Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh, a large state in central India, retains landmarks from eras throughout Indian history. Begun in the 10th century, it’s Hindu and Jain temples at Khajuraho are renowned for their carvings of erotic scenes, most prominently Kandariya Mahadeva, a temple with more than 800 sculptures. The eastern Bandhavgarh and Kanha national parks, noted Bengal tiger sanctuaries, offer guided safaris.

The spotlight doesn’t hit Madhya Pradesh (MP) with quite the same brilliance as it does on its more celebrated neighboring states, which is why it rewards travelers with unparalleled opportunities to detour from the tourist trail and delve into India’s heartland.

Khajuraho’s temples boast some of the finest stone carvings in India, these exquisite erotic sculptures a mere slice of architectural wonder in a region blessed with palaces, forts and stupas, the former most gloriously prominent in the postcard-perfect village of Orchha. Tigers are the other big attraction, and your chances of spotting a wild Royal Bengal in MP’s national parks are as good as anywhere in India.

Laid-back traveler havens like Maheshwar and Omkareshwar display the spiritual, scenic, and chill-out flavors for which India is renowned, while the adventurous can foray into tribal Chhattisgarh, which split from Madhya Pradesh in 2000 and remains fascinatingly far removed from mainstream Indian culture.