Here is a brief guide for those traveling to India for the first time and needing more ideas about this lovely country. India is the seventh-largest country by area and the second-most populous country globally. Surprisingly, it has almost all of the kinds of different geographical terrains present around the world. India has it all, be it mountains, hills, forests, deserts, dunes, sea beaches, or backwaters.
India has many experiences, like cultural, historical, spiritual, nature, wildlife, adventure, romance, luxury, leisure, backpacking, and a lot more. All you have to know is what you are looking for!
Culture & Modern History:
India is a multi-cultural society. By "multi," we don't mean 3-4 or 9-10. India has hundreds of different cultures. Would you believe that? These cultures started millennia ago, but they continued going through gradual changes with time. Today's India is an amalgamation of our old cultures and new modern society influenced by Western cultures in this age of internationalization. So you shouldn't be surprised that some of India's best cultural destinations are also the most modernized metropolitan cities.
Such destinations include Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and many more. But if you want to skip the modern side and experience some genuine medieval culture, you could travel to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, or Kerala.
For ancient history enthusiasts, India is a gold mine. It is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and has gone through so many eras. So many places in India have been able to preserve ancient history and architecture. Visiting such places is like traveling time and discovering our roots. Like the Bhimbetka rock shelters, an archaeological site in central India spans the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. Some of the shelters were inhabited more than 100,000 years ago.
Ajanta and Ellora caves, considered one of the finest examples of ancient rock-cut caves, are located near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The Ajanta caves were built between the 2nd century BCE and 6th century CE, whereas the Ellora Caves date to the period between the 6th and 11th Century CE. The ruins of Hampi, located in Karnataka state, used to be the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. These ruins are spread over 4,100 hectares (16 sq mi), and UNESCO has described it as an "austere, grandiose site" of more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India.
The ancient temples of Tamil Nadu state are massive, majestic, and belong to ancient times, built more than a thousand years ago. Many more such historic sites will mesmerize you and leave you fascinated with the past.
Nature & Landscapes - Mountains:
When it comes to "mountains," the Himalayas are the ones that have caught the most incredible fancy around the world. They are the youngest and the highest mountains in the world. The Himalayas can be divided into Extreme, High, and Foothills.
If you want to experience the Extreme Himalayas, Ladakh is where you should venture. The entire terrain is above 3500 meters altitude, and the landscapes are moon-like. If you want to experience the High Himalayas, then you should consider destinations like Srinagar, Pahalgam & Gulmarg in Kashmir; Manali & Shimla in Himachal Pradesh; and Gangtok & Pelling in North-East India. To taste the Himalayan foothills, you could visit Rishikesh in North-Central India or Darjeeling in North-East India.
Apart from the Himalayas, there are mountains in southern India, which are broadly termed the Western Ghats. The Nilgiri Mountains in the south have lovely destinations, like Munnar in Kerala and Ooty & Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. Then, there are the lesser-known Aravalli Mountains in the Rajasthan state in northwest India. The famous and the only hill station of Rajasthan, Mount Abu, lies in the Aravalli Range.
Nature & Landscapes - Beaches:
India has one of the largest peninsulas in the world. So, one thing is sure: India has a vast coastline with numerous beaches. The eastern coast has plain sandy beaches, whereas the western coastline has cliffs because of the Western Ghats. There are urban beaches like Marina Beach in Chennai, Juhu Beach & Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai, Promenade Beach in Pondicherry, Fort Kochi Beach in Kochi, and many more.
Goa is India's most popular beach destination, with so many different kinds of beaches drawing millions of visitors and party lovers throughout the year. Other holiday beaches include Kovalam & Varkala in Kerala, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, etc. If you like some off-beat and less crowded pristine beaches, then you could holiday at Marari Beach in Kerala, Varca Beach in South Goa, Morjim Beach in North Goa, Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Gokarna in Karnataka, and a few more.
You could select the beach you wish to stay in depending on your taste. There are beaches for everyone in India.
Nature & Landscapes - Desert & Sand Dunes:
Many people worldwide need to learn that India has a fantastic Arabian-type desert. It is the famous Thar Desert in Rajasthan state in western India. There are many mesmerizing dunes in this desert where watching the sunset is a beautiful experience. Many small towns and cities are scattered around the Thar Desert, where you can find good hotel options, like Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, and Mandawa.
Apart from the Thar Desert, there is a high altitude (above 3500 meters) unique desert, which even lesser people know. Nubra Valley is located in the Ladakh region of the extreme Himalayas. This place has a dreamy landscape, with tall barren mountains surrounding a desert valley. There are dunes where you can see and try a ride on the rare Bactrian (double-humped) camels.
Wildlife & National Parks:
India is a massive country with many forests, wildlife sanctuaries, and national parks. Two wild animal species that are the biggest draws for wildlife lovers worldwide are Bengal Tigers & Asian Elephants.
The best national parks to see the Bengal Tigers are Ranthambore, Jim Corbett, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, and Pench National park. To see the Asian Elephants, the best locations are Periyar, Jim Corbett, Nagarhole, Kaziranga & Anaimalai Hills. Leopards can be seen at Nagarhole, Jim Corbett, Rajaji, Kanha, Bandipur, and Sariska. The Snow Leopards have their habitat in the higher Himalayas, mainly on the western side. You could see them in Spiti Valley and Ladakh.
To see the rare and endangered Indian rhinoceros, visit Kaziranga in northeast India, which hosts two-thirds of the world's great one-horned rhinoceroses. If you wish to see the Asiatic lions, Gir National Park in Gujarat is the only place in India where you can do so. Some fantastic bird sanctuaries in India are bird-sighting treats. Some of the best bird sanctuaries are in Bharatpur(Rajasthan), Chilika Lake (Odisha), Thattekad (Kerala), Nal Sarovar (Gujarat), and Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary (Goa).
The most popular and frequented national parks of India are - Ranthambore, Jim Corbett, Periyar, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Kaziranga, Sasan Gir, and Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur).
India is a land of spirituality. Spiritualism is an integral part of India and a legacy that generations have carried out since ancient times. A trip to India is complete with a spiritual experience, and for those who yearn for spiritualism, there is no other place in the world with such a unique experience.
One of India's most sought-after spiritual destinations is Varanasi, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It is famous mainly because of the Ganges, the holiest river for the Hindus. However, only a few people know that there is also one of the most revered sites for Buddhists on the outskirts of Varanasi. It is called Sarnath, and it is where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon.
Another soul-pleasing spiritual experience is the city of Amritsar, which is home to the famous Golden Temple. Golden Temple is one of the most revered places for the Sikh religion. The temple is also the epitome of humanity and brotherhood. People of all castes and religions are welcome here.
Many other destinations in India are also a spiritual treat, like Pushkar in Rajasthan, Rishikesh & Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, Shirdi in Maharashtra, Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, and a lot more.