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North India

Best Places to Visit in North India: A Complete Guide

7 Comments / India Travel Blogs / By trailstainedfingers

Best places to visit in North India

The best tourist places to visit in North India include monuments, hill stations, and national parks in Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Get all the information you need in this exhaustive North India travel guide.

The Northern part of India is world-renowned for the Himalayas, arguably the mightiest mountain range in the world. It’s also on the wish list of every foreign tourist because North India is home to the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the modern world. Adventure-seekers crave to go river-rafting in Rishikesh, scale the peaks of Leh-Ladakh and lose themselves in the heavenly landscapes of Dharamshala and Spiti.

And as a bonus, the desert state of Rajasthan also forms a part of India’s northern region. Rajasthan is definitely not all desert. In fact, its plethora of beautiful palaces, forts and lakes make it among the most captivating travel destinations in India.

Table of Contents

Best Places to Visit in North India

Uttar Pradesh Tourism

Lovers of history and architecture must include Agra and Fatehpur Sikhri on their itinerary. While Agra is most famous for the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum that has been described as ‘a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time’, the Agra Fort, wrought out of red sandstone, is also most captivating. The same stone has been used to construct the stunning Jama Masjid and Salim Chishti’s tomb in Fatehpur Sikri. Striking shrines and mosques can also be found in Lucknow, the capital city.

The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Courtesy: Pixabay

If you’re on a spiritual quest, meditating on the banks of the Varanasi can be a transcendental experience. The ancient town on the bank of the River Ganga (Ganges to the West) is home to many impressive Hindu temples. While we’re on the subject of sacred cities, a visit to Mathura, the purported birthplace of Lord Krishna (one of the most playful deities in the Hindu pantheon) would also be worth your while.

Read: Experience Agra, The Mughal Way

Best things to do in Uttar Pradesh: Visit Agra, Fatehpur Sikhri, Varanasi and Mathura

Must-try Uttar Pradesh foods: Veg kofta curry and rice, aloo puri for breakfast, Lucknowi chicken biryani, khasta kachori (snack), kadhi chawal, malaiyo (dessert)https://widget.getyourguide.com/default/activities.frame?locale_code=en-US&widget=activities&number_of_items=3&currency=EUR&see_more=true&partner_id=QOQER1V&q=uttar%20pradesh&website=https%3A%2F%2Ftrailstainedfingers.com%2Fbest-places-to-visit-in-north-india%2F

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Punjab Tourism

Punjab’s claim to fame is the magnificent Golden Temple in Amritsar. It is the primary Sikh shrine and sits pretty in the middle of the Amrit Sarovar water tank, whose waters are believed to have healing powers. The shrine is made partly from marble and reflects Islamic and Hindu architectural styles. Seeing it lit up in the night in all its golden glory is not something easily forgotten.

golden-temple-best places to visit in India

Also do visit the Rock Garden in Chandigarh, a beautifully designed city (by Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier in fact). Punjab is also worth a visit for the refreshing homestays in the countryside and the hearty cuisine. Specialities include makkai ki roti and sarson ka saag (corn flour flatbreads with spinach curry), paneer/murgh makhani (cottage cheese or chicken in buttery gravy) and malai lassi (sweet buttermilk with cream).

Top places to visit in Punjab: Amritsar & Chandigarh

Must-try Punjabi foods: Chole bathure, paneer tikka, butter chicken, chana masala, dal makhanihttps://widget.getyourguide.com/default/activities.frame?locale_code=en-US&widget=activities&number_of_items=3&currency=EUR&see_more=true&partner_id=QOQER1V&q=punjab&website=https%3A%2F%2Ftrailstainedfingers.com%2Fbest-places-to-visit-in-north-india%2F

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Delhi Tourism

Delhi is India’s capital city – resplendent with stately elegance as well as Mughal history. Beautifully organised and replete with evocative monuments, colourful bazaars and sprawling gardens, it is our favourite city in North India. You may have read some negative news about Delhi but fret not, the city is perfectly safe for travellers who understand its culture and avoid late-night excursions.

We’ve written a detailed Delhi travel guide but we’ll summarise the main attractions here. Cover the political circuit of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President’s house), the Defence and Home Ministries and the Parliament of India at the Sansad Marg area. You cannot enter these buildings but you may definitely walk around, take pictures, and observe them from the outside.

The iconic India Gate is Delhi’s famous war memorial. But even more stunning is the red and white Humayun’s Tomb. The main structure bears some resemblance to the Taj Mahal but with a large garden complex and many smaller tombs, this one stands on its own. Delhi has a Red Fort somewhat like Agra Fort but equally remarkable. This one covers a large area as well (over 250 acres), and thorough exploration can take hours.

The Qutub Minar needs no introduction but it is possibly the best destination in Delhi. Along with the main minaret, tourists can also take in awe-inspiring tombs, gardens, shrines and ruins in the Qutub Complex. The ancient magic at Agrasen ki Baoli, a historic stepwell, is almost palpable. Visitors have to descend a long flight of stairs to get the bottom. Bats reside in the cool, dark interior chambers and you’d need a good dose of bravado to enter.

Lodi Gardens - best places to visit in North India
Lodi Gardens

Delhi also hosts the best garden and monument complex in India – the Lodi Gardens. The scale and beauty of the gardens rival any of those in western countries with more open spaces. Nature lovers can marvel at the myriad flowers and birds in the garden. But don’t miss landmarks like Bara Gumbad Mosque, the tombs of Muhammad Shah and Sikander Lodi, and Sheesh Gumbad either. We also recommend a visit to Jantar Mantar, a collection of ancient astronomical observatories constructed by an erstwhile king.

Lotus Temple Delhi - Best places to visit in North India
Lotus Temple Delhi

If you have time, do visit the Lotus or Baha’i Temple, a shrine that belongs to no religion. The main structure is shaped like a lotus and consists of 27 marble ‘petals’. There are also nine pools and lovely gardens to be explored. Go shopping at Delhi Haat and Sarojini Nagar for steal deals on clothes, jewellery, bags, shoes and artefacts. Those with kids along would do well to visit the National Rail Museum, where you can enjoy a musical fountain, displays of vintage steam locomotives and an interactive rail museum with quizzes and games.

Another unique attraction in Delhi is the gigantic Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple. It is the biggest Hindu temple in the world, and the magnificence and precision of its architecture and surrounding pools and gardens will change the way you think about religious tourism forever! You can’t take pictures though. And last but not the least, the evening sound and light show at Purana Qila is one of the most magical experiences you can have in Delhi.

Read: Hello Delhi: Adventures in the Big Bad City

Top things to do in Delhi: Visit India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Lodi Gardens, Jantar Mantar, Lotus Temple and Akshardham Templehttps://widget.getyourguide.com/default/activities.frame?locale_code=en-US&widget=activities&number_of_items=3&currency=EUR&see_more=true&partner_id=QOQER1V&q=delhi&website=https%3A%2F%2Ftrailstainedfingers.com%2Fbest-places-to-visit-in-north-india%2F

Food in Delhi

One of our blogger friends recommends visiting Khan Market for a variety of local delights. Param says you can’t go wrong with apple cinnamon cake and kahwa tea at Café Turtle. Café Kunzum is a well-recommended travel café in Hauz Khas, and Yeti Restaurant’s Thakali Thali is great as well. We loved the parathas and chole bathuras at small roadside dhabas (avoid or choose with care if you have a sensitive stomach).

Hotels in Delhi

Peepal Kothi, India
Peepal Kothi, Haryana

We had a wonderful stay at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon near Gurgaon airport and it is our favourite business hotel in India. Gurgaon is 30min away from Delhi and part of the NCR region, and chances are you’ll be transiting from Gurgaon airport. Then this five star hotel is a great choice.

If you’re staying in Delhi for an extended period, take a weekend off to enjoy the hospitality of Peepal Kothi in nearby Haryana. The small boutique hotel is owned by a charming gentleman who loves to regale guests over tea in the beautiful garden full of lovingly planted trees.

For a budget-friendly, yet luxurious option conveniently located near Delhi’s international airport, the four-star Holiday Inn New Delhi comes to mind. We stayed here as well, and made the most of their spa, Italian restaurant and aviation-themed bar.

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Himachal Pradesh Tourism

Set foot just about anywhere in Himachal Pradesh and you’ll be so glad you came to India. The most famous hill-stations here are Shimla, Manali and Kullu – also popular honeymoon destinations. Close on their heels come Dalhousie, Kasol, Kasauli and Dharamshala. But smaller towns like Solan, Chail and Palampur are entering the spotlight as well. Most of these destinations offer moderate to difficult trekking trails as well and the longer ones involve overnight camping.

Manali is the most rewarding hill-station in Himachal Pradesh with vistas rivalling those of the European Alps. The tinkling River Beas flows through the picture postcard town and offers many opportunities for peace and reflection. Hadimba Temple in the thick of Manali’s forests, Van Vihar park by the riverside and the Buddhist Temple with a rotating prayer wheel are all close the main market.

River Beas, Manali - Best places to visit in North India

Further away, there is Vasishth village with a famous temple, hot springs and the Jogini Waterfalls, which involves a longish hike through beautiful woods. But the most stunning snow destination of Manali is Solang Valley, best visited between December-February. There, you can try a variety of snow sports and feast on the most exquisite views of Manali’s snow-covered peaks. As far as food is concerned, the town is known for good trout.

We also highly recommend making Kandaghat your base to explore lesser known Chail and Solan. You can find a full list of things to do in Chail here but we’ll talk about it in brief. The beautiful Chail Palace and courtyard offers rooms for overnight stay as well. Kali Ka Tabba is a pristine white temple atop the hills overlooking the Shivalik Range. And then there’s Sadhupul River, where you can eat and drink at makeshift hotels and maybe even stay at a cottage. But the place you absolutely cannot miss is Mohan Shakti Heritage Park, with 40 acres of stunning architecture galvanised by goose bump-inducing Vedic chants. Solan is home to the Directorate of Mushroom Research and state shops (by HPMC) sell delicious mushroom pickles and apple wine.

Kali Ka Tibba, Chail, Himachal Pradesh - best places to visit in north india
A winding fort-like path

Depending on your level of fitness, you can trek to Chandra Taal, an untouched and ethereal lake in the Spiti Valley; scale the often dangerous Rohtang Pass or climb up to Bhrigu Lake at an elevation of 4250m above sea level. Other popular trekking routes will take you to Beas Kund and Hampta Pass. Most treks commence from Manali and the best way is to book through an adventure tour operator.

Read: Manali: A Snowy Encounter

Top places to visit in Himachal: Manali, Chail, Dharamshala and Chandra Taal

Hotels in Himachal Pradesh

Club Mahindra Kandaghat is a destination in itself, with luxurious rooms, adventure sports facilities, nursery and a lavish garden affording soulful views of the Himalayan landscape. We also loved The Himalayan Resort & Spa in Manali – conveniently close to the market area.

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Uttarakhand Tourism

Uttarakhand is a hill-station lover’s paradise. Apart from the usual suspects like Nainital, Mussoorie and Dehradun, there are numerous smaller destinations like Kanatal, Landour and Auli that offer less touristy environs. Other recommended hill-stations include Bhimtal and Landsdowne.

River-rafting is a popular activity in Rishikesh but the picturesque town is also famous as a starting point for Himalayan treks. There are serene yoga and meditation retreats in the town as well.

The view during the trek through the mountains at Kanatal - best places to visit in north india
Stunning views assuaged our exhaustion during the trek

Head to Haridwar, a holy town on the banks of the Ganges if visiting Uttarakhand during a Hindu festival like Holi (but be wary of crowds). Other holy towns with various temples are the hilly Badrinath and Kedarnath.

For stunning sightings of Bengal tigers, elephants and elusive leopards, book a stay at a wildlife lodge near Jim Corbett National Park. Established in 1936, it is the oldest wildlife reserve in the country and home to around 50 mammal species.

Read: Flirting with the Redstart in Kanatal

Top places to visit in Uttarakhand: Nainital, Rishikesh, Haridwar & Jim Corbett National Park

Must-try Uttarakhand foods: Kulath ki dal, aloo dal pakora, chaulai ki laddu, baadi

Hotels in Uttarakhand

We have stayed at, and highly recommend The Terraces, a pretty boutique resort in Kanatal. Read all about the rooms, location and picnic activities organised by the resort here.

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Rajasthan Tourism

Rajasthan is synonymous not only with deserts and camels but also culture, wildlife, history and yes, even mountains and lakes. It is possibly the best place to capture the essence of India. And you could dedicate an entire visit to this state.

Udaipur City - best places to visit in north india

The two most popular destinations are Jaipur and Udaipur. Jaisalmer and Jodhpur come next. And then there are Pushkar and Ajmer, located close to each other. But apart from these towns, it’s also worth visiting wildlife reserves in Ranthambore and Sawai Madhopur. Rajasthan also has its own hill-station – Mount Abu, though it’s nothing like the Himalayan ones.

Our favourite city in Rajasthan (and India) is Udaipur. We’ve got a comprehensive Udaipur travel guide for you on our blog but in brief, Udaipur is home to breath-taking lakes, gardens and palaces. It has great weather and greenery just after the monsoons, and there are many offbeat things to do, like visiting a handicrafts village and taking a cable car ride. From Udaipur, you can easily make a trip to the magnificent Chittorgarh Fort. We’ve also listed the main things to do in Jaipur on this blog. The Pink City, as it is fondly called, is famous for forts, palaces and colourful shopping bazaars. Also worth visiting in Jaipur is the quintessentially Rajasthani village of Chokhi Dhani, home to the Abhaneri step well. Check out The Trraveller’s post on what to do in Jaipur in 48 hours.

Read: Udaipur, she left a lake-shaped hole in my heart

A farm at Shahpura, Rajasthan - best places to visit in north india

If you enjoy offbeat travel, make a trip to Shahpura, a little village in Bhilwara district. The erstwhile rulers still maintain a family home there, and have worked hard to educate the children of Shahpura. Their estate is the perfect spot for bird-watching and taking long walks through the woods. With the help of their guide, you can visit the local school, situated in a palace whose ruins still contain remnants of phad paintings and beautiful mosaic flooring; and a fort with stunning sunset views.

Read: The People of Shahpura: Dreamers & Rain-God Appeasers

If Jaipur is the Pink City, Jodhpur’s light-blue edifices make it the Blue City. The city is renowned for the massive Mehrangarh For situated atop a cliff, and Umaid Bhavan Palace. Jaisalmer is synonymous with Jaisalmer Fort, built from yellow sandstone, and ornate ‘havelis’ (local mansions). The Golden City is also the best place for camel safaris that let you romance the sand dunes of Rajasthan.

Pushkar-best-places-to-visit-in-north-india

Spirituality and religion take centre-stage in Pushkar and Ajmer. The latter is home to the famous Ajmer Sharif Dargah and a romantic promenade along the Ana Sagar Lake. Pushkar is located on the banks of Pushkar Lake, a popular pilgrimage site with numerous ghats and temples nearby. The temple dedicated to Brahma, the Hindu God of creation is the most renowned. The town’s proximity to the Thar desert makes it a great site for desert activities like camel and horse rides, hot-air ballooning and hiking. The Pushkar Fair, which brings together most of the area’s attractions, is held in October or November every year.

Top places to visit in Rajasthan: Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Pushkar & Ranthambore

Must-try cuisine in Rajasthan: Lal maas (a mutton dish), dal baati churma (a hearty winter meal) and ghewar (a local sweet)https://widget.getyourguide.com/default/activities.frame?locale_code=en-US&widget=activities&number_of_items=3&currency=EUR&see_more=true&partner_id=QOQER1V&q=rajasthan&website=https%3A%2F%2Ftrailstainedfingers.com%2Fbest-places-to-visit-in-north-india%2F

Hotels in Rajasthan

We’d like to recommend Shahpura Bagh, located in a little village called Shahpura. It is the summer home of the royal family and a secret destination that you should absolutely not miss. We visited in the monsoon, and saw beautiful peacocks dancing in the gardens surrounding the pristine white house. Guest quarters are located in a separate wing and there’s a gorgeous pool; not to mention specially prepared local cuisine.

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Read: Popular Heritage Hotels in Rajasthan

Jammu-Kashmir Tourism

Often called ‘Paradise on Earth’, Kashmir is the gateway to the unworldly landscapes of Leh-Ladakh. Jammu-Kashmir is the northern-most state of India and renowned for the houseboats on Dal Lake and the ski-slopes of Gulmarg.

Stay in a houseboat in Srinagar’s dreamy Dal Lake and feast your eyes on the floating gardens and markets. Try white-water rafting and trout fishing in Pahalgam or sledging and skiing in Sonmarg in the winter. You can enjoy scenic views of Gulmarg with a 21-minute long cable car ride.

A houseboat on Dal Lake, Srinagar - best places to visit in north india
A houseboat on Dal Lake, Srinagar

And if you’re an intrepid traveller, you wouldn’t want to miss the treasures of Ladakh, a desert town so high up in the Himalayas that the world doesn’t seem to have gotten to it yet. These days, you can even fly to Ladakh from Srinagar but riding on a bike from Delhi or Manali would be rather adventurous too. The main points of interest in Ladakh are Pangong Tso Lake, Nubra Valley, Tso-Moriri Lake, Thikse Monastery, Leh Monastery and the remote Zanskar Valley.

Reaching these places involves traversing mountain passes and the routes are open from June-September. Here is some advice on the best time to visit Ladakh.

Despite intermittent political tension, Kashmir is still generally safe to visit and the people are friendly and helpful. But do check the latest news and advisories before planning a trip. Also, dress in Indian or modest attire as far as possible.

Tso_Kiagar_Lake_Ladakh - best places to visit in north india
Ladakh

Top places to visit in Kashmir: Ladakh, Gulmarg, Srinagar, Pahalgam & Sonmarg

Must-try Kashmiri dishes: Kashmiri kahwa (tea), rogan josh (lamb), pulav, duma loo, goshtaba (meatballs)

Best time to visit North India: Oct-March (Avoid Dec-Jan if averse to cold weather and snow), Rajasthan is lovely in the monsoons too (June-Sep)

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Top Places to Visit in North India

In a nutshell, you cannot leave North India without visiting:

  • The Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh
  • The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab
  • Udaipur’s lakes and palaces, Rajasthan
  • Dal Lake in Srinagar and Ladakh, Kashmir
  • Manali’s Solang Valley, Himachal Pradesh
  • The Qutub Minar and Lodi Gardens, Delhi
  • Jim Corbett National Park and Rishikesh, Uttarakhand  
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