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Sights in India: Best Destinations & Routes 2021 [+ map]

India is the best travel destination in the world. Find out why and which sights you shouldn't miss.

If I could only travel to one country, I would Choose India.

You can find everything you want on the subcontinent as a traveler.

You have Nature, culture and the Cradle a civilization.

Visit bustling, modern metropolises and ancient monuments.

Hike that roof of the world and relax on 7,000 kilometers of coast.

Fight with culture shock and experience pure Indian joie de vivre.

For the past 7 years I've had that Visited subcontinent 9 times and haven't seen everything yet.

Find out why you should travel to India and which travel destinations are particularly worth seeing.

Things to do in India: top 15 places to visit

1. Varanasi: the most Indian city in India

Varanasi is pure India. If you can only visit one place on the subcontinent, let it be the ancient city on the Ganges. The best thing to do, however, is to get used to India slowly before visiting the lively city on the Ganges.

Warning, not every visitor likes it here, and certainly not right away. For me, Varanasi was love at third sight. When Varanasi gets too much, look to the Buddhist Sarnath a few kilometers further.

2. Hampi: magical ruined city with hippies

My favorite place in India Hampi was the largest and richest city in the world at the end of the Middle Ages. You will need several days to explore the extensive ruins.

But you don't have to play Indiana Jones to like Hampi. Chill with fellow travelers in a hammock by the river and enjoy the views of the super photogenic landscape from Sunset Point.

3. Agra: Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikri

The marble building is one of the most popular in the world and rightly so. The Taj Mahal is super touristy and totally overcrowded, but you still have to visit it.

Recover from mass tourism in the ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri a few kilometers further. The former capital was already deserted when the construction of the Taj Mahal began.

4. Aurangabad: Ellora, Ajanta & Dalautabad

If you ask me, the Kailash Temple of Ellora is stealing the show from the Taj Mahal. The largest of 34 temples in Ellora is also one of the most elaborate.

With incredible effort, the huge monument was completely carved out of the rock. Michelangelo would say the temple was already inside and only 200,000 tons of stone had to be removed from around it.

5. Mumbai: Bollywood, Beach & Sea

I would actually advise against visiting Indian metropolises. The largest city in India is an exception. You simply have to see the Bollywood city of Mumbai.

The modern city with its huge slums quickly becomes too much. Then look to Elephanta Island in the Arabian Sea or take a walk out to the Haji Ali Dargah Island mausoleum.

6. Amritsar: golden temple of the Sikh

As soon as you enter the temple gates of the giant Harmandir Sahib, you leave India and reach the spiritual paradise of the Sikh. You can spend days in and around the golden temple.

This is also because the food in Punjab is considered to be the best in India. For a change, watch the crazy soldier dance on the Pakistani border from Wagah.

7. Goa: Beach vacation with nightlife and churches

Goa doesn't just stand for trance music. The former colony of the Portuguese later became a destination of longing on the hippie trail. Goa is known for long beaches, cheap beer and extravagant parties.

You can combine a beach holiday with day trips to the forts and churches of the Portuguese. Old Goa was said to be more beautiful than Lisbon.

8. Mysore: Sultan's city & big Tibet

The Sultan's Palace of Mysore looks like a dream from a thousand and one nights. This is even more true when you see it illuminated in bright colors at night. The city's bazaars and mansions also go well with it.

Mysore invites you to several excursions in the area. The largest Tibetan village in India is not in the Himalayas, but here in South India. The Jain pilgrimage site Shravanabelagola and the gardens of Brindavan are also worthwhile.

9. Udaipur: Relaxation in the city of lakes

Jaipur is the better known city in Rajasthan, but Udaipur is stealing the crown. The city of lakes is also very touristy, but much more relaxed. A sunset at Lake Pichhola will convince you.

Udaipur is also a transportation hub and base camp for several excursions. Explore the forts of Chittorgarh and Kumbalgarh. Cool off for a weekend in Rajasthan's only hill station, Mount Abu.

10. Srinagar: The other India in the Himalayas

When you hear Kashmir, you are sure to think of a conflict zone. The summer capital Srinagar is safe. It is far enough from the front between India and Pakistan.

The city of Mughal Gardens is again a welcoming and open travel destination after the long war. For a special experience, stay overnight on one of the many houseboats in Dal Lake.

11. Cherrapunji: Waterfalls & Root Bridge

The seven states in northeast India are hardly visited. In all fairness there isn't much of interest there either. Cherrapunji and Shillong are worthwhile exceptions.

See how enormous waterfalls pour down towards the lowlands in Bangladesh during the rainy season. Also, don't miss the Nongriat root bridges. You have to hike to the small place in the middle of the jungle.

12. Mamallapuram: Mediterranean feeling on the east coast

The east coast of India is less popular than the west coast. Granted, Mamallapuram doesn't have the most beautiful beaches either. The many beach bars are definitely good enough for a sundowner.

You don't have to walk far from the beach and stand in the Mediterranean-looking hills. The cave temples here are part of the world cultural heritage with the largest rock relief in the world. The area is not huge, but most of the time you only have to share it with monkeys.

13. Palitana: City of 1,000 Jain Temples

Are you looking for an insider tip in India? If there is such a thing as an undiscovered gem on the subcontinent, it is Palitana. Even most Indians do not know the Jain temple city.

March uphill with thousands of Jain pilgrims until you reach Palitana on a mountain peak. Almost a thousand temples were built here by the Jain, the peaceful religion of Mahatma Gandhi.

14. Puri: Beaches, fishermen & ancient sun temples

Puri would really only be a fishing village with beaches if it weren't for an important Hindu temple. Nevertheless, the place is tranquil, unless you come to the huge pageant in July.

Most of the rest of the year you have the beaches to yourself. Take a day trip to the famous sun temple in Konark and the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri.

15. Delhi: Too much of everything in the chaos metropolis

You will hardly be able to avoid India's capital when you travel to northern India. You shouldn't either. As chaotic as Delhi is, the old center of Indian power is well worth seeing.

It's best to save Delhi for the end of the trip once you get used to India. For the ultimate culture shock, take the metro to Chawri Bazar in Delhi's old town. Before you know what happens you are lost in one of the hottest markets in the world.

Inexpensive or cheap? Recommended budget in India

In South Asia you will find the cheapest travel destinations in the world from Nepal to Pakistan to Bangladesh. India is also very inexpensive in most places.

On my first trip to India, I managed to get by on 300 euros a month. However, higher monthly budgets of 500 euros or more are more realistic. With 1000 euros you can really enjoy yourself.

The cheapest places to stay in India, for example, are real dirt holes. As a budget packer, I stayed in 3-euro and 2-euro rooms. Today I don't do that anymore.

It is best to calculate at least 5 euros for a usable room in the country. In tourist places this quickly turns into 10 euros and in large cities even 15 euros.

Hostels are still quite new in India. They are mainly found in super-touristy places like Delhi, Varanasi or Mumbai. In India, as a solo traveler, you often pay extra.

The admissions also add up. This is mainly due to price discrimination. You pay 15 euros for the Taj Mahal, an Indian pays 3 euros.

Otherwise India is very cheap: food, transport and activities cost a few euros each.

Costs in India for food, transport, accommodation

Food costs in India

  • 20 INR (€ 0.25) bottle of water 1 liter
  • 40 INR (€ 0.50) street food snack, e.g. Aloo Paratha
  • 80 INR (€ 1) regular veg-thali (lunch menu)
  • 160 INR (€ 2) Deluxe Non-Veg Thali (lunch menu)
  • 300 INR (€ 4) large portion of tandoori chicken with naan

Cost of transportation in India

  • 20 INR (0.30 €) ride on city bus or metro
  • 100 INR (€ 1) short tuk tuk ride
  • 160 INR (€ 2) 4 hours train ride with seat
  • 250 INR (3 €) 4 hours bus ride on the local bus
  • 500 INR (€ 7) 10 hour night train in a sleeper
  • 700 INR (9 €) 10 hours night bus

Cost of entry to India

  • INR 100 (€ 1) entrance fee at the local museum
  • 200 INR (€ 2) entrance fee to C attraction
  • 300 INR (€ 4) Typical entrance fee to B attraction
  • 500 INR (€ 7) Typical entrance fee to the A attraction

Cost of overnight accommodation in India

  • 400 INR (5 €) room in the country
  • 800 INR (10 €) rooms in tourist places
  • 1200 INR (15 €) room in a big city

Cost of luxury

  • 40 INR (€ 0.50) Coke Zero
  • 80 INR (€ 1) cappuccino
  • 150 INR (€ 2) Fancy Cappuccino
  • 100 INR (€ 1) large beer in the restaurant in Goa
  • 250 INR (€ 3) large beer in the restaurant

India Map: Attractions in South India & North India

The map shows places of interest in India. The bigger the point that marks a place, the more worthwhile I find the respective place.

India is not particularly touristy. But there are some concentrations that are marked in red on the map. Green means untouristic. Domestic tourism plays less of a role here.

The map also shows 7 suggested routes. A detailed description of the approximately three-week routes follows at the end of the article. Combine the routes for a trip of several months.

The usual connection routes to the neighboring countries Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also shown. Especially Nepal and India are popular to travel together.

I've visited almost all of the places on the map myself. In addition, I have spent more than 6 months in India in the last 7 years.

Backpacking in India: travel tips for individual trips

India is not a destination for beginners. They say South India would be easier, but I can't confirm that. West Indies is a little more relaxed, but still stressful.

Really simple places in India are in the mountains of North India and Northeast India. In Kashmir, Ladakh, Sikkim or Mizoram you are far away from the Indian stress.

Your trip to India will be a lot easier if you avoid major Indian cities. South Asian metropolises are simply too much of everything.

If you've never traveled individually before, you'd better gain experience in Southeast Asia first. If you are hesitant, try "India light": Sri Lanka and Nepal.

For advanced travelers, India is all the more worthwhile. You won't get bored here, not even after months on the subcontinent.

But even as an experienced traveler it is important to dose. Plan enough beaches and relaxing places on a trip to India.

India causes problems as a woman traveling alone and even in twos or threes. Better join a mixed-sex group and there won't be any problems.

Why India? Good reasons for a trip

There are many reasons for India. I'm not a “Namaste” type, I get bored of trekking in the Himalayas and I like Indian food better in Malaysia. Nevertheless, these are 3 good reasons to visit India.

For me India is a grounding with the world. We live in a filter bubble and don't even know what moves the remaining 7 billion people. On the Indian subcontinent you will meet at least 2 billion of them.

Their everyday life is extremely different from ours. We take so much luxury for granted that every Indian has to work hard for. But the Indians are not the exception, we are. Most people in the world have a lot less than we do.

We can learn a lot from how Indians deal with poverty and overpopulation. For me, the Indians' joie de vivre is the most important lesson India has to offer.

Of course, I can't predict how you will react to India. The country is a maximum culture shock and many travelers find it uncomfortable. You have to be ready for a trip to India. Only then can the journey change your worldview.

Spiritual India Trip: Yoga, Ashram & Meditation

Yoga comes from North India from the foot of the Himalayas. You can still find most of the yoga ashrams in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The yoga capital with countless ashrams is Rishikesh. There you can do a yoga course lasting several weeks or just sniff.

You can now find yoga ashrams all over the country. Unless you need a prestigious Rishikesh diploma, your choice is almost entirely free.

For Buddhist mindfulness meditation, do a ten day retreat in the Thai temple in Sarnath. Southeast Asia is a better travel destination for Vipassana.

If you are interested in Buddhism, travel the Buddha Trail. The 4 most important places are Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar and Lumbini in Nepal. Rajgir and Nalanda are also worthwhile.

Do you want to spend several months in India and think outside the box? Check out an alternative society scheme in Auroville, South India.

Ayurveda was forgotten in India for centuries and only survived in Sri Lanka. You are better off there for an Ayurveda course or a cure.

Pure nature: national parks for tigers, elephants & lions

You will experience a lot of nature on every trip to India in the land of the jungle book. There are also national parks for animal safaris across the country.

Like Africa, India also has its Big Five: Lions, tigers, Indian rhinos, elephants & buffalo. There are also leopards, but they are much too shy.

To see all the Big Five you have to visit several national parks. Lions are only found in Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat. For Indian rhinos you have to go to Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

Theoretically, you can see Bengal tigers in many national parks. You have high chances in Rajasthan in Ranthambore National Park and in Madya Pradesh in Kanha or Bandhavgarh National Park.

It is unfortunately very unlikely to see a Bengal tiger. The hot season from March to May is best. The more days you stay, the greater the chances.

You don't have to look for elephants and buffalos as well as all kinds of monkeys. You see them sooner or later on every trip to India.

3 weeks round trip in India: 7 suggested routes

Here are my 7 suggested routes for a trip to India. The first route "golden triangle" is considered a classic. You can do the 3 locations in just one week.

You should plan around 3 weeks for the remaining 6 routes. If you travel slowly or want to extend a beach holiday, it is better to count on 4 weeks.

Half of the routes are round trips. You can of course also do it in the opposite direction or start from another location.

For the routes that are not round trips, either fly back to the start or take an open jaw flight. For example, you can book the outbound flight to Delhi and the return flight to Kolkata.

Of course, you can also combine several or even all routes. But do not underestimate that on longer trips you will become slower and also weary of travel.

1. Golden Triangle Round Trip: Taj Mahal & Jaipur from Delhi

The golden triangle is the India route with the 3 most touristic places in India: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

Unfortunately, Agra and Jaipur are two prime examples of what goes wrong with mass tourism.

There is only one reason for this classic route: you want to see as much India as possible in a few days. Better take more time and choose a different route.

You start in Delhi (A). You should plan at least 3 days for the capital. It is best to distribute it between the beginning and the end, so that you do not have a lot of stress on arrival or departure.

The second location is Agra (B), a 2 hour train ride from Delhi. Here is India's marble landmark Taj Mahal and the ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri. Go away after a day.

The third location is Jaipur (C), 4 hours train / bus ride from Agra and Delhi. Take a look at the City Palace and the Amber Fort. Stay in an affordable palace hotel for backpackers. 2 days are enough.

2. North & East India Highlights: Delhi to Kolkata

The longitudinal crossing from North India to the East Indies is a pearl necklace of India's highlights.

You start like the golden triangle in Delhi (A). Instead of Jaipur you travel from Agra (B) towards the Ganges. You can visit Jaipur before Agra if you want.

Orchha (C) is the first stop after Agra with a beautiful abandoned fort in the middle of the country. The temples scattered in the landscape are reminiscent of Bagan in miniature.

A little better known is Khajuraho (D) with a waterfall and India's erotic temples. 1 day is enough, but you can also get stuck in Orchha.

Varanasi (E) is the highlight of every India route. Take your time with the visit. Relax in the many rooftop cafés on the Ganges, otherwise it will quickly become too much. 3-4 days is the absolute minimum plus 1 day more for Sarnath.

Bodhgaya (F) is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Believers from Southeast Asia and East Asia come to meditate under the Bodhi tree. This is exactly where the Buddha was enlightened. In 2 days you manage to explore the many temples from all Buddhist countries.

For Puri (G), Bhubaneswar, Konark and the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri you actually only need 3 days. But you should extend it and insert a few days at the beach. It is better to spend more time here than in Kolkata, which is not well worth seeing (H).

3. Rajasthan round trip: India's desert palaces from Delhi

The Rajasthan round trip is the most famous and touristic route in India.

Again you start with the golden triangle. From Jaipur (B) you travel on to the small desert town of Pushkar (C) near Ajmer. The holy place on the lake is an oasis in the desert and backpackers meeting place. Stay calm for several days and check out Ajmer.

Chittorgarh (D) is on the way to Udaipur and is probably the most beautiful of the many forts in Rajasthan. Half a day is enough. Alternatively, you can take a day trip from Udaipur.

Udaipur (E) is the romantic city of lakes and very touristy, and rightly so. Stroll around the bazaar, look up to the hilltop overlook, and take a boat ride. I cannot recommend the trip to Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh. 3 days go by in a flash.

Jodhpur (F) is known for its massive fort. Highlights are the restored Toorji stepwell in the middle of the old town and the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park. 1 day is actually enough.

Jaisalmer (G) is an old city in the middle of the desert and looks like something out of the Arabian Nights. Relax in the beautiful old town and admire the sunsets over the Thar desert. 2-3 days are over quickly.

If you want to visit the Rat Temple in Deshnok, stop in Bikaner (H) on the way back to Delhi. Otherwise, take the night train to Delhi. Bikaner himself is nice, but can't keep up with Jaisalmer.

4. West India round trip: Goa & Hampi from Mumbai

The West Indies round trip is more relaxed than other routes and yet offers many highlights.

You start and end the round trip in Mumbai (A). You couldn't see all the faces of the Bollywood metropolis even in several weeks. Plan at least 2 days at the beginning and end of the trip.

Aurangabad (B) is one of the most underrated places in India. The temples of Ajanta and especially Ellora are amazing and for me the India architecture highlight. Plan 3 days for Aurangabad and the surrounding area.

If you're not crazy enough to drive to Hampi in one go, stop in Bijapur (D) and / or Bidar (C). These are the former capitals of two sultanates with medieval ruins. Half a day is enough.

The tiny town of Hampi (E) was once the vast capital of the Hindu Vijayanagar kingdom. Today the chilled-out place is practically the backpacker capital of India. Once you fall in love with Hampi, 3 days is not enough.

Goa (F) is home to India's most famous beaches and notorious for its nightlife. You have the choice between quiet beaches, hippie beaches and party beaches. Spend days or even weeks here.

Most travelers take the night train from Goa back to Mumbai. Better to interrupt the trip at the island fort Murud-Janjira (G), on the little-visited Konkan coast of Maharashtra.

5. South India round trip: Kerala & Tamils ​​temples from Kochi

South India is culturally different from North India with hotter temperatures.

In southern India, Kochi (A) can be reached best from Europe. The coastal city was formerly occupied by the Portuguese and Dutch. Explore the city on multiple islands with city ferries. 1-2 days are enough.

Mysore (B) is one of the few Indian cities that you should explore on foot. You can even take a long walk to the Chamundi Hills. Be sure to visit the largest Tibetan settlement, Bylakuppe. Plan for at least 3 days.

Chennai (C) is primarily a transportation hub. You can also visit the hectic city if you want. 1 day is enough.

Mamallapuram (D) is a very chilled beach town on the east coast. If you get bored of hanging out, you can explore the caves and temples in the hills. Stay 2 to 3 days.

Islamic conquerors never made it to Tamil Nadu. Hinduism flourished here and was even brought as far as Angkor and Bali by the Cholas. Check out a few of the temple towns with huge Dravidian sanctuaries.

The "city of a thousand temples" Kanchipuram (E) is best reached from Mamallapuram. The largest temples can be found further south around Tiruchirappalli (F). Other important temple cities are Madurai, Chidambaran and Kumbakonam. If you have a lot of time, take the detour to the temple town of Rameswaram at the former land bridge to Sri Lanka. 1 day is sufficient per temple city.

After all the temples you deserve a beach vacation. Kovalam near Thiruvananthapuram is the best known and most touristic beach in Kerala. The less developed beaches at Varkala (G) are a better idea for backpackers. Relax for 2-3 days.

Unfortunately, the backwaters of Kerala are far too well known. To escape the hordes of tourists, rent a canoe in Alappuzha (H) instead of an expensive houseboat. Or you can explore the backwaters with the help of the public ferry to Kottayam. 3 days are enough even for nature lovers.

6. North India's mountains: in the Himalayas from Delhi

The roof of the world is the quietest area in India. You don't have to go hiking to enjoy the mountains.

Already 8 hours drive from Delhi (A) you feel like deep in the mountains in the yoga capital Rishikesh (B). Visit the Indian pilgrimage site of Haridwar for a hectic spiritual experience. 3 days is enough, unless you are doing a yoga class.

Chandighar (C) is the most beautiful of the Indian planned cities and surprisingly non-Indian. The typical chaos is missing. The buildings by the French architect Corbusier also do not fit the usual image of India. 1 day is enough.

In Amritsar (D) is the golden temple, the spiritual center of the Sikh. For a special experience stay in the temple, there is an extra bedroom for international guests on a donation basis. It should be 2-3 days.

McLeod Ganj (E) is the home of the Dalai Lama and the most important Tibetan place in Indian exile. "Dharamsala" is more reminiscent of a backpacker party than Lhasa. 1 day is enough. Alternatively, visit the Hill Stations Shimla or Manali.

Srinagar (F) will soon be connected to the Indian rail network. Many Indian tourists are already coming to Kashmir. The old city is located in a beautiful landscape on Dal Lake. Make a day trip to the mountains in Gulmarg. Plan 3 days plus time for hiking.

The onward journey to Leh (G) through the mountains is difficult and the mountain pass is only open in summer. But it is worthwhile to drive to the remote area, Ladakh is like a little Tibet. Plan 3 days and more if you want to hike.

7. Insider tip Northeast India: the unknown India from Kolkata

The “seven sisters” of Northeast India are a little-noticed insider tip of India.

From Kolkata (A) take the train to Siliguri. From there you can either take the narrow-gauge railway or the jeep to Darjeeling (B). Enjoy the cool temperatures with a tea and a distant view of Mount Everest. 1-2 days are enough.

Get the 30-day permit for the state of Sikkim in Darjeeling. The Inner Line Permit is a formality and will be issued to you in a few minutes. You can also get it in Siliguri or Kolkata.

In Gangtok (C), the vertical capital of Sikkim, you can feel like in Thimphu, Bhutan - without the expensive visa. From here you can organize multi-day hikes on your own or with a guide.

Guwahati (D) and most of Assam could also be in West Bengal. To get to know the many peoples of Northeast India, drive quickly further into the mountains. A good base for this is Shillong in Meghalaya.

Explore the tropical mountains of the waterfalls and root bridges from Shillong (E). You can do it on your own or with the bus tours at the Tourist Office. Also spend a night in Cherrapunji (F) and / or at the root bridges of Nongriat. Expect at least 4 days for Meghalaya.

Back in the flatlands of Assam relax on Majuli (G), the largest river island in Brahmaputra. Although the sea is far away, there is an island feeling here. Stay for a few days depending on your level of exhaustion.

For the rest of northeast India, you have to be prepared for arduous bus journeys or fly. Honestly? I don't find Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura or Mizoram particularly interesting. Alternatively, take the way back via Bangladesh.

Practical information & preparation for your trip to India

You need a visa for India. The e-Visa is now the best choice. You have up to 4 days before departure to organize it.

The best time to travel to India is from mid-October to mid-April. The rainy season prevails until October and from April it gets very hot, especially in Rajasthan. In South India the rainy season lasts longer, sometimes until December.

From December to March it is too cold in the mountains and some passes are closed. Ladakh and Kashmir have peak seasons in summer. You lie in the rain shadow.

You don't have to reserve a room in India. I often only look for overnight accommodation on site, which is cheaper. If you prefer to book in advance, use Booking * or Agoda *.

Transport: Tips for Bus, Train & Flights in India

The Indian Railway is the largest employer in the world and a very good means of transport in India. If you want to ride the Sleeper night train, buy a blanket at the first bazaar. Bedding is provided from the more expensive 3AC class.

Buying train tickets used to be half a science. Today you can get the train tickets online. Register with your German cell phone number to benefit from the Foreign Tourist Quota.

Buses off the main lines can be worthwhile. As everywhere in the world, Rome2Rio is a good planning aid. In India, you can also search directly on Redbus. Take the reviews there seriously. Badly rated buses are really awful.

Flights in India are cheap. Always use the flexible flight search engine Kiwi for short-haul flights. Flying is actually unnecessary. Night trains are usually a better choice in India.

Incredible India! When do you plan your trip to the subcontinent?

The travel camera for my photos is a Canon professional compact *

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