“Are you a Beach Person or a Mountain person?” I am often asked.
I am a traveler, a lover of nature, born and brought up in India and lucky to have wanderlust parents, my answer almost always is, “I am a mountain person as much as I am a beach person, I am awed by the deserts of Rajasthan and the white Rann of Kutch enchants me, the Forts of Maharashtra and the stories of Shivaji fill me with pride and I am spellbound by the architectural marvels in the South of India.”
India is a colourful country varied not only geographically but also culturally. It is difficult to see all the awesome places and off beat destinations that are yet to be crowded by tourists. I asked experienced Family travelers, solo travelers and Couple Travelers to help me make an awesome list of breathtakingly beautiful tourist places to in India. So get cozy and read on!
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1. Kongthong - the Whistling Village of India
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”
At least the people in Kongthong, Meghalaya definitely believe in this. The tribes of Kongthong here do not have names. Instead they have tunes for their names.
A tradition which is carried on since time immemorial, each child at the time of birth is given a unique tune by his mother. This ‘jingrwai lawbei’ (lullaby) becomes their name.
2. Chandratal - a jewel of the mountains
3. Ranakpur Temple – An Architectural Marvel of India
The grand scale and sheer architectural complexity of Ranakpur temple in Rajasthan is alluring. It also boasts of being one of the five most important holy shrines of the Jains.
The domes have images of Ganesha, vidyadevis, musicians and dancers. The intricacy of the artwork grows as one moves from the west to north to east to south hall.
Pro Tip: Photography is allowed only between noon and 5pm. However taking picture of the main deity Adinath is forbidden.
Like all other Indian Temples, you cannot enter with footwear. You need to take off your shoes at the entrance.
Recommended by Richa.
4. Explore the Breath-taking Badami, Karnataka
Badami is a little archaeological town in northern part of Karnataka in Bagalkot district. It is famous for its rock cut structural temples. It is located in a ravine at the foot of a rugged red sandstone on the banks of Agastya lake. Badami is famous for its sandstone cave temples.
The rock-cut cave temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries. The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then, with tolerance and a religious following that inclines towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Archaeological survey of India has declared Badami as protected site. It’s also is in the process of acclaiming “World Heritage site” status by UNESCO.
5. Awe-inspiring Bamboo Bridge Mawryngkhang, Meghalaya
6. Yumthang Valley, Sikkim
Yumthang Valley literally means Valley of Flowers, and houses the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Sikkim. To enjoy the pristine landscape and untouched parts of the country, head to this part of Sikkim in India.
The entire valley blooms in different hues of pink and red from late February to June each year. Also famous for its hot springs, the valley of flowers trek to Lachen and yak pasture grounds, the Yumthang valley has always been an active trade route with our closest neighbours. The entire valley, including River Lachung, freezes in winter and is often closed for visitors.
Pro Tip: To see the contrast of snow to beautiful colours, visiting Yumthang Valley in late March and April would be a sight to behold.Closest town is Lachung about 25 Km away and take close to 2 hours by road. Yumthang Valley is about 150 km away from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim.
Recommended by Ambika.
7. Tattooed tribes of Ziro Valley
Golden paddy fields against the undulating isolated hillocks welcome you as you enter Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh has 26 tribes and Apatani is one of the groups of tribes collectively known as Tani tribes.
The Apatani women of India’s Ziro Valley were once famous for their facial tattoos (Tiipe) and massive nose plugins (Yaping hullo), though the tradition is now non-existent.
Apatani Men also tattoo their chin in the shape of an English Alphabet “T”.
8. Hornbill Festival: Kisama Heritage Village | NAGALAND
Situated about 10 kilometers from Kohima, Kisama is a Naga Heritage Village. This time wrapped town of Kisama in Nagaland derives its name from the fact that it shares the land with 2 villages- Kigwema and Phesama.
Kisama takes you back in time, thanks to the authentic Naga architecture that has been kept intact while building the place. Greenery is abundant and traffic sparse which makes it quite a pleasure for tourists who like walking.
Guests can either make Kohima their base location and travel to Kisama for a day or stay in one of the lovely home stays dotting the single street that runs outside the village. If the option is latter, be prepared for a quiet, laid-back holiday full of early mornings and evenings and delicious organic food that the home stays serve. The families have been following farm to table a long way before this became a fashionable urban term!
Pro Tip: Plan your trip around December for some cultural immersion. Otherwise silent during the year, Kisama village comes alive during the Hornbill festival which is hosted from the 1st-10th of December every year. There is culture and art seeping into every corner and it is a visual delight to attend this festival.
Recommended by Arunima.
9. Explore the unexplored Shrivardhan beach, Maharashtra
Srivardhan Beach in Konkan area is one of Maharashtra’s best kept secrets. Its pristine beaches, lush green mango, coconut, and areca nut orchards and the quaint village like lifestyle will charm you.
Pro Tip: Shrivardhan beach is a delight to visit during the early morning hours and around sunset time.
My advise would be to avoid going to the beach during afternoon as it gets quite warm around noon.
Recommended by Richa.
10. The Taj Mahal, Agra - the purity of love in galore
No description can prepare you for the skin tingling, goose bump feeling you get when you walk through the Great Gate of the Taj Mahal and catch your first glimpse of this radiant marvel in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
Slowly the hundreds (if you are lucky) or thousands of people surrounding you almost won’t matter.
If photoshop is not your style, and (like me) you like to keep it real, plan to reach Agra on a Friday afternoon when the Taj Mahal is closed. Spend the evening across the river and get some amazing uninterrupted (read with no people) views and photos from Mehtab Bagh, spend time sitting on the garden benches just soaking it all in.
Feeling adventurous? Try and find the ‘illegal rickety boat’ at Dushera Ghat which will enable some fabulous photographs but at your own risk. Get to the Taj complex bright and early (6:45 am)on a Saturday (or any) morning and buy your tickets in advance online to skip the lines.
Pro Tip: My secret is to literally run to the front to explore the Mosque on the left of the Taj mahal and get that perfect shot of the sun rising up from behind the main dome creating a beautiful combination of radiance, shadows and silhouettes while the majority of the crowd is still in the lawns hoping to get that iconic Taj Mahal picture.
Most importantly, allow yourself to admire this beauty and drown out the chaos.
Recommeded by: Samita.
11. The Great Wall of India – Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan
Built in 1458 A.D by Rana Kumbha the Kumbhalgarh Fort in the rugged Mewar terrain is the second largest fort in Rajasthan (after the Chittorgarh Fort), and is one of 6 Hill Forts in Rajasthan to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As Compared to the Great Wall of China which is 22,000 km (approximately) in length, the Kumbhalgarh Wall which is 36 km long may seem relatively modest, but is, in fact, the second longest wall in the world.
It is popularly known as the “Great Wall of India”.
Pro Tip: The fort is open for the tourists from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Tourists have to separately purchase tickets for the light and sound show for Rs. 100. The show is conducted only in Hindi language.
Recommended by Richa.
12. "Give time a break" at Pondicherry
Sharing its border with the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry (officially known as Puducherry) is a French colonial settlement on the Eastern seaboard of India
Puducherry which is the capital of the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry is well known for the Ashram established by Sri Aurobindo, spiritual guru and former political leader, in the early 1900s. The backwaters, fishing villages, beach resorts will charm you as will the palm-fringed beaches!
13. chittorgarh fort
“Garh to Bas Chittorgarh, baaki Sab Garhiya” – Translated the phrase means, “If there is any Fort worth mention, it is Chittorgarh rest are all fortresses!”
Chittorgarh in Rajasthan is home to the Chittor Fort, the largest fort in India and Asia. The fish-shaped Chittorgarh Fort Stands tall over a 180-meter high rocky hillock and spreads over 700 acres near the Gambheri River.
Pro Tip: Just like the Fort of Jaisalmer, Chittorgarh Fort is a living fort with many villages calling it their home.
It is highly recommended to spend a day at leisure in Chittorgarh. For a tour around the fort, it is advisable to hire a guide.
Recommended by Richa.
14. Siachen Glacier
Siachen Glacier, the highest battle ground in the world, isn’t for the faint-hearted. The Glacier is a natural wonder located in the eastern Karakoram range and with not a blade of grass growing at these frigid heights even Bear Grylls might have tough chance at survival. Not everyone can trek to the Glacier.
15. the holy city of varanasi
A visit to the Holy City of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state is very surreal. The temple of Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is listed as one of the 12 Jyotirlingas by Adi-Shankaracharya, the 8th century Vedanta scholar.
The Ganga Aarti at Assi Ghat starts early morning around 4:30am and the Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat starts at the sunset time. Witnessing the 45 minutes of is absolutely magical.
If you are in Uttar Pradesh and especially Banaras you must not miss having Bhang Thandai and chaat. Fresh chaat is prepared early afternoon and sold 2 to 3pm onwards till late night.
Pro Tip: It is best to avoid going to Varanasi during the Monsoons. October marks the end of monsoon and beginning of winter in Varanasi, India. Pleasant weather will prevail from October till around Mid March after which it starts getting warm. It is advisable to carry warm clothes during winters.
Recommended by Richa.
16. Coonoor - Queen of HIll Stations
If you don’t believe in love at first sight, Coonoor might change that for you!
Udhagamandalam, popularly called as OOTY by the tourists, is the Queen of Hill Stations in Tamil Nadu. The British started calling it as Ootacamund. 17 Km froms Udhagamandalam, is the first of the popular Hill Stations called Coonoor!
A quaint and dreamy hill station nestled in the Nilgiri hills, the colonial vibe and the verdant tea estates of Coonoor are bound to win over your heart.
17. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala
An hour drive from main city of Munnar in kerala is the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. The wildlife along with the deciduous trees and breathtaking waterfalls makes it an ideal spot for trekking enthusiasts.
This sanctuary is one among the 12 protected areas of Kerala. Trek for 4-5 kms, find your perfect spot by the spectacular waterfall and look into nothingness. Right there you will see a beautiful rainbow coming out of wilderness.
Pro Tip: The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the endangered species of Great Grizzled Squirrel of India. Just 16 kms from the sanctuary is the town of Marayur. Visit this town for sandalwood plantations, dolmens (ancient burial chambers) and local sharkara (yellow sugar) making units.
Recommended by Shivani.
18. Double Decker Living Root Bridge, Meghalaya
The Mesmerising hilly Meghalaya in the North East of India is Nature’s well-kept secret. The most famous living root bridge is located in Nongriat village of East Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya. The trek to the bridge starts from Tyrna village and requires descending 3500+ steps.
Visit this to witness how the Khasi tribe build these spectacular bridges with the roots of Rubber trees, over a span of more than 15 years.
19. Bishnupur - Divinity Crafted in Terracota
The Vishnu temples of Malla dynasty in Bishnupur are an epitome of excellence in terms of Terracotta work. The burnt brick with intricate artwork in rustic red merges seamlessly with the iron-rich red earth of Chotonagpur Plateau.
The sleepy town sleeps peacefully only to wake up to welcome sparse visitors in the winter vacations. The lush green of iconic Bengal monsoon stages a perfect backdrop. An age-old moat, a dilapidated royal palace, entrance to the fort where now countless pigeons live and nest complete the scene
Pro Tip: Bankura District is well connected by several roads with Durgapur, Purulia, Midnapur, Kharagpur, and Kolkata. The two major railway stations close to Bankura are Bankura Junction and Bishnupur.
Recommended by Madhurima.
20. Goa – A Perfect Holiday Destination
Goa, popular as a hippie paradise for years, it has been popular with Indian families and honeymooners. Ideal in all seasons, Goa is the first name you will listen when there’s a bachelor’s party or an an option celebrating the New Years. It is not difficult to guess that why Goa is so awesome and everyone wants to go there.
If you are not the adventurous type, you can simply chill at the beach shacks reading a book or just watch the sun go down. You can never get bored in Goa, whether you stay for 2 days or 2 months.
21. Munsiyari in the Greater Himalayan range of Uttarakhand
Munsiyari located in the Greater Himalayan range in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand (India) enthrals you with its captivating view of the Panchachuli Range and uniquely salubrious climate. You can experience Village home stays in Sarmoli Village, visit the Tribal Museum or even go for a short Hike.
If you happen to stay in a home stay in Sarmoli village in Munsiyari, try out the rustic taste of “bhaang ki chutney” which is a popular Kumaoni side dish. This sour-tangy chutney is made of roasted Bhang (Hemp Seeds) and jeera (cumin seeds), mixed with Pudina leaves and Lemon juice. Unlike the plant on which it grows, Hemp Seeds are not at all psychoactive and are in fact an essential pantry item in the Kumaoni Kitchens.
22. Digha - West Bengal's most popular sea resort
Well connected via train and bus, you can reach this stunning shoreline by early morning and enjoy the rest of the day.
In spite of the fact that Digha is one of the popular beach destinations in West Bengal, others in the territory like Tajpur and Mandarmani are quickly picking up tourist interest.
India’s Capital Delhi is a treasure trove of fascinating heritage, history, and culture. Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Purana Quila, Jama Masjid, and many more ancient structures echo the glorious past of the Indian capital city.
The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi is one of the innumerable historical places that India’s capital city hides in its bosom. Walking through the mausoleum is like exploring the secrets beneath layers of Indian history. A happy hunting ground for a history buff in you, The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi is sure to fascinate you.
Though not as grand as its counterpart Humayun’s Tomb, this 18th-century garden tomb will definitely mesmerise you with its architectural beauty.
Pro Tip:It normally takes 1 to 2 hours to explore the mausoleum though there’s no limit to it (of course till the closing time) if you want to enjoy this historical wonder and its natural surroundings for some more time.
Recommended by Anjali.
24. Kavaratti, Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep in Sanskrit means “one hundred thousand islands”. Though not thousand, but the archipelago of Lakshadweep consists of about thirty-nine islands and islets off the south western coast of India in the Laccadive Sea.
Be ready to be charmed by ultramarine serene sea, rich marine biodiversity, unspoilt reefs and a whole range of colourful reef fish, schools of fusilier, bigeye trevally, humphead wrasse and sweetlips.
Pro Tip: The best time to book a trip to Lakshadweep is during October to May as the weather is favorable and waters are calm.The nearest domestic airport is 54 km away on Agatti Island. The closest international airport is the Cochin International Airport in Kochi on the mainland.
Recommended by Richa.
26. Key Monastery, Kaza, Spiti
Hot and salted yak-butter tea, the teaching ground of Buddhist Lamas, the filming of the famous Hindi movie ‘Highway’ and the picturesque location makes the more-than-1000-year-old Key Monastery a must visit place in the Todh Valley of Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India.
Situated at an altitude of 4,166 meters (13,668 ft) above sea level, Key Gompa dates back to around 1000AD and is the largest monastery in the Spiti Valley.
Pro Tip: Travelers can stay in dormitories for a nominal charge. The charge includes food and accommodation. There’s a dining area near the prayer hall. A conch shell is blown by one of the monks indicating it is meal time. Remember to carry warm clothes and quilt to use at night.
Recommended by Richa.
27. Nubra Valley, Ladakh
Imagine a place that is in the midst of a desert, yet, high up in the mountains, yet full of lush greenery!
That place is Nubra Valley.
Nestled between the sandy, dry mountains of Ladakh, the valley is like an oasis with apricot trees, bubbling brooks and even camels.
Pro Tip: You can spend the night there in tents by a river or in one of the small hotels. The locals will put up performances of traditional dances for the tourists, and no one will question if you pluck an apricot fresh off the tree and pop it in your mouth.
Recommended by Haem.
28. Feeling High at Hikkim – The Highest Post Office (or Not?) in the World!
At a height of 4440M above sea level is the village of Hikkim in Spiti. Hikkim boasts of having not only the Highest Post Office in the world but also of having World’s highest polling station.
Spiti Valley is a cold desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas in the north-eastern part of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
Pro Tip: Contrary to general public belief, local signs, countless websites and social media posts, it turns out that the World’s Highest Post Office is NOT Hikkim but Qomolangma Base Camp Postal Service at 5200M.
Notwithstanding, Hikkim definitely is the highest post office in India.
Recommended by Richa.
The small gem in East India, is one of the most beautiful, pristine hill station one can ever imagine. It’s views of the Kanchenjunga peak are extremely spectacular. Initially from Kolkata one needed to take a flight to Bagdogra and from there drive to Gangtok. Now the capital of Sikkim, has its own newly opened Pakyong Airport.
The highlights here include: Nathulal Pass, Mall Road, Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok, Tsomgo Lake, and Rumtek Monastery.
30. Rann of Kutch
Just the way Rajasthan is synonymous to forts, havelis, desert, camels, colourfully attired men & women, Bhuj in Gujarat, is about the WHITE DESERT SAND and the lovely Flamingos that flock to visit this equally colourful and wonderful white desert.
Experience the Nomadic life of the nomads of the Rann of Kutch in the unique way.
Dholavira in Kutch, Bhuj is one of the largest remarkable excavations of the Indus Valley Civilisation. It is interesting to note that Indus Valley Civilisation was one of the most developed civilisations roughly 4500 years ago.