Nothing says India quite like a wedding. In scenic hotspots around the country, you’ll recognize new brides by their hennaed hands and tinkling red bangles. With fireworks, white horse-drawn chariots, and guest lists numbering in the thousands, Indian weddings are affairs to remember. Celebrations can last for days, culminating in the all-important honeymoon—join the bands of blushing newlyweds at these romantic storybook locales, and celebrate the launch of your own love story.
It is no surprise that picture-perfect Goa, a former Portuguese colony, attracts legions of honeymooners each winter. With its swaying, fringed palms and Old World decor, it makes a heavenly backdrop to celebrate young love—or at least, a young marriage.
Be prepared, the state’s beach scene is divided into two distinct districts: North Goa attracts a rowdier, party-goer crowd, while South Goa is geared more towards couples and families. Unless you’re hoping to spend your honeymoon clubbing—and there’d be nothing wrong with that—you’ll probably want to head south. Rent a hut along the white sands of quiet, secluded Agonda, or join the bustle of sunbathers in cheerful, romantic Colva.
But Goa offers more than a coastline. History buffs and art lovers will find much to savor in Velha Goa, or Old Goa, the colony’s original 15th-century capital, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Daydream by picturesquely crumbling baroque cathedrals, like powder-white Se Cathedral or the imposing Basilica of Bom Jesus, which contains an art museum, and watch fishermen haul in the catch of the day along the sun-kissed Mandovi River.
The name might make you think it’s geared more to kids than adults, but the Kalka-Shimla toy train offers a uniquely scenic and atmospheric trip through the mountains along a route established in 1898 for Brits escaping the blistering heat of the plains. It’s now one of only four mountain railways in India, all protected as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Chug through deodar forests, across sloping stone bridges, and up fog-covered mountains toward the one-time summer capital of the British Raj. Luxury versions of the classic locomotive even offer private compartments with attached bathrooms and meals.
Arrive at the mountain hill station of Shimla (7,500 ft), where you can walk through misty evergreen pine forests and enjoy sunrise views of the surrounding peaks. Rent a wooden cabin for a true nature immersion, and reenact your favorite Bollywood song sequences by riding horseback through the Himalayan foothills.
Enjoy the fusion of British and Indian heritage. The Viceregal Lodge, built in 1888, was once the ornate, fortress-like residence of the British Viceroys. Perched on Shimla’s second highest point, it makes for a stunning photo op.
“If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here,” the Persian poet Jami once famously said of Kashmir.
It’s not hard to see how the landscapes could inspire poetry. In spring, the valley blooms with colorful wildflowers while puffy clouds laze over rolling green hills. Love is in the air: In the capital of Srinagar, the 17th-century gardens of Shalimar Bagh— meaning “Abode of Love” in Sanskrit—were completed by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal as a monument to his wife.
Wander through scented gardens, feast on flavorful, Mughal-inspired dishes, and explore surrounding hill stations like mountainous Gulmarg, a well-known skiing spot in winter. Or just watch the mountains reflected in the surface of Dal Lake, where you can rent a floating houseboat and doze peacefully overlooking the serene and lily-covered waters.
It’s not every day that you can stay as a guest in a bonafide palace. But in Rajasthan’s dreamy “City of Lakes,” Mewar royal residences have been converted into luxury hotels. So you can indulge in a bit of regal comfort with a honeymoon plucked from another age.
With ornate interiors and eager-to-please attendants, you’ll live as decadently as Udaipur’s past rulers. Enjoy candlelit, multi-course meals served lakeside on soft, cushioned beds, while a full panorama of the city twinkles below.
Sometimes compared to Venice, the floating, waterside city of Udaipur is also an arts hub and a popular venue for catching traditional Rajasthani music. If you can manage to wrest yourself away from your palatial digs, try to squeeze in a live cultural performance with dancing, puppetry, or folk songs.
These days, India might seem a bit more buttoned up when it comes to matters of the heart—or more importantly, the bedroom (until recently, Bollywood romances even had a ban on kissing). But this 10th century Jain and Hindu temple complex in the central state of Madhya Pradesh shows that the Chandela kingdoms of the past did not share the same taboos.
Though erotic sculptures make up only a small part of the temple carvings, the voluptuous, cavorting figures, posed in elaborate and blush-worthy tantric tableaus, are by far the most famous artworks on display.
The fragrantly detailed carvings have a higher spiritual purpose, however, and scholars have suggested that the lascivious couplings represent our own unions with the divine. You can draw your own conclusions. Either way, the UNESCO World Heritage site is well worth a visit.
It might not be the most original choice, but this iconic site deserves every bit of its fame. In 1632, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the gleaming marble mausoleum to entomb his beloved second wife, a Persian princess. Twenty-two years later, using tens of thousands of stonecutters and craftsmen to carve and paint his vision to life, the Taj Mahal was finally completed.
Its origins might seem a tad macabre for a honeymoon, but the domed love palace, with its tidy fountains and romantic gardens, continues to enchant and inspire. And what better way to celebrate one’s lifelong vows than by touring a monument to eternal spousal devotion?
Agra is a pretty unassuming town apart from the Taj, so most tourists come in as day trippers. But you can also work in a visit to the nearby ruins of Fatehpur Sikri, a 16th century walled Mughal city—not quite as swoon-worthy, but no less spectacular.