Motorcycle Touring

From rugged Himalayan tracks to gentle ambles along palm-lined backroads down south, India was made for motorcycling.

Manali The mountain ride from Manali to Ladakh or Spiti may be the most spectacular motorcycle trip of your life.

Ladakh The ‘Three Idiots’ route into magnificent Ladakh has become one of India’s most popular summer adventures.

K3 route Ride nail-bitingly narrow tracks high above the Chenab River on the K3 route from southern Kashmir to Keylong in Himachal Pradesh.

Goa Trade mountain thrills for relaxing rides along Goa's beach strip, hiring a scooter in Anjuna, Vagator, Calangute or Baga.

Cycling

Millions of Indians rely on pedal power. Join them on peaceful rides through historic sites or thrill-charged descents through the hills.

Hampi Pedal through a surreal landscape of eroded boulders and toppled temples in ancient Vijayanagar.

Ladakh Rent wheels in Leh and charge downhill from one of Ladakh's highest passes on the thrilling 'Khardung La roll-down'.

Mandu Use pedal power to amble from tombs to mosques to palaces on Mandu's Unesco-listed plateau.

Odisha (Orissa) Cycle through peaceful, traditional Odishan villages from this charming heritage homestay north of Bhubaneswar.

Bir & Billing Mountain-bike through rugged hills in adrenaline-charged Himachal Pradesh.

Chandigarh A bike is the perfect way to explore Le Corbusier's curious planned city.

Darjeeling Fast-paced off-road trails snake through Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, near Ghum.

Forts & Palaces

India’s architecture tells a tale of conquest, domination and inordinate riches.

Rajasthan Nowhere matches the Land of Kings for romantic splendour; Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Amber and Udaipur top the fort and palace stakes.

Maharashtra The land of Shivaji prickles with defensive masterpieces, including Daulatabad and island fortress Janjira.

Hyderabad Royal relics fill the Telangana capital, from time-ravaged Golconda fort to the lavish Falaknuma Palace.

Delhi This historically strategic city has imperial forts like other places have traffic islands.

Ladakh Leh and Stok palaces are like mini versions of Tibet's fantastical Potala Palace.

Mysuru The majestic Mysuru Palace one housed one of India's most extravagant maharajas.

Grand Temples

No one does temples like India – from psychedelic South Indian Hindu towers to serene and silent Buddhist cave temples and Amritsar’s gilded Golden Temple.

Tamil Nadu Bursting with gopuram temple towers that climb to the sky in rainbow-coloured tiers of sculpted deities.

Golden Temple The greatest of all Sikh temples rises like a treasure box above a sacred pool in Amritsar.

Rajasthan Jain temples at Jaisalmer, Ranakpur and Mt Abu offer some of India's most mind-blowingly intricate carvings.

Khajuraho Exquisite carvings of deities, spirits, musicians, regular people, mythological beasts – and sex, lots of sex.

Tawang Gompa The world's second-largest Buddhist monastery rises like a city among snowy peaks in Arunachal Pradesh.

Sikkim Gigantic Buddhist and Hindu sculptures rise above forested ridges at Namchi, Ravangla and Pelling, backed by Himalayan peaks.

Ajanta Ancient, vast, intricately sculpted caves challenge the notion that Buddhism is a religion of austerity.

Odisha Konark's Sun Temple is a vast representation of the celestial chariot of sun god Surya.

Ladakh A wealth of Buddhist monasteries, in a stunning lunar landscape.

Ancient Ruins

You can wander back in time throughout India – the ruins left behind by countless cultures and empires lie scattered across cities and countryside.

Hampi Rosy-hued temples and palaces of the mighty capital of Vijayanagar are scattered among other-worldly boulders and hilltops.

Champaner Unesco-listed remains from an abandoned Islamic city, below a temple-studded sacred hill.

Mandu The tombs, palaces, monuments and mosques on Mandu’s green plateau are among India’s finest Islamic structures.

Nalanda Still elegant in ruin, this Unesco-listed, 1600-year-old university once enrolled 10,000 monks and students.

Delhi Conquered and built up repeatedly over 3000 years, Delhi is packed with the monumental ruins of ancient powerhouses.

Fatehpur Sikri A ghostly abandoned Mughal city, close to Agra and the Taj Mahal.

Maharashtra Magnificent rock-cut Buddhist temple caves at Ajanta and Ellora.

City Sophistication

India's cities are a world away from life in small towns or the countryside. Putting aside the crowds and inequalities, city living in India means fabulous fine dining, star-studded nightlife, five-star shopping and the cream of the arts.

Mumbai Home of Bollywood, Mumbai has it all: fashion, film stars, elegant dining, ritzy bars and top-notch art galleries.

Delhi Sophisticated Delhi is famous for its cultural life, with a packed festival calendar, exceptional shopping, stunning museums and fabulous dining.

Kolkata Renowned for music, poetry, literature and film, Kolkata also offers magical markets, grand colonial-era buildings and delicious seafood-based cuisine.

Bengaluru (Bangalore) Karnataka's burgeoning IT hub is loved for its nightlife, with microbreweries, gastropubs and music bars packed with partying locals.

Chennai Towering temples, stylish bars, swish hotels, fabulous shopping and a booming restaurant scene filled with the flavours of the south.

Bazaars

Megamalls are popping up across India like frogs in the monsoon, but it's in India's old-fashioned bazaars – with their tin pots, spices and gold, wedding saris and flowers – that the real magic happens.

Old Delhi Mughal-era bazaars transport shoppers back centuries, with stalls selling everything from kites to car jacks, plus excellent street food.

Goa Tourist flea markets are huge on the north coast; bazaars at Panaji (Panjim) and Margao offer a more authentic take.

Mumbai The megalopolis's markets all have their specialities; try Mangaldas for fabric, Zaveri for jewellery, Crawford for Alphonso mangoes and the Chor Bazaar for antiques and oddities.

Hyderabad The animated alleyways around the Charminar sell jewelled bangles, songbirds, wedding turbans, pomegranates, cooking pots and so much more.

Mysuru Devaraja Market is about 125 years old and filled with about 125 million flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Ahmedabad Busy produce market Manek Chowk becomes a heaving night market after dark, with copperware and textiles traded in the surrounding streets.

Beaches

India has some stunning stretches of coast that more than fulfill the tropical dream – swaying palms, warm waters, powdery white sand – and everywhere, Indian life spills out onto the sand.

Kerala Backpacker favourite Varkala is backed by beautiful sea cliffs, Kovalam curls around a golden bay, and more deserted Thottada is shaded by nodding palms.

Goa Even when overrun with travellers, Goa's beaches are still gorgeous; Mandrem and Palolem are two of the prettiest.

Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep) In the Andaman Islands, one of the world's most gorgeous beaches, with clear, aquamarine water lapping against white powder.

Gokarna Sun seekers and devotees mix on Gokarna's beautiful beaches, which back onto an ancient pilgrimage town.

Puri Atmosphere lures people to this seaside pilgrim town, with a lively beach festival each November.

Hill Stations

Those with the means have always fled to the hills to escape the hair-dryer heat of summer, laying the foundations for India's gloriously nostalgic hill stations.

Tamil Nadu Kodaikanal and Ooty serve up misty forests, rolling tea plantations, mountain hikes, and accommodation in colonial-era bungalows.

Munnar Kerala's not-too-touristy hill station sits amid rolling tea and spice plantations, where tropical birds give song in the morning mist.

Matheran This weekend retreat for Mumbaikars is refreshingly car free; get here on horseback, by pull-cart or on your own two feet.

Shimla Packed with Raj-era relics, Shimla is a great appetite-whetter for the magnificent Himalayan peaks visible from its ridge-top promenade.

Darjeeling The quintessential summer escape, surrounded by emerald-green plantations, with a backdrop of Himalayan giants.

Nainital Uttarakhand's favourite hill station, whose once-grand colonial-era hotels lie scattered around a lovely lake.

Boat Tours

India's waterways are a wonderful escape; from kayaks to rowboats and steamships to houseboats, there are all sorts of ways to experience India's aquatic side.

Kerala Languorous drifting on the backwaters around Alappuzha (Alleppey), canoe tours from Kollam (Quilon) and bamboo-raft tours in Periyar Tiger Reserve.

Goa Go dolphin or croc spotting on the Mandovi River, or cruise to secluded beaches by outrigger fishing boat.

Andaman Islands Explore mangroves, rainforest and reefs with 50 types of coral on a boat trip to Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.

Uttar Pradesh Observe the frenetic action on the sacred ghats that line the Ganges at Varanasi and Prayagraj (Allahabad).

Assam Four- to 10-night steamboat cruises ply the mighty Brahmaputra River as it meanders through the Northeast.

Odisha Spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins as you chug around Chilika Lake, Asia's largest brackish lagoon.

Traveller Enclaves

Sometimes you just want to find some like-minded souls to swap stories from the road and discuss life-altering bowel events. India's traveller hang-outs are there to help…

Hampi The stunning beauty of Hampi’s rock-cut ruins tempts everyone to stay awhile.

Goa Traveller magnet and beach haven, with Palolem and (cheaper) Arambol as its chief enclaves.

Rishikesh Yoga practitioners are irresistibly drawn to this self-styled yoga capital at the foot of the Himalaya.

Kolkata The grungy hotels of Kolkata's Sudder St backpacker quarter are great for meeting fellow travellers.

McLeod Ganj The spiritually minded flock to this Buddhist community near Dharamsala to glean wisdom from the Dalai Lama.

Pushkar Travellers and pilgrims converge on this holy town for its Camel Fair, but you'll find a lively crowd here year-round.

Delhi Love it or hate it, almost every traveller passes through Delhi's Paharganj quarter at some point.

Puducherry (Pondicherry) French-flavoured yoga-ashram hang-out with a European feel and plenty of boho accommodation and cool cafes.

Parvati Valley People linger for weeks or months sampling local 'herbs' and enjoying the ethereal beauty of this Himalayan valley.

Leh In summer half of Goa decamps from the coast to the lofty capital of Ladakh to continue the party.

Arts & Crafts

Practically every town, village and neighbourhood in India has its own tradition of sculpture, carving, painting, silk weaving, camel-hide decorating, embroidery or some other art form you'll find nowhere else.

Gujarat Fantastically mirrored textiles and intricate, almost iridescent embroidery are the stock in trade of tribal villages in Kachchh.

Rajasthan India's textile traditions are legion, but Rajasthan serves up some of the most eye-catching block-printing and embroidery in the whole country.

Himachal Pradesh Carpets have been hand-knotted in the Himalaya for centuries; Tibetan refugees continue the tradition in enclaves such as McLeod Ganj.

Bihar Folk paintings known as Mithila (or Madhubani) bring village culture vividly to life.

Tamil Nadu The Tamil tradition of sculpting bronze figures of Nataraja, the cosmic dancer, is about 1000 years old, and the silks and saris from Kanchipuram are almost as famous.

Kashmir Famous for its entrepreneurial locals and delicately painted papier mâché boxes, bangles and ornaments.

Mountains

Mountains rise all over India, but they're just appetisers for the greatest show on earth that is the Himalaya. View the peaks from the comfort of a hill-station bungalow or see the summits up close on a mountain trek.

Ladakh Traverse 5000m passes between saw-tooth crags and sleep in villages that have survived unchanged through the centuries in this desolate moonscape.

Lahaul & Spiti Green Lahaul and rain-starved Spiti are divided from the rest of Himachal Pradesh by soaring mountain passes; even the drive up here is an epic adventure.

Arunachal Pradesh This off-the-beaten-track 'land of dawn-lit mountains' is all forested ridges and rocky peaks on the Tibetan border.

Darjeeling Overnight in simple lodges on the Singalila Ridge Trek, or sit pretty in one of Darjeeling's historic hotels for incredible views of the eastern Himalaya.

Sikkim View mighty Khangchendzonga, the world’s third-highest mountain, up close from Pelling or the trekking trails to Goecha La and Dzongri.

Uttarakhand Join the pilgrim crowds bound for the dramatic Char Dam temples, or find true peace in Uttarakhand's mountain meadows.

Wildlife Safaris

India's legendary royal Bengal tigers can be elusive, but leopards, elephants, antelope, bison, one-horned rhinos and deer are often less shy.

Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh This is serious tiger country, and sightings are likely in a string of national parks, including Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench.

Assam Kaziranga National Park is the world’s rhinoceros capital; you may see dozens on a single safari.

Kerala Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the few places where you have a good chance of spotting wild elephants.

Tamil Nadu More wild elephants at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, plus boar, bison, langur monkeys and giant squirrels.

Gujarat Gir National Park provides a sanctuary for Asia's only wild lions, along with over 300 species of bird.

Karnataka Bandipur National Park is one of South India’s best spots to see wild elephants, tigers and leopards.

Rajasthan Spot tigers and other signature species amid the jungle and fortress ruins of Ranthambhore.

Spiti The ecosphere in Kaza claims a 90% chance of snow-leopard sightings if you spend a week or more here in winter.

Maharashtra Tigers are just one of the beasties skulking in the forests of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

Yoga, Ayurveda & Spiritual Pursuits

India was the birthplace of myriad spiritual traditions; yoga, meditation and plant-based ayurvedic medicine offer the perfect introduction to this world of wellness.

Bihar Pilgrims and the spiritually curious flock to Bodhgaya to study and meditate where Buddha attained enlightenment.

Kerala This lush, green southern state is where ayurveda originated, and there's a herbal-oil-based treatment on almost every corner.

Rishikesh One of India's most popular places to salute the sun, with lessons for every level.

McLeod Ganj Home of the Dalai Lama and India's capital of Tibetan Buddhism, with a big scene for meditation, yoga, philosophy and traditional Tibetan medicine.

Mysuru (Mysore) K Pattabhi Jois developed Ashtanga yoga here, and it's still a great place to join a long or short course.

Puducherry A popular yoga and ashram hang-out, with various schools, teacher training and a lively yoga festival.

Ladakh Leh is packed with places offering meditation courses and yoga, and anyone can join in the real deal at a Buddhist monastery.