It’s so hard to write this post and narrow down my favorite places here but I get asked about the best places to visit in India from readers and usually email them my favorites, so figured I should put it in a blog post. There are epic tourist places in India that are worth seeing but there are also some smaller towns that I’ve loved to go to and had amazing experiences at.
It’s not just about seeing the famous places in India, it’s about having cool experiences there – taking tours, cooking classes, trying massages, all of it! You can fill all your time with forts, palaces, and historical places in India but make sure that you really look around and see the beauty and go out and explore it! If you like my tips and want more, I actually wrote an ebook about how to travel India that literally covers everything (it’s the size of a novel but a fast read that will make you SO excited and prepared for your trip to India).
From the tea fields to the beaches, I’ve spent five years traveling around this amazing country – here are my favorites for travelers who have no choice but to limit their destinations. I’ll give some travel tips at the end of the article as well. I won’t say too much about each place – you can click through on each one to read more details from my blog posts on them.
30 Best Places to Visit in India
Varanasi is by far the most unique place I’ve been in the entire world. This is where many Hindus come to be cremated, along the Ganges River. You will see sadhu’s like the man above, with human ashes on them. Here are some tips on what to expect at the burning ghats, and some general Varnasi travel tips.
2. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is world famous and a must-visit India landmark for a reason – it’s stunning! I hated being there I have to admit (you are herded like cattle through huge crowds if it’s busy but here are some tips for a Taj Mahal day trip, like showing up for sunrise and saying no to photos.)
3. Anjuna / Vagator
Anjuna, my home of the last five years, is the land of hippie vibes and the end of the hippie trail in the 60-70’s. Many foreigners came here, burnt their passports, and lived naked on the beach. Those days are gone but some of them are still here and the music, parties, yoga retreats, and laid-back attitude have stuck around, too. Here’s my ultimate guide to North Goa, and you can buy my full e-book on Goa here.
4. Rann of Kutch
This is where you’ll find the huge salt plains in India. Make sure to visit at the right time (Nov-Feb) or you might show up to find it under water. You can experience local life here and see how artisans make traditional clothing. CN Journeyer called it the new fashion capital of India.
In Tawang, you can visit the largest working Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the world. This once was Tibet and the food, language, and people are Tibetan although now they are Indian. Come and learn about their culture! It’s gorgeous but very very cold since it’s Northeast India. It’s one of the highest places I’ve been to in India! Read up a bit about Tawang here.
6. Kaziranga National Park
There aren’t many rhinos left in the world (they are endangered) but this park has worked hard to repopulate them and keep them safe from poachers. Some people buy the horns for Chinese medicine, and poaching is a major issue. We got very close to the rhinos here and it was nothing but magical. Here’s my guide.
Darjeeling is known for it’s rolling tea fields. You might also know it from a certain Wes Anderson film…
It’s in West Bengal at the base of the Himalaya Mountains. This is where the Brits would come for vacation back when they were in control of India. Make sure you ride the toy train and check out this post for more things to do here.
8. BR Hills
This is short for Biligirirangana Hills, which is a protected area in Karnataka just near the Tamil Nadu border. This wildlife sanctuary has tigers but it has tribal people too, called the Soliga, and this is in my top 5 places I’ve ever been in India and maybe even in the world. It’s so unique.
Mysore is my favorite Indian city. There are so many parks, so little traffic, and the market is extraordinary! If you want to ease into India by starting in a small city, want to try Ayurveda, or do a yoga teacher training (the best school is here), this is where you want to be. You can also take amazing day trips from Mysore. This article has 7 must-dos in Mysore.
We all know by now that the Beatles and other celebs loved Rishikesh and came here to be with their guru and write. Still, it’s a place for yogis and hippies. The Ganges runs through the cute, busy, town and many tourists are here learning to teach yoga themselves. Here are my tips for Rishikesh.
Sikkim is nestled into the Himalayas on the East side of India, all the way up by Bhutan and Nepal. The views are out of this world and you can visit Monasteries, trek, raft, or just stroll around in the cute little town. A few tips for Sikkim, here.
The Golden Temple is in Amritsar, a unique Sikh temple (made of gold) that is the most stunning temple I’ve ever seen and a place that many make a pilgrimage to in their lives. You can also go to the Wagah border of Pakistan while you are here which is literally bizarre (please read this to know why). Here are some tips for visiting Amritsar.
India’s romantic white city has stolen my heart – I LOVE this city. It’s small and wraps around four lakes, with Lake Pichola being the most popular. You must stay in my favorite guesthouse there (a palace with lake views for under $50-$200 a night). Here is my guide to Udaipur. I am sure I’ll be back for the third time!
While Darjeeling is the most popular place to see the tea fields in India, Munnar/Chinnakanal was closer to me and is said to be just as beautiful. I loved visiting and seeing how the tea is made, the town is very cute with many adventure trekking options. Here are my tips on Chinnakanal.
The most epic place in India is Hampi, hands down. This is Jurassic Park meets the Flintstones with huge boulders you can just picture dinosaurs walking through! You should also visit nearby temples and caves of Badami and Aihole. Here are my tips for the top things to do in Hampi, which I have visited four times now!
image by Ashwin Kumar
One of the few places on this list I haven’t yet been to but am dying to see – of all the beauty of India, the photos of this state make me want to visit so badly! The state name translates to “abode of clouds”. From Shillong to the Living Root bridge, if you love nature this is for you! Read more tips here.
To be honest, Varkala doesn’t have a lot of charm but it’s a nice, cheap, beach town. While the shopping and food is mediocre, the views are beautiful, it’s way less crowded than Goa but just as Westernized and the surf is good.
Shimla is a very popular hill station town in the Himalayas on the west side of India. It is stunning and it is a VERY small town. This was a vacation place for the British back in the day and today is a popular honeymoon destination in India. Here is my experience there.
While wandering around Rajasthan, you should absolutely make the trip out to Jaisalmer, near the Pakistan border. Here you can be in a city that seems like it’s made only out of the sand, with a huge fort towering over it, and go out on a camel safari in the Thar Desert. Here are tips for Jaisalmer, and here some tips for the camel safari.
I’m sure you’ve seen the backwaters of Kerala in photos, and I have to say it IS truly as stunning as it looks. I’m more into staying a day on the boat rather than overnight, but I loved going down the river and watching the birds. Here is what to expect on a houseboat overnight.
22. Ziro Valley
In Northeast India, in a small state called Arunachal Pradesh, you’ll find Ziro Valley – it’s where the Apatani tribe live and it’s unbelievable. They worship the moon and sun, traditionally, although some are now converted to Christianity. It’s something you would picture from Nat Geo. I am so lucky to have visited! You can stay overnight and I recommend going before it becomes a UNESCO site and gets more tourists, as now it’s permit-only and fewer people go. Here’s my article about Ziro.
23. The Andaman Islands
I have not yet ventured to these islands as I always need to do a visa run when I can afford the flights, and leave India. These are the epitome of perfection: white sand, clear water – basically like the Seychelles or Maldives. Here are some do’s and don’ts for visiting.
Leh is said to be the most beautiful place not just in India, but in the world. You can trek through the snowy mountains, see crystal clear glacial lakes, or go on a safari to try and spot a snow leopard. Read up on some Leh tips here.
This is like nowhere else in India, and the thing to do here is to sleep on a houseboat on Dal Lake. Unlike seeing the topical views from your houseboat in Alleppey, here you’ll see the Himalaya mountains. If you’re worried about safety, check out this article.
Jodhpur is India’s blue city and I have visited twice. I love this city – it’s highly populated but it’s got a small town vibe with its little alleys that even rickshaws can’t fit through. If you like photography, it’s a must. There’s a fort as well overlooking the town. Here’s my Jodhpur guide. I highly recommend visiting the Bishnoi people on a tour.
image via Ankur P
This area of land is in West Bengal and is one of the natural wonders of the world due to the huge mass of mangroves. If you’re into nature, safaris, etc you will love this – it’s not too far from Calcutta and the Ganges runs through it (to give you an idea how big that river is!). Here are some travel tips.
Of all the naturally beautiful places in Karnataka (the gem of India in my opinion), Coorg is my favorite. I loved finding secret waterfalls, eating Pandi curry, and trying the local (strong) drip coffee. My homestay even had homemade wine! Here are some tips for visiting Coorg, some more tips, and a list of 11 things to do in Coorg here (can you tell I liked visiting!?)
29. McLeod Ganj
I will never forget visiting Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj when the Dalai Lama was there. I listened to him speak for hours (read about that here). This is where many Tibetans came to live in exile and is the home of the Dalai Lama. Here are some tips for McLeod Ganj.
Manali is kind of like Goa in the mountains. It’s seasonal, has very hippie vibes, and you could just chill at the many cafe’s run by expats – OR you can go trekking, paragliding, and be really adventurous! Here are some cool things to do in Manali and a guide I wrote.
A few related articles on India travel to help you get started
I hope you’ll be excited to visit what I consider the best places to visit in India, and be sure to read up on some travel tips before you head off. Here are some blog posts you might like:
- Group tours I recommend in India
- 100 India travel tips
- My Ebook which has reviews and chapter breakdowns here.
Things to Remember Before You Visit India
- Packing for India, I have a few guides:
- Cheap flights: I use Kiwi.com and that link will explain why I like them.
- Journey insurance for India: I use World Nomads. That link shows you what is and is not covered.
- You must have a visa. You can use iVisa and read this guide to see what you need.
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