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Things to Do in India

Deeply spiritual, highly majestic, and overwhelmingly frenetic, India is a country that has no comparison. Home to a whopping 32 World Heritage sites, India weaves Himalayan hikes, stunning architecture, colonial heritage, religious harmony, and culinary diversity into one unique destination. Unsurprisingly, the iconic Taj Mahal tops nearly all India itineraries, as do the ancient forts and palaces of Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi—the cities that comprise the Golden Triangle. Stray from the beaten path, and you’ll see that India offers a wealth of wonders: Varanasi, split by the revered Ganges River, is considered one of the most fascinating places on earth; the white-sand beaches of Goa continue to allure free-spirited travellers; in Kerala, glistening backwaters and emerald tea plantations abound; and in Rajasthan, fairy-tale palaces are juxtaposed with rare wildlife. Multiday tours are a safe and smooth-flowing way to travel around India, with almost all covering the highlights of the Golden Triangle; while full-day sightseeing tours of Mumbai mean you can experience the madness and magic of the city even if you're short on time. Time your visit to India with one of the country’s numerous Hindu celebrations for an unforgettable cultural experience—top picks include Holi festival, known as the Festival of Colors; and Diwali, when the country erupts into fireworks and candlelight.
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Taj Mahal
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4,144 Tours and Activities

Considered one of the world’s most iconic landmarks, and elected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is a living testament to grandeur, romance, and historical significance. As India’s most recognizable structure, the Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory to his favorite wife. Its interior is complete with blossoming and vibrant exotic gardens, reflecting pools, and an impressive mosque.

Although the Taj Mahal has been photographed time and time again, photography does no justice to the majesty of this awe-inspiring tomb. The wells of unfathomable emotion are drawn from its exterior, as the sun from dusk until dawn radiates an exquisite reflection upon its white marble composite, proudly coating itself in divine shades of red, orange, gold and pink.

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Palace of Wind (Hawa Mahal)
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1,382 Tours and Activities

Jaipur is known for its spectacular architectural sites and the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, is perhaps the city’s most recognizable and photogenic building. The five floors of delicately-worked pink sandstone is only one room wide with rows of perforated screens and more than 900 windows to allow the breeze to pass through and cool the interior.

The honeycombed Hawa Mahal was constructed in 1799 by poet-king Sawai Pratap Singh, and, according to legend, was originally where the female members of the royal family could look down on the people in the streets below without being observed. Visitors can do some people watching of their own from this vantage point or can climb to the rooftop for an overhead view of the City Palace to one side and Siredeori Bazaar to the other.

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Lake Pichola
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Lake Pichola, an artificial freshwater lake created in 1362, inspired the founding of Udaipur on its banks. On a calm day, the placid, glasslike water reflects the city's skyline, complete with white marble palaces, temples, mansions and ghats and lending credence to the city's nickname as the Venice of India.

Lake Pichola earned a spot on in the international spotlight when the Lake Palace, a white marble palace that appears to float on the waters of the lake, appeared in the James Bond film Octopussy in 1983. The dreamlike palace is often used as a setting for a number of Bollywood films as well. The lake's second palace, Jag Mandir, was the structure that inspired Shah Jahan to build the great Taj Mahal in New Delhi, according to local legend. Jag Mandir is open to the public and accessible by boat, but to enter the Lake Palace, you'll need to either book a room or make a reservation in the building’s hotel or restaurants.

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Fateh Sagar Lake
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This manmade lake in the city of Udaipur is a destination for both locals and travelers looking to escape the energy of busy city streets. Home to three small islands, including Nehru Park, the picturesque blue waters and majestic green mountains serve as a breathtaking backdrop to this quiet respite. Visitors can navigate the calm lake aboard tiny motorboats, which carry travelers to the each of the small islands. Nehru remains the most popular, thanks to a well-kept garden, boat-shaped restaurant and a slightly lackluster zoo. The Udaipur Solar Observatory, ranked top solar observing site in all of Asia, is located on one of the lake’s other islands and draws tourists eager to check out the sky, the sun and the stars.

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Elephanta Caves
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Protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Elephanta Caves are among Mumbai’s most astounding temple sites, home to one of India’s most precious collections of Hindu temple art.

In Elephanta Island’s labyrinthine network of subterranean caves, highly prized statues of Shiva and other deities, shrines, pillars, courtyards and halls are carved out of rock in high relief.

Elephanta’s collection of cave-temples date back to around AD 600, and were named for the elephant statue that once stood near the shore. The statue now stands in Mumbai’s Victoria Gardens.

Tours are essential to get the most from a visit to the island, revealing the stories and history of the island’s carvings and artworks. The highlight is the temple to Shiva with its towering statue of the three-faced deity, surrounding by latticework screens, carved pillars and winding corridors.

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Gateway of India
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One of Mumbai's most recognizable attractions, the triple-arched Gateway of India was built during the early 20th century in honor of the 1911 visit of King George V. Built of basalt and concrete, this monument was designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, which blends traditional Indian, Victorian, and Mughal architectural elements.
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Fontainhas
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Situated on the banks of Ourem Creek in Panaji, Goa's capital city, the charming neighborhood of Fountainhas is dotted with charming old homes dating back to the mid 19th century. Fontainhas occupies land that was reclaimed in the 18th century and gets its name from the natural springs situated at the edge of the area.
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Howrah Bridge
30 Tours and Activities

More than 2 million people cross the Hooghly River by way of the Howrah Bridge each day, earning it the title of the busiest cantilever bridge in the world. The 2,313 foot (705 meter) expanse of steel girders hanging over the water connect the sister cities of Howrah and Kolkata (Calcutta) with eight lanes of chaotic auto rickshaws, scooters, bikes, cars, animals and pedestrian traffic.

A bridge linking the cities was originally proposed in 1862, but plans for the bridge didn’t come to fruition until 1943. Since its erection, the Howrah Bridge has become a cultural icon in Kolkata and West Bengal and has served as a setting and inspiration for the 1958 film Howrah Bridge by director Shakti Samanta.

Visit the bridge in the early morning to see early rising denizens washing along the ghats at the base of the bridge. Under the eastern side of the bridge, you’ll find the colorful Mullik Ghat Flower Market, a great place to people watch while sipping on tea.

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Eden Gardens
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Named after the gardens that lay beyond it, Eden Gardens is a cricket ground in Kolkata that’s home to the Bengal cricket team and the Kolkata Knight Riders. It’s also the venue for international cricket matches and is the largest cricket stadium in India in terms of seating capacity.

Established in 1864, Eden Gardens has since become one of the most iconic cricket stadiums in the world. Following renovations for the Cricket World Cup in 2011, the stadium seats over 90,000 spectators (a capacity actually lower than before the upgrade).

Within the grounds, the gardens themselves feature a picturesque lake with a tiny Burmese pagoda at its center. It’s a peaceful spot that’s well worth a stroll around on a visit to the stadium.

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More Things to Do in India

Jama Masjid (Masjid e Jahan Numa)

Jama Masjid (Masjid e Jahan Numa)

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The stunning Jama Masjid mosque is the largest in India and the final architectural magnum opus of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Construction of the mosque began in 1644, but it wasn't completed until 1658. It has 3 gateways, 4 angle towers and 2 minarets standing 130 feet (40 meters) high, and is constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble. The main entry point is Gate No 3. The mosque's courtyard can hold a mind-blowing 25,000 people.

For Rs20 it's possible to climb the southern minaret (women must be accompanied by a male; sometimes unaccompanied men may also not be permitted), where the views are superb. From the top of the minaret, you can see one of the features that architect Edwin Lutyens incorporated into his design of New Delhi - the Jama Masjid, Connaught Place and Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House) are in a direct line.

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Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk

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Chandni Chowk is one of Delhi's busiest and oldest marketplaces. Located in the walled city of Old Delhi, which is now central northern modern Delhi, it got its name from the canal which used to run down the middle reflecting the moonlight; 'chaandni' in Hindi means 'moonlight.' The street was a wide boulevard running between houses from the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. The walled city was laid out in 1650 by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan and includes the Red Fort of Delhi.

These days the area seems like a congested traffic nightmare and quite challenging in its chaos and crowds. But you can find food, saris, jewelery, books, shoes, electronics and who knows what else in the surrounding narrow streets. The buildings along Chandni Chowk are interesting - there are many different religious buildings co-existing harmoniously in the area including famous Jama Masjid mosque of 1644, a Hindu temple and a Christian church.

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Paranthe Wali Gali

Paranthe Wali Gali

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Down a small, unsuspecting street in the Chandni Chowk area of Delhi, a throng of eateries selling the Indian fried bread classic, parantha, draws in locals and visitors in their droves. Gali Paranthe Wali is a bustling narrow lane lined with stalls and shops selling this flatbread street food favorite straight from the tawa (hotplate).

This is a place to surrender to the crowds as you indulge in a parantha smothered in ghee, choosing from an array of fillings ranging from the savory to the sweet, including paneer, mixed vegetables, and bananas – to name but a few. Wash it all down with a lassi before strolling along the shops, stopping off only to sample more classic Indian street foods along the way.

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Victoria Memorial Hall

Victoria Memorial Hall

50 Tours and Activities
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St. John’s Church

St. John’s Church

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St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

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College Street

College Street

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Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

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The superb buildings in this complex date from the onset of Islamic rule in India. The Qutub Minar (Qutb Minar or Qutab Minar) itself is a soaring 240 foot (73 meter) high tower of victory that was started in 1193, immediately after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom in Delhi. At its base is Quwwat ul-Islam Masjid (Might of Islam Mosque), India's first mosque.

The tower has 5 distinct stories, each marked by a projecting balcony, and it tapers, like something out of a fairytale, from a 50 ft (15 m) diameter at the base to just 8 ft (2.5 m) at the top. The first 3 stories are made of red sandstone, the fourth and fifth of marble and sandstone. The stairs inside the tower coil so steeply that they're enough to make the hardiest climber dizzy and claustrophobic, and it was no surprise when a stampede during a school trip in 1979 resulted in a number of deaths. The inside of the tower has since been closed to visitors.

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Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Mehrauli Archaeological Park

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The Mehrauli Archaeological Park in New Delhi is home to the crumbling ruins of tombs and palaces that date back to early medieval times and up to the 19th century. The park is sprawled across 200 acres and is an atmospheric site that is less crowded than the Qutub Minar World Heritage site nearby.

One of the main attractions at the park comes in the form of two monuments that sit together – the Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb. The intricately chiselled ceiling of the mosque is well worth a peek inside. There is also a striking 16th-century stairwell within the park, along with the crumbling tombs of Balban and Quli Khan.

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Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

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Located a short drive from the capital city Panaji, Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is a compact reserve, spanning about 1.8 square kilometers (.69 square miles) of mangrove swamps. It's Goa's only bird sanctuary, attracting a variety of native and migratory birds, including kingfishers, coots, egrets, black drongos, and pintails.
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Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace)

Mubarak Mahal (Welcome Palace)

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The Mubarak Mahal was built as a part of Jaipur’s City Palace to welcome foreign dignitaries of the Maharaja. Built on a raised platform, the white palace is an example of Mughal, Rajput, and European style architecture. Its colonnaded and carved exterior now leads to the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, which houses mostly historic textiles.

The Textile and Costume Museum on the first floor exhibits many of the clothing worn by royalty: formal costumes, traditional block prints, and a variety of embroidered textiles in precious fabrics, including silk and Kashmiri pashmina. Visitors can see the local history of both male and female attire, including uniquely shaped and sized items. Perhaps some of the most beautiful items are the brightly colored saris, many covered in golden embroidery. Royal carpets and antiquities can also been seen inside.

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India Gate

India Gate

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Designed by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, India Gate sits at the center of New Delhi in the middle of a traffic circle at one end of Rajpath. Built in 1931, the Arc-de-Triomphe-like gate commemorates the 90,000 members of the British Indian Army killed during World War I and the Third Afghan War.

Another memorial, the Amar Jawan Jyoti or eternal flame, was added to India Gate in the early 1970s as a memorial to India’s unknown soldiers, particularly those who died in the Indo-Pakistan War in 1971.

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Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

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Walking through the grounds of Jantar Mantar may feel more like visiting a sculpture garden than an astronomical observatory. The eighteen devices, built by Jai Singh II, each serve a different function, such as predicting eclipses, telling time and tracking astrological bodies./p>

Jai Singh II built Jatar Mantar in 1726 and it remains the best preserved of the five observatories he built within his lifetime. Armed with knowledge of European astronomical advances, Jai Singh II invented many of the instruments himself, the most impressive of which is the massive Samrat Yantra sundial with a shadow that moves up to 13 feet (4 meters) per hour, or a hands-width every minute.

Guides onsite can explain how the devices work, and several are still used to make astrological and weather predictions. Try to come on a sunny day, since none of the devices will work under cloud cover, but avoid the middle of the day when the sun is particularly hot and shade is harder to come by.

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Jal Mahal (Water Palace)

Jal Mahal (Water Palace)

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It used to be that the Jal Mahal (Water Palace) was merely another fortress worthy of a quick photo op on the way to or from Amber Fort. After undergoing a dramatic restoration, however, the palace perched in the middle of Man Sagar Lake is worthy of a visit in its own right.

Sawai Pratap Singh built the five-story red sandstone palace in 1799 using Rajput and Mughal stylistic elements. After 200 years of neglect, water damage and general disrepair, the palace was restored to its original splendor. The rooftop gardens, Jal Mahal’s most stunning features, have been carved, painted and gilded by dozens of artists and designers, and the resulting details are exquisite.

During the monsoon season from June through September, the bottom four floors of the palace become submerged, but the boat trip across the glassy waters makes this the best time for a visit. Come at dusk when the setting sun lights up the water and marble alike.

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