One of the hardest things about traveling in India is narrowing down places to ultimately include in your itinerary and deciding on places to skip, perhaps to visit in the future. It is simply too huge and filled with too many wondrous experiences to offer in a single trip.

If you want to see the country’s most awe-inspiring landmarks and most sacred sites, exploring Northern India is the way to go. This region isn’t only worth visiting for the Taj Mahal, it is also home to surreal medieval cities dominated by massive royal fortresses, the most sacred temples and spiritual sites of India’s major religions, grand vestiges of the British-colonial rule, and amazing natural landscapes.

Inspire your trip in India with these must-visit places and top things to do for first-time travelers.

1. Taj Mahal & Agra

Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Why go — The Taj Mahal is sheer perfection. If you came to India to feast your eyes on its man-made wonders, this is definitely a must-visit. When in town, don’t miss other incredible sites to see in Agra.

How to go — Make sure to click the “Show more” buttons below to see the travel tips.

Agra is around 4 to 5 hours drive south of the capital, New Delhi. The best way to get there is to book a shuttle or private car transfers that can take you directly to the main tourist area in Agra, which is found just outside the gates of the Taj Mahal. The nearest major train stations are Agra Fort Railway Station (AF) and Agra Cantonment railways station (AGC). Travel time by train fro Jaipur is 4 to 5 hours.

Where to stay — Click below to see room rates & discounts.

Check rates & reviews

See more

Agra travel tips

2. Jaipur & Amber

Overlooking view of Amber Fortress from Jaigarh Fortress in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Overlooking view of Amber Fortress from Jaigarh Fortress in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Why go — Jaipur together with Agra and New Delhi completes the famous tourist trail known as India’s Golden Triangle. This is one easy itinerary that you can do if you’re visiting on a short trip. Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan State, is famous for its massive royal palaces, imposing fortresses, and flamboyant buildings.

How to go

Jaipur is 1-hour southwest of New Dehli by plane. Jaipur International Airport (JAI), located 13km from the city center, serves direct flights from Singapore, Bangkok and several cities in the Middle East. And, major domestic destinations including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. Jaipur is also accessible by train from major cities in India. Travel time by train is 7 to 8 hours from Delhi.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Jaipur travel tips

3. New Delhi

India Gate in New Delhi, India

India Gate in New Delhi, India

Why go — Many travelers will tell you that New Delhi is one of those massively chaotic cities that is better skipped. It’s not one of the most exciting places to visit in India but if you’re headed there (for a flight) anyways, there are a couple of sites that are worth at least a day’s tour.

How to go

Delhi-Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) is the primary flight hub of northwest India and the busiest airport in the country. This airport serves direct flights from many cities in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Middle East, Europe, Africa and of course, South Asia. Flight duration is around 4.5 hours from Bangkok, and 5.5 to 6 hours from Singapore, Hong Kong & Kuala Lumpur. Major airlines include Air India, AirAsia, Alliance Air, GoAir, IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet & Zoom Air.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Delhi travel tips

See also

4. Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Fortress in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Jaisalmer Fortress in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Why go — Jaisalmer Fort, known as Rajasthan’s Golden Fort, is my favorite among the hilltop forts in India. It may not be the largest or most opulently decorated, but visiting this desert fortress was an extremely surreal experience. Walking down its narrow cobbled streets and enjoying views overlooking the sandstone-built city, especially under the golden hue of the sunset, felt like being transported to a land of fairytales.

How to go

Most travelers arrive in Jaisalmer by train, bus or car. The city does not have a commercial airport of its own. The nearest airport is Jodhpur Airport (JDH), which is about a 5 to 6-hour drive to Jaisalmer. Travel time by train is 12 to 17 hours from Delhi & Jaipur.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Jaisalmer travel tips

5. Varanasi

Evening Puja at Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi, India

Evening Puja at Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi, India

Why go — Sitting along the mighty Ganges River, Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in the Hindu and Buddhist faith. Visit this ancient city, if you came to India on a spiritual journey or to observe Hindu culture where it’s most revealing.

How to go

Varanasi is found midway between Delhi and Kolkata. Flight duration from both cities usually takes 1.5 hours. Varanasi-Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport (VNS) located 26 km away from the city center serves flights from Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Goa. Varanasi is also accessible by train from major cities in India. Travel time by train may take around 10 to 11 hours from Delhi or Kolkata.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Varanasi travel tips

6. Khajuraho

Erotic Carvings on a temple in Khajuraho , Madhya Pradesh, India

Erotic Carvings on a temple in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India

Why go — Intricate sculptures showing explicit scenes of eroticism, orgies, and bestiality cover the outer walls of mysterious ancient temples in Khajuraho. This town is famous for its unusual temples and a great place to experience rural India.

How to go

Khajuraho is 1-hour southeast of Delhi by plane. Khajuraho airport (HJR) located 3 kilometers away from the town center / main tourist area serves flights from Delhi, operated by Air India and Jet Airways. Khajuraho is also accessible by train from major cities in India. Travel time by train is 11 to 12 from Varanasi or Delhi.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Khajuraho travel tips

7. Kolkata

Victoria Memorial Hall along Cathedral Road in Kolkata, India

Victoria Memorial Hall along Cathedral Road in Kolkata, India

Why go — This is India’s most chaotic city. Better prepare yourself to experience all the sights, smells, sounds, and scams of this megacity before visiting. Kolkata (Calcutta) is known for its grand colonial architecture and the Mother House, headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa.

How to go

Kolkata-Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) is the primary flight hub of Kolkata area & northeast India. This airport serves direct international flights mainly from Southeast Asia, East Asia, Middle East, Bangladesh & Bhutan. Flight duration is around 2.5 to 3 hours from Bangkok, and 4 to 4.5 hours from Singapore, Hong Kong & Kuala Lumpur. Major airlines include Air India, AirAsia, Alliance Air, GoAir, IndiGo, Jet Airways & SpiceJet.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Kolkata travel tips

8. Jodhpur

Overlooking view of the blue city from Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Overlooking view of the blue city from Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Why go — Jodhpur is the “Blue City” of Rajasthan. Taking center stage is the Mehrangarh Fort that overlooks the city’s massive sprawl of blue-painted houses interlinked by a maze of narrow alleyways. The hilltop fortress and royal palace in Jodhpur is one of Rajasthan’s most opulent and well-preserved.

How to go

Jodhpur is 1.5 hours southwest of Delhi by plane. Jodhpur Airport (JDH) serves flights from Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore & Mumbai. Flights are operated by Air India, Jet Airways & SpiceJet. Jodhpur is also accessible by train from major cities in India. Travel time by train is 5 to 7 hours from Jaipur & 10 to 13 hours from Delhi.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Jodhpur travel tips

9. Udaipur

Lakeside view in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Lakeside view in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Why go — Udaipur, the White City in Rajasthan, captivate travelers with its extremely scenic lakeside setting. The cityscape is dominated by the massive City Palace famed for its lavish construction and intricate peacock mosaics.

How to go

Udaipur is 1.5 hours southwest of Delhi by plane. Udaipur-Maharana Pratap Airport Airport (UDR) serves flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Hyderabad & Thiruvananthapuram. Flights are operated by Air India, IndiGo, Jet Airways & SpiceJet. Udaipur is also accessible by train from major cities in India. Travel time by train is 8 to 10 hours from Jaipur & 14 hours from Delhi. And, by bus/taxi/car from Jodhpur. Travel time between Jodhpur and Udaipur is 4 to 5 hours.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Udaipur travel tips

10. Ranakpur

Ranakpur Jain Marble Temple in Ranakpur, India

Ranakpur Jain Marble Temple in Ranakpur, India

Why go — If you’re traveling between Udaipur and Jodhpur, it’s worth breaking the land journey by visiting the Jain Temple in Ranakpur. This architectural marvel is made entirely of white marble and features 1,444 towering support pillars carved in awe-inspiringly detail.

How to go

Most travelers arrive here by bus, taxi or private car from Udaipur or Jodhpur. Travel time from Jodhpur is around 3 hours. Meanwhile, travel time from Udaipur is around 1.5 hours.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Ranakpur travel tips

See also

11. Chittorgarh

Gaumukh Reservoir in Chittorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh, India

Gaumukh Reservoir in Chittorgarh Fort, Chittorgarh, India

Why go — Chittorgarh Fort is the largest fortress in Rajasthan and India. Although much of the ancient city is now ruined, there are many surviving temples worth seeing and spectacular overlooking cliffside views from the still-intact portion of the fortress walls.

How to go

Most travelers arrive in Chittorgarh by train, bus or car. The city does not have a commercial airport of its own. The nearest airport is Udaipur Airport (UDR), which is about a 2-hour drive away. Chittorgarh is accessible by train from major cities in India. Travel time by train is 11 to 13 hours from Delhi.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Chittorgarh travel tips

12. Bodhgaya

Mahabodhi Temple in Bodghaya, Bihar, India

Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

Why go — India is the birthplace of many of the World’s oldest surviving religions including Buddhism. If you are keen on following or learning about the path of enlightenment, you can find the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya. This temple marks the location where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, is said to have attained Nirvana.

How to go

Travelers on their way between Kolkata and Varanasi often break the long land journey with a side trip in Bodhgaya. The nearest train station is found in the town of Gaya, which is 30 minutes away by car from the main tourist area in Bodhgaya. From most hotels & guesthouses, Mahabodhi Temple and other temples can be easily reached by walking. Travel time by train to Gaya is around 6 hours from Kolkata and 5 hours from Varanasi.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Bodhgaya travel tips

13. Orchha

Orccha Fortress in Orccha, Madhya Pradesh, India

Orccha Fortress in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, India

Why go — Orchha isn’t very popular and that’s what I liked most about it. The city is home to a massive fortress and city palace, and several revered temples. This is one place to consider if you want to go off the beaten path and deeper into the Indian countryside.

How to go

Most travelers to Orchha go by way of Jhansi train station, which is 30 minutes away by car from Orchha town center. The nearest commercial airport is Khajuraho Airport (HJR), which is 4 to 5 hours away from Jhansi by train or car. Travel time by train is 7 to 9 hours from Delhi.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Orchha travel tips

14. Gwalior

Gwalior Fortress in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India

Gwalior Fortress in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India

Why go — Gwalior is another not-too-popular yet interesting place to visit. The main draw here is the Gwalior Fort known for its artistic architecture.

How to go

Gwalior is very well connected to major cities across India by direct train links. Travel time by train is around 3 hours from Delhi.

Where to stay

Check rates & reviews

See more

Gwalior travel tips

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

Got places in mind that should be on this list? Share your photos and videos and tag #detourista on Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t stop here

Check out these pages for more inspiration on places to go in Asia: