The Ultimate India Bucket List: 25 Places To Visit

Sep 29, 2021 | Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Food & Drinks, Group Tours, India, Travel Tips

India is a bucket list destination for many with over 10 million tourists visiting each year (during a normal travel year of course). This country is well known for its amazing wildlife, stunning landscapes and architectural masterpieces. If you are after a combination of culture, amazing food and lots of awesome activities to sink your teeth into, then India should be your next trip! There are endless places to visit in this incredible country, so it’s a guarantee you will find something to your liking. Some of the most popular things to do include searching for wild tigers on safari, visiting the famous Taj Mahal and relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Goa. We’ve put together a list of 25 experiences that you don’t want to miss during your trip. If you are planning a post-pandemic trip to India, then here is the ultimate India bucket list!

 

1. Celebrate the famous Holi Festival

India’s Holi Festival is famous across the world and many people have this experience on the top of their bucket lists.

The Holi Festival originated in India and is a Hindu festival that takes place over the course of two days. The festival celebrates love, spring and new life, hence why it takes place in March as this marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring. It also celebrates the Hindu god Krishna and the legend of Holika and Prahlad.

On the first day of Holi, people gather around bonfires to celebrate good triumphing over evil. During the second day of the Holi Festival, people launch lots of paint, perfumed powder, balloons and water pistols at each other. This is the day that the festival is most famous for, and is why the Holi Festival is also known as ‘the festival of colours’.

people celebrating the holi festival in india

2. Explore the Lotus Temple in New Delhi

The Lotus Temple is found in New Delhi and is one of the city’s top tourist attractions. Also known as the ‘Bahai House Of Worship’, this temple has won numerous awards due to its design and it isn’t hard to see why.

The temple was designed by an Iranian architect named Fariborz Sahba and takes the shape of a lotus flower. This is because a lotus flower is common to several different religions including Buddhism and Hinduism.

Since its completion in 1986, the temple has become one of the most visited places in the world. Before the pandemic, the Lotus temple was visited by over four million people a year, with an average of 10,000 visitors per day. There is no entry fee to enter the temple, but the timings change depending on the time of year so it’s best to check before your visit.

the lotus temple in new delhi

3. Go hiking in the Himalayas

When you think about the Himalayas, most people’s minds go straight to Nepal. However, the Indian Himalayas are just as beautiful. The Indian Himalayas are found within the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim among others, and there are plenty of great places to hike.

Some of the most popular treks in the Indian Himalayas include:

  • Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh
  • The Singalila Ridge Trek in West Bengal
  • Talle Valley trek in Arunachal Pradesh
  • Deo Tibba Trek in Himachal Pradesh
  • The Markha Valley Trek which runs through Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir

Hiking in the Himalayas is an amazing experience. From starting out in the foothills with lush alpine forests and jungle to trekking through high altitude mountain ranges covered in snow; trekking in the Indian Himalayas is an opportunity not to be missed!

 a mountain range in himachal pradesh

4. Visit the Majestic Taj Mahal

When people think of India, generally the first thing that comes to mind is the Taj Mahal. Pre-pandemic, millions of people tour this site every year, and once you get to see it for yourself it’s easy to see why.

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum that was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632. This iconic building was commissioned in his wife’s memory as she sadly passed away from childbirth. The Taj Mahal was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982 and today is considered one of the ‘new 7 wonders of the world’. Getting to see this iconic site lighting up at sunrise needs to be on your India bucket list, as it’s one of the best sites you will ever see!

During our 14 day India tour, aside from visiting the Taj Mahal, we will also take some Tuk Tuks to the beautiful Mehtab Bagh. Also known as the ‘moonlight garden’ this magical spot gives you the opportunity to enjoy the Taj Mahal away from all the crowds. You will get to see this architectural masterpiece at sunset, and take some awesome photographs!

the taj mahal during golden hour

5. Spot wild tigers and leopards in Ranthambore National Park

Seeing a big cat in the wild is a magical encounter and one that everyone should experience at least once during their lifetime! If you head to Ranthambore National Park then not only will you have the opportunity to look for the beautiful Bengal tiger, but you might also spot an elusive leopard if you are lucky.

Ranthambore National Park is located near Sawai Madhopur, within the Indian state of Rajasthan. The park is located about 130km from the city of Jaipur and is easily accessible by public transport. It is one of the most well-known parks in India and one of the largest with an area of approximately 400 sq km. It is the perfect place to go on an Indian safari, and there are lots of different tour operators to choose from so make sure you do your research first.

Aside from Bengal tigers and leopards, there is plenty of other cool wildlife you can see. Other large mammals you might get a chance to spot include sloth bears, hyenas, sambar deer, rhesus macaques and wild boars. Bird watching is also incredibly popular here too as there are over 300 bird species located in and around the park. Of course, these are wild animals so sightings are never guaranteed, but the unknown is what makes it so fun!

a tiger in ranthambore national park

6. Ride the toy train in Shimla

The Kalka-Shimla toy train was built in 1903 and spans about 60 miles in total. This journey is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most scenic railway journeys in India.

The origin of Shimla’s toy train is an interesting story. After the first Anglo-Gurkha war, Shimla was established by the British people and soon became a popular destination. Shimla actually became the summer capital for the British empire in 1864, however, the route to this destination was a tricky and treacherous one. The only way to get there was by bullock cart which was incredibly dangerous due to the rough terrain and took a lot of time. The narrow railway line between Kalka and Shimla was opened in 1903, and the train has been operating ever since.

This train journey will treat you to some of the best scenery in the whole of India. Picture lush green pine forests, rugged mountains, powerful waterfalls and beautiful valleys; do we have your attention? I thought so! The full journey takes around five and a half hours so make sure you are prepped with lots of snacks. If you are looking for a unique experience, then this is definitely one for your India bucket list!

the kalka-shimla toy train

7. Go beach hopping in Goa

Goa has some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Asia, if not the world. The state of Goa is located on the southwestern coast of India and is a popular tourist destination for travellers and holidaymakers. Although it is the smallest state in India, it is famous across the world for its pristine white beaches and laid back atmosphere.

When it comes to visiting this beautiful state, you have two main options; North Goa or South Goa. Both are awesome options but are very different in terms of experience. North Goa is the lively part of the state with lots of nightlife, shopping and plenty of restaurants. If you prefer a more relaxed holiday, then South Goa is the place you want to be, with stunning beaches, lots of scenic drives and a tranquil atmosphere.

There are so many incredible beaches for you to visit in Goa, and this differs depending on which part you visit. If you are heading to North Goa then make sure to visit Morjim beach, Baga beach and Calangute beach. If you are visiting South Goa then don’t miss out on Palolem beach, Cola beach and Benaulim beach.

a beach in goa, india

8. Visit one of the holiest towns in India – Pushkar

Pushkar is located within the state of Rajasthan, and it borders the Thar desert. It is one of the most ancient cities in the country and is considered to be one of the holiest towns in India. Pushkar is also known as ‘tirtha-raj’ which means the king of pilgrim sites. This is due to the many temples that are found here, and the famous Pushkar lake where pilgrims travel too from across the country, so they can take a dip in the holy water.

Aside from exploring the temples and seeing the beautiful lake for yourself, there are plenty of other awesome things to do in Pushkar. You can wander around and explore the unique markets, take a jeep safari out into the desert or even head out on a hot air balloon to see the incredible views. You can also watch the evening Aarti which is a traditional Hindu worship ritual that is performed every night.

During our 14 day India tour, we will take you around the incredible Pushkar. You will get to sleep in the desert, and then a local Brahmin will induce you to Pushkar properly. This is done by giving you a blessing on the holy lake which is a pretty unique experience in itself. During our stay in Pushkar, you can choose to do a sunrise hike, take up some yoga or simply explore the unique markets here. To finish off your stay, we will learn how to cook some traditional Indian cuisine!

an aerial view of pushkar in india

9. Explore the home of the Dalai Lama

McLeod Ganj is located a couple of miles away from Dharamshala and is a popular spot to visit in India. This destination sits at an impressive 5,577 feet (1,700m) and is found within the beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh.

This spot is known as India’s Mini Tibet because of the local monasteries, Tibetan culture, tranquillity and stunning scenery. What’s even more impressive is that McLeod Ganj is currently home to the 14th Dalai Lama, so is a must for any India bucket list.

There are plenty of things to do in McLeod Ganj including the local markets, exploring Dal Lake, learning more about the culture here and taking a hike to see the beautiful surrounding mountains. You can even choose to volunteer with the Tibetan community or take a course on Buddhism if you wish.

 

 

10. Spot snow leopards in the Indian Himalayas

Looking for the elusive snow leopard is one of the best things to do in India. These beautiful big cats are found in many parts of the Indian Himalayas including the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh among others. One of the best places to spot them is Hemis National Park located in eastern Ladakh.

Hemis National Park is famous for its snow leopard population and is believed to have the highest density of these big cats than any other protected area in the world. It is the largest national park in India and is the only national park that is situated north of the Himalayas. If you are trekking through these mountain ranges, you might have the chance to spot one of these gorgeous creatures as they come down from higher ground in search of prey. That’s if you are incredibly lucky!

Snow leopards are one of the most mysterious creatures within the animal planet and are rarely spotted. As these big cats are so rarely seen, population numbers aren’t the most accurate. It is estimated that around 450-500 individuals live in India, but conservation programs are helping to up these numbers. The Indian government has identified the snow leopard as a flagship species for the Himalayas and has developed a programme called ‘Project Snow Leopard’ to help conserve the species and its habitat.

a snow leopard walking

11. Relax in the stunning mountain town of Manali

Manali is located in the beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh and is a popular Himalayan resort town. This stunning little town is nestled within the Kullu Valley and runs along the Beas River, offering incredible views.

There are actually two parts to Manali; Old Manali & New Manali. New Manali has plenty of stalls and restaurants for you to explore, whilst Old Manali is more peaceful and serene. Old Manali also offers plenty of spectacular views and is a lot cleaner. The two areas are only located a short distance away from each other so you can visit both and decide for yourself which one you like. Aside from the main parts of town, Manali also offers plenty of hiking opportunities, skydiving and even the chance to see incredible wildlife whilst trekking through the Manali wildlife sanctuary.

If you don’t already have enough reasons to visit this beautiful town then here’s another one. It is the gateway to the Rohtang pass, Spiti Valley and the city of Leh which is found in Ladakh. That makes it the perfect starting point for a Himalayan road trip (though you will need a pretty sturdy vehicle).

 the town of manali in himachal pradesh

12. Get to see the generosity of people at a local Sikh temple

If you are wanting to see the amazing work that is done at a Sikh temple, then New Delhi is the best place to visit. Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is one of the most well known Sikh temples in the city and is incredibly welcoming to tourists and locals alike, no matter your religion. Just make sure you dress modestly, and you will be given a piece of material to cover your head during your time here.

Aside from getting to understand the culture, one of the best things about this incredible temple is the kitchen and its volunteers. Sikh’s cook and provide free meals for the people of the city every day which is a lot of mouths to feed. It is an incredible gesture and one we would recommend everyone to experience.

During our 14 day tour, we will take you to one of the most popular Sikh temples in Delhi. You will get to see the huge kitchen for yourself, and how generous the people are here!

a sikh temple in india

13. Catch a rare glimpse of the Indian rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park is located within the Assam state of India and is one of the most sought after wildlife destinations across the country. This is due to the amazing wildlife that can be found here including the rare Indian one-horned rhinoceros.

These beautiful creatures are the largest of the rhino species and they can weigh up to 6,000 pounds which is pretty impressive! Also known as the ‘Indian rhino’ these animals were once nearly hunted to extinction for sport, and by the start of the 20th century only around 200 individuals remained.

Now thanks to conservation efforts and strict protection from the Indian and Nepalese wildlife authorities, their numbers have risen to about 3,700 individuals across India and Nepal. As well as the Indian rhino, you also have the opportunity to see royal Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, buffalo and sambar deer among others. A safari here is definitely a must for the India Bucket List!

a indian one horned rhinoceros in kaziranga national park

14. Drive on one of the highest motorable roads in the world

If you are a keen adventurer and adrenaline junkie, then driving along one of the world’s highest motorable roads is definitely for you! Khardung La Is located in Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok Valley and Nubra Valley. The pass sits at an impressive 5,359m (roughly 17,582 feet) above sea level and was once known as a major caravan route from Leh in India to Kashgar in Central Asia.

The Khardung La is incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike and that’s down to its mind-blowing views. The views looking back towards Leh or into the Nubra Valley are like nothing you’ve ever seen before, and you can also get a glimpse of two of the glaciers that are found here. If it’s clear you might even get a view of the peak of Stok Kangri!

 the khardung la pass in leh

15. Cruise Kerala’s lagoons and lakes by houseboat

If you are heading to India then a cruise on Kerala’s backwater by houseboat is a must. Kerala is located in southern India and is famous for its beautiful backwaters, lined with palm trees. These backwaters are internal waters that stretch for 900km in total, and they act as passages for areas that roads and paths can’t reach.

There are plenty of different tour companies that offer a houseboat experience on the Kerala backwaters so do some research first. Some of the tour companies offer luxurious trips down the river, whilst others help travellers have this experience on more of a tight budget.

The houseboats tend to move very slowly along the waterways covering around 20km every day. Throughout your journey through these backwaters, you will get to see little villages, markets, beaches, bird sanctuaries and coconut plantations. If you’re lucky you might even get to see some village workshops and watch the local people at their crafts. What more could you ask for?

a houseboat in kerala

16. Explore the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur

Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan, and is known as the ‘Pink city’. This is down to the famous iconic buildings that have made this city so popular. These unique buildings are believed to have been painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales during his tour of India in 1876.

At the centre of the city is where you will find many incredible places to visit including the City Palace complex. The palace complex contains gardens, courtyards, and museums for you to explore. What’s also cool is that part of the palace is still a royal residence. Other popular spots to visit in Jaipur include the impressive Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Nahargarh Fort and Jal Mahal.

During our 14 day India tour we will explore the pink city, and our guide will show us the best of the old town. You will get to visit the local markets, meet local traders and learn all about the different spices that make Indian curries so great. We also show you an awesome Bollywood movie during your stay here, and you will get to watch it in one of the grandest theatres in the world.

hawa mahhal in jaipur, india

17. Visit the beautiful town of Leh in Ladakh

Leh is the largest town in Ladakh and is also the historical capital of the Kingdom of Ladakh. Sitting at 11,000 feet, Leh is a hugely popular tourist destination and that’s thanks to its incredible landscapes and fantastic attractions!

One of these famous attractions is Leh Palace. This palace was built-in the 15th century and towers above the old town at an impressive 9 storeys high. It was built by King Senge Namgyal during the 1500s and is a spot you definitely want to visit.

Some of the other top places to visit in Leh include Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Shanti Stupa and Chamba Temple. The Sankar Gompa monastery is also a top visit whilst travelling through Leh and Ladakh.

a road running through leh, ladakh

18. Volunteer at Animal Aid Unlimited

Animal Aid Unlimited is an animal rescue organisation that was set up in India in 2002. The organisation is based in Udaipur city and works to rescue and treat animals that are sick, injured, or in need of urgent medical attention.

Animal Aid has 100 members of staff, but that doesn’t stop the organisation needing more help. This organisation believes that volunteers play a special role in caring for the welfare of their animals, whether they are permanent residents at their sanctuary or just temporarily in their hospital.

This is a wonderful opportunity to try something new, whilst also doing something amazing for a great cause. As a volunteer your roles can vary from providing comfort to injured animals, assisting with physio and hydrotherapy, feeding orphaned calves and brushing the handicapped donkeys. You can volunteer for Animal Aid for any period of time ranging from just a few hours to a couple of months.

 

 

19. See the Lions of Gir Forest

Wild lions are only found in Africa, right? Wrong! Believe it or not, lions can also be found in India too, although they are a different species. India is home to approximately 600 Asiatic lions, all of which live in Gir Forest.

This is the last remaining home of Asiatic lions, who once used to roam across the Middle East and Asia; from Bangladesh to Greece. Gir Forest offers you an amazing chance to catch a glimpse of these very special creatures, so make sure you take your camera!

As well as Asiatic Lions you can also see a wide variety of diverse wildlife. This includes leopards, langur monkeys, jackals, antelope, deer and crocodiles among others. If you’re looking for a wild experience then Gir Forest is the place for you.

 a lioness in gir forest

20. Visit the ‘blue city’ of Jodhpur (tour)

In the Thar Desert which is located in the northwest of Rajasthan, sits the blue city of Jodhpur. Nobody really knows why the city was painted blue in the first place, but there are a few theories. One of these theories is that blue is the colour associated with Lord Shiva, whilst other people believe Jodhpur was painted this way as the colour blue is a determinant of social status. Some people even believe the city was painted blue as a deterrent to termites!

Aside from the brightly coloured buildings, there are plenty of other things to see in Jodhpur. Its 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort attracts tourists from around the world, and the fort walls will give you an incredible view of the iconic blue buildings. The former palace of Jodhpur is also a great place to visit as it is now a museum that displays paintings, royal belongings and ancient weapons.

the blue city of jodhpur in india

21. Stay in a Historic fort in Jaisalmer

Have you ever wanted to stay in a medieval fort? If so, then Jaisalmer Fort is definitely the place to visit. The desert city of Jaisalmer is home to one of the only living forts in the world, which was constructed in 1156 AD. For nearly 800 years the fort was actually the city of Jaisalmer until the population got too big, and the city had to be expanded.

Spending a night in the fort is a must for anybody wanting to get a sense of what life used to be like before modern-day architecture. You can spend your night looking out over the old fort walls into the old city and the desert which sits just outside. It is the perfect spot for stargazing and the fort has some pretty amazing rooftop restaurants too!

 jaisalmer fort in india

22. Explore Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi

Humayun’s Tomb is located in the chaotic city of Delhi and was built in the 1560s. The tomb was built in memory of Emperor Humayun after his passing and was commissioned by his wife. This iconic place paved the way for the Taj Mahal with its incredible architecture and intricate detail.
Humayun’s Tomb was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and has undergone multiple restorations since. However, it still stands just as beautiful and majestic as ever!

From the 17th to the 19th century, the gardens of the tomb were filled with Humayun’s descendants along with his entourage. There are even several Mughal emperors that are buried inside the mausoleum, and the tomb was actually the first garden tomb to be built.

Just a word of warning, the entrance price isn’t cheap by India’s standards. As one of Delhi’s most popular tourist attractions, there is a steep increase in the entrance price for foreigners. However this spot is popular for a reason, and in our opinion is a must for any India bucket list!

humayun's tomb in delhi, india

23. Camp overnight in the desert

If you are looking for a unique experience, then why not camp overnight in the desert? If you are travelling through India, then the likelihood is that you will visit Jaisalmer at some point throughout your journey (If you weren’t planning to, then make sure it’s on your list!).

Jaisalmer is surrounded by the Thar desert, which is the biggest desert in India. It spreads across five states throughout the country and actually forms a natural border with the country of Pakistan. It’s in this desert where you can get a truly unique experience. Does camping under the night sky and stargazing sound good to you? Then keep on reading!

You can either head out into the desert on a jeep safari or a camel safari. The way you get to the desert is completely up to you but it’s important to research the condition of the animal first. Animal welfare is not always up to standards across India and it’s not something you want to partake in. Once you get into the desert there are tents you can choose to sleep in depending on your tour, but you can also choose to simply sleep out on the sand if you wish. That way you will wake up to a truly unique experience and beautiful sunrise.

 the thar desert in india

24. Explore the ‘white city of Udaipur

The city of Udaipur is located in the state of Rajasthan and has plenty of nicknames to keep you on your toes. One of these is the ‘white city’ which is probably its most popular nickname. This is down to the large number of marble palaces found throughout Udaipur. The city was founded in 1559 and since then the Rajput kings built beautiful palaces that were made of marble; hence the stunning white colour found throughout the city. The houses throughout the city are also mostly painted white to match. Just to confuse things, Udaipur is also known as ‘the city of lakes’ as the city is surrounded by various lakes including Lake Pichola and Fateh Sagar Lake.

One of the most popular things to do in Udaipur includes exploring the city palace which is Rajasthan’s largest palace. Construction on the city palace began in 1559 when the city was founded, and since then many kings have also left their mark on this impressive architectural masterpiece. If you are looking to make the most out of your stay here then make sure you also head to Lake Pichola for a magical sunset and explore India’s most important Hindu temple – Jagdish.

During our 14 day India tour, we will take a bus to Udaipur and marvel at the architecture and lakes. We will explore the markets, wander through the old town and finish off a perfect day with a private sunset cruise on the lake. You will also get to meet the local people, learn about their culture and heritage, and get the opportunity to visit a local school during your time in Udaipur with us.

the white city of udaipur in india

25. Watch the sunrise over the River Ganges and Varanasi

Varanasi is a city located in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and is thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 11BC. It is regarded as the spiritual capital of India and is incredibly important to the local people.

Varanasi sits on the Ganges river and therefore is an important pilgrimage site. Hindu pilgrims travel to the city to bathe in the sacred water of the Ganges and to perform traditional funerals for their family members. Over 2,000 temples can be found along the river including the golden temple, which is one of the city’s most beautiful sights.

With a population of over 1 million people, the city can get pretty crowded but it’s definitely worth it. What’s even more special is getting to witness a sunrise in this incredible city. If you do just one thing during your stay in Varanasi, then make sure it’s waking up early to watch the sunrise over the river Ganges. It is a magical experience and one that everybody needs to have during their lifetime.

the river ganges running through varanasi in india

India is a country that offers so much for travellers and is a country that is on many bucket lists. The stunning architecture, diverse culture and mouth-watering dishes are just some of the things that make this country so incredible. Whether you are looking to head out on safari, relax on the pristine beaches of the south coast or explore temples to your heart’s content; this unique country has it all.

Many people tend to be nervous about travelling through India as it can be pretty busy and chaotic. Why not leave all the organisation and travel to us, and have the best time of your life in this awesome country. On our 14 day India tour we will show you the best this country has to offer, and you can simply sit back and enjoy the ride. So, why not come and explore India with us?

Feeling inspired to save for your next adventure? Check out our other trips here and use the code ONELIFE15 at checkout to get an enormous 15% off all our trips, for a limited time only! 

Written By: Abbie Bevan

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