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Introducing Uttar Pradesh

Agra’s Taj Mahal rises from the beaten earth of Uttar Pradesh (UP) as it does in dreams, but even the wildest imaginations leave travellers underprepared for that breath-stealing moment its gates are traversed and this magnificent world wonder comes into focus – skipping it would be a bit like drinking chai without spoonfuls of sugar: absurd.

But it’s the unmistakable spirituality and religious fervour in this enormous state that leaves the longest-lasting impressions: being slapped by a divine punch of wow along atmospheric riverside ghats such as Manikarnika and Dashashwamedh in India’s holiest city, Varanasi; the contemplative aura that emanates from ancient Buddhist stupas in Kushinagar; and the serenity of waking up before dawn to watch locals perform puja (offerings or prayers) in sacred Chitrakut.

Along the way, a groundswell of Mughal and Nawab architectural and gastronomic highpoints – especially in Lucknow – ensure all-sensory satisfaction in India’s imperial heartland.