I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again – India is beautiful, diverse and daymmm right extraordinary.
I have now travelled to India three times (for around 4 months in total) focusing on both the North (Delhi, Rishikesh and Rajasthan) and the South and, after much contemplation, have decided that the North tops it on the wow factor.
The South may have the stunning, palm fringed beaches and laid back atmosphere however, nothing beats the grand majestic forts, spiritual Ganges and mesmerizing Thar desert of the North.
I recently wrote a six-week itinerary to the South of India on Girls vs Globe (check it out here) so, if time is on your side, combine the two of these to create a trip of a life time…
Delhi – 2 nights
It is likely that when you fly into India you will fly into the capital, Delhi.
Delhi is the epitome of the hustle and bustle and mania of India but, on an overwhelming and sometimes scary scale. Therefore, if this is your first taste of India, please do not let it put you off. Hold hope…
Like any capital, Delhi is where you’ll find a lot of touts and scammers (here are some common scams to be aware of) so, be on high alert when you arrive.
Although Delhi was not my favourite place to travel in India, it does have the Red Fort, Lotus Temple and Gandhi memorial, which are all worth a day or two stay to explore before escaping to more serene and tranquil waters…
Rishikesh – 3 nights
6 hours North of Delhi lies one of my absolute favourite places in the world (now isn’t that a statement) – Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is a spiritual hub nestled in the foothills of the towering Himalayas and is renowned for being the ‘yoga capital of the world’. The Beatles retreated here in the 60s to disconnect from the real world to write one of their albums – and it’s easy to see why.
The prominent river Ganges soars through the city directly from the mountain ranges and ashrams, yoga retreats, temples and charming souvenir shops outline its waters.
Whether you want to invest some time focusing on yoga and meditation or, would simply like to escape the mayhem of the county’s larger cities, I can guarantee you’ll come away from Rishikesh feeling enlightened in one way or another.
Here are my top things to see and do in Rishikesh.
Varanasi – 2 nights
From one spiritual city to another…
Varanasi can be found 15 hours South of Rishikesh and is absolutely mind-blowing.
For Hindus, being cremated at one of the burning ghats in Varanasi is the ultimate way to pass into the afterlife. Therefore, from dusk ’til dawn, as you wander the streets of the city, you will witness bodies wrapped and embellished in vibrant cloth and ribbons being carried towards their cremation ceremony by their loved ones.
Tourists are able to watch these ceremonies from afar however, photography is strictly prohibited.
End your enlightening day in Varanasi by hopping in a rowing boat at sunset to watch the Aarti festival from the Ganges.
If you only have a short time in Varanasi, check out my guide to 24 hours in the city here.
Agra – 1 night
Around 9 hours West of Varanasi lies Agra, the city home to the magnificent Taj Mahal. Although there is not much else to occupy you in Agra, a trip to India would not be complete without ticking off this magical wonder of the world.
Head to the Taj at sunrise before the hoards of tourists arrive and watch as the sun ignites the grand, opalescent masterpiece in all its glory.
Jaipur – 3 nights
Another few hours West you’ll find Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur.
Jaipur holds a very special place in my heart as it’s where I did my volunteer project during my first trip to India and consequently, where my love for India flourished.
Bathed in a terracotta pink colour, Jaipur has earned its name as the ‘Pink City of India’ and has a huge number of sights worth visiting. From its exceptional shopping, textile factories and jewellery emporiums to its magical forts, temples and palaces, there is enough in Jaipur to keep you busy for at least 4 nights.
Jaisalmer – 2 nights
Home to the rolling Thar desert, Jaisalmer is where most travellers go to ride across the silky smooth sand dunes on camels before spending the night camping under the stars.
Jodhpur – 2 nights
Jodhpur is known as the Blue City of India. Originally painted to reflect the sun, from afar, the city looks like it has been draped in a dusty blue blanket.
Weave your way through quaint alleyways lined with cows, temples and hole in the wall shops before checking out the city’s star attraction – the Mehrangarh Fort.
Udaipur – 3 nights
Udaipur aka. the ‘Venice of India’ is located 4 hours South of Jodhpur and has been captivating its visitors with its idyllic beauty for centuries.
Wander around the city’s tranquil lake admiring the locals doing their morning wash, learn about the ancient Maharaja’s at the City Palace before heading to the Monsoon Palace to watch the sunset.
Check out my five must see sights in Udaipur here.
Mumbai – 3 nights
By the time I had reached Mumbai monsoon season had very much set in. However, I still managed to explore the city’s Elephanta Caves, be an extra in a Bollywood movie and eat a heck of a lot of Indian food (this was my last stop before heading home).
Mumbai is hectic, loud and up and coming meaning, the country’s hierarchy of rich and poor is very evident. It is home to one of the largest slums in the world yet, is also covered in tall lavish office blocks and apartments. It is tough to see however, Mumbai is India rolled into one, which is why it needs to make an appearance in your India itinerary…