North India is a great place to travel as a backpacker or traveller to India because it offers so much! It covers some of the best tourist places in India including Cities rich in Culture, Towns rich in Spirituality, Mountains, Desert, and of course the Taj Mahal!
To help you plan your trip around North India and ensure you fit in the some of the best places to visit in India, here is where I recommend you visit in Northern India as a backpacker, especially if this is your first trip to India and you want to get a really good feel for Northern India!
Mumbai is such a different City to other Cities in Northern India, it’s much more cosmopolitan and modern and it has a great vibe around it, not to mention that it’s really safe so it’s perfect for first time travellers to India whether you start there, end there or visit on your way around India.
In Mumbai you can visit the Gateway of India, get an insight into Asia’s biggest slum, enjoy the sunset on the beach with locals, go on a street food tour, eat in the famous Shantaram Cafe, and you can do all of this by using Uber in Mumbai which is a very popular way of getting around Mumbai, or by taking the local train which is easy to use and very cheap.
Tip to Note: I’m not saying don’t get a train in rush hour but what I will say is that if you do, be prepared to get sweaty and have a local experience!
If you need a break from the big Cities of Northern India, Jaisalmer is a good place to visit for backpackers in India. You can walk around the Fort which basically makes up the centre of the City, but best of all are the Desert Tours which give you the chance to explore the Thor Desert, sleep under the stars and wake up to a Desert sunrise.
Tip to Note: If you want to go out on a camel you can (just be sure to question and check they are being looked after well), and if a camel tour in Jaisalmer isn’t for you, you can still do a 4X4 desert trip which will get you into the desert a bit quicker and will be less painful!
Pushkar is a backpackers dream, it’s small and chilled with good healthy international food, juice shops, really good shopping for cheap prices, many different places to watch the sunset and although it is very popular with Indian Tourists as a holiday destination in India because of the Holy Lake and it’s Temples, it’s a place that you will definitely bump into other travellers in.
Tip to Note: Pushkar is a purely Vegetarian town with no eggs and no alcohol either which some people won’t mind but others will!
Can you go to India and not see the Taj Mahal? Well I have written about that in more detail in this post, but to give you a quick answer – no, I don’t think you can unless it’s seriously out of your way, but in the North it shouldn’t be as it’s so close to Delhi!
Some people say there’s no much to do in Agra but I think it is worth spending 2 days in Agra as a backpacker at least to see the Taj Mahal, and also see some of Agra’s other attractions, which generally all revolve around the Taj Mahal but they are good to see.
Agra is only a 2 hour journey away from Delhi by train so it’s really accessible and if you did only want to spend 1 day in Agra or do a day visit from Delhi to Agra logistically it is possible but it will be a long day.
Tip to Note: The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday’s so do not plan your trip there then!
A City like no other in the world, Varanasi is the City where life meets death, where death is celebrated, where bodies are burnt in full view of people to see and to top it off it’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited Cities in the world and one of the best places to visit in North India.
It’s not all old though, there are some nice cafes in Varanasi, especially near Assi Ghat which is also a good place to stay, and a very famous Lassi Shop – Blue Lassi Shop.
Tip to Note: If you can, try to go to Varanasi at the end of your North India Backpacking Trip or go once you have been to a few other places, it can be quite intense it will be even more so if Varanasi is one of the first or second places in India you visit.
Another one of the best places for backpackers to visit in India because it’s a backpackers dream! Rishikesh is the home of yoga with yoga being offered in many places during the morning and evening, and it has has been famous for travellers since The Beatles stayed in an Ashram there in the 60’s, which you can still visit today!
Rishikesh is full of amazing places to eat offering Indian Food as well as high quality international food and plenty of Vegan options.
It has Waterfalls, Temples, the River Ganges to walk along, massage places, and Rishikesh offers an array of courses like Yoga, Chakra Healing, Tantra and if you fancy taking yourself off to an Ashram for a week, Rishikesh has plenty of Ashrams in and around it.
Tip to Note: Days roll into each other in Rishikesh, especially if you fancy doing a course or some serious yoga (or serious chilling) so be sure to plan a good few days there.
Calcutta or Kolkata as it’s also known as is not visited by most backpackers on their trip around India but it is a really unique Indian City rich in History and Culture. Plus as a backpacker to India, if you are coming from South East Asia or going to South East Asia, because of it’s Eastern Location it’s a good place to fly from.
It’s a City that feels like it’s been held back in time and a popular thing to do close to Calcutta is to visit the Sundarban National Park which sits in Bangladesh mainly but also slightly in India.
Tip to Note: Calcutta is out of the way compared to a lot of other tourist places in India so it is a good city to fly into or out of.
Located at the base of the Himalayan mountains is the area called Dharamshala and this is a must visit for backpackers to India because it’s a total haven from the big main Cities like Agra, Varanasi, Delhi, and the big Cities of Rajasthan that are most visited by travellers to India.
Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj, Dharamkot and Bhagsu make up the Dharamshala area, Mcleod Ganj is a good place to base yourself as the town is small but there are plenty of restaurants and places to stay there, it has a big Tibetan Influence and is now the home of the Dali Lama which is really interesting to see in India. In fact it feels like you’re in a totally different Country!
Tip to Note: The road up to Dharamshala and the surrounding towns is very windy and there is no train station so it needs to be done by bus, it is do-able but just keep this in mind if you get car sick.
If you want adventure sports Manali is the place to go! Manali is also in North West India in the state of Himachal Pradesh, this is where you’ll find snow nearly all year round up in the Mountains and you can go paragliding in the summer too because the snow does clear lower down in Summer!
Tip to Note: The biggest thing to note is how cold it will get in winter and the appropriate clothing will be needed, although you will be able to buy a lot of clothing there too. Unless you are prepared for snow, going in the Winter months of Dec-Feb is not a good idea.
Jaipur aka The Pink City of India is part of the Golden Triangle (with Agra and Delhi) and it’s truly rich in Rajasthan History and Culture and therefore makes it a great place to visit as a backpacker to India to experience some of this Culture, although be warned that it is a big City and very busy.
There are so many places to visit in Jaipur and things to do in Jaipur, from Forts, Palaces, Iconic Buildings, Temples, not to mention all of the amazing Street Food that is on offer. In my opinion and the best way to enjoy Jaipur is not trying to do it all!
Tip to Note: There is a cinema in Jaipur called the Rajmandir and it’s such a good place to visit as a tourist because it’s a beautiful art deco building and Indian people watching films is so funny! They shout and laugh loud and it makes for a real unique and local experience in India!
The Pink City of Jaipur and the Blue City of Jodhpur often get the spot light of the best places to visit in Rajasthan, especially Jaipur because it’s part of the Golden Triangle (along with Delhi and Agra), and although they are good cities to visit in Northern India, they are very big and busy!
Udaipur on the other hand, also known as the White City of India, is much smaller and the centre of the tourist area in Udaipur is totally walkable which is the dream after being in so many Indian Cities where taxis and tuk tuks are needed to get around because the traffic is so crazy!
In Udaipur you can visit Temples and the famous Palace which is very impressive but you can also take courses in Yoga, Art, Cooking and so much more which makes it a great place to relax for a few days and learn something new.
Tip to Note: There are 2 sides to Udaipur where you can stay, the area that appears to be more on an island is the quieter side than the main side.
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Need to check out Flights to India? Kiwi.com is a great site to compare prices and routes to get the best deal!
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