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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in India

Deeply spiritual, highly majestic, and overwhelmingly frenetic, India is a country that has no comparison. Home to a whopping 32 World Heritage sites, India weaves Himalayan hikes, stunning architecture, colonial heritage, religious harmony, and culinary diversity into one unique destination. Unsurprisingly, the iconic Taj Mahal tops nearly all India itineraries, as do the ancient forts and palaces of Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi—the cities that comprise the Golden Triangle. Stray from the beaten path, and you’ll see that India offers a wealth of wonders: Varanasi, split by the revered Ganges River, is considered one of the most fascinating places on earth; the white-sand beaches of Goa continue to allure free-spirited travellers; in Kerala, glistening backwaters and emerald tea plantations abound; and in Rajasthan, fairy-tale palaces are juxtaposed with rare wildlife. Multiday tours are a safe and smooth-flowing way to travel around India, with almost all covering the highlights of the Golden Triangle; while full-day sightseeing tours of Mumbai mean you can experience the madness and magic of the city even if you're short on time. Time your visit to India with one of the country’s numerous Hindu celebrations for an unforgettable cultural experience—top picks include Holi festival, known as the Festival of Colors; and Diwali, when the country erupts into fireworks and candlelight.
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Taj Mahal
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Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and certainly one of India’s most famous landmarks, the Taj Mahal is a living testament to the grandiose and the romantic. Lovingly built from white marble by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, the structure is decorated with carvings of flowers and inlays of precious stone arranged into intricate patterns that can be admired both from its impressive exterior and interior. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see for every traveler to northern India.

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Attari-Wagah Border
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The Attari-Wagah border is a crossing between India and Pakistan that is known for its Beating Retreat ceremony, which is held each evening as the border closes. Visit at the end of the day to see the guards from both sides march in elaborate military costumes and face-off across the border in front of packed crowds.

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Charminar
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Situated in the heart of the old city, the Charminar is the most famous building in Hyderabad and a symbol of the city around the world. This monument was built at the close of the 16th century to celebrate the end of a plague—possibly cholera—that had devastated the region. A small mosque sits on the top floor of the building.

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Mehrangarh (Mehran Fort)
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A huge, 15th-century fortress overlooking the “blue city” of Jodhpur 410 feet (125 meters) below, Mehrangarh (Mehran Fort) is owned by the Jodhpur royal family to this day. The citadel is enclosed by thick, imposing walls and contains a museum, courthouses, gardens, and several magnificent palaces with vast courtyards and elaborate architecture.

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Devaraja Market
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Devaraja Market is a bustling open-air shopping area full of colorful stalls that are loaded to the brim with fruits, vegetables, and flowers, along with incense, coffee beans, and heaping piles of spices. Though it's a great place to shop, Devaraja Market is equally worth visiting just to take photos and people watch.

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Elephanta Caves
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The Elephanta Caves are among the most beautiful, historically significant attractions in Mumbai. Situated on an island off the coast, this UNESCO World Heritage Site features multiple rock-hewn cave temples and statues dating back to around the 7th century AD, including a celebrated statue of Shiva in his three-faced form.

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Gateway of India
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One of Mumbai's most recognizable attractions, the triple-arched Gateway of India was built during the early 20th century in honor of the 1911 visit of King George V. Built of basalt and concrete, this monument was designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, which blends traditional Indian, Victorian, and Mughal architectural elements.

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Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib)
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Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, is among the most sacred of Sikh gurdwaras. It’s surrounded by a large complex with a marble walkway and a pool, known as the amrit sarovar, which holds holy water. As at all Sikh temples, everyone is welcome here, regardless of their background or religion.

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Palace of Wind (Hawa Mahal)
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Palace of Wind (Hawa Mahal) is easily one of Jaipur’s most iconic attractions. This stunning red and pink sandstone structure in the heart of the Pink City features rows of carved screens and more than 900 lattice-worked windows that allow in just the right amount of breeze to keep the 5-story complex cool.

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Ranthambore National Park
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One of the biggest national parks in North India, Ranthambore National Park is particularly popular with travelers hoping to spot an elusive tiger in the wild. Although tigers are the main draw here, the reserve is home to other critters—including sambar deer, wild boars, sloth bears, striped hyenas, and hundreds of bird species—and a 10th-century fort.

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More Things to Do in India

Jal Mahal (Water Palace)

Jal Mahal (Water Palace)

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Situated smack in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, on the road that runs between Jaipur and Amber Fort (Amer Fort), the 18th-century Jal Mahal (Water Palace) is a gorgeous red sandstone palace that’s accessible only by boat. Though currently closed to visitors, the dreamlike structure is still an incredible sight to behold from shore.

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Kashi Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple)

Kashi Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple)

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Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath Temple is also called the Golden Temple, thanks to its pure gold spire and dome. The current building dates from 1780, but temples stood in the same place for centuries. Dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva—one of the most significant deities in the Hindu pantheon—Kashi Vishwanath is a major pilgrimage site.

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Mattancherry Palace

Mattancherry Palace

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The Portuguese built the 16th-century structure as a gift to the then king of the Kochi dynasty, though it underwent significant remodels under Dutch rule, earning it its current moniker: the Dutch Palace. It's celebrated for its stunning murals, many of which depict scenes from Hindu epics, notably the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

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Howrah Bridge

Howrah Bridge

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More than 2 million people cross the Howrah Bridge each day, earning it the title of the busiest cantilever bridge in the world. The 2,313 foot (705 meter) expanse of steel girders hanging over the water connect Howrah and Kolkata with eight lanes of chaotic auto rickshaws, scooters, bikes, cars, animals and pedestrian traffic.

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Agra Fort

Agra Fort

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Within a stone’s throw of the Taj Mahal, the 16th-century Agra Fort serves as another testament to the immense wealth and power of the Mughal Empire. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, the Agra Fort was initially built by Akbar in 1565 on the same site as a previous fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. A succession of a half-dozen other emperors, including Humayun and Shah Jahan, has lived within the red sandstone walls.

While called a fort, the structures enclosed within 1.6 miles (2.5 km) of thick sandstone walls are more akin to a complex of exquisite palaces. Evidence of Shah Jahan’s time spent in the fort can be seen in the white marble structures he erected during his reign, and according to legend, he drew his last breaths on a marble balcony overlooking the Taj Mahal, the monument he built for his late wife.

As you pass through Amar Singh Gate into Agra Fort, you’ll see that the interior houses several smaller palaces, including the Jahangiri Mahal where the royal women lived, and Khas Mahal, where Shah Jahan made his residence. The beautifully worked Mussaman Burj tower was where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son for the last seven years of his life.

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Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum

Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum

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Built between 1928 and 1943, the sprawling grandeur of Umaid Bhawan Palace can be seen for miles around. It’s the world's largest private residence. Part of the palace is a luxury hotel, part of it royal quarters, and some of it is dedicated to the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum.

The museum charts the history and heritage of Umaid Bhawan. It tells the story of how Maharaja Umaid Singh appointed a well-known Edwardian architect to design the palace in an art-deco style. It also displays an archive of pictures taken of the palace over the years, as well as a unique antique clock collection.

The museum also houses a whole range of historical artifacts that belonged to the royal family, including everything from trophies to weaponry, along with an impressive vintage car collection. There is a small gift shop located just outside for those looking to take souvenirs home.

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Udaipur City Palace

Udaipur City Palace

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On the banks of Lake Pichola, Udaipur City Palace showcases centuries of traditional architecture, starting from when the foundations were laid in the middle of the 16th century. Successive rulers added on to the original, resulting in what today is an enormous complex with 11 palaces connected by mazelike passageways.

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Amber Fort (Amer Fort)

Amber Fort (Amer Fort)

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High on a hilltop, towering majestically over the village of Amber on the outskirts of Jaipur, this 16th-century fort palace is worth visiting for its grand architecture that blends Muslim Mughal and Indian Hindu (Rajput) elements. Here, you’ll find labyrinthine passageways, elegant royal halls, and fabulous views of desert landscape.

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Fontainhas

Fontainhas

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Situated on the banks of Ourem Creek in Panaji, Goa's capital city, the charming neighborhood of Fountainhas is dotted with charming old homes dating back to the mid 19th century. Fontainhas occupies land that was reclaimed in the 18th century and gets its name from the natural springs situated at the edge of the area.

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Victoria Memorial Hall

Victoria Memorial Hall

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The Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata is a symbol of both the city and of the entire British Raj. A tribute to Queen Victoria by the viceroy of India, the giant, white-marble building was erected over a 15-year period, starting in 1906. Today it houses a museum covering the history of the Raj and is surrounded by English-style gardens.

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Dashashwamedh Ghat

Dashashwamedh Ghat

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Dashashwamedh Ghat is one of the busiest, oldest, and most important ghats in Varanasi. It's the site of a number of Hindu temples and shrines and a place where pilgrims come from all over the world to perform religious ceremonies and rituals. Many devotees visit the ghat at sunrise to pay homage to Lord Shiva and bath in the holy waters of the Ganges, while evening aarti, which see thousands of floating lamps immersed in the river, attracts huge crowds from far and wide.

Literally translated, Dashashwamedh means ‘the ghat of 10 sacrificed horses.’ According to Hindu mythology, ten horses were sacrificed by Lord Brahma to allow Shiva to return from a period of banishment. Despite its age, Dashashwamedh Ghat is attractive, colorful, and relatively clean, and even non-devotees are attracted by its atmosphere, daily rituals, and beautiful riverfront views.

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Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

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Fort Cochin’s Chinese Fishing Nets have been a beach installation for centuries, well before the coming of the Portuguese colonizers.

It’s thought that the nets were introduced to this coastal area by the legendary Chinese explorer Zheng He, way back in the early 15th century.

The nets are permanent horizontal structures, lowered and raised by a network of cantilevered ropes, bamboo poles, and balancing weights and pulleys. Teams of up to six fishermen operate the nets, but the catch is usually quite modest.

For the best views, come at dusk with your camera to capture that quintessential shot of Kerala’s fishing nets and calm seas backlit by the setting sun. If you’re feeling hungry, you can buy freshly netted fish and crabs, and have them cooked up for your dinner at a roadside stall.

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Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace)

Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace)

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The Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace), was originally constructed in the late 19th century as a reception hall for foreign dignitaries. Today, this part of Jaipur’s City Palace houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which showcases royal family artifacts including weaponry and regal garments.

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Lake Pichola

Lake Pichola

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Created in 1362, centuries before Udaipur was established, the freshwater Lake Pichola is surrounded by beautiful old palaces, temples, and homes, many dating back hundreds of years. The whitewashed Lake Palace that is situated on an island in the north part of the lake is now a hotel run by the luxury Taj Group.

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