To know India is to explore her on the ground. This is a country of superlatives, and it’s hard to grasp its beauty and complexity from the outside. Before your trip, prepare to expect the unexpected! Once you are there, you’ll probably feel dizzy when you realize how much of India there is to see and experience. So, we combined our top 20 India Bucket List destinations in the summer to help you map out your trip.
Whether you are a history buff, a hiker who enjoys the great outdoors, a yoga, and meditation apprentice, or a laid-back type who enjoys neverending beaches. There are more than a dozen must-see places in India for you to explore.
India Bucket List – Top 20 destinations
20Romantic City of Lakes – Udaipur
This ice-white city, sitting on a mirror-like lake, is also known as the “City of Lakes”.
Arguably, the most romantic city in India is full of faded splendors, beautiful sunsets over Lake Pichola, fantastical palaces and temples, and backstreet mansions and gardens.
One of the most magnificent places is certainly Udaipur’s City Palace.
A mixture of European, Rajasthani, Chinese, and Mughal architecture. It shows the splendor that the rulers of Mewer enjoyed centuries ago and it still appears to be as majestic.
Tick off your India bucket list Udaipur. You can enjoy boat rides on the lakes, immerse in the bustle at colorful bazaars, explore its lively arts scene, or simply wander the quaint old-world feel of its streets.
19Ghats of Holy Varanasi
Sacred, soulful, and spectacular. That’s how one can describe Holy Varanasi, regarded as India’s spiritual capital.
Situated at the banks of the Ganges river, this city is one of the holiest in Hinduism.
Pilgrims come to the Ganges to wash away their sins in the sacred waters, and to cremate their loved ones. Or simply to die here, hoping for liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
Life, death, and all things in between play out vivid colors before your eyes in Varanasi.
To be in Varanasi is to witness India at its most open, to step into the dizzying spiritual whirlwind and get carried away with all of its colors.
18Explore the Backwaters of Kerala
Kerala is South India’s most serenely beautiful state. It is on India’s tropical Malabar Coast, and it has nearly 600 km of Arabian Sea coastline and beaches. 900 km of interconnected rivers, lakes, canals, and lagoons; and the spice and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats.
Palm-lined beaches and backwaters, tropical greenery, and protected wildlife reserves. And cool hill stations such as Munnar are the main things why Kerala attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world.
Probably, the most laid-back state of India, Kerala is a world away from the frenzy of the rest of India.
The most atmospheric way to explore Kerala’s waterlogged rural heartland is on board a teak-and-palm-thatch houseboat.
Spend days watching village life drift past in a timeless tableau, before feasting on Keralan seafood curries and falling into a restful sleep beneath a canopy of twinkling stars.
Who needs life on land?
17Mumbai’s Architectural Visions
Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is more than just a Must Visit Places In India. Sprawling over seven islands, Mumbai is a big, frenetic, and fabulous metropolis, with lots and lots of people.
This city is home to India’s most prolific film industry. Also, the beating heart of fashion and finance. And it has the largest tropical forest in an urban zone.
And all of those are set in a unique architectural blend you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
The architecture of Mumbai blends Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic, and contemporary architectural styles.
Many buildings, structures, and historical monuments remain from the colonial era. Mumbai, after Miami, has the second-largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world.
From the skyscraping towers of north Mumbai to the art deco apartments of Marine Drive and the faded Victoriana of Fort. Mumbai wears its history, and its ambitions, on its sleeve – come for the food and culture and be seduced.
16Jaisalmer’s Desert Mirage
In the heart of Thar Desert, lies Jaisalmer, a former medieval trading center also known as the “Golden City” because of its yellow sandstone architecture.
Dominating the skyline is Jaisalmer Fort, a sprawling hilltop citadel buttressed by 99 bastions. Behind its massive walls stand the ornate Maharaja’s Palace and intricately carved Jain temples.
Rising like a sandcastle from the deserts, the “Place that is known for Kings”, Jaisalmer’s 12th-century fortification looks more like something from fantasy than the real world.
Inside, a royal palace, atmospheric old Havelis (merchants’ mansions), delicately chiseled Jain temples and maze-like lanes conspire to create one of the country’s most atmospheric places to get lost.
Experience the charm of nipping sunrise from behind the unending stretch of golden sands at Jaisalmer.
15Rishikesh – Yoga Capital of the World
Rishikesh is a city set in the Himalayan foothills beside the Holy Ganges River.
It is a magnet for spiritual seekers ever since The Beatles visited the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ’60s.
But Rishikesh has been a source of enlightenment long before The Beatles stopped by in full-blown hippie mode.
Famous as the “Yoga Capital of the World”, it is a center for studying yoga and meditation, with plenty of temples and ashrams.
Here, you can learn to play the sitar or tabla. Try Hasya yoga (laughter therapy). Practice meditation. Or take a punt on crystal healing.
Rishikesh is also not all spirituality and contorted limbs. It is a popular white-water rafting center, backpacker hang-out, and Himalayan trekking gateway.
For those who love festivals where you can express your emotions visit the Holi Festival Of Colors.
14Royal cenotaphs of Orchha
Orchha could make towns many times its size green with jealousy.
At heart, Orchha is nothing but a tiny, agricultural village that shouldn’t really be of much interest to anyone. But it was blessed by history. For nearly 300 years it was one of the most important urban areas in this part of India.
This has left the small town with a supreme display of Mughal-influenced Rajput architecture in the shape of spectacular palaces, temples, and royal chhatris(cenotaphs).
And thanks to an important temple dedicated to Rama, it’s also a major pilgrimage and spiritual center.
Combine these with a laid-back atmosphere, and some fabulous accommodation options. As well as opportunities to enjoy the surrounding pastoral countryside, with walking, cycling, and rafting all on the agenda. And you’ll understand why Orchha can be considered one of the highlights of Madhya Pradesh.
Puducherry is one of the 8 union territories of India. It was formed out of four territories of former French India.
The union territory of Puducherry was under French rule until 1954.
So, some people here still speak French, and hotels, restaurants, and lifestyles are very much French-flavored. It’s basically Provence on the Indian Ocean.
Where else in the world could you start the day with Ashtanga yoga? You can have breakfast in an authentic French bakery, wander streets full of French-colonial villas filled with bohemian stores and cobble-stoned paths. Then glean spiritual tips at a legendary ashram (Sri Aurobindo), and in the end dine on fabulous Indian fusion food before strolling beside the tropical ocean.
This former French colony is a perfect amalgamation of traditional Indian sensibilities and French architecture, It makes a dreamy escape that offers the best of both worlds.
Stroll down the boulevards of the Pondicherry that will ultimately take you down to the gorgeous seaside promenade, where the Bay of Bengal playfully splashes the shores of the famous Rock Beach.
India’s captivating capital is a city built upon at least eight historical Delhis. It leaves a modern-day Delhi dotted with ancient monuments.
If you love history you’ll be amazed as you trace your way through the eras. Exploring ruined forts, magnificent tombs, vibrant temples, mosques, and shrines, you’ll be mesmerized by 3000 years of history.
Delhi can be split into two distinct areas – New Delhi and Old Delhi. And while they continue to grow side by side, each retains its own charms.
Old Delhi is the most historic part of the metropolis. Its origins date back to the time of the Moghuls.
The charm of Old Delhi lies not just in its incredible sites. But also in the general hustle and bustle created by its narrow lanes and the everyday lives lived within its confines.
A traditional and authentic experience can be found here. Those keen to sample genuine Indian delicacies and snacks are most likely to find their appetites sated in this part of the city.
In contrast, New Delhi was designed by the British during colonial times, in the 1920s and 30s.
In comparison to this labyrinth of streets, New Delhi is a spacious area made up mainly of wide avenues, which feel much more European in style. They are lined with lush trees and overshadowed by imposing government buildings, creating an entirely different atmosphere.
11Epic Rail Journeys
This is not really about a specific destination but about India as a whole.
There is no denying the fact that when it comes to traveling in India, there is no mode of transport that can come anywhere close to the Indian Railways.
Amongst the largest railway network in the world, Indian Railways is undoubtedly the most suitable combination of speed, efficiency, comfort, and pocket-friendly mode of travel.
A train journey across India, passing lime-green rice paddies, jungle-cloaked hills, and jutting temple spires, is an epic experience.
Sure, you could save time by flying, but it’s tricky to mix with the masses and soak up India’s dramatically diverse scenery from 35,000ft.
Riding the rails is a chance to chit-chat with locals over a hot cup of chai. Or gaze out the window at the ever-changing landscape, contemplating India’s contradictions.
Ramp up the romance on the toy train from Kalka to Shimla, or one of India’s other delightful mountain railways.
10Temples of Bhubaneswar City
Once dubbed the ‘Temple City’, chaotic Bhubaneswar is a worthwhile pit stop for a day or two.
This will allow you to take in the old city’s holy center, which surrounds the ceremonial tank called Bindu Sagar.
Thousands of medieval stone temples once stood here; around 50 currently remain.
Temples aside, there are a couple of worthwhile museums, an ancient cave complex, and the most varied dining scene in Odisha. Along with a smattering of decent hotels.
9 Wildlife Safaris
If you are the rare breed who would rather leave the city behind and live in the jungles again, a trip through the wildlife India has to offer might be the closest you get to that dream!
Spotting India’s national animal in the wild takes perseverance and a bit of luck, of course. But if you do spy a tiger burning bright in the Indian jungle, the experience will stay with you for a lifetime.
Even if you don’t encounter one of Shere Khan’s cousins, look out for leopards, bears, monkeys, rhinos, elephants, and a host of other wildlife in national parks such as Bandhavgarh, Kaziranga, and Nagarhole.
There’s hardly a corner of India that doesn’t have some kind of natural reserve where you can join a safari in search of adventure.
Ladakh is a mountainous region in North India and in the area known as the Trans-Himalaya.
It is also one of the highest regions of the world. There the settled population lives between 2700m and 4500m, and nomadic encampments can be found even higher.
Its natural features consist mainly of high plains and deep valleys that make up for almost supernatural landscapes.
Completely different from the sun-baked Indian plains, where the air is cooler and crisper and the terrain more rugged as you climb into the high Himalayas.
Most visitors come for the brief summer when the snow melts on the mountain passes and patches of greenery appear.
People here are a mixture of Buddhists and Muslims 50% of each. On your trip, you are more likely to see Buddhists as the majority of the tourist attractions are directly related to Tibetan Buddhist culture.
Spectacularly jagged, arid mountains enfold this magical Buddhist ex-kingdom. Picture-perfect gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) dramatically crown rocky outcrops next to fluttering prayer flags and whitewashed stupas.
Gompa interiors are a riot of golden Buddhas and intricately colorful murals and are home to red-robed monks.
It’s a little corner of Tibet marooned in the furthest reaches of India.
7The Wild Western Ghats
Welcome to the lush and emerald Western Ghats, some of the most precious heat reliefs in India.
The Western Ghats are the South’s answer to the Himalayas. But instead of snow-capped peaks, you’ll find ridges choked in the jungle, nostalgic hill stations, scattered tea, and spice plantations, and national parks teeming with elephants, leopards, and tigers.
The Western Ghats are older than the Himalayan mountains. They also have an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism. They are recognized as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.
The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere.
British influence lingers a little stronger up in these hills. There colonialists built ‘hill stations’ to escape the sweltering plains and covered slopes in neatly trimmed tea plantations.
Expect organic farms, trekking guides, and leopard-print earmuffs.
A kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures. Sweetened with sun, sea, sand, seafood, susegad, and spirituality, Goa is India’s pocket-sized paradise.
Goa’s biggest draw is undoubtedly its virtually uninterrupted string of golden-sand beaches.
This coastline stretches along the Arabian Sea from the tip to the toe of the state. And each beach community has developed its own personality and reputation since the hippie days of the ’60s.
They cater to every tropical whim. Choose from backpacker Arambol or bolder, brasher Baga; the palm-fringed sands of Palolem, hippie market bliss at Anjuna, or lovely, laid-back Mandrem.
Expansive groomed sands in front of fancy five-star resorts or hidden crescent coves, where the only footprints will be the scuttling crabs’ and your own.
5Caves of Ajanta
The Ajanta Caves are 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments that date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state of India.
They may have lived a life of austere humility. But the 2nd-century-BC monks who created the Ajanta caves certainly had an eye for the dramatic.
Thirty rock-cut forest grottoes worm through the face of a horseshoe-shaped cliff, protecting some of the finest carvings ever produced from the centuries and the elements.
The caverns were originally hollowed out to provide peaceful spaces for meditation and contemplation, but later generations adorned the chambers with exquisite carvings and paintings depicting the Buddha’s former lives.
Renunciation of the worldly life was never so serenely sophisticated.
4Amritsar’s Golden Temple
The Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, meaning “abode of God” is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar.
It is the holiest Gurdwara and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism.
Built at a level lower than the surrounding land level, The Gurudwara teaches the lesson of egalitarianism and humility.
The four entrances of this holy shrine are from all four directions. They signify that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome.
The holiest Sikh shrine, Amritsar’s Golden Temple is a place where spirituality pushes through into the material world.
To visit is to glimpse the soul of the Sikh religion, characterized by honor, courage, and hospitality.
The best exemplified by the Guru-Ka-Langar, the vast kitchen for pilgrims feeds 100,000 people daily.
The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is the largest group of medieval Hindu temples and Jain temples one of the must-see places in India.
It’s also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are considered to be one of the “seven wonders” of India.
The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. These sandstone temples contain some stunning sculptures that together make up some of the finest temple art in the world.
Besides being a highly popular tourist place, it’s actually a delightful, quiet little village.
Here you’ll find it easy to while away several days walking and cycling and enjoying the easy-going traveler vibe.
The town also makes a reasonable base for the nearby Panna Tiger Reserve.
Magnificent even in ruins, Hampi was once the cosmopolitan capital of a powerful Hindu empire, Vijayanagar. Its temples and water tanks sprawled for miles over a landscape of granite outcrops and boulders.
Ransacked by warring armies, its toppled temples are today almost continuous with the rocky terrain. Indeed, look closely and you’ll find that hardly an inch of Hampi has escaped the stonemason’s chisel.
Traverse the centuries on foot, rock-climb among the outcrops, or drift through the ruins by coracle on the Tungabhadra River.
However you explore, Hampi will transport you to another world.
1Forts and Palaces of Rajasthan
Known for its royal ambiance and colorful history ripe with stories of chivalry and valiance. Rajasthan is dotted with several tourist destinations that still hold a diorama of medieval glamour.
This incredible state in India, since time immemorial, has been invaded and ruled by several dynasties. But couldn’t damage the princely status of the Rajput and Jat rulers.
Rajasthan is widely known for its imposing architectural buildings built by the Rajputs and Jats.
Most of these massive structures date back to the medieval era. Of which few have been converted into government edifices and heritage hotels, and museums. And a few have been retained as private residences of the royal family.
For, the palaces were built only in flourishing times or to commemorate victory in a war. The grandeur of Rajasthan mahals represents the immense prosperity of a kingdom.
Some of the most famous are:
- Amber Palace (Amber Fort),
- Samode Palace (Jaipur), City Palace (Jaipur),
- Rambagh Palace (Jaipur),
- Jal Mahal (Jaipur),
- Hawa Mahal (Jaipur)
Essentials for Outdoor Adventures
Go on a magical adventure and tick off this India Bucket List of experiences
India offers a plethora of must-visit places that will leave you in awe of its beauty and complexity. Exploring India on the ground allows you to truly understand and appreciate the country’s superlatives. With its rich history, diverse landscapes, vibrant culture, and spiritual significance, India has something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking romance in the City of Lakes, Udaipur, or seeking spiritual enlightenment in Rishikesh, the Yoga Capital of the World, India has it all.
Finally, unwind on the sun-kissed beaches of Goa, where Indian and Portuguese cultures blend seamlessly. Prepare to expect the unexpected and let India’s beauty and complexity unfold before your eyes. Plan your trip and tick off your India bucket list.