India is home to one of the most exotic and ancient cultures in the world. More than just a country, it’s a veritable subcontinent where the second largest population in the world lives, divided into many languages, religions and subcultures. This diverse cultural landscape is what makes India shine, and as an enthusiastic traveler rest assured India has plenty to offer. Actually, you’d need years to sample all of what this great country has to offer, but to make life easier for you, here are some destinations and sights we recommend you check out if you’re on a tight schedule while traveling in India.
It’s a land with dazzling beaches, dramatic temples, exotic rain forests, colossal mountains, eternal deserts, lively cities, and the Indian peninsula creates an ultimate allure for the travelers across the globe. Here are some of our favorite picks:
Gravity Defying Palace
A veritable man made wonder, the Gravity Defying Palace at Lucknow (capital of eastern Uttar Pradesh), is an enormous mystifying palace complex. This marvelous feat of engineering was constructed in the 18th-century by monarch Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, in an architectural blend that mixes both European and Arabic styles. As you might expect, the palace itself does not defy any laws of physics, however the engineers that build it sure did an awesome job in stretching things to the absolute limit: the central arched hall is almost 50 meters long and about three stories high without any pillars or beams. Instead, the engineers used interlocking brick-work and is famous for its mysterious architecture of “Bhulbhulaiya- a dense maze”. This labyrinth is made of more than 1,000 narrow staircase passages meant to prevent any possible intruders. One can roam around the clandestine maze; preferably with an official guide.And alongside one can also explore the adjacent mosque and stunning gardens.
The Phugtal Monastery
Reminiscent of similar religious complexes in North and South America, the Phuktal Monastery is nothing short of a massive cave monastery located high-up in the steep mountains near the Zanskar Valley. The region is actually packed with a number of famous monasteries, but none is as impressive as Phuktal. Since it was founded way back in teh 12th century, its foundation is primarily made out of twigs and mud, the 70 monks or so currently living inside the monastery however have began steps to consolidate the edifice. . The most attractive aspect is the hollow in the rock in the cave over the monastery. The level of the water in this hollow never spills regardless of any amount of water being drawn from it and is believed to have healing powers!
Khajuraho – The Temple of Love
Everyone’s heard of the Kamasutra – the bible of sexual positions written in Sanskrit by Indian sex gurus. The Kamasutra isn’t the only erotic masterpiece made in India. The Khajuraho or the Temple of Love as it’s also called, is situated in India’s Tiger State – Madhya Pradesh and is one of India’s most famous tantric theology hubs. Built way back in the 11th century, the temple oozes out passion, culture, dance, music … and of course eroticism portrayed through its walls and towers. Historians believe the Khajuraho was made to convey the importance of sex as an integral part of human life, required to attain “moksha”.
Valley of Flowers, Uttaranchal
The stunning landscape of The Valley of Flowers National Park in northern India’s state of Uttarakhand, bordered by Nepal and Tibet, comes alive with the monsoon rain. This high-altitude Himalayan valley has around 300 different varieties of alpine flowers, which appear as a bright carpet of color against a mountainous snow capped background. The park stretches over an area of 87.50 square kilometres and is the home to the rarest flowers ever found on Earth. Flowers such as orchids, poppies, primulas, marigold, daisies and anemones look exuberant and vivid. The photo captioned above may have sent a shiver or two down your spine. Rightfully so, since its one of the most breathtaking and unique places on Earth!
Just over the border from Puducherry is the international community of Auroville – a project in ‘human unity’ that has ballooned to encompass more than 80 rural settlements spread over 20km, and about 1800 residents. Two-thirds of these are foreigners, representing around 38 different nationalities.The community was first founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, also known as “The Mother” and designed by architect Roger Anger, and was opened to the public with the intention of showing an alternate style of living. Unfortunately, tourists might find themselves unwelcome.
Captioned above in the photo is the spiritual and architectural center of Auroville, the Matrimandir. It contains a silent inner chamber lined with white marble and housing a solid crystal (the largest in the world) 70cm in diameter. Rays from the sun are beamed into this crystal from a tracking mirror in the roof.
These are our top five picks, however there a slew of other hidden Indian exotic attractions that we’ve missed. Feel free to share your favorites in the comment section. Also, if you’d like to arrive cheaply at one of these fabulous attractions, you might want to check out our list of must read protips for booking flights online. Keep in mind, even though it’s not as expensive as other popular destinations, India is not that cheap! It would be wise to save money where you can – mostly on the flight and accomodation; coupons are your friends here! You can find coupon codes for pretty much everything – be sure to keep an eye out. As another protip from yours truly, use Makemytrip discount codes. No need to say thanks!