11 Other Places To Visit In India Besides The Taj Mahal

Also read as "11 Reasons Why You Should Totally Travel To India".

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For some Malaysians, the Taj Mahal is probably the only thing that comes to mind when we think about India

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An Indian poet once described the Taj Mahal as "a teardrop on the face of eternity". It's also said to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, and it seems even more so after you learn about the love story between Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.

The monument was built as a tomb for the empress consort Mumtaz. It took the labourers 11 years to complete; using white marble from Rajasthan, jade from China, sapphire from Sri Lanka, and turquoise from Tibet.

Besides the Taj Mahal, there are many other interesting places in India worth visiting:

1. The ancient Adalaj stepwell in Gujarat

India is famous for its ancient stepwells. Stepwells are steps that descend into a pond or well, usually constructed to store water in case of drought. There are some stepwells built for aesthetic and memorial purposes, like the Adalaj stepwells.

According to legend, the Adalaj stepwell was first commissioned by the ruler of the state. Unfortunately, he was killed in war with a neighbouring country before it was completed. The conquering ruler sent a marriage proposal to the dead king's widow, who accepted it on one condition: that he allow her to finish the stepwell that her husband started. The conquering ruler agreed and labourers continued working on it.

Once the stepwell was completed, the widow jumped into the well and drowned herself so she could be reunited with her husband.

Best time to visit: October till March

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad, then transit to Ahmedabad - about RM668

2. The tea plantations in Darjeeling

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You've probably heard of the tea that was grown there. Darjeeling is a popular hill station among the locals. The weather is cool and pleasant, with a maximum temperature of 19°C during the summer months.

You can visit the tea plantations, hike Tiger Hill to see the sunrise in the Himalayas, and check out the lovely Nightingale Park. Hop on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, fondly called the Toy Train, for a joy ride around the Batasia Loop. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still in operation!

Best time to visit: April to June

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kolkata, take a transit flight to Bagdogra, then take the Toy Train to Darjeeling - about RM578

3. The forts in the Pink City of Jaipur

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Jaipur is called the Pink City because of the colour of its buildings. They're apparently painted this way in 1876 to welcome the visiting Prince of Wales, as pink symbolises hospitality in India.

The Amber Fort is the biggest of the three famous forts in Jaipur, which serves as a palace for the then ruling family as well. Equally as famous as that is the Jaigarh Fort, said to be the strongest among all the forts, and was never conquered. For a scenic view, the Nahargarh Fort is a must-visit as it provides an amazing view of the Man Sagar lake nearby.

Best time to visit: November till February

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, then transit to Jaipur - about RM341

4. The rock garden in Chandigarh

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The rock garden was created by Nek Chand, a government official, back in 1957. What started as a secret project eventually became a popular tourist spot. Nek had to keep it a secret as the gorge where it was built was a forbidden area.

After hiding it for 18 years, the local government found out about Nek's rock garden. The public was so supportive of his creation that the authorities granted him a salary and 50 labourers to continue his good work. Most of the items sculptures in the garden were made from waste material: bottles, tiles, broken pipes, etc.).

Best time to visit: August till November

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai, then transit to Chandigarh - about RM674

5. The blue houses in Jodhpur

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You don't need to travel all the way to Morocco to see the Blue City of Chefchaouen as there's one in India too! Jodhpur is the country's Blue City - but till today, nobody knows why were most of the houses painted blue.

The Mehrangarh Fort is a must-see. Not only is it the biggest fort in the state of Rajasthan, it also houses one of the most luxurious palaces in India. You can visit the fort for free every 12 May, as it's Jodhpur Foundation Day.

Best time to visit: October to February

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai, then transit to Jodhpur - about RM624

6. The Golden Temple in Punjab

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The Golden Temple, formally called the Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the holiest temple in the Sikh religion. The temple took 19 years to build, finally completed in 1604.

It's situated in the middle of a large lake that contains holy water. In the temple, you'll be able to see plaques carved with historical events that have important significance in the history of Sikhism. Everyone is allowed to visit the Golden Temple as long as they adhere to the rules: no shoes allowed, dress in clothes that cover your full body, and don a head covering.

Best time to visit: November till March

How to get there: Direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Amritsar - about RM560

7. The French Quarter and Seaside Promenade in Puducherry

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Puducherry is probably one of the most laid back places you can visit in India. The French Quarter is full of beautiful colonial buildings, with lots of cafés and art galleries that you can visit.

Go for a walk by the Seaside Promenade. Vehicles are banned on the road along the sea after 6pm, so you can enjoy a safe and relaxing evening by the seaside.

Best time to visit: November till February

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Chennai, then take a bus to Puducherry - about RM245

8. The Ramchandi Beach in Odisha

Since 2012, Ramchandi Beach has been the venue for the India Surf Festival. The festival is not limited to surfers only, it's great for those who love music and art as well! The beach is so spacious you can even pitch a tent there if you want.

Best time to visit: October till March

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Bhubaneswar, then take a taxi to Ramchandi Beach - about RM293

9. The Borra Caves in Visakhapatnam

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It's said that the Borra Caves were discovered by accident by a cowherd who was searching for his lost cow. The cowherd saw a stone that resembled a lingam in the cave, leading him and the villagers to believe that this is a holy cave belonging to Lord Shiva. Today, the caves have lightings installed in them, which is a spectacular sight to behold.

Best time to visit: October till March

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Visakhapatnam - about RM187

10. The oldest city in the world, Varanasi

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The ancient city of Varanasi is indeed one of the oldest in the world. The writer Mark Twain once described it as "older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together". It's known as a sacred city to Hindus and Jains, which is why there are many funeral rites performed there.

Varanasi is a great place to visit if you want to understand Hindu culture and religion more. Boat rides along the Ganges are available for tourists, most popular during sunset.

Best time to visit: October till March

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad, then transit to Varanasi - about RM585

11. The ruins of Hampi in Karnataka

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Described as "the forgotten empire", the ruins of Hampi is a peaceful site of the ancient capital of the Vijayanagar Empire. It was said that the city was so wealthy that diamonds were sold on the streets. It's also rich in history - every building has a story to tell, hence it's best travelled with a guide.

You can rent a bicycle and explore the ancient city, but do remember to apply sunblock and bring lots of water. There are little oases where you can park your bike, rest, and admire the landscape of this once great city.

Best time to visit: October till March

How to get there: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Bengaluru, take the Hampi Express train to Hospet, then take a bus to Hampi - about RM365

Tempted to go India now?

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