The Ultimate Backpacking India Itinerary and Travel Route
As India is such a vast and diverse country deciding on your itinerary for backpacking India is no easy task! Unlike South East Asia there’s not really a defined India backpacking route.
I’ve travelled all over India many times during the 10 years I’ve lived here, so in this post I’ll give you all my tips for the best places to visit in India, the best India travel routes and the ultimate backpacking India itinerary.
Why I Love Backpacking India
One of the best things about backpacking India is the amazing diversity of this sub continent – from snow capped Himalayan mountains to tropical beaches, from lanquid backwaters to chaotic cites and desert forts. India really does have it all – there is so much to see, amazing food, welcoming people and it’s still one of the cheapest places to travel in the world.
It’s difficult to decide on your India itinerary or backpacking route because there’s just so many amazing places to visit and this huge country sometimes feels like many different countries, especially as the languages, food and culture differs in each state. You could travel around India for a lifetime and see something new and fascinating every day.
As the birthplace of yoga, India is also one of the best places in the world to learn authentic yoga and one of the cheapest places to get your yoga teacher certification. Many backpackers choose to combine yoga training with traveling around India. Rishikesh is the ‘yoga capital of the world’ but there are also many other places to do yoga teacher training in India.
Let’s be honest though, backpacking India is not a walk in the park, especially for first time visitors or solo female travellers. The distances are huge, the chaos, culture shock and hassle can sometimes be overwhelming and traveling here can be challenging and frustrating sometimes.
But it’s worth it! India is the ultimate travel destination! That’s why many people return again and again to spend many months at a time backpacking India.
How to Plan your India Itinerary
I know that one of the joys of backpacking is having no plans and just going with the flow. But when backpacking in India it’s really worth doing planning your travel route or itinerary in advance. This is because the best way to travel in India is by train but the trains get fully booked well in advance.
So if you plan your India itinerary you can get your trains booked in and have a smoother trip – pre booking accommodation and tours will also help you to avoid scams.
In this post I’ll give you my complete India backpacking route, as well as some suggestions for alternatives if you only have a couple of weeks. But first some essential tips you’ll need to plan your trip to India.
Pin Me 🙂
Essential Tips for Backpacking in India
Best time to backpack India
India has alot of different climates but generally the best time to visit India is the cooler winter months between Oct/November – March/April. However, the mountains can be pretty cold then but offer a welcome respite from the summer heat. In April and May the country gets very hot until the monsoon season arrives from June – September.
India backpacking budget
India is quickly modernising but budget minded backpackers can still get by on about 2,000 INR ($25) per day (more here on costs of backpacking India)
Visas for India
Nearly all visitors need to apply for a visa before entering India. Many nationalities can now get an e-tourist visa online or evisa so it’s never been easier to visit India! Indian tourist visas can be valid for up to 1 year (but normally only allow 90 – 180 days continuous stay depending on your nationality.) Make sure you go to the official indianvisaonline.gov.in website to get your visa.
Getting to India
Most international flights arrive in Delhi (DEL) or Mumbai (BOM) but there are many airports in India. As the capital of India, Delhi is a popular place to start a backpacking trip and gives you easy access to Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle travel route which contains some of India’s most famous sites like Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur.
If you’re nervous about backpacking in India then I advise taking a connecting domestic flight and starting your trip in South India, somewhere like Kerala or Goa for a calmer introduction to India. I’ll explain this more later on.
Getting around India
India is huge and getting around takes time. My top tip for first time backpackers in India is to take it slow and plan a rough itinerary beforehand! India is not a place to rush around; trying to see too much will end up in a stressful instead of enjoyable trip.
Flights, trains, buses and rickshaws reach every corner of the country. The huge Indian Railways network is the best and most comfortable way to travel around India and can be a really interesting experience in itself. Trains get fully booked way in advance which is why I advise planning your India itinerary before. Luckily nowadays you can easily book transport in India online with 12GoAsia.com.
Tourists can sometimes get ‘taktal’ or train tickets at late notice at the office upstairs in the New Delhi Railway Station.
Backpacker accommodation in India
There are cheap, basic, guesthouses in most tourist destinations in India, but make sure you read the reviews thoroughly or inspect the rooms first to check for cleanliness and quality. Expect to pay around 500 INR per night for a basic room but don’t expect luxuries like soft beds, hot water or wifi.
There’s also plenty of upmarket accommodation in India. If you fancy staying in a real Rajasthani palace or fort there are some spectacular experiences to be had that won’t break the bank. Booking.com has the best range of accommodation for all budgets with reviews and easy booking options.
Over the last couple of years fun, sociable, new Indian backpacker hostels have opened up in the main cities and tourist destinations. The best backpacker hostel chains in India are Zostel, Moustache, The Hosteller, Madpackers and GoStops. You can find hostels, check the reviews and book online on Hostelworld.
Most backpacker hostels in India offer comfy common areas or rooftop terraces where you can meet other backpackers, and often have wifi, a cafe and will help you with travel and sightseeing arrangements. Most hostels offer private rooms as well as dorms – normally female only, male only and mixed dorms.
Volunteering in India
India is an amazing country for backpackers and budget travellers but there are still many poor communities who could really do with your help. Instead of paying 1000’s to volunteer sign up with Worldpackers and you can exchange your skills and time for free accommodation, food and many other benefits.
One of the best things about volunteering in India is that you can get immersed into the local culture, make friends with the locals, learn new skills all while helping those in need and saving yourself money so you can travel for longer.
I prefer Worldpackers over other platforms as they offer great support and customer service, all hosts are verified to ensure they offer a safe and rewarding experience and you can also take advantage of the Worldpacker’s insurance should anything go wrong with your host.
Click on this link and use my discount code GLOBALGALLIVANTING to save $20 on the membership fee.
India backpacker tours
If you don’t want to go it alone, or just prefer to take a tour and have someone else to do all the planning and organizing (and I don’t blame you, India can be a challenging country to backpack or travel independently in) Especially if your a solo female travellers then it’s a good idea to join a tour.
But, as with everything in India, you’ve got to be careful to thoroughly vet the tour provider to make sure you have a good and safe experience. One of the best places to find tours and check the reviews is Tour Radar.
The most encompassing India backpacking tour is this 37 day Iconic India tour with Intrepid which takes in most of the places I recommend. The G Adventures North to South India 21 day backpacker tour is also good.
If you have less time the most popular short India travel route is the Golden Triangle which is perfect for a 1 week India itinerary. It’s also the most chaotic part of India so I recommend taking a tour like this Golden Triangle tour with YOLO Travels if it’s your first time. For more of my recommendations here are my favourite India tours.
Sightseeing trips and day tours
You can also now book day tours online in advance on Viator and Get Your Guide. I recommend doing this as you can read the reviews to ensure you have a good experience and you can avoid having to haggle for a fair price or getting scammed.
Backpacker hostels also often have a travel desk and can help you make travel and tour arrangements with reputable companies they trust.
Never trust anyone in Delhi who says they will take you to a tourist office – there are loads of fake ones and scammers. The only official one is at 88 Janpath.
If you don’t want to take tour but want some help to plan your India itinerary, book trains, accommodation or even private drivers (which are quite affordable in India) then I recommend using the excellent trip planning services of India Someday.
I’ve known the team for years and they are great. I used then to make me a bespoke itinerary across North India (check out my review here) and they offer Global Gallivanting readers 5% off if you use the code GLOBALGALLIVANTING5 when enquiring.
Read More: I travel with the Lonely Planet India Guidebook – its really useful for practical info, maps, things to do, how to get around etc. Buy it before you go on Amazon to save money.
How long do you need for backpacking India
As it’s such a huge and diverse country backpacking around India takes time. If you want to see as much as you can and follow this India itinerary and backpacking route then I would recommend to come for 2 or 3 months.
If you only have a couple of weeks to backpack India then I would concentrate on one area. Think about what you are interested in – if it’s history, temples, forts and palaces backpack Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle in North India. Or if you prefer beaches, nature and wildlife head to Kerala and Goa and backpack South India.
My Perfect Backpacking India Itinerary and Route
Now that you have all the info you need to plan your India trip I’ll describe the ultimate backpacking India itinerary for those who want to see all the highlights of this unique country.
I’ll also provide some suggestions for a 1 month India itinerary, a 2 week India itinerary and a 1 week India itinerary afterwards.
Here’s a route map of the best places to go in India to help you get your bearings and plan your perfect backpacking India itinerary:
India backpacking route map
Why I recommend this India itinerary
While most India itineraries will suggest starting your trip in Delhi and seeing the famous sights of the Golden Triangle, for your first time in India I recommend starting in more chilled out South India and working your way to North India.
This way you’ll get a good variety of destinations including all the famous sights while avoiding extra distance or going back on yourself (it always takes longer than you think to get anywhere in India!)
Most international flights land in Delhi or Mumbai but you can easily get a domestic flight down to Kochi or Trivandrum in Kerala or to Goa airport.
While Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle are home to some amazing and iconic sights including opulent forts and of course the Taj Mahal, its also the most chaotic, dirty and challenging places to visit in India.
The laid back beaches and backwaters of Kerala and Goa are perfect places to get a good introduction to India to allow you to get acclimatized before tackling the big sights and chaotic cities in the North.
Or, if you visit India in the summer from April – September head to the Himalayan mountains in North India to places like Rishikesh and Dharamshala that also offer a much more chilled out Indian experience.
Read on for my complete India itinerary and I’ll explain each destination, why go, what to see and do, where to stay and how to get there.
Kerala – 1 week
Fly into Kerala and start your India itinerary gently in laid back Kerala – a tropical and luscious state known as ‘God’s own country.’
Kerala is one of the most beautiful states in India with so much to explore that you could easily spend a week traveling around Kochi, Alleppey, Varkala and Munnar.
But if you’re short on time or want to make life easier for yourself you could base yourself in Fort Cochin and take day trips to visit the surrounding areas.
Best places to visit and things to do when backpacking Kerala
- See the Chinese fishing nets and explore the multicultural history on a heritage walking tour of Fort Cochin
- Take a fun private tuk tuk tour around Kochi and Mattancherry.
- Enjoy a relaxing backwater cruise in a houseboat, or explore the narrower canals and local villages on a more budget friendly traditional boat tour along the backwaters.
- Laze on tropical beaches like Varkala and Kovalam.
- Try a yoga class or healing Ayurveda retreat.
- Spot wild elephants and enjoy the lush tropical nature in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Soak up the gorgeous, green views of the tea plantations at Munnar hill station.
Best backpacker hostel in Kerala: GoStops Kochi
The best backpacker hostel in Fort Cochin is GoStops Kochi – a colourful hostel in a heritage building in the best location in Fort Cochin complete with views across the water. There are both private rooms and shared dormitories available as well as plenty of cosy common areas where you can meet other backpackers.
How to get to Kerala
Kochi (Cochin) and Trivandrum (Thiruananthapuram) both have train stations and airports that have some international flights and are also well connected to the rest of India with domestic flights.
The train station for Kochi is called Ernakulam from where you can catch trains up the coast to Goa. But for the complete India itinerary continue into the neighbouring and relatively underrated state of Karnataka. It’s a large and diverse state with everything from modern mega cities to ancient ruins and palaces as well as rolling hills, jungles, tiger reserves, quintessential countryside life and beaches to explore.
How to get around Kerala
The coastal side of Kerala is well connected by trains but to reach places in the hills like Munnar or Periyar you can take local or delux buses. Even hiring a car and driver in India isn’t too expensive.
More blog posts on backpacking Kerala:
- A Backpacker’s Guide to Kerala
- Why Kerala is the Perfect Introduction to India.
- Houseboat Heaven! Cruising the Backwaters of Kerala
- How to Cruise the Kerala Backwaters on a Budget
- 12 of the Best Backpacker Hostels in Kerala
Mysore – 2 or 3 days
Mysore (Mysuru) is one of South India’s most popular and flamboyant destinations, famous for it’s glittering royal heritage, magnificent monuments, colourful bazaars, the elaborate Mysore Palace and Ashtanga yoga.
Best backpacker hostel in Mysore: RoamBay Hostel
A colourful, eco friendly, heritage house in a peaceful and safe neighbourhood that was recently turned into an amazing hostel with stylish, comfortable dorm rooms and a coworking space.
How to get to Mysore
You can take an overnight delux bus from Kochi to Mysore, or you could break up the journey roughly halfway and cool off in the hill station of Ooty (Udhagamandalam) before heading to Mysore.
More blog posts on backpacking Mysore:
Bangalore – 1 or 2 days
Bangalore (Bengaluru) is India’s silicon city and IT hub where you can indulge in the delights of modern India, get your fix of Western food, malls and nightlife. There’s a few nice parks and a palace here too and it’s also a good transport hub but if your short on time you could probably leave it off your Indian itinerary.
Best backpacker hostel in Bangalore: Locul Midtown Indiranagar
Accommodation in Bangalore can be quite expensive but the Locul hostels are new, clean, smart and well located hostels. My favourite is Locul midtown Indiranagar because of it’s location in this trendy district close to all the eateries and nightlife. There are dorms, private rooms, good wifi and work spaces and a great breakfast.
How to get to Bangalore
Bangalore is an easy 3 hour train or bus ride from Mysore. Bangalore also has an airport with frequent and reasonably priced connections to other parts of India.
More blog posts on Bangalore:
Hampi – 4 days
Hampi is one of the most magical backpacker destinations in India. A surreal and beautiful boulder strewn scenery surrounds the captivating ancient temples and ruins of the once great Vijayanagara Empire.
There’s a big backpacker scene here with cute, rustic huts on ‘hippie island’ with views over the river and the chance to see some out of this world landscapes and idyllic Indian countryside life.
Hampi is one of my all time favourite places and a highlight of backpacking India – don’t miss it from your India itinerary!
Best backpacker hostel in Hampi: Gopi Guesthouse
There aren’t any backpacker hostels in Hampi but there’s huts on hippie island and some cheap guesthouses in Hampi bazaar – one of the best is Gopi Guest House near to the temple (be aware that no meat or alcohol are served on this side of the river.)
How to get to Hampi
The easiest and quickest way to get to Hampi from Bangalore or Goa is by overnight bus.
More Hampi blog posts: Why I fell in love with magical Hampi
Goa – 1 week
Another place you might find hard to leave and won’t want to leave off your India itinerary are the lively beaches of Goa. With an infectious, easy going way of life, unique Portuguese influenced culture and wild nightlife Goa in unlike anywhere else in India.
Goa is the most relaxed and most westernised state in India with the best nightlife, a vibrant and cosmopolitan food scene and is a great place to meet other travellers. If you can tear yourself away from the beaches and parties you’ll find there’s plenty of churches, forts, waterfalls, spice plantations and colourful hippie markets to explore in Goa.
Goa’s beaches all have a different vibe. North Goa is where all the parties and markets are whereas South Goa is the place to head for peaceful beaches and yoga retreats. The most popular with backpackers are the lively, hippy beaches of Anjuna and Arambol in North Goa and Palolem, a beautiful beach with colourful rustic beach huts in the far south.
Best backpacker hostel in Goa: Woke Morjim
A beautiful, new, backpacker hostel with a swimming pool, gardens close to trendy Morjim beaches and all the nightlife spots in North Goa. Dorm beds and private rooms are available, some rooms have balconies with sea views and there’s a trendy cafe bar downstairs.
How to get to Goa
There are flights to Goa from all over India. If you’re coming from Hampi you can take an overnight bus to Goa or take an 8 hour train in the daytime.
If you want a quieter alternative to Goa, check out the beaches of the temple town of Gokarna, a few hours South of Goa in neighbouring Karnataka.
More Goa blog posts:
- My Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Goa
- The Perfect Itinerary for 1 week in North Goa
- Top 10 Backpacker Hostels in Goa
- A guide to deciding where to stay in Goa
- The best yoga retreats in Goa
- The ultimate guide to yoga teacher training in Goa
Mumbai (Bombay) – 3 or 4 days
Mumbai was previously called Bombay but many people still call it by the old name. Bombay is India’s biggest, most buzzing and aspirational city – home of Bollywood and some atmospheric, crumbling colonial architecture.
Mumbai is my favourite city in India. It’s an exciting, dynamic city of dreams and contrasts with so much to do and see and shouldn’t be left off any India itinerary.
Best backpacker hostel in Mumbai: Backpacker Cowies
Mumbai has some of the most expensive accommodation in India. The best option location wise is Backpacker Cowies as it’s the only one so close to the Gateway of India and Colaba Causeway. Air conditioned dormitories and private rooms are available.
How to get to Mumbai
Goa to Mumbai is a 12 hour overnight train or bus. The flight from Goa to Mumbai takes only a hour and you can find prices from only 1,000 rupees so it’s worth checking the flight price before you get on the long bus ride.
More blog posts on Mumbai:
- A Backpacker’s Guide to Mumbai
- 21 Things to do in Mumbai
- How visiting Dharavi Slum changed my perceptions on poverty
Ellora and Ajantha Caves – 3 days
These caves are one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple caves complexes in the world with amazing ancient Buddhist carvings and sculptures.
There are not many hotels near the caves so Aurangabad, the closest town to the caves makes a convenient base.
Best backpacker hostel in Aurangabad: Zostel Aurangabad
Lively, modern chain backpacker hostel with colourful lounges, cafe and rooftop. It’s located near to the bus station so is convenient for visiting the caves. Choose between private rooms or dorm beds.
How to get to Aurangabad
Aurangabad is about 6 hours on the train from Mumbai, 5 hours in a taxi or about 11 hours on a public bus. From Aurangabad you can get a bus to the caves but it’s more convenient to hire a taxi to between the two cave sites. It’s about 2 hours drive from Ellora to Ajanta.
Rajasthan is possibly India’s most flamboyant state and a highlight of most India backpacker trips. With so many ancient forts, extravagant palaces, colourful bazaars and interesting history there is a lot to explore here so don’t even think about leaving Rajasthan off your India itinerary!
Udaipur – 3 or 4 days
If you’re coming from the south of India and working your way north then the first stop when backpacking Rajasthan should be the relaxing and charming city of Udaipur, a romantic city of shimmering lakes and glittering palaces, your first stop in Rajasthan.
Best backpacker hostel in Udaipur: Dreamyard Hostel
Dorms and private rooms located inside a heritage building by the lakeside. The highlight of this hostel is the stunning views over the lake from the rooftop – they even offer free chai at sunset and host yoga classes and parties on the rooftop.
How to get to Udaipur
You can get an overnight train over bus from either Mumbai or Aurangabad to Udaipur. You might even be able to find a good deal on a flight between Mumbai and Udaipur.
Jodhpur – 2 or 3 days
After chilled out Udaipur head to the Blue City of Jodphur and see the mighty Mehrangarh Fort and explore the old city – a tangle of medieval winding streets, blue coloured buildings and bazaars.
Best backpacker hostel in Jodhpur: Moustache Jodhpur
The Jodhpur branch of the popular Moustache chain of Indian backpacker hostels won the HOSCARs in 2020 and is regarded as one of the very best hostels in India.
Moustache is located close to the Mehrangarh Fort and the blue city and spacious common areas, homely vibes, an inhouse theatre and restaurant and comfortable dorms and private rooms.
How to get there to Jodhpur
Buses from Udaipur to Jodphur take about 7 hours or a taxi takes only 4 hours.
Jaisalmer – 3 or 4 days
Jaisalmer is a little out of the way but this historic golden fort rising out of the desert is quite a sight. Spend a few days exploring the fort and a day or 2 taking a safari across the Thar desert.
Jaisalmer is really popular for camel safaris but Bikaner is another good choice, if you don’t have time to get to Jaisalmer or are looking for something a little less touristy.
Best backpacker hostel in Jaisalmer : Moustache Hostel
Situated in a beautiful heritage haveli this hostel feels more like a palace! Located right next to Jaisalmer Fort with beautiful private rooms, dormitories and even tents to choose from. A highlight is the stunning rooftop cafe. They also arrange a great desert safari trip.
How to get to Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is 6 hours on the train from Jodhpur.
Pushkar – 3 days
The small but charming holy lakeside town of Pushkar is quite a bewitching and magical place with good shopping that is a popular place for backpackers to relax.
If you come in October/November try to time your visit the the amazing spectacle of the Pushkar camel fair.
Best backpacker hostel in Pushkar: Madpackers Pushkar
This beautiful property full of traditional art, 3 terraces and plenty of social areas and activities was voted India’s best backpacker hostel in 2019. Choose from dormitories or private rooms and then enjoy the rooftop cafe, friendly vibes and super helpful staff.
How to get to Pushkar
From Jaislamer take an overnight train to Ajmer Junction, from there its a 15 min bus or taxi ride to Pushkar.
The Golden Triangle – 9 days
The Golden Triangle consists of the capital Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and is one of India’s most visited routes as it contains some of the most famous sights in India.
You could rush round the Golden Triangle in 4 or 5 days but it’s always better to take your time as there’s alot to see here but also alot of hassle.
Jaipur – 3 days
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and known as ‘the Pink City’ home to the extravagant Jaipur City Palace, the honeycombed Hawa Mahal and the impressive Amber Fort.
Ranthambore National Park is not too far from Jaipur and is the best place in India to spot a tiger in the wild!
Best backpacker hostel in Jaipur: Moustache Jaipur
With a refreshing plunge pool and cafe on the rooftop, plenty of sociable hang out areas, stylish private rooms and dormitories complete with privacy curtains, its easy to see why this hostel is one of the most popular in Jaipur.
How to get to Jaipur
Jaipur is only a 2 hour train journey from Ajmer Junction (the closest train station to Pushkar) and has good connections to Agra and Delhi too.
Agra – 2 or 3 days
You can visit the Taj on a rushed day trip from Delhi but Agra is also home to Agra Fort and the nearby ruined city of Fatephur Sikri which are both also UNESCO world heritage sites and well worth exploring.
Best backpacker hostel in Agra: Joey’s Hostel Agra
Located so close to the Taj Mahal that you can enjoy great views of the famous monument from the rooftop cafe bar. Private rooms and dorms are simple but clean with all modern amenities including air conditioning and the staff are friendly and helpful.
How to get to Agra
Agra is only about 4 hours on the train from Jaipur.
More blog posts about backpacking Agra:
New Delhi – 3 or 4 days
Many backpackers travel through New Delhi as quickly as possible as it can an overwhelming city which is a shame because there is so much to see and do in India’s capital.
New Delhi has a lot of history as well as being a city hurtling into the 21st century. Don’t miss visiting the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Minar, Chandni Chowk, India Gate and the Akshardam Temple.
Best backpacker hostel in New Delhi
I have to give you two choices here. Traditionally most backpacker and budget accommodation in Delhi is situated in the Paharganj area near New Delhi railway station. Zostel Delhi is a good option here as it’s super close to the train station.
Paharganj and Old Delhi are fascinating places and close to many of Delhi’s attractions, but, especially if it’s your first time in India or your a solo female traveller, I wouldn’t advise staying here. It’s pretty dirty and chaotic and there are alot of scammers around.
Staying in the suburbs of South Delhi will show you a whole other side to the city and is where I prefer to stay. Several cool, new backpacker hostels have opened giving budget travellers a chance to rest in a more peaceful and safer environment. The Hosteller is a delux new hostel with a resturant and close to the metro station so you can still get around the city easily to see the sights.
How to get to Delhi
There is a new fast train that gets you from Agra to Delhi in 3 hours. Once in Delhi make use of the new, modern and efficient Delhi metro – it can get to most attractions without having to haggle with a rickshaw driver.
From Delhi you could either travel east to visit the holy city of Varanasi, or west and visit Amritsar or head up to the Himalayas and Rishikesh.
More blog posts on backpacking Delhi
- Things to do in Delhi
- How to avoid the scams and survive your first time in Delhi.
- 8 of the best backpacker hostels in Delhi
If time allows, and if it’s warm enough, add the Himalaya mountains to your India itinerary!
From Delhi go west to visit the amazing Golden Temple in Amritsar and watch the spectacle of the Pakistan border ceremony.
If it’s warm enough then from Amritsar you could continue up into the Himalayan mountains in Himachal Pradesh – one of the best places to backpack in India.
Visit Dharamsala (home of the Dalai Lama and Tibet government in exile, Manali, Parvati Valley and Shimla – the queen of the hill stations and the Summer capital of India during the times of the British Raj.
In July and August the weather is warm enough to head up to lovely Leh and Ladakh.
On your way looping back to Delhi don’t miss Rishikesh the yoga capital of the world situated on a gorgeous stretch of the holy river Ganges.
There is a reason why I put Delhi and Varanasi at the end of this India itinerary – visiting these big, busy cities could be too overwhelming to enjoy at the start of your trip, plus there are a lot of touts and scammers but, once acclimatized to backpacking India, they are some of the most fascinating places to visit in India.
Other places to visit
If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten track try Tamil Nadu in South India.
Fly into Chennai (Madras) and after exploring the city head south. Just a few hours from Chennai is the seaside temple town of Mahabalipuram that is popular with backpackers, the French city of Pondicherry and nearby alternative ‘utopian’ community of Auroville.
India has plenty of cheap, direct flights to neighbouring countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives that you could easily add to a backpacking trip around South Asia!
Most people think the Maldives is only for expensive honeymoons but it’s possible to backpack the Maldives too! See all my tips for traveling the Maldives on a budget here!
I hope this post has given you plenty of inspiration and tips for planning your India backpacking trip.
Starting in somewhere like Kerala will gently ease a first time visitor into this incredible country and following this itinerary will give you a good range of sights and activities without doubling back on yourself too much.
Of course there are still many, many more places to see in India, it would take a lifetime to see them all, but I think this would be the perfect India itinerary for a 2 to 3 month backpacking trip.
Shorter India itineraries
India is a huge country and I know that not everyone has a couple of months to spend backpacking India. So, as promised, here are some suggestions if you only have a month or a couple of weeks to spend traveling India.
Ideas for 1 month India itinerary
If you have 1 month to backpack India you can still see alot. One idea if for a 1 month India itinerary is to split this route up and concentrate on either North India or South India.
For example, travel from Kerala up to Mumbai, or from Mumbai through Rajasthan to Delhi. If you’re visiting in the summer then fly into Delhi and travel around the Himalayas and avoid the heat.
My ideal itinerary to see the best of both north and south in only 1 month would be:
Get acclimatised to India by backpacking in laidback and luscious Kerala and Goa. Spend a few days in buzzing Mumbai before heading to Rajasthan.
Soak up the romantic lakeside vibes of Udaipur, explore the blue city of Jodhpur, chill out in charming Pushkar and then do the Golden Triangle route to see the sights of Jaipur, Agra and the Taj Mahal and New Delhi.
Then head over to Amritsar to marvel at the amazing Golden Temple, travel along the foothills of the Himalayan mountains to practice yoga in Rishikesh and then witness the rituals of life and death on the Ganges in scared Varanasi!
Ideas for a 2 week India itinerary
To make the most of 2 weeks in India you should either focus on exploring one region. Or, as both regions offer very different experiences making it hard to choose, take some domestic flights to get a taste for both north and south.
Use the first part of this India itinerary and visit Kerala, Mysore, Hampi and Goa. If forts and palaces are more your things then explore Rajasthan cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Pushkar and take a quick trip to Agra to see the Taj!
For example, when my Mum came to India she wanted a combination of relaxing beach time, history, culture, rural life and big city buzz so I devised a diverse, hassle free 2 week trip to Goa, Hampi and Mumbai.
This is how to see the highlights in 2 weeks:
Start in by relaxing on the tropical beaches and backwaters in either Kerala or Goa, then fly up to Jaipur and tour the Golden Triangle visiting Agra for the Taj Mahal and New Delhi.
Ideas for a 1 week India itinerary
1 week really isn’t much time for somewhere like India, but hey it’s better than nothing! My top tip would be don’t try to do too much. With only 1 week to spend in India just concentrate on visiting 1 state.
The Golden Triangle is the most popular short India travel route. It’s great because you’ll get to see alot of incredible things in a short period of time but it can be a bit hectic and overwhelming.
If it’s your first time in India and you only have 1 week then I recommend exploring either Kerala or Goa or taking a tour of the Golden Triangle like this YOLO Travels Golden Triangle Tour to ensure that you have a memorable experience (for all the right reasons!) and are left wanting to come back again to see more!
How to see India without the hassles
Unfortunately backpackers need to be aware that when traveling in India you’re likely to encounter alot of scams. Whether you have a short time and want to see as much as you can with minimum hassle, or perhaps if you’re a solo traveller or nervous about traveling India for the first time, taking a tour or hiring a private driver could be a good idea.
Self drive car rental isn’t common and I don’t recommend it as India’s roads can be pretty crazy, but hiring a private driver isn’t that expensive in India and ensures you get to your destination in comfort without any hassle. For a reputable driver get in touch with trip planners India Someday.
A small group tour can also be quite affordable. If you pick the right tour then you will share the experience with like minded people so you won’t feel alone. You can find all sorts of India tours, and read reviews from previous guests, at Tour Radar. Taking a tour will also maximize your time available so you can see as much as possible. You’ll also be able to avoid wasting precious time getting lost, scammed or planning your next move.
For more of my recommendations here are my favourite India tours.
I hope this post helps you plan an amazing itinerary for backpacking India!
More blog posts for your first time backpacking India:
Pin Me! 🙂