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Top 20 Things To Do in India — A Complete Guide with Pictures

Top 20 Things To Do in India — A Complete Guide with Pictures

By Carol Updated Dec. 20, 2022

In India, there is truly something for everyone.

Some of the top things to do in India include exploring the country's history by visiting palaces, markets, and monuments. If you aren't a history buff you can take in the natural scenery of the Himalayas, the Thar Desert, or Goan Beaches.

Those who love adventure sports can take a safari in search of wild tigers or trek through Assam, West Bengal, or Tibet. Food lovers can take a cooking class, explore spice markets, or relax at tea plantations.

To find out more, check out our top 20 favorite things to do in India.

1. Explore India's Royal Heritage

  • Recommended visiting time: 2-3 hours at each location
  • Perfect for: those who love history and stunning architecture

India is full of many royal families that once ruled over different states or cities and each royal lineage left behind its mark on the local culture as well as its impressive palaces, forts, and monuments.

You can see the monuments of the Mughal empire in Agra with the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort or in Delhi at the Red Fort and Jama Masjid.

Where Mughal architecture is large and impressive, Rajput structures are often more whimsical and elegant. Explore the pink buildings of Jaipur and take in the gorgeous Hawa Mahal then head to the blue city of Jodhpur to visit ancient markets and the Mehrangarh Fort.

Udaipur is the true masterpiece of Rajput royal heritage with its dozens of fairytale-like palaces overlooking calm lakes.

2. Take in the Country's Colonial Past

  • Recommended visiting time: half-day
  • Perfect for: history and architecture lovers

New Delhi was once the capital of British India and is the best place to explore incredible colonial-era buildings such as the Rashtrapati Bhawan along Victory Lane and the iconic India Gate. In Delhi, you will also find expansive colonial mansions that have been converted into beautiful modern hotels such as the Maidens or Claridges.

>>> The 29 Ultimate Things to Do in Delhi 2023 (for Friends, Families & Couples)

Mumbai is also home to many beautiful British colonial buildings such as the impressive Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Train Station.

Many parts of India were heavily influenced by the Portuguese who were the first European power to colonize the country. The state of Goa is full of Portuguese influence which can be seen in the food, culture, religion, and architecture. When in Goa, make sure to check out the 400-year-old Portuguese city of Panaji.

Kerala was also greatly influenced by the Portuguese which can be seen in Fort Kochi's charming colonial homes and cobblestone streets.

3. Search for Wild Tigers

  • Recommended visiting time: 1-2 days
  • Perfect for: people who love the outdoors

India contains over half of the world's population of wild tigers so if you want to see one of these incredible animals in their natural habitat, this is the place!

Ranthambore National Park is one of the top tiger reserves in the country and offers two safaris a day that are each led by an experienced Indian naturalist. Ranthambhore contains around 60 wild tigers along with foxes, crocodiles, leopards, sloth bears, and jackals.

Bandhavgarh National Park is the reserve with the highest density of wild tigers in India and is one of the few that also has white tigers.

Kanha National Park has around 60 wild tigers that live in the dense tropical forests that inspired The Jungle Book .

The best time to see tigers is in the hot season (May to June) when the animals come out in search of water.

4. Take a Cooking Class

  • Recommended visiting time: half-day
  • Perfect for: food lovers of all kinds

Taking a cooking class is a great way to learn more about Indian cuisine and how the various flavors are used to make one cohesive dish. Indian food is often made with fresh vegetables, marinated meats, and many aromatic spices.

In Jaipur, you can learn to make authentic Rajasthani food which was heavily influenced by the surrounding desert and tribal cultures. Rajasthani food is often made with thick spicy sauces and eaten with bread.

In the South Indian state of Kerala, you can learn how to make curries that are sweetened with coconut milk and include fresh seafood. In Goa, you can discover how Portuguese colonization has influenced the flavors of local cuisine.

5. Wander Through Local Markets

  • Recommended visiting time: half-day
  • Perfect for: travelers in general

The traditional open and chaotic markets of India have long been an important meeting place and central focus of the country's major cities. Exploring these bazaars can give visitors a sense of the bustling beauty of life in India.

In Delhi, make sure to visit Chandni Chowk which is one of the oldest and busiest markets in the country. This market was originally created by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and has since been a vital part of the city with its narrow cobblestone paths and wide range of shops.

Chandni Chowk also contains Khari Baoli which is the largest wholesale spice market in all of Asia.

When in Mumbai, you can explore the Chor Bazaar which is a historic wet market that sells various items from fresh veggies and meat to homemade chocolate. Here you can also find handicrafts and antiques.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Most shopkeepers in India will expect you to bargain with them, so you should never accept the first price they offer.
  • Markets can be crowded and busy. If you find crowds overwhelming, you can explore them on a rickshaw.

6. Stay in a Heritage Hotel

  • Perfect for: couples and families

From the palaces of the maharajas to the mansions of colonial rulers and wealthy merchants, India is truly above the rest when it comes to providing regal and unique accommodation experiences.

When in Delhi, there is no better place to stay than in a colonial-era heritage hotel where you can relax at the spa and escape the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. In Kerala, you will also find colonial-era hotels that were built by the Portuguese.

In Jaipur, you can experience what it would have been like to be Indian royalty by staying in a palace hotel. These hotels maintain the same elegance and luxury that they did when in the past but have been updated to include modern amenities and facilities.

While in Jaipur, you can also look into staying in a Haveli which is a traditional Indian mansion that often includes beautiful gardens and courtyards.

7. Experience an Indian Festival

  • Recommended visiting time: 1-2 days
  • Perfect for: travelers in general

India is the land of festivals and no matter when you arrive it is likely that there is a holiday or festival happening somewhere in the country. Most Indian festivals are celebrations of religious holidays and include massive parades, dancing, music, and food.

Diwali is often called the 'Festival of Light' and is the most important festival of the year for many Indians. Diwali is celebrated over a period of 5 days and is known for its clay lanterns called diyas which decorate homes, stores, and streets.

The importance of Diwali in India is often compared to the importance of Christmas in the west.

Another incredible festival to experience in India is Holi or the 'Festival of Colors'. This holiday is well-known all over the world as the holiday in which all of India participates in a joyous and chaotic color fight.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • There are many more festivals in India besides Diwali and Holi.
  • Some festivals in India can be overwhelming for foreigners due to the large crowds, crazy traffic, and noise.

8. Have a Romantic Dinner in a Royal Fort

9. Explore Bollywood

  • Recommended visiting time: half-day
  • Perfect for: film buffs

India's film industry is booming and at the center of its success is Bollywood. Bollywood films are famous for their upbeat songs, choreographed dances, striking costumes, and entertaining plots.

If you want to learn more about Bollywood, take a tour of Mumbai's Film City. Film City was built by the Indian government in 1978 to help Bollywood grow into an international giant. The complex covers over 300 acres and includes all different types of elaborate sets that have been used in previous movies.

10. Observe Rituals Performed Along the Ganges

  • Recommended visiting time: 1-2 hours
  • Perfect for: travelers in general

The Ganges is considered to be a very holy river in Hinduism. In order to honor the Goddess Ganga, a ritual called an aarti is performed nightly along the banks of the river in certain Indian cities. The aarti is a very powerful and beautiful ritual in which people light incense, chant, and place floating lanterns on the water.

The Ganga Aarti is performed in three major Hindu cities including Varanasi, Rishikesh, and Haridwar. Each city celebrates a little differently.

In Varanasi, the aarti is a very beautiful choreographed ceremony performed by priests. In Rikikesh, the aarti is a smaller and quieter celebration that focuses more on the spirituality and meaning behind the ceremony.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • You can also visit the Ganges river in the early morning to see people taking ritual baths in the holy water or performing yoga along the shores.

11. Get an Ayurvedic Treatment

  • Recommended visiting time: half-day
  • Perfect for: travelers interested in natural remedies and holistic health

Ayurveda is the name of the traditional medicine that has been used in India for 3000 years. The goal of Ayurveda is to achieve balance in the body through the use of natural remedies, yoga, massages, and aromatherapy. Many of the concepts in the current holistic health movement, such as essential oils and yoga, actually originated in India with Ayurveda.

One of the most special aspects of getting Ayurvedic treatments in India is that your treatment plan will be unique and specifically designed to suit your body's needs.

The best way to experience Ayurveda is to stay in a 4-star hotel that has a spa and wellness center. You can also spend some time in an Ayurvedic resort. Some of the best natural healing resorts in India are in Kerala.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Ayurvedic treatments can be as simple as a massage with essential oils or as intense as a strict diet and work out regimen. It is important to choose a service that fits your treatment goals.

12. Practice Yoga and Meditation

  • Recommended visiting time: 1-2 days
  • Perfect for: travelers interested in yoga

India is one of the most spiritual countries in the world and the birthplace of yoga and meditation. In recent years, yoga and meditation have become more and more popular around the world causing travelers to flock to India to learn from yogis and spiritual leaders.

The best places to experience a yoga retreat or to stay in an ashram are in Rishikesh, Goa, and Kerala. Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the country and offers the most traditional retreat experiences.

In Kerala, most yoga retreats are combined with Ayurvedic spas. Goa is a great place to go if you want to combine your retreat with beach relaxation.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Yoga retreats vary greatly in how strict their programs are. It is important to research each retreat to make sure you are not choosing one that is too strict or too relaxed for your requirements.

16. Take a Cruise on the Backwaters

  • Recommended visiting time: 1 day and 1 night
  • Perfect for: couples

The backwaters of Kerala are an area of land full of man-made canals that cut through small farming villages. This area of the country is primarily inhabited by local minority groups and the main method of transportation is by boat.

The best way to explore the backwaters is to start in the town of Alleppey and take a cruise on a houseboat. A private houseboat will include a chef, driver, private room, upper deck, and sitting area. Spend a day and a night on your boat eating fresh-caught seafood, local dishes, and taking in the daily life of this remote area.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • The backwaters are best visited from November to May as they can flood during the monsoon season.
  • Houseboats vary greatly in price and the more you pay the more luxurious your experience will be.

18. Do a Camel Safari Through the Desert

  • Recommended visiting time: half-day
  • Perfect for: travelers in general

The state of Rajasthan contains the expansive Thar Desert which has had a large impact on the history and culture of the local people. One of the most memorable ways to experience this arid terrain is to ride through the desert on a camel following the ancient routes of the spice trade.

Jaisalmer is the best city in Rajasthan to begin your camel safari. During the trip, you will ride on a colorfully decorated camel out into the golden sand dunes and experience the culture of local nomadic tribes.

Tours range from evening rides to overnight stays where guests sleep in the desert under the stars.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • We don't recommend camel tours longer than an overnight experience as riding a camel can become very difficult and uncomfortable.

15. Visit Tea Plantations

  • Recommended visiting time: 1 day
  • Perfect for: travelers in general

It would be difficult to find something that all Indians love as much as tea or chai .

One way to learn more about Indian tea culture is to visit a tea plantation. The best tea plantations are in Munnar in Kerala and Darjeeling in West Bengal.

Munnar is famous for having some of the most elevated tea plantations in the world and is known as a romantic paradise destination. Here you can relax in the cool and fresh weather, explore the tea farms, and even visit a spice plantation.

Darjeeling is particularly famous for growing a unique variety of floral-scented tea. Darjeeling is located in the Himalayan foothills and is one of the most popular hill stations in India with plantations that grow around 25% of the country's tea.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Hill stations are best visited from March to May as an escape from the intense heat of the lowlands.
  • Tea plantations can be explored on foot or by jeep.

13. Watch a Performance or Show

  • Recommended visiting time: an evening
  • Perfect for: travelers who love art

One way to learn more about Indian culture is to watch a performance or show. India is full of opportunities to see many different types of performances from Kathak and Chhau dance to traditional music and theater shows.

One of our favorite performances to see in India is the Evening Kalakriti Mohabbate Taj Show that takes place in Agra. This show contains a series of performances that showcase legends and stories of the Taj Mahal.

A major focus of the show is Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who were major characters is the creation of the Taj Mahal, India's most famous monument.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • The Kalakriti Mohabbate Taj Show is performed in Sanskrit but also has English translations available.

14. Take in Striking Views of the Himalayas

  • Recommended visiting time: 1-2 days
  • Perfect for: nature lovers

The Himalayan Mountain Range runs along the entire northern border of India. One of the best places to visit to take in these gorgeous mountain views is the district of Ladakh. Ladakh is located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and shares borders with Pakistan and China.

There are many places to go to experience the beauty of Ladakh, but one of our favorites is the town of Leh. Visiting Leh is like entering another world with its clean crisp air, towering mountains as far as the eye can see, and gorgeous Buddhist monasteries.

In Leh, you can explore the whitewashed houses of the ancient town, visit the Leh Palace, go hiking, or just relax and take in the scenery.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • The best time to visit Ladakh is from March to July.

14. Go Trekking in the Himalayas

  • Recommended visiting time: 2-3 days
  • Perfect for: outdoor adventurers

For people who love outdoor adventures, the Himalayas offer plenty of trekking opportunities from beginner trails to advanced and difficult mountain climbs. Great hiking can be found in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, but also in the states of northeastern India such as Assam and West Bengal.

To get the full experience of this incredible mountain range, you can start in Nepal to see some of the highest peaks and then head to Tibet or travel down into India by exploring first Sikkim with its unique culture and beautiful monasteries and then West Bengal with its rolling hills and tea plantations.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • The Himalayan regions get very cold from October to March and many areas cannot be accessed due to snow. The best time to visit this region is in spring or summer.

17. Go Bird Watching

  • Recommended visiting time: 1 day
  • Perfect for: nature lovers

India is full of incredible national parks and has a vast variety of wildlife .

One of the best parks in India is Keoladeo National Park which is in Rajasthan and used to be known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. This park contains over 380 species of birds and animals is its woodlands, grasslands, and swamps.

In winter, around 200 different species of migratory birds arrive in the park from all over the world. This park is also the only known breeding ground for the endangered Siberian crane.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • You can explore the park via a bicycle or hired rickshaw
  • The park is open year-round, but the best sightings of migratory birds occur in winter.

20. Visit a Museum

  • Recommended visiting time: 1-2 hours
  • Perfect for: travelers in general

Museums are a great way to peer into the history and culture of a country and it is a good idea to visit at least one museum during your stay.

In Delhi, you can check out the National Museum which is one of the largest in the country and contains artwork all the way from prehistoric times to modern-day.

Other great museums include Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Prince of Wales Museum) and the Indian Museum in Kolkata.

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • There are often museums located near or inside famous monuments such as in the City Palace of Jaipur and the Amber Fort.

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