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POPULAR DESTINATIONS- INDIA

GOA

Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 17th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda.

Old Goa is home to the massive, Portuguese-style Se Cathedral and the baroque Basilica of Bom Jesus, which holds the remains of the state’s patron saint, Francis Xavier. In Panaji, the capital, the Latin Quarter’s winding streets contain galleries, cafes and colonial-era Portuguese-style homes.

For shopping, visitors flock to Anjuna’s famous flea market and Mackie’s seasonal night bazaar. On the coast, the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary provides a look at a native mangrove ecosystem. Goa's interior features small villages, quiet retreats, waterfalls and jungle trails.

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AGRA

Agra is a city in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state. It's home to the iconic Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built for the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal (who died in childbirth in 1631).

The imposing main building features a massive dome and intricately carved white marble inlaid with precious stones. This is set behind a reflecting pool inside a courtyard defined by 4 minarets.

Near the Taj Mahal are the 20m-high red-brick walls of Agra Fort, a grand Mughal fortress and palace, much of it dating to the 16th and 17th centuries. Across the Yamuna River is another striking tomb, Itimad-ud-Daula, which prefigures the Taj Mahal by a few years, earning it the nickname "Baby Taj.”

West of the city is the remarkably well-preserved “ghost city” of Fatehpur Sikri, whose red-sandstone royal apartments, harem quarters and pavilions date to the late 1500s, when it was briefly the capital of the Mughal empire.

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Jaipur

Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. It evokes the royal family that once ruled the region and that, in 1727, founded what is now called the Old City, or “Pink City” for its trademark building color.

At the center of its stately street grid (notable in India) stands the opulent, colonnaded City Palace complex. With gardens, courtyards and museums, part of it is still a royal residence. Across from the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, an open-air astronomical observatory from the early 18th century.

Also nearby is the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), a former cloister for royal women fronted by a rippling 5-story screen of pink sandstone. Several kilometers outside the city center, elephants carry visitors uphill to the imposing Amer Fort, which features elaborate wall carvings and paintings.

On the way to the fort, many visitors stop on the banks of Man Sagar Lake to photograph Jal Mahal, a partially submerged palace that famously reflects in the water.

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Shimla

Shimla is the capital of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills. Once the summer capital of British India, it remains the terminus of the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla Railway, completed in 1903.

It’s also known for the handicraft shops that line The Mall, a pedestrian avenue, as well as the Lakkar Bazaar, a market specializing in wooden toys and crafts.

Hindu shrines in the area include Kali Bari Temple near The Mall and Jakhu Temple on Jakhu Hill, dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman. The hill is Shimla’s highest point, also known for its sunrise views across the Himalayas.

The town’s British colonial architectural heritage includes Gothic Victorian structures such as Christ Church and the Gaiety Theatre. There’s also a mock-Tudor half-timbered library, and the Scottish baronial mansion formerly known as Viceregal Lodge, built in 1888 and now home to an academic foundation.

Outside of Shimla are picturesque hill resorts such as Naldehra, as well as Chadwick Falls.

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OOTY

Udhagamandalam and abbreviated as Udhagai and Ooty is a town and municipality in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

It is located 80 km north of Coimbatore and is the capital of the Nilgiris district. It is a popular hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills. Originally occupied by the Toda, the area came under the rule of the East India Company at the end of the 18th century.

The economy is based on tourism and agriculture, along with manufacture of medicines and photographic film.

The town is connected by the Nilgiri ghat roads and Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Its natural beauty attracts tourists and it is a popular summer destination. As of 2011, the town had a population of 88,430.

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Manali

Manali is a high-altitude Himalayan resort town in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state. It has a reputation as a backpacking center and honeymoon destination.

Set on the Beas River, it’s a gateway for skiing in the Solang Valley and trekking in Parvati Valley. It's also a jumping-off point for paragliding, rafting and mountaineering in the Pir Panjal mountains, home to 4,000m-high Rohtang Pass.

The Mall Road and its bazaar are the town’s focal point, while the Old Manali neighborhood is home to traditional stone buildings, apple orchards and the Hindu Manu Temple. Across the Manaslu River on a forested hilltop is wood-carved Hadimba Devi Temple, built in 1553 and dedicated to a Hindu goddess. The Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art preserves local crafts and heritage.

In the Tibetan quarter, the Buddhist monastery Gadhan Thekchhokling is recognizable by its yellow, pagoda-style roof. East of the Beas River is Vashisht, a village known for its hot springs.

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Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a town in India's West Bengal state, in the Himalayan foothills. Once a summer resort for the British Raj elite, it remains the terminus of the narrow-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, or “Toy Train,” completed in 1881. It's famed for the distinctive black tea grown on plantations that dot its surrounding slopes. Its backdrop is Mt. Kanchenjunga, among the world’s highest peaks.

Buddhist monasteries in the area include Bhutia Busty Gompa, known for its colorful murals and library full of rare texts. Another monastery, Ghoom Gompa, contains a 5m-high clay statue of the Maitreya Buddha. Darjeeling’s colonial architectural heritage includes mock-Tudor houses, Gothic Victorian churches such as St.

Andrew’s and the opulent Raj Bhavan, which still serves as the Governor’s summer residence. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is home to snow leopards, red pandas and Tibetan wolves. Darjeeling is also a popular base for treks and climbing expeditions in the mountainous state of Sikkim.

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Leh

Leh, a high-desert city in the Himalayas, is the capital of the Leh region in northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. Originally a stop for trading caravans, Leh is now known for its Buddhist sites and nearby trekking areas.

Massive 17th-century Leh Palace, modeled on the Dalai Lama’s former home (Tibet’s Potala Palace), overlooks the old town’s bazaar and mazelike lanes.

Offering sweeping views from a peak above town, Namgyal Tsemo is a circa-1430 monastery with a gilded Buddha statue. Also known for its views is Shanti Stupa, a contemporary, white-spired Buddhist reliquary. Other area monasteries include Thikse, a tiered group of hillside buildings filled with Tibetan shrines, statues and other art.

South of Leh, the Indus River and its Zanskar River tributary are known for white-water rafting on runs through scenic gorges. Trekking expeditions visit the higher altitudes of the Indus Valley area, including the 5,359m-elevation Khardung La pass.

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Munnar

Munnar is a town in the Western Ghats mountain range in India’s Kerala state. A hill station and former resort for the British Raj elite, it's surrounded by rolling hills dotted with tea plantations established in the late 19th century. Eravikulam National Park, a habitat for the endangered mountain goat Nilgiri tahr, is home to the Lakkam Waterfalls, hiking trails and 2,695m-tall Anamudi Peak.

The Tea Museum at the Nallathanni Estate presents the region’s history of tea production. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is an ecotourism site that protects numerous animal species. Northeast of town, Top Station is a 1,700m-high overlook and trekking site with views over the mountains. Fields of blue Neelakurinji flowers bloom there once every 12 years.

En route to Top Station, reservoirs at Mattupetty Dam and Kundala Dam are popular for boating and picnicking. Aside from Lakkam, the region's many picturesque waterfalls include Attukal and Chinnakanal.

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Kodaikanal

Kodaikanal is a hill town in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It’s set in an area of granite cliffs, forested valleys, lakes, waterfalls and grassy hills. At 2,000 meters above sea level, the town centers around man-made, star-shaped Kodaikanal Lake, bordered by evergreen forest.

Rowing boats can be hired, and hikers and cyclists follow the 5k Lake Road path around the shore.

To the west of the lake, Bryant Park’s renowned dahlias and roses are on show at summer horticultural events. Nearby Coaker's Walk, on the slopes of Mount Nebo, and to the south the Green Valley View area both have panoramic views over the plains.

A viewpoint gives access to the Pillar Rocks that are massive, 122m pinnacles, frequently topped with mist. Founded by missionaries in the 19th century, Kodaikanal has many Christian churches, including the Anglican Church of St. Peter. At Kurinji Andavar Murugan temple, the rare Kurinji flower blooms just once every 12 years.

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Nainital

Nainital is a Himalayan resort town in the Kumaon region of India’s Uttarakhand state, at an elevation of roughly 2,000m. Formerly a British hill station, it’s set around Nainital Lake, a popular boating site with Naina Devi Hindu Temple on its north shore.

A cable car runs to Snow View observation point (at 2,270m), with vistas over the town and mountains including Nanda Devi, Uttarakhand’s highest peak.

Naina Peak, at 2,600m, is within hiking distance. back in town, Bara Bazaar is a popular shopping destination. South of downtown Nainital is Raj Bhawan, a Victorian-era governmental manor offering tours of its grounds, plus a public golf course. Elsewhere in the region, forested Jim Corbett National Park is a reserve for endangered Bengal tigers and other native wildlife.

Naukuchiatal (9-Cornered Lake) and Sattal (7 Lakes) are rustic locales for boating and fishing.

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Chandigarh

Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, was designed by modernist architect Le Corbusier. His modernist buildings include the Capitol Complex with its High Court, Secretariat and Legislative Assembly, plus the giant Open Hand Monument.

The nearby Rock Garden is a park featuring sculptures made of stones, recycled ceramics and industrial relics.

Chandigarh’s War Memorial, set amid the Bougainvillea Garden, lists the names of deceased soldiers since 1947. Southeast, the man-made Sukhna Lake is a base for water sports and shelters migratory birds. The sprawling Zakir Hussain Rose Garden contains hundreds of rose varieties and forms part of Leisure Valley, a ribbon of themed city gardens.

The Le Corbusier Centre chronicles the history of the city and its designer. Just northwest, the Government Museum and Art Gallery displays paintings by Nicholas Roerich and Sobha Singh, plus Gandhara sculptures. The International Dolls Museum displays dolls and puppets from around the world.

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Delhi

Delhi, India’s capital territory, is a massive metropolitan area in the country’s north. In Old Delhi, a neighborhood dating to the 1600s, stands the imposing Mughal-era Red Fort, a symbol of India, and the sprawling Jama Masjid mosque, whose courtyard accommodates 25,000 people. Nearby is Chandni Chowk, a vibrant bazaar filled with food carts, sweets shops and spice stalls.

The Rajpath, a formal boulevard in the New Delhi government district, connects the India Gate war memorial and the massive presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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Other significant sites include Lodi Gardens, a park featuring monumental tombs and acres of greenery; Mughal emperor Humayun’s tomb, a precursor of the Taj Mahal; Qutub Minar, a medieval brick minaret; and the flower-shaped Lotus Temple, a Bahá'í house of worship.

Delhi also has a strong nightclub scene as well as many prominent museums, including ones dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, leaders of Indian independence.

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Udaipur

Udaipur, formerly the capital of the Mewar Kingdom, is a city in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. Founded by Maharana Udai Singh II in 1559, it’s set around a series of artificial lakes and is known for its lavish royal residences.

City Palace, overlooking Lake Pichola, is a monumental complex of 11 palaces, courtyards and gardens, famed for its intricate peacock mosaics.

Lake Pichola boat tours take visitors past the 18th-century, white-marble Lake Palace, which covers an entire island and is now a hotel. Another island contains the domed Jagmandir Palace, former summer resort of the Maharanas, mostly constructed in the 17th century. Elsewhere, in Udaipur’s sprawling old city, is towering Jagdish Temple, completed in 1651 and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.

The Bhartiya Lok Kala Museum of regional folk art is known for its traditional puppet shows, while the hilltop Monsoon Palace offers sweeping views of the city and the surrounding ridges.

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Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari is a coastal town in the state of Tamil Nadu on India's southern tip. Jutting into the Laccadive Sea, the town was known as Cape Comorin during British rule and is popular for watching sunrise and sunset over the ocean.

It's also a noted pilgrimage site thanks to its Bagavathi Amman Temple, dedicated to a consort of Shiva, and its Our Lady of Ransom Church, a center of Indian Catholicism.

Offshore, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial sits on a tiny island steeped in ancient legends, with a fortlike structure dedicated to Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda. Another island is home to the colossal Thiruvalluvar Statue, adorned with elephant statues at its base.

It was built to honor the Tamil poet, philosopher and author of "Thirukkural", an important work of Tamil literature. The Tsunami Monument commemorates the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Nearby is Gandhi Mandapam, built in the style of an Orissan Sun Temple, which marks the spot where Gandhi's ashes were kept in an urn before being scattered in the ocean in 1948.

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Gangtok

Gangtok is the capital of the mountainous northern Indian state of Sikkim. Established as a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the 1840s, the city became capital of an independent monarchy after British rule ended, but joined India in 1975.

Today, it remains a Tibetan Buddhist center and a base for hikers organizing permits and transport for treks through Sikkim’s Himalayan mountain ranges.

Notable Buddhist sites include Rumtek Monastery, home of rare artifacts belonging to the Karma Kagyu order (also known as the “Black Hat”). Enchey Monastery is built in the style of a Chinese pagoda. Whitewashed Do Drul Chorten is a giant stupa constructed in the 1940s. The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology contains a museum housing a collection of rare manuscripts and Buddhist arts and crafts.

Passing nearby, the Gangtok Ropeway gondola offers panoramic views of the city. The region’s outdoor recreation includes hiking, camping, mountain climbing and white-water rafting.

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Varanasi

Varanasi is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites. Along the city's winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Boat cruises take visitors past the many ghats (steps leading down to the river) on the waterfront, including the Dashashwamedh Ghat to watch the fiery aarti ritual, performed nightly. Manikarnika Ghat is the principal cremation ground of Varanasi, with 24-hour flaming funeral pyres. Another notable ghat is Man Mandir Ghat, topped by a large palace built in 1600.

Above the river, the Mughal-style Ramnagar Fort was the palace of the former Maharaja of Varanasi and is now a museum. About 11km north of town, Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon at the site of Dhamekh Stupa, features ancient temples.

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Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer is a former medieval trading center and princely state in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, in the heart of the Thar Desert. Known as the "Golden City," it's distinguished by its yellow sandstone architecture. Dominating the skyline is Jaisalmer Fort, a sprawling hilltop citadel buttressed by 99 bastions. Behind its massive walls stand the ornate Maharaja's Palace and intricately carved Jain temples.

Narrow alleys connect the fort's many shops, restaurants and hotels. Dotting the town below are a number of "havelis," or traditional Rajasthani mansions. The Patwon Ki Haveli is a notable example, adorned with carved balconies and arches.

The Desert Culture Centre contains historic Rajasthani relics, while the Thar Heritage Museum focuses more generally on the region's history. Gadsisar Lake is surrounded by small temples and the Folklore Museum, a trove of local arts and crafts. The city is also a hub for scenic camel safaris through the nearby sand dunes.

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Rishikesh

Rishikesh is a city in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand, in the Himalayan foothills beside the Ganges River. The river is considered holy, and the city is renowned as a center for studying yoga and meditation. Temples and ashrams (centers for spiritual studies) line the eastern bank around Swarg Ashram, a traffic-free, alcohol-free and vegetarian enclave upstream from Rishikesh town.

At the confluence of 3 rivers, the Triveni Ghat is regarded as a sacred bathing spot for spiritual cleansing. A fire ritual known as ganga aarti is performed there nightly, where oil lamps are floated downstream. Upstream, the pedestrian-only iron suspension bridges, Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula, join the banks of the river around Swarg Ashram.

The elaborate, 13-story Trayambakeshwar temple stands by the Lakshman Jhula bridge. Numerous ashrams offer yoga courses, and local companies arrange trekking tours into the mountains, kayaking and white-water rafting trips

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Jodhpur

Jodhpur is a city in the Thar Desert of the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan. Its 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort is a former palace that’s now a museum, displaying weapons, paintings and elaborate royal palanquins (sedan chairs)

. Set on on a rocky outcrop, the fort overlooks the walled city, where many buildings are painted the city’s iconic shade of blue.

Northeast of the fort is the Jaswant Thada, a white marble mausoleum in a lakeside setting. On a hilltop to the southeast, the domed, marble Umaid Bhawan Palace is the residence of Jodhpur's maharaja. It has gardens, a public museum filled with furniture, weapons and china, a display of classic cars and a luxury hotel.

The old city, the area around the iconic Ghanta Ghar clock tower, is home to a market where stallholders sell spices, food, clothing and jewelry. The city's well-known annual Gangaur Festival focuses on women's rituals.

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Amritsar

Amritsar is a city in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab, 28 kilometers from the border with Pakistan. At the center of its walled old town, the gilded Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) is the holiest gurdwara (religious complex) of the Sikh religion.

It’s at the end of a causeway, surrounded by the sacred Amrit Sarovar tank (lake), where pilgrims bathe.

Within the Golden Temple complex, the Sikh Museum contains paintings, manuscripts & weapons. A free langar (kitchen) feeds tens of thousands every day. Stalls in the adjoining lanes sell traditional embroidered clothing and shoes. Jallianwala Bagh is a memorial garden remembering the victims of a 1919 British army massacre.

The Rambagh Gardens surround Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s summer palace, now a museum. The Durgiana Mandir Hindu temple resembles the Golden Temple and has intricately carved silver doors. The elaborate daily changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the Wagah border with Pakistan has become a popular spectacle.

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Mussoorie

Mussoorie is a hill station and a municipal board in the Dehradun District of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is located about 35 km from the state capital of Dehradun and 290 km north from the national capital of New Delhi.

This hill station is situated in the foothills of the Garhwal Himalayan range. The adjoining town of Landour, which includes a military cantonment, is considered part of 'greater Mussoorie', as are the townships of Barlowganj and Jharipani.

The pin code for Mussoorie is 248179. Being at an average altitude of 1,880 metres, Mussoorie, with its green hills and varied flora and fauna, is a fascinating hill resort.

Commanding snow ranges to the north-east, and glittering views of the Doon Valley and Shiwalik ranges in the south, the town was once said to present a 'fairyland' atmosphere to tourists.The second highest point is the original Lal Tibba in Landour, with a height of over 2,275 metres

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Dharamshala

Dharamshala is a city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Surrounded by cedar forests on the edge of the Himalayas, this hillside city is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The Thekchen Chöling Temple Complex is a spiritual center for Tibetan Buddhism, while the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives houses thousands of precious manuscripts.

Lower Dharamsala comprises a largely Indian community, while a Tibetan enclave lives uphill in the suburb of McLeod Ganj. Near the Dalai Lama's main temple, Tsuglagkhang, is a Buddhist monastery known as Namgyal Gompa.

The Tibet Museum provides a historical overview of Tibet's occupation. Cultural establishments include the Norbulingka Institute, a haven for traditional Tibetan arts and crafts, and the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts, which preserves Tibetan opera, music and dance. The city also offers trekking trails leading across the mountains to Triund, the upper Ravi Valley and beyond.

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Haridwar

Haridwar is an ancient city and important Hindu pilgrimage site in North India's Uttarakhand state, where the River Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills. The largest of several sacred ghats (bathing steps), Har Ki Pauri hosts a nightly Ganga Aarti (river-worshipping ceremony) in which tiny flickering lamps are floated off the steps. Worshippers fill the city during major festivals including the annual Kanwar Mela.

Accessible by cable car or steps, the ornate hilltop temples of Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi offer panoramic views of the plains from opposite sides of the Ganges. Another important pilgrimage temple is Maya Devi by Birla Ghat. Daksheswara Mahadev Temple lies amid havelis (mansions), sacred ashrams and an ancient banyan tree just south of Haridwar in the town of Kankhal.

Near Haridwar, Rajaji National Park in the Shivalik Hills offers jungle safaris to see tigers, elephants, leopards and over 300 species of birds, plus rafting on the River Ganges

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Kashmir-Srinagar-

Kashmir-Srinagar-The valley of Kashmir is as rich with history and political controversy as it is with culture and natural phenomena. Sample exquisitely spiced native cuisines and festive teas, then walk off your meal along the rugged trekking routes to the north.

Marvel at the famous houseboats of Srinagar and take a spiritual moment to reflect at one of the many pilgrimage sites and religious shrines that dot the region. Of course, native craftsmanship makes for excellent souvenirs—carpets and textiles are an especial shopping must.

Srinagar /ˈsriˌnʌɡʌr/ is the largest city and the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus, and Dal and Anchar lakes. The city is famous for its gardens, waterfronts and houseboats. It is also known for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and dried fruits.

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