India is the land of color, music, culture, and incredibly diverse landscape and atmosphere to explore. It caters to just about every type of traveler, with visitors being able to hide away in the secluded mountain towns or feel the thriving bustle of the packed streets of Mumbai. India is vast with an enormous population. So, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in where to go, or what to do. Lucky for you, here are the 12 best places to visit when backpacking India.
These are particularly catered to anyone wanting to experience adventure on a backpacking budget and get the best India Travel tips all from one place.
India on a Budget
One of the best things about flying to India is that just about anyone can afford to travel through the country and get an incredible glimpse into the vibrant culture. Even a budget as low as 500$ a month can take you a long way. This is also without needing to depend on couch surging, hitchhiking, or sleeping in rough areas.
The Love-Hate Relationship with India
Many backpacking India veterans will surely disclose to you that their relationship with this country is one of love and hate. The love is for the incredible diversity of adventures, the opportunity to stay in backpacking hubs in various places; Goa, Hampi, Manali, and Rishikesh, the beautiful sprawling nature, and the kindness of the people.
The hate is more directed to the dirty streets, plastic pollution, and potential safety hazards. However, whoever has gone to India, certainly plans on going back. India offers some of the most unique exploring opportunities in all of Asia.
Backpacking India and Visas
While there are international flights that can bring you to dozens of cities across India, as a backpacker you will most likely arrive in four places; Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or Kolkata. Also, make sure you organize your E-visa before arriving. This will allow you to stay in the country for up to 60 days. However, if you want a longer chance to explore this fantastic destination, then you can organize a six-month tourist visa in advance from your home country.
Traveling through India
India is an enormous country and requires some planning. That is unless you want to be squished in a third-class carriage for hours at a time. There are internal flights to take you to many of the local cities. However, if you are backpacking India on a budget, then trains are your best option. You can prebook your tickets on the online system named 12go. You can also travel the country by motorbike which would cost you 2000$ to buy. Also, you can opt to take Tuk-tuks which require some haggling, or by bus.
Now that you have learned some of the basics of what to expect, we give you the ultimate budget for backpacking India; its destinations you must visit on your trip to this beautiful country.
Anjuna Beach, Goa
Goa is the destination for you if you wish to spend some time on the beach. Anjuna beach is possibly the best option for backpackers. It used to be the home to all of Goa’s hippies and now is famous for it’s Wednesdays flea market, curlies beach shack, hostels, beaches, and places to enjoy a party.
If you love the idea of heading to a hippie destination in India but Goa is a little too developed and touristy, then Gokarna is the perfect spot for you. It is another Hindu Pilgrimage destination like Rishikesh and home to a thriving bohemian hippie lifestyle. There are direct buses from Hampi, and plenty of flea markets, yoga, dances, and wonderful people to spend your day with.
Hampi was the last capital of Vijayanagar which was one of the greatest Hindu Kingdoms in India’s history. You will be able to see spectacular ruins mixed with massive boulders cropping up all over the landscape. There are chronicles that were left behind by Persian and European travelers. Thes icons tell the tale of Hampi as a prosperous and wealthy city near the Tungabhadra river.
There are many archaeological sites, museums, and tours available for any backpacker who wishes to learn about the rich history of the area. Backpackers enjoy the chilled-out environment overlooking paddy fields, a gorgeous river, and budget-friendly guesthouses.
This valley is sometimes referred to as Little Tibet as it showcases spectacular snow-capped mountains rising dramatically above rivers. There is a desert mountain valley in Himachal Pradesh which is the home to Tabo and Ki monasteries. However, it is now a cultural and research center for Buddhists. If you are a fan hiker and mountain trekker, then this is a destination you should not miss on your trip to India. Be mindful that the high altitude means the winters experience heavy snowfall which might stop travel. Keep the weather in mind when organized your holiday!
Known as the birthplace of yoga, Rishikesh attracts backpackers, travelers, and spiritual seekers. It’s a beautiful place by the river which has plenty of backpacker hostels, yoga classes, guided meditations, and the opportunity to get together with other like-minded international travelers in the heart of one of the holiest places for the Hindus. There is an annual Yoga Festival in the first week of March which is worth checking out.
Munnar is a picturesque hill station located in Kerala. It is a perfect destination for backpackers to visit during any time of the year. The environment is serene, and the view of the lake and mountains creates the ideal backdrop for relaxation and photography. It is the spot where three rivers meet, the Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni, and Kundala which provide water for many tea estates and beautiful waterfalls, national parks, and hiking trails to showcase all these beautiful views.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site invites thousands of visitors to explore the home of a large concentration of Royal Bengal Tigers. This park covers over 1000 square kilometers and is considered a biosphere reserve, tiger reserve, and the ultimate destination for nature lovers.
There are mangrove forests, nature tours, enormous biodiversity of bird species and awe-inspiring rivers crossing the forest. There are accommodation lodges ranging from expensive eco-resorts to low-cost lodges. Backpackers are encouraged to take a safari tour to spot the beautiful big cats in their natural habitats.
The Pink City of Jaipur is well known due to being on India’s Golden Triangle Circuit and will be on most travelers itinerary. While there are more posh and lavish accommodation options, backpackers also have plenty of budget-friendly hostels to choose from with shared or single accommodation options.
It is known as the pink city, as the majority of the buildings have this beautiful pink hue; particularly noticeable during the golden hour of the day. It is a beloved destination for photographers and is the home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Jantar Mantar and Amer Fort.
Pushkar has managed to reach cult status with backpackers flocking to this spiritual, Rikishesh style vibe and beautiful views. There are rooftop yoga sessions, henna tattoos, clocking classes, wellness therapies, dance classes, and plenty of markets featuring textiles and bangles. There are plenty of budget-friendly accommodations available for backpackers. This includes Zostel hostel Pushkar which features the only swimming pool in a backpacker hostel in India!
Khajuraho, Uttar Pradesh
Have you always wanted to visit an erotic temple? Or like most of us, have never even considered it. Either way, Khajuraho is infamous for exactly that. The temples are certainly worth a visit. However, you can also hire a bicycle to visit the surrounding villages and enjoy the rural atmosphere of the Indian countryside. The sculptures at the temples are a representation of the Indo-Aryan architecture. They also showcase the love and passion representative of the Chandela Dynasty’s passion for the forbidden art of the Kama Sutra.
Around 50km from Thiruvananthapuram lays the quiet beach destination of Varkala. The black sand beaches invite people to swim, sunbathe and relax during sunset and sunrise. It is also a beloved destination for paragliding, visiting the Janardana Swami Temple and exploring the steep and beautiful cliffs.
There are also other temples for backpackers to visit. This includes the Sarkara Devi Temple, Sivagiri Mutt, and Kaduvajil Juma Masjid. These temples will give you a better understanding and appreciation for the Hindu culture. Additionally, for the best experience, you should visit this area anytime from October to March.
The hill station of Shillong is Meghalaya is another loved destination for backpackers backpacking India. It is considered Scotland of the East, as this beautiful city lays at an elevation of 1500m above sea level. Coming here, you can see the spectacular views of valleys. You can also see Elephants, Crinoline, and Sweet Falls. The area also allows you great access to the Lady Hydari Park, Air Force Museum, Botanical Museum, State Museum, Umiam Lake, and Wards Lake in Shillong.