No, India is not a country, it’s a continent – with a spectacular mix of people, cultures and landscapes. It would not be wrong to say that this confusing and colourful land is a small Europe in itself. From snow-dusted peaks in the north to the sultry sun-washed beaches in far south – there is much to see here and plenty more to experience. Walk the streets of any Indian city and you’ll rub shoulders with people representing different traditions, following different cultures, speaking alien languages – while some turbaned, and other, having cute Mongolian faces. No wonder India is a country to be explored, and the best way to do it is by backpacking across its different states.
Many first-time visitors find themselves lost and often intimated by what may seem, a ludicrously bewildering place. But despite all the intractable paradoxes, criticism and frustrations they find themselves hopelessly attracted to the idea of travelling this confusing and muddled land again and again. You can love it, or you can hate it – but you definitely can’t escape it.
Travel Guides of different Indian states
More guides coming soon…
TOP PLACES TO SEE AND EXPERIENCES TO TRY IN INDIA
Meet the tribes of Northeast: The seven states that lie in the northeast region of India are rich in Tribal culture. A total of 25 different tribes live here – some of Mongolian origin, while others, lost Buddhists. If you’re into culture and history, visiting northeast can just be your thing.
Chill out in Andaman Islands: Andaman Islands is a cluster of nearly 300 islands in the India’s Bay of Bengal. Surrounded with coral reefs that support marine life, including sharks and rays, they offer a popular tourist place. You can be here to spend some relaxing time while experiencing the island life, or do some adventure sports like snorkelling, scuba diving and island camping.
Ruins of Hampi: About 7 hour journey from Bangalore takes you to the city of Hampi – a fantasy world of rocks and ruins. The town is all about an uncountable number of impressive long lost ruins (most of which are UNESCO world heritage sites), and banana plantations and paddy fields, surrounded by big/small size boulders, all perched on top of each other as far as the eye could go. Other than that, expect a lively atmosphere with a chilled out and a relaxing vibe – thanks to the many western hippies who end up staying here for weeks and months.
Visit Taj Mahal: During your time in India, you will stumble upon many Indians discouraging your every thought of visiting the Taj Mahal, as the city of Agra, where it is situated has quite a bad reputation, and has no other charm except for this wonder of the world. But I think visiting Taj Mahal, on a short one to two day trip is definitely worth it. Made of red sandstone with intricate marble work; and surrounded by Persian-inspired gardens, lined with trees, fountains, and a reflecting pool running down the centre – it is one of those works of genius that when you actually experience it in person you finally get it. The ticket for the Taj Mahal is 1000 Rupees for foreigners and 40 Rupees for Indians. Tip: Prices might fluctuate, at the time of your visit.
Experience bustling life in cities: Though you might hate it, but experiencing the crazy peak hour rush in Delhi metro or in a Mumbai local, as people run into each other, is something not to be missed. A city bustling with life round the clock, and its many people who never take rest, is the real India – in its true and existing form. Many tourists run straight to the countryside as soon as they land in Delhi, but learning a bit about the Chaotic, bamboozling and intoxicating life in the citiy, in my view, is definitely a no miss.
Visit Varanasi: The town of Varanasi attracts thousands of western tourists (forget the millions of Indians who visit here every year) – particularly backpackers, in their seemingly hippy garb. But you better brace yourself as you come here, because Varanasi is not for kind-hearted. It is unapologetically indiscreet and intensely Indian. Here most intimate rituals of life-and-death take place in public. Cremations, death ceremonies, and other bizarre Hindu rituals are a common sight. But Varanasi is also quite unique, subtle and beautiful on the other side. And the daily evening walk along its many Ghats is surely going to live long in your memory.
A Night in the Thar Desert: Deep inside the Royal state of Rajasthan lies the Great Indian Desert – where life doesn’t exist. Surrounded by Aravalli Mountains and Great Rann of Kutch (in Gujrat), Thar offers one of the most beautiful and an astonishing landscapes, in the entire country. A night among the dunes along with enjoyable camel rides is surely an experience of a lifetime.
Explore the Moonlands of Leh/Laddakh: Leh Laddakh are a different kind of mountains. Uninviting, inhospitable, and dry, these landscapes are no less than supernatural. If you’re a biker and an adventure seeker, rent a bike from Manali and drive all the way to Leh – a 500 Km ride, that can be experienced nowhere else in the world. Or you can cover the journey in a public bus or a shared taxi. This is moreover where you’ll find world’s highest motorable road, a magnetically charged hill, and a number of memorizing salt-lakes.
Living Root Bridges in Nongriat, and the Eastern Khasi hills: Okay, this is something unusual. Have you ever heard of bridges made rubber fig-tree to cross a river? Sure you haven’t. And this is exactly what you’re going to find – and quite a few of those – if you come to the town of Nongriat, in the eastern Khasi hills. Nongriat is moreover one of the most beautiful settlements I’ve seen in my life – with dozens of natural pools, hundreds of small and big waterfalls, and thousands of different patterned butterflies flying around here.
Speaking of Eastern Khasi hills, they have quite a few more distinctions. Here you’ll find Asia’s cleanest village; India’s one of the oldest tribe; and the town which gets the maximum rainfall in a year, in the entire world.
Sail thorough the Backwaters of Kerala: One of the best experiences in Kerala lie in its backwaters, where you can rent a houseboat and sail through a maze of interconnected lagoons, canals and lakes, for days. The entire state of Kerela is moreover all about backwaters. You can find it in the town of Kollam, Kottayam Alumkadavu, Kumbalangi, as well as Alleppey – but the backwaters of Alleppey is bigger, better and much popular. Renting a houseboat and sailing though its tranquil sea water is an experience that has to be fathomed. It is in fact so addictive that I met a German couple in Alleppey who rented a houseboat and stayed in the water for more than 2 months. Totally Crazy, right?
Exotic beaches of Goa: Goa might be the smallest state in India, but the number of tourists it entertains, is definitely an enormous figure. Exotic beaches of Goa are well known in the world for its freedom and are unique in their own way. With its white-sand beaches, all-night parties and a laid back tropical vibe – Goa is a blissful surprise. Cheap food, cheap accommodation, and the availability of a good wifi is moreover always a plus.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
India is a big country and you can be here, walking down its streets, and experiencing its many beauty, pretty much any time of the year. During hot summers (between April to July) head to the Himalayas in the north, or the more subtle mountain ranges and the deep jungles of the Northeast. Winters (October to March) are more suitable to have a relaxing time by the coast, visit some of the unique and ancient temples in the south, and explore the royal forts in the west. Monsoon (August and September) can also be a good time to travel most of the parts in India, except for the Himalayas.
COST OF TRAVELLING
If the entire world is cheap to travel, India is cheaper. Those on a shoestring budget can pretty much eat, sleep, stay and survive in under 400 Rupees a day. But a little more money, let’s say about 700 Rupees a day, can give you a lot more freedom. Speaking of India as a whole: South India is brutally cheap (except for the state of Kerala). North India is moderately cheap. And Northeast India is fairly cheap. Big cities like New Delhi and Bangalore can cost a little more, but definitely not more than 1000 Rupees a day.
Food: Since the unprivileged Indian lives on $350 a month, you can have a meal in India, on a roadside stall, for as low as 25 Rupees. Basic restaurant meals will cost between 70-150 Rupees. Western meals at nice restaurants go somewhere between 200-400 Rupees. You can get some really world class food in most of the big cities and tourist places. As tap water is mostly undrinkable in the entire country, consider a 50 Rupees daily investment daily in buying bottled water as well.
Accommodation: Unlike many other Asian countries, finding dorms in India is next to impossible. Renting a private room (most of whom are meant for two people) is the only way to go. But fret not, they are cheap, though sometimes a little smelly; but as I said, India has something for everyone – pay a little extra and you will something that matches your class.
In big cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and other such, expect to pay a minimum of 400 Rupees a day, for a shitty room non A/C room. About 600 Rupees a day, however, gives you a clean, nice looking double-bed room. In most of the other, backpacking towns like Varanasi and Rishikesh, you can get something cheap between 200-350 Rupees a day. Expect the prices to go up and down, as it pleases the local people, and depending upon whether you’re travelling during a peak season or an off season. Homestays are becoming more and more popular in the country as they offer a good local experience with home cooked meal to tourists. You can get a homestay experience for something between 500 to 1000 Rupees a day, and beyond that the sky is the limit. To get a best deal, keep talking to other tourists, as prices in India are poorly regulated.
FEW OTHER TIPS
- India is massive, and seeing it all in one trip (even if it’s yearlong) is impossible. Pick the perfect route and tailor your trip accordingly. Rather than trying to see the whole country, it’s better if you stick to the south of the country, or on the north. Still if you want to experience both the WORLDS, you can always rely on the domestic flights here, as they are in abundance and are mostly cheap.
- Travelling India is all about going slow. If you run too fast here, trying to tick places off the bucket lists, you’re going to miss the very essence of it. Go as slow as you can and you’d realise that India is much beautiful and a far better country to explore than you’d initially thought.
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