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India

A guide to its main attractions
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Selected by piero scaruffi | Back to the travel page | Pictures of India
This page provides a list of the main things to see in India. "++" identifies the top attractions. The sights are tagged with a capital letter that helps plan different itineraries.

ITINERARYSTATESIGHTS



ZASSAM and nearby states
Kaziranga National Park (rhinos, tigers, elephants)
Namdapha National Park (tigers, leopards, snow leopards)
Guwahati: Kamakhya temple, Vashishtha temple
Tawang (largest Buddhist monastery in India)
Agartala: Ujjayanta palace
ZMEGHALAYA
-Shillong
wildlife
tribes
ZNEGALAND
tribes
ZSIKKIM
wildlife
Himalaya
Tashiding monastery (1717)
Pemayangtze: Trekking to Dzongri
WEST BENGAL
A14+Kolkata/Calcutta: +Victoria Memorial (1921), +Indian Museum (+stupa and sculptures from Barhut of 2nd c BC)
ZDarjeeling: Kangchenjunga, India's highest mountain, Trekking the Singalila Ridge
ZSunderbans: Ganges Delta
ZSunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary (tigers, crocodiles, birds)
ZJaldhapara Wildlife Sanctuary (rhinos, elephants)
Z+Bishnupur/ Vishnupur: +Shyama Raya temple (1643), Keshta Raya temple (1655)
A13Gaur (Dhulian)
A13Pandua: Eklakhi Mausoleum (14##)
LADAKH
C4+Leh: Palace (163#), Spitok monastery (14##), Alchi monastery (11##), Lamayuru monastery (10##), Lirik monastery, +Thiksay monastery, Shay palace
C4Hemis: monastery (1630)
C4Padum: Trekking
C4Zanskar region: Trekking, +Phugtal monastery (10##)
JAMMU & KASHMIR
C3+Srinagar: Shah Hamdah mosque, Dal Lake, Jamia mosque, Makhdoom Saheb shrine, Dastgir Saheb
HIMACHAL PRADESH
C1Shimla/ Simla: Christ Church (1846)
C1+Sarahan: +Bhimakali temple (11##)
Key monastery
Tabo monastery
Dhankar: Pin Valley National Park (leopards, bears)
Sangam: Trekking in Pin Valley
Naggar: Trekking to Parvati Valley
Kalpa: Trekking in the Kinnaur region
Lahaul: Trekking in the Sacred Valley of Spiti to Chandra Tal lake
UTTARANCHAL
Valley of Flowers National Park (flowers and butterflies)
Corbett Tiger Reserve
Rajaji National Park (tigers, leopards, bears)
Govind Wildlife Sanctuary (leopards, bears)
Gangotri: Trekking over the Garhwal hills to the source of the Ganges
Nanda Devi, India's second highest mountain
PUNJAB
C2+Amritsar: ++Harimandir Sahib/ Golden temple (1601)
Chandigarh: +Capital complex including LeCorbusier's High Court (1952) and Parliament Building with +cosmic roofscape (1962), Cactus garden (largest in Asia), +Jeanneret's Gandhi Bhavan in Punjab University
+Manali & Kulu Valley
RAJASTAN
-Alwar: MOosi Maharani ki Chhatri
-Shekhawati: havelis of Lachhmangarh and Fatehpur, Pushkar
++Jaisalmer: ++Fort (1156) with seven-storied palace complex, ++Jain temples (15##), ++Old town with ++Patwon Ki Haveli (1855), Salim Singh Haveli (1845), Nathmalji Haveli (1855)
B12++Jaipur: +Jantar Mantar Observatory (1734), +Hawa Mahal (1799), Jal Mahal (175#) in the lake, Ishtar Lat (1749), Jami Masjid, Tripolia Gate (1734), Chandra Maal (17##), +Johari Bazaar, +Govind Dev temple, ++Amber Fort (16##)
B1Bikaner: Junagarh Fort (1593)
B1Eshnok: Temple of rats
B9Udaipur: +Jag Niwas (1751) in the lake, +City Palace (15##-19##)
B9Kumbhalgarh: Fort (14##)
B9Nagda (near Udaipur): Jain temples (9##)
B9++Ranakpur: Surya temple (1250 AD), ++Adinatha temple (1439)
-Bundi: Garh Palace
B11-Ajmer: Dargah Sharif, Adhai-Din-ka-Jhonpra (12##),Jain temple
B2+Jodhpur: Umaid Bhavan palace (1944), +Meherangarh Fort (1459), Sardar Bazaar, Jaswant Thanda (189#)
B10Chittorgahr: Fort (15##)
B3++Mount Abu/ Dilwara temples: ++Vimala Vasahi (1045), +Luna Vasahi (1232), +Neminath/Tejpal temple (1230)
B3Rajastan desert
B3Sariska National Park (tigers)
B3Ranthambhore National Park (crocodiles, tigers)
B3Bharatpur: Keoladeo Ghana National Park (birds)
UTTAR PRADESH
-Ayodhya
B2Mathura/ Muttra (ancient Kushan capital): Mahaban, Godarbhan, Radhakund, Dig, Brindaban, Vishram Ghat, Museum (+Yaksha of Mauryan period)
C0Hardwar
A3++Agra: +Agra Fort (1573), ++Taj Mahal (1648), +Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah (1628), Jami Masijd (15##)
A3Sikandra: Mausoleum of Akbar (16##)
A4+Lucknow: Tomb of Saadat Ali Khan, Tomb of Khurshid Zadi, +Bara Imambara (17##), ruins of Qaiser Bagh palace (185#)
A5++Fatehpur-Sikri: +Panch Mahal (1585), +Diwan-i-khas (1585)
A6Allahabad
A7++Varanasi
A8+Sarnath: ruins of monastery complex (with Ashoka's Pillar of the Four Lions of 240 BC, but the lion capital of the Ashoka column is at the museum), +Dhamekh stupa (4##)
(A8)Jaunpur: Jami Masjid (14##)
DELHI
A1++Delhi: Luytens' Viceroy's House, National Museum, +Red Fort/ Lal Kila (1648), +Jami Masjid (1978, wildly overpriced and filthy), Puruna Qila, ++Humayun's Tomb (1570), Lyutens' Viceroy House (1924) Alai Darwaza gate (1311), Quwwat-ul-Islam (1192-1316), ++Qutb Minar (12##), Tuklakaban, Baha'i
A1Dudhwa National Park (tigers, leopards, rhinos)
BIHAR
A9Patna: +Pataliputra (7kms from Patna), ancient capital of the Maurya empire)
A9Lauriya-Nandangarh: Ashoka's column of 243 BC
A9+Bodh Gaya/ Bodhgaya/ Buddhgaya: +Mahabodhi Buddhist temple (5## AD) with carving on the railing from 1st c BC, Barabar caves, Vishnupad
A11+Nalanda: monastery (7th-12th c), temple 3 (5## AD) and university
A12Rajgir caves
A12Sasaram: +Mausoleum of Emperor Sher Shah Suri (1545)
GUJARAT
--Surat
-Dwarka
-Bhuj: Alna Mahal (1752)
B4+Junagadh: Fort, +Jain temple complex of Girnar Hill including the Neminath temple
B5Veraval
B6+Patan Somnath
B7Girnar
B8Ahmedabad: Old city, Calico Museum
B8+Modhera: +Sun temple (1026)
-Vadodara/ Baroda: Laxmi Vilas palace (1890)
-Bhavnagar: Velavadar National Park (delta region)
++Palitana: Shatrunjaya sanctuary (1550 AD) with more than 800 Jain sanctuaries and shrines starting with the lower Adinath temple (16##) and the circular +Neminath temple, +Bala Vasami, +Sheth Moti Shaw Tonk, +upper Adinath temple
Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (lions, leopards, crocodiles)
-Little Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary (desert region)
Nal Sarovar Sanctuary (birds)
MADHYA PRADESH
E13+Mandu/Mandogarh: +Hindola Mahal (149#), +Jahaz Mahal (149#), Shah's tomb (1440), caves of Bagh
E14++Sanchi: ++Great Stupa (2nd c BC) with gates (35 BC): ++southern gate (oldest, Buddha's miracle, crowned by a wheel of law), +eastern gate (young Gautama leaving his father's place), +western gate (seven incarnations of the Buddha and the Buddha preaching his first sermon); +Stupa 2 (2nd c BC) with surrounding +stone balustrade; +Stupa 3 (2nd c BC) with only one gate; +Ashoka Pillar (pillar #10) near the southern gate of the Great Stupa (the capital is in the museum); ruins of a Gupta temple (4th c AD), one of the earliest in India
E14Jabalpur: Kanha National Park (tigers, leopards), Bandhavgarh National Park (tigers)
-Mahoba
E15++Khajuraho: +Chitragupta temple (1000), ++Lakshmana temple (954), ++Kandarya Mahadeva temple (1000) with +celestial deities Devi Jagdamba, Jain temple +Parshvanatha (10th c)
E16+Gwalior: +Gwalior Fort (1516) with +Jain sculptures and +Teli-ka-Mandir (8##), Temple with the number 270 etched (Vishnu temple on the path up to Gwalior fort), oldest representation of zero
-Dholpur
+Orchha: +Jahangiri Mahal (1626), Raj Mahal (1560), Rai Praveen Mahal (16##)
-Shivpuri: Cenotaph of Malhavrao Scinda
Deogarh: Jain frieze of Kandali Fort
MAHARASHTRA
E7Mumbai/Bombay: High Court, Gateway of India, Rajabal clock tower in Bombay University, Prince of Wales Museum, Victoria Terminus/ Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (1888), BMC Building, -Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mukesh Ambani's house (27-storey building) on Altamount Road
E7+Elephanta/Gharapuri cave (550 AD, hypostile hall, ++Three-headed Trimurti SadaShiva or Shiva Maheshvara of 8th c); southern sculptures of Kalyanasundara, Gangadhara, Ardhanariswara, Uma Maheswara; western sculptures of Nataraja and Andhakaasuravadamoorthy; eastern sculptures of Yogiswara and Ravanaanugrahamurthy
E6Lonavla/Lonavala: +Karla/Karli cave (+Chaitya Hall of 1st c BC with relief of 6th AD), +Bhaja caves (+Chaitya Hall of 1st c BC, oldest Buddhist rock temple art), Bedsa
E5-Poona/Pune
E8Kanheri: cave temples (150 BC)
E9Nasik: Pandu Lena caves (50 AD)
E10Aurangabad: caves (5##-6##, especially Cave 1 of 1st c AD and +Cave 7), Bibi ka Maqbara (1678)
E11+++Ellora: caves (600 AD) +Cave 21 (59#) facade and Dancing Shiva, +Cave 29 (650) Shiva and Parvati, Cave 15 Vishnu-lion, Facade and colossal Buddha of Cave 10, Chapel of Cave 15, Jain Cave 31, +Jain Cave 32 (950), Cave 11, Cave 12, deities of Cave 14, +Parsvanatha in Jain Cave 6 of 9th c, +++Kailasa (773 AD)
E12++Ajanta: caves (450 AD), Cave 1 painting of 600 AD, Cave 2 facade and frescoes, Cave 9 facade, Cave 10 fresco and largest chaitya of 1st c BC (oldest cave), Cave 16 fresco and sculptures of maidens, +Cave 17 frescoes and Buddha sculptures, +Cave 19 facade of 6th c AD and sculpture of Nagaraja of 550, ++Cave 26 interior of 642 AD, sculptured and giant sleeping Buddha
-Vasai (Bassein)
-Daulatabad: Deogiri fort
-Khulidabad: Rauza
Navagaon National Park (leopards, bears, birds)
GOA
D13Goa: Panaji's Church of Our Lady, Old Goa's Basilica de Bom Jesus (1594)
D13-Ponda: Hindu temples
D13-Rachol: Church of St Ignatius Loyola
KARNATAKA
D10+Mysore/Maisur: Henry Irwin's +Amba Vilas Palace (1912), +Infosys' campus
D10Murudeshwar: Giant Shiva statue
+Somnathpur: +Keshava temple (1268 AD)
D12+Hampi: +Vijayanagar (15##, +Vitthala temple, Pampapati Svani temple)
E4++Badami (ancient Chalukya capital called Vatapi): caves (+Cave 3 of 578 AD with finely decorated brackets, Cave 1 with Shiva panel) with the carvings are 81 dance poses of Nataraja; Sanskrit inscription from 543; temples of the hill: lower Azar/Loval Shivalaya temple (6##), upper Malegitti Shivalaya (610, Viaishnavite temple, roof, sculpture of Shiva); temples of the lake: Buthanatha temple (5th c), Mallikarjuna temple (10##)
E4+Pattadakal: +Virupaksha temple (725 AD), Sangameshvara temple (725), Mallikarjuna temple (745, relief carving), Papanatha temple (7##)
E4++Aihole (ancient capital of Chalukya): +Ladh Khan temple (600 AD), Durga temple (725 AD), Hutchimalli Temple (5th c), Meguti Temple (634), Ravala Phadi Cave (59#)
D10+Hassan: +Halebid (ancient Hoysala capital) with +Hoysaleshvara temple (1150), Belur's +Chennakeshava temple (1117) with 16th c gopura
E3Bijapur: Citadel, +Gol Gumbad (1656), third largest dome in the world, +Ibrahim Roza mausoleum (1620)
D11Bangalore: Vidhana Soudha (1956), +Infosys campus
D11Shravanabelagola: +giant Bahubali statue of the Jains
-Bidar: Fort
-Belgaun
ORISSA
A15++Bhubaneswar: +Parashurameshvara temple (65# AD), Vaital Deul (65#, with guardian nymphs), +Mukteshvara temple (100# AD), ++Rajarani temple (100# AD) with Lady Under a Tree, +Lingaraja temple (1104#), +Brahmeshvara temple (1075 AD), Dhauli carved rock (250 BC), +Udayagiri Jain Caves (100 BC, Caves 1,3,10,12,14) and Hindu caves (Cave 5 of 400 AD), Kudaigiri (Cave 3), Rani Gumpha Jain monastery (1## BC)
--Jaugarh: carved rock
--Lalitgiri: monastery
--Ratnagiri (7th - 11th c): monastery
--Khandur: Jain caves
A16++Konarak: Sun temple (1240 AD)
A17+Puri: Jagannath temple (11##)
A17Balasore: Similipal National Park (tigers, elephants, crocodiles, leopards, birds)
ANDHRA PRADESH
E2++Hyderabad: Falaknuma palace (1872), +Charminar (1591), Golconda fort (citadel of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, 1507-1687), Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, Birla Mandir
-Nagarjunakonda: Bodhishri Chaitya
-Tirupati: Shri Venkateshvara temple
+Amravati: Maha Chaitya (3##), Buddhist sculptures
TAMIL NADU
D1Chennai/Madras: Pantheon Complex, St Andrew's Kirk, Fort St George, Archeological Museum (+bronze gallery)
D2+Kanchipuram (ancient capital of Pallava): +Kailasanatha temple (720 AD), Vaikunta Perumal (750 AD), Ekambareshvara (1506) with six-headed Kartileya, Deva Rajaswami (a few kms from town)
D3 ++Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram): ++Panch Rathas (630 AD, Dharmaraja, Bhima, Draupadi, Arjuna, Nakula-Sahadeva), +Shore/Arjuna temple (700 AD), +Relief of Arjuna's Penance (7th c), +Relief of Krishna Mandapa (7th c), Tiger cave, Varaha cave (7th c)
D3 Tiruvannamalai: Arunachaleshvara temple (1500)
D4Gingee Fort: Kalyana Mahal
D4+Chidambaram: +Nataraja temple (8##)
D4Pondicherry
D4Kumbakonam: temples around the Mahamaham tank, +Darasuram's Airavateshvara temple (11##)
D5++Thanjavur: ++Brihadiswara temple (1000 AD) and linga gallery, Subrahmanja temple (16##), Seven-storied observation tower of the Royal Palace (16##), Calimere Bird Sanctuary
D5Tiruvallur: Sri Vaidhya Veeraraghava Swami temple
D6++Tiruchirapalli (Trichy): +Shrirangam/ Sri Rangam/ Srirangam (sacred island with Ranganatha of 13th-17th c on 60 acres, biggest functioning Hindu temple in the world), +Jambukeshvara (16## AD), Venugopala (1270), Ucchi Pillayar Koil/ Rock Fort temple with cave temples (upper cave of the 7th c with ++Gangadhara panel and lower cave of the 8th c)
D7++Madurai (ancient capital of the Pandyas 7th-13th century): ++Minakshi Sundareshvara (1659)
D8Ootacamund
D8Rameshvaram: Ramanathaswamy temple
D8Suchindram: Sthanumalaya temple
D8Tirunelvelli: Kanthimathi Nellaiyappar temple
-Vellore: Fort
Suchindram: Sthanumalaya temple of 18th c
Chengalpattu: Vedantangal Bird Sanctuary
-Pollachi: Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary
Chilka Lake (one million birds)
-Udhagamandalam: Hiking across the Nilgiris to the Mukurthi volcano
KERALA
D9Kochi/Cochi: Paradesi synagogue (1604), Fort (1503, with oldest European church in India), Mattancherry Palace (1555)
-Thiruvananthapuram/Trivandrum: Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple, Padmanabhapuram Palace
Periyar tiger reserve
Western Ghats forests
--Calicut
-Rameswaran
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
Silent Valley National Park (orchids, tigers, elephants, bears)
Kollan: backwater boat tour to Alappuzha
-Eravikulam National Park
SRI LANKA
SL +Anuradhapura: Thuparama Dagaba (3rd c BC, oldest stupa in Sri Lanka), +Seated Buddha (6th c AD), +Jetawanarawa (3rd c AD, tallest stupa), ++Ruvanveli Mahaseya (2nd c BC, holiest stupa)
SL +Polonnaruva: +Sacred Quadrangle (12th c) with +Vatadage (1187), +Gal Vihara (12th century)
SL Mihintale
SL +Sigiriya: Royal palace of 5th c AD, Royal gardens (earliest extant gardens in Asia), Buddhist caves of 3rd-1st c BC
SL +Dambula/ Dhambulla: +Rock temple (founded in 1st c BC, with statues and paintings of the 12th-18th centuries)
SL Arthalanthaya
SL Yapahuwa
SL Aluvihara

PAKISTAN

Lahore
Karachi
Karakorum Highway
++Harappa
++Mohenjo-Daro
Peshawar (Kanishka's stupa of 2nd c AD, virtually impossible to visit, the ruins are located outside the Gunj Gate of the old Walled City of Peshawar and is called Akhunabad)

BANGLADESH

Dhaka: Dhakeshwari (Hindu temple of 12th century), Bangladesh National Museum, Louis Kahn's +National Assembly/ Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, Ahsan Manjil, Lalbag Fort and tomb
Dhaka Division: Wari-Bateshwar (fort city of 450 BC, 75km northeast of Dhaka)
Dhaka Division: Savar: Jatiyo Sriti Soudho national monument (1982)
Rajshahi Division (north): Paharpur's Buddhist monastery with 8th-century +Somapuri Vihara (near Bogra, 270 km from Dhaka)
Rajshahi Division (north): +Dinajpur: Kantojiu (Hindu temple of 1702)
Rajshahi Division (north): Mahasthangarh (earliest urban archaeological site in Bangladesh)
Khulna Division (southwest): +Sundarbans (wild life such as tiger, monkey and crocodiles, the world's largest Mangrove forest)
Khulna Division (southwest): Bagerhat (300 kms east of Dhaka, +Shait Gumbad Mosque and several other mosques of a 15th century lost city)
Chittagong Division (southeast): Cox's Bazar (world's longest sea-beach)
Chittagong Division (southeast): StMartin's Island (coral island)
Chittagong Division (southeast): Comilla: Mainamati (Buddhist monastery of 12th century, 100 kms east of Dhaka)
Chittagong Division (southeast): Rangamati (nature)
Sylhet Division (northeast): Srimangal (tea gardens)
Sylhet Division (northeast): Lawachara National Park (160 kms northeast of Dhaka, border with Burma)


BHUTAN


Thimpu: Trashi Chhoe Dzong
Paro: Rimpung Dzong/ Fortress of the Heap Of Jewels, Kichu Lhakhang Monastery, and hike (2 hours) to +Taktshang Monastery/ Tiger's Nest Monastery
Punakha Dzong

MALDIVES


Male: Hukuru Miskiiy (mosque of 1656, forbidden to non-Muslims), Islamic Centre with a mosque topped with a golden dome
More than one thousand islands

Pictures of India


Map (click twice):


Combining itineraries:
  • C0 meets with A1
  • Clast meets with A1
  • B1 meets with A1 or C2
  • Blast meets with A1
  • Alast meets with E1
  • Dlast meets with E7 or E4
  • D1 meets with E1

My 1997 North India itinerary
My 2007 South India and Sri Lanka itinerary
My 2012 Bangladesh and Maldives trip
My 2013 trip to North India
A planned trip to India's parks
Summary of Indian art periods
Warnings
  • The mother of all warnings about India: you will have to walk barefoot on the filthy floors of mosques and temples (bird poop and all).
  • Consider visiting the Sunderban from Bangladesh instead of India: visas to Bangladesh can be obtained upon arrival at Dhaka airport (visas to India are a bureaucratic nightmare as of 2013)
  • Beware of Bhutan: Bhutan must be the greediest, most materialist country in the world. Not only are you forced to pay an extraordinary amount of money per day (regardless of what you do) but remember that it does not include tips, which are expected by drivers and guides ($15/day). It is polite of them to initially refuse the tip, but they will take it if you insist, which they expect you to. If you travel alone, there is a "single supplementary charge" per day. There is a fee for the visa. There is a "Tourism Development Service" feee. And so forth. Bhutan claims that there is a quota on how many tourists are allowed in, but i still have to meet a single person who was denied a "tour" because of the quota: it is just a very effective marketing trick; and Indian citizens can come and go as they wish. More likely your problem will be to find a seat on a flight to Bhutan, as there are very few visitors who can afford these prices, and therefore very few flights. Technically speaking, there is a bus from Kolkata (India): the bus journey terminates in Phuntsholing (south Bhutan); but the government of Bhutan requires that foreigners (except Indians) either enter or exit Bhutan on one of Druk Air's wildly overpriced flights (in other words, they want to rob you either coming in or going out). Other than the outrageous prices, Bhutan is a regular place, and in fact quite westernized (plenty of Internet cafes, WiFi, satellite tv, paved roads, airports). That said, there are literally hundreds of registered tour companies operating in Bhutan who will be happy to take your money. In 2015 the official list was at http://www.tourism.gov.bt/directory/tour-operator. What to expect in Bhutan: a lot of traffic, as in most developing countries; throngs of tourists (Bhutan is especially popular in the USA); Wifi in every hotel and restaurant; cellular phone signal everywhere; good food (especially vegetarian); a way more Westernized lifestyle you think; and a lot of unhappy people (i think every single person was unhappy about something). The weather is mild even in winter (i hiked in a t-shirt to Tiger's Nest on a January 2nd).
  • There are three passes between India and Tibet but the government of mainland China kept them closed for decades and even now (2013) they are basically open only for locals: Shipki La Pass between Himachal Pradesh and Ngari (that reopened in 1994), Lipulekh Pass between Uttarkhand and Ngari (that reopened in 1992), and Nathu La Pass between Sikkim and Shigatse (that reopened in 2006). The only way for non-Indians and non-Chinese to get to Tibet is via Nepal or by flying to Lhasa or Kunming.