Best places to visit in India

Top 10 Destinations

Taj Mahal - India Tours - On The Go Tours
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #1

Taj Mahal

One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and an enduring Indian icon, the Taj Mahal in Agra was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz died in 1631, after giving birth to his 14th child. In her dying breath she urged Shah Jahan build a mausoleum for her, more beautiful than any the world had ever seen. In 1632 construction began on the world’s greatest monument to love, which, even today, has no peer.

Ganges at sunrise - India Tours - On The Go Tours
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #2

Varanasi

Varanasi is the holiest city in India and thousands of Hindu pilgrims tour its temples and bathe in the Ganges River to gain religious merit. Take a boat ride on the Ganges at dawn to see scores of people enter the water from the ghats (riverside platforms with steps) to purify themselves before the rising sun. Some perform religious rituals in the water; others go to bathe and swim. While you watch all of this, cremations take place on some of the ghats. Providing the backdrop is an incredible array of temples and ancient buildings, several of them standing at odd angles because their foundations have been eroded unevenly by flood waters. There are 2,000 temples and shrines in Varanasi, including Vishvanatha the holiest and the Durga Temple which is teeming with monkeys so hold onto your valuables!

Mandir Palace in Jaisalmer - India Tours - On The Go Tours
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #3

Jaisalmer

The medieval walled sandstone town of Jaisalmer, that perches dramatically on a flat-topped hill, is exotic, remote and beautiful. Set so deep in the heart of the Thar Desert that one would expect barren near-desolation, this frontier town is today one of Rajasthan's best-loved tourist destinations. The old fort city rises up just like a giant sandcastle, its ancient streets and alleyways still preserving a traditional way of life. Entry is through a foreboding series of gargantuan gates leading to a long courtyard. Off here are a tangle of alleyways and streets lined with little shops, Jain temples and the old palace of the former ruler, a portion of which is open to the public. Camel safaris in the surrounding desert are a popular activity. In January/February, the Jaisalmer Desert Festival has camel races, folk music, dancing and singing and attracts hoards of colourfully dressed Rajasthanis.

Kerala-Homestay-itinerary-1-short-stays-India
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #4

Kochi

With its beautiful lagoons, lakes and greenery, Kochi (formerly known as Cochin) is rightly known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea and perfectly reflects the eclecticism of the state of Kerala. Here in historical Kochi, one can see winding streets with mosques, a 16th century Jewish synagogue, 500-year old Portuguese cottages, old churches and a palace built by the Portuguese and later renovated by in the Flemish style by the Dutch. Fort Cochin boasts St Francis Church - India’s oldest European built church, the Santa Cruz RC Basilica, fine homes built by the wealthy Europeans, Dutch cottages and elegant Chinese fishing nets that grace the northern shores. In the Mattancherry area is the 16th century Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace.

Darjeeling and Himalayas istock 19469901
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #5

Darjeeling

Sitting at a spectacular altitude of nearly 2200 metres with a backdrop of mighty snow-clad Himalayan peaks and surrounded by verdant tea plantations, the scenic hill-station of Darjeeling offers pleasant respite from India’s oppressive summer heat. The main attractions here include a number of Buddhist monasteries, lush tea plantations, faded relics from the Raj, colourful markets and trekking possibilities in the surrounding area. From mid-April until the end of June, it’s usually possible to see Mount Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain on earth, from the city. An entertaining way to reach Darjeeling is on the famous “toy train”, climbing more than 8000 feet over eight hours, along a narrow-gauge track before reaching the city.

Amber Fort Elephant Ride - India Tours - On The Go Tours
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #6

Jaipur

A flamboyant showcase of Rajasthani architecture, the vibrant capital of Rajasthan is popularly known as the ‘Pink City’. Jaipur was chosen by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743) for his capital. A skilled astronomer and visionary, he worked with superb Bengali architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya to complete the design and construction of Jaipur in less than eight years. The 18th century Jantar Mantar is the largest and best preserved of five observatories built by the astronomer prince. Other must-sees within the city include the City Palace Complex, with its blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The son of the last maharaja and his family still reside in a wing of the palace.

Beach in Goa
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #7

Goa

Thanks to its picturesque location on the Mandovi River, between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea and its large stretch of magnificent, palm tree-lined beaches, Goa is one of India’s hot spots. The state’s Portuguese past is most apparent in its plazas, cathedrals and architecture including the Catholic Church of Old Goa, St. Anne’s Church and the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The surrounding countryside is dotted with luxurious old estates built by wealthy Indians, including Braganza Palace which is open to the public. Lively North Goa has the state capital, Panaji with its interesting churches and buildings. Notable beaches in North Goa include Fort Aguada, Candolim, Calangute and Anjuna, famous for its Wednesday flea market. South Goa is more laid back and beaches here include Bogmalo, Colva and Benaulim.

Lady in front of the Golden Temple in Amritsar - India Tours - On The Go Tours
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #8

Amritsar

Holy Amritsar, located in the northwest part of India in the State of Punjab, is the holy centre of the Sikh religion. Amritsar’s main attraction is the revered and beautiful Golden Temple made of white marble, bronze and gold leaf. Maharaja Ranjit Singh built this seat of Sikh religion in 1803. The Golden Temple has four entrances and the walls are inlaid with semi-precious stones in floral patterns, frescoes and glasswork. To enter the temple, one must don a traditional headscarf, wade through a shallow pool as part of a purification ritual, and merge with the mass of bodies that circle the embankment around the holy structure.

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Best places to visit in India: Our pick #9

Mumbai

Mumbai - or Bombay as it was formerly known, remains India’s city of dreams. Built largely by the British around one of the best-protected natural harbours in the world, Mumbai is India’s strategic economic centre. The city is also is home to the country’s prolific Bollywood film industry, which produces more feature films than any place in the world. The main draw of Mumbai, like much of India, remains its contradictions. In Mumbai, be sure to head to the Gateway of India – a former colonial monument and now a popular emblem of the city and a hubbub of life. Sample bhelpuri (Mumbai’s favourite snack) at Chowpatty Beach along what is known as Marine Drive - one of the city’s most popular promenades. Visit the bazaars of Kalbadevi and Bluleshwar and take a boat trip to the beautiful Elephanta Caves.

Shimla Landscape - India Tours - On The Go Tours
Best places to visit in India: Our pick #10

Shimla

The largest and most famous of the British hill stations, Shimla is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas along a crescent-shaped ridge at an altitude of 2159 metres, it afforded a resort-like atmosphere for the British, so much so that it became the summer capital of British India in 1864. Perhaps one of the most novel ways of getting to Shimla is on the toy train service (completed in 1903) that operates from Kalka. Hauled along by a tiny diesel locomotive, the leisurely journey through stunning scenery takes between 5 – 7 hours. The famous main street of Shimla - The Mall, is lined with stately English-looking houses. Replete with its Victorian-Gothic spire, Christ Church, built in 1846 is Shimla’s most famous landmark.

Best Places to Visit in India by Month

With such a varied geography, climate and culture, each months brings something new in India whether it's colourful festivals or perfect weather for outdoor adventure. To help plan your visit we've put together a guide to the best places to visit each month.

Himalayas in winter for skiing Auli - Highlight
Best places to visit in India

January

As the north of India experiences some of the coldest temperatures it will see during the year, the south region is ideal in January with pleasant temperatures in the cities and perfect weather along the coast and inland regions. If you're visiting for New Year's, the beaches of Goa are the place to be with all-night parties and firework displays. If you prefer your beaches a bit quieter, consider the Andaman Islands for glorious sunny days, comfortably hot temperatures, great diving conditions and the chance to see nesting turtles. The beaches of Kovalam are another great option with the town hosting a village fair known as Gramam, with cultural performances and traditional food.

Don't let the winter conditions in the north put you off, however, as it's possible to take advantage of these colder temperatures. There are opportunities for skiing and snow-based adventure in Auli, India's premier ski destination, while some of Rajasthan's most beautiful cities come alive with colourful festivals. In Bikaner you can join in the festivities of the Camel Festival and as Rajasthan is largely desert, day time temperatures are still quite pleasant with typically sunny days though the mercury does drop at night.

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Best places to visit in India

February

By this point of the year the temperatures in the north are slowly starting to rise, marking the beginning of the end of the winter season. This makes it a wonderful time for sightseeing in the north of India with pleasant daytime temperatures. The historic Pink City of Jaipur is a delight at this time of year with its striking fort and palaces while Jaisalmer hosts the three day Jaisalmer Desert Festival, an extravaganza of camel racing, turban tying and quirky competitions.

Elsewhere in India the national parks are shedding vegetation after months without rain so it's an ideal time for wildlife safaris. Lying on the edge of the Eastern Himalayas, the Kaziranga National Park is a great choice with one of the world's largest populations of one-horned rhinoceros or if the thought of spotting Shere Khan in his natural habitat excites you then Ranthambore National Park makes the perfect addition to a tour around India's Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

In the south of India the weather is still glorious, ideal for sun-worshipping on pristine beaches with white sands and water sports awaiting you on the Lakshadweep islands. If lush green valleys punctuated by sprawling tea estates and scenic peaks are more your thing, head to Coorg for trekking and birdwatching opportunities.

Holi Festival India
Best places to visit in India

March

The month of March is a particularly colourful time to visit India with the paint-throwing festival of Holi taking place across the country though one of the best places to celebrate and take part is in the temple towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, just a few hours outside of Delhi. Celebrations last a week here with a particularly vigorous and well-attended throwing of colours taking place at the Dwarkadheesh Temple in Mathura. It's also the month that the Hola Mohalla festival takes place in Anandpur Sahib with three days of simulated battles in which Sikhs demonstrate their martial art skills.

A short-lived spring season begins in Darjeeling which brings clear skies, perfect for mountain vistas, and pleasantly cool temperatures just right for sightseeing. Landscapes are decorated in blooming flowers making it a particularly scenic time to visit. It's a similar story on the other side of the country with the Tibetan enclave of Dharamsala ripe for scenic treks.

It's still prime tiger safari season in March so consider heading to Bandhavgarh National Park to explore the fort and take a jeep ride through the terrain on the search for the Bengal tiger. Alternatively, visit Pench National Park, said to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s famous Jungle Book.

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Best Places to Visit in India

April

If you want to get off the beaten track in India, head to the state of Assam in the northeast of India for the beautiful and wild Nagaland, home to fiercely independent and proud ethnic tribes. In April the traditions of the Koyank people are celebrated in the town of Mon with custom rituals and merry making. For wildlife viewing without the crowds, try the lesser-visited Sunderbans National Park for mangrove forests and majestic tigers.

In Srinagar you can visit Asia's largest tulip garden with the flowers in full bloom come April. Backed by snow-capped mountains with a view of Dal Lake, the garden is just one attraction with the chance to stay on a traditional house boat and visit floating markets more great reasons to visit Kashmir at this time of year.

It's starting to heat up across India with humidity levels rising in anticipation for the impending monsoon but this is good news for wildlife enthusiasts as animals are gathering around watering holes and more easily spotted out on safari. For tigers, Kanha National Park is a good choice and also boasts a population of barasingha, a type of deer that once faced extinction. If you'd prefer somewhere a little quieter, try the lesser-visited Nagarhole National Park which offers attractive jungle and rich wildlife.

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Best places to visit in India

May

May heralds the beginning of the monsoon rains, which start in the south and creep north across India. While the northern regions of the country wait for the rains, temperatures are at their hottest but there are still parts of the country that offer respite from the heat. The Himalayas are ideal at this time of year with the high altitudes resulting in bright, sunny days with comfortable temperatures. Intrepid travellers can relish the opportunity to visit Leh and Ladakh, India's remote far-eastern corner characterised by rugged mountain scenery and grand Buddhist monasteries.

For those planning a visit to Rajasthan at this time of year, follow the lead of the locals and head to Mount Abu, the only hill station in the region. At an elevation of 1,220 metres the scenic town experiences cooler temperatures than the other cities in Rajasthan that perfectly suit touring the pretty Jain temples that attract pilgrims throughout the year.

While the north stays dry, May's a good time to visit Shimla with warm weather yet still with a chance of seeing snow on the surrounding mountain ranges. The landscapes will also retain some of their spring colours while pine trees blanket the hills in green.

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Best places to visit in India

June

Come June and most of India is experiencing rainfall with the monsoon having started in earnest, especially in the south. It's not the time to be looking at a beach holiday but it is a good time to book that Ayurvedic retreat in Kerala, known for its authentic practices of the ancient science of life and longevity Not only will the resorts be a fair bit quieter - and cheaper - at this time of year, it's also recommended to stay out of the sun when undertaking Ayurvedic treatments so the monsoon clouds will help you resist the temptation to spend the afternoon on a sunlounger, and the damp climate is also thought to make treatments more effective.

This is the last month of the season for wildlife safaris in India with national parks closing for the monsoon at the end of June. Stick to the north of India where you're less likely to experience heavy rainfall with Corbett Tiger Reserve offering the chance to spot wild tigers and other animals.

tea as far as you can see
Best places to visit in India

July

The monsoon is in full swing by July but that doesn't have to infringe on your enjoyment of India too much as some parts of the country are actually more beautiful at this time of year with verdant landscapes and impressive displays of nature. The historical town of Orchha is particularly attractive with the surrounding forests carpeted in green while the network of streams that meet here swell with water, providing a theatrical backdrop to the exquisite medieval temples and palaces.

Another place that benefits from the rejuvenating powers of the yearly rains is Munnar, a hill station in Kerala surrounded by tea plantations and attractive colonial estates. In July the region is particularly fresh and green, creating a dazzling landscape to be enjoyed with a cup of tea or even a G&T from the veranda of a cosy guesthouse as the rains pour down.

Rice boat in Kerala - India Tours - On The Go Tours
Best places to visit in India

August

The country is in the middle of the monsoon but the state of Rajasthan receives far less rain than other regions thanks to its desert location, so sightseeing is still possible in August. The romantic city of Udaipur takes on a particularly magical appearance at this time of year with Lake Pichola filled with water and the surrounding mountains of the Aravalli Range thick with greenery. It's also the perfect time to take advantage of the Monsoon Palace, located high above the city on a nearby hill and built for the royal family so that they could watch the monsoon clouds rolling over Udaipur.

The south of India is lush with vegetation after months of rain making it a good time for green scenery but not so ideal for sightseeing as precipitation levels are still high, though this perfectly suits a leisurely cruise on the backwaters around Alleppey. Aboard a traditional Keralan houseboat you can sit back and absorb the palm-fringed landscapes beneath dramatic clouds. August is also the month that the Nehru Trophy Boat Race takes place with snake-shaped canoes taking to the waters with hundreds of eager rowers from the local villages.

Amritsar
Best places to visit in India

September

By now the monsoon rains are gradually clearing, especially in the north though downpours are still common. The south still experiences high levels of precipitation but September represents a brief lull before the heavier rains of October. Landscapes thick with vegetation and heavily discounted prices are two great reasons to visit Kerala at this time of year but you can also add the colourful harvest festival of Onam to that list which sees processions and dance performances fill the streets of Kochi, one of the best places to enjoy the celebrations with a number of attractions itself.

Now's a good time to visit Amritsar and its famed Golden Temple with the tail-end of the monsoon bringing more pleasant temperatures and enough rain to quell the dry, dusty conditions of the hotter months without dampening sightseeing too much. Bargains are also to be found in September before next month's holiday season brings a price hike across tourist services.

Diwali India
Best places to visit in India

October

October is an exuberant time to visit India with a number of festivals taking place this month including the ancient Hindu festival of Diwali, which kicks off at the very end of October and sees people across the country light small oil lamps known as diyas and place them outside their homes and businesses. The holy city of Varanasi is a wonderful place to enjoy the celebrations with the ghats along the Ganges River illuminated with candles and the skies lit up with fireworks. Elsewhere in India the Durga Puja takes place in Kolkata early October. It's one of the most important festivals in the region with raucous processions carrying idols of the goddess Durga through the streets and down to the river.

The monsoon is fading into memory and temperatures are still comfortably warm and ideal for sightseeing or outdoor pursuits. The sacred city of Rishikesh offers meditation and yoga alongside adventure sports ranging from river rafting to bungee jumping and October is a great month to visit before it gets too cold but while the rivers are still heavy with water.

On the first day of October India's national parks reopen so tiger safaris are now once again possible.

gajalamandapa
Best places to visit in India

November

It's a great month to visit much of India with the rains well and truly past and temperatures still warm enough for outdoor pursuits and sightseeing. These conditions perfectly suit exploration of Hampi and the evocative ruins of the 14th century Hindu city of Vijayanagar. The same goes for the erotic temples of Khajuraho, intricately carved with scenes very much in line with the Kamasutra.

For wildlife, there's a host of national parks to choose from now that they're all open for business but the Keoladeo Ghana National Park near Bharatpur is particularly attractive for keen birdwatchers as migratory species from Siberia and Central Asia make their way to northern India.

For Rajasthan at its most spirited, head to the attractive town of Pushkar which hosts the annual Pushkar Camel Fair with thousands of camels and other livestock brought here for trading and to participate in races. It's accompanied by dance performances and a longest moustache competition.

Only-Mumbai-Itineraries-Day-Tours-Main-India
Best places to visit in India

December

By the end of the year India is in its winter season though the cold temperatures that engulf the north of the country do not have such an impact in the south where it's still lovely and warm with little rain. This makes it a great time to visit Madurai, an important centre of worship centred around a spectacular medieval temple. The same goes for Chennai, which experiences its most pleasantly cool temperatures in December with a number of events taking place including the Madras Music Season.

The Christmas holiday brings with it high numbers of tourists and peak season prices with many visitors opting for the beaches of Goa and Kerala. Those looking for a city break should consider Mumbai where you can stroll through parks and along Chowpatty Beach or take a ferry to the rock-cut temples of Elephanta Island. While in the state of Maharashtra you can also visit the remarkable ancient temples of Ellora and Ajanta, carved into caves with incredible sculptures inspired by Buddhism and Hinduism.

In the north of the country Sikkimese New Year is celebrated with vigour across the state with traditional Chaam dance performances and archery contests. The capital, Gangtok, is the best place to stay with good accommodation options and transport links to the venerated Rumtek monastery where the biggest celebrations take place.

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