Categories
India

5 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in India

India is a vibrant land of startling contrasts where both the traditional and modern worlds meet. The world’s seventh largest nation by area and the second largest in terms of population, India boasts a rich heritage that’s the result of centuries of different cultures and religions leaving their mark. Things to do for travelers include the opportunity to experience an array of sacred sites and spiritual encounters, while nature lovers will enjoy its sun-washed beaches, lush national parks, and exciting wildlife sanctuaries. In this article we will tell you top five tourist attractions in India.

From the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra to the holy sites of Harmandir Sahib (formerly the Golden Temple) in Amritsar and the Mecca Masjid mosque in Hyderabad, visitors to this exotic country will discover a trove of spiritual, cultural, and historical treasures.

To help you make the most of your time in this amazing country, refer often to our list of the top things to do in India.

Tourist Attractions in India

1. The Taj Mahal, Agra

Perhaps India’s most recognizable building, the Taj Mahal is also the world’s most famous testimony to the power of love. Named after Mumtaz Mahal, the favorite wife of Emperor Shah Jahan, this most beautiful of mausoleums was begun upon her death in 1631 and took 20,000 workmen until 1648 to complete.

Incorporating many elements of Islamic design including arches, minarets, an onion-shaped dome, and black calligraphy inlaid around the entrance, the Taj Mahal is largely constructed of white marble decorated with delicate inlaid floral patterns and precious and semi-precious stones such as jade, lapis lazuli, diamonds, and mother of pearl.

The best time to visit is either at dawn or dusk when the atmosphere is brilliantly altered by the change in lighting. If possible, try to catch a view of the Taj Mahal’s reflection from the far bank of the Yamuna River-it makes for a memorable (and safe) selfie.

Address: 64 Taj Road, Agra-282001

2. The Holy City of Varanasi

A major pilgrimage center for Hindus, the holy city of Varanasi has long been associated with the mighty Ganges River, one of the faith’s most important religious symbols. Dating back to the 8th century BC, Varanasi is one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world.

It offers many reasons to visit, not least of them the chance to explore the Old Quarter adjacent to the Ganges where you’ll find the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, built in 1780 (the New Vishwanath Temple with its seven separate temples is also of interest).

Bathing in the Ganges is of great importance to Hindus, and numerous locations known as “ghats” feature stairways leading to the water where the faithful bathe before prayers.

All told, Varanasi boasts more than 100 ghats, the largest being Dasashvamedh Ghat and Assi Ghat (the latter, at the confluence of the Ganges and Asi rivers, is considered particularly holy). Also worth seeing is Banaras Hindu University, established in 1917 and noted for its massive library with more than a million books, and the superb Bharat Kala Bhavan museum featuring fine collections of miniature paintings, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts, and local history exhibits.

3. Harmandir Sahib: The Golden Temple of Amritsar

Founded in 1577 by Ram Das, Amritsar is an important hub of Sikh history and culture. The main attraction here is Harmandir Sahib, opened in 1604 and still often referred to as the Golden Temple for its beautiful gold decoration. The holiest of India’s many Sikh shrines (it also attracts many Hindus and people of other faiths), the temple was built in a blend of Hindu and Islamic styles, its lower marble section featuring such flourishes as ornate inlaid floral and animal motifs, while the large golden dome represents a lotus flower, a symbol of purity to Sikhs.

In addition to its splendid design, visitors are equally impressed with the temple’s spiritual atmosphere, an effect enhanced by the prayers continuously chanted from the Sikh holy book and broadcast throughout the complex. Part of the overall experience-and visitors are welcome to participate-is the chance to enjoy one of the 50,000 free meals the attraction serves up to visitors each and every day. This is one of the top tourist attractions in India.

Address: Golden Temple Road, Amritsar, Punjab 143006

4. The Golden City: Jaisalmer

So named for the yellow sandstone used in most of its buildings, the Golden City of Jaisalmer is an oasis of splendid old architecture that rises from the sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Once a strategic outpost, today the city is filled with splendid old mansions, magnificent gateways, and the massive Jaisalmer Fort-also known as the Golden Fort-a daunting 12th-century structure that rises high above the town.

In addition to its palaces, temples, and fine old homes, the fortress boasts 99 bastions along with massive gates leading to its main courtyard where you’ll find the seven-story-tall Maharaja’s Palace. Started in the early 1500s and added to by successive rulers right up until the 19th century, the palace offers sections open to the public including areas beautifully decorated with tiles from Italy and China, and intricately carved stone doors, as well as a number of Jain temples dating from the 12th to 16th centuries, each decorated with fine marble and sandstone images, palm-leaf manuscripts, and brightly painted ceilings.

Be sure to also check out the well-preserved 1,000-year-old library, Gyan Bhandar, with its many 16th-century manuscripts and antiquities.

5. The Red Fort, New Delhi

Built by Shah Jahan in 1648 as the seat of Mughal power-a role it maintained until 1857-the magnificent crescent-shaped Red Fort in New Delhi, named after the stunning red sandstone used in its construction, covers a vast area of more than two square kilometers, all of it surrounded by a large moat. Highlights include its two largest gates: the impressive Lahore Gate (the fort’s main entrance) and the elaborately decorated Delhi Gate, once used by the emperor for ceremonial processions.

A fun part of a visit is exploring Chatta Chowk, a 17th-century covered bazaar selling everything from jewelry to silk garments, as well as souvenirs and food items. While you can explore the fort yourself, guided tours are offered and provide a fascinating insight into the life and times of the Shah, including a peek into the stunning white marble Hall of Public Audiences (Diwan-i-Am) where he received his subjects.

Hot Tip: Try to stick around for the sound and light show held each evening featuring important events in the fort’s history.

Address: Netaji Subhash Marg, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Delhi 110006

Let me know if you knew the top five tourist attractions in India or if you were completely surprised with this list.

Categories
Germany

5 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Germany

History, culture, and natural beauty perhaps best describe the essence of vacationing in Germany. With its many historic cities and small towns, along with an abundance of forests and mountains, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a unique place to visit. Those wanting to sightsee or experience the arts should head to the metropolitan areas such as Munich, Frankfurt, or Hamburg, while those looking for recreational activities should visit places such as the Bavarian Alps, the Black Forest, or the Rhine Valley.

Lovely old cathedrals and grand palaces are everywhere, and in the smaller towns and villages – some with their original medieval Old Towns still intact – many centuries-old traditions, including traditional Christmas markets, festivals, and fairs, continue to this day. At the cultural heart of Germany is the capital, Berlin, home to many fine museums and galleries, while nature lovers will find a world of possibilities in Germany’s great outdoors. For ideas to help plan your travels, read our list of the top tourist attractions in Germany.

Tourist Attractions in Germany

1. Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

Modeled on the Acropolis in Athens and built for King Frederick William II in 1791, the monumental sandstone Brandenburg Gate in Berlin’s Mitte district was the city’s first Neoclassical structure. Measuring an impressive 26 meters in height – including the Quadriga, the spectacular four-horse chariot carrying the goddess of victory perched atop – its six huge columns on each side of the structure form five impressive passages: four were used by regular traffic, while the center was reserved for the royal carriages. Huge Doric columns also decorate the two buildings at each side of the Gate, once used by toll-collectors and guards.

Undoubtedly Berlin’s most iconic structure, it’s hard to believe that the majestic structure you see today was severely damaged during WWII and was also once part of the infamous Berlin Wall and, for a few decades, was symbolic of the division of Berlin into East and West.

Classic panoramic view of historic Brandenburg Gate, Germany's most famous landmark and a national symbol, in post sunset twilight during blue hour at dusk in summer, central Berlin, Germany.
Classic panoramic view of historic Brandenburg Gate, Germany’s most famous landmark and a national symbol, in post sunset twilight during blue hour at dusk in summer, central Berlin, Germany.

2. Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)

The towering Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) – the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Mary – is located on the banks of the Rhine and is undoubtedly Cologne’s most impressive landmark. This masterpiece of High Gothic architecture, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, was begun in 1248 and was the most ambitious building project of the Middle Ages.

As imposing as its façade, its magnificent interior covers an area of 6,166 square meters and boasts 56 huge pillars. Above the high altar is the Reliquary of the Three Kings, a 12th-century work of art in gold that was designed by Nicholas of Verdun to house the relics of the Three Kings brought here from Milan.

Other highlights include the panoramic views from the South Towers, the 12th- and 13th-century stained glass in the Three Kings Chapel, and the Treasury with its many precious objects, all of which survived largely intact after WWII. For some of the best vistas over the city and river, climb the 533 steps to the viewing platform in the South Tower. (A small entrance fee is required.)

Tourist Attractions in Germany like Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge
Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge at sunset / nighttime.

3. The Black Forest

The beautiful Black Forest with its dark, densely-wooded hills is one of the most visited upland regions in all of Europe. Situated in the southwestern corner of Germany and extending 160 kilometers from Pforzheim in the north to Waldshut on the High Rhine in the south, it’s a hiker’s heaven.

On the west side, it descends steeply to the Rhine, crossed by lush valleys, while on the east, it slopes more gently down to the upper Neckar and Danube valleys.

Popular spots include Germany’s oldest ski area at Todtnau, the magnificent spa facilities of Baden-Baden, and the attractive resort of Bad Liebenzell. Personally, this is one of my favorite tourist attractions in Germany.

Other highlights include the spectacular Black Forest Railway centered on Triberg with its famous falls, and Triberg itself, home to the Black Forest Open Air Museum. The best way to catch them all? Grab a map of the Black Forest Panoramic Route, a 70-kilometer driving tour that takes in the very best views over the region, along with its top historic attractions, including stunning castles and numerous medieval towns and villages.

Beautiful countryside mountain landscape with a monastery in village. Germany.
Beautiful countryside mountain landscape with a monastery in village. Germany, Black forest, Muenstertal.

4. The Ultimate Fairytale Castle: Neuschwanstein

The quaint old town of Füssen, situated between the Ammergau and Allgäu Alps and a popular alpine resort and winter sports center, is a good base from which to explore nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, one of Europe’s most famous (and picturesque) royal castles.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria built this many-towered and battlement-covered fantasy fortress – the inspiration for Walt Disney’s famous theme park castles – from 1869-86.

A variety of tour options are offered, including guided tours of the sumptuous interior taking in the Throne Room, the Singers’ Hall… and some of the country’s most spectacular views.

Beautiful view of world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace built for King Ludwig II on a rugged cliff near Fussen, southwest Bavaria, Germany.
Beautiful view of world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace built for King Ludwig II on a rugged cliff near Fussen, southwest Bavaria, Germany.

5. Miniatur Wunderland and the Historic Port of Hamburg

In the heart of the historic Port of Hamburg, the magnificent Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway, is an attraction that appeals equally to young and old alike. Boasting more than 12,000 meters of track, this massive scale model includes sections dedicated to the USA, England, and Scandinavia (as well as Hamburg) and incorporates 890 trains, more than 300,000 lights, and in excess of 200,000 human figures.

It’s not unheard of for guests to spend many hours exploring this fascinating world with its remarkably detailed miniature airports (and planes that actually take off), crowded cities, quaint rural scenes, and bustling harbors. For a memorable experience, book one of the behind-the-scenes tours, an especially fun thing to do at night.

Speaking of harbors, be sure to explore the vast Port of Hamburg while you’re there. Covering 100 square kilometers, this huge tidal harbor – one of the world’s largest cruise ship terminals, and known as the Gateway to Germany – is best explored by boat. Afterwards, visit the harborside promenade, a lovely pedestrian route, and the Warehouse District with its continuous lines of tall brick-built warehouses.

Tourist Attractions in Germany like Miniatur Wunderland (Miniature Wonderland), Hamburg, Germany.
Miniatur Wunderland (Miniature Wonderland), Hamburg, Germany.

What is your favorite tourist attractions in Germany? Let me know here.