We’ve been on the road for 16 months now, and India has been a very special destination to visit. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of love and hate that probably every traveller who visited this crazy country feels for it. It’s something like when you’re there you’re constantly trying to avoid the crowds, hassles, annoying rickshaw drivers and salesmen all the time. And the cows. God, you really want to avoid the cows on the streets, and, what is even worse, on the beaches. “I look forward to leaving this country” are the most common words to pronounce. But once you’ve completed your 3,5 months long Indian challenge and you leave the country, you surprisingly realise that, damn, you want to go back. You REALLY want to go back. Somehow, you NEED to go back.
So, with this feeling within telling us that we want to go back there to spend some more time sleeping in dirty rooms and bargaining with rickshaw drivers, we thought we would share our favourite destinations in India and tell you why you should go there.
1. MUNNAR, KERALA
This beautiful hill station in the south of India is a paradise for nature lovers. You will live, eat, walk and breathe in the middle of hundreds of tea plantations, surrounded by mountains. We spent there ten days, partly because it was truly beautiful, and partly because, well … I got sick and I was stuck in the room for about four days 🙂 And believe me, it was a true torture having to lay on the bed and watch the beautiful landscape through the window. But once I got better, we did plenty of walks around the area, and, of course, drove up to the Top Hill to see the mountains a bit closer. There is only one disadvantage of this place (and many others in south India): you cannot do bigger hikes for free. Although walking around the area is easy and not dangerous at all, South Indians will desperately try to earn money by taking tourist on one-day hikes, and will, therefore, reveal the secrets of best hiking areas to no one. But you can do many small hikes for free, and it’s totally worth it. Also, if you go to Munnar, don’t forget to visit the tea museum where you’ll learn about the whole process from harvesting to preparing tea leaves for being served in a cup 🙂
2. HAMPI, KARNATAKA
Yes, Hampi is a tourist place, yes, it’s full of shops and cafés, yes, it’s a hippie paradise where hula hoop dancers smoking joints can be seen in every corner, but man, there is sooooo much more about this place if you don’t only come to hang out. Hampi is a truly amazing historical place surrounded by ancient temples that are part of The World Heritage Site, and if you’re into temples … THIS IS A PLACE FOR YOU! However, the temples are scattered throughout a vast desertic area, so we think the best and the cheapest way to explore them is to rent a bike and do a one day trip. This way you’ll see them all! And, don’t forget to walk up to The Monkey Temple to see the sunset and have a delicious meal at the Funky Monkey 🙂
3. RANAKPUR, RAJASTHAN
About 100 km from Udaipur, there is a small village of Ranakpur that hides one of the most beautiful historical treasures: a mesmerising ancient Jain temple. We’ve visited many places even before we became “Curious wanderers”; we saw temples in Mexico, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali etc., but, in our opinion, the one in Ranakpur wins its hands down. It’s an amazing architectural masterpiece made out of white marble with thousands of carefully carved details. We won’t lie to you: it’s a huge pain in the ass to get there, but it’s absolutely worth it. After you visit the temple you should definitely have a typical Indian lunch in a big dining hall just beside it where they will feed you with curries and chapatis. This was also probably the cheapest meal we had on our trip so far.
4. JODHPUR, RAJASTHAN
Oh my, what a city! The blue city they call it, and there are no words to describe its magic; go there, find it out yourself 🙂 Walk up the beautiful Mehrangarh fort to get the best view of the city, and believe us, you’ll be surprised. There are plenty of forts to visit in Rajasthan, but Mehrangarh fort happened to be the only one we decided to explore from the inside as the fees to visit the forts are not cheap at all! However, we weren’t disappointed, and after speaking with other tourists, locals and travellers it turned out that Mehrangarh is the best of the Rajasthani forts.
Jodhpur was one of our favourite destinations not only because of its blue magic but also because, despite the tourists, it still remains very local. Not so many people visit this cute city, and as you walk down the streets you can really observe the authentic life of the local people. To get an even better glimpse of it, visit the market next to the clock tower, or have a walk up the narrow streets of the town.
5. VARANASI, UTTAR PRADESH
The smell of smoke, cows, dogs, cow poo and dead bodies – who wouldn’t like it? 🙂 I know, it sounds horrible (if not crazy), but this is Varanasi. But among the smoke and the smell, there is something so spiritual you may not find anywhere else in the world. Varanasi is the Indian Mecca, it’s the place where people from all over the country come to die and let their souls be released into eternity. There is a ceremony going on every morning before sunrise, and every evening after sunset by the holy river Ganga. There are plenty of ghats where dead bodies are being burnt 24/7, and yes, you can see them if that’s what you’re wondering right now. You can go as close as you want, smell them, observe them, and once you’ve seen a dead body being turned into ashes you start to understand that there is much more in this life but a pure body. There is life, there is death, there is love of those who help burn the bodies of their relatives and throw their ashes into the river Ganga. To be “buried” in Varanasi is the ultimate spiritual experience of a religious Indian.
Well, this is it. These are our favourite Indian destinations we wanted to share with you, and right now you might be wondering: and why the hell there is no Taj Mahal on their list? Of course, we’ve been there, saw it, took 3638 photos (or above), posed in front of it, besides, holding it in our hands, on top of our heads, whatever you may do, and yes, it was impressive. It is one of the most beautiful buildings on earth, but what we wanted to share with you is not only what you can see. It’s about what you can feel and experience, the place, nature, the culture all in one, and we chose our favourite places in India considering all these aspects. Hope you enjoyed it! 🙂