Rohit Agarwal | October 20, 2015
India is a phenomenal country for first time visitors (its awe-inspiring for repeat visitors too!). India’s diverse culture, ancient traditions, rich history and above all, its people leave a lasting effect on the visitors. From Jammu and Kashmir in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, India’s diversity is astounding. In spite of such disparities, India’s concept of ‘unity in diversity’ is mesmerizing and leaves every visitor in awe of it.
However, the disadvantage of this vast diversity is that it confuses the first time travellers. You are spoilt for choice. From the stunning Himalayan range to a balmy coastline that stretches for miles, from stunning Mughal architecture to temples covered in eros – you want to see it all. To help you get a better idea, this article presents to you a first-hand guide of the places that you could include in your itinerary if you are visiting India for the first time.
If someone asks me a city to start their journey from, my answer would be Delhi. With its forts and monuments, the capital of India is a great introduction to India’s past. Delhi is interpersed with reminders of the Mughal Empire and British Colonial Rule in India. This makes Delhi a perfect starting point to understand India and also as a launch point to travels to other parts of India.
The Red Fort, India Gate, Qutub Minar, Jama Masjid and Connaught Place are few must-visit places in Delhi that you simply cannot afford to miss on your tour to India. Apart from these historical places, Delhi is well known for its rich street food as it serves some of the best Indian cuisines in the country.
Just a short train ride from Delhi, lies one of the seven wonders of the world – The Taj Mahal. Located in the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal is probably one of the most photographed places in India. The Taj Mahal is popularly known as the ‘symbol of love’ for it was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, as the final resting place of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal’s perfect symmetry and white marble finish gives this monument a ethereal appearance.
I would recommend taking a boat ride just before sunrise on the Yamuna River that flows alongside the Taj Mahal. As the rising sun’s rays bounce off the marble of the Taj Mahal, you would be left in awe of its beauty and majesty.
While you are in Agra, be sure to check out the Agra Fort. Every corner of this fort is a living example of the mighty Mughal Empire that ruled the country for more than 200 years. A large part of this fort is still used by the Indian army.
Also known as Banaras or Kashi, Varanasi is considered as the holiest city of India. Foreigners coming to India often visit this place to experience the spirituality, temples and ancient ‘Ghats’ here. Varanasi gives you an insight into Hinduism and can make your first experience in visiting India a truly memorable one.
Interestingly, it is believed that a dip in the Ganges River flowing through Varanasi frees you from all your sins and leads you towards enlightenment.
From one holy city to another, Amritsar is a city founded in 1574 by the fourth Sikh Guru – Guru Ram Das. Located in the state of Punjab, the city of Amritsar is widely known for the ‘Golden Temple’ – the holiest Sikh gurdwara.
The Golden Temple complex has hundreds of thousands of people at any one time. However, it gives the visitor a wonderful sense of calm and serenity. There are many elements of a visit that will make it memorable for you. The cool sensation of the marble as you walk barefoot on the marble walkway that surrounds the temple. The soothing prayers that gently permeate the space with their sound. The hearty food served up in the Langar area by volunteers. A visit to the Golden Temple is definitely an experience that you will hold close to you for a long time to come.
Amritsar is also visited by tourists for the ‘Wagah Border’ – the international border between India and Pakistan.
It is the only place in India where Indian Army displays its magnificence in front of the visitors. One must not miss this ceremonial military display at Wagah Border.
Also known as the Pink City of India, Jaipur makes you fall in love with its historical forts and monuments. Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Jal Mahal, City Palace and Jantar Mantar are some of the important places that speak of the rich history of Jaipur. The city of Jaipur is also known for its amazing hospitality as it houses some of the top hotels of India.
If you are someone looking to experience local traditions and customs of India, Jaipur is a must-visit destination for you when visiting India.
In spite of being the smallest state of India, Goa has become the most favourite destination of foreign tourists. Goa makes you fall in love with its mild temperature, white sandy beaches and relaxed lifestyle which is rarely found in a densely populated country like India.
Goa is also a hub for adventure lovers as it offers almost all the water sports available in the country. If you tire of all the beach partying and water sports, you can immerse in the rich history of Goa. Once a Portuguese colony, you can see stunning churches and monuments built during the era.
Situated on the Malabar Coast, Kerala is one of the most naturally blessed places in India – so blessed that it also nicknamed “God’s own country”.
Kerala’s backwaters, waterfalls and lush green mountains present a breath-taking sight. Backwaters in Kerala are visited extensively for their chains of rivers and lakes flowing parallel to the Arabian Sea.
Kerala has recently been listed as the ‘Ten paradises of the world’ by National Geographic Traveller Magazine. Munnar, Allepey Thekkady and Varkala Beach are the some of the most visited places in Kerala.
If you are planning your first visit to India, do include these places in your itinerary. I believe that these cities and places will make your first visit to India a truly memorable one.
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