1. Taj Mahal, Agra
As one of the wonders of the world the Taj Mahal, on the bank of the Yamuna River, is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. This monument dedicated to love is recognized by people all over the world from photographs and movies, but seeing it in person is truly awe-inspiring. The white marble reflects the sun in a variety of shades, the ornate tomb boasts stunning architectural details, and the romantic ambiance of the grounds as the sun sets is hardly captured in photos. The mausoleum is a part of a vast complex comprising of the main gateway, an elaborate garden, a mosque, a guest house, and several other palatial buildings, so be prepared to spend many days exploring this amazing Indian attraction.
2. The Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) of Amritsar is the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikhs, and is one of India’s most picturesque and unique tourist sites. Despite the thousands of joyous pilgrims, the surrounding palace complex and the Golden Temple exudes a sense of peacefulness and spirituality. Unlike in many other temples in India, and as long as you show the appropriate respect (including covering your head), you will be warmly welcomed, feel no pressure to take out your wallet, and be engaged in lively conversation about Sikh tradition and religion.
3. Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi
The impressive tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and the surrounding immaculately kept gardens offers a welcoming respite from the commotion of India’s capital city. The Persian-style tomb of red sandstone and white and black marble was built in 1562 and is said to have been the predecessor and inspiration of the Taj Mahal. The temple complex also boasts one of India’s finest gardens and numerous other tombs.
4. Mahabodhi, Bodh Gaya
Said to be the location of where the Buddha attained enlightenment after 49 days of meditation, the Mahabodhi temple complex of Bodh Gaya is one of Buddhism’s most revered sacred sites. This World Heritage site is today frequented by Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims, as well as hordes of tourists, that come to marvel at the 180ft tall stupa, the impressive Buddha statues, the Bodhi tree under which Buddha is said to have sat in his meditative state, and the diamond throne.
5. Beaches of Goa
While there are certainly better Indian beaches in the more remote places of Kerala, Lakshadweep, and the Andaman Islands, Goa offers a laid-back alternative atmosphere, a scenic coastline, and beautiful people. It is true that Goa’s beaches are becoming increasingly crowded with both European and Indian tourists, but it is still highly possible to find your very own slice of a serene beach scene.
6. Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand
For a taste of India’s beautiful and diverse alpine landscape, head to the state of Uttarakhand and the enticingly named Valley of Flowers National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This outstandingly beautiful high-altitude Himalayan valley is renowned for breathtakingly beautiful meadows of alpine flowers, rolling green hills, and an abundance of wildlife. The gentle green surroundings are contrasted by the rugged mountain hinterland of Nanda Devi, the second highest mountain peak in India at 25,643 feet.
7. Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur
Gol Gumbaz is one of India’s lesser known mausoleums, yet it is one of the most impressive. Built-in 1659 as the mausoleum of Sultan Mohammed Adil Shah it is to this day the second largest dome structure and largest unsupported dome in the world. The massive dome boasts incredible acoustics; with any clap being echoed seven times, and whispers being heard clearly across the expansive space.
8. Amber Fort, Jaipur
The ancient citadel of Amber Fort in Jaipur is an imposing defensive structure constructed of white and red sandstone. However, the mighty exterior is markedly different from its ornate and lavish interior of mixed stylistic influences. The fort also boasts magnificent views of its surroundings and in the evening’s visitors are enticed by a sound and light show which covers the vibrant history of the fort from 1070 to this day.
9. The Sundarbans, West Bengal
The Sundarbans, on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, are the largest mangrove forests in the world. While most of the area is putrid swampland, the Sundarbans also homes pristine jungle and one of the densest populations of the endangered Bengal tiger in the world. The beautiful untouched wilderness provides a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of most major Indian cities and is best seen by a combination of jeep and boat safaris.
10. Holy City of Varanasi
The sacred city of Varanasi in Northern India provides visitors with a confluence of the very best and worst of Indian cities, yet, it is indeed a must-visit site of any India trip. Varanasi is a chaotic place, an assault on all senses, and heart-grieving poverty is never more than a few steps away. Yet, the scene along the Ganges River, as thousands of Hindu pilgrims descends the traditional ghats (steps into the river) to bathe in the river to the backdrop of ancient temples and the thriving city, is one of the most inspiring sights this world has to offer.