IN PICS: Top 25 destinations in India
Tripadvisor.in lists out the must-visit destinations in our country. Guess which one topped the list?
Given its size and cultural variety, India posits a unique problem for a lot of travellers. Even those who've lived here will tell you it can be a huge challenge to even consider where to start from. Tripadvisor.in has listed out 25 top destinations that could well be a great starting point.
Pics courtesy Tripadvisor.in
The emerald landscape of Wayanad is the ideal destination for both intense outdoor adventure and calming restoration. Climb the foothills of Brahmagiri to reach the ancient Thirunelli Temple, hike to the overwhelmingly stunning Meenmutty Falls, or explore Edakkal Caves, rich with prehistoric paintings. Wayanad is brimming with healing Ayurvedic healing spas, perfect for restoring your pleasantly exhausted body after a day of exploring.
A beach town on the Arabian Sea in southern India, Kovalam features three spectacular crescent beaches. The most popular and largest beach is Lighthouse Beach, aptly named for its 30-meter lighthouse, which features a stunning site - the Vizhinjam mosque. For a less crowded beach, visit Samudra Beach, with ample coconut trees and great views of the local fishermen at work.
The capital of the state of Sikkim, Gangtok is an attractive tourist destination, reflecting a unique ambience which derives from its happy blend of tradition and modernity. Alongside the deeply felt presence of stupas and monasteries, Gangtok also bustles like any other thriving town. Some of the key places to visit include Rumtek Monastery, Do-Drul Chorten, Enchey Monastery, Tashi View Point and the local bazaar, Lal Bazaar.
Established in the Himalaya foothills by a British Army officer in 1820, the "Queen of the Hills" stands above the rest with its deep woods, favorable climate and Doon Valley views. Mussoorie's name is derived from the berry-covered Mansur shrub found in abundance around this trekker-friendly area. Vestiges of its colonial past are still reflected in the cuisine and architecture. For stunning natural sights, head to Gun Hill or Childer's Lodge, the two highest peaks, or the famous Kempty waterfall.
Snow-capped Himalayan peaks and green pastures surround Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Enjoy a heritage walk through Shimla's Victorian-era architecture, labyrinthine bazaars and lengthy pedestrian shopping mall. Don't cause too much trouble taking in the town from Scandal Point, a large, open square; keep in mind that Shimla was a retreat destination for Mahatma Gandhi, who frequented a Georgian mansion in Shimla's suburbs from the mid-1930s to '40s.
Sprawling tea plantations surround the serene hills of Munnar, which attract adventure travellers hungry for paragliding, treks to Anaimudi (South India's highest peak) and hikes originating at the confluence of three mountain streams. The stone Christ Church, built by the British in 1910, is adorned with renowned works of stained glass, and Eravikulam National Park, about 10 miles away, is home to equally colourful wildlife, including the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (ibex), ruddy mongoose and 120 bird species.
Srinigar is a modern waterworld, dominated by Dal Lake and its twisting waterways, tree-lined Nagin Lake, and the Jhelum River. Engulf yourself in local culture by embracing your sea legs and renting one of the wooden boats called shikaras for a daytime or twilight cruise. On land, stroll through the terraced hillsides of the 400-year-old Mughal Gardens, created by Emperor Jehangir for his wife, and shop for indigenous crafts like hand-woven silks and embroidered shawls.
Let the beautiful coastal town of Varkala melt your worries and tensions away. Varkala's peaceful seaside cliffs adjoin the Arabian Sea, setting the scene for several water spouts and wellness spas. The waters lapping at Papanasam beach are considered to have holy, sin-cleansing properties, and the nearby Ayurveda treatment centre will cleanse what the ocean missed.
In Hinduism, Manu was said to have survived a great flood that destroyed the rest of the world. He then recreated mankind in this Kullu Valley town. What a rush, huh? No wonder the towering peaks and verdant terrain of Manali attracts adventure travellers, with heli-skiing, hiking, mountaineering and river rafting the favored active pursuits. Come down from your endorphin high by breathing deeply at the four-story, wooden Hidimba Devi Temple, which sits in the middle of a nearby deciduous forest, or take a medicinal soak in the hot springs burbling from the ground a 30-minute walk from town.
Located near the National Capital Region of Delhi, this upcoming district houses numerous multinational companies and as a result, has plenty of tourist-friendly malls, hotels and restaurants. The area's top attraction is the Sheetla Mata temple, a popular pilgrimage site named for the Indian goddess who could dispel small pox; a festival is held there in March and July. For a more rural setting, visit nearby Sohna, which is surrounded by ancient ruins and known for its hot springs.
The diverse population of Chennai (Madras) is reflected in its rich cultural scene. You'll find serious theatre as well as the glitz and glamour of Kollywood. Chennai is also an important center for the Bharatanatyam, a local form of classical dance. Visit in January, for the festival of Pongal, or in April, when Chennai celebrates its new year.
This former British colonial stronghold boasts evidence of over two millennia of habitation, with ornate, architecturally diverse buildings, ranging from crumbing ruins to Victorian treasures. Home to lively festivals and a vibrant artistic community, clamorous markets and packed temples, this city is crowded and polluted, but ultimately invigorating.
An ancient granite fort keeps watch on this city of mosques and bazaars. On the site of the former town center sits its most iconic building, the Charminar, built in 1591 with a quartet of 160-foot minarets. Across Hussain Sagar, a man-made lake, is Hyderabad's twin, the city of Secunderabad.
Surrounded by a huge fortress wall with bastions, the striking blue buildings in Jodhpur contrast sharply and beautifully with the neighbouring Thar Desert. Exploring the palaces, forts and temples will keep you busy and in awe of the city's historic grandeur. Bazaars offer a range of beautiful textiles, embroidered leather goods, lacquerware, antiques, carpets, puppets and figurines. Jodhpur is a popular tourist destination and a convenient base for travel in the region.
Where better to go for a romantic holiday than to the great testament of love, the Taj Mahal? Built by the grieving Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal's unrivaled beauty explains why it's regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world. A visit to India wouldn't be complete without it. Other must-experience destinations in Agra are two other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the sandstone Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
The dramatic and romantic desert fortress of Jaisalmer is an exotic city in Rajasthan's great Thar Desert. "The Golden City" rose to prominence as a result of its position on camel trade routes. It's now most famous for the 12th-century fort and ornate "Havelis," fine merchant-built houses and pavilions in the city's mediaeval lanes. The surrounding Desert National Park offers opportunities to observe blackbucks, desert foxes and chinkaras amid the rolling dunes, rugged crags and waterholes.
Education, the arts and music are staples of life in the culture-rich city of Pune. The Pataleshwar Cave Temple, dating to the eighth century and dedicated to the god of the underworld, is a marvel of rock-cut architecture. For a panoramic city view, climb to temple-topped Parvati Hill.
A blending of several small villages on the southwestern coast created the current incarnation of Kochi (or Cochin), where sunset strolls, sampling fresh fish from seaside vendors and boat rides through the islands just offshore top visitors' to-do lists. Art centers showcase the traditional dance, Kathakali. European influences are seen in the 16th-century Portuguese-built churches and forts, while the mark of early Chinese traders is visible in the unusual fishing nets dotting the shoreline.
Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), India, is famous for its chaotic streets. For bargains and people-watching, outdoor bazaars top the list of attractions. Popular waterfront destinations are Marine Drive, where visitors go to watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea, and the carnival-like Juhu Beach. More sightseeing options are the Gandhi Museum, in the leader's former home, and the cave temples of Elephanta Island. For tranquillity, Mumbai has many religious sites, lakes and parks.
Known as both the "Garden City" and "The Silicon Valley of India," Bangalore (officially "Bengaluru") is a techie's paradise, boasting the highest concentration of IT companies in the country. When you're done geeking out, there are plenty of gardens, museums, natural features, palaces and temples to fill your dance card. Visit Vidhana Soudha, Cubbon Park and the Ulsoor Lake of Bangalore, well known for its beautiful locales and boating facilities. Bangalore is also a major centre of Indian classical music and dance, and of vivid, cutting-edge nightlife.
If you take one look at the glorious stucco buildings that line Jaipur's wide streets, you'll understand why this is nicknamed "The Pink City." Spend your days exploring City Palace, Hawa Mahal, and Amber and Jaigarh forts. And if you're looking for a unique souvenir, head to one of the bazaars, where you can pick up a pair of camel-leather slippers.
Udaipur, known as the Venice of the East, boasts several sparkling lakes against a backdrop of the Aravail hills. Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir, islands in Fateh Sagar Lake, are the site of Udaipur Solar Observatory and Nehru Garden. Famous palaces include the magical Lake Palace, now a luxurious five-star hotel, and the massive City Palace on Pichola's east bank, featuring epic courtyards and stunning paintings.
The north Indian city of Varanasi, or Benares, is regarded as sacred by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Situated in the fertile Ganga valley and on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus, who come to bathe in the holy river. Known as the City of Temples and a beacon of culture, Varanasi has produced many renowned writers. It's also a centre of silk weaving, so practise haggling at the chaotic bazaar for some beautiful souvenirs. Rickshaws are the best way to get about.
2. New Delhi
Laid out by British architect Edwin Lutyens, the Indian capital is a striking modern metropolis. A gracious contrast to Old Delhi's winding streets, the grand avenues and stately buildings of New Delhi are rich with history and culture, from Gandhi's Delhi home (and the site of his assassination) to the tomb of Humayun, a complex of Mughal buildings reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. Chaotic traffic is best left to the locals. Negotiate a good price for taxis or travel on the new Delhi Metro.
The hardest thing about visiting Goa might be deciding which beach to visit! You might see dolphins playing just offshore or find yourself in complete solitude on the beautiful white sands. For a unique experience, visit Sinquerim beach around 2 am, as one TripAdvisor traveller did, and watch the moon set.