Plan my travel India
Mention the word India to someone, and it evokes images of the exotic and the fantastic. The country is sure to meet your expectations and give plenty more. In my post Plan my travel India, I am going to lay the framework on how to get the most out of your time and help you to get a better understanding of what to focus on.
One thing that will define your experience is how much you have budgeted to spend on it. I have written separate posts for that as a guide for you. First, read my post how much to travel in India to get an understanding of what your money will get you. Then read my post cost to visit India for a month to get tips on budgeting your money when you are there.
Once that is done, and before you book any tickets or apply for a visa, it is good to have a rough idea of where you want to go. The reality is India is a vast country and a month, or even a four is not very much time to get what you want out of your experience, so it is essential to utilise your time the best that you can. My website is full of resources to give you inspiration of just some of what this country has to offer.
Before you read my rundown for the premier states, I want you to ask yourself what it is you want to experience? Do you want to feel your toes in powdery white sand? Or you may have fantasies of seeking out Tigers among the lush forests of central India that are straight out of Rudyard Kipling’s jungle book? Whatever it is this post will give you an idea of where to focus your time.
What to do in India.
India’s vast size means you are unlikely to see everything you want in one trip. I have spent four and a half years in the country, and I have only seen a fraction of what this fantastic country has to offer. I would strongly advise you not to try and see too much as you will wind up spending all your time on a bus or train. So let us look at the highlights of the key states.
See what appeals to you most and book the appropriate tickets from there. India has a handful of budget airlines you can utilise for internal flights. For a full breakdown of getting around the subcontinent, I have written a separate post on the subject.
I always think up a rough plan before I book my trip to India, as it maximises your precious time. Also, without some kind of program in place, you will probably backtrack a lot and zig-zag on your routes. Avoid wasting time and keep your routes as direct as possible.
There are many states in India but some see a lot more visitors than others. Is this justified? Not always, but this post can only be so long before you fall asleep on your keyboard so I will now take a look at the big hitters. I will give you a brief rundown of what to expect and you can gauge roughly if this appeals to your wants and needs. To see any of the states in detail is going to take a fair bit of your itinerary, so consider it carefully.
Definitely one of the countries showpiece states, this is India as you imagine it. Visit any one of the majestic forts of ages past glistening in the sun. Catch a sleepy-eyed camel into the desert and sleep in the wilderness. Tiger filled jungles brings nature lovers from across the world to the iconic Ranthambhore national park. Maybe you want to experience the romance of the fabled city of Udaipur around the picturesque lake Pichola. This state is a chaotic riot of colour and culture that’s sure to impress even the most hardened of travellers.
A cultural melting pot and home to some of India’s most iconic sights. The iconic Taj Mahal gives a hint of its Muslim heritage, with its delicate domes built in traditional Mogul grandeur. The holy city of Varanasi sits on the banks of the Ganges alluring visitors and devotees alike for centuries. Known as the city of light tourists can’t help but be taken in by the almost hypnotic appeal of this fabled town. It is also Important to Buddhists as it is here that the Lord Buddha himself gave his first sermon in the town of Sarnath.
One of the countries clear winners for being something extraordinary. The high mountain deserts of Ladakh can not fail to impress. It is a photographers dream as every turning seems to pose a new opportunity to exercise your camera lens. The timeless Buddhist culture and friendly people make this place something genuinely memorable.
There are hiking opportunities galore here and a chance to get away from it all. Walking in the mountains under the shadow of Buddhist gompas dating over 1000 years old is soul charging. Despite the harsh, unyielding conditions wildlife thrives here and there is a chance to see some very rare wildlife. I don’t think I need to say more here, this is an adventure playground and one of my favourite states with a little something for everyone.
Kerala is the very definition of tropical. Beautiful beaches run the length of the whole state, and the wildlife-filled interior of the Western Ghats provides endless adventure in search of its unique flora and fauna. Kerilas heritage is reflected in its iconic dances, and its culture is sure to amaze. The state is home to the Indian backwaters where you can catch a boat through its narrow channels and spice plantations.
The country is synonymous with good food and eating your way through the state is undoubtedly one of the highlights. You can find you eat yourself silly here as the food is both varied and delicious.
The North Eastern Tribal states
Also known as the seven sisters, this place really appeals to the explorer in us. Until recently, it was difficult to obtain permits, and that stopped all but the most determined of us from reaching this rugged place. Now all states but Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim have dropped their restrictions and tourism is beginning to reach these parts.
The northeast states constitute the 8th most biologically diverse place on earth. I found the wildlife here to be quite unlike anything else you will find on the subcontinent. The biodiversity kept me wide-eyed the whole time I was there.
If that is not enough, it is also one of the most culturally rich areas of our beautiful planet. The seven sisters border Bhutan, Myanmar, Tibet, Bangladesh, Nepal, and that creates an extraordinary diversity of people.
With over 200 tribes, the northeastern states are a cultural treasure trove. Some have very distinct traditions like the Kasi people of Cherapunji who create the breathtaking root bridges that to this day are the only genuinely sustainable structures ever created by humankind. Because those bridges benefit both the people and the tree they fashion them from.
There is a lot to draw you to the Northeast, but there are a few things to consider. Travel can be painfully slow here, and in many places, there is no infrastructure. There is a small but significant risk of political violence from time to time and the ever-looming threat of a long-overdue mega-earthquake.
Also, there is an ethical consideration to make. A lot of these tribes have had minimal contact with western tourists, so it is essential to approach with the minimum of impact. Your actions may seem trivial to you but are hugely significant to the locals observing. Mass tourism is still a very long way off taking a foothold here. Expect lots of time with no other foreigners. You will enjoy a raw and unapologetic local experience in these parts.
The Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands are a tropical paradise. Crystal clear waters lap against the powdery beaches, and it is the kind of place you will never want to leave. The coral-fringed islands can become intoxicating while you lay in your hammock, watching the coconut trees sway gently in the wind. The Emerald Green forests are filled with wildlife and with many unique species of fauna draw in enthusiasts from around the world.
I have visited This island chain twice now and will be going back a third. With 572 islands to choose from, there is plenty of reason to return. Whenever I arrive, I can almost feel the steam releasing from my ears. I have separate in-depth posts for many of the main islands on my website. So if this looks like it may pop up on your itinerary then knock yourself out.
Despite its proximity to Kerala, Tamil Nadu is distinctly different. It is unlike anywhere else in the country for that matter. Traditions run deep into the psyche of its people despite it being one of the more wealthy states The historical wonders leftover from the Hindu empires from centries ago will leave you utterly jaw dropped at their grand design.
The jungles are full with all the wildlife that is unique to the Western Ghats and to top it off the Tamails know how to cook up a storm, making this one of India’s most exquisite culinary journeys into the bargain. What more could an Intrepid backpacker want?
This state has a little something for everyone and does not do things by half. The national parks here are both iconic and some of the best in the country for megafauna. Hampi is considered one of the most important archaeological sights in Asia. This place alone can take a whole week of your time. The Western Ghats run through this state as well, bringing endless hiking opportunities for those who want to stretch their legs a little.
If that isn’t enough, some of the best beaches can be found along its long coastline. The most famous being Gorkana that attracts party goers, soul searches and just plain hedonists from across the world.
Blessed with a variety of landscapes Mahendra Pradesh ( middle state,) has some show-stopping sights. The erotic temples of Khajuraho or the mogul ruins of Orchha are sure to make just about anyone appreciate history. The national parks here create a landscape that’s iconic in our mind’s eye of the country that’s Straight out of the jungle book.
In a place like Kanha national park, nature puts on a spectacular show, and with some of the highest concentrations of tigers to be found anywhere in the world this state is sure to grab your attention. Even if you are not a nature buff the landscapes here will take your breath away. If that still does not do it for you and you are just itching for some hardcore culture then this state still has you covered. It is deeply tribal here and some cultures are very remote.
Lonely Planet India.
Once you work out in your head what it is you want to get out of your time in this incredible country, use as many different resources as possible to draw your conclusions.
An excellent place to start and one I have come back to again and again for inspiration is the Lonely Planet guide to India. They provide an unbiased opinion and have a system of writing that has been built on for a very long time, so they can give coherent descriptions of what you will be getting and give you an idea of how much stuff costs.
Even if you don’t purchase a Lonely Planet guide book, I strongly recommend getting something. Guidebooks as a valuable source of information and yet I see so many travellers on the road without one.
Another perfect place to get your information is the government’s website Incredible India. The sight has stacks of data on just about everything you need to know, from Indian food to yoga retreats.
After all, when most people talk about spirituality, one of the first destinations to come up would be India. It is home to ayurvedic medicine and yoga. Both of which are fast becoming amalgamated into western culture.
There are some fantastic documentaries I have seen, and I have given the links to some. Others that don’t have links on here include the BBC series the Ganges. It is beautifully presented and provides a good insight into the culture and animals that call this mighty river home.
For all those foodies out there, Gordon Ramseys great escapes India is insightful, entertaining and delivered in his uniquely flamboyant manner. It is an excellent place to start to really get your teeth into the gastronomic journey that is India.
Now you can think about where to fly in India. If you want to see Karela, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka then fly to either Bangalore or Chennai because they are the cheapest destinations. If you’re going to see Utter Pradesh, Rajasthan or Mahadra Pradesh then fly into New Dehli because that is the cheapest destination in north India. If your focus is the Northeastern Tribal States, then fly to Calcutta. This is my suggestions to save money.
Then Begin to elaborate on your plan. Find out more by using the resources I have listed or find more and remember planning the trip is a good reason to get out of bed when you are saving money. Putting your plan all together is one of the big joys of your adventure, in my opinion. Buy a big map and draw your proposed route on it to minimalise any backtracking.
Take your time and refine your plan. For this to be possible, you should start planning as soon as possible and learn as much as you can about what to expect. Knowledge is vital here as India can be an unpredictable place to travel in. Lastly, try not to cram too much into your itinerary as you want to have time to take it all in. Not to mention something as simple as a public holiday can seriously throw a spanner in the works when everything grinds to a screaming halt.
In summary of my post Plan my travel India.
A trip like this is will probably be one of the most memorable experiences you will have in your life so most importantly at all is to have fun. This post aims to get you inspired and fired up for your dream trip, and I hope I did that. As usual, if you have any more questions you think I can help you with, or you just want to know more about your area of interest, then just leave your comments in the box provided and I will get back to you. Happy trails my fellow intrepid travellers.
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