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7 Travel Experiences That Should Make India Your Next Backpacking Destination

The very first thing you should know about India is that the country is humongous and offers a variety of landscapes. Unlike the popular perception of just crowded streets (which we have A LOT), we’ve got the Himalayas and its pristine lakes up North, deserts in the West, backwaters and beaches in the South, and dense forests in the East.

As an Indian backpacker who likes to travel solo, I’ve curated a list of the absolute Indian experiences you must have when in India. Better yet, I hope these experiences make you want to come down South from wherever you are. So, here we go.


1. The Desert Mountains of the Spiti Valley

Desert Mountains of the Spiti Valley

Winding roads by the river. Humongous mountains and starry skies. Buddhist monks, rustic monasteries. And picturesque views no matter where you are. That sums up the land of Spiti with its unending beauty. Take a bike, motorcycle, or a car, or simply take the bus and hitchhike- there’s no experience that is simply average or okay when it comes to this valley.


Things to do in Spiti


  • Key Monastery- The Key Gompa is a Tibetan Monastery on the top of a hill, right by the Spiti river. Explore the life of the Buddhist monks who reside here and enjoy the 1000-year old holy structure for its innate beauty.
  • Pin Valley National Park- With multiple lakes and gorgeous hike and trek trails, this National Park is just where you need to head if you love the thrill of hiking for days together.
  • Kaza Village- An ancient and rustic township, the Kaza village is known for its surreal night skies, where you can see the whole galaxy if you’re lucky! Stay here for a day or two to explore the Lahauli culture- the people out there are very warm and loving.

2. The Spiritual and Free-Livin’ Vibes of Rishikesh

Loved by the backpackers, travellers, and the hippies alike, Rishikesh is your spiritual getaway for that much-needed aura-cleansing you’re looking forward to. The World Yoga Capital sways in calming vibes, thanks to the river of Ganga that flows right across it.


Things to do in Rishikesh

Things to do in Rishikesh
  • River Rafting- Raft through the headstrong waters of Ganga for maximum adventure. In the middle somewhere, you can also take a dip inside and chill for a while.
  • Bungee Jumping- Fan of the adrenaline rush that takes over at times? Take India’s highest fall at 84 metres in Rishikesh.
  • Beatles Ashram- Visit the place where the band stayed back in the ‘60s and check out the cool3band graffiti that fans have made over the years
Check out the backpacking hostels in the Himalayas here.


3. The offbeat villages of Himachal Pradesh

illages of Himachal Pradesh
Image by: Rachit Arora

Along with Spiti Valley, Himachal is full of extremely gorgeous towns which are barely ever visited. My two favourites are Dobhi and Pah Nala, which are only an hour’s drive from each other, on the way from Kullu to Manali.


These villages not only give you exceptional views of the Himalayas but they also introduce you to the traditional life of the mountains, with the rustic old houses and unique food and give you a rich cultural experience through festivals, language, lifestyle, and more.

Go for a hike, eat a freshly cooked traditional meal, play with the kids, learn to farm and milking the cows, and much more as you stay in a beautiful little house of a local.

You can check out homestays in offbeat villages of Himachal here.


4. The backwaters of Alleppey & the meadows of Vagamon

Things to do in Alleppey

Things to do in Alleppey

  • Backwaters- Row through the rustic backwaters of Kerala, as you cross those lagoons and canals full of peaceful vibes.
  • Alleppey and Marari Beach- Head to the two most gorgeous beaches of Alleppey. I stayed at Zostel, a backpacking hostel right by the Alleppey Beach stretch, and I was a happy girl!
  • Mullakkal Rajarajeswari and Sree Krishna Swamy Temple- These temples date back to the 17th Century AD and reflect the ancient architectural style of the temples in that region. Worth a visit for their serene milieus and greenery all around them.


Things to do in Vagamon

Things to do in Vagamon
Image by: Ankit Gupta
  • Paragliding- Gliding over the green meadows clouded with mist is a surreal experience. It felt just like flying up in the clouds for real.
  • Off-roading- Adventure buffs in the house, Vagamon offers one of the bests off-roading experiences in the country. You can choose from a forest, meadow, or the professional trail.
  • Hiking- There are multiple hikes to take up- Kurisumala, Moonmala, Thangalpara… all of them with great views of the sunrise and sunset over the misty hills.


6. The Exceptional Monuments of Mysore & Hampi

The Exceptional Monuments of Mysore & Hampi

Things to do in Mysore

  • Mysore Palace- At the heart of Mysore lies the regal Mysore Palace, the second-most visited monument in India after the Taj Mahal. So, the Palace is obviously the first place to head to. Try checking the residential part of the palace as well, which is not visited by a lot of people. It is open for visitors though.
  • Chamundi Hill- Hike up here for a beautiful sunset and stay back till its dark to watch the Mysore palace light up in all its glory for 10-15 minutes.
  • Food of Mysore- Try the Mysore Pak, the thali at RR, and the buns- which are Mongolian banana-puris and not the regular French buns.
  • St. Philomena's Roman Catholic Cathedral- The city is home to a Cathedral which boasts of the Gothic Revival Architecture and is definitely a sight to marvel at.

Hampi

If you’d love a tryst with the Indian style of architecture from back-when, Hampi is where you head. This ancient village has umpteen different stone temples, all of them rich in history and architecture.


Things to do in Hampi

  • Virupaksha and Vijaya Vittala Temples- The two most prominent temples of Hampi are unique in their own ways. The Virupaksha Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whereas the Vijay Vittala Temple holds stone-design marvels like moving stone chariots and musical pillars.
  • Matanga Hill- Hike up to this hill for a good sunrise and sunset view in Hampi as you overlook the whole brown town.
  • Queen’s Bath- The ruins of this monument give a peek into the royal lifestyle, with a pool and bath areas carved out intricately.
Check out the best backpacking hostels in South India here.



7. The Golden Triangle of Culture- Delhi, Agra, Jaipur

Most travellers come to India to do the Golden Triangle. So while it is a common tradition, it is worth it.


Delhi

The capital of India is full of experiences with its many monuments and exceptional street food. Feel like partying or hanging out in chic cafes? You name it, we’ve got it.

Read this blog on Delhi to make the most of it, be it shopping, street food, or anything in between.

Agra

The home to one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Agra is a default choice when you’re in India. Also explore the Baby Taj, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, and Akbar’s Tomb while you’re there. Love Indian food? Try the street food of Agra as recommended by the locals.


Jaipur

Jaipur

The pink city of Rajasthan is full of gorgeous palaces and forts and every one of them is worth a visit. So, if you can spare 4 or 5 days for the city, you’ll be able to cover them all.


Here are the top things to do in Jaipur

  • Hawa Mahal- The Wind Palace with its mesmerising fa├žade will easily win your heart. Also head inside the palace for truly minimal design in architecture, which was really unlike the royals at the time.
  • Patrika Gate- This gate bleeds colours and will transport you to Spring in a moment.
  • Galtaji Temple- Accessible through a hike, this temple sits up on a hill in the middle of the city and is very picturesque as it is.
  • Nahargarh Fort- Head up to this fort at 4 pm, so you can check it out before it closes at 5 pm. Then, stay back for a beautiful sunset and even better view of the twinkling lights of the city in the dark.
  • Amer Fort- With a splendid mirror palace and other pretty structure, the Amer Fort remains the most popular fort of Jaipur for all the right reasons.


The Ghats of Varanasi

The Ghats of Varanasi

If I had to describe Varanasi in a word, it’ll be this- crazy. Now don’t get me wrong, it is hands down my favourite place in India. I’ve never seen a city more energetic, eccentric, rowdy, happy, whimsical, and more importantly, ancient. Known to be one of the oldest cities of the world and also the one that has been continuously inhabited, Varanasi is a roller-coaster of all the five senses. 

The crowded and completely entwined gullies keep you lost and entertained, the ghats amuse you with its share of tourists, residents, and saints alike, and the food in its uniqueness leaves you wanting for more.


Things to do in Varanasi

  • Take the early morning boat ride in the Ganga, even before the sunrise. That’s one of the best experiences I can promise you in the city.
  • Try the food- tamatar chaat, palak patta chaat, aloo tikki, gol gappe (the famous Indian street food originated here!), gulab jamun, and the 20-rupee breakfast of aloo puri jalebi.
  • Attend the Ganga Arati at sunset on the Dashashwamedh Ghaat, the main ghaat of Varanasi. You can also experience the Mahakali arati at the Mannikarnika Ghat, a crematorium by the banks of Ganga that is open to all.

One final experience I’ll recommend is that take a walk across the 84 ghats of Varanasi. It’ll take you a good 2-3 hours if you’re keen on observing and interacting, and you’ll learn a lot about the city that way.

You can check out backpacking hostels in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Varanasi here.


My experience of Backpacking in India

As a solo female traveller, what added to my experience was staying at backpacking hostels. I went on hikes with people I had just met, played UNO and board games all night, explored the offbeat places with the hostel volunteers, and enjoyed a very comfortable stay at the fanciest of Zostels across India.

If you’re planning a visit to India, make sure you save big by staying at a backpacking hostel. And while you’re at it, I would also like to recommend you my favourite chain- Zostel. As trailblazers of the backpacking culture in India, these guys have contributed majorly to change my experience for the better!

If you are planning to travel India and carrying a huge luggage with you then you must have a aluminum roof rack

And that’s a wrap. I wish you a great time whenever you end up in this colourful, beautiful, and experiential country. Namaste!

Written by Pranavi Chhikniwala

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