The ultimate adventure in India: 6 destinations you’d be crazy to miss

Few countries are as dazzling and exotic as India. Here are our expert recommendations for an incredible trip
Tourist visiting Hawa Mahal palace (Palace of the Winds) famous Rajasthan tourism landmark. Photo: Shutterstock
Tourist visiting Hawa Mahal palace (Palace of the Winds) famous Rajasthan tourism landmark. Photo: Shutterstock

Tourists visiting Hawa Mahal palace (Palace of the Winds), a famous Rajasthan landmark. Photo: Shutterstock

Could there be any other country that offers such a diverse and dazzling array of colourful, exotic and unique sights and experiences as India?

I'd doubt it. India is one of the most fascinating and crazily captivating destinations in the world to travel in. India offers a lifetime of unique adventures, and one of the best things about India, and something that keeps travellers returning again and again, is the diversity of this incredible country – from the snow-capped peaks of the mighty Himalayas to the desert forts and palaces of Rajasthan; to the tropical beaches and backwaters of Kerala and some of the world’s most buzzing cities home to ancient temples and intriguing architecture.  

But with such a diverse plethora of incredible sights and places to see in this huge country, it’s a real challenge to narrow it down to the best, most unmissable destinations. The ultimate adventure in India should showcase all that this magical country has to offer and give you an insight into the rich culture and heritage, while also ticking off India’s most iconic sights.

With that in mind here are six things to do in India that you’d be crazy to miss.

1. The iconic Taj Mahal in Agra

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. You simply can't visit India without seeing the stunning symmetry and gleaming white marble of the famous Taj Mahal, India's most iconic sight. Visit the Taj at sunrise for the most ethereal experience and to understand why this magical monument to love is believed to be the most beautiful building in the world. The Taj lives up to the hype, but you'll have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.

Want to tick the Taj Mahal off your bucket list? Insight Guides can take you there

2. Exploring the flamboyant forts and palaces of Jaipur in Rajasthan

The desert state of Rajasthan is India at its most colourful and flamboyant, making it an ideal stop on your adventure. Rajasthan is also known as ‘the land of the Maharajas,’ and it’s a state packed with history, ancient forts, extravagant places and colourful bazaars that you simply can’t miss.

Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, is known as ‘The Pink City’ and is a highlight as well as a gateway to this intoxicating state. Jaipur is home to the Hawa Mahal, a pinky coloured palace covered in hundreds of honeycomb-like little windows from where the women of the royal household would look out over the city. The majestic Amber Fort, arguably the most impressive in all of India, is also located in Jaipur. There’s a fabulous city palace and an ancient observatory here, too.

Ready to take off to Rajasthan? Our local experts can handle the details


3. Cruise along the tropical backwaters of Kerala

The laid-back and luscious state of Kerala in the South of India is a complete contrast to the craziness of North India. Here tropical jungles, spice plantations, hill stations, rolling tea plantations, gorgeous beaches and wildlife sanctuaries take centre stage. 

No visit to Kerala would be complete without taking a cruise along the beautiful backwaters in a rice barge that has been converted into a houseboat. (It's definitely one of the top things to do in India.) Drifting along the river under the gently swaying palm trees, tucking into a fragrant fish curry and watching the local riverside life carry on as it's done for centuries is one of the most relaxing and unmissable experiences you can have in India. Don’t miss Kerala!

Magical Kerala awaits. Let us take you there...

Houseboat in backwater of Kerala. Photo: ShutterstockHouseboat in the backwaters of Kerala. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Sunrise on the holy Ganges in Varanasi

India has attracted spiritual seekers since time immemorial, and the holiest city in India is the ancient city of Varanasi on the banks of the holy Ganges River. Hindus believe that being cremated in Varanasi releases you from the cycle of death and rebirth. Visiting Varanasi is quite an experience for all the senses, and seeing the cremation ghats along the river is a sight that you won't soon forget.

There's also a nightly ceremony you can experience, but undoubtedly the most serene experience in Varanasi is taking a boat ride along the holy river at sunrise; the ghats are bathed in a magical dewy glow, and you can see all the rituals of life and death played out along the river bank.

Let Insight Guides plan your adventure to Varanasi

5. Experience the buzz of Mumbai (Bombay)

At first India’s crowded megalopolises can feel overwhelming, but once you get used to it the buzz and colour of the big cities become contagious. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is a frantic, buzzing, ambitious and captivating slice of Indian city life that you should experience if you want to understand more about the culture and contrasts of modern India. 

There’s so much to do in Mumbai, but one of the things I love the most is the way the beautiful but romantically crumbling colonial architecture, a relic of Bombay’s time as part of the British Raj, contrasts with modern malls and skyscrapers that show off how India is hurtling into the future. Bombay is also home to Bollywood, the city’s loud and colourful film industry that produces more films than Hollywood.

6. Soak up the serenity of the Golden Temple in Amritsar

As India is a country known for its amazing temples and intense spirituality, you simply can't visit India without seeing at least one mind-blowing temple. Amritsar is home to one of the most spectacular temples in India, and in fact the world.

The awe-inspiring Golden Temple is the holiest temple for the Sikhs but anyone and everyone is welcome here; in fact, an army of volunteers work in the kitchens here to provide over 100,000 free vegetarian meals every day. It certainly tops the list of best things to do in India.

Apart from the stunning architecture at the Golden Temple, it’s also a really beautiful experience to just soak up the special, serene atmosphere along with the colourful and friendly pilgrims who visit here, who are a delight to photograph and chat to. Visiting this amazing temple is an unforgettable highlight of any trip to India, you may even love it more than the Taj Mahal!

Sikh men visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Photo: ShutterstockSikh men visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Photo: Shutterstock

Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

Of course, these are just some highlights of an Indian adventure. India is a massive country with so much to see that it would really take a lifetime to see it all, but these destinations are a good place to start to give you a taste of the diversity and breadth of attractions that India has to offer. 

Who knows? You may even fall in love with this crazy but endearing country and find yourself returning again and again...

Anna Phipps is a writer, dreamer, digital nomad and travel addict from the UK who quit her job in December 2012 to pursue her dreams of a life of travel and adventure. Anna fell in love with India and has spent two years travelling slowly, independently and on a budget across the country. Her blog Global Gallivanting is a ‘go to’ site for tips on travelling in India as well as advice on living a location-independent lifestyle. You can also keep up to date with Anna’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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