This northern heartland is home to India's most famous monument, the Taj Mahal. It is also the hotbed of Ayurveda, yoga, heritage, refinement and pilgrimage.

In more ways than one, Uttar Pradesh ( or simply UP)is the heart of India. The state commands the sprawling northern plains, and the Ganga- India's holiest river- flows through. Here lies the Taj- India's biggest tourist draw. The state has also dominated the national political scene, supplying many of India's Prime Ministers.


One of India's finest cities, Lucknow is northern India,s city of high culture. Under the rule of the Nawabs of Awadh, art, culture and cuisine flowered here.The architectural achievements of the Nawabs include the Bara Imambara (its central hall is the largest vaulted chamber in the world).

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Interested in ancient systems of living and healing .UP is the place. Between October and March, three different international yoga festivals are held in UP annually. For visitors short on time, 1- day initiation and 3-day appreciation courses are available.


Heritage remains the biggest draw. The medieval city Agra houses the glorious Taj Mahal. On the banks of the river Yamuna, Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj in memory of his beloved queen MumtajMahal. The Taj has just turned 350, and is looking good. In fact, 2004-05 had been earmarked the International Year of the Taj. The Agra Fort, built in 1565 AD, houses a number of exquisite buildings, including the Moti Masjid, Diwan-e-Aam, Diwan-e- Khaas and Musamman Burj. Perched atop a rocky ridge 37km west of Agra is FathepurSikri, the first planned city in the Indo- Islamic architectural tradition.


The leela (exploits) of Lord Krishna was played out in the Mathura- Vrindavan region- an area known traditionally as 'Braj Bhoomi'. If you're lucky, you'll make it to Vrindavan for the spring festival of Holi, celebrated here with an abandon seen nowhere else.

Another holy city is Varanasi, one of India's oldest, with fine temples, serpentine streets and a mesmerizing riverfront.

Allahabad is set at the holy confluence of rivers Ganga and Yamuna, and is one of the venues of the Kumbha Mela.

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[a] Bundelkhand - the Heritage Trail :- This tour takes in Jhansi, Deoghar, Mahoba, Chitrakoot and Kalinjar. Jhansi's fort is associated with the fiery queen LaxmiBai. Due south, Deoghar boasts an impressive cluster of Jain temples. Kalinjar's ancient and mighty fort long fended off incursions from the north. Mahoba grows some lovely betel leaf. Last on this trail is the quaint pilgrim town of Chitrakoot, where Lord Rama spent a sizable chunk of his 14- year exile. Don't miss the evening aarti at the ghats here.

[b] In the Steps of the Buddha :- There are many sites in UP associated with the Buddha- Sarnath, Kapilavastu, Shravasti, Kausambi, Sankisa. At Sarnath, Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon and at Kushinagar, Lord Buddha delivered his last sermon and breathed his last.

[c] Nawabi Splendour :- Take a plunge into the high life of the Nawabs through Lucknow and its environs. Ride a boat down the Gomti, tuck into Awadh's rich breads and succulent kebabs and then head out to Faizabad, Ayodhya and Kanpur. Dudhwa National Park, 238 km from Lucknow, has some great wildlife.

[d] Agra- Braj Circuit -Land of Love :- The architectutral glory of the Mughals and the playground of Lord Krishna have been well wedded in this tour. Both signify the spirit of love.

[e] Varanasi- Vindhya Circuit :- This circuit along the banks of the Ganga in eastern UP brings you the yoga experience at Varanasi and Allahabad. Then there are the Kaimoor and Chandraprabha sanctuaries. Vindhyachal, 70km from Varanasi, boasts sacred haunts, silver rivers, prehistoric sites, ancient temples, forts and scenic environs.

UP's popularity as a tourist destination continues to grow. Last year and additional 60 million tourists visited it. The Taj is the jewel in UP's crown but there are many other surprises in store.

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