Considered the holiest place in India, Varanasi has been a centre for religious customs and rituals for thousands of years. One of the most popular and grandest traditions is the evening prayer (aarti) at Dashashwamedh Ghat. This brightly colourful site attracts people from all over the world to witness minutely choreographed fire shows, dances and prayers.
Nestled in Uttarakhand, Valley of Flowers National Park is famous for the varieties of flowers (many rare or endangered) occupying its 21,621-acre span. To see the beautiful valley (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in full bloom, visit between July and August.
Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India, +91 1389 222 179
Choodis – bangles made of various colourful material like glass, plastic or stones – can be found at Choodi Bazaar, an area of the famous Laad Bazaar in Hyderabad. The several choodi shops (on the west exit of Charminar, the mosque built during the Qutb Shahi dynasty in 1591) gives the marketplace an unforgettable, dazzling look.
The entire city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu was built around Meenakshi – a temple consisting of 14 gopurams (towers) – around the 16th century. Each temple and tower is intricately carved and painted in multitudes of colours, and the campus has about 33,000 sculptures total.
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai Main, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, +91 452 234 4360
Holi is a major Hindu festival, celebrated all over India with friends, families and neighbours gathering to smear colour on and soak each other in water. But Holi is best in Vrindavan, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, where clouds of vivid pigment, water fights and bhang are unique and blindingly colourful sights.
One of India’s most underrated beauties is Arunachal Pradesh, home to Tawang Monastery, the second-largest monastery in the world. Its remarkable architecture and superbly colourful interiors feature Buddhist imagery and countless intricate murals.
Jodhpur is one of the most beautiful cities in the desert state of Rajasthan. The old part of the city was painted blue on Rah Jodha’s orders in the 15th century, and while no one really knows why, it’s still fascinating to walk the winding, narrow blue lanes near Mehrangarh Fort.
Kutch, another desert in Gujarat, is home to tribal communities in which women wear the most gorgeously embroidered, colourful skirts and blouses with long stoles covering their head. Plus, both men and women wear tradition heavy jewellery.
Munnar’s hills in Kerala are carpeted with lush green tea fields, and every 12 summers the valleys turn lavender when the Neelakurinji flower blooms abundantly. Visiting Eravikulam National Park is the best way to see the beautiful purple landscape.
Eravikulam National Park, Munnar, Kerala, India, +91 48 65 20 82 55