India is the world’s seventh-largest country stretching from the high mountains of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala, and from the sacred Ganges to the sands of the Thar desert.
Its more than one billion inhabitants are divided into two thousand ethnic groups and speak over 200 different languages.
Conform its size and population, India has an almost endless variety of cultures, landscapes, monuments and places to explore.
From the ancient ruins, fascinating religious structures, exotic cities and diverse landscape there is an endless collection of tourist attractions in India that will never cease to awe and fascinate the visitor.
1. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal in Agra is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1632 and 1653 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife.
Called “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity” it is one of the masterpieces of Mughal architecture, and one of the great tourist attractions in India.
Besides the white domed marble mausoleum the Taj Mahal includes several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, and extensive ornamental gardens with flowering trees and bushes.
2. Ellora Caves
Cave art is taken to new heights at Ellora Caves, one of the largest monastery-temple cave complexes in the world cut from rock. Ellora has 100 caves, though only 34 are open to the public.
The largest single monolithic rock excavation is found at the Kailasa Temple, which covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens Constructed between the seventh and ninth centuries.
The caves are devoted to Hindu, Budhist and Jainism deities.
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3. Harmandir Sahib
The Harmandir Sahib, better known as the Golden Temple is the main tourist attraction in Amritsar, and the most important religious place to the Sikhs.
Construction of the temple was begun by Guru Ramdas ji. in the 16th century. In the 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh the upper floors of the temple were covered with gold.
It’s a stunning temple, and always full of thousands of pilgrims from all over India, excited to be at a place that they usually only see on television.
Situated on the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
In many ways Varanasi epitomizes the very best and worst aspects of India, and it can be a little overwhelming.
The scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganges at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world.
Located in Rajasthan’s remote westernmost corner close to the border with Pakistan, Jaisalmer is the quintessential desert town.
The yellow sandstone walls of the “Golden City” rise from the Thar desert like a scene from the Arabian Nights while the Jaisalmer Fort crowns the city.
Uncontrolled commercialism has dampened the romantic vision of Jaisalmer, but even with all the touts and tour buses, it remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in India.
6. Kanha National Park
Kanha National Park is among the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Asia and one of best places to catch a glimpse of a tiger in India.
The lush sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines of Kanha provided inspiration to Rudyard Kipling for his famous novel “Jungle Book” and make this one of the top attractions in India.
7. Virupaksha Temple
The Virupaksha Temple in the city of Hampi started out as a small shrine and grew into a large complex under the Vijayanagara rulers.
It is believed that this temple has been functioning uninterruptedly ever since the small shrine was built in the 7th century AD which makes it one of the oldest functioning Hindu temples in India.
Palolem is the most southerly of Goa’s developed beaches and also one of the most beautiful. It is a natural bay surrounded by lofty headlands on either sides, resulting in a calm, idyllic sea with a gently sloping bed.
For those who believe a beach cannot be paradise without a decent selection of cheap restaurants and good hotels, a dose of nightlife and plenty of like-minded people Palolem is the place to be.
9. Kerala backwaters
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast in the Kerala state.
The Kerala backwaters are home to many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs and mudskippers, water birds and animals such as otters and turtles.
Today, houseboat tourism is the most popular tourist activity in the backwaters, with several large Kettuvallams (traditional rice boats, now converted into floating hotels)ply the waterways.
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10. Lake Palace
The Lake Palace in Lake Pichola in the city of Udaipur was built as a royal summer palace in the 18th century. Today it is a luxury 5 Star hotel, operating under the “Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces”.
The Lake Palace hotel operates a boat which transports guests to the hotel from a jetty at the City Palace on the east bank of Lake Pichola.
The palace became famous in 1983 when it was featured in the James Bond film Octopussy, as the home of titular character.
11. Ajanta Caves
The Ajanta Caves are rock-cut cave monuments dating from the 2th century BC. The magnificent Ajanta caves were abandoned around 650 AD and forgotten until 1819, when a British hunting party stumbled upon them.
Their isolation contributed to the fine state of preservation in which some of their paintings remain to this day.
The well preserved murals depict everything from battlefields to sailing ships, city streets and teeming animal-filled forests to snow-capped mountains.
The city of Aurangabad is the gateway to the Ajanta Caves as well as the equally spectacular Ellora Caves.
12. Meenakshi Amman Temple
Meenakshi Amman Temple is an impressive Hindu temple that dates back to the sixth century, though most of the present structure was built a thousand years later.
Located on the Vaigai River , it is perhaps the most important temple in Madurai, itself a 2,500-year-old city.
Intricate carvings about inside and out; the temple has a total of 14 towers, each dedicated to a god or person. Some 33,000 sculptures as well as rich paintings can be found in the temple complex.
The Khajuraho group of temples combines art with eroticism, with the end result being some of the finest medieval temple art, not only in India, but the world.
Built around the 10th century, only about 25 of the original 85 temples remain today. The largest group of Hindu and Jain temples in the world, the carvings and sculptures represent women’s traditional lifestyles in medieval times.
The sculptures were created at a time, when erotic art was auspicious; some of the carvings are sexually explicit.
14. Jim Corbett National Park
Everyone loves to see animals in the wild. Jim Corbett National Park, India’s oldest national park, is a good place to see the endangered Bengal tiger.
Established in 1936, the park was renamed in 1954 to honor Jim Corbett, author and wildlife conservationist, who helped create this nature reserve.
Thick vegetation, including jungles and forest, make it difficult to see the tiger – April to June is best for that, but visitors may see other wildlife, including elephants, leopards, rhinoceros and Himalayan black bears.
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15. Amber Fort
Amber Fort, the main tourist attraction around Jaipur, is known for its outstanding architecture. Sitting atop a hill, the complex is a blend of Hindu and Rajput styles.
Built in the late 16th century, pink and red sandstone and marble structure has been featured in Bollywood films.
It is most famous for the Mirror Palace, a fabulous room with a pure glass ceiling so the queen could view the stars before she fell asleep. Access is by foot, 4WD vehicle or elephant.