Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal was built in 1799.
In the wake of 24 travel-starved months, it seems like the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight, and for eager travelers, that means finally booking the dream trip to one of the earth’s most vibrant, diverse, and fascinating nations—India, to be precise. Since the summer heat can be a little overwhelming for first-time visitors, now is the perfect time to begin planning an early December getaway, but first—what’s the ideal state to visit?
While each Indian state is a worthy tourist destination in its own right, the following five regions possess certain qualities that make them particularly enticing now that international travel is becoming accessible once again. Equipped with sprawling nature preserves, ancient temples, and stellar food scenes, these stunning states are absolutely essential destinations to add to this year’s travel calendar.
Chital deer are a common sight in the Sundarbans.
With activities like birdwatching and hiking surging to unprecedented heights at the beginning of the 2020s, it’s no secret that ecotourism is experiencing newfound popularity—and when it comes to exploring nature, West Bengal is equipped with one of the earth’s most spectacular ecoregions. Known as Sundarbans National Park, this massive mangrove-filled preserve is home to hundreds of Bengal tigers living alongside wild boar, macaques, chital deer, and a massive amount of native Indian birds, reptiles, and insects. While West Bengal is a paradise for outdoor exploration, the extravagant architecture of Kolkata is an absolute must-see for any visitors that feel most at home in the big city.
The city of Varanasi (shown above) has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years.
After two years of little-to-no international travel, potential visitors are itching to pay a visit to some of India’s most world-famous tourist sites, and Uttar Pradesh just so happens to contain some of the nation’s top attractions. In addition to the most obvious destination—the magnificent 1600s-era Taj Mahal—visitors can also explore some of the lesser-known architectural wonders of the state including the Buland Darwaza, Chota Imambara, and Jhansi Fort. In addition to spectacular human-made destinations, Uttar Pradesh is also home to gorgeous natural sites ranging from Dudhwa National Park—a tiger-filled preserve on the Nepalese border—to Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, a lush wetland park that’s perfect for visiting birders.
The official language of Andhra Pradesh is Telugu.
A paradise for outdoor adventure, Andhra Pradesh is equipped with lush jungles, sprawling mountain ranges, and the second-longest coast in India, making it a top-tier destination for anyone trying to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of South Asia. For those wishing to explore the state’s sprawling shoreline, the idyllic Rushikonda, Ramakrishna, and Jodugulla Palem beaches can be found just outside of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh’s largest city. In terms of inland exploration, the state is home to vast swathes of the Eastern Ghats—a picturesque mountain range—as well as sprawling coastal nature preserves like Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary and Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mumbai is the second-most populous city in India.
Rife with sprawling nature preserves, fascinating ancient ruins, and world-class modern cities, Maharashtra truly has it all, offering the perfect balance of both urban and rural exploration opportunities for international visitors. The state’s coastal summer capital Mumbai is a paradise for Indian film aficionados and street food fans alike, while the winter capital of Nagpur is renowned for its thriving orange industry and close proximity to some of India’s top nature preserves. Speaking of nature—the rural reaches of Maharashtra offer some truly gorgeous natural features including Thoseghar Waterfall, Lonar Lake, and Tadoba-Andhari National Park.
Jodhpur is often referred to as “The Blue City” thanks to its wealth of azure buildings.
The desire for off-the-beaten-path travel has been steadily rising over the past few years, and for those in search of an oft-unsung Indian region to visit, Rajasthan’s Thar Desert is the perfect fit. Visitors brave enough to face the harsh heat and arid climate will find a truly spectacular array of attractions ranging from the massive centuries-old Jaisalmer Fort to the ornately-carved Junagarh Fort. After thoroughly exploring the desert, be sure to head to Rajasthan’s bustling capital city Jaipur—also known as “The Pink City” thanks to its gorgeous rose-hued architecture—or book a trip to explore Ranthambore National Park, an iconic preserve that’s known for its high concentration of Bengal tigers.
Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal was built in 1799.