India in 2 weeks? How first-timers can pull it off
By Rajni George, CNN
7:32 PM EDT, Fri August 4, 2017
India's most beautiful places -- Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand: Discovered by a mountaineer in 1931, the valley -- hidden among the high Himalayan mountains with the Zanskar Ranges in the backdrop -- is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The valley comes alive with blossoms during hotter months. The best time to visit is between July and October. Click through the gallery to see more of India's most beautiful places.
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Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, Rajasthan: Built in 1799 as an extension of Jaipur's Royal City Palace,Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, was originally designed to allow royal women to see street scenes without being seen.
Adalaj Stepwell, Adalaj, Ahmedabad: The epitome ofIndo-Islamic architecture and design, Adalaj Stepwell is a five-story stepwell dating back to 1499. All the walls are intricately carved with patterns, such as flowers and birds, as well as mythological scenes.
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Agatti, Lakshadweep: Located 460 kilometers off the coast of Kochi, tiny Agatti Island is part of Lakshadweep -- India's smallest union territory. Its white sands, diverse coral reefs and turquoise waters make it the ultimate beach getaway, though tourists need to get a special permit to visit.
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Dal Lake, Srinagar: Known as the "jewel in the crown" of Indian-administered Kashmir, Dal Lake is a Srinagar must-visit. Lined by beautiful gardens and snowcapped mountains, the lake is best toured while riding a traditional wooden shikara, Srinagar's version of the gondola.
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Sam Sand Dunes, Jaiselmer, Rajasthan: Sam Sand Dunes, lying in the outskirts of Jaiselmer, is one of the most accessible parts of the Great Thar Desert -- or the Sahara of India. A camel-back tour during the golden hours -- either sunrise or sunset -- offers the best views and experience.
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Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu: Picturesque Kanyakumari -- formerly known as Cape Comorin -- sits at the tip of the Indian mainland in the far south. It's home to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, located offshore on a small rocky island and dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, a holy saint.
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Munnar, Kerala: Known for its rolling hills and tea plantations, Munnar is a serene hill station of India's southern state of Kerala. It's also home to Anamudi Peak, the highest peak in south India and the largest population of Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered sheep species.
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Lotus Temple, New Delhi: This elegant lotus-shaped temple has welcomed more than 70 million worshippers since its opening in 1986. It's one of several Bahá'í Houses of Worship, a religious center of the Baha'i Faith.
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Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh: No list of beautiful places in India would be complete without the Taj Mahal. The ivory marble mausoleum was built in the 1600s by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who is buried there alongside Jahan.
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Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi: Declared a World Heritage Site in 1993, the tomb is the final resting place of the 16th-century Mughal Emperor Humayun. It was India's first garden-tomb and inspired the building of other grand mausoleums in the country including the Taj Mahal.
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The Rock Garden, Chandigarh: Started as a secret projectby self-taught Indian artist Nek Chand Saini, the Rock Garden of Chandigarh is now a sprawling 40-acre park drawing visitors from all over the world. Built over the course of 18 years, the park is decorated with sculptures made using recycled industrial and urban waste.
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Hampi, Karnataka: The ruins of the last capital of the great Hindu Vijayanagara Empire remain a fascinating attraction today. Inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986, there are more than 1,600 remains in the Hampi complex including forts, temples, royal complexes and pillared halls.
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Basgo Monastery, Ladakh: With a humble mud-brick facade, Basgo Monastery isn't as popular as other monasteries in Leh. But those making an effort to visit will be treated with colorful wall murals from the 16th century and a 14-meter-tall copper idol of Maitreya Buddha. It's the oldest surviving religious structure of its kind.
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Qutb Shahi Heritage Park, Hyderabad: This collection of beautiful monuments is the resting place of the fearsome Qutb Shahi family, which ruled the Golconda Kingdom in southern India's Hyderabad region for 169 years in the 16th and 17th centuries. READ: New life for historic tombs of Hyderabad, India
Red Fort, New Delhi: A UNESCO World Heritage site, New Delhi's Red Fort was the main home of Mughal dynasty emperors for nearly 200 years. One of the city's most popular tourist attractions, it houses a number of museums.
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Sundarbans, West Bengal: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world and lies on a delta at the mouth of the Ganges River. It's spread across areas of West Bengal as well as Bangladesh.
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Chand Baori, Abhaneri, Rajasthan: With 3,500 steps in perfect geometric design, Chand Baori is one of the most beautiful stepwells in India. The 1,200-year-old site is open to local residents for a few hours every day.
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Bara Imambara, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: Built in 1784, Bara Imambara is an architectural marvel. It was constructed with an interlocking system of bricks -- without using any girders and beams. The massive arched hall is one of the largest in the world with a roof unsupported by any pillars. The top of the iconic landmark offers panoramic views of the city.
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Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab: Harmandir Sahib is a holy complex for Sikhs that includes the signature "Golden Temple," which sits in the middle of a large lake. Reflections of its gold-encrusted dome shimmer in the clear water of the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar), which greets those who enter from the north gate. READ: 6 ways to experience India's Punjab region
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Pangong Tso, Ladakh: It's not easy to visit Pangong Tso -- it's a rough five-hour drive from Leh and a permit is required. But the breathtaking views of the blue lake sitting at the base of the Himalayas make the journey worthwhile. The lake, spanning 134 kilometers and sitting at a height of 4,350 meters, is a natural border between China and India. MORE: India's best Himalayan escapes
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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is Mumbai's main railway station. First opened in 1888, it's considered a perfect example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture.
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Jodhpur, Rajasthan: Jodhpur's blue houses and the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort (in the backdrop) make Rajasthan's Blue City one of the most Instagrammable places in India.
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Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh: This wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is spread over 100 square kilometers and is home to more than 50 tigers. The park is open from October to June, but the best time to see tigers is from April to June.
Shimla, Himachal Pradesh: The former summer capital of British India, Shimla sits in the Himalayan foothills. With views like this, it's easy to see why it remains a popular vacation destination today.
Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu: Also called "Ooty" for short, the town of Udhagamandalam offers easy access to the Nilgiri hills, which are filled with coffee and tea plantations. One of the best ways to experience the region is by rail. The stunning Nilgiri Mountain Railway connects Ooty and Mettupalayam.
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