The Best of India Itinerary: Two Months of Epic Adventures
We traveled India for almost two months and it was an amazing, exhausting and interesting experience. We’ll definitely go back! I finally put together our entire first time India itinerary with a few extra tips for those who are into travel photography.
When we started planning our around the world trip we thought of setting off in China and work our way down through South East Asia to end up in Australia. But plans change and when I saw a documentary about traveling in India my curiosity got triggered; there’s something about this country that makes people go there and it’s difficult to describe what it is. A mix of history, ancient cultures and interesting religions topped with a rich dressing of mysticism. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you get back from your first trip to India. Travel photography galore!
We didn’t have a fixed plan. We didn’t know anything about India. We had no idea of how long to stay. I did a bit of research on where to start our journey in India but in the end the price of our plane tickets decided where to begin: Bombay (Mumbai)! Because we didn’t really know anything about the country we thought it would be best to have no plan and just start going.
When you check the internet, a common advice is to start your itinerary in the South of India because it’s ‘easier’ for first timers. And so we did; we started in Bombay and headed South picking our stops based on tips from people we met and what we could find on the internet…
Oh, and yeah, we missed a lot of must see cities and sights but we couldn’t possibly see everything. We want to go back to explore more!
Bombay, the start of our India itinerary and what can I say: A lot of people and amazing history. Loved it. Especially as a photographer. It’s a vast city and you can’t possibly see everything in a few days but it’s actually not difficult to get around. Taxis are everywhere and most of them just turn on the meter like they should, no discussions. If you don’t like taxis then download the Ola app. It’s the Uber of India and works like a charm, even for tuktuks.
What to do in Bombay
We definitely recommend an evening of people watching at Chowpatty Beach and Marina Drive (Street photographer’s heaven!) and a trip to the Elephanta Caves.
South of India itinerary
We were thinking of heading South by train first but when I checked the plane ticket prices it was an easy decision. A day on a train or an hour on a plane for almost the same price…
Kochi is a great place to start your travel itinerary in the South of India. It’s less hectic than Bombay or other cities and everything just looks greener and cleaner. It’s a nice town to stay for one or two nights and just explore the streets. You’ll still need some time to get used to India.
Where to stay in Kochi
If you want to know where to stay in India, check out my series of photos of hotels and guesthouses. You might get some inspiration!
From Kochi we took the Bus to Munnar. This hill town is famous for only one thing: Tea gardens and plantations. The bus ride was comfortable for Indian standards and Munnar and it’s surroundings are amazing. We actually stayed in a town nearby (Anachal) because in Munnar everything was full or overpriced.
What to do in Munnar
Well, you can buy tours and hire guides but I definitely recommend to just hire someone to bring you to the tea plantations and explore them on your own. We spent an hour or two walking through the tea gardens and plantations and it was so peaceful. Oh, and make sure you have someone to pick you up. It’s difficult to just hail a taxi once the sun sets. We had to walk back an hour in the dark!
Photographers, make sure to go a few hours before sunset if you want to take some epic photos. The sunset in the tea gardens is stunning!
Ah Madurai. It took us a six hour uncomfortable local bus ride to get there but it was totally worth it. This city gave us a sense of the real India for the first time. If you’re visiting the South of India then Maduari is a must on your itinerary!
The main thing to do in Madurai is visiting the Meenakshi Temple. Unfortunately I can’t show you any photos because photography is not allowed inside anymore but it’s a must see. Just walk around in the temple and watch the locals do their rituals.
The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is famous but Tiruchirapalli has another well known building. We liked the Sri Rangathaswamy Temple even more! Before you get there, make sure to explore the town around it because it’s just as interesting as the temple itself. A lot of people and chaos but that’s what India is all about.
If you like street photography then you have to plan a few hours here and explore the streets of the town and temple grounds… Again, go around sunset and it’s magic!
From Tiruchirapalli we went to Pondicherry. Another cute and sleepy coast town like Kochi. There’s are no colossal forts or temples here but it’s a relaxing place to stay for a few nights and do absolutely nothing. We just explored the streets by foot or Ola taxi and took a break from the craziness and chaos of India. We didn’t plan to visit anything here.
Chennai or Madras is where we ended our South of India itinerary and it’s a strange city. We’re not sure if we liked it or not or if we just stayed in the wrong part but it felt dirty and gray. Not a lot to like…
What I did like was Marina Beach. A massive stroke of sand where people come to relax in the evening and a great place for portrait and street photography. We came here every evening just to take photos and watch the people! You can basically walk up to anyone and ask if you could take their portrait. Most of the people will love it!
One month Rajasthan itinerary (+Varanasi)
A plane took us from Chennai to Delhi and arriving there we knew immediately we were going to see the real India. Delhi is crazy. Crowds and crowds of people, chaos, cows, cars, fumes… it’s exhausting and utterly interesting at the same time. If you’re into street shooting and portraits you won’t know where to look first!
There is a lot to see and do in Delhi. We recommend at least three nights so you can visit the Lodhi Gardens, Jantar Mantar, Agrasen Ki Baoli and the Ghandi Museum.
Yes, it happened: Delhi Belly. After having to wait in Delhi for four hours in the middle of the night for a delayed train, our bodies refused any further cooperation. We didn’t see anything in Jaipur except the Monkey Temple because we had to recover and ended up spending more time on the toilet than anywhere else. Well, what we can say about Jaipur is that the Monkey Temple is definitely worth a visit!
Pushkar, an interesting little town well worth spending a few nights. It’s small so you can walk to anything you want to visit and you’ll get a first real feel of the desert here. Expect sweating a lot and seeing a lot of cows in the streets.
Watch out for scammers around Pushkar lake, especially when you’re into photography. I’m not sure if it’s prohibited but they seem to target foreigners and locals were allowed to just snap away… They also act like real assholes and try to intimidate you. Just ignore these bastards that claim to be ‘holy men’ if you can.
Yes, Udiapur! One of our favorite stops on our Rajahstan and Northern India itinerary. It’s such a relaxed city. Oh, and they filmed the James Bond movie Octopussy here. Awesome! We enjoyed it so much that we extended our stay to five nights! We explored the city and tried some great Indian food in a few of the many rooftop restaurants. Relax to the max!
What else to do in Udaipur
Our favorite places to visit besides the restaurants were Bagore Ki Haveli and the City Palace. Great places to spend the day walking and exploring.
Known as the blue city and another important stop on any Rajasthan itinerary but we didn’t really like it that much. The blueness of the city is a little bit overrated and it was so crowded when we were there that it was not fun anymore. It was probably bad timing so make sure to put it on your itinerary anyway!
A must see in Jodhpur
Even though the city itself was a bit disappointing for us, Mehrangarh Fort wasn’t, at all! It’s an epic fort built on a rock and it’s just that. A goddamn epic rock fort! Get an Ola taxi and just go!
Desert! Camels! Yes! One of the best places to do a camel safari and a definite top three spot on our two month India itinerary. A camel safari is one of a kind experience but make sure to spend the night in the desert. Sleeping under the stars with the sound of camels munching on their food… magic!
Don’t forget to put your camera where you can reach it on top of the camel. Some great shots from up there but hold it tightly!
Bikaner was just a place to break the long journey back to Delhi so I don’t have much to say about it. If you have time, check it out and let me know!
Yep, Delhi. Second time. Different area. Again, lots and lots to see. No Delhi Belly this time!
Where to stay in Delhi
What a great place for photographers. You’ll never get bored here because there are interesting scenes to capture everywhere. The city with its narrow streets and bustling crowds and the ghats along the Ganges. Here you can touch history and witness ancient religious rituals.
We walked along the ghats every evening during our five night stay and had our best lassi close to the Dashashwamedh Ghat where a ceremony is performed every evening. Make sure to check it out! This was the end of our two months traveling in India.
From Varanasi we took a flight to Kolkata but only to take our next flight to Laos. We would’ve liked to see Kolkata but air fares decided differently…
Conclusion of our two month India itinerary
India is so big you can’t see it all unless you stay for at least a year. We spent two months in India for this South and North itinerary and we still feel we didn’t see that much and traveled a tad too fast. Nevertheless, what a great country for months and months of backpacking and traveling adventures. We’ll go back for sure!