Must See Places in India

India is extremely diverse & each place you travel to is going to be very different. From the Himalayan Range in the North to the desert in the West to the tropical waterways of the South you’re going to see breathtaking views, taste some fabulous food, and meet some incredible people.

Here are the places I’ve personally been and think you HAVE to visit if you’re in India.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Duh! You can’t go to India and not see the Taj Mahal.  It’s one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, and it does not disappoint.  I recommend buying an Indian Sari beforehand, you can find many places to buy them in Agra.

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(picture by Autumn Shipp)

The easiest way to get to Agra is from New Delhi, the capitol of India.

New Delhi

Even though I wouldn’t suggest staying in New Delhi for longer than 3-5 days, I think it is a must do! When I went, my husband and I did an 8-hr guided tour to all the main attractions in Delhi. Our tour consisted of: Lotus temple, Qutab Minar, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, India Gate, and in the Old Delhi region Jama Masjid, Spice Market, Chandani Chowk Market. There was so much to do on this day that I would recommend breaking it up into 2 days.  You want to ensure that you have enough time to wander around Old Delhi and take in everything. I recommend taking a rickshaw around the market-it’s an experience!

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(picture by Autumn Shipp)

Another thing, when we were in New Delhi we were with a group of 17 other people. We loved having the AC bus take us everywhere, and the historical information the guide provided about the sites was nice, but if we were on our own we omit the guide and just pay for a tuk tuk or AC car for the day.

For another day we recommend visiting Hauz Kauz Village. It’s a medium-sized market located in a more developed part of New Delhi.  The village sits right next to a lake and park. We walked around the park before going into the village.  It’s a nice quiet place to relax from all the New Delhi noises.  Be sure to keep hold of your food and bags because there are monkeys roaming around the park! In Hauz Kauz Village you have to go to lunch at Socials! It’s got a lot of style and the food is superb! The menu includes a wide variety of food including: Indian, Mediterrean, Tibetan, American, and more!

For the best  accommodations, you have to stay at Sai Villa in Greater Kailash-2 area. Such a clean hotel with the best service possible.  I personally know the owner, Ashutosh, and believe me he makes sure his guests are happy and treated the way a guest should be!

McLeod Gang

Undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist places in Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj is the most important part of Himachal Pradesh region. It is located high on the hilltops and offers breathtaking views. McLeod Gang is the residence of The Dalai Lama, a walk through the Dali Lama Temple is a must. On your way to the temple you will pass by many markets, they are really fun & offer great souvenirs. Like always though, bargain hard!

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(picture by Autumn Shipp)

A few meters away from downtown McLeod Gang is the road to Bhagsunag Waterfall and Shiva Cafe. Although the journey to the falls could hardly be called a trek, it still deserves a place on your list. At around 30 mins walk each way, Bhagsunag isn’t out of reach for anyone. There are a very steep stretches, but kids, families and those who don’t really enjoy walking will still find their way here. The water will be cold as it was snow not so long ago, but don’t let that stop you from at least dipping in your toes.

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(picture by Autumn Shipp)

Overall, our favorite thing to do here was to hike the Triund Trek. It’s about a 20-30 minute bumpy journey by taxi car from downtown McLeod Gang.  This camping trek is a bit more of a challenge so be sure to bring plenty of water. People will tell you that you need a guide, but in actuality you do not.  At the beginning of the path we did need to provide them with one passport number for our group.  Not sure why, but we did it anyway.  The path is very clear and noticeable the entire way up. If you want to camp out, you’ll need a guide as they’ll organize your camping equipment.

The trek is an amazing journey as the bright green grass of Triund’s rocky landscape contrasts beautifully with the towering peaks directly in front. Make sure to purchase lunch from the nomads living in a tarp-constructed cafe. It was the best Maggie & chocolate chip cookies we ate in all of India!

If you find yourself with enough time, visit Kangra Fort. It’s about a 45 minute from McLeod Gang, but the views are worth it.  Leave yourselves at least 1.5 hours to explore and take pictures.

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(picture by Autumn Shipp)

Jaipur

Jaipur is commonly known as the “Pink City” and has a population of 4 million. Jaipur is known for its fascinating monuments and colorful markets as well as it’s textiles.

A composite ticket will cover your entrance fees for five of Jaipur’s major monuments: Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall (Central Museum), Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort and Nahargarh Fort. The ticket costs Rs 200 for student foreigners and is valid for two days.  If you’re not a student it might be worth trying to get the lower price.  We talked with backpackers who showed them their bus pass and somehow they accepted it.  My husband showed his online school account, and I showed a printing pass that I had in my wallet. Again, they accepted it.  This ticket is available at the booking counter of all of the five venues.

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We also suggest stopping at the water palace on your way to Amber Fort.  It’s a quick pull off and cool to see. One of the places recommended online and by tour guides is the Monkey Temple, but in my personal opinion it is nothing special to see…just another place busy with monkeys. However, after the long walk up passing many cows and stray dogs, it does offer good views of the city.

We stayed at Hotel Kalyan and loved it! There is an amazing rooftop restaurant that we found ourselves at often as it was very relaxing.

Jaisalmer

An overnight train ride from Jaipur is Jaisalmer.  It is located in the heart of the Thar Desert and is known as the “Golden City.” It’s distinguished by its yellow sandstone architecture, and is beautiful! We were only here for one night & two days, but wished we would have stayed one more night. We booked an overnight camel safari tour with the The Desert Ship. No matter who you book with this is an experience not to miss.  Cooking dinner and sleeping under the desert stars is a feeling you can’t replace.  We thought that 1 hour riding on the camel in the evening and morning was great- no more is needed because you get saddle sore real quick.

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Varanasi

There is nothing quite like the city of Varanasi.  It is the holiest city in India, and you can tell in every way. Varanasi is located next to the Ganges River. Everyday hundreds of people go to a Ghat and wash themselves in the Ganges River.  They soak their clothes, swish their mouthes, and even drink the water. It’s really amazing to witness their spirituality and conviction while doing this.  You can just see how special and holy this is for them.

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One of the most interesting things is that people from all over India come here to cremate their deceased family members & pour their ashes into the Ganges river. To Hindus, cremation is an extremely important ritual.  They believe it releases an individual’s spiritual essence from its transitory physical body so it can be reborn.

Even if you’re not religious, I highly recommend putting Varanasi on your travel list if you’re in India! Make sure to go to the night ceremony held at the main Ghat in the city.  We experienced it twice, both on the boat and standing up.  The boat was the best in our opinion.

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Kochi

We actually didn’t end up going to Kochi due to the flooding.  The airport was closed & so we got a refund and flew to Sri Lanka early. We were bummed because we thought the South looked awesome! It’s known for its sunset strolls and boat rides through the islands just offshore.

Below I have included our 1 month India itinerary including the mode of transportation we took. We would definitely have included Udaipur to our itinerary if we had the time.

City How Long Transportation
New Delhi 4 days Airplane from US
Dharamshala 2 weeks Bus from Delhi
New Delhi Airport 1 day Bus from Dharamshala
Jaipur 3 days Metro from airport to train station
Jaisalmer 2 days Overnight train from Jaipur
Varanasi 4 days Flight from Jaisalmer
*Kochi/Alappuzha 4 days Flight from Varanasi
Flight home or in our case Sri Lanka

Enjoy your time in India, you’re going to love it!

 

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