Being the seventh largest country in the world, the Indian history dates back to no less than 5 millennia. Popularly known for its unity in diversity, multi-cultural population, India is home to many religions and ethnic groups.
Tourism in India is widely spread across the nation and is continuously growing at an estimated speed of 30% annually. With the onset of eVisa recently for many countries, the nation is becoming more tourist friendly day by day. Every state has its own charm and beauty to attract tourists from all over the world. With ever 200-300 km that you travel in the country, irrespective of the direction; the language, ethnicity, culture, living style of people living in that area changes. The country is so diverse and rich in culture that it is impossible to grasp everything in one visit. From the coldest places example, Kashmir, to one of driest areas of the world that is –The Thar Desert, you can get all in India. Apart from this, India is a land of beautiful picturesque beaches too and the Northern region of the country has Himalayan Ranges that are snow-capped.
So let’s first take you to the most important places of interest in the country. If you are a first time visitor, take necessary precautions and be careful with your documents and cash. Let’s take a look at the best places to visit in India for foreigners –
Leh-Ladakh – White beauties!
Starting from the top my personal favorite is Leh-Ladakh, a region in Jammu and Kashmir. If you like driving and adventure, this is your route to heaven on earth. The scenic valley charms each traveler with its beautiful curves and curls and embraces you with open heart. Though, open only during May-October during the year, the exotic road is a must once in a life time. The treks are part of Greater Himalaya called “moon on earth” consists of naked peaks and deep gorges.
How to reach there – the best possible route is to start your journey from New Delhi via Manali and up to Leh on road.
Attractions – Leh Palace, Stok Palace, Hall of Fame, Shanti Stupa and Tiger Hill apart from many other lakes, passes and monasteries.
Food – Try the thick soup – Thupka along with Momos accompanied by fiery chili sauce.
You can also try some Tibetan food along with local Ladakhi cuisine which is mildly flavored.
Shopping – Popular items include not just pashmina Shawls but also Tibetan handicrafts like prayer wheels, Buddhists masks and silver jewelry. Handmade rugs, carpets and wall hangings are also famous. Don’t forget to buy apricots as they of premium quality in this region.
Tips – Whatever time of the year you plan to travel, carry some warm clothes as the temperature can vary during the day.
- All foreign travelers are required to get themselves registered at Drass, Serchu and Rumste if traveling through the land.
- Cash is most prevalent for all kinds of transactions and credit cards have a surcharge.
- Seek permission before taking photographs as some monuments restrict being clicked.
- Plastic is officially banned in Ladakh.
Himachal Pradesh – Land of Snow
Coming down from Kashmir valley, you can chill in Manali and Kullu. Situated on the banks of Beas River, the place is enchanting and offer splendid view of snow- capped mountains and is most loved by rafters and those who love skiing. Best time to visit is after the retreating monsoons.
Getting there – Easiest way to reach Manali is by road from Delhi via Chandigarh. Sleeper luxury coaches are available at affordable prices. Other options include taking a flight to Bhuntar airport which is 10 km away from Manali. Jogindernagar railway station is the nearest railhead to Manali that connects the hill station with several important cities of the country.
Attractions – Rohtang Pass, Solang Valley, Beas Kund, Pandoh Dam in Kullu are some of the popular places for tourists. Adventure seekers can try trekking, rafting, mountaineering and paragliding.
Food – Manali has variety of foods to offer. Ranging from local chaat(savory) to international cuisine; all are available in the local restaurants. Venture into old Manali market to treat your palette.
Shopping – Chingu (a type of blanket) are most famous here and are found in plenty of shops. Other products include fresh fruits, jams, woolens, rugs and fruit oils.
Tips – Carry a good pair of walking shoes to walk around the uneven roads. Carry your driving license to rent bikes. Roads are narrow and therefore be prepared for long jams.
Delhi – National Capital, Place of Historical, Shopping and Commercial Centre
Being the capital of the country, the city enjoys frequent travels and is buzzing throughout the year. Winters are most enjoyable as the city offers unlimited delicacies for both veg and non-vegetarian people. Though the best time would be around October – November with mild winters and pleasant weather throughout the day.
Getting there – Delhi is one of the most accessible cities in India not only through domestic means but also Internationally. Almost all cities in the world have direct or connecting flights to the Capital.
- Once you are in any city in India, reaching Delhi by road is also easy but may take long depending on the distance. Distance of 500 km can be covered overnight from any direction.
- Trains are available from all major and minor cities to reach Delhi. Once you are in the city, getting around is quite easy with the use of Metro, taxis and Ac buses.
Attractions – The city has its own old and new charm and tourists can enjoy both at the same time. Visit Red fort, Jama Masjid, Chandini Chowk, Humayun’s Tomb & Qutub Minar.
- Religious attractions include Lotus Temple, Chattarpur Mandir, ISKON Temple, Bangla sahib Gurudwara and Akshardham Temple.
- History lovers and Intellectuals can take a tour of Museums and art galleries or go for a walk around Connaught Place.
Food – Food lovers can go crazy in this city as it has everything under the sun on its plate. From highway food to elite restaurants, everything is available to suit a pocket.
- Budget travelers can go to Bengali Market, Haldiram, Andhra bhavan Canteen, or try the Chola Kulcha easily available around every corner. Also do not forget to squeeze into Paranthey Wali Gali (street) and try exotic paranthas (stuffed Indian bread) in Old Delhi.
- For those who want to explore more can try Kebabs at Khan Chacha in Khan Market, Karim’s for best Mughlai food.
- If you wish to splurge, the city has an endless list of five star hotels and restaurants. From Bukhara which is famous for its Dal Makhani, Big Chill for Italian, Olive Bar and Kitchen to Turquoise Cottage for Thai food.
- Apart from the above, the city has every cuisine available like Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, South Indian and what not. Just go with the flow and order.
Shopping – Shopaholics be aware. The city will not leave you till you drop. Take a walk at Janpath Market, Sarojini Market, Palika Bazar, Karol Bagh Market, Lajpat nagar, Kamla Nagar Market if you want to bargain. For Handicrafts go straight to Dilli Haat where you can find handmade or otherwise crafts and food from all states of India. Cottage emporium is also a good place to look for Handicrafts.
- Premium shoppers can go to South Ex Market or shopping malls like DLF, City walk and Emporium.
- Once you are done with your shopping, you can stop for a drink or two with your friends at any of the Bars in these malls to experience the night life of Delhi.
Tips – Though it is one of the best places to visit in India but beware for scouts and don’t be a victim of any scam which are common in Delhi.
- Do not let anybody especially auto drivers and unknown people know that it’s your first time in the city. This will make you more vulnerable.
- Do not venture out alone in night. Women should avoid secluded areas even in daytime.
- Dress conservatively depending on the area and time.
- Do not carry too much cash and keep your valuables safe.
- Book your tickets online and avoid tourist agencies in the city.
Jaipur- Udaipur – Feast for the eyes
Complete the Golden triangle with your visit to these historic cities in Royal Rajasthan. Take the Palace on Wheels or just drive through these places to visit royal forts, lake palaces and gardens.
Getting there– Reaching Jaipur is quite easy. By road, train or flight; all are easily available from any part of the country. Internationally Jaipur is connected to Middle East, and few other countries.
Attractions – When in Jaipur, visit the Lake Palace, Ram Bagh, Amber Fort (Light and Sound Show), Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Raj Mandir (theater) and Anokhi Museum of hand Printing.
Food – the famous Pyaz Ki Kachori (spicy onion savory) at Rawat, sweets at Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar (sweet shop) and Chokhi Dhani are few of the popular places apart from other small restaurants which are equally good in quality and taste when it comes to food.
Shopping – Shop for exquisite jewelry, saris, mojeries (slippers) and quilts in Johari Bazar and Bapu Bazar. If you wish to buy Tie-n-dye or Lehriya print visit Sanganer.
Tips – Stay away from people trying to lure you into secluded shops or invite you to show gems and other stones. Most of the markets remain closed during Sundays except shopping malls.
Ajanta & Ellora – History in Caves
Marked as world heritage sites by UNESCO, these caves are located near Aurangabad city in Maharashtra. These caves are considered a masterpiece of Buddhist religion and pictorial art form.
Getting there – Being centrally located, the city of Aurangabad is easily accessible by road, train and air. The caves are open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM (IST). Ajanta is closed on Monday and Ellora on Tuesday. Both are open on all National Holidays.
Attractions – There are many attractions of religious and historic importance and otherwise. Daulatabad, Girineshwar Temple, Bibi Ka Maqbara Panchakki, Soneri Mahal to name a few.
Food – All types of food from road side eateries, to elaborate fie star meals is available including authentic Maharashtrian food.
Shopping – Shop the local, traditional and ethnic Himroo & Mishroo shawls, bedcovers and Paithani sarees.
Tips – the city is fairly safe but precaution is always better than cure. Do not roam in the night alone and beware of pick-pockets in crowded places.
Goa – Paradise for those who want to enjoy night life
Down south the state of Maharashtra, lies the state of Goa. Famous for its pristine beaches, Goa is often called the Pearl of the Orient. Its popular for its night life, craft markets, beaches, parties and not to forget the Goa Carnival which takes place in the month of February every year.
Getting there – Easiest way is to take a flight from Delhi or train from any city in the north of India.
- If you are in Mumbai, take an overnight train or drive your way to the western Ghats and enjoy the coastline.
- You can also take the ferry which runs occasionally from Mumbai.
Attractions – Every part of Goa is attractive depending on the area you are staying. North Goa is more adventurous and happening as compared to the serene and calm south Goa.
- Paragliding, Biking, motorboats, surfing, Casinos are few of the adventures.
- With pristine beaches, cathedrals and night life; it makes for the best place in India for foreigners.
Food – Allow yourself to experience the exquisite Goan cuisine with a touch of Portugal. Amazing mouth-watering sea food awaits you at every corner of the place. Alcohol is easily available and in abundance here.
Shopping – You can buy Fenny (Cashew brew) and also good variety of cashews apart from Gypsy clothes and beach ware.
Tips – Don’t fall for scouts offering various services like dancers and free passes or rides.Check for tides before going into the waters.
Kanyakumari- Confluence of Three Oceans
Spectacular sunrise and sunset is what draws the tourists to this place. What makes it more special is the confluence of the oceanic bodies- Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. On a full-moon evening, one can also see the moon-rise and sunset at the same time – on either side of the horizon.
Getting there – Yet another one of the best places to visit in India for foreigners can be reached by air from the nearest airport of Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) in Kerala. Alternatively, one can take a bus or train from Chennai and several trains run from Kochi, Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi.
Attractions – Vivekananda Rock by ferry or jetty is about 100 meters from the shore. Thiruvalluvar Statue dedicated to the great poet, philosopher and saint of Tamil Nadu. Baywatch is an amusement park at Sunset Point and is home to India’s first wax museum. One can meditate at Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
Food – Taste the classic South Indian Cuisine here at leisure and explore the art of eating on a Banana Leaf.
Shopping – Tourists can buy variety of sea shells, conches, mirrors and other decorative items. You can also get you name carved on these items.
Tips – Avoid alcohol on the beach as this place is a pilgrimage and enjoy coconut water instead which is in abundance.
Darjeeling – Nature at its Best
Travel back in time through this picturesque town and immerse yourself in tranquility. Such is the splendor and aura of this valley covered with magnificent mountains on all sides with clean fresh air. Darjeeling is one of the best places to visit in India.
Getting there – Flights are available via Kolkata from all over India to Bagdogra. Similarly, once you reach Kolkata, you can also hail a cab or take a train to reach Darjeeling via Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri.
Attractions – Mountaineering Institute, Himalayan Zoo, Monasteries, Rock Garden, Ropeway and don’t forget to take the Toy Train.
Food – Mix of North Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese food can be found here.
Shopping – Buy the most popular tea for which Darjeeling is famous for. Curio items such as Thangkas, miniature monasteries and garments made from Yak wool.
Tips – Carry woolens and good trekking shoes to walk around the place.
Gangtok – Nature’s Gift
If you happen to reach Darjeeling, don’t miss out on Gangtok as its only few hours’ drive away. The city reflects modernity, cleanliness, happy people with strong presence of Stupas and Monasteries.
These were some of the best places to visit in India for Foreigners and the list is never ending. There is something interesting for every kind of tourist. Other best places to visit in India for foreigners include Gir Forests, Corbit National Park, Mysore, Bombay, Auli, Dharamshala and so on. List out your likings to decide the places of interest or just go with the flow, how I do when I visit a new country.