Getty Images

Bihar & Jharkhand

Bihar is the birthplace of Buddhism – indeed its very name derives from vihara, the Sanskrit word for Buddhist monastery. Thousands of pilgrims from around the world throng its many places of religious significance. Most extraordinary among these spots is Bodhgaya, the site of Buddha's enlightenment, where getting caught up in the spiritual atmosphere is a major draw for travelers. In tribal Jharkhand, holy Parasnath Hill is a revered Jain pilgrimage site, and joining devotees on the hike to the top is a surreal highlight. That apart, the forests of Betla (Palamau) National Park promise a date with elephants and leopards, and maybe even the odd tiger.

Truth be told, this whole region is off the beaten track. Outside Bodhgaya, foreign tourists are almost nonexistent, so if you're looking to sidestep mainstream travel, and especially if you have an interest in Buddhism, this rustic pocket of India could be an unexpected highlight.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Bihar & Jharkhand.