National Park among many others.

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Image: A catamaran on the Marina beach.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Goa

Renowned for its beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture, Goa is visited by large numbers of international and domestic tourists each year.

It also has rich flora and fauna, owing to its location on the Western Ghats range, which is classified as a biodiversity hotspot.

Goa has two World Heritage Sites: the Bom Jesus Basilica and churches and convents of Old Goa.

The Velhas Conquistas regions are known for its Goa-Portuguese style architecture.

There are many forts in Goa such as Tiracol, Chapora, Corjuem, Aguada, Gaspar Dias and Cabo de Rama.

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Image: Taj Hotels Fort Aguada Beach Resort, Goa.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Jaipur

Jaipur is a very famous tourist and education destination in India. People flock to Jaipur to view the various forts and monuments, which reflect its glorious past.

Tourism contributes a significant amount to Jaipur's income.

Famous forts and monuments include Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort, City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Jal Mahal, Rambagh Palace, Central Museum.

The landscape of Jaipur is dotted with numerous temples and religious places.

Some of the famous temples in Jaipur include Govind Dev Ji Temple, Garh Ganesh Temple, Shila Devi Temple in Amber, Tadkeshwara Mahadev, etc.

The city is also dotted by beautiful gardens and parks. Prominent among them are Ram Niwas Garden, Sisodia Rani Garden and Palace, Vidyadhar Garden, Kanak Vrindavan, Central Park, Jawahar Circle Garden, Technology Park in Mansarover, Vidyadhar ka Bagh in Goner.

Other places of interest include Chand Baori (stepwell), Chokhi Dhani (a village resort), and Kathputhli slum.

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Image: Tourists gather at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Manali

Manali is well connected by road to Delhi through NH-21 and NH 1, which goes on to Leh and is claimed to be world's highest motorable road.

Manali is not easily approachable by rail. The nearest broad gauge railheads are at Chandigarh, Pathankot and Kalka.

The nearest airport is at Bhuntar, which is about 50 km (31 mi) from Manali.

Places of interest include Hadimba Temple, Vashisht Temple, rope way cum ski centre at Solang valley, and Rohtang Pass.

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Image: A man is reflected in a pool of melted snow as he walks with his pony in Solang Nallah, Manali.
Photographs: Anil Dayal/Reuters
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Baga

It an extension of Calangute Village in the state of Goa.

Baga with is brown sands and creek is visited by thousands of tourists annually.

Baga Beach is also famous for its water sports and Dolphin cruises.

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Image: Dolphins can be located at around 1-2 km from the Baga beach.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Ooty

Today Ooty's economy is based on tourism and agriculture, with manufacturing of medicines and photographic film also present.

The town is connected to the rest of India by road and rail, and its historic sites and natural beauty attract tourists.

Notable tourist spots in Ooty are - Doddabetta Peak, pine forest, Wenlock Downs, Kamaraj Sagar Dam, Mudumalai National Park, Parsons Valley Reservoir, Emerald Lake, Avalanche Lake, Porthimund Lake, and Upper Bhavaniamong many others.

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Image: There are a few Toda huts on the hills above Botanical Garden, Ooty.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Agra

It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal emperors from 1526 to 1658 and remains a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Other attractions include Diwan-i-Khas, Tomb of Akbar, Mankameshwar Temple, Guru ka Tal, Ram Bagh, Keetham Lake, Mughal Heritage Walk, etc.

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Image: The antechamber to Akbar's tomb at Sikandra. Agra
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Cochin

This lovely seaside city is flanked by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.

Its proximity to the equator, the sea and the mountains provide a rich experience of a moderate equatorial climate.

Landmarks on Cochin include Fort Kochi beach, Hill Palace Museum, St. Francis Church, Museum of Kerala History and Art Gallery, Thrikkakara Temple, Jain Mandir, Malayattoor Mount, Kanjiramattam Mosque, Cherai Beach, and Kodanadu Elephant Training College.

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Image: The Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi are an icon of the city.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Kolkata

Kolkata is the main business, commercial and financial hub of East India and the northeastern states.

It has many buildings adorned with Gothic, Baroque, Roman, Oriental and Indo-Islamic (including Mughal) motifs.

Several major buildings of the Colonial period are well maintained and have been declared 'heritage structures'.

The Indian Museum is the oldest museum in Asia. Besides there are the Victoria Memorial, the National Library, Royal Calcutta Golf Club, Dakshineshwar temple, Kalighat temple, St Pauls's Cathedral, Pareshnath Jain temple, Race Course, Birla Planetarium, Tagore House, at Jorasanko, Horticultural Garden, Calcutta Zoo, and the Marble Palace.

In Salt Lake there is Nicco Park, Science City etc.

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Image: Howrah Bridge.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Hyderabad

If you are traveling to Hyderabad on business it is easy to miss the 400-year-old Hyderabad.

The city that immediately hits the eye is a sprawling metropolis of shopping malls and office buildings with glass facades.

The 'old city' that was once the seat of the Nizam can be seen only if you take the time out to see them.

Main attractions are Charminar, Mecca Masjid, Falaknuma Palace, Golconda Fort, Salar Jung Museum, the Birla Mandir, Hussain Sagar Lake, Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad Golf Club, Snow World, Lumbini Park, Chilkur Wildlife Park among others.


Image: Hussain Sagar Lake in the evening.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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