Uttar Pradesh, “the heartland of India” is a Pandora’s Box in terms of rich history, culture, enlightenment and natural resources. It is a land where India’s first war of independence was fought, a place where the Mughal Empire flourished and reached phenomenal heights. Home to Ayodhya and Mathura where Lord Rama and Lord Krishna were said to have been born, the state holds a prominent place in the heart of Hindu devotees.

You need not know the history of the state to witness two of the holiest rivers of Hindu mythology i.e. Yamuna and Ganga. Uttar Pradesh is a place where you can take a brief walk into Indian history and feel the bygone eras where mighty rulers ruled once. This mystical land has a plethora of places that should be visited by one and all to capture memorable moments and to enhance your taste buds with the help of authentic Awadhi cuisine. If you want to make the best of your trip, then this post will guide help you in deciding which places you must visit while on a tour to Uttar Pradesh.

Agra

Agra overshadows Prayagraj, the capital of UP as it is home to iconic architectural marvels in the world. This “Taj City” is recognized by the world’s famous monument “Taj Mahal”, a mausoleum built by Mughal ruler “Shah Jahan” in memory of his loving wife “Mumtaz”. Agra was a creative ground for the Mughals where they experimented with art and introduced some of the astonishing artwork in the history of mankind. Here are some of these marvels that you must take a look at to enjoy your vacation this splendid place-

Taj Mahal: One of the Seven Wonders of the World, this grand white marble dome is a symbol of eternal love representing the finest creation in the Mughal architecture.  To protect the ethereal beauty of the monument, tourists are not allowed to enter the area on a vehicle running on petrol/diesel. Taj Mahal is closed on every Friday and only Muslims can access the premises to attend afternoon prayers. Witnessing sunrise and sunset from Taj Mahal is a soul-soothing experience that you’d not want to miss.

Tomb of Akbar: This final resting place of “Akbar”, the great Mughal emperor is located on the outskirts of Agra that must be on your checklist of “places to see in Agra”. Built with sandstone and white marble, this tomb is an architectural masterpiece of Mughals. Interestingly, unlike other notable Muslim rulers in the world, Akbar’s tomb is the only one that is not facing the direction of Mecca but towards the rising sun.

Agra Fort: Built by Akbar in 1573, this fort is the epitome of excellence of the Mughal era. The fort is built using red sandstones and houses several rooms and tombs such as Musamman burj, Diwan-i-Khas and Diwan-i-Am, Moti Masjid, Nagina Masjid etc. Red fort is the place where Aurangzeb, the son of Akbar imprisoned his father. Musamman burj is considered to be the place where Akbar took his last breath. It is the most visited tourist place in Agra after the Taj Mahal.

Fatehpur Sikri: Once a capital of Mughal emperor Akbar, this blooming town is famous for its intriguingly carved architectural masterpieces. You must capture the magnificent craftsmanship of Buland Darwaza on your camera. Adorned with marble, red sandstones and granite inlays, this splendid doorway bears several Persian inscriptions presenting the religious tolerance during the reign of Akbar. History lovers will also be fascinated by Panch Mahal, Jodha Bai Palace, Jama Masjid, and Dargah of Sufi Saint Salim Chishti. 

Jhansi

Jhansi is a city boasting bravery and valour shown by Queen of Jhansi “Rani Laxmibai” a chief figure during the first war of independence. Every nook and corner of the city depicts the historical struggle for independence and celebrates the martyrs who gave their lives for the greater good.  The place is a heaven for history buffs and a place of wonderment for travelers who set foot on its soil. The city is embedded with landmarks, temples, forts, and monuments which will make you lose yourself in Indian history. Make sure to cover these places on reaching Jhansi- Jhansi fort, Rani Mahal, Government museum, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Ki Chatri, Pariccha and Mahalaxmi temple.  

Mathura-Vrindavan

The region of Mathura and Vrindavan are special for devotees of Lord Krishna. The charm of these places is so compelling that you won’t get enough of it. The city has some of the holiest temples in the country witnessing the influx of tourists and devotees throughout the year.  Here are the major attractions of the Mathura and Vrindavan which mustn’t be ignored while touring the place-

  • Bankey Bihari temple: Holding religious importance, this Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna where devotees come to seek his blessings. As per a legend, when the idol of Lord Krishna in the form of Bankey Bihari appeared in Nidhivan, Shri Swami Haridas ji got it transferred to this temple and worshipped in form of a child. Ardent devotees, worshipers, travelers and tourists come here to seek blessing from the Lord and seek spiritual guidance. The mystical environment of the temple with the chanting of “radhe radhe” can make one forget his worries.  During “Holi” and “Janamasthmi”, the temple is decorated with flowers and lit up with an array of lights presenting a breathtaking view. You’d not want to miss the grand “puja” organized during these occasions which is the direct way to feel spiritually connected to the Lord himself.
  • Iskcon temple: One of the grandest temples in Vrindavan, Iskcon temple has a special significance for devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Here foreign devotees of Lord Krishna can be found dancing in ecstasy and enjoying the music of the kartals, mrdanga and sweet harmonium. It is also a spiritual center for those who wish to find spiritual peace. The temple is situated on the bank of Yamuna river which makes it an alluring place to get solitude and happiness. Iskcon is a temple you must visit if you want to lose yourself in the magical environment to connect with lord Krishna.
  • Nidhivan: Nidhivan is surrounded by mysteries and enigma which is yet to be solved. According to locals, Lord Krishna blesses this place with his presence every night and play Ras Leela with gopis and Radha. Once the evening Aarti is over, the doors of Nidhivan are closed so that the Lord could visit the place without any interruption. No one is allowed to enter the premised past the completion of evening Aarti.  According to popular beliefs, it is said that if anyone tries to enter Nidhivan after the doors are closed, he/she lose their mental balance or eyesight. This might be the reason why this place attracts tourists from all over the world.
  • Kans Qila: This ancient fortress in Mathura is known to be the abode of Kans, maternal uncle of Lord Krishna who imprisoned the Lord’s parents knowing that their child would be the reason for his downfall. Over the years, the fortress went through several hands leading to a unique blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture.
  • Govardhan Parvat: Located nearly 22 kms from Vrindavan, Govardhan hill is a holy place where worshippers pray for Lord krishna’s blessings and worship the entire rocks. This place is idolized by Hindus as Lord Krishna (during his childhood) lifted this hill on his fingers to save his village from fierce rain and thunderstorm. Every year, devotees visit this place and do “Parikrama” of the hill to participate in “Govardhan Puja”.

Aside from these, you have to experience the fun and frolics of “Lathmaar holi” celebrated in Barsana and Nandgaon near Mathura. Do not forget to buy authentic “peda sweet” when you are travelling the place. You will thank your stars for such an amazing experience!

Varanasi

Being the religious capital of India, Varanasi is visited by pilgrims all over the world.  The city not only attracts followers of Hinduism but also of other faiths. Attending the morning and evening aarti on the banks of river Ganga is a blissful experience one must not neglect.  Varanasi is a city that has stood the test of times and continues to grow hauntingly beautiful. Narrow-lanes, temples, street art, Sadhus dressed in saffron clothes will remind you of the good old days. The calming environment of the place will make you visit it again and again.

Lucknow

If you wish to see and experience Awadhi royalty, then Lucknow is a place you must not miss adding in your travel itinerary.  The place is not only popular for finger-licking scrumptious food but also for majestic bungalows with interesting architecture. This “land of nawabs” is an ideal place to travel to no matter if you are a foodie or a wanderlust or history lover. You must relish different types of kebabs like tunday, seekh and galouti kebabs. Lucknowi biryani is a sure thing to try. The charm of this city is hard to resist. When visiting Lucknow, don’t forget to stop by these places-

  • Bara Imambara: Built by Asaf-ud-Daula, nawab of Lucknow this large shrine is an architectural marvel where Shia muslims comes to mourn on muharram. The foundation of Bara Imambara was laid when the region was gripped in the shackles of a famine. The main objective of building this grand complex was to provide employment opportunity to people. It also has a labyrinth structure named “bhool bhoolaiya” with almost 500 identical doors and passageways connected to multiple stairs leading. Visiting this place will surely remind you of our past.
  • Chota Imambara: This beautiful mausoleum lies to the west of Bara Imambara is an important place of worship for Muslims.  Inspired with the charbagh, indo-Islamic and Persian architecture, this mosque is a sight to behold!
  • Lucknow Zoo: Imagine yourself enjoying on a toy train and capturing wild animals, doesn’t that sound fun? Lucknow zoo is a place where this imagination comes alive. Spread over the area nearly 71 acres, the zoo houses exotic birds and animals such as – Great pied hornbill, Royal Bengal tiger, and Golden pheasant, among others. Apart from this, there are several events organized in the zoo which are quite entertaining and hard-to-miss.
  • Rumi Darwaza: It is a medieval era gateway built by Mughals which divides Lucknow into two halves i.e. old and new. The old Lucknow is home to Muslim population and is a crowded area. New Lucknow is an urban area housing diverse population.  Old Lucknow will remind you of “Chandni Chowk”. The narrow yet vibrant street offers mouthwatering delicacies, old artifacts, jewelry, famous lucknowi chikan embroidered apparel to name a few.

Aside from these places, Uttar Pradesh has many sites connected to Lord Buddha where major events of his life took place. Some of these places are- Sarnath (where he preached his first sermon), Kushinagar (where he died), Kaushambi (where he delivered sermons), etc. Uttar Pradesh is uniquely beautiful and hard-to-resist. If you haven’t visited it yet, gear up for an exciting trip without wasting time! Do let us know your thoughts on these places.