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Top 12 Places to Visit in Uttar Pradesh

Top 12 Places to Visit in Uttar Pradesh

By CarolUpdated Oct. 17, 2022

Uttar Pradesh is internationally famous for its rich cultural heritage. Being the largest state in India, it is known to be the site of many important religious events, such as the birthplace of the Hindu deity Krishna and the place where Gautama Buddha died.

The state's best-known attraction is the Taj Mahal in Agra, which is one of the wonders of the ancient world. However, there are a lot of other attractions that are equally renowned, such as Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi and the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura.

Highlights

  • The Taj Mahal is Agra is an ivory-white mausoleum built by Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife Mumtaz.
  • Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is one of the 12 main temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • The Rumi Darwaza divides Lucknow into 'Old Lucknow' and 'New Lucknow'.
  • The Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna was born.
  • Sri Krishna Balaram Temple in Vrindavan is one of the main ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temples in India.

1. Agra

Recommended visiting time: 3–4 days

The city of Agra lies in the Indo-Gangetic Plain on the Yamuna River, located about 125 miles southeast of Delhi. The city was founded in the 16th century by Sikandar Lodi of the Lodi dynasty and served as the Mughal capital during some periods of that empire.

Agra is commonly referred to as the ‘Taj City’ as it is home to one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Taj Mahal. This ivory-white mausoleum was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz, and is considered to be the world’s best example of Mughal architecture.

Aside from the Taj Mahal, Agra is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of them is Agra Fort. The fort was built by Emperor Akbar in 1565 as a military structure and was later converted into a palace by Shah Jahan.

Perfect for: history lovers

Insider tip: When visiting the Taj Mahal and looking to hire a tour guide, be careful of fake guides as there are only 50 to 60 official ones.

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2. Varanasi

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 days

Varanasi is a city located on the left bank of the Ganges River. It is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and is also considered to be the world's oldest inhabited city. It is believed that anyone who dies in this city will be spared from the reincarnation cycle.

Most people visit Varanasi for spiritual purposes. One of the best things to do is to visit the city’s many ghats or steps leading down to the river. You can take a walk beside the river and watch life flow by. The most famous ones are Dashashwamedh Ghat and Darbhanga Ghat.

One of the city’s main attractions is Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Situated on the western bank of the holy Ganges River, it is one of the 12 main temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple features intricate carvings on its walls and 800 kilograms of gold plating on its tower.

Perfect for: people interested in culture

Insider tip: To visit the temple, men must wear a dhoti kurta and women must wear a sari.

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3. Lucknow

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Located roughly in the center of the state on the Gomati River, Lucknow is the capital and largest city in Uttar Pradesh. The people there are known for their friendly manners, which always leave a smile on the faces of its visitors.

Lucknow’s most famous attraction, the Rumi Darwaza, is a Mughal gateway built in the city’s center. It divides Lucknow into 'Old Lucknow', which is rustic, more crowded, and houses most of the Muslim population, and 'New Lucknow', which is urban and modern.

Located in ‘Old Lucknow’, Bara Imambara is a popular place of worship for Muslims who go there every year to celebrate the religious festival of Muharram. It is also a great example of Mughal architecture and believed to be the world's largest structure that is unsupported by beams.

Perfect for: people interested in architecture

Insider tip: Since there is a large population of Muslims in Lucknow, it is advised to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and long pants.

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4. Mathura

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Mathura falls into one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism as it is known as the birthplace of the Hindu God, Lord Krishna. The city lies in the Ganges-Yamuna Doab on the Yamuna River and is about 25 miles northwest of Agra.

The Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi is the city’s most famous tourist attraction as it is the place believed to be where Lord Krishna was born. The prison where he was born is now on display along with a temple filled with idols of the deity.

Considered to be one of the holiest temples in Mathura, Dwarkadhish Temple is famed for its elaborate architecture and paintings. The temple’s ceiling is adorned with paintings showcasing the various aspects of Lord Krishna's life. There is also a black-colored idol of the deity inside, which inspires peace.

Perfect for: people interested in culture

Insider tip: Dwarkadhish Temple is most vibrant during Janmashtami, which celebrates the birthday of Lord Krishna, occurring in August or September.

5. Vrindavan

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Vrindavan is situated on the west bank of the Yamuna River, just north of Mathura. The city is the sacred center of the Hindu deity Krishna as it is the place where Krishna spent his childhood.

Vrindavan is home to more than 5,000 temples dedicated to Krishna and his lover, Radha. The most famous one is Banke Bihari Temple. Built in the year 1864, the temple’s architecture reflects a classic Rajasthani design.

Sri Krishna Balaram Temple is one of the main ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temples in India. The temple was built in 1975 and the main deities there are Lord Krishna and his elder brother, Balarama. At the entrance to the temple complex, there is a shrine made of pure white marble.

Perfect for: temple lovers

Insider tip: The food in Vrindavan is purely vegetarian and often doesn’t include any onion or garlic.

6. Ayodhya

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Located on the banks of the Sarayu River, the city of Ayodhya is another one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism. It plays a central role in the Hindu tale of Ramayana as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama.

Temples fill almost every corner of the city. The Ramkot Temple is the main place of worship in Ayodhya. Perched on top of a hill, the temple attracts thousands of devotees every year, especially in March and April during the celebration of Lord Rama’s birthday, called Rama Navami.

Another important temple there is Nageshwarnath Temple. Believed to be built by King Kush, the son of Lord Rama, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva who was also known as Nageshwar Nath. The temple is also home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingas or devotional representations of Lord Shiva.

Perfect for: temple lovers

Insider tip: Since the nearest major airport is in Lucknow, Ayodhya is conveniently visited as a side trip from the state capital.

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7. Allahabad

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Allahabad, now officially known as Prayagraj, is situated at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and is located about 65 miles west-northwest of Varanasi. It is the second-oldest city in India and is famous for its Mughal architecture and British-era buildings and structures.

Triveni Sangam is arguably the city’s best attraction. It is the meeting point of the three most important rivers in Hinduism, which are the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati rivers. It is said that taking a bath in Triveni Sangam can wash away all your sins and free you from the cycle of rebirth. 

Allahabad Fort is another splendid structure built by Emperor Akbar in 1583, known as the largest fort he ever built. Featuring massive walls, towers, a temple, a large palace, and decorated with Hindu and Muslim artistry, the fort is sure to leave you in awe.

Perfect for: architecture and history lovers

Insider tip: Allahabad is also a foodie’s paradise with the presence of chaats, teas, kebabs, and sweets in many eateries.

8. Sarnath

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Sarnath is a peaceful and spiritual town set among the otherwise densely populated cities of Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the four most important destinations in the world for Buddhist pilgrimages as it is the place where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon.

The city is filled with Buddhist stupas, museums, excavated ancient sites, and beautiful temples. The most famous attraction is the Dhamek Stupa complex, which houses Dhamek Stupa, the spot believed to be where the Buddha delivered his first sermon.

After visiting Dhamek Stupa, you can visit Sarnath Museum next to the complex. There, you can view interesting artifacts dating from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD, including the Lion Capital of Ashoka, which is the national emblem of India.

Perfect for: culture lovers and spiritual people

Insider tip: Sarnath makes a peaceful and refreshing side trip from Varanasi.

9. Jhansi

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Jhansi lies at the very south in the Bundelkhand region and is located on the banks of the Betwa and Pahuj rivers. The city is an agricultural marketplace as it is well-connected to all other major towns in Uttar Pradesh by road and railway networks.

Located in the southernmost part of Uttar Pradesh, the Rani Mahal is an 18th-century palace that served as the former residence of the great Rani Laxmibai, the queen of Jhansi. It was renovated into a museum housing many artifacts from the 9th century.

You can also visit Jhansi Fort. Located at the top of Bangira Hill, the 17th-century fort was reconstructed after the First War of Independence against the British East India Company. You can visit the museum inside, which houses items such as weapons, clothes, and paintings from the Chandela Dynasty.

Perfect for: history lovers

Insider tip: Stay back during the evening to watch a light and sound show inside the fort.

10. Kanpur

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Kanpur is one of the largest cities in Uttar Pradesh, situated on the banks of the Ganges River and about 45 miles southwest of Lucknow. It is also the state's industrial capital, known for its chemical, textile, and leather industries.

Juggilal Kamlapat Temple, popularly known as JK Temple, is a unique temple in Kanpur. It features both ancient and modern architectural aesthetics. The beauty of the temple is supported by extensive pavilions, decorated high ceilings, ponds, and garden areas surrounding it.

Kanpur Zoological Park, also known as Allen Forest Zoo, entertains its visitors with a picturesque landscape, lush vegetation, and a beautiful lake. You can see several rare species of plants and animals, such as white tigers, leopards, black bears, grizzly bears, sloths, zebras, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses.

Perfect for: history and animal lovers

Insider tip: Shoes and photography are not allowed inside JK Temple.

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11. Kushinagar

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Kushinagar is another one of the four most important pilgrimage sites in the world. This town, located in the Kushinagar district, is believed to be where Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana, which is nirvana after death, implying that the Buddha was released from the endless cycle of rebirth.

Kushinagar’s most famed attraction is Parinirvana Stupa. This Buddhist temple is said to be where Gautama Buddha died. Inside, you can see a reclining statue of the Buddha which is 6 meters long and made of monolith red sandstone.

Another place to visit is Matha Kuar Shrine. Located approximately 400 yards from Parinirvana Stupa, the shrine houses a giant statue of Buddha, which is 3 meters tall and carved out of a single block of bluestone brought from the Gaya region in Bihar.

Perfect for: spiritual people

Insider tip: The nearest airport to Kushinagar is Gorakhpur Airport.

12. Hastinapur

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Located on the banks of the Ganges River in the Meerut district, Hastinapur is believed to be where the Mahabharata War was fought between the Pandavas and Kauravas. Hastinapur is also an important place for the Jain community for being the birthplace of three Jain tirthankaras or spiritual teachers.

The most visited attraction there is Old Pandeshwar Temple. Located in the ruins of the old city, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Above the temple is a hill that houses an idol of Goddess Kali. From the hill, you can get an amazing view of Hastinapur and its surroundings.

Karna Temple is another temple in Hastinapur dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple houses a Shiva lingam, or representation of Lord Shiva, which was said to be established by Karna, one of the major characters in the epic Mahabharata.

Perfect for: history lovers

Insider tip: The best time to visit Hastinapur is during the winter months from December to February.

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Want to visit Uttar Pradesh but don’t know how to plan a trip there? Contact Asia Highlights — our experts can help you make an itinerary to recommended places that best fit your schedule and preferences.

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