Top things to do in India
Top things to do in India
Learn more about this vast, fascinating country and its regions with Cox & Kings India travel guide.
The enchanting beauty, bracing climate and soothing greenery of the Himalaya make this region one of the most striking areas in India. It has vast panoramas, dotted with villages, tea plantations and colonial hill stations, alongside stunning views across mountain backdrops. It’s an area that wills you to relax, free to soak in the spirituality of beautiful Buddhist monasteries scattered amid the landscape.
The most vibrant city in the Indian Himalaya is Amritsar – visit the spectacular Golden Temple, whose exterior shimmers in a pool of sacred water, or experience the pomp of the daily flag ceremony performed on the India/Pakistan border. Explore ancient monasteries and be immersed in the spirituality of Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dharamsala (the home of the Dalai Lama) or Ladakh – dotted with Buddhist monasteries surrounded by wild Himalayan landscapes. Visit Shimla, the summer capital of the British, or take the toy train to Darjeeling and relax amongst exotic tea gardens, or visit Tiger Hill with its amazing views of Mount Everest.
The north of India contains some of the most iconic and memorable sights in the country, and reveals the exceptional wealth of cultural, historic and architectural splendour on offer. Imposing forts, captivating temples and tranquil lakes are contrasted with sun-kissed desert, lush wildlife reserves, holy cities and off-the-beaten track destinations. Northern India represents the essence of a bygone era – and travelling through the region (especially on a luxury train) is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in its regal past.
The Golden Triangle is an ideal itinerary for first-time visitors. Encompassing the thrumming capital of Delhi with its Mughal architecture, alongside the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra and the pink city of Jaipur, it’s the perfect taste of what India can offer.
Nearby Rajasthan is the home of bright blue Jodhpur, the glistening lake city of Udaipur, the ornate havelis of Shekhawati and Bundi, the home of Rudyard Kipling. Then there are the remote, romantic desert stops of Bikaner, Pushkar and the Golden City of Jaisalmer – idyllic places to begin adventurous camel safaris.
To see truly impressive temples, palaces or historic architecture, visit Lucknow, picturesque Orchha and the erotically carved temples in Khajuraho. Explore your spiritual side in the holy city of Varanasi or see the best example of colonial India in Kolkata. Seek tigers in the Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh, Panna and Jim Corbett National Parks, spot birdlife in Bharatpur or visit Sasan Gir in Gujurat – home to over 300 Asiatic lions. Discover the rest of Gujurat’s off the beaten track attractions; from Bhuj’s historic buildings and nearby villages to Bhavnagar’s vibrant bazaars and breathtaking views, and lastly to Ahmedabad, with its striking collection of Jain and Hindu temples, Islamic Mosques and exquisite stepwells.
Central India is home to wonders that are well off the main tourist routes. While it plays host to famously vibrant Mumbai, there is much more to central India than the bustling city. Heavy with history, the region is scattered with remnants of ancient kingdoms, from spectacular forts and palaces to rock-cut temples and impressive Islamic architecture. Uncover off-the-beaten track Unesco world heritage sites and little-known national parks where tigers, leopards and sloth bears roam. There’s even India’s leading wine region to visit. Central India will reward you for your stay – and it’s likely to surprise you too.
Central India is dominated by the vibrant city of Mumbai, considered by many to be the cultural capital of the country. Unesco world heritage sites are strewn across the region from east to west; from Mumbai’s Victoria station to the monumental Ellora and Ajunta caves, and from an art historian’s dream of Pattadkal to the Sun Temple in Konark, these are sure to astound any traveller.
Islamic history and architecture is on display in Bijapur, with some of the finest mosques in India, and in Hyderabad, a ‘replica of paradise itself’ whose Dakhni culture is a blend of Hindu and Muslim traditions. Legendary historical cities abound, like Kolhapur with its mythical links to Shakti the goddess of power, and Maheshwar; a historic fort-city mentioned in the epics of Ramayana.
Some of the best opportunities for wildlife including tigers, leopards and sloth bears are in Pench, Satpura, Tadoba and Kanha National Parks – the latter being the inspiration for Kipling’s the Jungle book. Lastly, unwind in the holy city of Nashik and wander the source of the holy Godavari river at Trimbakeshwar Fort, and take a tour in this unexpected wine territory.
The south of India offers a completely different experience – this tranquil region is a combination of beautiful natural environments, laidback cultures and historic sites to contend with those up north. Seaside villages and towns are dotted with remnants of Portuguese and French cultures, crumbling temples and spice ports. Sleepy backwaters and palm-fringed beaches let you embrace the tropical climes, while colonial hill stations and tea stations help you escape it. Meanwhile, impressive temples and palaces nestle sit in the midst of medieval capitals, providing a glimpse into past grandeur. The ultimate region for relaxation amid interesting surrounds, it’s one of the finest ways to finish a tour to India.
Crammed full of seaside villages and towns, southern India stretches from Portugese-influenced Goa to the spice port of Kochi; from the idyllic beaches of Kovalam to Chennai’s pre-colonial buildings. Insight into the splendour of the past can be seen in the palaces and royal gardens of Mysore, the ruins of Hampi and in the Unesco heritage listed temples of Madurai and Mahabalipuram. Tropical climes give way to tea plantations and mountain scenery in Munnar, hill country and paddy fields in Coorg and the spice-growing region of Thekkady. While in Thekkady, visit the green slopes of the Cardamom Hills or Periyar National Park, famous for its elephants. For more wildlife viewing, take to the lesser-visited Nagarhole National Park, its verdant forests home to tigers, elephants, leopards and more.
For a unique experience, take the British built ‘Toy Train’ to the hill station of Ooty, as rainforest views flit past your window. Top it all off by drifting down the backwaters of Kerala – the perfect way to gain an insight into the everyday life of rural India as you pass through sleepy villages and rows of palm trees.
Still not sure where to start? Have a look at our Step into India guide, which takes you through the art, food, history and culture of India.