rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Getahead » Top 25 travel destinations in India

Top 25 travel destinations in India

Last updated on: June 15, 2011 17:40 IST

Top 25 travel destinations in India

     Next

Next
Shifra Menezes

Last week we looked at Trip Advisor's list of top 25 holiday destinations around the world. This week we look at some of the most scenic, exciting and just plain brilliant places this beautiful country has to offer.

So before you go booking your tickets for Venice or Ko Phi Phi Nom, check out this list of the top 25 travel destinations in India:

1. Leh, Jammu & Kashmir

This mountain town in Ladakh is quickly rising to the top of must-visit lists. Not surprising when you consider the sheer natural beauty of the place.

The towering Himalayas supply a dramatic backdrop and plenty of opportunity for adrenaline junkies to get their fix.

Rock climbing, white-water rafting and skiing are all on offer, and if you're looking for something a little tamer, short trekking jaunts can be arranged.

For a glimpse into the town's culture and rich history, visit the Shey Palace and the many Buddhist monasteries.

Getting there: Travelling to Leh can be quite an effort. There are flights out of Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar and Chandigarh. So if you are coming in from any other part of the country or abroad, you will need to land at one of these to travel on.

The other route is by road along the Manali-Leh highway or the Srinagar-Leh road. Both are closed off from November to May due to harsh winter conditions. Buses and taxis ply these route and should be easy enough to book.

Image: Leh, Ladakh
Photographs: Rediff Archives
     Next

2. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

One of most significant religious centres of Hinduism, Varasani needs to visited to be believed. Bustling with devotees, sadhus, tourists and locals, the place is teeming with sights that are uniquely Indian.

The temples and ghats (steps leading to the Ganga) with thousands of devotees performing religious rituals and dotted with Hindu priests performing rites is quite a sight to behold.

The Vishwanath Temple, Sarnath Deer Park and the Ram Nagar Fort are worth a visit. Also the Panchganaga, Dasaswamedh and Kedar ghats offer a great slice of Varanasi life.

Getting there: Being the religious and tourist hub that it is, Varanasi is well connected to most major Indian cities by rail, the end point being either the Varanasi Juction or the Mughal Sarai Junction. You can also fly into Varanasi airport, that is about 25 km from the city centre.

Image: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Prev     Next

3. Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

One of India's prettiest hill stations, Manali has long been a honeymooner's paradise. But the little town nestled in the mighty Himalayas offers plenty of entertainment for adventure seekers.

The Beas river has whitewater rafting and there's skiing, trekking, paragliding and zorbing to be done all along the hilly terrain nearby.

Rohtang Pass has mesmerising views of the great mountains, the Vashisht hot water springs has bathhouses for visitors to soak in the bubbling water and then there are large and small waterfalls at short drives all around Manali. So make sure you pack your outdoor gear.

Getting there: By road, the easiest way is to hop into a bust or taxi at Delhi (about 550 km away).

The town does not have an airport or railhead, the closest being the Bhuntar Airport (50 km away) with flights coming in from Delhi and some from Chandigarh, and the railheads at Ambala Cantonment or Chandigarh roughly about 250 km away, trains starting from Delhi.


Image: Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Photographs: Paul Evans / Creative Commons
Prev     Next

4. Darjeeling, West Bengal

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

This little tea town came into prominence during the British Raj. It was then that Darjeeling was developed as a hill station and tea plantation area, thanks to its cooler temperatures.

Today, Darjeeling's tea estates are world-renowned, but there's more to it than its picturesque rolling hills sheathed in green.

Nestled in the Lesser Himalayas, Darjeeling offers breath-taking views of the great mountains including Mt Everest.

Tiger Hill, at an altitude of 2,590 meters gives visitors a glimpse of the Kanchen Junga range. Plus there's plenty of rock-climbing and trekking opportunities for the adventurous.

The ropeway and cable car rides, the natural history museum, the zoological parks and botanical gardens all give tourists a flavour of the natural wealth of the Himalayas.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway with its toy train is also worth a visit, being named a World Heritage Site.

Getting there: The town is connected by road to Siliguri via national highway 55 and by rail to New Jalpaiguri.

The toy train is quite an experience and being quite slow, offers travellers to hop off, take a little walk and hop back on en route.


Image: Darjeeling, West Bengal
Photographs: Judith / Creative Commons
Prev     Next

5. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The 'Golden City' has long been a tourist hotspot thanks to its royal history. The desert town boasts of the Jaisalmer Fort (that houses the Raj Mahal), a number of havelis, the most impressive being the Amar Sagar, Patwon-ki-Haveli and Nathmalji-ki-Haveli, and ornate Jain temples.

Tourists can explore the Thar desert perched atop camels, visit the Desert National Park for a gander at the fauna, or the Akal Wood Fossil Park. Of course, there's plenty of shopping to be done for traditional Rajasthani art, clothes and jewellery.

Getting there: The town has its own railway station and is quite well connected with the major cities. Jodhpur is the closest airport, about 285 km away. Visitors can also get there by road; it is well connected and buses, taxis or rented cars are aplenty.

Image: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

6. Bengaluru, Karnataka

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

This buzzing metro might be one of the most recognised Indian cities abroad, but the 'Garden City' had plenty going for it long before it became an IT hub.

Bengaluru offers a blend of the old and the new and won't disappoint. The Bangalore Palace and Summer Palace are a glimpse into the city's royal past and the imposing Vidhana Soudha structure an example of its prosperous present.

There are plenty of ancient religious centres, such as St Mary's Basilica, St Patric's Church, the Masjid-e-Khadria and Shri Nimishamba Devi Temple.

Younger tourists will enjoy the plentiful shopping at the many malls, all offering the biggest brands, and the thriving nightlife complete with pubs and lounge bars.

Getting there: The capital city is well connected by road, rail and air. Buses ply national highway 4 from most major cities.

Image: Bangalore, Karnataka
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

8. Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Agra needs no introduction. The timeless Taj Mahal makes it to almost every must-visit list, and deservedly so. The white marble structure and the sprawling campus around it are simply magnificent.

And while the Taj will be the highlight of any visit to the city, there are quite a few other architectural delights the city offers visitors.

The Agra Fort is another majestic construction, bearing plenty of evidence of the regalia of Mughal times. Some other attractions include the Sikandra complex, Swami Bagh and Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb.

Getting there: Being the tourist hub that it is, Agra is well connected by air, road and rail. Agra Airport is about 120 km from the city.

Rail travellers can hop off at Agra Cantonment, Agra Fort or the smaller Raja ki Mandi stations.

By road, travellers can pick from three national highways depending on where they're arriving from. National highways 2, 3 and 11 most prominently connect Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur respectively


Image: Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

9. Mumbai, Maharashtra

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The country's commercial capital, Mumbai's rhythm needs to be experience to be believed. Fast-paced and constantly on the go, the city has something for everyone.

Colonial architecture, diverse cuisine and plenty of entertainment options are just some of what's in store. Shopping is a tourist's delight, and the nightlife while have you partying away.

Some of the must-visits are the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal hotel opposite, Juhu Beach and Chowpatty for the fast food; and Bandra for the shopping.

There's Film City for a glimpse of some Bollywood stars and drop by one of the many religious sites for some spiritual upliftment. Mt Mary's Church, Haji Ali mosque, and the ISCKON temple are just some of the crowd-pullers.

Getting there: The metro is very well connected from all major cities and most smaller towns as well. Trains pull in from all parts of the country, the major stops being Mumbai Central and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Image: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

9. Jaipur, Rajasthan

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

It is Jaipur's rich history and culture that have made it one of the three major tourist centres in the state.

Imposing forts, awe-inspiring palaces and exquisite temples are all there and plenty of them. Visit the Jaigarh and Amber Forts and catch the Amber sound and light show for a glimpse of the city's history.

The City Palace and Jal Mahal are must-sees. There are also a number of gardens that are perfect for long walks in beautiful surrounds.

Getting there: Jaipur has its own airport with flights coming in from the larger Indian cities. National highways 8, 11 and 12 connect it by road and its railway station connects to most major cities and towns.

Image: Jaipur, Rajasthan
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

10. Munnar, Kerala

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

This sleepy little tea town is best known (apart from its tea blends) for its rolling green hills and scenic beauty.

There's not much to do in town except for relax and take in the beauty of the place, but there are a number of attractions short distances away.

Some of these include the Atukkad Falls, Mattupetti Dam, Kundala Lake and the Eravikullam National Park, where you can spot the endangered Nilgiri Thar. There are also elephant tours that can be organised from the town for the more adventurous.

Getting there: Nestled in the Western Ghats, the only way to get here is by road. The nearest railway stations are Ernakulam and Aluva and the nearest airport is at Cochin, all three a little over 100 km away.

Travellers can catch one of the many buses that ply the steep slopes from most major cities of the state and taxis and cars can be hired as well.


Image: Munnar, Kerala
Photographs: Shifra Menezes
Prev     Next

11. Hampi, Karnataka

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The ancient ruins of Hampi have been drawing tourists for decades thanks to the legendary tales of the prosperity under the Vijayanagar empire.

The ruins have been recognised as a World Heritage Site and continue to delight visitors with its stark, rocky contrast to the surrounding green.

Apart from the ruins, there are a number of significant temples that include the Virupaksha Temple, the Hazara Rama Temple and the Vitthala Temple. And if it's stunning scenery you're after, hike up the Matanga Hill for panoramic views of the city.

Getting there: The town does not have its own airport, the nearest being Bellary (60 km away) and Hubli (about 180 km away). Travellers can fly in from Bangalore or Goa and catch a connecting flight.

The nearest railway station is Hospet, which again does not have too many trains coming in. Most trains begin or pass through Bangalore, Hyderabad or Goa. Alternately, Hampi lies off national highways 4, 7 and 13, so road travel is possible too.


Image: Hampi, Karnataka
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

12. Udaipur, Rajasthan

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

This Rajasthani city is tourist magnet thanks to its serene lakes and beautiful palaces.

Topping the list of must-see spots is the Udaipur City Palace, with its impeccably maintained gardens, luxurious halls and chambers.

The Pichola and Fateh Sagar both offer a variety of attractions for tourists and the Saheliyon ki Badi has opulent gardens and fountains that are definitely worth a viewing.

As with most Rajasthani cities and towns, there is plenty of shopping here. So if you're looking for traditional arts, jewellery or clothing, Udaipur is just the place to go.

Getting there: Tourists can fly into Dabok Airport (24 km from the city) from Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur. Udaipur is connected by rail to Delhi and Jaipur, and by road by national highway 8 and has buses and taxis plying from most cities in and around the state.


Image: Udaipur, Rajasthan
Photographs: Courtesy: Taj hotels resorts and palaces
Prev     Next

13. New Delhi

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

There is plenty to see and do in the country's capital, so make sure you draw up an itinerary.

The imposing Red Fort and sprawling complex of Humayun's Tomb are a definite must-see, as are the Qutub Minar and Baha'i Temple. Visit Rajpath, from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate to take in the majesty of the place.

Drop by Connaught Place for some great shopping and dining and Chandi Chowk for a true Delhi experience.

Getting there: Getting to Delhi is a hassle-free affair for the most part. There are plenty of flights, trains and buses that come into the city every day.

The IG airport has both domestic and international terminals, and has flights coming in from just about every city of the world.

The four main train stations are Delhi Junction, New Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin and Anand Vihar and are well-connected with most of the country's cities and towns.


Image: New Delhi
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

14. Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Once a very popular holiday destination, political conflict in recent years has lost the city much of its tourism.

But the beauty of the place still remains, and travellers are sure to catch some beautiful scenery and delicious Kashmiri culinary delights on a trip there.

The Mughal Gardens, Shalimar Bagh and Pari Mahal are well-worth a visit.

Take a shikara ride on the Dal Lake for some peace and tranquility and shop for exquisite Pashmina shawls and Kashmiri rugs and carpets in the city.

Getting there: The city has its own airport that gets air traffic from most major Indian cities and a few international cities as well.

The closest rail head is at Jammu (290 km away) and further travel is by road. There are state transport buses that ply the route from Jammu and tourist buses from Delhi as well.


Image: Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Photographs: Prasanna Zore
Prev     Next

15. Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Long been a honeymoon paradise, the capital city is quaint and very picturesque. The cool climes in the summer months are a welcome relief and the snowy cold months provide for plenty of winter activity.

Some of the attractions within the city include the Jakhu Temple, Christ Church, Viceregal Lodge and a stroll on Mall road. The hilly terrain also offers plenty of trekking opportunities and in the winters there's ice skating as well.

Getting there: Travellers can fly in to either Jubbarhatti airport or Chandigarh (approx 120 km), with the latter having more frequent options.

The nearest train station is at Kalka, which has trains coming in from Delhi.

From Kalka, travellers can either take the narrow gauge train to Shimla (which is a very scenic ride) and then travel the last leg by road, or catch a bus or taxi from Kalka straight to Shimla (approx 100 km).


Image: Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

16. Goa

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Now this one's a no-brainer. No Indian holiday list could be considered complete without this beach paradise.

This former Portuguese colony has something for everyone -- temples and churches galore for the culture vultures; pubs and bars for the party animals; restaurants that boast just about every cuisine under the sun; hotels and resorts that offers every activity you can think of,so you don't really need to leave the premises; and of course the beautiful beaches.

Some attractions are the weekly flea market at Anjuna; the pristine beaches in South Goa; the Doodhsagar waterfalls and the many temples and churches that dot this state. Infantaria and Souza Lobo are great for Goan cuisine and continental delights.

A word of advice, the monsoon is not the best time to visit. Most of the beaches are shutdown due to rough seas and the hotels follow suit. The roads will be waterlogged making getting around difficult and most tourist attractions close their doors.

Getting there: The most recommended route is by train, Panjim or Madgaon being the major stops in Goa. The Konkan Railway promises a very scenic ride through the Western Ghats, the only down side being is takes about 24 hours in all to get there.

However, Goa being the tourist magnet it is, it is well connected by air and road. Flights are available out of every major city and land at Dabolim airport. Buses ply this route too and tickets should be readily available if you can't manage train tickets.


Image: Goa
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     Next

17. Pune, Maharashtra

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Often called the cultural capital of the state, Pune is where the Marathi film industry is based and also where many esteemed centres of higher learning have been established.

The city has 4 museums that tourists can visit including the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, the National War Museum, and palaces such as Shaniwar Wada and the Aga Khan Palace.

Adventure seekers should drop by the Pataleshwar Caves, the Bhimashankar Sanctuary or trek up one of the many nearby forts.

Getting there: Flights, both domestic and international, come into Lohegaon airport that lies about 10 km from the city. By rail, Pune is connected to most major cities and three national highways 4, 9 and 50 by road.


Image: Aga Khan Palace, Pune, Maharashtra
Photographs: Khushroo Cooper/ Creative Commons
Prev     Next

18. Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Another important centre of Hinduism, Rishikesh lies along the Ganga river and the Char Dham Yatra, one of the faith's most holy pilgrimages, typically begins here.

Apt from its religious significance, it is also a major centre for yoga and the town is dotted with yoga and meditation schools.

For travellers looking a little adventure can opt for whitewater rafting, kayaking on the river and rappelling, trekking and even bungee jumping along the Himalayas nearby.

Getting there: The town is not too well connected by plane or rail. The best way to get there is by bus from Delhi (230 km away). By rail, there are a few trains that run to and from Haridwar.

Image: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Photographs: Meg and Rahul/ Creative Commons
Prev     Next

19. Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

One of the country's rapidly growing IT hubs, this capital city also boasts a rich cultural heritage going back many centuries.

The famed Charminar and Golconda Fort are big tourist draws and the market around Charminar is great for a bargain. Another architectural gems include the Falaknuma Palace and Mecca Masjid.

The Hussain Sagar and Sharmipet lakes and the gardens and parks nearby all present wonderful picnic opportunities. Of course there are numerous mosques and temples to not only seek some spiritual upliftment but also to feast your eyes on.

And while your travelling the length and breadth of the city, make sure to load up on plenty of Hyderabadi biryani, you won't regret it!

Getting there: The city's Rajiv Gandhi airport is located 22 km out of the city centre and has flights from most major international and Indian cities.

By train, visitors can alight at Secunderabad, Hyderabad or Kachiguda stations and travel on. Alternatively, the city is connected by national highways 7 and 9, connecting Bangalore and Mumbai respectively.


Image: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Photographs: Reuben NV
Prev     Next

20. Kolkata, West Bengal

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Often called the cultural capital of the country, Kolkata has a lot to offer tourists who are open to new experiences.

The Victoria Memorial and Birla Planetarium are definite must-sees as are the famous Howrah Bridge and Tagore House (where the great poet was born).

Of course one of the highlights is the food. Drop by Chowringhee Lane for a taste of the street food and make sure you're not on a diet when you come to Kolkata, because turning down the juicy Bengali sandesh would simply be a shame.

Getting there: Kolkata is well connected with most of the larger cities and a number for smaller ones. Tourists can fly in to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport, about 20 km out of the city.

The Howrah and Sealdah stations have trains coming in from across the country and national highways 2 and 6 connects the city by road to Mumbai and Delhi.


Image: Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/ Reuters
Prev     Next

21. Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The state's capital city, Chennai is a bustling metropolis, and offers visitors plenty to do and see. The Marina Beach is the most popular of the beaches, while Edward Elliot's Beach is quieter just as scenic.

There are plenty of old churches, temples and mosques to visit. There's also the Arinjar Anna Zoological Park and Guindy National Park for nature lovers and the Pondy Bazaar and Ranganathan Street for those looking to test their bargaining skills.

Getting there: There's plenty of ways to get to Chennai. The capital city is well connected by air to most cities.

Train travellers can hop on at all major cities and hop off at Chennai Central or Chennai Egmore. Five national highways connect Chennai with most of the major cities of South India and there are plenty of bus services to choose from as well.


Image: Rediff Archives
Photographs: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Prev     Next

22. Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

One of the most popular centres of Buddhism, the little town draws a number of celebrity tourists every year.

McLeod Ganj, a suburb within the town, is home to the Dalai Lama and is a major tourist draw. While actually meeting or even seeing the spiritual leader is a tough ask, most tourists try their luck when they visit the place.

If luck isn't on your side, there are a number of other tourist attractions in and around town to make it well worth the trip.

The Bhagsunag Falls and Pong Dam lake are ideal for picnics. Monasteries and temples dot the town and most are open to tourists.

For those looking for a thrill try the paragliding at Bir or the many treks that start from town. There are also plenty of meditation and rejuvenation centres if you're looking for a little peace and tranquility.

Getting there: Dharamsala is well connected by road, with state transport buses having regular services to the town. The nearest airport is at Gaggal, about 15 km away, larger airports in the vicinity inclde Jammu (200 km) and Amritsar (210 km).

Travellers can also take a train to Pathankot (95 km away) and change to the narrow gauge that will take one to Kangra (17 km away).


Image: Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh
Photographs: Kamal Kishore/Reuters
Prev     Next

23. Puducherry

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

A quiet little union territory has an interesting history, being the largest of the erstwhile French colonies in India. French is still widely understood here and the architecture and eating spots still continue with the cultural influences.

The town moves along at a relaxed paced and there's not much to do besides walking around taking in the environs so different from any other place in the country.

Some of the popular tourist spots are the beaches (Paradise and Auro), the Aurobindo Ashram, and the Boat House.

There are also plenty of places to get some great French and European cuisine, so if you're in the mood to experiment, this is the place for you!

Getting there: The town is best accessed by road. Buses and taxis are available from Chennai and most other large cities like Bangalore, Trichy and Combatore.

The nearest airport is about 135 km away, in Chennai and nearest railway station is Villupuram that is connected to Chennai, Madurai and a few other cities.


Image: Puducherry
Photographs: Meena Kadri/ Creative Commons
Prev     Next

24. Amritsar, Punjab

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The spiritual centre of Sikhism, the Golden Temple, is situated at Amritsar and draws tens of thousands of devotees and tourists every year.

The temple has a sprawling complex with the central building housing the Harmandir Sahib situated in the middle of the Amrit Sarovar pool.

Apart from the temple, there are a few other places of interest as well. The Jallianwala Bagh, where over 1570 unarmed people were killed by British Indian Army soldiers, still stands and a memorial has been erected in remembrance. The Summer Palace and Mata Temple are both worth a visit as well.

Visitors can also travel to the Wagah border (27 km away), where there is a flag raising ceremony on both the India and Pakistan border every day.

Getting there: Being a religious hub, Amritsar is well connected both domestically and internationally. The airport located 11 km away from town with regular flights from Delhi, Chandigarh and Srinagar.

Direct trains connect Amritsar to Delhi, Jammu, Mumbai, Nagpur, Calcutta and Puri. By road, Amritsar is 235 km from Chandigarh and 450 km from Delhi.


Image: Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab
Photographs: Wiki Commons
Prev     Next

25. Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

Prev     More
Prev

More

Nested in the forested Palani hills, Kodai offers scenic lakes, waterfalls, beautiful valley views and observation points galore.

Some of the must-visit spots include the Berijam Lake (where special permission is required before tourists can visit), the Kodai Lake (for day picnics and boating) and the sprawling Bryant Park.

Getting there: The hill station does not have its own airport or railhead. The closest airports are at Madurai (135 km away), Coimbatore (170 km away) and Trichy (200 km away). By train, travellers can alight at Palani (64 km) or Kodai Road (80 km) and travel on by road.

Image: Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Prev     More