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Best Places To Go in India

by Globetrooper Todd | 29 Responses
places to go india

In India, we learned there’s a gigantic difference between the well worn tourist path and independent exploration. If you follow a guidebook, you can easily become trapped by a world of chore-like sightseeing tours.

Bus ? Queue ? Pay ? Look ? Leave = Boring!

From our 5 months there, and talking to various travellers, here are our best places to go in India.

1. Ladakh & Wagah

Foreign departments in most countries advise tourists NOT to visit border regions with Pakistan due to terrorism risks. But if you read the fine print, they usually exclude Ladakh and Wagah (which are both in the North amongst ongoing conflict) from their warning.

Best Places To Go India - Ladakh

A Snow Leopard Spotted in Leh-Ladakh

Ladakh is a high-altitude outpost in the far North of India. At certain times of the year you can drive, but otherwise snow covers the pass and air is your only option. Most people who visit Ladakh describe it as a Mountain Shangri-La. It’s remoteness has fossilised an ancient way of life, which is otherwise unknown in greater India.

Wagah is on the border of India and Pakistan. It’s home to the famous Border Crossing where the most elite soldiers (from both sides) ceremoniously battle by way of marching. The soldiers tower above you at a minimum height of 6 foot 8 inches. With extravagant shoes and hats, they’re closer to 10 feet tall. It’s a great spectacle, especially the thunderous Goose Stepping.

2. Hampi

Hampi is a village in Northern Karnataka, which is the state that Bangalore calls home. However, Hampi is geographically much closer to Goa than Bangalore.

Best Places To Go India - Hampi

A view of Hampi

Best Places To Go Darjeeling - Darjeeling

The View of Mt Everest from Darjeeling

We expected to land amongst tea plantations, but the reality of Darjeeling is it’s a popular tourist destinations with very little interaction with the surrounding tea industry. Sure there are tea retailers, but there are few excursions or activities amongst the plantations.

Instead we found beauty in the high-altitude surroundings, the fresh air, the nearby Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the zoo, the night markets, the views of Mt Everest in the morning, and the chance to take a break from otherwise chaotic India.

4. Bombay

Bombay is unlike the rest of India, but not in the way you may think. Sure it’s more developed than most Indian cities, but it doesn’t have that overrun feeling. I know that sounds contrary to India as a whole, but at least it was our experience.

From the old black & yellow taxis, to the vast colonial buildings, Bombay certainly retains more English influence than anywhere else in India. In fact, I’d go as far to say Bombay has some serious charm.

Best Places To Go India - VT Station

VT Railway Station in Bombay

Even the touristy areas down near Colaba and Churchgate are bearable because they make up such a small portion of the city. You can visit the famous Leopold’s Cafe, take a trip to Elephant Island, cruise around the Gateway of India, walk through the grand Taj hotel, visit the markets, and do so many otherwise bland things that are made interesting from their Bombay setting.

5. Pushkar

Pushkar is one of the only seriously touristy places we’d suggest visiting and that’s because of its Camel Fair. This is a festival where buyers and sellers come from far and wide to trade not only camels, but horses and other goods too.

It’s a photographers delight with a contrast of colours that makes it difficult to take a bad photo. For everyone else, the atmosphere is more than enough to make a visit worthwhile.

Best Places To Go India - Pushkar Fair

Camels Abound at Pushkar Fair

Keep in mind that Pushkar is a holy city. That means no meat, no liquor and a focus on local traditions, such as wearing long clothes, even for men.

6. Varanasi

Quite simply, Varanasi is India. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and it encompasses the very best and worst India has to offer.

Best Places To Go India - Varanasi

The Holy City of Varanasi

The centrepiece of Varanasi is the holy Ganges River. This is wear locals perform devotions to the river and also where, as numerous stories recount, you’ll see the odd body floating face down.

No visit to India is complete without the experience of Varanasi.

7. Indian Trains

Indian trains aren’t exactly a place to go, but rather the recommended way to get there. The berths are comfortable and the ride is an adventure in itself.

The lower the class you travel in, the more you’ll be taken care of by locals. In first class, you don’t get much interaction as you’re confined to your own cabin. In second class (air conditioned), the berths are all open, but with fewer people crammed into each. Then in sleeper class (affectively third class), you really start to get friendly with locals, whether you choose to or not.

Best Places To Go India - Rail

This is the Absolute Lowest Class of Rail Travel in India - Not Too Bad Huh?

As you hop off at random stations for a quick chai and bite to eat, you really get a feel for how diverse and colourful India really is. And if you don’t eat often, expect locals to offer you meals five times a day, because if you look even remotely slim, they’ll assume you’re starving.

Posted in Adventure Travel, Featured, India | July 17th, 2011

29 Responses to Best Places To Go in India

  1. I wish to comment on Darjeeling not being the usual tourist destination! Its strange to say that as most travelers to Nepal or West Bengal stop by in Darjeeling. Its an extremely popular and crowded tourist destination.
    Secondly the pic of the Indian Train is deffy NOT “the Absolute Lowest Class of Rail Travel in India”. This looks like a pic of one of the Luxury Trains like Palace on Wheels or the Orient Express which costs roughly about a lakh (indian rupees) for a few nights!!

    • Thanks for dropping by Gayatri.

      At first we didn’t like Darjeeling, mostly because we expected it to be surrounded by team plantations, but then we grew to like it a lot. It wasn’t too crowded when we were there.

      As for the train, I was just joking :) We travelled right around India, about 12,000kms on train and none of them looked like that. We did a little unreserved and sleeper class, but mostly 2AC.

      • I loved everything else and strongly rec Lakakh for unseen beauty. I just returned from there. My 2nd trip and 1st time to Nubra. Simply outstanding.

  2. Yeah dude, i’m looking at these photos and kept asking… who took these shots? lol

    Bombay (Mumbai) “Sure it’s more developed than most Indian cities, but it doesn’t have that overrun feeling.” Were you guys on crack when there or something? I mean you guys acted normal when I seen you there but maybe your just good at hiding your addictions. “not overrun feeling” is NOT 3 words that will ever be associated with Mumbai man, sorry. :)

    Jammu & Kashmir, then you say something about Wagah in the same spot. I don’t get it? Hell Wagah & Armritsar should be a spot all on their own (i’d personally drop Mumbai or even Darjeeling and fill it in with it).

    • Hey Troy,

      I’m boycotting self-photography :) Lauren said our camera has so much sand in it that she has to manually pull the lens out to turn it on. So we’re not going to replace it; just travelling with iPhone camera from now on.

      In our posts we’ll just use photos from Shutterstock or CC Flikr. Most of the photos on our region pages (e.g. http://globetrooper.com/oceania/) are from a paid Shutterstock account. Nice pics and much rather pay than mess with photos myself. That’s your area :)

      We went back to Mumbai with my cousin from Canada and spent some time with Ryan in Bandra and trotted around by ourselves for a few days and it was pretty cool. I liked it much more the second time.

      Wagah is in Jammu & Kashmir, same with Ladakh, though I should probably mention that hey? I’ll make the update now. Thanks for pointing it out.

      PS I’m having second thoughts about Darjeeling too.

      • Funny about the photos, you know it’s actually a pretty good idea. If your cool with it, it’s a GREAT idea actually.

        How was Ryan? I need to shoot him an email but was waiting till i get settled in Colombia before I do. Someone like Ryan can make all the difference in the world I think in a place like Mumbai. That’s just me as I really didn’t think Mumbai as being “oh so friendly, easy to know and see.” The place is to a “T” for madness of India I think! lol

        Ok now I’m confused, I thought Amritsar was in the state of Punjab??? Are you sure about this man cause I’m looking at the map now and don’t get what your saying. I know your wear glasses (that makes you smarter then me) but I call travel foul mapping on this one. If I’m wrong, I owe you a beer! :)

        Oh, and yeah F-Darjeeling! lol

      • Oh shiznit, you’re right. Updating now.

  3. I agree with Troy – Wagah and Amritsar needs it’s own section! Loved the Golden Temple – thought it was more amazing than the Taj. And Varanasi is number 1 in my book :)

    I can’t wait to go back to India sometime soon so I can visit Ladakh. Might bump Varanasi down a few spots?

  4. I am planning a trip to India in the coming year or so (waiting on finances). Anyway, would you suggest a specific time of year to go?

    Love the pics and the info!

    • Hey Lily,

      We were there between Feb and mid-June, which is when the monsoons start. But we didn’t really have trouble with the rain.

      In some ways, I’d prefer a bit of rain than dealing with peak travel and hoards of tourists.

      So I’d say any time is a good time to visit India. If you don’t mind the heat, the summer is nice, except it gets super hot up North. I’m talking 40C+ every day.

      Feb-Mar is nice though.

  5. All the places mentioned here are carefully chosen but still I would like to mention some places which are scenic,beautiful and traveler’s delight.

    1. Sikkim (Most of the Indians travels now prefer Sikkim than Darjeling now a days, foreigners needs special permit as its border province)

    2. Sunderbans, a world heritage sight but god only knows why local authorities doesn’t promote on a larger scale. It is home to Royal Bengal Tiger and one of the largest delta in world.

    • Many thanks Rajeev. Yeah, I hear you about Darjeeling. Looks like we’ll have to come back for another few months to get to all of these other places.

  6. Please let me know in advance, would love to travel with you guys. Incredible India !!! :)

  7. I’d love to travel to India one day however I’d most likely have to have a spare couple of months to see everything I’d like. Well put together list thanks.

    • Yeah, India is a must-visit. Highly recommend getting there as soon as you can. :)

  8. Sahyadri mountain ranges — if you are a trekker

  9. Very hard to condense the whole of this fantastic country into 7 and capture a Snow Leopard photo! Enjoyed the selection and love the blog. Regards

    Si

    • Thanks Si. We loved India. More so now we’ve been after for a couple of months after spending 4-5 months there.

  10. you should have include kerala and goa, which are really beautiful .

  11. Thanks for the ideas! I’m currently planning a trip to India, and its size makes it very overwhelming to figure out what I most want to see. Your post has been very helpful!

    • Many thanks Meggie.

      As long as you take a few long train journeys, I think you’ll love India. Try to stay away from the touristy spots too; we constantly hear horror stories about people going only to touristy spots and being hassled their entire visit. We accidentally stayed away from those areas (Agra, etc) and were rarely hassled.

      All the best.

  12. India is a vast country and it’s impossible to decide 7-10 best places to visit, here I would like to add some destinations:

    1. State of Rajasthan is really beautiful and happening in winter season, places like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur etc. There countless palaces and havelis, and camel safari in desert is a must.
    (Pushkar, already in list, is great place too.)

    2. I would definitely visit Kerala, beautiful beaches, hills with lush forests, wildlife, backwaters and great people, I loved Munnar hill station.

    3. Gir National Park in Gujarat, only natural habitat of Asiatic lions.

    4. Nanda Devi National Park in Uttarakhand, which also includes Valley of Flowers (a world heritage site), great place to trek in Himalayas.

    5. Gulmarg in Kashmir, great ski destination, more like Alps but cheap.

    6. Sikkim, already mentioned in one post.

    7. Marvelous beaches of Andaman and Nicobar island group, isolated and least crowded, if you fancy a Robinson Crusoe like adventure then this is the place, white sand, blue lagoons and lush forests with practically no population, and inexpensive.

    Globetrooper Tood, you did a good job, and that snapshot of snow leopard is very fortunate, a rare animal. Other photographs are great too, especially photo of Pushkar, but I am not sure about the photograph you posted in Darjeeling section, it more looks like Kanchenjunga rather than Mt. Everest, as I can see five peaks, but nevertheless a well-written article.

  13. its surprising that Kashmir, Goa and Kerala is not mentioned !

  14. other interesting places to see in India are 1. Ruins of Nalanda University(one of the oldest University in the world)- ancient center of higher learning in India. At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as China, Greece, and Persia
    2.Pawapuri-Around 500 BC, Lord Mahavira (founder of Jainism religion), the last of the 24 Tirthankaras achieved Moksha or Nirvana. JALMANDIR (water temple)is there.
    3. Rajgir- famous for its hot water springs,peace pagoda (one of the 80 peace pagodas in the world), Japanese temple, Venu van, Virayatan and more place to see here.
    4. Bogh gaya – famous for being the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained Enlightenment (Bodhimandala).For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath.

    All these places are in the state of Bihar, around 100 KM from Patna, state capital. They are very close to each other.

  15. These are so great…is anyone planning a trip again in the near future?

    I have about only 10 days (sept 29-oct 9) and I want to get myself to India, but not alone and not to waste time. I’m flexible with places, but in a short amount of time, what do you suggest?

    • Gina!!!! Did you end up going? :)

  16. This information is very useful and the pictures are simply amazing! I wish to travel India within the upcoming months and wondering if it safe to travel solo as a female? As I do not have any friends who share the same passion for travel And experiences as myself. How long would be recommended time of stay? And how much money AUS/US dollars $$$ would be required for such an adventure?!

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  18. It is great post.Thank you.

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