Travel in much of the North-East (with the notable exception of Assam) and parts of Andaman and Nicobar, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand will require obtaining a *Protected Area Permit (PAP). The easiest way to get one is to request it along with your visa application, in which case it will be added to your visa.
Tamil Nadu (wikivoyage, map), Maharashtra (wikivoyage, map) and Uttar Pradesh (wikivoyage, map) were the most popular states for tourists. Delhi, *Mumbai, *Chennai, *Agra and *Jaipur were the five most visited cities of India by foreign tourists.
*Varanasi – Being the most sacred city in Hinduism and Jainism, and important in the history of Buddhism, Varanasi is India’s most important pilgrimage destination. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. For some, the culture shock of the burning corpses in plain view and the feces overflowing from the Ganges can be a bit overwhelming.
However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world.
Probably the most famous single attraction in India is the Taj Mahal (map), which is widely recognized as the jewel of Islamic art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
*Jaipur (map), the capital of the western state of Rajasthan, is incredibly rich in forts and palaces, including the tremendous *Amber Fort (map), beautiful *Jal Mahal (Water Palace) and unique *Hawa Mahal (map).
The city of *Jammu (map), the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, has so many temples that it’s called the “City of Temples” and is a major draw for Hindu pilgrims. *Bishnupur in *West Bengal is home to famous terracotta temples. The Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is dedicated to Vishnu and is also a major draw for pilgrims.
The Tantric temple complexes of *Khajuraho (map) in Madhya Pradesh are much beloved for their thousand-year-old sacred erotic wall carvings, considered by some art historians to be the pinnacle of erotic art. The Meenakshi Amman Temple in *Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is a centre of worship of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. The city of *Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu known for its grand Chola-era temples.
Some of the major Indian festivals are: *Diwali (Deepavali), Oct-Nov — The festival of lights. *Ugadhi / Yugadhi’ is one of the main festivals, which is mainly celebrated as the 1st day of the Hindu Calendar New Year. *Durga Puja / Navaratri/Dussehara, Sep-Oct — A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day of Dussehra, when locals worship the deity Durga.
*Holi, in March — The festival of colour is a major festival celebrated mainly in North, East and Western India. On the first day, people go to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it’s a waterfight combined with showers of coloured powder.