There are few states more quintessentially Indian than Uttar Pradesh. The subcontinent's historic and religious roots – Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and secular – intertwine in this land of sacred rivers and vast plains, manifesting in sights of profound importance.
Aside from iconic Agra, UP is home to Varanasi, India's holiest city, famed for its cremation ghats and vibrant ceremonies along the Ganges River. Stories tell us that Krishna was born in Mathura, while Rama was born in Ayodhya – a place of tragic conflict in modern times that reveals much about the shadow side of the collective Indian psyche. Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath and died in Kushinagar, now tranquil pilgrimage destinations. And the Mughals and the Nawabs made their marks as well, leaving behind architectural and gastronomic masterpieces – particularly in Lucknow (and of course Agra). India's most populous state offers more than enough to satisfy the curiosity of any traveler.