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15 Best Places to Visit in India, According to Travel Experts

From the alpine meadows of Kashmir to the palm-fringed beaches of Goa, these are some of the subcontinent’s most enchanting destinations.

<p>guillermo1956/Getty Images</p>

guillermo1956/Getty Images

As a former longtime Delhiite and frequent traveler to India, people often ask me what the country is like. I never know how to respond, for trying to sum up a nation as vast and diverse as India feels impossible. So, instead, I asked a few experts for their insights.

“If you visit India, you feel you have visited several countries, as every part is different,” says Mohd Shafi Billo, an inbound tour operator who specializes in helping international travelers plan their trips to the country. “It’s an exceptional destination, thanks to its culture, history, and inclusiveness of different people from different faiths, and it has everything to offer, from forts to mausoleums, wildlife tours to mountain adventures.”

Shoba Rudra, founder and partner at hospitality consultancy Rare India, agrees. “The country is living a dynamic moment in history, ever-changing,” she says. “What's constant, however, is the vibrant culture lived through its festivals, cuisine, heritage, crafts, and performing arts.”

While it would take years to see it all, India is an approachable destination — if you can narrow things down. With that in mind, here are 15 of the best places to get you started on your sojourn to the subcontinent.

Kerala

<p>Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure</p>

Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure

Stretching along the southernmost part of India’s Malabar Coast, the tropical state of Kerala entices visitors with its marshy backwaters, which most people visit on overnight houseboat adventures. These popular cruises “showcase lush landscapes and peaceful villages, and [give visitors] a glimpse into local life amid tranquil waters and picturesque surroundings,” says Billo. While the backwaters are a star attraction, the state offers much more to explore, from the tea plantations of Munnar, known for its cool climate and seemingly endless rolling hills, to the historic city of Kochi, celebrated in equal measure for its rich coastal history and contemporary art scene. The beaches aren’t too shabby, either. “North Kerala is also famous, as the Malabar Coast is where the spice trade flourished,” says Rudra. “The coastal area is picturesque and this region is still unexplored.”

Kashmir

<p>Faizal A Rahiman/Getty Images</p>

Faizal A Rahiman/Getty Images

On the opposite end of the country from Kerala, Kashmir offers entirely different — but equally captivating — landscapes. With its alpine climate, evergreen trees, and snowy winters, Kashmir is often likened to a mini Switzerland. Famed 13th-century Sufi poet Amir Khusrau once proclaimed in Farsi, “If there is a paradise on earth, it is this,” and he may have been onto something. At the heart of it all is Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital city, which is known for its elegant gardens and watery centerpiece, Dal Lake. “Highlights include staying on a houseboat or taking a shikara [traditional Kashmiri boat] ride,” says Billo, who hails from the area. Don't leave without indulging in wazwan, an opulent, meat-heavy feast that can feature up to three dozen dishes in one sitting.

Ladakh

<p>Alongkot Sumritjearapol/Getty Images</p>

Alongkot Sumritjearapol/Getty Images

Occupying a high-altitude plateau in the northernmost reaches of India, Ladakh is characterized by otherworldly landscapes and big skies, punctuated by palatial stupas and monasteries. Many visitors come to Ladakh’s capital, Leh, during the short summer tourist season, but this surreal region offers plenty more to experience beyond the city. Billo suggests visiting the Nubra Valley, an isolated part of the old Silk Road that’s only accessible by crossing Khardung La, one of the world’s highest motorable passes. “The valley offers a glimpse into Ladakh's unique geography and cultural diversity with monasteries, quaint villages, and apricot orchards,” says Billo. The region is also rich with unusual wildlife, from elusive snow leopards to the scaled-down Bactrian camels that originated in the steppes of Central Asia.

Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

<p>al_la/Getty Images</p>

al_la/Getty Images

On the banks of the sacred Ganges River, the holy city of Rishikesh has held a place in the hearts of spiritually minded travelers — both from India and abroad — for generations. It’s the self-proclaimed “yoga capital of the world,” with a mix of traditional ashrams (spiritual rest houses) that cater largely to Hindu pilgrims and yoga centers that attract international visitors with teacher-training courses and meditation retreats. If you’re not into yoga, you’ll still find plenty to do here. Popular activities include visiting the ruins of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram (dubbed the Beatles Ashram in honor of its most famous former residents) to whitewater rafting adventures on the mighty Ganges. It’s also a great place for a wellness getaway, and nearby Ananda in the Himalayas was voted one of Travel + Leisure readers' favorite international spas in 2023.

Auroville, Tamil Nadu

<p>mazzzur/Getty Images</p>

mazzzur/Getty Images

If you’re looking for a place that’s unlike anywhere else in India — or, frankly, the world — head to the intentional community of Auroville in South India. This UNESCO-recognized global township was founded in the 1960s with the goal of "realizing human unity," beyond the illusory divisions of creed or nationality, and it's home to generations of residents from around the world. Many visitors come for an hour or two, just long enough to view Auroville’s spiritual center — the golden, dome-shaped Matrimandir. However, it’s worth sticking around a bit longer to get a feel for what the community is about. As Akash Kapur, who grew up in Auroville and authored "Better to Have Gone" and "India Becoming," puts it: "Come to Auroville if you're interested in alternative societies, sustainable living, or spirituality, but try not to just drop in for a few hours (as many do), and instead spend some time here, really getting to know the people and their work. The community rewards sustained immersion."

Andaman Islands

<p>Vyacheslav Argenberg/Getty Images</p>

Vyacheslav Argenberg/Getty Images

Although most people associate the crystalline waters of the Andaman Sea with Thai island getaways, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in this tropical region are under Indian control. This little stretch of paradise is full of gorgeous shorelines, but most visitors devote their vacations to the island of Swaraj Dweep (formerly known as Havelock). The most popular beach on the island is Radhanagar Beach, which offers just over a mile of white sand sandwiched between tropical jungle and warm, transparent waters. Getting to this remote island requires a bit of gumption: You'll need to fly from the Indian mainland to Port Blair on South Andaman Island, then catch a ferry or charter a seaplane for the final stretch. While visitors are welcome on many islands in the chain, a few — including secluded North Sentinel Island — are off-limits.

Delhi

<p>Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure</p>

Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure

While many travelers see India’s capital as a jumping-off point for visiting further-afield destinations, it’s worth sticking around for a while to truly appreciate what Delhi has to offer. There’s certainly never a dull moment in this busy metropolis, whether you’re shopping for handicrafts at one of its numerous markets or learning about medieval and Mughal history at one of its three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Humayun's Tomb, Qutb Minar, and Red Fort. Although Delhi is undeniably rambunctious, it also has a quieter, more peaceful side that you can find amidst the trees and 15th-century tombs of Central Delhi’s Lodi Gardens or in the quiet interiors of the Baháʼí Lotus Temple.

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

<p>Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure</p>

Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure

Many travelers to India put the 17th-century Taj Mahal at the top of their list. This white marble mausoleum is easily India’s most recognizable structure — and it’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This popular attraction also has a romantic backstory. “This iconic symbol of love is renowned for its architectural beauty, intricate marble work, and the captivating story behind its creation by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal,” notes Billo. The bodies of the emperor and his wife remain interred in the Taj to this day.

Jaipur. Rajasthan

<p>guillermo1956/Getty Images</p>

guillermo1956/Getty Images

The capital of Rajasthan and one-third of North India’s popular Golden Triangle tourist route (which also includes Agra and Delhi), Jaipur is a must-visit for those who love architecture and shopping. “The Pink City, as it's nicknamed, offers a rich cultural heritage, stunning [landmarks] like Amber Fort, vibrant bazaars, and intricate handicrafts,” says Billo. Many of Jaipur's key attractions are found in the historic walled part of the city, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019. Highlights include Jantar Mantar (a collection of oversized — and fully functional — astronomical instruments dating to the 17th century) and Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, a honeycomb-shaped palace designed with tiny windows that allowed air to flow freely through its interior.

Jodhpur, Rajasthan

<p>platongkoh/Getty Images</p>

platongkoh/Getty Images

Dubbed the Blue City because of the cerulean-colored buildings that extend for miles through the oldest part of town, Jodhpur has long attracted travelers eager to explore the ramparts of the larger-than-life Mehrangarh Fort. It’s also home to the grandiose Umaid Bhawan Palace, which made headlines in 2018 when Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas tied the knot there. While Jodhpur’s beautiful, regal architecture is reason enough to visit, there’s more to the city than massive forts and grand palaces. “The area around the Toorji ka Jhalra stepwell in the old city is fun to explore,” says hotelier Sapna Bhatia, owner of Kaner Retreat and Jodhpur-area native. “For nature enthusiasts, there’s the Rao Jodha desert park near Mehrangarh Fort.”

Udaipur, Rajasthan

<p>Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

T+L readers' favorite city in Asia and second favorite city in the world, Udaipur very much fits the bill of a fairy tale destination. Nicknamed the City of Lakes, thanks to its seven lakes, this gorgeous destination is home to some of India's finest luxury hotels plus historic whitewashed palaces, including the magnificent City Palace, an 11-palace complex that houses hotels, a huge museum with an impressive collection of European crystal, and a royal residence. A short boat ride from the palace lies the 18th-century Taj Lake Palace, an opulent palace-turned-hotel in the middle of Lake Pichola. It’s a quick drive from The Oberoi, Udaivilas, a purpose-built palatial hotel with onion-domed cupolas and a moat-like swimming pool that directly connects to some of the rooms. 

Gujarat

<p>Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure</p>

Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure

If you’re looking for a less-frequented, but no less amazing, alternative to more touristed states such as Rajasthan, consider Gujarat. “Under-explored but culturally rich, this state in India is a tapestry of festivals, textiles, architectural heritage, communities, and landscape,” says Rudra. Gujarat was also the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the Salt March, one of his most famous acts of peaceful protest, through the state in 1930. Rudra suggests visiting the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial, which “honors the activists through murals, installations, sculptures, art, and related film.” It's also worth checking out the Kutch district, known for its distinct metal bells, which were originally used for keeping track of livestock and are now popular as decorative wind chimes.

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

<p>ePhotocorp/Getty Images</p>

ePhotocorp/Getty Images

The northeast Indian state of Assam is home to a treasure for wildlife enthusiasts: Kaziranga National Park. This expansive, UNESCO-listed wildlife refuge near the borders of Bangladesh and Bhutan has the largest population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses on the planet, providing a home to roughly 2,000 of these massive beasts. Although rhinos are the star attraction on park safaris, all sorts of animals live here, including tigers, elephants, gibbons, sloth bears, and a small number of endangered Ganges River dolphins.

Mumbai

<p>Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure</p>

Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure

Historic, glitzy, and positively gargantuan, Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is easily one of India’s most cosmopolitan destinations. This city by the sea is the nation's financial and entertainment capital, and while you’re unlikely to rub shoulders with Bollywood stars here, you're sure to see a lot of impressive attractions in very little time. Take a boat out to Elephanta Island to explore fifth– and sixth–century rock-hewn cave temples, marvel at the grand Indo-Saracenic architecture at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or see thousands of clothes hanging out to dry at Dhobi Ghat, the world's largest open-air laundry. Then, head to the sleek neighborhood of Bandra West, where many of Mumbai’s best restaurants and hotels are located, including Taj Lands End, voted T+L readers' favorite city hotel in India in 2023.

Goa

<p>Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure</p>

Gautier Houba/Travel + Leisure

India’s smallest state, Goa, is arguably its top beach destination, where long days of swimming and sunbathing turn into longer nights of partying on the sand. While Goa has been known as a hippie haven since the 1960s, it's started to shed its reputation in recent decades. It’s still very much a party state, though it also draws in families and couples in search of sea and sun, sans nightlife. It’s a great place for history buffs as well, with numerous seaside forts and UNESCO-recognized churches that were built when Goa was under Portuguese rule. And while the destination has always been loved for its fiery dishes that combine traditional Konkani ingredients with Portuguese influences, it has also emerged as a culinary hot spot, where a new generation of chefs is showcasing everything from Japanese yakitori to jackfruit tamales.

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