The first thing that often comes to mind when we think of an Indian holiday is the Taj Mahal. However, there’s much more to this stunning and exciting country. We have put together our top five favourite places to explore for the first-time visitor.

Perched upon temple-dotted riverbanks in the heart of central India, Hampi is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes that the sub-continent has to offer. Surrounded by mountains of enormous boulders, Hampi offers a range of outdoor activities from rock climbing to exploring secret waterfalls and river bends. Amble down to the river at sunrise to watch Lakshmi the temple elephant bathe from the ornate Ghats, or climb Anjaneya Hill to watch the sunset with the cheeky monkeys.

Nicknamed ‘The Golden City’ due to the way that its sandstone walls shimmer in the setting sun, the fort city of Jaisalmer looks like a mirage against its stark desert surroundings. Admire the intricate Jain temples from the royal palace balcony and learn about the former medieval trading centre’s history, which is bloody enough to give Game of Thrones a Run for its money! You can also embark on a camel trek into the alien desert landscape to sleep under the stars, visit small villages and lounge in shady oases.

Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh is the perfect place to take a breather during your Indian adventure. With The Beatles choosing this riverside town to learn the art of meditation, it isn’t surprising that Rishikesh is now commonly referred to as the yoga capital of the world. Wander through the wild ruins of The Beatles ashram, enjoy a chai tea by the banks of the crystal clear Ganges or find your inner zen in one of the many yoga classes that run daily.

A trip to India wouldn’t be complete without visiting lively Varanasi. One of the world’s oldest living cities, Varanasi is one of India’s most important spiritual centres. Visit the famous golden temple, take a sitar lesson, watch the riverside ceremonies at sunset or weave through the old town’s winding cobbled streets to sample the range of delicious cuisines on offer. Regardless of what time of year it is there always seems to be something exciting happening in beautiful Varanasi!

While Goa is one of India’s tourist hotspots, its southern cousin Gokarna is a sleepy beach town with lush forests and pristine coastlines. Hike through beautiful tropical scenery or catch an auto rickshaw to Om beach and enjoy a classic south Indian breakfast in a cafe overlooking the ocean. From here, and for a small fee, you can pay a guide to take you on a lazy boat tour to the picture-perfect Half Moon beach.