Motorcycling

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

Ladakh Taking the ‘Three Idiots’ route into magnificent Ladakh has recently become one of India’s most popular summer biking adventures.

K3 Route Riding nail-bitingly narrow ledge-tracks through the Chenab River canyons, the K3 route west of Killar (Himachal Pradesh) is one of the most exhilarating rides in India (summer only).

Cycling

Bengaluru & Karnataka Go for a peaceful roll around the ruins of Bidar Fort and nearby Bahmani tombs.

Odisha Bike around the beautiful scenery, with good roads and very little traffic in Odisha’s tribal country, around Koraput.

Padum Valley Mountain bikes are now available to rent through ZAP in Zanskar.

Forts & Palaces

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

Rajasthan Nowhere matches the Land of Kings for romantic splendour, with Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Amber and lace-like Udaipur.

Maharashtra The land of Shivaji has defensive masterpieces including Daulatabad, and Janjira, an island fortress.

Hyderabad The rugged Golconda Fort complements the many ethereal palaces of the City of Pearls.

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 is the former residence of Mysuru’s maharajas.

Grand Temples

No one does temples like India – from psychedelic Technicolor Hindu towers to silently grand Buddhist cave temples and Amritsar’s gold-plated fairy-tale Sikh shrine.

Tamil Nadu A temple wonderland, with towering, fantastical structures that climb to the sky in busy rainbows of sculpted deities.

Golden Temple The queen of Sikh temples rises like a shining gem over a 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, in Arunachal Pradesh, is set against snowy peaks.

South Sikkim Gigantic Buddhist and Hindu sculptures rise unforgettably above three forested foothill ridges at Namchi and Ravangla, backed by a horizon of white-topped Himalayan peaks.

Ajanta Ancient, vast, sculpted caves. Because monks like beautiful sculpture, too.

Delhi The almost-psychedelic structure of Akshardham versus the simplicity of the all-faith Bahai House of Worship.

Odisha The Sun Temple at Konark, with a vast, splendid stone chariot of the sun god Surya that features intricate erotic imagery.

Ancient Ruins

You can wander back through time throughout India, with the legacy of countless cultures and empires scattered across cities and countryside: you don’t get to be a 5000-year-old civilisation without having lots of these around.

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

Mandu Many of the tombs, palaces, monuments and mosques on Mandu’s 20-sq-km green plateau are among India’s finest Afghan architecture.

Nalanda This Unesco-listed, 1600-year-old university once enrolled 10,000 monks and students. Its monasteries, temples and stupas are still elegant in ruins.

Delhi Conquered and built up repeatedly over the past 3000 years, Delhi is packed full of 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.

City Sophistication

India's cities are a world away from life in small towns or the countryside. With booming economies and millennia of sophistication under their belts, India’s cities have vibrant arts scenes, excellent restaurants and heaps of style.

Mumbai Home of Bollywood, Mumbai has it all: fashion, film stars, fine dining, glamorous bars and (along with Delhi) the country's best art galleries.

Delhi Urban sophisticate Delhi is famous for its cultural life, with regular festivals, plus exceptional shopping, museums, street food and swish restaurants.

Kolkata (Calcutta) Renowned for its poetry and poetics, Kolkata also has fabulous colonial-era architecture and a lively arts scene.

Bengaluru (Bangalore) This IT hub has a boozy nightlife with microbreweries, gastropubs and rock bars full of locals looking to party.

Chennai (Madras) Towering temples, elegant bars, swish hotels, fabulous shopping and a booming restaurant scene.

Bazaars

Indian megamalls are popping up like monsoon frogs, but the bazaar – with its spices and gold, garbage and flowers – is still where it’s at.

Old Delhi The Mughal-era bazaars feel like a direct link with the past, selling everything from gold to ball bearings, plus some of India's finest street food.

Goa Tourist flea markets are huge on the north coast, while Panaji (Panjim) and Margao bazaars make for excellent wandering.

Mumbai The megalopolis's old, characterful markets are firmly divided: Mangaldas (fabric), Zaveri (jewellery), Crawford (produce) and Chor (random antique bits).

Hyderabad The colourful, swarming streets around the Charminar sell bangles, birds, vegetables, wedding saris, antiques and much more.

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

Ahmedabad Manek Chowk proffers fresh-produce market by day and heaving night market by night, with copperware and textiles sold in the streets around it.

Beaches

India has some stunning stretches of paradisiacal coast, with tall palms and powdery white sand, while elsewhere the shoreline is more tinselled, with plenty of personality, people-watching and snack carts.

Kerala Varkala is backed by beautiful sea-cliffs and has a busy backpacker scene, Kovalam is a pretty resort with a golden bay, while more deserted Thottada is shaded by nodding palms.

Goa Even when overrun with travellers, the beaches are still lovely somehow. Mandrem and Palolem are two of the prettiest.

Havelock Island In the Andaman Islands, one of the world's most gorgeous beaches has clear, aquamarine water lapping against white powder.

Gokarna Originally for Goa overflow, Gokarna's beautiful beaches are part of a sacred ancient village.

Hill Stations

India can get hot hot hot, and those who are able have always fled to the hills during the hair-dryer heat of the summer months. Royalty and colonials of old laid the foundations for today’s hill-station resort culture.

Tamil Nadu Kodaikanal and Ooty in the Western Ghats have lush, misty forests, tea plantations, mountain hikes, and colonial-era bungalows where you can stay.

Munnar Kerala's not-too-touristy hill station is all rolling tea and spice plantations, unusual birds and dreamy mist.

Matheran This weekend retreat for Mumbaikars is not only scenic and car-free; it's also reached by horseback, pull-carts or two feet.

Shimla With Raj-era relics, this is a great appetite-whetter for the magnificent Himalayan mountain tracts beyond.

Darjeeling Quintessential hot-season escape, surrounded by emerald-green tea plantations, with a backdrop of Himalayan splendour.

Boat Tours

India's waterways are a wonderful escape, and from canoes to steamships to houseboats, there are lots 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 Wildlife Sanctuary.

Goa Dolphin- and croc-spotting tours on the Mandovi River; cruise to a secluded beach by outrigger fishing boat.

Andaman Islands See mangroves, rainforest and reefs with 50 types of coral at Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.

Uttar Pradesh Navigate UP’s chaotic holiness with dawn tours of Varanasi's ghats and sacred river cruises in Chitrakut, Mathura and Allahabad.

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

Odisha Spot rare Irrawaddy dolphin as you tour Chilika Lake, Asia's largest brackish lagoon.

Traveller Enclaves

Sometimes you just want to find the like-minded, exchange stories and discuss strange bowel events. There are places for that.

Hampi The stunning beauty of Hampi’s landscape and architecture makes everyone want to stay for a while.

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

Rishikesh In the mountains, this is a major international traveller yoga centre, whether you're a devotee or a newbie.

Sudder St, Kolkata The accommodation on Kolkata's tourist lane is grungy but great for meeting fellow travellers.

McLeod Ganj Because who doesn't want to be near the Dalai Lama?

Pushkar Travellers, pilgrims, camels: everyone converges on this Rajasthan town for the Camel Fair, but pilgrims and travellers head to its picture-perfect lake year-round.

Delhi Love it or hate it, almost every India traveller passes through Delhi's Paharganj at some point, and the capital's hostels are the newest traveller hot spots.

Puducherry Ex-French, popular yoga-ashram hangout with a refreshing European feel, boho boutiques and chilled cafes.

Parvati Valley People hang out for weeks or months enjoying the laidback pleasures and ethereal beauty of this Himalayan valley.

Arts & Crafts

Practically every town, village and neighbourhood here has its own tradition of devotional painting, silk weaving, camel-hide decorating, mirrored embroidering, or other art you won’t find anywhere else.

Gujarat Some of India’s finest textiles and embroidery are found in the tribal villages of Kachchh, where traditional craft has been practised for centuries.

Rajasthan India's textile traditions are legion. Villages in Rajasthan specialise in embroidery with tiny mirrors: like jewellery for your clothes.

Bihar Folk paintings known as Mithila (or Madhubani) colourfully depict village scenes; more readily available in Delhi than locally.

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 renowned too.

Kashmir Famous for its handwoven carpets and jewel-bright papier mâché.

Mountains

India has one sweeping, epic range that towers over all the rest: the Himalaya, even though the others would be considered dazzling in other countries. There are various great ways to approach it.

Ladakh Trek across 5000m passes between spiky crags and sleep in timeless villages whose barley fields create emerald green oases in the arid moonscape.

Lahaul & Spiti Green Lahaul and drier, more rugged Spiti are separated from the rest of Himachal Pradesh by panoramic mountain passes.

Arunachal Pradesh This off-the-beaten-track 'land of dawn-lit mountains' is all forest, hills and peaks on the Tibetan border.

Darjeeling Overnight in simple lodges on the Singalila Ridge Trek for incredible views of the mighty Eastern Himalaya.

Sikkim See mighty Khangchendzonga, the world’s third-highest mountain, in the early morning from Pelling, from Kuluk/Rinchenpong or on treks to Goecha La and Dzongri.

Uttarakhand Join pilgrims in trekking the dramatic Char Dam route, with four shrines en route.

Wildlife Safaris

India's tigers and leopards can be elusive, but its elephants, antelope, bison, one-horned rhino and deer are less shy.

Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh This is tiger country, and tiger-spotting safaris are offered in several national parks, including Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench.

Assam Kaziranga National Park is the world’s rhinoceros capital, and you can see them via jeep safari.

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

Tamil Nadu Mudumalai Tiger Reserve also offers good odds on seeing wild elephants.

Gujarat The only wild Asiatic lions, along with over 300 species of birds, live in the Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.

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

Rajasthan Spot tigers and other wildlife amid the jungle and ruined temples of Ranthambhore.

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

Maharashtra The Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve is home to around 140 tigers.

Yoga, Ayurveda & Spiritual Pursuits

Bihar Bodhgaya is the place of Buddha's enlightenment, with temples from across the globe and Buddhist meditation courses.

Kerala The 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 meditation, yoga, philiosophy and holistic medicine scene.

Mysuru K Pattabhi Jois developed Ashtanga yoga here, and this is still a great centre for taking long or short courses, whatever your experience.

Puducherry A big yoga and ashram hangout, there are various schools, teacher training and a yoga festival.

Ladakh Many places do meditation courses or drop-ins and anyone can join in at a Buddhist monastery.