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13 great leisure cities to visit in India

As we move into 2021, we unveil a new selection of 13 great leisure cities to visit in India. Holding unexpected surprises, these cities are vibrant hubs of culture, knowledge, tradition, and commerce.

13 great leisure cities to visit in India
13 leisure cities to visit in India

Being from the corporate world, you always remain on your toes. From state to state, city to city, you crisscross the country exploring new business opportunities and ties.

And, if you thought a business trip is only about clinching corporate deals and winning over your clients, think again! You are missing something – a chance to relish the distinct leisure attractions of the cities that play host to your crucial business meets and presentations.

To enable you to savour the quintessence of different leisure cities in India during your business trips Today’s Traveller comes up with the distinct flavours of 13 Leisure cities to visit in India.


A popular heritage city in Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho makes you witness varied shades and colours of life. Though capturing different human moods through their magnificent sandstone sculptures, the Khajuraho group of temples best reflect love and eroticism. The world-famous temples, designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, were built by the Chandela Rajputs. Of the 85 original temples in the group, today, only 22 temples stand tall surviving the ravages of time.

The exquisite and intricate sculptures depict numerous deities, their attendants and celestial maidens. Broadly, the temples of Khajuraho are divided into three geographical groups—Western, Eastern and Southern. The Western group comprises the largest of the Khajuraho temples, Kandariya Mahadev.

As many as 900 sensuous and vibrantly alive figurines depicting dancers, musicians and erotic groupings adorn the walls of the Kandariya Mahadev. Another magnificent temple that draws tourists in large numbers is Chitragupta. The temple, dedicated to the Sun god, is embellished with sculptures reflecting the lavish lifestyle of the Chandela courts.


A visit to Panaji, also known as Panjim is full of charm. With a river flowing along one side of the city, the undulating topography is dotted with low-rise and red-roofed buildings, and even a Latin Quarter at the eastern end of the town.

panjii 13 great leisure cities to visit in India

True to its character, Panaji is becoming a global cultural hub where creativity flourishes. Put on your walking shoes and walk down the alleys of Panaji enjoying the arresting Portuguese architecture. Visit the Panjim church, heritage houses around Altinho, The Goa state museum, Central Library, the oldest public library in India and the Maruti and Mahalaxmi Temples. Pay a visit to the green islands across the river which you can reach in just a few minutes as you cross on the car ferry and enjoy beautiful serene views.

One of the most popular river cruises in India, the Mandovi River Sunset cruise sails up and down the river, with a cheerful band, a cool breeze and dancing revellers. There is also a floating restaurant that has come up.

The Miramar beach is a stone’s throw and it is wonderful to lie on the white sands, a cool breeze in your hair as you hear the waves lap the shores and watch the iron ore barges make their way in the distance.

For bird watchers, the city has a dream prepared for you…the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary on the western tip of the Chorao Island, along the Mandovi river. An estuarine mangrove habitat it is rich in flora and fauna and there are many species of migratory birds visiting the sanctuary from as far as Siberia.


For any Indian city, it’s hard to rival Bhubaneswar’s cultural heritage. The city’s rich and colourful heritage gets best reflected in its ancient temples that are nothing less than architectural wonders.

Some of the city’s magnificent temples that would catch your fancy include Mukteswar Temple, Lingaraj Temple, Rajarani Temple and Brahmeswar Temple. The graceful sculptures and intricate figures on the walls of these temples attract culture vultures from different corners of the country.

Bhubaneswar derived its distinct cultural vibrancy, primarily, by serving as a kingdom of ancient rulers. It was in Bhubaneswar where the Odishan-style temple building activities first attained prominence. Enriching the city’s culture scape is the world-famous classical dance, Odissi, which originated in this Odisha’s capital city.


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Mysore Palace

Next time you happen to be in Mysore on a business trip, do take the time to explore its royal lineage, best manifested by the numerous palaces the city possesses.

Tagged as a city of palaces, Mysore offers you interesting insights into the royal world of the bygone era. If you don’t have much time to go about exploring all the palatial palaces in the city, make Mysore Palace your sole destination.
An ode to the regal past of the city, the Mysore Place bedazzles you with its ornate ceilings, jewelled corridors, lavish paintings, stained glass windows and a jewelled throne.

You can also set out on a royal journey of exploring other palaces, including Karanji Vilasa, Vasantha Mahal and Rajendra Vilas. Some of the major palaces in Mysore have been transformed into government offices and hotels.


If you deem waterfalls among nature’s most prized bounties, you’ll get them in plenty in Jharkhand’s capital city, Ranchi. A number of picnic spots have been developed around Ranchi’s waterfalls.

hindru falls 13 great leisure cities to visit in India
Hundru Falls

Some of the picturesque falls that draw tourists in hordes from different parts of the country include Hundru, Jonha, Dassam and Panch Gagh. At the Hundru Falls, the Subarnarekha river falls from a height of 320 feet.

The pools at the bottom of the falls are favourite picnic and bathing spots. The picturesque surroundings of Jonha Falls can be best savoured by descending around the 500 steps here. At the Dassam Falls, the Kachni river falls from an altitude of 144 feet. The Panch Gagh Fall consists of five streams, formed in a row due to the breaking up of the Banai river, which falls from a good height.


Tagged as the `city of lakes ’, Udaipur will make you fall in love with calm waters, thanks to its enchanting lakes that lend a magical touch to the picturesque beauty of this Rajasthan’s royal city.

the lake palace 13 great leisure cities to visit in India
Pichola Lake

Some of the most beautiful lakes that would transport you to an entirely different world of serenity include Pichola Lake, Udai Sagar Lake, Fateh Sagar Lake, Rajsamand Lake and Jaisamand Lake.

Located in the heart of the city, Pichola Lake is the oldest of all the lakes in the city. Boat rides in Udaipur’s lakes and watercourses are a tourists’ delight. During the rides, you get to savour the fabulous views of the mountains and the picturesque beauty that surround the lakes.


In Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, you get the extra advantage of enjoying the bounties of nature while `living on the water’, thanks to the shikaras (traditional houseboats) that are characteristic of the city.

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Shikara on Dal Lake, Jammu & Kashmir

These shikaras are decorated fancifully and named romantically. Offering all the conveniences of a hotel, houseboats bob on the famed Dal Lake and other enchanting water bodies. You get a lifetime experience when a shikara takes you along the backwaters of the Dal Lake, past tall trees, bushes and narrow tracks. On the way, as you observe the crimson sky being lit by the colours of the setting sun, you feel like getting transported into a different world that is hard to put into words.


The city of Nizams, Hyderabad, is a treasure trove of architectural marvels. You get to witness some of India’s most authentic and majestic displays of architectural works in Hyderabad’s forts, palaces, and religious centres.

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Chow Mohalla Palace

From exploring the city’s rich architectural legacy, head to the Paigah Tombs, a stunning fusion of Islamic and Rajputana styles of architecture with hints of Persian, Turkish and Greek art forms. Visit the Chow Mohalla Palace, designed in Mughal and European styles of architecture; Birla Mandir, carved from all pure-white marble; Mecca Masjid, the country’s second-largest mosque famed for its single slab granite columns and arches; Golconda Fort, which artistically blends Hindu and Mulsim architectural patterns; or the Charminar, a protected monument famous for its minarets and Arabic-style architecture.


So, you always believed you aren’t faint-hearted? Why not put it to the test at Rishikesh?

dandeli kali river rafting 2 13 great leisure cities to visit in India

You just need to tame the wild waters and ride over the tumultuous currents while rafting at the Ganges here and let others rate your strength.

Branded as India’s white water rafting capital, Rishikesh attracts adventure-seekers from all corners of the country. With the Ganges here gushing down from the icy height of the Himalayas and bursting into white water rapids, Rishikesh serves as the perfect spot for rafting and a host of exciting water-based activities.


If you want to go beyond materialistic pleasures in pursuit of inner peace, come to Gaya, a prominent Buddhist pilgrimage city in Bihar.

Here, Lord Buddha attained the supreme enlightenment under a banyan tree, famous as the Bodhi Tree. Standing in close proximity to the tree is the Mahabodhi Temple. Inside the temple, in the main sanctum, there’s a colossal statue of the Lord Buddha in sitting posture.

The entire courtyard of the temple is studded with a large number of stupas of varied shapes and sizes. The ancient railings that surround the temple are of the First Century BC.


If Gandhian thoughts and principles have inspired you, it’s your turn to know the Mahatma from close quarters. And, for it, choosing Ahmedabad, which for many years remained as the centre of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent struggle, as your base would be the right option. Visit the Gandhi Smarak to get a sense of Bapu’s life and other persons who had worked closely with him. The small museum also houses a library of Gandhian literature and paintings, and an archive of letters written by Gandhi.


Punjab’s Amritsar city holds a special significance for Sikhs, for the holiest of all Sikh gurudwaras, Golden Temple or Harimandir Sahib, is situated here.

HarmandirSahib Gateway 13 great leisure cities to visit in India
The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple was designed by Guru Arjan Sahib, the fifth Sikh Guru. Made of white marble overlaid with a gold leaf, the temple stands in the centre of Amrit Sarovar, a pool of freshwater. The water of the pool is believed to have curative properties.

The nightly ritual of moving the Guru Granth Sahib from the temple to the neighbouring Akal Takht building in a golden palanquin is worth watching. For coming face to face with the divinity, you can also visit other gurudwaras like Goindwal Sahib, Tarn Taran and Khadur Sahi.


Dalhousie, situated in western Himachal Pradesh, is one of the country’s ideal places to soak in the great outdoors.Nestled in the Chamba District at an altitude of 1970 meters above sea level, this township is built on five hills—Kathlog, Patreyn, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun. Dalhousie, primarily, derives its charming colonial atmosphere from the fact that it is named after the British General, Lord Dalhousie and was built as a summer retreat.

Its colonial heritage includes ancient Victorian and Scottish architecture which can be enjoyed across the town, as well as numerous churches like St. Andrew’s Church, St. Patrick’s Church, St. John’s Church and St. Francis Church, belonging to the 1800s. You can enjoy the flavour of ancient temples, rich Rajput and Mughal heritage, local culture and cuisine as well as local handicrafts. Just one kilometre out of town is Khajjiar which offers a small gem of a lake and where adventure activities such as trekking and zorbing are available. You can take a trek to the Dainkund Peak, which offers a panoramic view of the mountains around.

Take in a quick trek to Satdhara Falls which has therapeutic waters and overlooks beautiful vistas of the Chamba Valley. It is surrounded by thick green deodar and pine forests, not to mention the snow-capped mountain ranges beyond. Drive to the Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary which has wonderful views of snow-capped mountains and is a treasure trove of the great outdoors… white water streams, rich wildlife, verdant grasslands and deep deodar forests.

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