To really see India you would have to spend far more time than the limited holiday period usually gives us. However, even a short stay in India can be fulfilling and you can visit many places making it a worthwhile and enjoyable trip. We’ve highlighted just ten most popular tourist attractions in India and explained why they are a ‘must see’.
1. Taj Mahal
Probably the most popular place for tourists, the Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is widely recognised as the jewel of Muslim art in India.
Taj Mahal is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic,Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles.
In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen.
Goa is the smallest yet richest state in India. It boasts some of the most famous pristine beaches in the world and should come as no surprise as to why it’s considered a major tourist destination. But then, Goa is much more than just beaches and sea. It has a soul that goes deep into unique history, rich culture and some of the prettiest natural scenery that India has to offer. However, the main city of Goa is lively and vivacious with bustling restaurants and bars plus floating casinos on board magnificent cruise ships. There is never a dull moment but above all, people who travel here will really know what it is like to relax!
3. India Gate
At the centre of New Delhi, the 42 meters high India Gate stands in the middle of a crossroad. Similar to the French Arc-de-Triomphe, the monument is an archway and commemorates the 82,000 soldiers of the undivided Indian Army who died in the period 1914–21 in First World War, in France, Flanders, Mesopotamia, Persia, East Africa, Gallipoli and elsewhere in the near and the far-east, and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. 13,300 servicemen names, including some soldiers and officers from the UK, are inscribed on the gate.
The foundation stone of India Gate was laid by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and it was designed by Edwin Lutyens. The monument was dedicated to the nation 10 years later by the then Viceroy, Lord Irwin. Another memorial, Amar Jawan Jyoti was added much later, after India got its independence. It is an eternal flame that burns day and night under the arch to remind the nation of soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971.
4. Kerala Backwaters
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of beautiful, serene brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (aka Malabar Coast) of Kerala state in southern India. The backwaters have a unique ecosystem – freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. This provides many unique species of aquatic life including, crabs, frogs and mudskippers, water birds such as terns and kingfishers, and animals such as turtles and otters. The National Geographic Traveller placed it among the ‘top 50 destinations of a lifetime’ and with amazing resorts and traditional houseboats to stay in, it really is worth visiting!
5. Golden Temple
Harmandir Sahib, which is informally referred to as the ‘Golden Temple’ is a prominent Sikh gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It was built by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ramdaas Sahib Ji, in the 16th century.
There are four doors to get into the Harmandir Sahib, which symbolize the openness of the Sikh faith towards all people and religions. The present-day gurdwara was rebuilt in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with the help of other Sikh Misls. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and its English name.
The Harimandir Sahib is considered holy by Sikhs. The holiest text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, is always present inside the gurdwara. Its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally. Over 100,000 people visit the holy shrine daily for worship.
6. Gateway of India
The Gateway of India (colloquially known as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai) is a huge monument built during the British Raj. It is located on the waterfront in South Mumbai and overlooks the Arabian Sea. The structure is made out of basalt and stands 26 metres (85 feet) high.
Originally, a crude jetty used by the fishing community that was later renovated and used as a landing place for British governors and other prominent people. Now a tourist hot spot and a pretty awesome view from your window if you’re staying at the famous Taj hotel located opposite.
7. Red Fort
The Red Fort, the largest monument in Delhi, was the residence of the Mughal emperor of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857. It is located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the emperors, it was the ceremonial and political centre of Mughal government and the setting for events critically impacting the region.
The planning of the palace is based on Islamic prototypes, but each pavilion reveals architectural elements typical of Mughal building, reflecting a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions. The Red Fort’s innovative planning and architectural style, including the garden design, strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and further afield.
The monument has become an iconic symbol of India. On the Independence Day of India (15 August), the Prime Minister of India hoists the national flag at the main gate of the fort and delivers a nationally-broadcast speech from its ramparts.
Nainital is one of the most popular hill stations of India. It is famous for its pear-shaped lake and is widely considered as the ‘Lake District of India’. It is set amidst the towering peaks of the Kumaon Hills and is separated by the lake into two parts, Tallital and Mallital. The town was destroyed during the Landslip of 1880, and later rebuilt by the British. While visiting you can take a boat trip around the lake, feed the animals at the zoo, explore the caves or trek to the peak of the Naina Mountain which offers a breath-taking view of the snow-capped Himalayas.
Varanasi is an Indian city on the banks of the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh. Often referred to as the religious capital of India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism, and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism. Some Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. The Benares Gharana form of Hindustani classical music was developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians live or have lived in Varanasi. Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath, located near Varanasi. A truly colourful place to visit with a rich history.
10. Lotus Temple
The Lotus Temple in New Delhi is a Bahá’í House of Worship completed in 1986. Notable for its flowerlike shape, it serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and has become a prominent attraction. The Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion, or any other distinction, as emphasized in Bahá’í texts. Interestingly, the holy scriptures of the Bahá’í Faith and other religions can only be read or chanted inside in any language; while readings and prayers can be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments can be played inside. Furthermore, no sermons can be delivered, and there can be no ritualistic ceremonies practiced. Inspired by the lotus flower, the Lotus Temple’s distinct architecture has won numerous awards and definitely worth visiting!
So as you can see there is a lot you can do in a relatively short time and even if you are not able to do all of them, it gives you a reason to come back.