India is the world’s seventh-largest country stretching from the high mountains of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala, and from the sacred Ganges to the sands of the Thar desert. Its more than one billion inhabitants are divided into two thousand ethnic groups and speak over 200 different languages.
Conform its size and population, India has an almost endless variety of cultures, landscapes, monuments and places to explore. From the ancient ruins, fascinating religious structures, exotic cities and diverse landscape there is an endless collection of tourist attractions in India that will never cease to awe and fascinate the visitor.
A stunning pick and red sandstone five-story structure stands in the heart of Jaipur. One of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, the Hawa Mahal has a unique purpose. Also known as the Palace of the Wind, it was a place where royal women could view street activities outside while hidden from view. To this end, the pyramid-shaped palace has 953 windows, each with an intricate design. Constructed in 1799, Hawa Mahal is considered an excellent example of Rajputana architecture.
Ecotourism is encouraged at Havelock Island, the largest island in Ritchie’s Archipelago in the Andaman Islands. Though not as crowded as other islands in Asia, the number of visitors to Havelock Island is on the rise due to its great beaches, casual atmosphere, snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. The best time to visit is mid-January to mid-May, when the weather is sunny with calmer seas. Redhanagar Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Asia.
Seeing wildlife in its habitat is a goal for many travelers. A visit to Bandhavgarh National Park will not disappoint them. One of India’s most popular national parks, Bandhavgarh provides an opportunity to see leopards, barking deer, sloth bears, hyenas, and Indian bison and wolves, but Bengal tigers are definitely the star attraction, even though only 10 percent of visitors may see one. The best time to see wildlife here is early morning or late afternoon.
Dharamsala is the home away from home for the Dalai Lama who came here in 1959 after escaping from Tibet. The city also is the home to the Tibetan government in exile. Dharamsala means a spiritual dwelling or place for pilgrims to rest, which is appropriate since so many Tibetans live here. With advance planning, it may be possible to attend one of the Dalai Lamas public teaching sessions. Dharamsala is popular with hiking enthusiasts and travelers interested in yoga and Indian cooking lessons.
Visitors who want to take a camel home with them as a souvenir of their trip to India may want to attend the Pushkar Camel Fair. This two-week fall fair also is a good opportunity to buy other livestock, as more than 1,000 animals are bought, sold or traded, though camels are the main draw. Over the years, the fair has become more than just a place where farmers buy and sell livestock. It’s evolved into a full-scale festival that includes camel races, sports events, carnival rides and even moustache competitions.
Ranakpur Temple is an imposing and highly decorative Jain temple that is famous for its art and architecture, considered some of the world’s best. Built in the 15th century, it took more than 50 years to construct the temple. One of the largest temples in India, Ranakpur Temple has 29 halls and 80 domes, but is really famous for its 1,444 pillars, of which each one is unique. Statues of deities top each dome. Extremely intricate carvings highlight the interior.
Varkala Beach is popular with travelers who just want to take a break from sightseeing for a while. Its sandy beaches along impressive cliffs are perfect for beachcombing, sunbathing and swimming, just some of the reasons Discovery channel named it one of the top 10 seasonal beaches in the world. It’s also known for its mineral springs; swimming in them is believed to heal ailments and purify one’s sins. Travelers who want to sneak in some sightseeing may enjoy a visit to Janardhana Swami Temple, a 2,000-year-old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Darjeeling is a town in northeast India that is famous for tea, trains and scenic beauty. Darjeeling tea is thin, light colored, aromatic and soothing to drink. The leaves are grown in the hills around the town. Farther up in the skyline, travelers can see the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayan foothills. Access is by a three-hour car ride from the nearest airport or a seven-hour journey on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad, a narrow gauge railway known as the “toy train.”
Qutb Minar is the second highest brick minaret in the world. The minaret, towering 80 meters (270 feet) into the sky, is made of marble and red sandstone bricks that are carved with sayings from the Koran. Construction took four years, starting in 1193. A circular staircase with 379 steps leads to the top; it is closed to visitors. Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosqueaa, the first mosque built in India, lies at the minaret’s foot. Nearby is the Iron Pillar, so named because it’s made from metals that don’t rust.