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Best tourist places in North India

Discussion in 'North India' started by Aaloka, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Aaloka

    Aaloka New Member

    I am from Kanpur and my father, and I have recently become interested in traveling. I would like to start off with North India.
    I would like to know some of the best tourist places in North India which are worth visiting, and which would give us a good travel experience.

    We don't want to visit places which are very similar have nothing interesting, so when getting replies, I would prefer getting responses from experienced and knowledgable travelers.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, @Aaloka, welcome to the forum!

    (Images from Sourav Das, Pavan and Alosh Bennett)


    North India is comprised of the regions of Chandigarh, Delhi NCR, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Each region, even each city or town, differs in landscapes and attractions, which is why you can have a very fulfilling trip even if you have time enough for only the northern part of India. From the modern yet filled with history capital, Delhi, up to the Mughal capital of Jaipur, and even to the scenic views of the Himalayas from Manali, you're bound to find your preferred destination in North India. It's no secret that the food and cuisine of the north is very distinct from the south too, giving you a unique blend of Persian, Mughal and Hindu cuisines. In this guide, we would highlight the top ten places to visit in North India.

    Top Ten Tourist Places in North India

    A bustling yet filled with heritage city...

    1. Delhi (Union Territory) - You can't miss visiting Delhi when in North India. Sure, it can be a confusing and busy city, but it also features a complete overview of India. From the bustling streets filled with delicious food stalls, to the skyrocketing buildings and even to the interspersed heritage sites in between, Delhi would sure overload your senses, in a good way. Begin with the fascinating Old Delhi to understand the past of the city. Within the Red Fort, you get a glimpse of the Mughal era. Built by Shah Jahan, the imposing red sandstone structure, along with its inner structures, stands as one of Delhi's best heritage sites. Just opposite to the fort is the Jama Masjid, built by the same ruler, and is considered as one of the largest mosques in the country. Signature of the Mughal era, the mosque also has imposing red sandstone walls and flanked by minarets on both sides. If you still have time, venture into the ancient cities of Delhi, the Purana Qila and Tughlaqabad Fort. Of course, a visit to the older part of Delhi won't be complete without taking a stroll around Chandni Chowk, an ancient market area that still remains functional up to today. Once done with these attractions, you then visit the New Delhi, attractions constructed a bit later, between the pre-colonial and colonial era. The Qutub Minar Complex is a must visit, being the highest bricked minaret in the country. Surrounding it are other structures such as an Iron Pillar and the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Masjid. There's also the Humayun's Tomb, built by Humayun's wife, Haji Begum. Did you know that this mausoleum even preceded the Taj Mahal in construction and is therefore, the first ever mausoleum to utilise the garden-concept in tomb design? And finally, the India Gate, one of the prime landmarks of the city, is another can't be missed attraction for a tourist. Actually, there are more that you can explore in Delhi and even a day won't be enough for the city. And don't worry, because Delhi is a city unlike any other. So even if you come from a progressive region, you'd find the chaos and sights in Delhi still quite different and unique in itself.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Purana Qila, Tughlaqabad Fort, Chandni Chowk, Qutub Minar Complex, Humayun's Tomb and India Gate
    Where the iconic monument of love is located...

    2. Agra (Uttar Pradesh) - Known all over the world because of the Taj Mahal, Agra is another must visit that you should put in your itinerary for North India. Shah Jahan's grand gesture of love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, has garnered attention because of its stunning beauty. Also listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pure white marbled mausoleum, stands gleaming whether in daylight, sunset or even moonlight. It's a must visit especially in different times of the day so you get a different angle of the mausoleum each time. Quite close to the iconic mausoleum is the Agra Fort, also listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally, this fort was built in the 10th century by a Rajput ruler but its present condition can be attributed to Akbar. On the other hand, the inner structures, evidently made from white marble, can be attributed to Shah Jahan. This contrast is what makes the fort quite interesting, as it showcases the early Mughal style of architecture along with the later Mughal style of architecture. There's also the Tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daula, a mausoleum built by Noor Jahan for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg. The main tomb is quite stunning, with intricate geometric and floral inlays. This touch of femininity sets the tomb apart from the iconic monument of Agra. And finally, the Fatehpur Sikri, about an hour away from Agra proper, is also worth a visit. The city was once the capital of Akbar and he established it for Salim Chishti, after the latter predicted the king's future of having an heir. However, it was later abandoned due to the scarcity of water. Still, the city has many structures that give one a glimpse of the former glory of the Mughal era. Was it mentioned that this is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site? For world-class heritage sites, there's no better place than Agra for that.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daula and Fatehpur Sikri
    Agra Fort (Image from G. Kaustav)

    To complete the Golden Triangle...

    3. Jaipur (Rajasthan) - Done with Delhi, done with Agra, so what comes next? Well, to complete your tour of the Golden Triangle, head on over to Jaipur, the bustling capital of Rajasthan. With its collection of forts and palaces, you'd enjoy the exposure to the maharaja era structures. The Amer Fort and Palace is the prime attraction of the city, though it's far from the centre. You need to allot about an hour to reach it. Some tourists prefer to reach the top of the fort by an elephant ride which can be very exciting. The fort and palace area is very huge so you need a few hours to fully explore them. Built by Raja Man Singh in the 15th century, the fortress overlooks the beautiful Maota Lake as well. There's also the Jaigarh Fort, a few kilometres away from the former fort, and served as a protection for it. It is certainly not as stunning or as elaborate as the previous fort because it is mainly a defensive fort. Make sure you visit the biggest cannon on wheels in the world here, the Jaivana. The Nahargarh Fort is also worth visiting, especially if you reach there by sunset. It provides for the perfect view of the sun setting, with the city lights of Jaipur as well. A perfect example of the royal life of the maharajas, the City Palace of Jaipur is also worth a visit. It was built over many years by different rulers, exhibiting the different architectural style of each. And then there's the unique facade of the Hawa Mahal, made so by its hundreds of small lattice-like windows. This palace also served a unique purpose just so the royal women can look out onto the streets during the pre-colonial period. The Jal Mahal, or Lake Palace, set upon an island in the Man Sagar Lake, is also worth seeing, even from just a distance. Finally, there's the Jantar Mantar, one of the three ancient astronomical observatories in India. Would you believe that the ancient astronomical and astrological instruments here still work accurately until today?
    • Must Visit Attractions - Amer Fort and Palace, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort, City Palace of Jaipur, Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal and Jantar Mantar
    So cold yet so enchanting...

    4. Mcleodganj (Himachal Pradesh) - It's no secret that North India is home to many beautiful hill stations. But if you're someone who's looking for something a bit different than what the usual hill stations have, then venture the other way round into Mcleodganj. Home to the 14th Dalai Lama and also numerous Tibetan settlers, it's a little piece of Tibet right in India. A must visit when in Mcleodganj is the Triund Hill. The trek is moderately easy and can be undertaken even by newbie trekkers. From the top of the hill, you can view the Dhauladhar ranges very clearly, especially on a sunny day. Some even opt to camp under the stars when they reached the top, perfect for nature lovers. The colourful and lively Kalachakra Temple is also worth visiting. Though very vibrant from the outside, the inner sanctum exudes utmost serenity. A bit further from the city centre is the Bhagsunath Temple, which is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. The shivalingam here is a five-headed one, wherein the water from the nearby waterfalls fall into. There's also a small pool here, revered sacred by devotees, and a bath is supposed to cleanse one of his or her sins. From the temple, you can find your way into the Bhagsu Waterfalls, where you can relax in the nearby rocks while setting your tired feet into the stream from the water of the falls. Of course, you must also visit the Tsechokling Gompa, where the Dalai Lama himself has his residence in. Seeing the holy man might be quite difficult but you can still enjoy watching the monks while on training here. And finally, make your way into the Tibetan Museum to learn more about the history of the Tibetan settlers in the region.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Triund Hill, Kalachakra Temple, Bhagsunath Temple, Bhagsu Waterfalls, Tsechokling Gompa and Tibetan Museum
    Mcleodganj (Image from Public Resource)

    Let the adventures begin...

    5. Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir) - A place where civilisation is scanty, where barren lands dominate and where nature is still evident, that's Ladakh. Sure enough when you visit Ladakh, it's an experience like no other. From the ancient monasteries, to the high altitude lakes and numerous trekking possibilities, Ladakh would excite the thrill-seeker in you. One of the most popular monasteries here is the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, built during the 14th century and is renowned for its three-storey high statue of Maitreya Buddha. All around the walls and ceilings of the monastery, you can find frescoes with add some charm to the place. Then there's the Spituk Monastery, built during the 11th century and is dedicated to Goddess Kali. The monastery also has a main shrine dedicated to Sakyamuni Buddha. Aside from these Tibetan monasteries, you must also visit the Jama Masjid, easily distinguishable by its pure white facade and brown accents. The mosque was built by Deldan Namgyal, after an agreement with Muslim ruler Aurangzeb. Then, make your way into the Leh Palace, built by Sengge Namgyal during the 17th century. Though mostly in a dilapidated condition, the view of the entire Ladakh region from the top of the palace is mesmerising. You can take many nature and trekking excursions outside of Ladakh too. There's the Pangong Tso, with its crystal clear blue waters, it's sure to leave you breathless. Spanning across border areas of China and India, this attraction is a bit on the off-beaten track. An overnight amidst the stars and beside the lake would be a one-of-a-kind experience you can only have in Ladakh. Even more daunting is the ride to reach Tso Moriri but every effort is all worth it. Even though the distance from Ladakh isn't too huge, the road conditions and weather can affect your trip to Tso Moriri. But once its crystal clear waters greet you, all your tiredness would disappear. If you still have time, reach unto Nubra Valley, about 150 kilometres away from Ladakh. It is here where you can enjoy the high altitude desert of Hunder and enjoy riding in the back of a bactrian camel. An adventure of a lifetime, that's what awaits you when you visit Ladakh.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Spituk Monastery, Jama Masjid, Leh Palace, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Nubra Valley
    For your spiritual side...

    6. Rishikesh (Uttarakhand) - Rishikesh, where the mighty Ganges flows, where Hindu sages meditated and where adventure flourishes. As such, Rishikesh is another must in one's itinerary when in North India. When in Rishikesh, you must bear witness to the sacred Ganga aarti, which occurs every sunset at the Triveni Ghat. This ghat is where the confluence of the three rivers of Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati is located. Though the city can be chaotic at times, the aarti remains tranquil and serene, where hymns and chantings dominate amongst other noises. Cross over the Ganges River through the Lakshman Jhula, incidentally, also the same location where Lakshamana crossed the Ganges on a jute rope. From a distance, you can view the Himalayan ranges as well from here. Then there's the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, and approachable by either road or foot. Trekking can be very challenging, taking around 4 hours to complete. Held auspicious by Hindus, because this is where the Lord Shiva rested after ingesting the poisons from the churning of the seas, the place exudes much serenity, away from the busy city life. For meditation, make sure that you reach the Vashishta Gufa, a small cave that is not known to many tourists. Here, you can enjoy the peace and tranquility and meditate to your heart's content. There are also many ashrams around Rishikesh that you can visit, some with facilities for overnight or weekly stays. Noteworthy of which is the Beatles Ashram, supposedly the place where The Beatles meditated during their stay in India and yes, where they were able to write their best hits.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Triveni Ghat, Lakshman Jhula, Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, Vashishta Gufa and Beatles Ashram
    Sunset in Rishikesh (Image from Taz)

    Nature and wildlife...

    7. Ranthambore National Park (Rajasthan) - Also making it into the list is Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park. Home to about 60 royal Bengal tigers, this has been the go-to place of wildlife lovers. Though the chances of spotting the majestic but elusive creatures are low, you are still rewarded with the wonderful terrains of the national park, ranging from open grasslands to dry deciduous forests. A wildlife safari in the middle of summer might not be your idea of a relaxing vacation, but this is the best time for spotting wildlife as they come out more for relief through the watering holes. Just bring your handy cap, some sunscreen and lots of water, then you're good to go. Don't forget that there are many wild animals to spot here, like wild boars, sambars, chitals, rhesus macaques and hyenas. You can also visit the Ranthambore Fort, located within the national park premises. Inside the fort, there are religious sites like the Trinetra Ganesha Temple and Jain Temple that you can also visit. Ranthambore National Park has eight zones but tiger sightings are higher in the first five zones. Also, opt for an open-jeep safari rather than a canter safari, especially if you're keen on photographing the wildlife.
    • Must Spot Animas - Royal Bengal Tigers, Wild boars, Sambars, Chitals, Rhesus Macaques and Hyenas
    Amidst the chaos...

    8. Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) - It's truly hard to recommend Varanasi to first-time travellers just because it can be a bit chaotic and overwhelming. But once you have gathered much experience in travelling around India, you can then take on the chaos that is of Varanasi. Equally important to both Hindus and Buddhists, Varanasi has this sacredness upon it, amidst all the traffic, the pollution and the noise. Watch the cremation sites around Varanasi, as bodies burn and smoke fills the air, such ghats like Banaras Ghats and Manikarnika Ghats are best for this experience. This is the best place to understand the Hindu beliefs of life and death, of beginnings and endings. Witness the aartis through ghats like the Assi Ghat and Dasaswamedh Ghat, which occur early in the morning and on sunset, everyday. All these ghats lead upon the sacred Ganges River which flows in the city of Varanasi. Surrounding the river and the ghats are numerous temples too. One of the oldest temples in the city is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also known as the Golden Temple. However, entry here is restricted and only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple premises proper. It is easily distinguishable by its golden domes and traditional style of architecture. Considered as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, this temple is a must visit for devout Hindus. The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is another must visit, especially for devotees who wish to have their dreams or desires fulfilled. There's also the Durga Temple, the abode of Shiva's consort, Goddess Durga, so an important part of the circuit when in Varanasi. And finally, for the Buddhists, a trip to Sarnath would complete your visit of Varanasi. This is one of the four sacred places for Buddhist devotees. Here, you can visit various stupas, temples and even an Ashoka Pillar. It is also regarded holy because this is where Buddha delivered his first sermon to his disciples.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Banaras Ghats, Manikarnika Ghats, Assi Ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat, Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Durga Temple and Sarnath
    The home of the Sikhs...

    9. Amritsar (Punjab) - Punjab's most popular tourist destination is Amritsar yet it remains quite medium-paced as compared to metro cities like Delhi or Mumbai. The best part about visiting Amritsar is that you can get from point to point within minutes. The city's pride and glory? None other than the Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple, built by Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh guru. The temple was completed around the 16th century and stands amidst a water reservoir. It earns its name from its marble inlays that are covered with gold platings, truly a magnificent site to behold. But more than its aesthetic grandeur, the temple exudes serenity and humility too, aspects that make it one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the Sikhs. You can also visit the Tarn Taran Sahib, about an hour away from the previous temple. It has a creamy white facade with golden spires and domes. Unlike the former temple, this temple receives less visitors but still exudes that serenity and tranquility. Another must visit is the Gurudwara Bir Baba Budha Sahib, about 30 minutes away from Amritsar proper. This temple is dedicated to Baba Budha, a holy Sikh guru, who blessed Guru Arjan Dev with an offspring. And last but definitely not the least, a visit to the Wagah Border, about 45 minutes away from Amritsar, is also worth it. Witness the changing of guards ceremony that occurs here on a daily basis, between the border of Pakistan and India.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Harmandir Sahib, Tarn Taran Sahib, Gurudwara Bir Baba Budha Sahib and Wagah Border
    Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar (Image from Paul Rudd)

    Definitely offbeat...

    10. Valley of Flowers National Park (Uttarakhand) - Last on this list is the Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand. Picture this, a trek through lush forests, small streams and waterfalls, narrow manmade paths to make it all the more exciting, before finally reaching the main point of your journey, a valley of different colours that you won't find elsewhere in the country. However, the journey to get there isn't an easy one. You reach the last points where roads are allowed, either from Govind Ghat or Pulna. From Govind Ghat, the trekking journey is about 14 kilometres while from Pulna, the trekking journey is about 10 kilometres. It will take you many hours before you can cover this distance but the scenic views along the way are very rewarding. Of course, at the end of your journey, you'll reach the paradise that is of the Valley of Flowers. Different blankets of coloured flowers all around, crystal clear streams of water in various places and yes, breathe the air as fresh as can be, far from the quality of air that the city has. Alas, you need to reach back to the base camp before nightfall occurs because camping in this paradise is not permitted. But you have with you some memories that you would remember forever.
    • Must Do Activities - Trekking, Photography and Picnic

    Are you someone fond of travelling but find the usual tourist places to be very similar with one another? With this list, you have quite a variety when it comes to touring North India. You have an option to visit a bustling city, or maybe a place filled with heritage sites, or maybe a place where your spirituality can be enhanced. Or if you love nature, opt for a wildlife sanctuary and national park. But if you want some adventure, you have an option for that as well. And finally, what's a list without an offbeat option, right? There you have it, a list of the best tourist places in North India. I hope this helps you!