India is one of the main must-see countries on any travelers list and for good reason. It’s a country like no other that has a larger wealth of culture and religion than most others in the world.
India is also a big country and some travelers find themselves getting lost amongst its stunning natural landscapes and India’s famous landmarks. There are so many famous landmarks in India that are dotted all over the country, which makes seeing them all in one trip impossible.
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The famous landmarks in India are all connected to Indian culture in one way or another and the list includes historical monuments, UNESCO world heritage sites, ancient temples, and more.
In this article, we are going to focus on some of the most famous Indian landmarks so that you can plan your visit around seeing the best India has to offer.
The Red Fort is one of the most famous historical monuments in India and it’s one the easiest to visit if you’re going to transfer through Delhi during your trip. It sits in Old Delhi in Chandi Chowk close to the Yamuna River.
The Red Fort was built way back in 1638 by Emperor Shah Jahan when it was decided that the capital of India should be Delhi instead of Agra. Once built, the Red Fort was used as the primary residence for Mughal Emperors and served this purpose for the entire Mughal Dynasty.
The Red Fort was also used as a ceremonial ground and a political center in those times and it still is today as it’s where the Prime Minister of India opens the national flag on Independence Day each year.
As you could maybe guess by the name, the Red Fort was built out of red sandstone and its deep coppery color is lovely on the eyes. When visiting the Red Fort you can help but be blown away by its size as it features 33 meter high walls and is a massive compound.
Today, the Red Fort is open daily to visitors and inside you’ll find a complex of museums including the Archaeological Museum, Indian War Memorial Museum, Subhash Chandra Bose museum, Yaad-e-Jallian, Museum of 1857, Drishyakala, and Azadi Ke Deewane.
Just south of the Red Fort is where you’ll find another of India’s famous landmarks, the India Gate which is a part of New Delhi. It is one of the most important historical monuments in the city as it honors the soldiers who died during both the 1919 Afghan War and World War I.
The India gate was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who also built a lot of other war monuments. He used the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as inspiration for his design of the India Gate and you can see the similarities.
The building began in 1921 and the 42-meter high archway was finished 10 years later in 1931. It was built from red Bharatpur stones and the towering structure has the names of the 103,517 soldiers who died in both the Afghan War and World War I.
Today, the India Gate is a famous tourist attraction and is surrounded by well-maintained lawns that are perfect for a picnic and getting away from the busy Delhi streets.
The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is one of the most distinctive landmarks and ancient temples of northern India.
The Golden Temple is considered the heart of Amritsar, the capital of Punjab, and the holiest place of pilgrimage for the Sikh faith being one of the five Akal Takht Sabib of the Sikh religion. Every year, Millions of Sikh followers from around the world travel to the Golden Temple in Punjab for prayer and solace.
The Golden Temple is built from white marble overlaid with gold leaf and it is known as the epitome of glory, equality, and harmony and this is encapsulated in its architecture and feel. It’s surrounded by holy water and inside the ancient temple is a holy pool called an Amrit Sarovar where followers can bathe to wash off their sins.
When you first see the Golden Temple, it looks like it’s floating on the hold water surrounding it and you can’t help but be impressed by the incredible architecture.
The city of Jaipur is known as “The Pink City” after the city was painted pink in 1876 to welcome Price Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, and is a famous tourist attraction in India. One could call the ancient city of Jaipur one of the famous landmarks in India but it’s the Jaipur City Palace that is the true historical monument.
Jaipur City Palace was built at the same time as Jaipur by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727 when he moved his court from Amber. It was designed and built by Indian architects Vidyadhar Bhattacharya and Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob but Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II also influenced the plans.
The architecture of the palace is quite amazing and features 7 gates, three large including the Tripolia Gate, Virendra Pol, and Udai Pol, and 4 small to symbolize the seasons. They are beautifully decorated and stunning to walk through.
Today the Jaipur City Palace is split in two with one part reserved as the royal residence and the other for the public to visit which also features a museum. At the museum, you can see two silver jars which are the largest silver vessels in the world as well as a collection of royal clothing, plus weapons, chariots, and coaches from the time.
The ancient temple of Mahabodhi sits in the northern Indian province of Bihar and is located in Bodh Gaya, just south of the main city of Patna. The Mahabodhi temple is one of the most important Buddhist temples in the world as it was built in the 3rd century BC and is one of the earliest Buddhist temples to exist.
The temple is one of the four holy sites connected to the life of Buddha and is commonly known as the ‘Great Awakening Temple’ as it’s believed that Gautam Buddha found enlightenment at the famous Bodhi Tree in the grounds.
It’s a hugely important templed in India’s culture and it’s thought that is as in the Mahabodhi Temple that Lord Buddha became the ninth and most recent incarnation of Lord Vishnu to come to earth.
When visiting the Mahabodhi Temple, you’ll have 5 acres to explore and will see multiple temple houses, a huge statue of Lord Buddha, and a courtyard covered with ancient stupas.
Another of the famous landmarks in India worth visiting is the Mysore Palace in the city of Mysore in the south Indian region of Karnataka.
Officially known as Mysuru Palace today, Mysore Palace was first built from wood in the 1300s and was the residence and seat of the royal family of Mysore, the Wodeyards from 1399 to 1950.
Since the 1300s, the wooden Mysore Palace, or old fort as it’s often referred to, burned down multiple times. It wasn’t until after it burned down in 1897 after a wedding that it was rebuilt out of stone which was completed in 1912.
The new palace and the Mysore palace you can see today has three stories built in an Indo-Saracenic style which features Muslim, Gothic, Hindu, and Rajput architectural styles. After independence, the Mysore Palace was turned into a museum of royal souvenirs including costumes, jewelry, paintings, and lots more.
It also plays host to the Mysuru Dasara festival every year where the place is fully lit up and thousands of people come to celebrate the victory of Truth over Evil for 10 days between September and October.
The Victoria Memorial Hall sits on the banks of the River Hooghly in the city of Kolkata in West Bengal. It’s a famous historical monument that was built in 1921 to commemorate Queen Victoria.
After Queen Victoria died in 1901, Lord Curzon suggested building a grand structure in her memory with a museum and gardens. They chose the then capital of India, Kolkata. In 1906, the Prince of Wales laid the foundations for the Victoria Memorial Hall and it wasn’t until 1921 that it was complete.
This famous landmark in India was built in the style of the Victoria Monument in London and is made from white marble with numerous architectural domes and is surrounded by stunning gardens. The entire memorial covers some 64 acres and is home to statues and sculptures including a 16-foot bronze statue that sits on top of the memorial.
Today you’ll find a museum inside the Victoria Memorial Hall that showcases remnants from the colonial times of India. Strolling around this famous historical monument is wonderful and it’s even prettier at night during the light and sound show that happens each evening.
The Khajuraho Temples are a group of ancient temples, both Jain and Hindu, that are found in the Chhatarpur district of the central region of Madhya Pradesh. These famous landmarks are extremely important in Indian culture.
The temples were built by the rules of Chandela during the 900s and 1000s and have attracted visitors from all over the world for many years. Each temple is covered with incredible carvings, sculptures, and the architecture is quite incredible, in a nagara style, especially when one considers the time in which they were built.
The main attraction of the Khajuraho temples is the impressively detailed karmic sexual sculptures that are all over the walls. They are believed to represent life and eroticism and do so by sculpting humans in many stages of life.
It’s not just what the sculptures represent but also how well done and amazingly artistic they are, showing the sculptors were well ahead of their time. Today, the Khajuraho temples are a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the landmarks in India you should visit if in the area.
One of India’s famous landmarks you might not have heard of is the Sun Temple in Konark, just near the shores of the Indian Ocean in the state of Orissa. It’s truly an amazing landmark to see and it’s right next to a wildlife sanctuary and the beach, so you can really make a day of it.
The Sun Temple was built in the 13th-century by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty and it’s an incredible piece of architecture, especially for the time. The Sun Temple is built in the shape of a huge chariot to mimic that of the chariot of the Sun God Surya. It has walls, pillars, and even Khondalite rock wheels.
It’s an incredible representation of Kalinga architecture and it was so meticulously designed that every morning when the sun rises the first rays of sun hit the main entrance. This makes perfect sense since it’s a Hindu place of worship dedicated to the Sun God.
The Sun Temple is a very famous tourist attraction in the state of Orissa and as you walk around it you can not help but be amazed at the design size, and the intricate details of the stone carvings that cover the entire ancient temple.
The ancient temple of Meenakshi is one of the most famous landmarks in India and one of the most renowned ancient temples in the country too. It was built in dedication to Meenakshi, the goddess who was married to Lord Shiva.
There are some 980 or more pillars all intricately sculpted around the temple that are in celebration of the beauty of the goddess Meenakshi. You’ll also find 14 gopurams with over 30,000 sculptures in the temple and a scene of Meenakshi’s wedding to Lord Shiva.
It’s not quite known when the Meenakshi Temple was built, but it’s believed to have existed in the 6th century and have been built under Nayak rule. It sits at the heart of the ancient temple city of Madurai on the south bank of the River Vaigai and is a place of Hindu Pilgrimage.
Also in Jaipur or “the pink city” is the Amer Fort which is also known as the Amber Palace or the Amber Fort. The Amer Fort is known as one of the grandest of palaces in India and is a prime example of Rajput architecture and a stunning sight to see.
The Amer Fort is one of the most distinctive landmarks as it sits on the top of the Aravalli Hills just 11 kilometers outside of Jaipur and overlooks the Maotha Lake in Amer. it was built in 1592 by a general of Emperor Akbar, Maharaja Man Singh.
It was built to be the residence of the Rajput Rulers while Amer was the capital of the Jaipur region. The Amer Fort is a huge building made from pink and yellow sandstone and is a wonder of architecture. It features serpentine stairs plus Hindu and Muslim elements.
Agra Fort is another one of India’s famous landmarks and it’s very near to the Taj Mahal, so you can visit bost of these distinctive landmarks in one easy trip from Delhi.
The Agra Fort was built between 1565–1573 and it covers an amazing 94 acres, so it’s more of a city with a wall around several buildings rather than just one fort. It was the primary residence for the Mughal Dynasty from the date it was built until around the mid 17th Century.
The Agra Fort is made from red sandstone, similar to the Red Fort we looked at earlier, and the deep red color of the walls is a delight to look at, particularly in the late afternoon sun. Inside are two mosques and multiple palaces, the most famous of which was built by Shah Jahan and is called Jahangir Palace.
It was made a UNESCO world heritage site and is a large part of Indian culture. While walking around you will be astounded by the 70-foot walls and the amazing architecture inside.
The Taj Mahal is without a doubt India’s most famous tourist attraction and often the famous landmark that comes to mind when anyone thinks about India.
You’ll find the Taj Mahal in the ancient city of Agra around an hour or two south of Delhi. It was commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a gift for Mumtaz Mahal, his wife, in 1648 and is made out of white marble and nothing else. It is seen as a monument to undying love thanks to the story of why it was built.
The Taj Mahal is truly an incredible feat of architecture and is named one of the seven wonders of the world and a protected UNESCO world heritage site. The building is huge and is famous for its symmetrical gardens, housing the tomb of Shah Jahan, a mosque, and a guest house.
Today, the Taj Mahal is a very important famous historical monument for the people of India and is deeply connected to Indian culture. It’s something you have to go and see while you’re in India.
Hawa Mahal which means Palace of Winds is a stunning palace that sits on the outskirts of the Jaipur City Palace and is one of India’s famous landmarks that should be visited when in the city.
Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh as a place for royal women to watch the daily life outside of the place walls taking place but without being seen. It was used mostly when festivals we occurring so that the royal ladies could observe.
Hawa Mahal was built in a pyramid shape in resemblance of Lord Krishna’s crown and features 5 stories over 15 meters and each storey would allow the royal women a different vantage point of what was happening in the city. There are 953 windows, a honeycomb facade, and it’s made of pink and red sandstone making it a truly beautiful building.
When visiting Hawa Mahal today you can see amazing views of the city, especially from the top floor and it’s fun to remind yourself that royal ladies once stood where you were standing to get a glimpse of normal life.
The Ajanta and Ellora Caves sit in western India in the province of Maharashtra some hours drive from Mumbai and are a very important archaeological landmark in India.
Between the two sites, Ajanta and Ellora, there are some 63 caves that were crafted by hand between the second century BC and sixth century AD (Ajanta) and sixth century AD and the 11th century AD (Ellora).
They are one of the best examples of ancient rock architecture all over the world and are covered with paintings and sculptures.
The Ajanta caves are all dedicated to Buddhism while the Ellora caves are dedicated to a mixture of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jain. In one of the Ellora caves, which is larger than the Parthenon, you’ll find the ancient Kailasa Temple which was dedicated to Lord Shiva and it features Mount Kailasha, his sacred home.
The size of the caves is out of this world and the fact they were hand-carved so long ago is just astounding. You’ll also find amazing sculptures such as a life-size elephant as you wander around them.
The Qutub Minar is a 73-meter tower that is dedicated to victory and is a very important historical monument for Indian culture. It was built in 1193 by Qutb al-Din Aibak after the last Hindu kingdom in Delhi was defeated, hence why it signifies victory and holds so much cultural relevance.
Qutub Minar tower is built from layers starting with red sandstone at the base and slowly working up to sandstone and marble. You can see the color change from the outside as you look up and across its 15 meters diameter.
It features 5 different stories across 73 meters and each one has its own balcony. It doesn’t just signify victory but also holds the first-ever mosque built in India at its base, called the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, a major turning point for Islam in India.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!