Indian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and has been ruled by several dynasties and kingdoms throughout its history. No wonder India has a rich culture and heritage and is one of the world’s archaeological gems.

There are a plethora of heritage cities in India to visit and each city has a story of its own. In bygone times, these cities were centres of learning, tradition, knowledge, trade and commerce. Whether you are a native of India or a foreigner, visiting any of these places will give you an insight into India’s ancient civilization and its glorious past. While there are plenty of cities in India with ancient civilization, here are Top 6 picks.

1) Varanasi

Varanasi, also popularly known as Benaras or Kashi is in Uttar Pradesh state, Northern India. It is located on the left bank of Ganga river and is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism. Varanasi is one of the first Aryan settlements along the banks of the Ganges. It is known for being the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi was a seat of Aryan philosophy and religion by the 2nd century BC and was also an industrial and commercial centre.

Varanasi is sacred to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddha is known to have given his very first sermon here in 528 BC.


Some of the top reasons to visit Varanasi are:

  • Aarti on the banks of the Ganges. This is a mesmerizing event and can also be viewed from a boat.
  • There are several temples as old as 1000 years in Varanasi. These temples are not only religious hotspots but are also a testament to the archeological prowess of early Indian civilization.
  • Varanasi was the industrial centre of exceptional woodwork and hand loom and muslin works. Varanasi is also home to the Banarasi sarees which are famous throughout the world.
  • Sarnath, another holy place, is located just 10 km from Varanasi. Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon here after his enlightenment.

2) Hampi

Hampi is an ancient village in South India and is popular for its stone temples and ruins. These ruins belong to the medieval Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagara and in today’s times Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


In the ancient times, Hampi was one of the wealthiest and flourishing cities of India. Merchants from Portugal and Persia traveled to Hampi for trade and commerce. The Hindu style of architecture found at Hampi is a reflection of the splendor, magnificence and grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire. The rugged and arid landscape also adds to the historic ambiance of this site and makes this place simply stunning.

Some of the top reasons to visit this place are:

  • The architectural wonders of the ancient and beautiful temples.
  • To get a beautiful view of sunrise and sunset over ancient ruins.
  • To learn interesting facts about ancient architecture, sculptures and culture of Vijayanagar empire.
  • To enjoy a trek to Matunga and Anjuna Hills.
  • To relax and enjoy near the picturesque Sanapur Dam.
  • “Hampi utsav” which is held every year in first week of November. It is absolutely visual delight to see all the monuments lit up and a cultural extravaganza of dance and music.

3) Patna

Patna is one of the oldest living cities in the world and the city boasts of rich culture, heritage and patriotism. It is the capital of Bihar and is located on the banks of the river Ganga. Patna is the epicentre of several religions since the city was ruled by several dynasties. Every corner of this city exudes a historic charm and a dynamic blend of cultures- Buddhism, Jainism, Sufism, Sikhism and Hinduism.

Patna was known an “Pataliputra” during the Maurya empire and was the capital of the Magadha empire under the Haryanka, Nanda, Mauryan, Shunga, Gupta and Pala empires. Pataliputra was the centre of learning a fine arts. It was an abode for famous scholars and learners like Aryabhata, Vatsyayana and Chanakya.

During the Mauryan and the Gupta period , Patna was the hub of political, power and cultural centre of the Indian subcontinent. A very significant architectural site and a centre of learning is the “Nalanda University” in the ancient kingdom of Magadha. It was an ancient Mahavihara and a well-known Buddhist monastery. The University of Nalanda had acquired great fame and prestige in ancient times and contributed significantly to the emergence of India as a great power.


Patna had lost its glory with the fall of the Gupta Empire. The city was revived again in the 17th century during the British era as a center of international trade.

Some of the top reasons to visit this place are:

  • A visit to Golghar which is an architectural marvel in Patna. Its dome was built without the use of pillars and it measures around 29 meters in height.
  • A visit to Mahavir Mandir.
  • A trip to Patna Sahib Gurudwara, which is constructed on the site of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s birthplace.
  • A definite visit to see the ruins of the ancient Nalanda University and get a glimpse of the glorious past of the city.
  • The Patna Museum, which has over 20,000 historical and archaeological artifacts, including the fossil of a tree that is more than 200 million years.

4) Madurai

For over 2500 years Madurai has been a major center of trade and culture in Southern India. According to the writings of the great traveler Megasthenes, the town was the capital of the Pandya empire. It was then ruled by the Cholas, the Vijayanagaras, the Muslims, the Maratha and finally the British.

The entire town is built around the magnificent Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. Constructed in the 7th Century, the temple’s architectural splendor is one to behold. The temple was destructed by invasion and it was again completely rebuilt by the vijayanagaras. Inside the temple there are a 1000 majestic pillars supporting the structure along with a humungos water tank.


Madurai was a major economic hub and center for transportation and manufacturing of cotton, hand looms etc. It was also an early epicenter of early religious teachers and scholars for 100s of years.

Some of the top reasons to visit this place are:

  • Meenakshi Amman Temple and its 1000 Pillar Hall where Lord Shiva is rumoured to have performed the “Ananda Tandava” or dance of bliss.
  • Koodal Azhagar Temple is regarded as one of the Lord Vishnu’s 108 celestial abodes.
  • Gandhi Museum in Madurai provides an accurate account of the contributions of Indian freedom fighters in the struggle for independence.
  • Madurai is also known for its gourmet food and it is something that must be experienced.

5) Ayodhya

Located on the banks of the Sarayu river, Ayodhya is one of the most prominent centers of Hindu culture. Known as the birthplace of Lord Rama and the setting for the Hindu epic Ramayana. The city is believed to be over 9000 years old and if legends are to be believed, it was established by the Hindu God Manu.


It is not only a place of reverence to the Hindus but also the Muslims and for a time in ancient history to the Buddhists as well. There are many Buddhist monasteries and mosques as well. It later came under Mughal rule.

Ayodhya remains one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country.

Some of the top reasons to visit this place are:

  • Guptar Ghat, were Lord Rama is rumoured to have taken “Jal samadhi” by drowning himself.
  • Hanuman Garhi temple and it’s steep and majestic stairs.
  • Treta ka Thakur temple, the place were Lord Rama is supposed to have performed “Ashwamedha Yagya”.
  • Kanak Bhavan, the house that was gifted to Sita upon her marriage to Rama by Kaikeyi, Rama’s step mother.

6) Ujjain

Ujjain was one of the most important cities of middle India due to its religious significance to Hinduism. It is famously called the temple city of India. The city has been ruled by a number of prominent dynasties including the Mauryas, Nandas, Avantis and the Guptas. Influence of this can be seen in the many magnificent temple structures and their architecture.

Located on the banks of the river Shipra, it is considered to be one of India’s most holy places and it plays host to the Kumbh mela. It is famously called the Ujjain Simhastha Kumbh.


Some of the top reasons to visit this place are:

  • Home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the Mahakaleshwar Temple is one of the most famous Shiva temples in the world. It also has the only South facing or “Dakshin Mukhi” idol.
  • Kark Rajeshwar Temple located exactly on the Tropic of Cancer.
  • Shipra river. If Purana like Skanda Purana and Bhagwat Purana are to be believed, anyone who takes a dip in this river is rid of all their sins.
  • Siddhavat, an ancient Banyan tree rumored to be alive since the time King Vikramaditya meditated under its shade.
  • Ujjain has one of the most sought after cuisine in India.

All of these places are steeped in culture and are a testament to the supreme progress witnessed by the people of these cities and these ancient civilizations.