From stunning scenery, lush green landscapes, hilly wonderlands and roaring wildlife, India definitely puts the lust in wanderlust! A coveted land of wealth and wisdom, India has been visited by seekers from various parts of world and people from all walks of life. Foreign travelers have kept India at the top of their bucket list of ‘must-see countries in a lifetime’. Let’s check out why with none other then foreigners which have travelled India recently and shared there advices and suggestions on places to visit in India!
Pushkar – Sacred city for Hindus
One of my favorite cities in India is Pushkar, in Rajasthan, and it’s one of the best places for foreigners to experience India. Pushkar is a sacred city in the Hindu religion. For that reason, it’s a great place for foreigners to better-understand Hinduism. There are many places to visit in Pushkar, but the epicenter of the town is Lake Pushkar, a sacred body of water in the center of the city.
In Pushkar, foreigners can learn about the main deities of Hinduism, like Lord Brahman, who is worshipped in Pushkar. While many of the hundreds of temples are closed to non-Hindu visitors, some can be entered by foreigners. Foreigners can also experience a puja or Hindu prayer ceremony. These should only be booked by tour guides or through a hotel and not from people wandering near Lake Pushkar. It’s a common scam for non-priests to give tourists a flower or red ribbon and aggressively demand donations from them.
Pushkar is super popular with backpackers and because of that, accommodations are very affordable. The same is true of goods and souvenirs available in the Pushkar markets. Pushkar is also famous for its camel safaris where visitors can ride into the sand dunes and watch the beautiful desert sunsets. Visitors who enjoy yoga, massage and mindfulness exercises will also find a lot to do in Pushkar. Lastly, Pushkar is a holy city so no alcohol is served in the town and there is no meat consumed either. It’s still a great Indian city to explore for any foreigner.
Varanasi – The Holy Site of Sarnath
Varanasi is one of the best tourist places in India. Not only is Varanasi the most holy city for Hindus it is also the city that gives the most intimate insight into Hindu rituals and traditions. The lifeline of the city is the Ganges, the most sacred river in India attracting thousands of pilgrims every day.
There are hundreds of ghats at the riverbank. A walking tour along these ghats and the narrow alleys behind them goes past ancient palaces and temples. However, the best part are the people that come to the river to bath, wash their clothes or pray. It makes Varanasi a great city to wander around in, because there is always something going on.
Dasaswamedh ghat is where most pilgrims come and where priests perform all kind of rituals. Marriages, babies that are born or the farewell prayers for those that passed away. It sometimes feels strange to be so close to all those joyful and sad events in families lives that are reflected upon.
It makes Varanasi a colourful city. There are no obvious tourist sights in Varanasi like the Taj Mahal, but Varanasi embodies the soul of India. Its the city itself and the people that are the main attraction. Festivals are celebrated with more fervour. Visiting Varanasi during one of its festival is a memorable experience. Otherwise winter from October till March is the best time to see Varanasi.
Jaipur – The Pink City
One of the best places in India to visit is Jaipur. The city is often called the Pink City because the central City Palace and many of the surrounding buildings are painted a pinky/ orangish color. of the pink buildings in the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds). This is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of India and you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the tiny rooms and enjoying the views from the dozens of windows. However, Jaipur has much more to offer. The shopping is excellent, and this is a great place to buy traditional handicrafts.
Also read: A Guide to Shopping in India
Pro TIP: You will need to bargain. If you start bargaining, you are expected to buy at the final price agreed upon, so if you don’t intend to buy, don’t offer a price. For an authentic experience, take a workshop in wood block printing and learn how to make the printed fabrics for sale in the shops (read about woodblock printing workshops in Jaipur here). Sanganer near the airport is one of the main printing areas in Jaipur.
Other highlights in Jaipur include the Jantar Mantar, a large complex with enormous concrete astrological instruments that you can climb over and marvel at; the Albert Hall Museum, a classic of Indian colonial architecture; and the Raj Mandir Cinema, an incredible, shell-like movie theater that screens fabulous Bollywood movies (worth seeing even if you don’t understand the dialogue).
On the outskirts of town, don’t miss Amber Fort. Allow at least half a day. Get there first thing to see the fort glowing on the early morning light. You can catch an elephant up the hill to the entrance, but you can also easily walk if you consider this unethical.
TIP: Book a tuk tuk through your hotel and arrange a day or half-day price. That way, they will wait for you and be there when you are ready to return. Stop off at the Monsoon Palace, Jal Mahal, a palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake, on the way back.
TIP: Try not to visit Jaipur in the summer. It is in the Thar Desert and gets VERY hot! February is a great month to visit.
Contributed by James Ian from TravelCollecting
Puri and Konark in Odisha
Puri and Konark are the most historical and cultural places of India. To reach here you can fly into Bhubaneswar International Airport and then take a taxi to Puri which is just 50 km away. Konark Sun Temple is further 30 km from Puri.
Puri Jagannath Temple and its chariot festival Rath Yatra is world-famous. Although foreigners are not allowed inside the temple, still there is a lot to see and learn about the locals, culture and traditions of people of Odisha. You can visit the artist village near Puri named Raghurajpur. You can see artists working firsthand drawing pattachitra. Also, you can see the chuadua at Pippli which are beautiful for light decorations. The Puri beach is also very clean and every day you can see various sand artists doing their best works.
Konark Sun Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose history and architecture will leave you in awe. Every year the Konark Dance Festival takes place in February which is world-famous showing the traditional Odissi. If you are a fan of history and culture this is your place to be.
Contributed by Mar Pages from Eager2travel
Chennai – Spiritual State
Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, holds a lot of historic clout and is a great place to visit for foreigners, especially those interested in architecture and history. It’s a metropolitan city, voted one of the safest in India and is actually one of the most visited by foreign tourists. Chennai has the first British Fort in India, constructed in 1640 when it was still called Madras. You can still visit Fort St George today and the Fort Museum is particularly interesting for history buffs like me. It even holds the first ever Indian flag from 1947.
There are multiple spiritual sites to visit like Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai monastery. St Thomas Mount National Shrine which is on top of a hill and has 137 marble steps. It’s believed to be the place where St Thomas was martyred and miracles have said to have taken place on its grounds. There are Hindu places of worship like Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple with its gorgeous Dravidian Gopuram and non-religious places like Valluvar Kottam, a unique site dedicated to the poet Thiruvalluvar. My greatest find was the Old Curiosity Shop, a treasure trove of trinkets that was opened in the 1930s.
The top thing to do here is to visit the Mahabalipuram UNESCO site which is an island along empty beaches with several temples and shrines, the most famous being the Shore Temple which dates back to the 8th century AD. There are a host of luxury hotels on the beach nearby. For a traditional Chettinad meal, I’d recommend visiting Raintree with outdoor seating under expansive banyan trees. Come before the monsoons hit and when it’s not scorching hot. October to February are your best bet.
Contributed by Shalini from Onceinalifetimejourney
Pondicherry – Charming Coastal Town
Pondicherry is a charming coastal town that used to be a French colony in India. It’s in the state of Tamil Nadu and looks over the Bay of Bengal. When I first got to Pondicherry, I wondered if I was in India or France. The streets are dotted with French architecture and elegant sidewalks. Most people visit Pondicherry from Chennai and the drive is approximately 160 kilometers. I made the mistake of only doing a day trip here. I highly recommend spending a few days here as there is so much to explore. It’s also a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of most cities in India.
The best time to visit is between November and April so you can avoid the monsoon season. A great place to start exploring Pondicherry is the French Quarter. This is where the heart of the city is and you’ll find beautiful churches and houses here. This area also has the most restaurants and cafes. The town is laid out in a grid so you should take advantage of getting lost; odds are that you’ll end up right where you started. The main beaches to visit here are Auroville Beach, Promenade Beach, Paradise Beach, and Serenity Beach.
You should also visit Aurobindo Ashram if you’re interested in yoga and meditation. The visit to the town of Auroville is a must too. It’s 10 kilometers away from Pondicherry. Lastly, don’t forget to indulge in the local cuisine. It’s a delightful combination of Indian and French cuisine.
Contributed by Disha from Dishadiscovers
Dholpur (Dhaulpur) is still relatively unknown to tourists and thus less visited, compared to the hotspots Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. The city is located in the eastern part of Rajasthan, about 58 km south of Agra.
A good time to visit Dholpur is around March and the beginning of April, as well as in fall. In summer the temperature can rise to 40 degrees Celsius and above. In winter time, temperature can reach near zero.
In Dholpur the Machkund temple (Muchhkund) is worth seeing. It is situated about 4 km outside of the city. This is one of the most beautiful temples in Rajasthan. It contains a Hindu temple and a beautiful lake. Cows, dogs and monkeys roam around and there are only few tourists. The Machkund temple is visited mainly by Indians. Be prepared that a lot of people want to take photos of you and with you.
Besides the Machkund temple Dholpur is famous for the Chambal river, where the rare Ganghes river dolphins live. During a boat tour on the Chambal river you can see besides the dolphins big crocodiles, alligators and turtles. The fish in the river also attract various waterfowl.
Another beautiful place to visit is the Dholpur Palace, also known as Raj Niwas Palace. It is situated in the center of Dholpur. The palace, made of red sandstone, is also a Heritage Hotel where you can stay in private villas with your own pool or in spacious suites inside the Dholpur Palace. If you don’t stay inside one of the suites you can still visit the Raj Niwas Palace and the beautiful garden, where peacocks roam around.
Contributed by Christina from Thefemaletravelpreneur
Kerala – Coast state of India
Kerala is a completely different place to visit in India. Its quiet, its calm and the backwaters of Kerala is absolutely beautiful. I flew into Kochi and spent a few days there before heading to Alleppey. I decided to rent a house boat for the day and cruise the backwaters and rivers around this area. The rivers and canals here is why Alleppey is known as the Venice of the East. Alleppey is the hub of the Kerala backwaters which has a network of waterways and there are thousands of houseboats on these waterways.
While on the house boat I spent the day looking at beautiful palm trees and rice fields along with villages along the way. You can also stop off at the Alleppey Lighthouse which was built in 1862 as this area used to be a busy port. It is only 28 meters high but you can climb the 100 steps to the top for fantastic views.
I also stopped at the Basilica of St Mary’s which was first built in 427 and is the oldest Christian church in India. I think Kerala is a beautiful area of India and definitely worth a visit.
Contributed by Nicole from Americanswobsessed
The city of Amritsar is located in the North West of the Punjab. It’s just 28 kilometres from the border with Pakistan. It’s here that you’ll find the spiritual and cultural centre for the Sikh faith, the Harmdandir Sahib – also known as the Golden Temple. This glorious temple complex receives more annual visitors than the Taj Mahal!
The city of Amritsar is a series of winding alleys, fabulous food and crumbling remnants of the Raj architecture. There is a whole lot of history here, not all of it good. It was in Jallianwala Bagh in the heart of the old city that the 1919 British massacre of hundreds of Indian civilians took place. In more recent times the Operation Blue Star military operation ordered by Indira Gandhi killed more than 500 civilians and members of the armed forces.
Amritsar is a glorious mix of old and new. The Golden Temple is quite simply the most peaceful man-made place I have ever visited. Pilgrims from all around the world, from all faiths, visit and are welcome as equals. Visiting the temple at different times of the day means you’ll experience the different lights and it is an incredible sight whenever you visit – a combination of Islamic and Hindu architecture, it appears to almost float on the water.
There’s another reason to visit Amritsar and that’s the food – the city is famous for Amritsari Fish Fry – and it’s the only place in India, where we, the ever-cautious travellers, ate street food. This lightly battered white fish is a fabulous treat to finish your day in Amritsar!
Contributed by Sarah from asocialnomad
Agra – Taj Mahal
It can’t be denied, no trip to India is complete without visiting the Taj Mahal, especially if you are visiting Delhi or Jaipur. Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are commonly referred to as the Indian Golden Triangle. I visited the Taj Mahal in October 2017 and will be returning next year in February. We chose to visit the Taj Mahal for sunrise and I still think that was a great decision. Depending what time of year you visit, you could be visiting in temperatures of 40 degrees plus. The day we visited the temperature was 38 degrees, we went in at 6am and we were back at the hotel by 9am. Also the tour buses arrive from Delhi about 10 am and it gets crowded from then.
The Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the white marble Islamic mausoleum was built as a tomb for his third and favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, it also contains Shah Jahan himself. The Emperor ordered all workers that built the Taj Mahal, to have their hands chopped off to ensure there was never another building built like it.
There is quite a bit to do in Agra, the other major tourist attraction is the Agra Fort, a walled city and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Emperor Shah Jalan was overthrown by his son, his son imprisoned Shah Jalan in the ground of Agra Fort in a room overlooking the Taj Mahal. The Area Fort is made or red sand stone, the palatial area is made of white marble just like the Taj Mahal. While Agra Fort is an impressive structure in its own right, it also has fantastic views of the Taj Mahal.
Contributed by Sally from Our3kidsvtheworld
Fort Kochi – Kerala
Fort Kochi is perhaps my favourite city and Kerala, and I would even go as far as to say India. A city that started out as a small fishing village, it is full of history and charm and it’s worth visiting for at least a couple of days.
Getting lost in the streets of Fort Kochi is the best way to explore the city. Wander through Jew Town where you can learn about the Jewish heritage that is slowly dying and visit the Paradesi Synagogue. Jew Town has one of the oldest antiques markets in India, and here you will also find all sorts of shops selling spices, garments and all manner of souvenirs.
With Kerala having gone through Portuguese, Dutch and British hands, there is a large Christian population, so you will notice Christian churches around, of which the most important is St Francis Church. It was built in the 16th century and it’s India’s oldest European church.
One of the top things to do in Fort Kochi is going down to the waterfront for sunset to witness the famous Chinese fishing nets in action. A fishing technique introduced by some of the first visitors to the Malabar coast in the 15th century, it’s incredible to see that it hasn’t changed much. Another way to end the day in Fort Kochi is by taking sunset cruise, where you can just relax and watch the world go by as the sun goes down.
The best time to visit is between October and March, when the temperatures are most pleasant and very little rain. But don’t be put off visiting the rest of the year. There is plenty in Fort Kochi to keep you occupied whatever the weather.
Contributed by Teresa from Broganabroad
Jaisalmer – The Golden City of India
Staying in an old haveli in the walls of an ancient fort is one of the best ways to experience the amazing city of Jaisalmer.
This desert city is an overnight train ride from Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. Exploring the inside of the walled city is the perfect adventure for newcomers to India as there are no cars and ancient temples and shop fronts to see. It is easy to wander round, stopping for a chai or fresh coconut juice before getting seemingly lost in the maze of little alley ways. Locals stop and chat and you can enjoy your thali dinner on a roof top while watching the sun set over the desert.
We recommend staying in a traditional guesthouse called a Haveli inside the fort to get an authentic Indian experience. One of the best adventures is to head out to sleep in the desert overnight under the stars. Waking up in the sand dunes and enjoying breakfast from the camp fire is one of our very favourite travel memories.
Contributed by Bron from Smithsholidayroad
Rishikesh – Yoga Capital of the world
During my month long travels in India, I decided to visit Rishikesh. I experienced so many wonderful cities and places during my trip but Rishikesh was one of the most special. In my head, I imagined I would spend a week relaxing, meditating and doing some yoga. However, life had other plans for me! I was travelling alone and I stayed in an amazing hostel, met incredible people and ended up spending a week there motorbiking around the mountains, visiting shrines and caves, having bonfires on the beach, experiencing white-water rafting and even a bungee jump! It was such a great place for both relaxing and doing adventure activities, there was something for everyone here.
The place itself is stunning, the turquoise river Ganges surrounded by beautiful temples and the scenic bridge across the river were some of my highlights. The colour of the water really surprised me as earlier on the trip I had seen the Ganges River in Varanasi where it was slow flowing and black. I couldn’t believe it was the same river, icy cold, fast flowing enough for rafting and such a stunning colour of turquoise. I had fantastic Indian food by the sides of the river and fresh mangoes from fruit stalls. I visited in April when the weather was very hot but it felt cool relaxing in the icy water river and hanging out on the sandy beaches along the river banks.
Contributed by Steffi from Beachbumadventure
Parvati Valley – Backpacker’s Paradise
Parvati Valley is a true backpacker’s paradise located up in the mountains of India’s Himachal Pradesh state. The valley is one of the best tourist places in India for foreign visitors for many reasons- its picturesque scenery, incredible food, and popularity with other travelers all come to mind at first thought.
From April-October, foreign travelers flock to Parvati. Psy-trance parties deep in the forest and droves of wild marijuana plants make for an atmosphere reminiscent of Goa, except with mountains instead of beaches.
Parvati is extremely tourist-friendly- dozens upon dozens of hostels, hotels, and guesthouses are open throughout the valley and numerous cafes serving up Western and Israeli food dot the streets. Due to the high numbers of tourists, Parvati is the perfect place in India to meet other backpackers/ travelers, especially if you’re traveling solo.
Unlike many other parts of India, Parvati is free from chaos. Many villages don’t even have roads, and locals live quiet, peaceful lives. There are so many villages and treks to explore in Parvati that it can easily keep you busy for weeks— it’s one of those places that’s difficult to reach, but oh so hard to leave.
If you plan to visit, keep in mind that the only way to get to Parvati is by road. Both coach and regular buses leave from Delhi nightly and take about 12-13 hours to arrive in Kasol, the main town of Parvati Valley. There isn’t much to see in Kasol, but it is home to some excellent restaurants. King Falafel and Sunshine Café both have some delectable dishes- you can’t leave Kasol without trying a Mars Bar from Sunshine!
Two treks can be embarked on from Kasol: the Grahan Trek and the Rashol Trek. The former takes about six hours and the latter about three. Both are steep but lead to peaceful, remote villages far away from society.
While in the valley, Malana is another must-visit. The secluded village’s inhabitants believe they are descendants of Alexander the Great. Interestingly, their entire economy revolves around the making and selling of Malana Cream- widely believed to be one of the best strains of hashish in the world. All villages in Parvati can be accessed by local buses, taxis or hikes, making it super easy to get around even without your own vehicle.
Contributed by Samantha Shea from intentionaldetours
Udaipur – City of Lakes
Udaipur was without a doubt the place I enjoyed visiting the most and felt the most comfortable while backpacking around India. Located in Rajasthan, and not too far away from Jaipur if you’re exploring the Golden Triangle, Udaipur is most commonly known as the city of lakes.
From the center of town the views over the lake and onto the two islands are spectacular. There’s glistening water everywhere you look which can either be enjoyed from the safety of the shore or you can hop on a boat tour of Lake Pichola.
The tours will either take you just around the lake or you can go to one of the islands too. Jag Mandir, also known as Lake Garden Palace, is said to have been the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Whereas the other island is home to the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, which if you can afford it, is definitely worth splashing out for.
We didn’t go that fancy and stayed in the Zostel hostel in the main part of the city which has what could arguably be some of the best views of the islands on the lake from it’s rooftop bar.
As well as the views I found the city so enjoyable to spend time in as you could walk around for once, something that just isn’t possible in a lot of Indian cities. There are plenty of shops and markets and side streets to explore. And relatively speaking, it felt safer walking around there than it had in other larger cities.
Contributed by Chantell from Travelforyourlife
Ultimately, the bottom line is – if we learn to relax and appreciate India’s unique culture, we will all come to love this incredible country.
Have you been to India? What were your favourite things to do and places to visit in India? Join the comment section.