This India Travel Guide is all you need to know top places to see, how to travel, how much to spend during your holiday, and more.
India is not a country, it’s a continent, with a spectacular mix of people, cultures and landscapes.
From snow-capped mountains in the north to the sultry sun-washed beaches in the south to deserts in the west to rainforests in the east – one can find all-natural phenomena here. And speaking of the top places to see in India, be rest assured that there are more than you can count.
Walk the streets of any Indian city and you’ll rub shoulders with people representing different traditions, following different cultures, and speaking alien languages – while some wear a turban, while others have cute Mongolian faces.
No wonder it’s a place to explore. And to help you with the top places to see in India, and some useful travel tips, I have written this detailed India travel guide. This blog will help you plan that ideal trip you have always thought of.
India Travel Guide
When I quit my job to become a travel blogger, I chose India as my first destination. For about one year, I travelled the lengths and breadth of the country and explored all the highlights that it has to offer.
I have been to nearly 25 states, all solo-travelled and self-planned, covering almost all the top places to see in India.
Though it has been a great journey, there are certain things I hate about travelling in India. And discussing those things, on top of things that I love, let’s move further in this India travel guide, and talk about a few useful travel tips:
- Seeing all the top tourist places in India on one trip (even if it’s a 6-month trip) is impossible. Pick the route on the basis of what you want to see: coast, mountains, or cities and plan you’re itinerary accordingly. Rather than moving around a lot of regions and trying to see the whole country, it’s better if you stick to a region and soak it well.
- Domestic flights are cheap in the country, yet the most cost-effective way for long-distance travel is the railways.
- Travelling here is all about going slow. If you run too fast here, trying to tick places off the bucket lists, you may miss the essence of different places.
- Though news keeps showing it otherwise, it is a safe country to travel to. Read the safest Indian cities for Solo Female travellers if you are interested.
- The three major mobile networks: are Airtel, BSNL and Jio.
Check this Indian Tourism website for more useful travel tips.
Now, let’s continue with our India travel guide with top places to see and experiences to try.
Top Places To See In India
Tribes In The Northeast
If you’re into culture and history, visiting Northeast India can just be your thing. The seven states of the northeast have more than 50 different tribes. And in the northeast, the state of Nagaland, has the maximum number of indigenous tribes than anywhere else in the country.
See my Hornbill Festival Pictures and get a better idea of what I am talking about.
Additionally, it doesn’t mean that the tribes are limited to the Northeast region only. You can find many tribal areas in the central and southern parts only. Kerala, for example, has a few tribal areas too that tourists hardly visit. In the Himalayas, especially in the Kashmir region, you can find a few hill tribes. If you are coming from Nepal, you can visit Darma Valley and find a tribe there too.
So yea, tribal people can be found everywhere, but in the northeast, they are densely populated. If I am not wrong, the northeast region in India has the highest population density for tribal people anywhere else in the world.
You write an India travel guide with top places to see and not mention The Andamans? Not possible!
The Andaman Islands is a cluster of nearly 300 islands in the Bay of Bengal. The islands are surrounded by some of the best coral reefs in Asia that support marine life, including sharks and manta rays (consider a great scuba diving experience if you did it in the Andamans).
From honeymooners to adventure junkies wanting adventure sports like snorkelling, scuba or island camping, Andaman Islands is a place to be.
About a 7-hour journey from Bangalore takes you to the city of Hampi – a fantasy world of rocks and ruins.
Other than ruins (most of which are UNESCO world heritage sites) in Hampi you will find banana plantations and paddy fields, surrounded by big boulders, all perched on top of each other as far as the eye can see. I
In recent years, Hampi has developed itself as a Hippy Oasis for the state of Karnataka and as one of the top places to see in India. Visit Hampi to experience a very distinct natural landscape.
If you are interested in more places in Karnataka, read my Karnataka travel guide, or simply do a…
Karnataka Trip In A Luxury Train
If you are travelling Karnataka and you love luxury, there is no better way to do it than travelling in the Golden Chariot luxury train.
I get to experience The Golden Chariot two years ago in 2018 when The Tourism of India invited me as a part of their Blog Express Initiative.
The trip began from Bangalore, covering all major tourist highlights in the state of Karnataka, including Banglore, Hampi, Mysore, Sravanbelagola, Badami Caves, and more.
For a 7-day trip, the Golden Chariot can cost a whopping 2.30 Lakh Rupees per person. But at that price, you get not just luxury but royal luxury.
Delhi to Taj Mahal
Of course, you will stumble upon many people discouraging you to visit the Taj Mahal (I am not a big fan of it either) because the city of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, has quite a bad reputation as a dirty and confusing town. But I think visiting the Taj Mahal once in your life is worth it, and hence an obvious mention in our India travel guide.
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, the Taj Mahal is India’s most popular architectural highlight. And that’s what makes it one of those bucket-list things.
Don’t stay overnight in Agra, and do a day trip from Delhi or someplace else, but visit the Taj Mahal for once. It is certainly one of the top places to see in India.
Two more trips I can suggest from Delhi (to the Himalayas) are:
A lot of people, especially locals, also do Delhi to Manali (Manali is the most popular travel destination in Himachal Pradesh state) but I don’t really recommend it.
You may also be interested in reading about popular places to visit near Delhi.
Life In Indian Cities
Though you might hate it, 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.
For example, many tourists run straight to the countryside or mountains as soon as they land in Delhi, but learning a bit about the chaotic, bamboozling and intoxicating life in the cities, in my view, should be on your list.
Read my 2 days in Delhi guide if you have Delhi on your list.
The town of Varanasi attracts thousands of foreign tourists (forget the millions of domestic tourists who visit Varanasi every year) particularly backpackers, in their seemingly hippy garb. But you better brace yourself as you visit Varanasi, because Varanasi is not for the faint-hearted.
Varanasi streets are 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. Read my Varanasi travel tips before planning a trip there.
Deep inside the Royal state of Rajasthan lies the Great Indian Desert – where life doesn’t exist. Surrounded by the Aravalli Mountains and the Great Rann of Kutch (in Gujrat), the Thar Desert offers one of the most beautiful and astonishing landscapes, in the entire country.
A night among the dunes along with enjoyable camel rides is surely an experience of a lifetime, making it one of the top places to see in India.
Ladakh is a different kind of mountain. Uninviting, inhospitable, and dry, these landscapes look no less unworldly. If you’re a motorbiker, rent a motorbike from Manali and do a Manali to Leh trip – a 500 Km ride, that can be experienced nowhere else in the world.
Ladakh is where you’ll find the world’s highest motorable roads, magnetically charged hills, salt lakes. See my Ladakh pictures for more on how a motorcycle Ladakh trip feels like.
You may also want to read these Himalayas motorcycle tips before you do that, especially if you are not an expert rider.
A motorcycle trip in the Himalayas is an experience that you will find in almost every Indian travel guide.
Motorbiking In The Himalayas
Spiti Valley is home to the world’s most treacherous and deadly roads. Here you will find the world’s highest petrol station, the world’s highest village with civilisation, passes as high as 4,590 m or 15,060 ft.
A motorbiking expedition in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh is a must, for thrill-seekers. Read my Spiti Valley itinerary to plan a similar trip. I have given my entire route map that you can follow.
The Backwaters of Kerala
One of the best experiences of Kerala lies in its backwaters, where you can rent a houseboat and sail through a maze of interconnected lagoons, canals and lakes, for days.
You can find backwaters in the towns of Kollam, Kottayam Alumkadavu, Kumbalangi, Alleppey, and many other places. And in my experience, Alleppey backwaters is bigger, better and much more popular.
Renting a houseboat and sailing through its tranquil seawater 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 enjoyed the backwaters for more than 2 months. No wonder, Alleppey is one of the best places to travel in India.
If you want more tips for Kerala, read my Kerala travel guide.
Goa might be the smallest state in India, but it entertains one of lots of tourists. The exotic beaches of Goa are well known in the world for their 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 good wifi are moreover always a plus. Also, for a tourist destination, Goa is massive. There are over 50 beaches in Goa – with some suiting party lovers while others suiting honeymooners. Having said that, make sure you choose a beach on the basis of what you want to see and do there. Read my Best Beaches In Goa guide to choose a beach for you.
Visit A National Park
India is full of wildlife and interesting flora and fauna. If I give you the figure, there are over 100 national parks in India including some of the famous ones like Keoladeo National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Sariska National Park, Panna National Park, and Pench National Park. National parks in India work under the government with strict rules and proper care.
So yea, if you are into nature and wildlife, visit a national park. I particularly loved trekking in many national parks across the Himalayas, and among all, Valley of Flowers National Park remains my favourite.
If you want more suggestions, I have pulled this article on the best national parks in India that you can check for getting more ideas.
In January 2020, I was invited by Assam Tourism, as one of the 15 travel writers across India, to explore a new destination in making in the state of Assam — Bodoland. And I loved it so much that I edited this India travel guide after my visit and included Bodoland as one of the top places to see in India’s list.
Until 2003, Bodoland was disputed land. Like many other places in Northeast India, people were fighting for their land. But in 2003, peace agreements were signed, and Bodoland became peaceful. In 2020, Bodoland even organised one of the biggest annual fests in the entire country called Dwijing Festival.
From natural vistas to local food, everything about Bodoland is certainly worth exploring.
Char Dham Yatra
If you are into religious tourism and want to experience Hindu culture, do a trip to Char Dham: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath.
Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath are a set of four pilgrimage sites in India and that’s why the name is the Char Dham (the four holy sites).
It can take around 15 days in total if you are visiting all four sites as it takes around a day to travel from one site to the other. Most sites, moreover require 1-2 days of trekking because they’re located in the higher Himalayas where no transportation is available.
Stepwells In Gujarat
The westernmost state of Gujarat is also worth exploring with some of the most unique natural phenomena of the world including desert, salt lakes and more. Read this Gujarat travel guide for more tips.
But among all the places to visit in Gujarat, a few popular places to visit are the step-wells in Ahmedabad, including the popular Adalaj stepwell. Most of them are renowned archaeological sites dating back their foundation to the 17th or 18th century. so yea, an obvious mention in our India travel guide.
That is all about the top places to see in India in this travel guide. If you want to know more suggestions, here is an article I wrote about the top holiday destinations in India.
What Is The Best Time To Travel India
Any time of the year is the best time to travel to India.
During the hot summer (between April to July) visit the Himalayas in the north or the deep jungles of the Northeast. Winter (October to March) is more suitable to have a relaxing time on the coast and central India or doing snow activities like snowboarding and skiing in India.
Monsoon (August and September) can be a good time to travel most of the parts in-country, except for the Himalayas.
Now that we have discussed the top places to see in India and when you actually travel here, the next in this India travel guide is the cost of travelling.
What Is The Cost of Travelling In India
If the entire world is cheap to travel to, India is cheaper.
Those on a shoestring budget can eat, sleep, stay and survive in under 700 Rupees a day. But a little more money, let’s say about 1200 Rupees a day, can give you a lot more freedom.
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 1500 Rupees a day.
Since many people live on $300 a month, you can have a meal in India, on a roadside stall, for as low as 40 Rupees. Basic restaurant meals will cost between 70-150 Rupees.
Western meals at nice restaurants go somewhere between 200-400 Rupees. You can get 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.
Backpacker hostels can only be found across all popular tourist places in India like Varanasi, Goa, and Manali, and in big towns like Delhi and Bangalore. But the trend is quickly picking and more and more backpacker hostels are emerging. For budget private rooms OYOs are quiet but they don’t guarantee quality.
Use booking.com or Airbnb to online book hotels in India. From budget guesthouses to some of the finest 5-star hotels, you can find it all in India.
In big cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and others, expect to pay a minimum of 500 Rupees a day, for a shitty room non-aircon room or a hostel dormitory. 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 offseason.
Homestays are also becoming more and more popular in the country as they offer a good local experience with a home-cooked meal for 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 the best deal, keep talking to other tourists, as prices in India are poorly regulated.
That’s all in this India travel guide. If you have any questions or more destinations to add in the list of top places to see in India, please leave a comment below.