India is a vibrant land of startling contrasts where both the traditional and modern worlds meet. The world's seventh largest nation by area and the second largest in terms of population, India boasts a rich heritage that's the result of centuries of different cultures and religions leaving their mark. Things to do for travelers include the opportunity to experience an array of sacred sites and spiritual encounters, while nature lovers will enjoy its sun-washed beaches, lush national parks, and exciting wildlife sanctuaries.
From the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra to the holy sites of Harmandir Sahib (formerly the Golden Temple) in Amritsar and the Mecca Masjid mosque in Hyderabad, visitors to this exotic country will discover a trove of spiritual, cultural, and historical treasures.
To help you make the most of your time in this amazing country, refer often to our list of the top things to do in India.
1. The Taj Mahal, Agra
Perhaps India's most recognizable building, the Taj Mahal is also the world's most famous testimony to the power of love. Named after Mumtaz Mahal, the favorite wife of Emperor Shah Jahan, this most beautiful of mausoleums was begun upon her death in 1631 and took 20,000 workmen until 1648 to complete.
Incorporating many elements of Islamic design including arches, minarets, an onion-shaped dome, and black calligraphy inlaid around the entrance, the Taj Mahal is largely constructed of white marble decorated with delicate inlaid floral patterns and precious and semi-precious stones such as jade, lapis lazuli, diamonds, and mother of pearl.
The best time to visit is either at dawn or dusk when the atmosphere is brilliantly altered by the change in lighting. If possible, try to catch a view of the Taj Mahal's reflection from the far bank of the Yamuna River-it makes for a memorable (and safe) selfie.