India. A place of mystery, intrigue, allure... and wonderful, delightful chaos. India is home to an astonishing diversity of people, cultures, religions, languages, foods, and destinations.
We'd all love to spend ages exploring and discovering all of the subcontinent's wonders, but if you only get to visit ten sites, it should be these ten.
Unsurprisingly, the world-famous, spectacular Taj Mahal is number one on the list of sights to see when visiting India. This jaw-droppingly beautiful palace needs no introduction- you've seen pictures of it, read about it, seen it in films... but nothing can compare to the feeling of awe you will experience when you are standing in front of it. The mausoleum, magnificently fashioned from ivory-white marble, stands as a centuries-old testament to the love that the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had for his favourite wife, the Persian princess Mumtaz.
One of the holiest and most important religious sites of Sikhism, the Golden Temple gets its name from the pure gold plating that enrobes the upper part of the temple. It is known locally as the "Darbar Sahib" or "Harmandar Sahib", and is situated in Amritsar in Punjab. It is a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, in which people of all faiths, or even those with no faiths, are welcome. Surrounded by a man-made lake, the site exudes a sense of peace and tranquility that is synonymous with the Sikh faith.
Shimla was the historical summer capital of British India. It is the largest city in the state of Himachal Pradesh and is located at the base of the spectacular Himalayas. Despite being a large city, Shimla retains a quaint small town-like atmosphere, and is especially stunning in the wintertime, when it is blanketed by snow.
One of the best ways to reach Shimla is via the "toy train" on the famous Kalka-Shimla Railway route, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 99km long, the railway passes through stunning scenic mountain and forest landscapes. Passing over 800 bridges, through 103 tunnels, past 20 stations, and around 900 curves in the course, you will enjoy a unique and relaxing sightseeing journey on this train ride.
Rajasthan is the largest state in the Indian subcontinent, and Jaipur is its capital. It is known as the Pink City due to the prevailing hue of many of its buildings. It is an intriguing destination to visit, featuring ornately-designed palaces and forts, and still surrounded by the old city wall. Its architecture, which includes and combines various Indian design techniques, makes the city a photographer's paradise. From the magical, myriad shades of pink, red, and light brown, to the breathtaking symmetry, the architecture of Jaipur is guaranteed to impress you.
The Namgyal Monastery, located in Dharamsala, is the personal monastery of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. It is an important pilgrmiage site for Buddhists, and is personally visited by the Dalai Lama a few times a year. People of all faiths are welcome to visit the temple, and when you visit on one of our tours, you are given the chance to partake in a puja, or prayer session. This is a unqiue experience and offers the chance to gain an interesting insight into the practices of Buddhism, as well as Tibetan culture.
India is an enormous place, filled with an incredible range of intriguing and astounding destinations. The Abhaneri Step Well in Rajasthan is certainly up there with one of the most fascinating sites to visit in India. This enormous stepwell is the biggest in the world, comprising 3500 steps and extending to a depth of 13 stories. Stepwells originated in India, and are essentially wells or ponds that are reached by descending to the water level using steps. In historical times, the site was used by the community as a place to gather during times of intense heat, as the air at the bottom of the well would always be a few degrees cooler.
When you visit the City Palace at Udaipur, you may experience the feeling that it looks rather familiar. That is because the spectacular mountain and lake surrounds were used to film the James Bond movie Octopussy. The palace, which is perched on a hill with lovely views of the city, is grand and majestic, evoking images of royal rulers and empires of old. It features a combination of the architectural styles of Rajasthan and the Mughals, resulting in a unique and distinctive building.
The spectacular temple at Ranakpur is one of the largest and most important temples in the Jain religion. It is a genuine architectural marvel, fashioned entirely from white marble and featuring beautiful domes, towers, and vaults, all set amidst a backdrop of greenery. The symmetry in the interior is simply breathtaking, and you will see 1444 pillars, each intricately carved with a unique design. The atmosphere of harmony and sanctity inside the temple reflects the fundamental principle of the Jain religion, which advocates for a philosophy of non-violence towards all living things.
The Agra Fort of Uttar Pradesh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1573 by one of the greatest Mughal emperors, and served as the main residence of the emperors until 1638, when the Mughal capital was moved to Delhi. Enormous and imposing, yet equally beautiful, the fort is surrounded by a 7-meter high wall that is around 2km in perimeter. This impressive barrier protects a stunning complex of palaces and halls, courtyards and pavilions, royal baths and places of worship. A jasmine tower, a grape garden, a mirror hall- even a secret passageway! All of these add to the fort's alluring, fairy tale-like atmosphere.
One of the largest national parks in northern India, Ranthambore National Park comprises 392 square kilometres of jungles, forests, and open grassy meadows.
This park is most well-known for its population of Bengal tigers- it is one of the best places in the country to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. India is synonymous with the mysterious, majestic tiger, and it is breathtaking to see these fearsome and beautiful big cats in the flesh. Besides the tigers, there are other species of birds and animals to be seen in the park, as well many fascinating ruins.
Travel overland from India to Nepal, taking in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra plus less visited sites and villages, holy Varanasi, Buddhist Sarnath and Lumbini and wildlife safaris in Bardia National Park before finishing in Kathmandu.
Explore the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, see off the beaten track villages, ride the Himalayan Queen 'toy train' and visit important Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu religious pilgrimage sites at Amritsar, Mcleodganj and Haridwar.
This 10-day north India tour combines the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar and Buddhist Mcleodgjanj with spectacular Himalayan scenery, the famous 'toy train' to Shimla, and the little-visited heritage villages of Pragpur and Garli.
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