Must Visit Ancient Cities in India

India is a country with a rich history and ancient heritage, being one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The country hosts a plethora of places that narrate the tales of times gone by, places that were once beacons of culture, knowledge, tradition, and commerce. By visiting these ancient cities in India, tourists can gain insight into the nation’s glorious past and admire the architectural brilliance of those eras.

Plan your vacation, and consider spending time in any of these ancient cities. It may provide a renewed sense of inspiration and wonder.

Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh


One of the most ancient cities in India, Ayodhya, is renowned as the setting of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Recognized as the birthplace of Lord Rama, the city rests on the banks of the Sarayu River and was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala. Believed to have been established by the Hindu deity Manu, Ayodhya is thought to be around 9,000 years old.

It is one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in India, celebrated for its numerous sacred temples. The city has gained significant attention globally due to the ongoing construction of the Lord Rama Temple. This grand and divine temple is expected to be completed by the end of this year, with its inauguration planned for January 2024. Other top attractions in the city include Treta Ke Thakur, Guptar Ghat, Gulab Bari, Kanak Bhavan, and the Mausoleum of Bahu Begum.

Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh


The ‘Temple City’, Ujjain, is typically thronged with Hindu pilgrims. It houses scores of old and new temples, making it a significant religious destination in India. However, Ujjain isn’t just for Hindu pilgrims; there are several places of interest in the city from a general tourism perspective. Located on the bank of the River Shipra, Ujjain is also the host of the renowned Kumbh Mela. The city boasts several historical sites that introduce tourists to its rich past. The recently constructed Ujjain Mahakal Lok Corridor has attracted world attention towards Ujjain and is being visited by thousands of pilgrims every day.

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh


Varanasi, also popularly known as the City of Lights or Kashi, is a sacred city situated on the western bank of the River Ganga. It is considered one of the oldest cities in India, with a history that stretches back over 3000 years. Varanasi has long been a significant religious destination for pilgrims in India. For international travelers, it provides a reflection of India’s rich culture and historical prosperity. Today, Varanasi is a bustling city where winding streets lead to more winding streets, the ghats are constantly abuzz with activity, and the scent of incense lingers in the air. The aartis and the floating of earthen lamps on the waters of the Ganga at night form an integral part of the city’s character.

Madurai, Tamil Nadu


The history of Madurai spans over 4,000 years. The city is home to numerous temples, the most popular of which is the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. Constructed in the seventh century, this temple is renowned for its architectural brilliance. The 17th-century Gandhi Mandapam, now housing an extensive collection of books about Gandhi, is another notable tourist attraction. In close proximity to the Meenakshi Temple are the Samanar Hills, where a first-century cavern once used by Jain priests can be found. No trip to Madurai is complete without sampling the scrumptious local cuisine. Indeed, Madurai in Tamil Nadu is a must-visit ancient city when touring India.

Hampi, Karnataka


Hampi, an ancient South Indian village, is renowned for its stone temples and ancient ruins. Nestled in the rugged landscapes of Karnataka’s Bellary district, Hampi is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stone temples and remnants are a testament to the rich history and culture of the region. Hampi was the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, and it flourished under the rule of Krishnadevaraya. During its glory days, Hampi was reputed to be the wealthiest city in India. Its riches and grandeur were renowned both nationally and abroad, attracting merchants from Portugal and Persia. Today, the ruins attract scores of tourists, history buffs, and architecture aficionados.

Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh


The majestic town of Gwalior, situated in the heart of India or the state of Madhya Pradesh, is home to palaces, historical sites, and beautiful temples. The town is particularly renowned for the Gwalior Fort. Hiring a travel guide at the fort offers a chance to delve deeper into the region’s history. Other major attractions include Gujari Mahal, Sas Bahu Temple, Teli Ka Mandir, Tomb of Muhammad Ghaus and Tansen, Bir Singh Mahal, Padavali, and Bateshwar. Wildlife enthusiasts can also consider venturing into the wild trails of Madhav National Park, located near the city.

Puri, Odisha


Puri, one of the ancient cities not to be missed, is located in the state of Odisha in Eastern India. Aptly called the ‘Temple Town’, Puri is home to the famous Jagannath Temple, a prominent pilgrimage site for Hindus. Interestingly, the city is also known for having the largest kitchen in the world. Moreover, 24 festivals, including 13 major ones, are held annually within the temple premises. The ancient Konark Sun Temple and Markandeshwar Shiva Temple are other renowned temples located here.

Puri also boasts beautiful and serene seashores. The Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary, with sandy beaches, hills, cashew plantations, and forests of Casuarina trees, provides shelter for Blackbuck and Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. The Sudarshan Crafts Museum showcases antique figurines, a Japanese-style Buddhist temple, a showroom, a workshop, and a library. The Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary is home to various exotic animals and over 200 species of fish, while the Nalbana Bird Sanctuary or Nalbana Island features a multitude of migratory birds.

Dwarka, Gujarat


Dwarka, an ancient city located in the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat, is a must-visit for tourists interested in history and religion. The city is renowned as a Hindu pilgrimage site, particularly for the Dwarkadheesh Temple, also known as Jagat Mandir. This temple, situated on the north bank of the Gomti Creek, dates back 2,500 years. The main temple stands five stories high, with the intricately carved spire reaching a height of approximately 157 feet. It houses a one-meter-tall, four-handed black icon of Ranchhodrai, the ruler of Dwarka. Another notable tourist site is the Rukmini Temple. Rukmini, Lord Krishna’s wife, is considered an incarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and beauty.

Besides its temples and legends, Dwarka is also famous for being the seat of Adi Shankaracharya, who established four mathas (seats) in four different corners of the country.

Pushkar, Rajasthan


Known as the seat of Lord Brahma, Pushkar is famed for its rare temples. Located in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan, this beautiful city is a revered spot for Hindus and has maintained its old-world charm. Situated alongside the Sarovar Lake, Pushkar is renowned for the Brahma Temple, the only one of its kind in the country. The Pushkar Mela, an annual event that draws travelers from all around the globe, features vibrant events, displays, and competitions throughout its week-long celebration. The Man Mahal, located on the banks of Sarovar Lake, is another of the town’s major tourist spots not to be missed.

Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh


Situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, Vrindavan is famous as one of the most significant places for devotees of Lord Krishna. It is said that Lord Krishna spent his childhood in this city. The name ‘Vrindavan’ is derived from ‘vrinda’ (meaning basil) and ‘van’ (meaning forest), referring to the two small groves at Seva Kunj and Nidhivan. Both culturally and religiously rich, the city is home to numerous temples dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha, the most popular ones being the ISKCON Temple and the Banke Bihari Temple. Set amidst the dense forests and lush greenery of Vrindavan, these temples enhance the city’s spiritual allure. Vrindavan is also widely popular for its unique and vibrant celebration of Holi.

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