Travel in India
With India's rich religious and cultural history, a tour of the country is rarely complete without a visit to at least one sacred Hindu site or Buddhist temple. Religious tourism is popular in India, where visitors can take tours and make pilgrimages to many sites easily accessible by air or railway and near lodging or accommodation options. The best time for a visit is in the winter (December to February) due to the season's milder climate.
Bodhgaya is perhaps best known as the place Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. Because of this distinction the site is popular with devotees of Buddhism as well as other tourists. UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site. Bodhgaya sits in the state of Bihar and its primary attraction is the Mahabodhi Temple, built near the exact spot where Buddha is said to have attained Nirvana. The Buddhist Emperor Ashoka built the temple 250 years after Buddha's life-changing experience at the site where you can find a gigantic statue of Buddha inside the temple said to be 1,700 years old. The complex includes the famous Bodhi Tree, and the present tree is a descendant of the original Bodhi tree where Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment. Tourists and devotees who visit Bodhgaya can find accommodations in the surrounding neighborhood, and the place itself has its own international airport. Getting to Bodhgaya is also convenient via the road network and railway system.
Varanasi, also known as Benares and Kashi, is one of the world's oldest cities, surviving for more than 3,000 years right on the banks of the sacred Ganges River. Home to many devotees of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, its mythical and religious value comes from the belief that it is the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati who made it their home at the beginning of time. Temples fill this city famous for Benares Gharana, a school of Indian music that originated here. A visit to Varanasi would is not be complete without a dip in the holy river Ganges and visits to its temples such as Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Nepali Temple, which is famous for its woodwork. Varanasi is a major cultural and spiritual center where Ayurveda and other modern sciences such as plastic surgery and cataract operations originally developed. Since Varanasi has long been popular with tourists, getting to and from the city is no problem. In addition to daily domestic flights, railways connect the city to other major metropolises such as Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Accommodation options are abundant in Varanasi.
The Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib, in Amritsar in Punjab is famous not only for its religious relevance but also for its architecture---a mix of Hindu and Muslim designs especially prominent in its golden dome. Constructed in the 14th century, it is one of India's most popular religious spots. Considered one of the most sacred sites for the Sikh religion, the temple stands for the valor and honor of the Sikhs. Its four doorways on all sides symbolize the overall tolerance of Sikhism, which greets all four religions' worshippers--Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism--with open arms. Completed in 1601, the temple's most holy part is the Hari Mandir or Divine Temple, which is the golden structure at the center of a large body of water. Its design uses white marble encrusted with precious stones and verses from the holy book of the Sikhs decorate the structure. The temple's staff also feeds 35,000 people a day for free in the dining hall, inviting everyone and turning away no one in this communal sharing of food. International visitors can secure accommodations in the complex for a minimal fee, and the complex sets aside 400 rooms to Sikh pilgrims free of charge.