Things To Do In North India
North India is a multitude of colours, lots of languages with Hindi and Sanskrit bases, histories that converge and diverge from time to time and an endless stream of warm, heart-touching love. This northern part of the country of India is really a one-stop destination for family as well as solo travellers, couples as well as senior citizens - because here are so many things that you can do, from pilgrimages to temple tours, adventure sports in rivers to mountaineering and trekking, luxury-living up in quaint hill stations as well as culinary tours of some of India’s best flavours. This is our little compilation of the things you must do when going through North India.
Circuiting the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle consists of three major cities of Northern India (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur), that when plotted on a map, form a sort of equilateral triangle. These three cities hoard up a rich history and lots of monuments and artefacts from India’s past - from the Rajputs to the Mughals. This circuit is one very famous tour circuit for foreign visitors and takes them through some iconic monuments and places, like the Qutub Minar, India Gate and Red Fort in Delhi, Taj Mahal in Agra, Fatehpur Sikri Fort and Hawa Mahal, City Palace and Amer Fort in Jaipur.
You have the opportunity to take out 5-7 days from your itinerary and circuit the Golden Triangle for its rich heritage, architecture, lots of stories from history and some amazing Mughal, Punjabi and Rajasthani food. Ideally you should land in Delhi, tour it for 2-3 days, then head to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri for another 2 days and then move onto Jaipur for 2 days.
Temples of Mathura and Vrindavan
Mathura and Vrindavan form the core of Vraj (Braj) bhoomi, that is a belt in the Uttar Pradesh state of North India. Vraj bhoomi (the land of cow herders) is the place where the greatest Hindu God Lord Krishna was born around 5000 years ago. This is also the tract that is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. It is no surprise then that Mathura and Vrindavan will be filled with temples and shrines worshipping this Poorna-Purushottam or the ‘absolute god.’ From the Krishna Janmabhoomi (Krishna’s birthplace) in Mathura that used to be a prison cell, to the Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, Vishram ghat where river Yamuna flows in full form to Thakurani ghat in Gokul, this belt is full of temples and places that give odes to Shri Krishna’s life.
Holi and Janmashtami are two of the best festivals to celebrate here. During Holi, a special type of Lath-maar holi is played where in addition to abir-gulal (red and white powder colours), women beat up men who come to throw colours at them, just as Radha beat up Lord Krishna when he tried to play holi with her.
Ghats of Varanasi
Varanasi, one of the oldest cities of India and home to hermits and celibates as well as aghoras and black magicians, is also the fabled city of Lord Rudra. River Ganga flows past this settlement and sanctifies the many ghats (embankments) here that are as old as time. You must make sure to spend a day or two in Varanasi, touring the ghats and sighting the beauty that thrives here in religion, spirituality and the many means to attain it. Assi ghat is one very famous ghat, known as the ghat of Lord Shiva. A lot of people come to bathe in the Ganges on this ghat. Dasaswamedh ghat is always crowded and mostly by the sadhus, sanyasis and tapasvis (hermits, celibates and those performing penance). You will find so many here in saffron shrouds and dhotis. Ganga aarti is also very famous on these ghats.
Another interesting place is Manikarnika Ghat, where dead bodies are cremated. It is believed that those who die or are cremated here attain moksh (liberation from cycle of birth and rebirth). Also worth visiting are the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, Alamgir Mosque and Ramnagar Fort (the residence of erstwhile royal family of Varanasi).
Adventure in Uttarakhand and Leh-Ladakh
A call to all adventure junkies and adrenaline-enthusiasts, Uttarakhand and Leh-Ladakh are the perfect destinations for you to unleash the ‘power in you.’ While there are some daring treks in Uttarakhand, including the Roopkund Trek, Auden Col Trek, Bali Pass, Gomukh Tapovan and Her ki Dhun, you can also go for white water rafting and rock climbing in Rishikesh. Valley of Flower Trek and Nanda Devi Trek are others that also include sightseeing and are moderate to challenging. There is also Auli, the skiing resort with some well paved routes for ski-enthusiasts.
While in Leh-Ladakh, up closer to the Himalayas, you have the Chadar trek that takes you through frozen lakes, Zanskar Valley trek, Sham Valley Trek, Nubra Valley trek and Marka Valley trek. Be ready to witness the white snow deserts as well as the dry rugged beauty of this region, peppered with pine trees and wild foxes. Many bikers like to ride up to the town of Leh in Ladakh, using high, rugged dirt roads that make for an awesome adventure.
A heavenly retreat in Jammu-Kashmir
Jammu & Kashmir make up the northern most state of India, bordering parts of Pakistan and China. This state is as much in news for its beauty as it is for the political tension surrounding its history. However, the warmth of the people and landscapes here are nothing short of welcoming. Maybe that is why Kashmir is often referred to as ‘heaven on earth.’
You can spend your days scouting varied sceneries here, from the Dal Lake and Hazratbal to Tupil Gardens and Pari Mahal in the city of Srinagar. There is Gurez Valley’s quiet, gorgeous landscape, Sonmarg’s golden meadows outlined by snow-capped mountains, some thrilling mountain sports, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Anantnag. Go down south to Jammu city and explore the many forts, ruins and lakes, including the beautiful city of Akhnoor (literally meaning ‘light of the eye’) and the holy town of Vaishno Devi. Eat some thorough local fare of breads, naans, pulavs, lotus stem and mutton gravies as well kahwa (flavoured Kashmiri tea). Shop for their renowned Pashmina shawls and don’t forget to take back baked goodies like mawa cakes, plum cakes, biscuits and milk cakes from local bakeries.
The Maharaja Life in Rajasthan
Rajasthan is a brilliant burst of sensations, from culture to heritage, sights to food. You can spend a week or a month and the Maharaja (king)-style pampering will still not be enough. Spend some time in Jaipur, exploring the various palaces like Hawa Mahal, City palace, Jantar Mantar and Amer Fort, depicting the stories of Rajputana stronghold of an era bygone. Visit Udaipur to tour the many lakes that were picnic spots of kings and their consorts, take a tour of the great City Palace that is still home to the current ruling Maharana of Mewad. There is also the Lake Palace and the most expensive hotel in the world - 'The Leela' to pamper you in traditional Rajasthani way. Pay respects at the holy town of Nathdwara, alive with the effervescent culture and Vaishnav religion.
You can head to Jaisalmer, especially if you are here in the winters, for sand dune safaris, camel rides and camps in the middle of a cooling desert. Their New Year camps are very famous. Ranthambore Forest Reserve is also a famous getaway to sight some exotic Indian animals, including the Royal Bengal Tiger. This Reserve was once the hunting ground of the kings of Rajasthan.
Hill Station Chill in Himachal
Himachal Pradesh is filled with destinations that are hilly, forested and ideal for a nice cool vacation. The Garhwal region of Himalayas, encompassing the foothills of the mighty mountains, form a major chunk of Himachal. You can explore at leisure some beautiful towns and hill stations like Shimla, Kullu, Manali, Kufri, Kasauli and Spiti. Stay in plush resorts, boating in lakes, toy train rides and lots of idyllic sight seeing awaits you. There is also Dalhousie and Dharamshala, two Tibetan settlements that boast of Tibetan culture and food.
For those seeking adrenaline-rush, there are some great treks like the Indrahar Pass, Beas Kund, Spiti Valley and Kinnaur. Chandra Taal Lake Trek is a moderate to hard trek, recommended for seasoned trekkers.
Explore the Taste of Punjab in Chandigarh-Amritsar
The Punjab belt of North India is known for its large-hearted people as much as for its rich, buttery food. You can always spend your time sightseeing in Chandigarh and Amritsar, with attractions like the Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, Golden Temple, Wagah Border etc. But what makes for the real delight in these parts of India, is the food, especially the local street food.
Scour the streets of Amritsar for some Chhole-kulche (chickpea gravy with Indian stuffed breads), chicken tikke, aloo paranthe and lassi. Kesar da dhaba serves some of the best dal fry, paranthe and lassi in the city, Brijwasi is famous for chaat and sweets, Makhan da dhaba for makhan fish (buttery fish) and paneer tikka (cottage cheese), Ahuja Milk Bhandar for flavoured milk and Jalebi Chowk for Jalebis and Gulab Jamuns (special Indian sweets). While in Chandigarh, Garg Chaat, Pal Dhaba for sarson ka saag and makke di roti (green leafy gravy and cornbread made Indian style), Amritsari Kulcha, Burger Point and Grand Punjab Restaurant in Mohali are your go-to places for foodgasm.