Few words are capable of describing the sheer size, diversity and beauty of India. The varied cultures, cuisines, politics, histories and architectures that exist within this single behemoth would take a lifetime to understand fully – a vacation simply cannot do the region justice. Within minutes of touching down in Delhi, this became painfully apparent. After weeks of scratching only the surface of the country, I had planned up 20 return trips, each exploring a different region and facet with greater depth. That said it is a spectacular destination for even the quickest visit. The following pictures capture some of the highlights from the well-traveled northern circuit in January of 2013…

A trip to India would not be complete without paying homage to the Taj Mahal. I am often skeptical of the value of quick sightseeing trips, and was especially hesitant about the day trip to Agra from Delhi. I nearly made an enormous mistake – it was more spectacular than pictures can convey. The contrast between this tranquil love monument with the bustling streets of Agra is beyond the parameters of a single picture.

From Delhi and Agra, I moved north to Rishikesh – one of the alleged yoga capitals of India, nestled into the banks off the Ganges. A hike into the foothills of the Himalayas gave way to spectacular views of this town.

In the evenings, Indian and international tourists flock to the shores of the Ganges for Ganga Arathi, the candle lighting ceremony done in tribute to Shiva.

In stark contrast to the meditative state of Rishikesh is Jaipur, the epicenter for glamour and glitz. As the first planned city of India, and the home to the Maharaja, it is apparent that no expense was spared when developing “the Pink City”. Highlights in Jaipur include a tour of the five architecturally intricate stories of Hawa Maha, each lined with latticework offering privacy for royal women.

The larger-than-life astrological instruments found in the garden of Jantar Mantar offer insight into the insights and interests of former Emperors and Kings.

The city is otherwise interspersed with ornate palaces and the country’s best shopping…