1. AGRA: THE TAJ MAHAL AND OTHER TREASURES
If I decided to put Agra in this list of must-haves, it’s not just for the Taj Mahal. I find it unfortunate that most travelers come here only to see the famous mausoleum. Do not mistake yourself! The Taj Mahal is definitely worth it, and not just for architecture lovers. But this is not the only attraction of Agra. The city is home to beautiful historical treasures including a beautiful fort, even more impressive than the Red Fort of Delhi. There is also the palace of mirrors and the mausoleum of Akbar which are worth a visit, especially if you stay in Agra for several days. And then, the city itself is also interesting. It has a historic district where once lived the builders of the Taj Mahal, and a more modern neighborhood. I generally advise to stay two to three days on site to discover its points of interest.
2. DELHI: TEMPLES, MARKETS AND GASTRONOMY
Delhi is a must-see for those visiting North India as it is here that the main international airport is located. I do not hide the fact that visiting the Indian capital can be stressful for some travelers who find it noisy, chaotic and dirty. However, what I generally propose is to focus on the most attractive sites in the city. The temple of Hanuman, for example, is one of my favorites because it allows a smooth immersion. With its fairground attraction, it offers an interesting introduction to the Hindu religion. For the curious taste buds, I suggest a passage through some small neighborhoods unknown Delhi where street food is queen. This is a good opportunity to taste the “real” Indian cuisine, with the spices and small prices that go with it! There are of course many other sites that I like to discover to the travelers, such as Lodi Park, the Chandni Chowk market or the Jama Masjid mosque. It all depends on the time you want to spend there!
3. GOA: BEACHES, BUT NOT ONLY!
Contrary to popular belief, Goa is not a city but a state, which has more than 120 kilometers of coastline. I like to place this stage “relaxation” in the middle or at the end of the trip. Here are some of the most beautiful beaches in India, such as Agonda Beach and Arambol Beach. But, as you surely know, there are many other things to discover in Goa. If you like to party, Goa, with Bombay, are among the best places in the country. There are many discotheques and it is also here, Vagator, is organized the largest music festival in Asia: the Sunburn.
As a former Portuguese colony, the capital of Goa is also interesting from a historical and architectural point of view. I advise you to stroll freely in the heart of the city and stop admiring the small churches, colonial houses and the beautiful church. Finally, it would be impossible to talk about Goa without mentioning all the activities that can be done on site: yoga, kitesurfing, parasailing, and meditation.
4. JAIPUR: THE CULTURAL CAPITAL OF RAJASTHAN
Jaipur is truly a must-see during a trip to Rajasthan. It is here that I take the enthusiasts of history, culture and architecture. There are many things to do here, and 3-4 days will not be too much to go around! Among my favorite places, I would mention the Jantar Mantar which is, in my opinion, the most beautiful observatory of the whole country, and perhaps even of all the Asian continent. The palace of the winds, Hawa Mahal, also deserves a visit with its typically oriental architecture. And then, there is also the City Palace which, still occupied by the royal family, opens some of its rooms where are exposed costumes maharajas and other fascinating objects. However, if your tour also passes through Jodhpur, I would advise you to privilege the visit of its City Palace, more impressive. Anyway, there is so much more to do and see in Jaipur!
5. JAISALMER: A RELAXING BREAK IN THE HEART OF THE DESERT
There is nothing more exotic than arriving at Jaisalmer by train, while the open windows allow the sand to infiltrate and the sand comes to cover the seats! You will understand, in Jaisalmer, we are in the desert! The fortified city is unlike any other Indian city and one never tires of strolling under a bright sun. Here, life flows quietly and we let ourselves live quickly to the rhythm of the inhabitants. Jaisalmer is in some ways the queen of the desert, and for me one of the most beautiful cities of Rajasthan. Its atmosphere has something magical, almost unreal with its changing light over the hours and its birds hovering over the fort.
In general, I offer travelers different ways to discover the city and its surroundings. One of the most popular excursions: the Thar Desert camel safari, to admire the sun set behind the sand dunes. The visit of the fort, the strolls in the paved lanes and the shopping sessions in the small shops of the fortified center will also be part of the program!
6. BANGALORE: BETWEEN MODERNITY AND TRADITION
Hard to do more anachronistic Bangalore! If I appreciate this city so much, it is because it embodies in itself a whole part of the Indian paradox. On the one hand we have a kind of “Silicon Valley” Indian with many international companies who have installed their headquarters, and on the other we find traditional India with its temples and historical monuments. And it is precisely on this paradox that I like to focus. Imagine a teeming metropolis, with its bars, discos, designer shops, and next to which are fabulous temples and palaces. Among my favorite places, I particularly like to discover the palace of Vidhana Soudha, the most beautiful of the city, and the Palace of Bangalore, to say the least surprising with its very “Tudor” style. And if you spend several days there, I also recommend visiting the Temple of the Bull and its famous statue of 4 meters high, and the temple of Sri Banashankari Amma, dedicated to the goddess Banashankari.
7. COCHIN: THE SWEETNESS OF LIFE OF KERALA
Cochin brilliantly embodies all the sweetness of life of the state of Kerala, with its beautiful colonial houses, its old synagogue, St. Croix Cathedral and its charming islands and peninsulas. Many travelers like to spend a few days there, far from the usual hustle and bustle of big cities. What I like in Cochin is the multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan side of the city, with its various places of worship, its cuisine at the crossroads of influences and its architecture mixing different styles.
Here again I propose different ways of discovering the city, be it through quiet strolls in the Jew Town district, Kathakali dance shows – mimed and danced theater – seaside walks to watch the sunset on the Arabian Sea, visit the Dutch palace . Although Cochin does not really reflect the most authentic face of India, it represents a very pleasant stopover during the India trip.
Of course this list of must-sees in India is not exhaustive and other sites like Varanasi, Udaïpur or Pondicherry are also worth the trip. I even enter sites totally unknown and yet captivating as Calcutta or Munnar for travelers who do not want to do like everyone else!