India is one of the oldest, largest, and most populous nations on the planet. Ancient Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries, and palaces built by Mughals welcome locals and tourists alike to admire them. If you want to visit this astounding country, remember that visitors need a visa. While many languages are spoken here, Hindi and English are the most common.
Built by over a thousand artists, this incredibly new structure stands as a celebration of Indian spirituality and culture. A temple serves as the main focus, but you can explore the various halls and wings to learn more about it. If you can time your visit so that you're able to witness the natural light show every day at sunset.
Bollywood films are known for featuring a mix of high drama, romance, and lavish song and dance performances. Theaters across the country screen these films, but the art deco movie palace Raj Mandir in Jaipur is the most famous venue for them. Most Bollywood films are made in a Hindi-Urdu dialect, but very popular films may be subtitled.
The animal rescue Animal Aid Unlimited in Udaipur provides a home to abandoned or neglected dogs, cows, goats, and even monkeys. Workers are happy to provide tours, and visitors are welcome to volunteer for a day or longer. You can get make arrangements and arrive there via taxi or rickshaw.
Located in the Bundi region, these cave paintings are around 15,000 years old. Tours are conducted by Kukki, who stumbled across these paintings considered to be one of India's greatest cultural treasures. You can also view the extensive coin collection, a living testament to all the peoples who have passed through Bundi over the ages.
It's easy to see the temple from a distance--the building is covered entirely in gold! This Sikh holy site, which dates to the 16th century, is open for believers of all faith traditions. As an expression of their faith, workers at the attached langar hall serve a free, vegetarian meal to all comers. Darbar Sahib is open from 4:00 am to 11:00 pm every day.
Found in the Goa region, Palolem beach has white-sand beaches that stretch for miles. Rent a beach hut, or just take a day trip and stretch out on the sand. Go snorkeling, take a hike, or wait for the sun to go down and party with the locals.
India is home to majestic tigers, Asiatic lions and three species of leopards. The government works hard to create preserves for all these cats, all of which are threatened species. Places like the Sasan Gir National Park or Kanchenjunga Nature Preserve give these animals a home, and you might see one if you book a tour or safari.
Mount Everest might be the most famous peak, but the Himalayas are a majestic range that stretch for miles upon miles. Hiking trails abound, offering adventures for both beginners and experienced mountaineers. Travel the Sikkim circuit and discover a new monastery at every stop, join celebrants on the Hemis Festival Trek, or explore the pine forests of Singalila. Each trail has its own challenges, so carefully research any route you plan to take.
Hindu practitioners celebrate many public festivals throughout the year, and people are welcome to join. In the fall celebrate Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, as over one million clay lamps illuminate the country. Holi, or the Festival of Colors, celebrates the beginning of springtime and the triumph of good over evil with splashes of brightly colored powder. Each region has its own separate calendar, so look into the places on your itinerary if you want to learn more about these festivals.
Believed to be the site where Buddha gained enlightenment, parts of this temple complex are over a thousand years old. The main spire stretches over one hundred feet into the air, and a venerated statue of Buddha is housed within. This is a holy site where Tibetan monks perform their daily devotions, so if you're visiting be respectful of your surroundings.
Before the advent of modern plumbing, storing water in arid Rajasthan was a constant challenge. The solution was a stone-lined man-made well the size of a large pond, with a multitude of steps allowing people to walk to the current water level. Off to the side, the haveli allowed people to cool off. The stepwell at Chand Baori no longer stores water, but the structure is nonetheless stunning. Admission is free, but it's strongly suggested you tip the caretakers.
Banyan trees are known to extend their roots up to the sky, giving the appearance of trunks and branches. In the case of the Grand Banyan at the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Garden in Kolkata, this tree covers over three and a half acres! Despite its size, the tree is quite delicate, so if you visit step carefully.
India is one of tea's first homes, producing prized varieties such as Assam, Darjeeling, and, of course, chai. Tea lovers can book a 4 to 7-day tour that takes you all over the tea-growing regions of India. See where and how your favorite tea is grown; learn about how is tea is harvested and processed, and enjoy the highest-quality drinks the region has to offer.
High in the Himalayan region of Roopkund, women sing a song about a mountain goddess whose temple was defiled. Enraged, the goddess hurled hailstones at the offenders, killing them all. In 1942, this legend became less of a story when a British army officer discovered a lake full of skeletons near this area. The skulls there showed signs of being hit by hard, blunt objects. If you plan to visit, prepare for a journey--there are no roads leading to Skeleton Lake, so schedule a three to four-day hike.
After exploring a country suffused with history, you might enjoy the chance to experience something a little newer. The Anjuna Flea Market opened in the 1960s in Goa; now it sells spices, incense, carved crystals, jewelry, and other goods. The market is open every Wednesday, October through May, sunrise to sunset.