A guide to planning your destinations before arriving in India

Want to make a trip to India? Confused about what to see in India? Have no idea about the places of interest in India? Here is a guide that will help you select the best places to visit while in India. You have varied choices ranging from spiritual tourism to the exotic island and beach holidays.

In an earlier article, I had stressed upon the significance of having an itinerary ready, of places to see in India, before you arrive. The article suggested locations in India ideal for foreign travellers. The list was not comprehensive, as it did not cover all that India has to offer. There is much more to do and see in India than what was provided in the article. Keeping the foreign traveller in mind, this article is an attempt to create a more exhaustive list of places of interest in India.

Sun and Sand

With the Arabian Sea skirting its western coast, the Bay of Bengal lapping its eastern shores and the Indian Ocean at its feet, India is blessed with long stretches of sunbathed beaches. However, India is a conservative nation and does not promote a 'bikini culture'. Not all Indian beaches are 'bikini friendly'. The only place where tourists can safely wear beachwear is on the beaches in Goa - Vagator, Arambol, Ashwem and Palolem are a few places where you can uninhibitedly get into a bikini and not be ogled at.

Apart from these places bikinis can be worn on private beaches, of five-star properties and of course in pools in all the resorts and hotels etcetera. Goa also offers water sports including scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing and parasailing etcetera.

South India too has some beautiful beaches where you can frolic in the waters and/or lay on the sands – but remember no display of skin! The black sands of Varkala and Kovalam in Kerala are clean and scenic or you can head towards the north to the Marai Beach for its golden sands. Chennai's Marina is the second longest beach in the world. The Rama Krishna (RK) Beach in Visakhapatnam offers a picturesque view, with the Dolphin Hill lending a beautiful backdrop and rocks bobbing in and out of the sea. The INS Kursura (a decommissioned Indian Navy submarine) museum set right on the beachfront adds a unique charm to the place.

Mumbai's Chowpatty beach is always bustling with activity. Small kiosks are set on the beach, where you can taste freshly prepared Indian delicacies – India's version of fast-food. Beware though as the food can be quite tangy. Aksa beach and Marve beach in Mumbai are equally famous, but not as crowded, as the Chowpatty.

Water and waterways

Kerala packs a lot of punch. It is known as God's own country, and rightly so. It is lush green with meandering backwaters. Enjoy a ride on fully furnished houseboats that sail along little hamlets. It can be an amazing experience. Every houseboat has a cook as well, and you will be served fresh catch (fish, prawns and crabs).

The Dal Lake in Srinagar, in Kashmir, is also synonymous with houseboats, known as shikaras. The boats glide over the serene waters of the lake, past shops. There is a floating vegetable and flower market that goes into business at around five in the morning. It is a unique experience. Check the security situation with your embassy or consulate before proceeding to Kashmir. You might also require special permits from the Indian Government to travel there.

Mountains and trekking

If you are looking for some adrenaline rush then the North can be your playground. There is much to do in the high reaches of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Trekking, skiing, camping in the wild and white-water rafting are some of the activities that you can participate in. The Kullu Valley is breathtakingly beautiful, as is Manali, especially in the winters when the snow settles down. Shimla has so much of colonial history which is visible in the charming structures on the Mall. Close to Shimla is Kufri where skiing can be enjoyed. The Auli Hills in Uttarakhand is another skiing destination.

White water rafting can be done at Rishikesh. If you plan your visit between June and September you can make a trip to Leh in Ladakh. You can trek on the best hiking trails even as you enjoy the amazing weather and sceneries. You can also head towards the northeast, to Sikkim, for some more trekking opportunities.

Spiritual and mystic India

If you want to capture the essence of true Hinduism then Varanasi is the place to be in. Age-old customs and rituals still reverberate in this ancient city. The strong smell of incense, the sound of the incessant bells, the echoes of Hindu monks in prayer, the religious ceremonies along the funeral ghats, are almost surreal. Alongside, all this you will find throngs of people taking a dip in the sacred River the Ganges.

Sadhus swarm the place – there is a certain mysticism about them that is hard to miss. Their long unkempt tresses and beards, their bare-chested attire, the rudrakshbeads they wear, their sandalwood paste smeared foreheads add a certain aura to them. The evening arti is a must watch – it is the time for prayers, a ritual that is performed every evening. Huge contraptions with oil lamps are used to offer prayers, with the priests raising and lowering these lamps to the rhythm of the chants and the pealing of bells that reach a crescendo.

There is more spirituality to be found in the pilgrimage towns of Rishikesh, Pushkar and Ajmer and Amritsar. If you move towards the north, particularly to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh and/or Leh in Ladakh you can visit Buddhist monasteries. McLeod Ganj in Dharamshala is where the Dalai Lama resides.

For a more spiritual experience try the Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry, in the southern part of the country. Puducherry was called Pondicherry before it was rechristened. It was earlier a French colony and you can still find quaint homes along streets with French names. You will sample varied experiences in all these locations, each unique and different from the other.

Islands and more

I prefer to describe the 'more' before I touch the islands. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is a one horse town called Dhanushkodi. The town is virtually abandoned and all that stands there are ruins left behind after a massive cyclone struck the town on the night of 22-23 December 1964. Dhanushkodi is an island and to reach it you need to cross over Pamban Bridge, over the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the most dangerous bridges in the world, as it stands in one of the most corrosive environments. The drive beyond Pamban is incredibly beautiful, with the azure sea and white sands on either side. The island is the closest point from India to Sri Lanka.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Lakshadweep Islands are exotic tourist destinations. Unspoilt beaches, white sands and the blue waters are inviting. Snorkelling and scuba diving can be enjoyed here. There is a lot to explore and do on these islands. Tour operators conduct boat rides to places of interest. Do not visit these islands during the monsoon season as the weather can get bad and the sea rough. Boat rides are discontinued during this season.

Plan your trip, so it is enjoyable rather than hectic. Choose your destinations with care. Make reservations before you arrive. Do not cram too much, instead concentrate on just a few destinations, to make the best out of the visit. The suggestions given in this article are aimed to help you plan your trip better.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: K Mohan23 Mar 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

The author did gave elaborate details about how to plan destinations of tourist interest across India and in this regard I wish to add that every state of India is having Tourism Department especially created to cater to the needs of foreign tourists and they can log in or call on the destination tourism department of particular state before and make all arrangements. For example foreign tourists can make elaborate travel plans in Telangana which includes Hyderabad, Warangal, Mahboobnagar, Bharachallam, Karimnagar and Adilabad. Caravans are available with the tourism department with a trained driver who can take the visiting tourists to places, facilitate cooking for them at the spot itself and even take the van inside the deep forest for hunting or trekking purpose. So every tourist visiting Telangana can make use of these facilities at reasonable cost.

Author: Umesh02 Apr 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

A very detailed information packed article covering India in its width and length. The places are covered under appropriate headings. One thing I want to suggest is whether the author can incorporate in her next version of the article, the connectivity of these places to nearest rail head or airport because logistics is the main concern of foreign tourists who are not much aware of local transport modalities in India. As such, I enjoyed reading the well conceived article by the author.

Author: Juana02 Apr 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3


As someone who travels a great deal, I do not recommend scheduled tours to anyone. Seasoned travellers like to chalk their own itinerary instead of being shepherded through a set route. Such tours are too rigid and tourists do not enjoy them much. Most travellers prefer to go solo and map their own route.

Also, ‘hunting’ of wild animals is banned by law, in India. I do not understand how any State Tourism Department can facilitate hunting for tourists. Please get your facts right before mentioning them in an online forum.

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