The erotic carvings that swathe Khajuraho’s three groups of World Heritage–listed temples are among the finest temple art in the world. The Western Group of temples, in particular, contains some stunning sculptures. See our special colour illustration for details. Many travellers complain about the tiring persistence of touts here.
Jaipur, the City of Victory, is chaotic and congested, though it still has a habit of tickling travellers pink. Stunning hilltop forts and glorious palaces fit like footprints from a rich royal past, candyfloss-bright turbans blaze a trail through brilliant bargain-filled bazaars, and fluttering saris catch the eye like butterflies.
Bikaner is a vibrant, dust-swirling desert town with a fabulous fort and an energising outpost feel. It’s less dominated by tourism than many other Rajasthan cities, though it has plenty of hotels and a busy camel-safari scene, which is attracting more and more travellers looking to avoid the Jaisalmer hustle.
Spectacularly jagged, arid mountains enfold this magical, Buddhist ex-kingdom. Picture-perfect gompas dramatically crown rocky outcrops amid whitewashed stupas and meditational mani walls topped with mantra-inscribed pebbles. Colourful fluttering prayer flags spread their spiritual messages metaphorically with the mountain breeze.
Dharamsala is best known as the home of the Dalai Lama, but the grubby market town where the buses pull in is actually Lower Dharamsala. The Tibetan government in exile is based just uphill in Gangchen Kyishong, and travellers make a beeline further uphill to the busy little traveller town of McLeod Ganj, also known as Upper Dharamsala.