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North India is a loosely defined region consisting of the northern part of India. The term North India has varying definitions—the Ministry of Home Affairs in its Northern Zonal Council Administrative division included the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Delhi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.North India has been the historical centre of the Mughal Empire, the Delhi Sultanate and the British Indian Empire. It has a diverse culture, and includes the Hindu pilgrimage centres of Char Dham, Haridwar, Varanasi, Ayodhya, Mathura, Allahabad, Vaishno Devi and Pushkar, the Buddhist pilgrimage centres of Sarnath and Kushinagar, the Sikh Golden Temple as well as world heritage sites such as the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Khajuraho temples, Hill Forts of Rajasthan, Jantar Mantar (Jaipur), Bhimbetka Caves, Sanchi monuments, Qutb Minar, Red Fort, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal.The languages that have official status in one or more of the states and union territories located in North India are Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and English.
New Delhi, the national capital of India, is a traveler’s paradise, to say the least. As a city that has seen the rise and fall of many dynasties, Delhi boasts of several monuments and heritage places that pay tribute to its rich cultural and political past. While there is a good range of historical places to visit in Delhi, the city doesn’t lack in gardens, museums, places of worship, adventure spots, and theme parks, either. Add to that the vibrant shopping destinations, local markets, and street food, Delhi easily tops the list of best tourist places in North India.
Shimla, the picturesque capital city of Himachal Pradesh, is located at the foothills of the Himalayas and offers a unique travel experience with its snow-capped mountains, forests, lush green valleys, placid lakes, and pleasant climatic conditions. Apart from these natural attractions, the region also boasts of several man-made wonders including religious places, historical structures, museums, and the lively Mall Road. Away from the hustle-bustle of large cities, Shimla makes for one of the best honeymoon destinations in North India.
Blessed with verdant greenery, pristine streams, meadows blooming with flowers, and pleasant climate, the twin towns of Kullu and Manali in Himachal Pradesh are among the most visited hill stations in North India. These towns, which are at a distance of about 40 km, are dotted with waterfalls, trekking trails, apple orchards, religious places, quaint villages, museums, and hip cafes, among others. While Kullu and Manali draw in a large number of couples, they are also a favorite with adventure seekers looking to indulge in trekking, paragliding, camping, river rafting, etc.
Dharmshala and McLeodganj – less than 10 km apart – are best known as the home of the Tibetan Spiritual Leader, the Dalai Lama. Given the Tibetan influence, the calm and scenic McLeodganj is also known as Little Lhasa. Along with their natural beauty, these hill stations in North India are also known for quaint monasteries, Tibetan markets, old bungalows, and churches. They offer a sneak-peek into Tibetan culture and cuisine. Dharamshala and McLeodganj attract tourists of all ages from across the globe.
Surrounded by snow-capped hills in the winter and pine-clad valleys in the summer, Dalhousie is a nature lover’s paradise. Apart from honeymooners and families, this is one of the popular tourist places for solo travelers in North India. Sprawled across 5 hills and valleys, Dalhousie has many bungalows, churches, and cottages that date back to the British era. It abounds in natural beauty and boasts of picturesque waterfalls, trekking routes, lakes, dams and a wildlife sanctuary that houses over 100 rare species of birds and animals.
Spiti is one of the coldest places in India and offers spectacular peeks of the cold desert. The place is accessible only during the summer months. With its numerous trekking trails offering panoramic views of the Himalayans, Spiti is a trekker’s paradise. Its long winding roads are also favored by bikers. The natural beauty of the place is enhanced by whitewashed chortens, Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and quaint monasteries. In the summer, the snow melts to reveal a carpet of beautiful flowers over the hillsides.
Nestled between the forests of Kasol and the pilgrim town of Manikaran, Parvati Valley is famed for its natural beauty. Its slopes are covered with lush greenery and pine trees while the gushing Parvati River complements the magnificent mountain hills. With a reputation for excellent trekking routes, the Parvati Valley welcomes Indian and international tourists with affordable accommodation and plenty of hangout spots. While on one hand, it has a spiritual aura, one the other the hippies make the air reverberate with music.
Agra, home to the famous Taj Mahal, counts among the top places to visit in North India and for all the right reasons. The historical city in Uttar Pradesh is a medley of grand monuments, exceptional architecture, and mesmerizing sights and sounds. It boasts of three UNESCO World Heritage sites, several enticing gardens, vibrant local markets, emporiums, and lip-smacking street food. Agra is also part of the famous Golden-Triangle circuit.
Varanasi is one of the most important religious places in North India. Also known as Benaras, it is steeped in history and religious symbolism. There are a number of temples in Varanasi dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Watching the sunrise over the Ganga and strolling down the ghats are powerful experiences that one cannot have anywhere else. It is a magical city where the myriad sights and sounds can quickly overwhelm the senses.
Known as the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Mathura and Vrindavan are considered one the most religious places in North India. Just about 10 km apart, these towns are dotted with temples and have 25 ghats lining the Yamuna. Mathura was once also an important Buddhist center and houses several sculptural ruins from that time. Pilgrims travel here throughout the year but Holi and Janmashtami call for a special mention for the flood of pilgrims and tourists that they attract.
Lucknow, the City of Nawabs, is a charming place known in equal measures for its tehzeeb, Islamic monuments, and Chikankari handicrafts. The city has an artistic ambiance and boasts of a number of historic monuments, museums, palaces, temples and mosques that appeal to history buffs and explorers. There are also a number of heritage homes in the old city of Lucknow. For foodies, the aroma and delicious flavors of Mughlai cuisine and street food of Lucknow make this a holiday to remember.
The tree-covered hills and valleys of Dehradun and Mussoorie have attracted families and couples since the 1800s. Offering stunning views of Dehradun on one side and snow-capped Himalayan peaks on the other, the British rightly called Mussoorie, The Queen of Hill Stations. Located merely 33 km apart, these hills are also popular with trekkers. In addition to their natural beauty, Dehradun and Mussoorie boast of a number of institutions, churches, and summer palaces from the British-raj era.
Jim Corbett National Park, Indian’s first national park, is renowned for being home to the largest tiger population in the country. The park also has an abundance of elephants, deer, leopards, bears, reptiles, and birds spread across hills, grasslands, and jungles. It is divided into 6 zones with each offering a unique experience and Dhikala is the most popular amongst them. Given its proximity to cities like Delhi, Jim Corbett is one of the most popular long weekend destinations in North India.
It is impossible to talk about religious places in North India without mentioning Haridwar and Rishikesh. Considered to be twin national heritage cities, Haridwar and Rishikesh have a spiritual aura that attracts soul seekers and pilgrims from across the world. Even the Beatles visited Rishikesh in the 60s! While on one hand, the Ganges is meditated upon, on the other, its white rapids call out to thrill-seekers making it one of the most popular adventure spots in North India. Both towns have a vegetarian food culture and are known for delicious street food spread. Further, Rishikesh is the starting point for the Char Dhaam Yatra.
With a beautiful lake that takes center stage, Nainital is one of the most popular family destinations in North India. The town has a number of trekking routes that offer spectacular views of forested valleys and pristine lakes. Everything about Nainital seems designed to relax the mind and spirit. In winter, the town is covered with snow and looks like it belongs to a postcard. The Nainital Winter Carnival is a 3 days extravagant celebration with cultural performances, bird watching, and heritage trails.
Auli is amongst the most popular hill stations in North India. Everywhere you look, you can see pine trees, majestic old oaks, and apple orchards. The lush green hillsides of the Garhwal Himalayas are popular trekking routes that offer spectacular views of the snow-draped mountains around Auli. In winter, the slopes come alive with skiers. During the rest of the year, the slopes are covered with snow. Auli also has a number of temples that make it a part of the pilgrim circuit.
The natural beauty of the Kashmir Circuit makes it one of the top places to visit in North India. There’s a lot to take in here ranging from the mesmerizing lakes and expansive gardens to the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Srinagar is also a hub of activity with bustling local markets. The Kashmiri wazwan calls for a special mention for its rich aromas and flavors. In winter, the slopes of Sonamarg, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam become ideal for skiing and winter sports.
Leh-Ladakh is one of the most picturesque adventure spots in North India. Its unique landscape varies from rugged mountains with snow-capped peaks to pristine blue lakes, lush green pockets, and shifting dunes of the Nubra valley to meandering rivers. It is home to several monasteries covered in a mystic, spiritual air. Thrill-seekers find Leh-Ladakh exhilarating for treks across the Zanskar range, bike rides over the mountains and rafting down the Indus and Zanskar rivers. The people, culture, and food of this region are heavily influenced by Tibetan culture.
Amritsar is a treasure trove of spiritual and architectural beauty. It is home to the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, the Golden Temple or Sri Harmandir Sahib as it is popularly known. With bullet marks still visible on the walls of the Jallianwala Bagh, the city is a poignant reminder of India’s freedom struggle. The Change of Guard ceremony performed every evening at the Wagah-Attari border by soldiers of the Indian and Pakistani army is another reason Amritsar is worth visiting.
Designed by Le Corbusier, Chandigarh is renowned as the first planned city of independent India. Even today, though the façade has changed, the city retains the look of sweeping boulevards, gardens, lakes and grand buildings. The city is a popular shopping destination and the gateway to many of Punjab’s smaller towns. Chandigarh has plenty of monuments worth admiring, one-of-a-kind gardens, lakes, and picnic spots. While on one hand, it has fine dining and gourmet restaurants, on the other hand, it offers lip-smacking street food.
With its rich history, Jaipur is a vibrant, flamboyant city that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its majestic past is visible in the form of palaces, some that still are home to the Royal family, forts, and monuments dotting the city. There are also a number of picturesque gardens and lakes in Jaipur. The city balances its heritage with all the conveniences of an urban metropolis as camels and buses share the same space. It is a part of the Golden-Triangle circuit that spread across Jaipur, Delhi, and Agra.
Udaipur, the crown city of Rajasthan, is a city of lakes and filled with rich history. The city abounds in natural beauty and is surrounded by the Aravalli hills which add to its scenic beauty. Udaipur has rightly been called the ‘Venice of the East’. Its palaces are architectural delights and display intricate glasswork and fascinating remnants from the time when Rajasthan was ruled by Maharajas. In addition to its palaces and forts, Udaipur is also dotted with a number of temples and has plenty of local markets to explore.
The golden dunes of Jaisalmer give it the moniker- the Golden city. The desert in itself is mesmerizing and stretches over thousands of kilometers. The Desert National Park is one of the few places in India to spot the endangered Indian bustard. Jaisalmer flaunts its rich past with Havelis, cenotaphs, and ornate forts. It is also home to many magnificent Hindu and Jain temples. Apart from its visual beauty, a camel ride across the Jaisalmer desert is a unique treat and an unforgettable experience.
With interesting mythology, Pushkar is unlike any other town in Rajasthan. It is a major pilgrim town that dances to the tunes of devotional music and the sound of bells and drums. This is the only place in India to have a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma. Apart from this, Pushkar has over 400 temples and 52 bathing ghats around the Pushkar Lake. During the camel fair, the town takes on a festive, colorful air with cultural fetes and unique competitions.
Best known for the Ranthambore National Park and its majestic tigers, Ranthambore stands out for its natural beauty, diverse flora, and architectural splendor. You can go on the Ranthambore safari to spot tigers, chinkara deers, and other wild animals. The place is dotted with regal forts recognized by as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ruins of old palaces. Picturesque lakes around Ranthambore are ideal picnic and birdwatching spots. Ranthambore also offers an opportunity to explore traditions and Rajasthani culture with numerous handicrafts.