Welcome to India, the land of surprises - Part 1
Welcome to India, the land of surprises. The beautiful and fabled land is known for its deeply traditional customs but is also endlessly surprising. It’s the one destination that ends up on every traveler’s bucket list. This country has an extreme history and enormous diversity. For many foreign nationals, India is considered the world's most colorful, cultural, chaotic, and spiritual country. And some come to seek cultural and spiritual influences.
India’s traditional architecture and beautiful landscapes also enchant tourists.
And the first thing which pops up when one thinks about India is the Taj Mahal. Everyone dreams of going to Agra (the city where the Taj Mahal stands) and adores its glory and magnificent architecture. Tourists also love to explore the beautiful royal palaces of Rajasthan, jaw-dropping landscapes in Rishikesh, or postcard-perfect beaches in Goa.
India is also known as the birthplace of yoga. Travelers from across the globe also visit the country to experience a yoga retreat.
But other than these famous places, there is no shortage of quirky attractions. India is crowned with the Himalayas and surrounded by three seas (the Arabian sea, Bay of Bengal, and Indian ocean). India is naturally adorned by beautiful hill stations, valleys, beaches, deserts, enchanting backwaters, and north-eastern tribes.
With big Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai, it is impossible to get bored exploring the temples, markets, and colorful streets of India’s biggest urban centers. Sometimes, it gets hard for travelers to narrow down the best places to visit during their next journey. There are numerous tourist places worth seeing, be it a small town, village, or famous place.
Also, India has more than 30 world heritage sites that are recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These places represent the natural and cultural heritage of India and are considered to be a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention. One can have fascinating experiences by taking tours, cooking classes, and trying authentic Indian massages.
Kashmir - A place like heaven
Kashmir is one of the most incredible places to visit in India. It is known for its natural beauty, which gives it the nickname "Heaven on Earth." Situated in the northern part of India, it is enclosed by the Himalayan range and comprises picturesque lakes, lush fruit orchards, verdant meadows, and deodar forests.
Though Kashmir is a bit controversial, as it is the subject of a dispute between India and Pakistan, this is still a place worth visiting. Over there one can do adventure activities like sightseeing, trekking, skiing, river rafting, and various other recreational activities. Even shopaholics and food lovers can enjoy their share as Kashmir has many options.
Delhi - The Capital of India
Coming a little down from the Northern part of India, you will land in Delhi, the capital of India. Most travelers land in Delhi first while visiting India. Delhi is both famous and infamous. The city is famous for its old history, monuments, and great architecture, but it's infamous for its notoriety and crime rate. But still, one must visit Delhi with all safety precautions because the city has lots to see, as the entire country’s history seems to have occurred there.
Delhi became the capital of India during the Mughal era, and it, therefore, comprises many Mughal monuments, which are a treat to see. There are around 175 monuments in Delhi. Some famous touristy places are Red Fort, Qutub Minar (Victory Tower), and Humayun’s Tomb, which are all listed as UNESCO World heritage sites.
Other tourist attractions are India Gate, Rajpath, and a memorial to honor the soldiers who fought and died during World War I and World War II. There are also beautiful religious places like the Lotus Temple, Akshardham temple, and Jama Masjid (Mosque), as well as Old Delhi markets for shopping like Chandani Chowk, which always attracts tourists.
Taj Mahal - The symbol of love
If you speak about India with anyone around the world, the first thing that comes to mind is the Taj Mahal. It is one symbol that represents all of India. The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous tourist destinations, which inspires millions of tourists to make a trip to Agra (in the state of Uttar Pradesh), which is around 3 hours away from the capital of India (Delhi). Agra tops the list of best places to visit in India as the city has the most famous attractions.
This immense building is made from white marble and was constructed between 1632 and 1653 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It is believed that the emperor built the building in his wife’s (Mumtaz Mahal’s) memory after she died due to illness.
Besides the Taj Mahal, the city also has Mughal monuments, like Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb and Akbar’s Mausoleum. There is also another UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Agra Fort. But the Taj Mahal is the only monument that attracts about 8 million visitors, making it the most visited place in India.
Rajasthan - A royal state
Towards the west side of India lies the state of Rajasthan, which translates to “Land of Kings.” It brims with the remainder of the kings and queens who ruled the state in past centuries. Rajasthan has the most magnificent palaces and stately forts, and there are still royal people living in some of them.
Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan has many lavish palaces that foreigners love to visit. It is also dubbed the "Paris of India," as the city glows with beautiful palaces like the Amber Palace, City Palace, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Jal Mahal, and Nahargarh.
In addition to palaces, tourists can have unique experiences of hot air ballooning, visiting antique jewelry museums, and traveling in e-rickshaws around the city. Rajasthan also has the seventh-largest desert, known as the Thar desert. It's also one of the best touristy places to visit. If one loves animal safaris, then one can visit Ranthambore National park, where one can see tigers in their natural habitat.
Jaipur, which is part of the Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit that includes Agra and New Delhi, is one of the top places to visit in Rajasthan.
Other cities like Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Bikaner also have palaces converted into hotels where one can experience staying in a royal palace. Jodhpur city is also known as the "Blue City," as most houses are painted blue, and it also has a beautiful hilltop palace called "Mehrangarh Fort." In contrast, the city of Udaipur is a romantic city with flower-lined streets and an unforgettable City Palace built on a lake, where royal families still live today. Another city, Jaisalmer, looks like a city of fairy tales with its beautiful yellow sandstone structures and historic Havelis (mansion). No matter where you land in Rajasthan, you will be captivated by its magic.
Varanasi - The oldest holy city
Varanasi is known as the oldest city inhabited in the world, and also the holiest place in India. Founded 25,00 years ago and known as Kashi at the time, it's considered the world’s oldest city. Most tourists come to see and perform spiritual activities. The city of Varanasi is based near the Ganges (a holy river), where pilgrims bathe and mourners cremate their deceased loved ones. There, people perform mostly Hindu spiritual traditions. Tourists can enjoy sunrise boat tours, tour the city, and buy authentic traditional clothes like Banarasi Sarees. In the evening, tourists can watch the fire-filled Hindu chanting ceremonies from the steep ghats.
The old area of the city is like a maze. Legend has it that there is still no accurate map of the city, so it's better to travel with a tour guide. One can visit numerous old temples and buy some local street food.
Rann of Kutch - India’s largest salt desert
The Great Rann of Kutch is located in the Thar Desert of the Kutch District in Gujarat state. It is a huge salt marsh, which is about 7500 km (4660 miles) in area, and it is one of the largest salt deserts in the world. Normally, tourists visit this place during the Rann Utsav (Festival), which starts in November. This annually organized festival offers visitors the opportunity to attend folk dances and music performances. One can also watch artisans at work and buy from them, and tourists can stay in a camp in the desert provided by the government. There are also villages where tourists can see historical monuments and visit places off the usual tourist trail.
India is so vast and historical that a single write-up cannot do justice. Therefore we will continue visiting more of India’s awesome touristy places in the next article. The journey continues...
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