Authored by Himanshu Agarwal
What is the first thing that comes to mind whenever you think of India? Obviously, you try to picture its varied and diverse culture. But apart from being a land of multilingual and multi-ethnic communities, India has one more feather in its cap: it’s history.
India is probably the only country to boast of a rich and glorious past that spans for more than a 750 centuries. (Almost since the beginning of time!) So it won’t come as a surprise that the country has no less than a 100 monuments in each of its 29 states. You can do the math to arrive at that total!
To visit every single monument is, of course, an impossible task. But the following 7 structures and sites will offer a glimpse into the historical richness of the land.
7 Must Visit Historical Places in India
Taj Mahal and Agra Fort (Agra, Uttar Pradesh)
Who hasn’t heard about the one of the 7 Wonders of The World? This marble clad structure is the pride of Agra, and stands out amongst all other places there. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a token of his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. That’s for the history we know.
What is really so compelling about it is the architecture and the intricate carvings engraved on the domes and not to forget the massive chandeliers. Add to it the mesmerizing gardens and the breath-taking view you get as soon as you enter the place. It feels like heaven!
And very close to it stands the Fort in which the Emperor actually lived – The Agra Fort. Built from a combination of Red Sandstone and Marble, the place is the best example to understand the architecture of Royal palaces. And a guide will readily tell you the various anecdotes about the activities of the place.
Sanchi Stupa (Madhya Pradesh)
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest stone structure in India, which is preserved till date.
Originally it was built as a monument to honor and sustain the relics of Buddha by the great emperor Ashoka. Later, future dynasties extended the site by adding strings of Buddhist temples and pillars (Stupas) as well.
Today, it is one of the most visited historic sites in India. The artistic blend of stone, brick, wood and sandstone from which the structure is made and the elaborate hand carvings which relate the scriptures of Buddha are incredible.
Khajuraho Temples (near Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh)
This is, again, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a group of 85 temples built by the Chandela dynasty, dedicated to Hindu and Jain (two important religions in India) deities. Today only 20 of them survive.
What to keep your eyes peeled for are the sculptures which adorn the walls and the pillars of each temple. They are expressive of the architecture and ancient art of those times, which dates back to around 950 CE.
They are one of the finest monuments that serve as examples for temple architecture till today.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves (Aurangabad, Maharashtra)
Archaeologists and historians believe that these caves were cut out of mountain rocks by Buddhists and made into ancient monasteries. They go back to 480 CE and also consist of various Hindu and Jain temples.
It’s a beautiful picturesque location, with stunning paintings carved out on their walls. And if you love stories, you are in for a real treat! They give a pictorial narration of the Jataka Tales (teachings of the Buddha in form of short stories) and depict the various scriptures.
Don’t shy away from hiring a guide if you want to understand the details and the full history of the place. The paintings here are considered the finest masterpieces in the world.
Konark Sun Temple (Near Puri, Odisha)
To quote Rabindranath Tagore – “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human.”
Indeed, among all the places which you can visit in Puri, this massive edifice outmatches even the most beautiful stone structures in the world. No wonder it is one of the seven wonders of India!
This temple was built by Narsimhadev I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. It is dedicated to the Sun God (Surya). Built in the shape of a chariot in which Surya himself rides, its caricatures and figurines are stupefying.
The architecture of the temple is so precise that it makes you think whether the people of Stone Age were smarter than us! Again, do go for a guide to understand the history and the architecture fully.
Cellular Jail (Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
Surprised? Well most people will not think of a jail as a very interesting place for a visit, but trust me, this one is worth the shot.
The cellular jail was built by the ruling Brits to deport Indian freedom fighters to an isolated island where they could serve their ‘sentence’ without causing trouble. And the jail was designed and built in such a way so as to inflict maximum torture on the inmates. Fearful, isn’t it? But don’t worry, nobody is going to lock you in now!
Today it is a national monument dedicated to all the Indian freedom fighters. And the place is bustling with civilisation so you may as well forget the isolation part!
The jail is the best examples of solid British architecture to survive till date. Do attend the light and sound show at the place in the evening and don’t forget to ask for a guide.
Rakht Talai, Haldighati and Kumbhalgarh (Udaipur, Rajasthan)
These are the sites of the Epic battle that took place between the forces of the great Mughal emperor Akbar; and the bravest warrior who never tasted defeat – Maharana Pratap.
While Rakht Talai and Haldighati are the battle fields, Kumbhalgarh is the Royal Palace where Maharana Pratap was born. It boasts of the longest wall in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China.
The light and sound show at Kumbhalgarh palace will relate to you the complete history of the place and of the battle. The journey to Kumbhalgarh will be amongst the ones you will never forget!
These locations give you a glimpse at the majestic history of the bloodshed and the wars of the past. They are not very far from Udaipur city, where you can visit other remarkable monuments as well, one of which is dedicated to Maharana Pratap.
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Photo credits: Sanchi Stupa by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra & Travelling Slacker. Khajuraho Temple (+ use in Pinterest image) by Liji Jinaraj. Ajanta Caves Sumeet Jain & Jorge Láscar. Konark Sun Temple by sukanta maity, Dinudey Baidya & sukanta maity. Cellular Jail by Ankur P & Algae Rhythm.
Everyone knows the Taj Mahal of course, which I would love to visit, but it is fascinating to see there are so many other temples and beautiful destinations to visit in India!
Glad we could offer some insight into some monument and sites you hadn’t yet heard about :) Hope you have the chance to travel soon!
There are many more unique and utmost import historical places in India, my dear.
Absolutely, this is a highlight of our favorites, but definitely so much more to discover for those who have more time to dig deeper :)
So Darcee & I spent a 3 weeks racing across western India in January & after we got to explore Agra & Delhi. Loved the Taj & the Red Fort. However I think you should at the Qutub Minar to this list too. It was an amazing site in Delhi.
As for the rest, I regret that we didnt see many of the temples and nothing along the east coast. So I guess we need to go back. I do love how you added the prison as it is a great story and rememberance to those freedom fighters
Wow 3 weeks racing across India sounds incredible Eric! What an epic trip.
Thanks for the tip on adding Qutub Minar – I’ll make sure it’s in my itinerary when I finally manage a trip – I’m dying to get to India, and with every guest post on the country I accept, my bucket list gets longer!
Missing the temples just means you have a great excuse for another trip :)
I recommend 3 weeks for each states in India. Each and every state as their own history and some dated more than one 1000 years. I am from southern state of Tamil Nadu most of the ancient temples are preserved in the state. Just an example tanjore big temple and Madurai meenaakshi temple. Just take look into it. But each region in my state as plenty to offer for the history.
Thanks for the tip Balaji – totally agree that there’s ample to keep one busy in each and every state. Great to know that there are some incredibly preserved temples in Tamil Nadu – will have to include a visit on our next trip!
It’s sights like these that make the hardships of traveling in India worth it … great photos!
Absolutely – I’ve heard India is a rollercoaster of an experience, but these national monuments and historic sites are rewarding as the purpose of a trip :)
The art and detail in these temples are amazing. I would love to see them in person one day.
Isn’t it incredible to imagine the work which would have gone into carving – it’s so intricate! Definitely some of the most incredible works of art in mans history.
Great list and such a wonderfully diverse range of monuments. My favourite historical site in India is the group of Monuments at Hampi (the ruins of Vijayanagara) – simply breathtaking.
Thankyou, I’m glad you enjoyed the post :) Thanks for the tip on the ruins of Vijayanagara – I’ll have to make sure to include Hampi on my next trip!
I absolutely love India and this post simply reminds me that I have seen so little. Taj Mahal is definitely high on my list of places to visit.
Hope you have the chance to visit again soon!
I’ve been to India many times to visit family and do a little sightseeing but you have given me some places I need to make sure I see next time. Love the domed shape of Sanchi Stupa and the majestic forms of the Khajuraho Temples in particular, but actually, the whole list with exception of Taj is waiting for my visit. Thanks for a great list of places I need to see!
Awesome Kavey! Definitely one of those countries with the power to keep pulling you back in!
Glad we could set you up with some attractions for your next trip :)
I can proudly say that I have visited 3 out of these 7 must-dos from India. Yet all the rest are in my list waiting to be crossed off soon. I love your photos from Shanti Stupa from Madhaya Pradesh. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring post.
Nice Shibani! Glad you enjoyed the post – hope you have the chance to visit the other 4 sometime too :)
All these places look incredible!
I hope I get to visit India someday :)
Glad you enjoyed the post Stephanie!
The only part of India I’ve visited so far is Tamil Nadu in the south. There are some wonderful temples and historic monuments there too. I clearly need to explore more of the country though…great inspiration in this post
Had a comment from Balaji above who lives in Tamil Nadu and also recommended the well preserved temples here. I will have to add it for our next trip :)
India is a treasure trove of history. There is something interesting and intriguing around every bend in the road as you traverse the country, some renowned and some unsung. This list is of course some of the most famous ones.My favourite here is the Konark Sun temple which is an ode in stone the the artistic and scientific genius of the people who designed and built it.
Totally agree – I can’t wait to put aside a really considerable amount of time and explore the country in depth – so much rich history, and so many monuments and attractions to see!
Konark Sun temple is an incredible marvel, absolutely!
There’s just so much incredible history here! From caves to temples, you’ve covered a fair amount of sites. I really want to add all of these to my bucket list as I’m a huge history buff and these all look spectacular!
India has so much history and the great thing is it’s incredibly diverse – you’ll never get bored with the historic attractions and monuments, because they’re each so different from the next :)
Hope you have the chance to travel soon!
I’ve never been to India but this really looks amazing. It’s too easy to focus on the negatives of visiting certain areas of the world, but it seems that India has a lot to offer the traveller.
I hope you have the chance to explore and experience India first hand Fiona, it truly is an incredible place. Every country and region will have aspects which aren’t as desirable as we would like them to be, and I think the news media propagates too much of a negative hype around traveling to certain regions. But I personally can’t wait to dive further into the culture and history of India – hope you can too!
WOW! I have stayed in India all my life and haven’t seen half of them. If someone had asked me to make such a list, I would have included entirely different other places too. The problem of too many choices you see. Only constant would be the Taj Mahal. Hampi is another one that makes most lists!
Seems to always be the way with our own country – we’re always very eager to see the world before we see the wonders in our own backyard!
The Taj Mahal is definitely a constant, but yes, there are far too many choices for just one trip! Hopefully we could inspire you with some new ideas for places to see – India is such a huge country! I hope to explore more soon :)
India is top of my list to visit, I have been trying to get there for years now, but life seems to keep happening…. I guess it’s a bit lame, but I cant wait to set eyes on The Taj Mahal, and all of the temples and to see 1000’s of people all in a relatively small area. I am keen to eat the food down south, Kerala is meant to have some incredible seafood.
I’m the same, can’t wait to visit, but haven’t yet had the chance – I’m amazed by the sheer diversity of everything the country has to offer though – maybe we can plan a group trip!
Yes, I’ve heard that Kerala has some pretty incredible seafood! You’d be in your element as a foodie!
I would add the splendours from South India to this list – Chola temples of Thanjavur, Hampi, Pattadakal, Belur temples – al of which are architectural marvels. In west, there are Elephanta caves that are located on an island close to Mumbai – most of them UNESCO world heritage sites and architectural wonders.
Thanks for sharing Anu! So many incredible places in India, I’ll have to add your recommendations to my list too :)
Actually, Many historic places in India but can not roam everywhere in a week. Your blog is very helpful because you shared the places are beautiful and is worth watching. I like your blog. Thanks!
Yes, definitely need more than a week if you plan to visit all of these in one trip, but there’s plenty of exciting things to see and do if you only have a week and base yourself in one or two regions around your favorite landmarks :)
Thanks for your comment David – so glad you enjoyed the post!
I really like this list of historic places to see in India. Especially the photos, I am in love with them all. I always use Adotrip’s Circuit Planner to plan my trips, it automatically suggests the best way to reach your travel destination. Give it a go, it’s amazing. Thank you for sharing this blog.
Thanks for the recommendation Stella, will check it out :) So glad you enjoyed the post – India is SUCH an incredible region for history!