The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to India • The blonde abroad


A Beginner's Guide to India

India is a huge country and has so much diversity in so many aspects: its food, its people, its geography and even its languages. India hosts 22 official languages, written with the help of 13 different scripts and over 720 dialects!

With a country so big and rich in culture, what better way to find out about the area than with a local? Of the top 10 destinations to visit, tips to get around, and the best time to visit, Parita Bhansali, an enthusiastic Mumbai traveler, shares some of the highlights.

Here is the ultimate beginner's guide to India!

Tag Mahal, Agra

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Known for: Art, history, architecture

Agra witnesses the largest number of aliens all year to see the magic of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal!

The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Mugal Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The whole palace was decorated with jewels that were bought around the world and later looted by the British.

There is a local myth that tells Emperor Shah Jahan to cut off the hands of architects and craftsmen so that they cannot reproduce this beautiful monument. I'm horrible, aren't I?

Places to visit: Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fortress, Itimat-ud-Dawlah Tomb, Akbar Tomb, Jama Masjid, Mekht Baugh, Taz Museum

How to get there: You can take 3 hours train / bus / car ride from Delhi

Time required: ~ 3 days

Humayun's Tomb, Delhi

Delhi

Known for: Art, history, architecture

Places to visit: Qutub Minar, Humayun's Tomb, Red Fort, Hauz Khas Village, Indian Gate, Lotus Temple, Jantar Mantar, Agrasen Ki Boali, Jama masjid, Safdarjung Tomb.

Sarojini Nagar is perfect for shopping! You can find clothes starting at around $ 3 USD!

How to get there: You can fly to Delhi Airport or take a train to one of the many stations in the city

Time required: ~ 3 days

Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds)

Jaipur, Rajasthan

Known for: Art, history, architecture

Often known as Pink City, Jaipur was built in 1727. Maharaja Jai ​​Singh II painted the whole city pink to welcome Prince Albert of Wales.

Jaipur is famous for its palaces and offers many luxurious stays. It houses the most expensive hotel in Rajasthan – Rambaug Palace, with suites costing around $ 8300 a night (holy smoke!).

Places to visit: Hawa Mahal, Amer Fortress, City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Nahar Nagar Fortress, Galtaji Temple, Jaigarh Fortress, Abhaneri stepwell, Panna Meena ka Kund, Chand Baoli.

How to get there: You can fly to Jaipur Airport or take the train to the city

Time required: ~ 4 days

View of Varanasi

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Known for: Art, history, architecture

Varanasi is one of the most worshiped cities in India and worth a visit with so many places to explore!

Places to visit: Manikarnika Ghat to witness Ganges aarti at night (Ganges is one of the most sacred rivers for India), Nepal Temple, Tibetan Temple, Bharat Mata Mandir, Kedar Ghat, Lakhaniya Dari Waterfalls

How to get there: Varanasi Airport is well connected to some of the major cities such as Delhi. There are also public buses and trains.

Time required: ~ 3 days

Indian Kerala

Kerala

Known for: Ayurveda, wellness trips, yoga, wildlife, vineyards

Get an authentic Ayurvedic massage and relax in Kerala where all India flock to rejuvenate. Take a boat ride in Alappuzha waters or see Nilgiri Thars, located in Kerala only.

While you are here, be sure to explore a mountain that turns blue due to a rare blue flower that blooms once every 12 years – the next year for this phenomenon is 2030!

Places to visit: Munnar, Alappuzha, Kochi, Thekkady

How to get there: Kerala has four international airports, so choosing to fly is your best bet. However, the city has more than 200 train stations and well-maintained roads if you plan to drive from another nearby state.

Time required: ~ 5 days

Goa

Known for: Beaches and parties

India was liberated by the British in 1947, but Goa did not gain its freedom from the Portuguese until 1961. In fact, you will see Portuguese influence in many parts of architecture.

Since then, Goa has been known for parties, beaches and tourism. Some of the best clubs to visit are Curlies, Club Cabana, Tito's, Sinq Nightclub, Cafe Mambos, LPK Waterfront, Kamaki and UV Bar.

Places to visit: Baga Beach, Calangute Beach, Bom Jesus Basilica, Aguada Fortress, doruise in Goa, casinos in Baga Waters, Anjuna beach, Dudhsagar waterfalls, Ashwem beach

Helpful Tip: Eat at Britto's & St. Anthony's on your visit!

How to get there: Goa is reachable by unique Dabolim airport, by train and bus

Time required: ~ 5 days

Iniaka

Himachal

Known for: Mountains, hiking, relaxation

Places to visit: Kasol, Rishikesh, Kheerganga, Tosh, Manali, Parvati valley

All these places are a night bus ride away. Start your journey with Manali as a starting point in these idyllic areas known for hiking, hot springs, homestays, and beautiful rivers.

How to get there: Himachal has three domestic airports that are well connected to other major Indian cities.

Days Required: ~ 10 days

Gokarna, Karnataka

Known for: Mountains, hiking, beaches

Gokarna is the place where you can love both the mountains and the ocean! You can camp on a hiking trip to Paradise Beach with many other travelers.

Places to visit: Mahabaleshwar temple, wagon near Ganpati temple, Kudle beach, Om beach

How to get there: The nearest airport is Dabolim in Goa. From there, it's a four-hour car. Because of this, if traveling across India, arriving by train is your best bet.

Days Required: ~ 3 days

Hazara Rama Temple, Habi

Hobby, Karnataka

Known for: Architecture, ruins, bouldering, hiking

Hampi took first place from UNESCO in 2019! This city of Vijaynagar has some of the most interesting architectures. The 56 musical pillars of the Vithiala Temple, when submerged, emit the sounds of 56 different musical instruments! There are many places for boat riding, rock climbing and bouldering, too!

Places to visit: Witala Temple, Virupaksha Temple, Sule Pazar, Queen Bath, Zenana Orchard, Lakshmi, Hazara Rama Temple

How to get there: The nearest airport to Hampi is 3 hours (Hubli), so a train ride to Hospet, about half an hour away from Hampi, is the best choice for transportation.

Days Required: ~ 3 days

Pondicherry

Known for: Beaches, History, Spirituality. also known as the French city of India

Located in South India, Tamil Nadu was under French rule until 1954 and still has traces of French culture and aesthetics. This city is famous for beaches like Paradise Beach, where you can learn how to surf. It's also full of weird coffee and Airbnbs.

Sit 100 km south of Pondicherry is the second largest mangrove cover in Asia, Pichavaram Mangroves. Deer rescued many cities during the 2008 tsunami that hit southern India. You can take a boat ride for 1-2 hours to see the rich flora and fauna.

Places to visit: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry Museum, Our Lady of Angers, Sinak Manakula Vinayagar Temple

How to get there: When you reach Pondicherry, you will fly to Chennai International Airport or take the train to Chennai Station.

Days Required: ~ 5 days

Punjab

Known for: Military, Spirituality, History

Places to visit: The Golden Temple, Jallianwala Baug, and the Wagah Border

The golden temple of the Sikh community is of great religious significance. Sikhs serve food at no cost, although you are free to donate as you wish. As its name says, the temple is made of gold and sits between an aquatic body.

Helpful Tip: Cover your body from head to toe. You will need to bring a scarf to cover your head as a sign of respect.

The Jallianwala Baug is right next to the Golden Temple. Since 1919, during the British reign in India, it has been of historical significance.

Lieutenant General Reginald Dyer ordered British Indian Army troops to fire their rifles at a multitude of unarmed civilians. This place of mass genocide has since been turned into a garden and important places are highlighted.

The Wagah border is the border of India and Pakistan.

Travelers can come to watch the evening performances of both armies that will surely be they give you geese! Indian border guards are then shown wearing khaki uniforms and wings as hats, while Pakistani soldiers wear black.

After the patriotic cries, both guards head to the border gate, climb heavily and kick high. The daily ceremony usually takes place around 4:30 pm. in the winters and at 5:30 pm in the summers all year round. You will need to show your passport at the entrance as it is at the border.

How to get there: To reach the Golden Temple, you will fly to Amritsar Airport or take a train to Amritsar Station.

Days Required: ~ 4 days

Nongriat, Meghalaya

Nongriat, Meghalaya

Known for: Mountains, hiking, botanical architecture

Nongriat is approximately 12 km away. From Cherrapunjee and has one of the most beautiful live bridge roots that is about 250 years old! The locals molded the roots of the Ficus elastica tree to form a bridge so they could easily reach the villages.

The one at Nongriat has natural pools for swimming and relaxing after a steep 3000+ steps. Another 2 hour trip will take you to Rainbow Falls – which as you may have guessed by name almost always has an incredible rainbow!

Days Required: ~ 3 days

I'm going around

train gifts india

Buses

Buses are extremely popular in India. Both Goibibo and Redbus are the best places to use for booking buses. These locations have options ranging from public transport to private buses. Rates range from $ 10 – $ 20 USD, depending on where you want to go.

Trains

Trains are another common mode of transport. You can find information about IRCTC, the government's rail system website. Parita recommends booking 3AC / 2AC or 1AC if traveling by train. Sleeper is always a great option for shorter routes, with tickets starting at $ 3 USD.

Cars

Ola and Uber work best for domestic trips in all cities. If you are on a road trip, you can rent a car via Savaari Rentals or MakeMyTrip. If you want to drive yourself, ZoomCar is a great car rental option.

Subway

Currently, 10 Indian cities have functional metro-rail networks. These cities are Calcutta, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Kochi and Lucknow.

Best time to visit

India is perfect for exploration all year long. However, I suggest sticking to Leh and Spiti during the monsoon months (June to September) and all other places from October to March.

In total

Been to India before? Where did you visit and what would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!