India is not a small country, so if you’re planning on visiting then it’s probably best to get a rough itinerary together. To help you on your way, here’s our tried and tested backpacking India itinerary covering the best travel destinations in India.
Our Backpacking India Itinerary – Travel Destinations In India
We’ve broken it down into three sections to make it easier to map out your backpacking India trip:
North India Itinerary
We landed in Dehli and spent a total of 4 days in the capital. We visited the usual touristy spots such as museums, the Independence Monument and of course some forts and temples along the way.
Delhi can be quite overwhelming, so if you’re flying into DEL then it’s worth giving our Arriving In India – Things To Know blog a read.
It’s a natural place to start your backpacking India itinerary.
From Delhi we pushed out West to the home of the most popular Sikh Gurdwara in the world – The Golden Temple.
We won’t go into too much details here but the full story of that adventure can be found in our blog Golden Temple Amritsar – Why You Must Visit.
We also paid a visit to the Wagah Boarder Ceremony where both the Indian and Pakistani militaries put on a patriotic display, opening and closing the gates that separate the boarder. A pretty cool experience if you plan on backpacking India.
Dharamsala (Bhagsu, Dharamkot, Mcleod Ganj)
Next stop was the hippie centre of the North. We based ourselves in Bhagsu where there’s not a lot to do apart from chill, eat avocado and take part in yoga. From here you can visit Dharamkot, which is basically a smaller version of Bhagsu, and take a day trip to Mcleod Ganj – home to the Dalai Lama and many Tibetan markets.
One painful bus journey over and you’re rewarded with the best views in India. Snow capped mountains and some awesome trekking brings a lot of Europeans to the highlands. That, alongside the relaxed atmosphere and camping spots.
Manali is a place we fell in love with and you can read our comparison in Dharamshala Or Manali – Which To Choose
You can’t visit India and not try yoga. So Rishikesh, aka ‘the birthplace of yoga’ has become hugely popular with westerners in recent years. But as well as plenty of yoga training courses, there are also heaps of awesome eateries, an infamous bridge (that we’re sure you’ll cross one too many times) and an opportunity to try out cheap water rafting.
Plus there’s a reason behind a lot of Beatles memorabilia which you can find out more about in our blog.
Central India Itinerary
From Rishikesh, we had to backtrack through Delhi to get out East to Varanasi. After a lot of weighing up the options, mainly because of the long distance and cost to get there, Varanasi was well worth it! The River Ganges is a truly unique place and one of the first things people associate with India.
We’d only recommend staying a night or two and you can read all about our experience here – The Ghats In Varanasi – All You Need To Know for an insight into what to expect.
If not the River Ganges then the Taj Mahal is THE first thing people associate with India. A remarkable piece of art and our first Wonder of the World – it’s a no brainer that every tourist will want to visit Agra. Some people do day trips from Delhi but we stayed the night in order to get up for sunrise!
Apart from the shrine itself there’s really not a lot else going on in Agra, so again hop in and hop out.
The first stop in Rajasthan is the ‘Pink City’. With numerous amazing forts, a city palace and the beautiful Hawa Mahal, every postcard photo can be captured in Jaipur.
We ended up in a beautiful family’s home after a freak accident at Nahargarh Fort which makes for a good read – How A Family In Jaipur Restored Our Faith In India.
Not one of the major stops in Rajasthan but one that we thoroughly enjoyed. Pushkar is a super chilled, laid back town with a scenic lake at its centre. You’ll be able to grab all the hippie clothing your heart desires in the market street, so save some pocket money!
From the ‘Pink City’ to the ‘Blue City’, if you’ve seen the popular, photographed blue walls of India then this is the place.
We happened to be in Jodhpur for Lauren’s birthday so we took an awesome tour of the town and cooled off by jumping (literally) into the many step wells scattered around Jodhpur. We also opted to take the audio tour of Mehrangarh Fort which was extremely educational and there are many more hidden gems in Jodphur.
Far out West of the country, the one and only thing people head to Jaisalmer for is the desert! Popular for its jeep or camel rides into the open sand dunes there’s really no need to explain this one. Let’s just say it’s an awesome chance to sleep under the stars.
Down to our last stop of Rajasthan and we arrived in ‘the city of lakes’, comparable to a mini Europe. There are some beautiful buildings, many scenic lakes and some interesting, historic temples. Our favourite view point that we highly recommend is the rewarding hike to the top of Lake Badi! Definitely a spot that you shouldn’t miss.
South India Itinerary
A bus down from Udaipur and our first stop in the South was Mumbai – the craziest place in India, but we adored it! If you’re heading to Mumbai the train system is organised chaos and the slums are an absolute must see so make sure you save time to go out and explore the city that never sleeps. Definitely add Mumbai to your backpacking India itinerary!
You can read all about How The Slums Of Mumbai Captured A Piece Of Our Hearts here.
The main beach stop on the South coast, Goa is where it’s happening. Indians flock there on summer vacation, whilst westerners head over for a piece of the sunshine. There are beach resorts a plenty and we were lucky enough to catch it in down season so it was a lot calmer than usual, although we can imagine it turns into quite the party place come peak season.
Our little gem amidst the madness of India.
A lot of people don’t realise Hampi even exists until they arrive in India and start talking to other travellers. A town straight out of The Flintstones, it’s huge boulder formations and laid back vibes put it right up there with our favourite places in the country.
So if you have time definitely add Hampi to you backpacking India itinerary!
Last but not least, were the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. A perfect way to end your trip and take a moment of silence to reflect on your travels. We cruised down the river on a full day, house boat tour for 7 hours of relaxation.
You can read all about it here – Kerala Backwaters Tour – A Houseboat Experience
Backpacking India Itinerary Round Up
That was it for our tour of mother India and concludes our backpacking India itinerary!
Obviously there are plenty of other stops worth visiting and your list will grow with every person you speak to. Plus you might not fit everything in on your first visit! But hopefully this India route & trip guide will give you a few tips on which route to take and if you have any questions or want some more information then don’t hesitate to drop us a message!
P.S. If you haven’t already, you should check out our List Of Tips For First Time India Travellers for some guidance on your first visit.
You can pre book all of your India accomodation here.
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