From bustling cities with ancient monuments and modern skyscrapers to quaint hill stations that offer breathtaking views and a peaceful respite from the chaos of life, India has everything you could want when traveling.
As you explore this diverse country, prepare to experience the unique culture, beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and stunning architecture. Take a tour of the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, visit the ancient temples and forts of Jaipur, or ride an elephant through the streets of Jaisalmer.
One trip won’t be enough to experience all the amazing things India has to offer, but these are some of the best things to do in India for an unforgettable travel experience.
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16 Things To Do in India
1. Explore the Blue City of Jodhpur
Among northern India’s colorful cities is the favorite destination of Jodhpur, famous for its abundance of beautiful, bright-blue buildings. Located in the much-visited Rajasthan region and just a few hours from Jaipur, Agra, and New Delhi, India’s Blue City of Jodhpur is an easy addition to your India itinerary.
The stunning Mehrangarh Fort towers over the city: it’s a must-visit attraction in Jodphur for its beautiful architecture and impressive decorations, as well as offering a most impressive view of the blue city below. It’s also a great starting point to explore the blue quarters of the city – simply walk down from the southwest side of the fort, and you’ll find the bluest sections of the city.
Alternatively, choose an inexpensive group walking tour of Jodhpur’s bluest quarters – you’ll learn a ton about this unique city from local guides in the process!
During your walking tour of historic Jodhpur, make sure to check out the ornate Jaswant Thada, the Toorji Ka Jhalra stepwell, and Jodphur’s famous clocktower and surrounding market. Just around the corner from the clocktower, find a famous street vendor – the Omelette Shop – selling omelet sandwiches, a cheap and delicious street food you’ll love.
2. Visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar
Known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, the famous Golden Temple of Amritsar is a beautiful sight to behold. Located in the northern Punjab region, it’s easily one of the best places to visit in India. The Golden Temple was built in 1589 and has become the most important place for followers of the Sikh religion.
The architecture here is phenomenal. The temple’s gold-plated exterior has incredible details, and the interior is equally stunning. The marble floors, gilded chandeliers, and intricate door designs will take your breath away.
The Golden Temple is surrounded by a lake, Amrit Sarovar, meaning Pool of the Nectar of Immortality. To the devotees, taking a dip in the Sarovar is an auspicious act. They treat it with utmost reverence and believe its holy waters bring them spiritual enlightenment.
The temple is also home to one of the largest community-driven kitchens, Guru Ramdas Langar, serving free food to 100,000 people daily – taking a part in the meal is a highlight of a visit!
Besides the Golden Temple, there are several other temples and shrines nearby. The Central Sikh Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Sikhs, and the Baba Deep Singh Shrine is a place of spiritual significance.
The Golden Temple is indeed worth visiting when you’re in Punjab – and it’s worth traveling to see it. With its beautiful architecture and peaceful atmosphere, you’ll feel inspired and uplifted.
3. Visit the Taj Mahal
Located in Agra, the iconic Taj Mahal is one of India’s most famous sites and a must-visit for any traveler to India. Constructed in the 17th century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a monument of love and a tomb for his wife, the Taj Mahal is an architectural masterpiece worth seeing.
It took 20,000 workers 22 years to build the Taj Mahal, resulting in a breathtakingly beautiful mausoleum. The symmetrical white marble exterior is surrounded by lush gardens and reflective pools, making it a truly stunning site.
The Taj Mahal is flanked by a small mosque and a museum that showcases original Mughal ancient artifacts, artworks, and other pieces. Visitors can tour the Taj Mahal with a guide or on their own and enjoy the gorgeous views of Agra from across the Yamuna River. I highly recommend taking in the Taj Mahal from across the river – while there isn’t much here, you’ll get an incredible perspective of this monument that few others see!
While it’s easy to take a train to Agra from New Delhi, you’ll also find affordable and comprehensive day trips from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal – you can find full-day trips to the Taj Mahal from as little as $15 in total! Choosing a day trip is a great way to enjoy the experience without worrying about finding accommodations, getting tickets, or organizing transportation.
Read More: The Taj Mahal: A Traveler’s Guide
4. Explore Jaipur, India’s Pink City
Welcome to the Paris of India: Jaipur. Easily one of India’s most beautiful cities, with stunning architecture and grand palaces, Jaipur is a favorite highlight of any trip to India. The old walled city of Jaipur was founded in the 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and has remained an important political, cultural, and economic center ever since.
A must-visit in Jaipur is Amer Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Jaipur. While the Rajasthan region of northern India is covered with forts – Jaipur itself has three! – Amer Fort is a truly impressive one!
Initially built in 1592, its beautiful architecture is a perfect example of Rajput architecture. It is famous for its white marble and mirror palaces, decorated with elaborately painted ceilings and borders.
Another incredible palace is the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds. This five-story building is made of red and pink sandstone and is adorned with over 953 windows. The Hawa Mahal’s primary purpose was to allow women from the royal family to view the streets below without being seen, as they would hide behind the intricate latticework screens.
Another highlight of Jaipur? The city’s countless markets. You can purchase beautiful textiles, jewelry, leather products, and pretty much anything you can imagine. You’ll even observe brides-to-be who travel from all around the purchase their wedding clothes here. You can also enjoy a traditional Indian meal at one of Jaipur’s many restaurants or take a guided tour of the city.
5. Stay Overnight in a Palace
If you’re staying overnight in Jaipur (highly recommended!), you’ll have your choice of incredible palaces to call home for the evening. Rambagh Palace, the former estate of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II is home to 78 luxurious rooms, located close to all the city’s favorite attractions.
You’re guaranteed to feel like royalty at the historic Rajmahal Palace RAAS – you can even stay in the Queen Elizabeth II suite, which hosted the Queen on a state visit in 1961. Still the royal residence to the Rajmata of Jaipur, Rajmahal Palace was built in 1729 and is among the city’s finest hotels.
Think a palace is out of your travel budget? You might be surprised. Gorgeous historic homes – called “Havelis” welcome guests in Jaipur (we stayed in the budget-friendly Alsisar Haveli during our honeymoon!), Jodhpur, New Delhi, and beyond. Don’t book your trip to India without staying in at least one historic property!
6. Sample India’s Unique Cuisines
If you’re traveling to India, you’ll certainly have a chance to sample some of India’s many unique regional cuisines. Whether you’re looking to get lost among winding market streets on the hunt for the best street food, or fine dining is more your style, there are plenty of ways to get up close and personal with Indian cuisine.
The best way to learn about (and sample!) Indian cuisine is with a walking tour through the markets of Delhi. Half-day food tours through Delhi’s markets are popular options, though shorter two-hour food tours can be perfect if you have a shorter itinerary in Delhi. Not only will you have invaluable local insight into the cuisine, but you’ll also have help navigating the maze of stalls and street vendors!
Looking to learn even more about Indian cuisine? Take a cooking class with a local chef – you’ll be able to replicate your favorite Indian dishes once you’re home from your trip.
While Delhi is one of the best places to experience the many cuisines of India, you’ll find plenty of options for food tours, tastings, and cooking classes no matter where your trip to India takes you.
7. Catch a Movie at Raj Mandir Cinema
Are you a movie buff? You’re in for a treat! Indulge in your love for the big screen at this iconic meringue-shaped Bollywood cinema, the Raj Mandir Cinema. With its luxurious interior, comfortable seats, spacious theater, and impressive lighting, the Raj Mandir Cinema is an experience you can’t miss.
The Raj Mandir has been around since 1976 and has become one of Jaipur’s most famous cinemas. Every day, moviegoers like you pack into this cinema and take a seat to enjoy the latest releases. The lively ambiance and smartly-dressed staff will make you feel like a VIP as you watch your favorite films.
There are also various dining options here, so you can grab something to eat or drink before, during, and after seeing a movie. Alternatively, take a two-minute stroll to the M.I. road and get some great street food from the local vendors. While at it, try a lassi (a yogurt-based drink) and savor delicious flavors like mango, rose, or strawberry.
8. Trek in the Himalayas
Along India’s northern borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, and Bhutan, the Himalayas stretch out to create some of the most impressive landscapes in India. Though many travelers with just a short time to spend in India skip a visit to the Himalayas and opt for Rajasthan attractions instead, visiting the Himalayas is easily one of the best things to do in India.
The most popular destination in the Himalayas is undoubtedly Ladakh. Boasting high mountain monasteries, colorful peaks, and incredible scenery, it’s a picturesque destination perfect for trekking, with a variety of routes and passes.
Don’t worry about overexerting yourself – no need to prepare as if you’ll be hiking Mount Everest. There are plenty of backpackers’ routes and tour options for both the most adventurous and the least active travelers, no matter what you’re looking for.
9. Take a Sunset Cruise in Udaipur
If you’re looking for a romantic and relaxing way to finish your trip to India, why not take a sunset cruise on Lake Pichola in Udaipur? The sunset cruise is not your average boat ride; it is the perfect way to cap off a day of sightseeing in one of India’s most beautiful cities
Picture yourself floating on the lake, music playing in the background as you watch one of Udaipur’s picturesque sunsets. Take in the views while enjoying a light meal and drinks, topped off by watching the city lights switch on as night falls. It’s a beauty!
The sunset cruise on Lake Pichola also offers incredible views of Udaipur’s ancient palaces that line the lake, and many people take photos here as a nice souvenir of their visit. You can visit Jag Mandir Palace (also called the lake garden palace, converted into a hotel) as part of the sunset cruise. The sculptures of elephants here are truly spectacular.
The sunset in Udaipur is an impressive sight, and a lakeside boat cruise is a perfect way to take it in. Take an affordable group cruise, or spring for a private boat tour with food and drinks included!
10. See the Great Wall of India
At a staggering 21,196 kilometers, the Great Wall of China is one of the most incredible sights to see in Asia. But did you know that India has one too? Yep – that’s right! The Great Wall of India in Kumbhalgarh is the second longest and one of India’s most picturesque sights. This snake-like fortress stretches around the fort and reaches up to 22 miles (36 kilometers).
The Kumbhalgarh Fort was built over five centuries ago and is still intact today. This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned for its fortifications and views. There’s plenty to explore, from grand palaces to massive monuments and temples in the Kumbhalgarh Fort. Its sheer size is impressive, and its history makes it all the more interesting.
Besides seeing the Great Wall of India and soaking up some history, you can also enjoy other activities here. Join others and climb up the fort to catch some great views of the Kumbhalgarh Sanctuary and its picturesque surroundings. Be warned, it’s not an easy climb, and you might need a few breaks along the way! Or, opt for the cable cars to get up and down the fort.
11. Visit the Red Fort in Delhi
One of the most impressive destinations in the sprawling capital of India, Delhi’s Red Fort is a massive palace and fort complex in the heart of Old Delhi that you can’t miss. With its beautiful gardens, walkways, and stunning Mughal architecture, you could easily spend hours exploring the Red Fort. Afterward, grab a bite from the street food stalls in the Chandni Chowk market right outside.
Of course, there is much more to see and do in Delhi, including some of India’s most unique and memorable attractions. Make sure your Delhi itinerary includes visiting India Gate, Humayan’s Tomb, the Lotus Temple, and the impressive Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple.
12. Tour with or Volunteer at Animal Aid Unlimited
Animal Aid Unlimited might be off the beaten path, but for animal lovers, this will be among the best things to do in India! Animal Aid Unlimited is a rescue center in Udaipur that cares for injured and ill street animals, providing them with medical care, shelter, and rehabilitation.
There are different ways you can get involved at Animal Aid Unlimited: spend time in the rescue center with the animals, take a walking tour of Udaipur with staff to learn about the plight of India’s street animals, or volunteer for a few days to give the center a helping hand. Volunteers are always welcome, and a few days here is the perfect way to support the cause and make a difference.
If you choose to volunteer, you will have many things to get involved with. Jobs here include:
- Working in the shelter and rescue center.
- Caring for sick and injured animals.
- Running campaigns to raise awareness of the plight of India’s street animals.
Animal Aid Unlimited is home to cows, dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, and many more animals. Take some time off your trip to Udaipur and visit this rescue center. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that will leave you feeling inspired and fulfilled.
13. Visit Sand Dunes Near Jaisalmer
Did you know India is home to a desert-like region, complete with rolling dunes, just a short distance from Rajasthan’s most popular attractions? Head to the beautiful dunes near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan for an unforgettable day trip or overnight in the sand. There are three popular areas to choose from: Sam Sand Dunes, Khuri Sand Dunes, and Lodhruva Sand Dunes.
Sam is the most popular dune site and is also home to a small village, receiving over a million travelers every year. Sam Sand Dunes is magical at night when thousands of stars appear in the sky and bonfires, and a musical performance brings the desert to life. Camel safaris, jeep safaris, rolling in the sand, and watching the sunset at Sam Sunset Point are just a few things you can do at Sam Sand Dunes.
Khuri is another popular area, home to a beautiful sand dune reserve and a small village. Khuri is a quiet village perfect for those looking to escape crowds and enjoy the peaceful desert. Make the most of your stay here by going on a camel safari, taking walking trips, singing Rajasthani folk songs, and watching wildlife.
The Lodhruva Sand Dunes is the most remote of the three areas but is worth a visit. The main attraction here is the Amar Sagar Jain Temple in the middle of the village. Step through the arched gateway, admire the exquisitely carved jaali, and behold magnificent pillars and sculptures of gods. It’s an incredible sight!
No matter which dunes you visit, you will have an incredibly unique and unforgettable experience. An easy excursion from Jaisalmer – another highlight of any trip to Rajasthan! – you’ll love to see this special side of India.
Read More: 16 Best Things To Do in India
14. Sip Tea in Kerala
Located in southwest India, Kerala is among the most popular destinations in India for international travelers. Boasting beautiful beaches, national parks, and some of the country’s most important – and beautiful! – tea plantations, you’ll easily fall in love with Kerala.
One of the highlights of a trip to Kerala is a trip to the sprawling tea plantations that made the area so important during the height of the British colonial area. Choose from a day trip to any of the tea plantations near Munnar, with their rolling hills and magnificent estates. Easily accessible by traveling via Kochi, a visit to Kerala isn’t complete without experiencing Kochi’s spice market, a true feast for the senses.
Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Kerala backwaters while you’re in the region. This scenic network of rivers, canals, and lagoons makes for a stunning day trip on a traditional houseboat, though you can also opt to spend the night on a houseboat for an even more unique experience.
15. Visit the Elephanta Caves
If you’re visiting the Indian state of Mahārāshtra, make sure to add a visit to the Elephanta Caves to your itinerary. The Elephanta Caves are a series of ancient Hindu cave temples (mainly dedicated to the god Shiva) carved into an imposing rockface. The caves feature stunning and intricate carvings and sculptures that narrate Hindu mythologies and legends.
While the caves are beautiful at any time of year, they are remarkably breathtaking during the annual Elephanta Festival, which started in 1989. During this time, artists decorate the caves with beautiful lighting and classical designs, transforming them into an ethereal space.
Drama, music, and dance performances are also held during the festival, making for a truly magical experience. You will also enjoy participating in or watching the festival’s treasure hunt, sculpture, and painting competitions.
You’ll have to take a ferry from Mumbai to the island to get to the Elephanta Caves, though plenty of inexpensive group tours and private tours to the Elephanta Caves depart from Mumbai daily. Once you arrive at the island, it’s just a short walk to the caves. The trip is worth it for the beauty and history of the caves alone, so be sure to add it to your itinerary when visiting India.
16. Spot Bengal Tigers
While Bengal tigers are an endangered species, there are still plenty of places to spot them in India. With tours of tiger reserves and national parks home to large and growing populations of tigers, you’ll have some of the best chances of spotting them at either the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand or Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan.
Close to other popular attractions and just three hours south of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is by far the most popular destination for spotting Bengal Tigers in India. You’ll find plenty of tour providers offering excursions from Jaipur with different options for overnights in the park. Tiger Photographic Safaris are some of the most popular excursion options.
While spotting one of these animals is never guaranteed, excursions through these national parks, renowned for being home to some of India’s largest populations of tigers, will provide the best possibility for a lucky encounter.
India is one of the most fascinating countries on earth, a favorite with travelers that venture out of their comfort zones to visit its one-of-a-kind destinations. With its rich history and diverse culture, there’s so much to explore and discover here.
As you cross each one of these best things to do in India off your bucket list, you’ll remember this incredible country for the rest of your life.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.