India is the land of variations – of people, myriad colors, cultures and cuisines, festivities, languages and unsung glory. In this post we will highlight the most beautiful cities in India to explore! Its a great place to begin your wanderlust journey.
A country of long legacy and history, India was colonized for a long time and you can definitely see remnants of the bygone British, French, Portuguese and Tai rule. It is varied in its geographical terrain – you can experience heat, snow, rains, all by being in the same time zone.
We were born and lived in India in our growing years and I know we can be a little biased sometimes, when we speak about our home country but let’s hear it from travelers all over the world about their favorite dream places to visit in India. Keep reading to find the most amazing places in India to add to your bucket list.
Which are the most beautiful cities in India: Dream places to visit in India
Salil and I lived, worked and studied in different parts of the country. The north, south, east and western parts have not been spared and we have explored a tons of cities and towns in between. So whether it is a place we spent our childhood or our nomadic student years – this list of best places of visit in India will fuel your wanderlust in no time.
With so much history and traditions, it’s no surprise that India is also a land of UNESCO World Heritage Sites – you will probably find one in every city. Talk about languages and there are 22 recognized languages in India.
New Delhi – The capital city of India
New Delhi is the capital of India. Delhi is a unique place to visit – where you will find Mughal gems and British architectural buildings!
The capital of India, the main intersection of the famous Golden Triangle of India is a historical hub with an urban feel. Every nook and corner of Delhi is decorated with a history to learn from, the monuments are a photographer’s dream. Having a world known triumphal arch in India Gate, the tallest brick minaret in Asia, along with the Humayun and Safdarjung Tomb of Mughal empire, Delhi has everything for everyone.
It is a foodie paradise, the narrow alleys of Chandni Chowk and a night-life to cater everyone. The capital city will not disappoint and will welcome you with open arms. Visit Delhi to know about India’s history, which is slowly matching pace with modern era.
Read about Delhi Heritage Walks
Mumbai– The most populous city in India, and also called the commercial capital.
Mumbai is the commercial capital of India. Located in the state of Maharashtra, Mumbai is often compared to Shanghai and nicknamed, the city that never sleeps!
Mumbai is home to 3 UNESCO World heritage sites and the city is sprinkled with art deco buildings. The Gateway of India (different from the India Gate in New Delhi) graces the waterfront in Mumbai – a symbol of the then British Raj and now an iconic landmark. Mumbai is busy and bustling with activities day or night. Being the commercial or financial capital of the city, there is no dearth of sky rise corporate buildings, luxury hotels, shopping malls and not to mention the Indian tinsel town – Bollywood.
Many travelers and locals in Mumbai say that the city is busy, noisy, bewildering, but a wonderful one. Many love to watch the sun rise over the Gateway of India or stroll the Marine Drive or Juhu Chowpatty – soaking in those enchanting moments often while the city is waking up.
Kolkata or Calcutta – The former capital city of British India
Kolkata is the cultural capital of India. Situated in the eastern part of the country, the metropolis was the erstwhile capital of British era. Till date, the Gothic architecture in the administrative block is very much evident.
Home to the first noble laureate of Asia, Rabindranath Thakur, Kolkata is known for sumptuous choice of food (the Sondesh of the city is unique and not to be found anywhere else in the country, along with Fish curry and rice are staple of every household), a populace extremely vocal about politics and a nostalgia of days bygone.
When in Kolkata, explore the promenade by the river Ganges, locally known as Hoogly. Explore the area of Chowrangee where history speaks volume. take back home some pure cotton sarees as souvenirs, weaved with artistic prowess.
Agra – The city of symbol of love – Taj Mahal
Agra is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh and it is one of the top 25 populous cities in India. It is also a major tourist destination – thanks to the wonder of the world – Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal along with the Agra Fort and the Fatehpur Skiri – have made it to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and they are a great opportunity to learn and admire the Mughal Islamic architecture.
You can easily visit Agra in a day trip from Delhi or Lucknow the capital city of Uttar Pradesh. Tour agencies and guide can be found aplenty in this state. If you are taking private transportation exercise caution and choose a guide wisely based on trusted reviews.
Pune – The “Queen of the Deccan” city
Once the political center of India and the capital of the Maratha Empire, Pune is considered to be the cultural capital of the state of Maharashtra.
With its long history and temples around every corner, Pune is the quintessential Indian destination. At one point Pune was under the Islamic rule and was known as “Kasabe Pune” and was also the first capital of Shivaji Maharaj – under the Maratha rule.
But what makes Pune stand out, is its growing foodie scene as well as the surrounding ghats. Whether you’re looking for culture, cuisine, shopping, or nature, Pune has it all. The city also known for its educational facilities with over hundred educational institutes and nine universities.
Hyderabad – The IT city of India
Hyderabad is located in the southern part of India and is the capital city of Telangana. It is a major IT or technology hub (Google has its office here, as also many other IT Giants). The city has a vibrant heritage charm with the Golkonda Fort, and the 16th century stunning mosque – Charminar.
Ruled for decades by the Qutub Shahi dynasty, Hyderabad was a diamond trading center once upon a time.
For a first time visitor to the city, explore the old city landmarks, museums, devour Chicken biriyani and shop at the Laad Bazaar. Hyderabad’s old city area might be crowded, but it’s got amazing street eats amidst colossal architecture. Get inspiration from our 3 days in Hyderabad trip.
Kochi – Southern gem with historical dwellings
If you are wondering about the best places to visit in Kerala in southern India, try Kochi.
According to history, explorers, traders and travelers have been coming to Cochin, in Kerala, for the past 600 years. There you will be able to visit a 400-year old synagogue, mosque ruins, Portuguese dwellings as well as the iconic giant Chinese fishing nets. And while it may be full of history from other places, you still get the tropical Indian feeling from its accommodations.
Ladakh – Of mountains, monasteries and nature
Ladakh is located in the northern part of India. Administered as an union territory (and forms part of the disputed region in the north with China/Pakistan), Ladakh is blessed with stunning landscape and it is sprinkled with Buddhist monasteries, waterfalls and mountains.
Ladakh has had an interesting past, where it was ruled by Tibetan dynasty, followed by the loot and plundering by the Muslim rulers/Mughals then becoming a princely state and finally a union territory. With a mountainous terrain, Ladakh is a popular destination for bikers, campers, hikers and trekkers to the city. With numerous monasteries in the city, you should visit one during your trip and also try Ladakhi cuisines and their woolly textiles!
Udaipur – the city of Lakes
Located in the western state of Rajasthan, Udaipur is a mesmerizing city you MUST visit in India.
Beautiful cities of Odisha
A state seeking its way in the ever expanding Indian tourism industry is Odisha.
Hearing about Odisha, handloom industry comes to mind. Sure, handlooms are their forte. But Odisha is much more than that. The famous Jagannath Temple of Puri with a coastline on the Bay of Bengal where sunrises and sunsets shouldn’t be missed. The renowned Sun Temple of Konark, the land of King Ashoka and the Shanti Stupa through which he preached the message of Peace.
The unheard largest brackish waters of Chilika Lake which also hosts migratory birds from Asia and Oceania. And not to forget Bhubaneshwar – also known as City of Temples with more then 600 temples and the architecture to be inspired from. We say never undermine the potential of a place until you have seen it all.
Explore Odisha for its coastal vibe, unforgettable history and stunning architecture.
Chennai – City with the world’s longest beaches
Chennai, was once upon a time called Madras. It is the capital city of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. It’s located by the Bay of Bengal and the many remnants of the British Raj like the Fort St George and the Anglican, and Hindu sites with stunning temple cravings and paintings will blow your mind!
Today, Chennai is a good mix of the old traditional and the modern – with cineplexes, shopping malls, IT parks and more.
Standing tall in the one of the world’s longest beaches, this lighthouse in Marina Beach is a place one cannot miss. Who would want to miss the opportunity of experiencing an aerial view of not just the city but of the beautiful Bay of Bengal all at once. Enjoy the breeze, watch the tiny humans and automobiles on the move, click those selfies and carry back home a gorgeous memory of the city of Chennai.
Munnar – Hill station with surreal tea plantations
If you are looking for greenery, head to the greenery land of Munnar in the southern state of Kerala. Dotted with tea plantation, here you can also learn & see the process of tea-making!
Munnar in Kerala is home to some surreal plantation with a huge variety of home-made chocolates and scenic nature to mesmerize you.
Munnar was a British resort, once upon a time and the tea plantation legacy is a testimony to that. The town is also home to the Eravikulam National Park, Lakkam waterfalls, nature and hiking trails and mountain peaks. This is mountain paradise for outdoor lovers!
Jaisalmer – The Golden city of Rajasthan
Located in the western state of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer oozes the desert charm in India.
It is known as the Golden city, due to the beautiful golden colour that turns to at sunrise and sunset. Once upon a time, Jaisalmer was a medieval trading center and was (and still is) laced with stunning yellow sandstone architecture – very unique to the state.
Jaisalmer is truly a magical city, or the detailed architecture of the fort, where life goes on as normal despite the tourists, and for the delicious Rajasthani food!
Mysore – The cleanest city in India
Mysore is located in the state of Karnataka and is known as one of the cleanest city in the country.
The southern city of Mysore is filled with mesmerizing temples and remnants of Tipu Sultan’s rule. Laced with over 200 monuments and scattered all across the city, Mysore is a must visit for any history and culture lover. The city is also home to traditional woven techniques for sari – an Indian garment aka Mysore silk saris and traditional paintings known as “ganiifa”.
Mysore is also the birthplace of Ashtang Yoga.
With age old traditions, shopping and foodie paradise – Mysore is also considered as one of the well planned cities in India.
Varanasi – The Holy city of India
Varanasi is the holiest of the holy cities in India. It is charged with strong energy and spirituality – a must visit to experience the spiritual side of the country.
Varanasi is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh in north India. This place has been considered holy for centuries. The sacred river Ganges flows through the city and it draws tons of devotees to perform funeral and other ceremonial rites. The entire city is filled with over 2,000 temples and during Hindu festivals it is a dreamy place to explore and see the rituals and customs come into live!
Pondicherry – the city of French remnants in India
Pondicherry was a French colony in southern India. It is not a state, but is one of the union territories in India. One of the finest things to do here is to visit the French Quarter that still houses the remnants of the colonial past. Its promenade is a delightful place to soak up the sun and enjoy a day sunbathing.
This view is from beaches/water fronts that you can view and enjoy in Pondy (as its lovingly called). The city is also called Puducherry.
Popular “Aurobindo Ashram” is located in Pondicherry.
Orchha – Which are the small but beautiful cities in India
Orcccha is located in the central region of India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The town is incredibly rich in history, with its roots tracing back to the 16th century, when it was established by Hindu king Rudra Pratap Singh.
Today you will see numerous temples, palaces dating from his rule. To add to this royal grandeur is Orchha’s location, which is really picturesque with hills and lush greenery around, which makes it picture perfect.
Bangalore – The Silicon Valley of India
Bangalore is the capital city of the southern state of Karnataka. Known as the Silicon Valley of India for the number of IT and technology companies that are based here, Bangalore is an urban and a modern city.
The city is also home to former royal residences including the Bangalore Palace and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace. If you are visiting Bangalore for work, don’t forget to experience the culinary side of the city, its infrastructure and the historical remnants like the museums and the royal palaces.
Shillong – The Scotland of the East
Known as the Scotland of the East, Shillong has its own share of charm and beauty. Shillong is located in the north eastern state of Meghalaya. Surrounded by Ward Lake, stunning hills and lush greenery, exploring Shillong is like exploring a piece of paradise.
From promising culinary journey to the extravagant markets, from a view of the stark villages to sheer valleys of joy, Shillong has all that one can ask for. The cafes here are welcoming and you will really have a good time experimenting with bamboo shoots and our all-time favorite momos.
The European settlers found Shillong to be immensely beautiful with the rolling hills (and hence the name Scotland of the East), you wont be difficult to find heritage hotels and resorts in this favorite hill station of the colonial powers!
Jaipur – The Pink City of India
Jaipur is the known as the ‘pink city’. Located in the western state of Rajasthan, Jaipur is a stunningly beautiful city with Rajput architecture sprinkled all across – notable among them the Hawa Mahal and the City Palace. Being the capital city, Jaipur has a lot of offer, including many remnants of colonial past and royal residences.
Visit Jaipur to enjoy its art and architecture, Rajasthani cuisine and experience luxury!
Cities and small towns of Assam
Finally, I would like to share my home state of Assam. Located in the north eastern part of India and ruled by kings of Tai origin, Assam is a beautiful place surrounded by greenery with paddy fields and blue hills. It’s located ay the Himalayan foothills makes for picture perfect moments in the midst of nature.
Almost the size of Austria, visit Assam’s Kaziranga National Park for elephant safaris and admiring the one horned rhinoceros. There are many resorts from the by-gone colonial days where you can enjoy a relaxing stay with folklore and traditional Asssamese cuisine. Did you know Prince William and Kate Middleton visited Kaziranga in 2014?
Guwahati is the most popular city of Assam, well connected to the other parts of India and south East Asia. Other cities and smaller towns of interest include Dispur, Sadiya, Digboi, Golaghat, Sivasagar, etc.
I have also lived in Gujarat and Chennai for a brief period of time and explored those places too. These 2 places are relatively warmer then most areas I have lived in, but they have the amazing food and festivities.
If you ever get an opportunity to travel to India, please do so. You will not be disappointed. Of course, like with any destination, do your research, plan everything out and take insurance. But do visit and explore this wonderful country, it will definitely quench your wanderlust (or fuel for more).