Since I quit my job to travel and became a blogger, where to travel in India has remained a frequent question I ask myself.
It’s not because I am choosy but because there is so much to see and do in India. Another reason why I often find myself struggling with the thought of where to travel in India next is that I tend to stay away from top places to visit in India.
Thankfully, my journeys have been favorable and helped me explore quite a few travel destinations in India. Eg, if I talk about 2019, I spent more than 300 days on the road. I covered a part of Europe, a bit of Nepal and much of India (now only left with 6 Indian states and they are next on the list).
Speaking of my travels, where most of the places I visited were great, some were better. Better in a way that they carried the essence of Indian culture and beauty in a more real and conscious form.
So if I were to recommend places to those who are thinking about where to travel in India, these will be them.
Where To Travel In India: 9 Recommendations
Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, is home to a vast network of waterways and a few thousand houseboats. And the experience of sailing down its interconnected lagoons and smaller canals while overlooking the paddy fields of succulent green, curvaceous rice barges and village life along the banks, is totally magical.
Though there are over a dozen places where you can experience Kerala backwaters, what sets Alappuzha apart, is its sheer size.
Tip: Get a houseboat experience, for obvious reasons; or take a public ferry for a cheaper and local experience!
Update 2021: I revisited Alleppey in 2021 and was amazed to see how mainstream Varkala has become. There are more guesthouses and houseboats than there were before. But Alleppey, despite being more and more crowded, still looks just as beautiful. Here’s a video from my travel youtube channel of my recent trip:
I haven’t written any blog about my recent visit to Alleppey. However, I have written a blog on Munnar that you may be interested in. Also, read this detailed analysis of the Coimbatore to Munnar vs Kochi road trip. The trip happened during my 2 months from Delhi to Bangalore to Kerala (and back) all India motorcycle road trip.
Though McLeodgunj, in Dharamshala, is often the first choice for people to experience the Tibetan culture in India – in my view, Bylakuppe was the true representation of Tibet in India. Out of nowhere, and amidst a dominating South Indian society, Bylakuppe is a symbol of how Tibet is being rebuilt, in its true, more conscious form, outside the borders of Tibet.
The town has South India’s largest monastery, known as Namdroling Monastery, housing more than 3000 monks and nuns.
I am not a big fan of Uttarakhand, and this is for two reasons – one, because people here aren’t very hospitable, as compared to other Himalayan states; and two, religious tourism has made backpacking in Uttarakhand far less enjoyable, particularly between April and September. But Darma Dharma Valley turned out to be different and it became one of my favourite places to visit near Delhi.
Located in the eastern Kumaon region (bordering Nepal and Tibet), Darma Valley fascinated me for its hospitality and culture that was far different from the rest of Uttarakhand. I did the Panchachuli basecamp trek and totally loved how small towns were periodically placed, after every few kilometres. The valley was continuously green and occasionally colourful. If there’s one place in Uttarakhand where I suggest backpacking/trekking it will be this.
You ask me one reason why you should visit Eastern Khasi Hills, in Meghalaya – I’ll give you 10. This is where you will find root bridges made of rubber fig, Northeast India’s worrier tribes, Asia’s cleanest villages, hundreds of natural pools, India’s rare matrilineal society, an unspoiled nature… well, I can go on.
And no matter how much I write, I cannot show my love for this part of Meghalaya, and the towns of Nongriat, Cherapunji, and Tyrna. So I’ll rather conclude by saying… if this list wasn’t following an alphabetic order, I would have mentioned Eastern Khasi Hills in the first place.
Update: I visited Nongriat in 2020 and was devastated to find how mass tourism has spoiled Nongriat’s original charm. Read Living root bridges in Nongriat.
Honestly speaking I am not much into history. Not because I don’t find it fascinating, but because it confuses me. But Hampi was an exception. A trip to Hampi is all about exploring old-age temples and ruins dating back their existence thousands of years ago. Hampi takes you back in time, and to a place that is unlike any other in India. For miles and miles, you find big boulders, ruins and debris spread on its naked ground.
Out of nowhere, Hampi has established itself as a hippie ghetto entertaining a large number of western tourists who come here to relax and experience its laidback vibe. So whether you’re into history, culture, or exploring relaxing places – be rest assured that Hampi won’t disappoint you.
Otherwise known as India’s largest river island, Majuli has its own charm. Its 400+ square km of land offers you a place to relax and enjoy a much laid-back vibe. A few highlights in Majuli Island include birdwatching, exploring the tribal ‘Mishing’ community and learning about neo-Vaishnavite philosophy at Majuli’s 22 ancient satras (or Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries).
Majuli flaunts unparalleled scenic beauty. The island is a relaxed, shimmering mat of glowing rice fields and water meadows bursting with hyacinth blossoms. The best way to experience Majuli is by renting a bicycle and staying in one of the many bamboo huts.
I avoided Goa for a long time, travelling the length and breadth of India on several trips, but never making it to the vacation hot-spot known for beaches, sunsets, and parties. I always thought that Goa must have lost its charm due to waves upon waves of tourists that visit here, but earlier this year, when I finally visited Goa I realised where I was wrong. And honestly speaking, I felt that only in South Goa.
To tell you the difference, South Goa is quieter and newly developed, whereas North Goa is a lot more densely populated and action-packed. Go to North, if you’re looking for the best nightlife, moon beach raves, hippie-run crazy markets, and a lot more noise. South, on the contrary, is quieter and mainly interests those who want to listen to the waves and experience the luxury of beach-side resorts.
Tip: My three best beaches in South Goa were Agonda beach, Cola beach and Palolem beach.
If you’re into motorbike adventure and exploring the harsh/desolate landscapes of the Himalayas, look no further. I did a solo bike expedition across Spiti Valley, earlier in June, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences so far.
What makes Spiti Valley better than Leh-Ladakh is its raw and uninviting nature – which, in other words, offers a really adventurous experience. Spiti is moreover less commercialized, cheaper and perhaps equally beautiful. I’d recommend Spiti over Laddakh, any day!
Also known as Benares, Varanasi is unlike any other spiritual town in India. It is sacred yet wild, and soulful yet depressing. I’d particularly recommend Varanasi over the most frequented religious towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar, as Varanasi depicts Hindu culture and portrays societal beliefs, without any fancy makeovers.
Here the most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public. And the sights, sounds and smells in and around the ghats – can be overwhelming. Come here to explore real Hindu culture. Come here to explore true Hindu beliefs.
Wondering where to travel in India? Read these suggestions on places to visit in India in August.
You can also visit the Indian tourism website for more details on Indian travel destinations.