Cities in Northern India to Fall in Love With (9 minute read)

(Last Updated On: July 11, 2022)

I have never thought of myself as a city girl and even less so as a big city girl. In fact, more often than not during my travels, I get itchy feet after about 2 days of being in crowded places. I would have expected the same to happen in India; even more so, with the immense crowds, chaos, noise, pollution and dirt that characterizes this country. And for a short while, this was the case: I arrived in Varanasi and the minute I got out of the airport, I was so overwhelmed by the traffic, the dust and the honking cars that I said to myself I’d buy a plane ticket to fly home as soon as I got to my hotel. Little did I know that the cities in northern India would so rapidly change my mind!

India won me over

Imagine my surprise when I realized that none of that bothered me (well OK, I admit that the pollution did make my throat sting a bit). I slept just fine everywhere I went (and with no earplugs in!), even during Diwali – the Indian equivalent of New Year’s Eve, which involves many fireworks and crackers being popped in small alleys, where the noise reverberates even more. I went to bed with fireworks exploding behind my window, thinking there was no way I’d be able to sleep through that. I’d fall asleep moments later to wake after 7 hours, completely rested. And I’d discover that the fireworks had not ceased all night and were still going on.

Not only that but I truly enjoyed walking around the streets of India’s cities. Getting lost in the markets, looking at the colourful stalls, taking in the vibrant colours of the saris women wear and searching for hidden corners where I could observe a little bit of the real-life of the country, of its beautiful people and traditions.

Of all the cities in northern India I have visited, I found some to be truly special. They had that unique atmosphere, the beautiful attractions, the colours, the light, the people. They had that something that made me fall in love with them. I can’t wait to go back to India to discover more hidden corners. But in the meantime, these are my favourite cities in northern India.

Delhi - Cities in northern India to fall in love with
UNESCO-listed Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, the capital of India


I know, I know – a girl that can’t wait to get away from a big city enjoying India’s capital does sound strange. But somehow, I did. Delhi is an incredible mix of history and modernity, of peace and chaos. Next to a perfectly-kept historical landmark, there is the mayhem of a market. Modern, luxury cars stand in traffic next to tuk-tuks that are falling apart. The younger crowds meet in the trendy bars, restaurants and clubs of Connaught Place. And the modern metro is the perfect representation of the city: women wearing the most colourful saris stand beside women who follow the latest fashion trends. And all of them are invariably on their smartphones. It is a city of contrasts and I enjoyed all of them. Delhi instantly became one of my favourite cities in northern India.

Jaipur - Cities in northern India to fall in love with
The stunning Amber Fort is just one reason to fall in love with Jaipur


I thought I’d leave chaos and noise behind in Delhi. Then I arrived in Jaipur and realised that no, there is no way one can escape the mayhem in any Indian city. Yet, I liked Jaipur and it became one of my favourite cities in northern India. I took an evening stroll in search of some food, had to cross what may well be the busiest street I have ever seen (picture cars, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, bikes and motorbikes, buses, trucks, cows and pedestrians all pushing their way through) to get to the metro station. This was incredibly quiet (no wonder, everyone was in the street!). I also got to explore the market, which was a feast of lights and noise, and very entertaining. One last reason I enjoyed Jaipur is the gorgeous Amber Fort – one of the most beautiful in Rajasthan.

Agra - Cities in northern India to fall in love with
The legendary Taj Mahal is Agra’s main attraction


Truth be told, I hardly got to explore Agra. But I am bound to love a city that offers easy access to one of the most incredible sites I have ever seen in my life – the Taj Mahal. Some people prefer going at dawn to ensure they can explore the Taj when it is still quiet. I visited right before sunset and although there were lots of people, I loved the experience. And the light was pretty special too.

Jodhpur - Cities in northern India to fall in love with
The impressive view from Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur


Known as the Blue City, what made me really like Jodhpur is the gorgeous Mehrangarh Fort that can be seen from a distance, as it rises, beautiful and proud on a hill. If the view of the fort is spectacular, the view from the fort is just as impressive: the blue houses of the Brahmins can be seen in the distance as the sun sets behind the city. It gave me the impression of an incredibly mysterious city that begs to be explored.

Udaipur - Cities in northern India to fall in love with
The serene Lake Pichola in Udaipur offers some peace away from the city hustle and bustle


My visit to Udaipur started off nice and quiet with a lovely boat tour around Lake Pichola, from which I enjoyed a gorgeous view of the City Palace. It took a turn for the worst when I went to the City Palace. I happened to be in Udaipur right after Diwali, when masses of Gujarati people were also visiting the city (the closest place for them to travel to) for their holidays. When it became obvious that all I’d see in the City Palace were the heads of those standing in line, I decided to leave to explore the backstreets of the city. I ended up in the local market, and it was a wholly different scene: goats, dogs, and cows roamed about; people went about their usual business, and on a hidden corner a barber was giving a child a haircut. It was fun to observe!

Jaisalmer - Cities in northern India to fall in love with
The sandstone fort of Jaisalmer is one of the best preserved fortified cities in the world


I spent a few days in Jaisalmer, and I could have easily stayed longer. Much smaller than other cities in India, it is still full of life and interesting sights. Plus, there is easy access to the gorgeous Thar desert and sand dunes. And there is a beautiful and, as I discovered, unique fort. The main difference between the forts of other cities in Rajasthan and that of Jaisalmer is that here people (around 3,000) still live in the fortified city. It is packed with temples, palaces, small shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. The local authorities encourage tourists to stay in accommodation located outside the fort, as the city is collapsing onto itself. Needless to say, it is beautiful to explore.

Varanasi - Cities in northern India to fall in love with
The city of Varanasi is one of India’s holiest with daily rituals along the ghats


There are no words to describe what Varanasi is. It is chaos yet peace. Noise yet silence. It is where everything begins and then ends. There simply is no point in visiting India without going to Varanasi. The holiest city for Hindus, the Old City is a medina of intricate narrow alleys where life goes on at a slow pace. Sacred rituals take place by the Ganges: cremations, in the hope of breaking the samsara and reaching liberation of the soul; bathing, to wash away sins; and the rhythmic Ganga Aarti, the offering of fire to the Mother Ganges. This is by far the most intense city I visited in India, one that will leave a mark on any traveller. It is simply unmissable.

Claudia Tavani is a former human rights lawyer and academic. She left her career to follow her real passion, which involves rafting down mighty rivers, zip lining across canyons and trekking to the craters of active volcanoes. Through her blog – My Adventures Across the World –  she shares anecdotes and stories, she hopes to inspire others to travel, she gives plenty of travel tips and occasionally goes on a rant. She’s on a mission to hike up all volcanoes in the world! To see more pictures of Claudia’s India trip with On The Go, check out her Instagram gallery.

0 comments on “Cities in Northern India to Fall in Love With (9 minute read)

  1. I am heading off to India to do the Deserts Palaces Ganges 13 day tour in October. I have NEVER set my feet out of Australia throughout what will be my 66 years of life. Am I nervous? most definitely! I had the fortune, or misfortune of working with a group of Indians when I was working. Through my relationship with them over a period of time, I became interested and so curious about their culture and country, that I decided one day that I was going to go and see for myself. I am not normally this adventurous, but have always had the curious streak in me. And I always said that when the day comes to go overseas, I would like it to be different to Australia. Well I guess I am doing that. I am looking forward to seeing all that I have chosen, and intend to buy some colouring books and pencils to give to the school we visit.
    i might be asking a bit much here, but I would also like to know if anyone else from this page is doing that trip?
    i was warned by my old workmates too, to expect lots of noise and pollution as soon as I step out of the plane.
    But as I was told by On the go tour at the recent expo in Melbourne, that it is a place that I will never forget, and while I might both love and hate it, I will want to go back, and that was a promise, so here I go!!!

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