India; you love it or you hate it. It’s a pretty brutal country, and full of contradictions at that. It’s not for the faint of heart, and yet it is easy to leave it behind when you leave. After four trips in the past eight years, I have accumulated quite the picture count. I look back at them with a little bit of sadness. Who knows, maybe it’s time for trip number five! She’s a strange beast, this India. So, without further ado, these are 9 of my favorite, super instagrammable places in mother India!
The Varanasi Ghats
Walking through the tiny streets of Varanasi, it is impossible not to be drawn to the river. It’s why you came! The Ganges is life, people bathe in it, do their laundry, their business, and burn their dead. For Hindu’s, being cremated here means breaking the cycle of birth and re-birth. Varanasi is believed to be one of the longest inhabited cities, as well as sacred. It’s a weird place to be, beautiful and gripping at the same time.
While you’ll probably end up staying in McLeodGanj, a suburb of Dharamshala and the actual epicenter, Dharamshala is where the Dalai Lama lives and the Tibetan government settles in exile. You would have to be lucky to get an audience with the Dalai Lama, but the complex and school are amazing, and Dharamshala is beautifully located in the hills. You can check out the schedule here to see if his holiness is home when you’ll be there!
Delhi’s Jama Masjid
The Jama Masjid, across the road from the Red Fort, is one of the biggest mosques in India. It holds a max capacity of 25,000, was built by more than 5000 workers and finished in 1656. Getting there through Old Delhi can be an assault on the senses, but once inside, especially in early morning, it’s a refuge. And an additional plus of an early morning visit: the best light of the day!
Manikaran in Himachal Pradesh, is known for its temples and landscape. The town itself is small and it may seem there is not an abundance of things to do, but you could be wrong! Manikaran has some stunning temples (Manikaran Sahib is fantastic), hot springs and the mountainous area is beautiful. Also, the close by hill town of Manali is definitely worth a visit.
Jaipur, Amber Fort
It’s a bit of a trek getting up to the Fort (please don’t take an elephant), or if you’re so inclined, there’s golf carts! The redstone and marble palace just outside Jaipur was built in 1592, and is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s easy to spend a few hours here to enjoy the views or visit the Shila Devi temple.
Haridwar, where I witnessed my first Ganga Aarti ceremony, is where the Ganges comes out of the Himalayas. Every night, the Ganga Aarti at Har Ki Pauri ghat draws thousands of people. Go to Haridwar to visit a holy city, learn about Hinduism and maybe find enlightenment! 🙂
Not far from Haridwar is Rishikesh. Mostly know for its yoga retreats, ayurveda and ashrams, but it’s actually the go to place for some adventures! Rafting on the Ganges, or some bungee jumping, anyone?
The backwaters of Kerala span some 900 kilometers in canals and lakes. Cruising around on a houseboat for a few days will slow your pace and treat you to some of the most beautiful views of the lakes, lagoons and rivers.
Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Golden Temple, or Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the most important shrine in Sikhism. The sun hitting the gold plating of the temple in midday is a feast for the eyes. It’s easy to spend a full day here, watch pilgrims bathe, visit the sanctum sanctorum and speak to people around you while you eat dinner they serve.
Obviously, the above doesn’t even begin to cover it! There’s a million more than ‘9 super instagrammable places in India’, but it’s a start! Who knows, maybe it’s inspired you to build in an extra stop on your itinerary 🙂