India is an extremely vast country. In size, it’s over 3 MILLION km squared, which makes it 13 times bigger than the UK.
Yet, India is also enormously varied from place to place. From the mountainous region of Kashmir and the smoggy intensity of Delhi to the blissful beaches of Goa and the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, almost every state in India is infinitely different to the next.
I truly believe you could explore India for several lifetimes and still not see half of the incredulous beauty it has to offer.
So, with that in mind, can you really travel India in a month? How can you effectively spent one month in India and see a lot while also experiencing each destination in depth? How do you figure out what to see in India, when to go and how best to make use of your time?
My experience of 1 month in India
First a disclaimer: you won’t see all of India in a month, in fact, you won’t really see much at all.
But I promise that what you do see will change you. Be aware that India is a place that you’ll love, hate and most importantly, never forget. No country has moved me as much as India.
Being there, I felt like I was in a world completely disconnected from my own, exploring a place so different to my reality. In some ways, it was like I was fulfilling my dream of experiencing true adventure. It was extraordinarily freeing.
In fact, I had such an exhilarating time there that I felt upset when I came back home and witnessed other backpackers exploring the same places- in the same spots in the same cities. It was like seeing pictures of your boyfriend doing the same things with another girl. Like… I thought what we had was special, India, how could you?
I am a possessive person by nature so it took me a while to realise you can cherish memories of a place and give it a special place in your heart without owning it.
Time to get into my tips for travelling India.
Planning a trip to India
When creating your itinerary for India, there’s many factors to consider.
When should I visit India?
It’s hard to determine the best time to visit India as its vastness means that the weather changes dramatically from state to state. Most travel experts advise to be wary about visiting during the months of June and October as this is the monsoon season in India, meaning the climate can be extremely humid, hot and you have a great chance of being caught in torrential rainstorms.
However, the monsoon season in India also varies throughout the year and state to state, and there can be benefits to travelling during the off-season, so don’t completely write off the summer months straight away. The priority is to be careful and do your research!
I spent 1 month in India from December to January and my experience of India in winter was quite diverse.
On one hand, I think winter is the best time to visit the state of Rajasthan specifically. Rajasthan in December is ideal for backpackers as the weather is cool enough that you don’t get extraordinarily hot and sweaty spending long days walking around the busy cities and riding camels into the desert. For the same reasons, it’s probably a good idea to consider travelling India’s southern states during winter months.
However, if you’re visiting high-altitude, mountainous regions, you must consider that the weather could get extremely cold. During my time in Mussoorie, a hill station in Uttarakhand, it was unbearably cold at times and snowed throughout my stay. I’m already not the biggest lover of the cold but the lack of any heating in the hotels and restaurants in Mussoorie really rubbed the salt into the wound.
What is the best state to visit in India?
The key to a successful month in India is to make sure your destinations are close enough together that you don’t have to spend long periods of your stay on transport. I initially considered putting Rajasthan and Karnataka on my 1 month India itinerary, because pictures of the stunning temples and landscapes in Karnataka seduced me on first sight. However, after realising that it would take around 2 full days to travel from North India to South India, I gave up on this plan and decided to stick to a strictly North India itinerary to make the most of my time.
If you’re visiting India for the first time and aren’t interested in spending a long time on transport, or really just want to dip your toe in the water, maybe consider the India Golden Triangle itinerary. This takes you to Delhi, Jaipur- the capital of Rajasthan, and Agra- home to the Taj Mahal.
However, be warned that this is a highly popular India itinerary and will be highly populated with tourists- especially the Taj Mahal!
What states were on my 1 month India itinerary?
I only visited 2 states during my one month trip to India, to ensure that I didn’t spread myself too thinly. The first state I visited was Rajasthan, and I highly recommend that you consider putting Rajasthan on your 1 month India itinerary.
Rajasthan is generally most people’s first port of call when getting a taste of India and for good reason; it’s really a perfect hub of Indian culture and history.
Often called the Land of Legends and home to multiple royal cities, Rajasthan is the place to go to for palaces, havelis, fortresses, art, markets and incredible food.
In fact, it was a given to me that Rajasthan would be on my India itinerary.
However, choosing what state to explore after Rajasthan was quite a challenge. I initially considered travelling to Gujarat, due to its close proximity to Rajasthan.
After some research, however, I decided on Uttarakhand, being completely won over by the idea of visiting the Ganges and its holy cities, as well its Himalayan location- yay for mountain walks!
India itinerary 1 month
Without further delay, here’s my India backpacking itinerary from 14th December to 13th January, travelling around the states of Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. This itinerary lists 10 places to visit in India, and how long I stayed there and how long I would recommend staying there in retrospect.
Delhi: 1 and a half days
I landed in Delhi around midday on the 14th December after travelling overnight from Paris. I find it hilarious that most people’s first glimpses of India start in Delhi because it really is like getting thrown in the deep end.
Delhi, being the second most populated city in the world, is extremely busy and can be quite overwhelming for someone who’s never even visited Asia before, let alone the capital of India. However, that is really part of the fun of it and if you let yourself go with the flow, you’ll end up loving it.
Also remember that Delhi is extremely loud: of the thousands of tuk tuks on the road at any given moment, all of them will be using their horns every five seconds. They use their horns instead of indicators and instead of mirrors and to tell pedestrians, dogs and cows to get the hell out of the way. Vendors will be hollering the names of their products and prices in a fast-paced high-pitched voice over and over until you wonder how they still have working voices.
I stayed in Paharganj main bazaar in a little hostel for two days, right in the middle of the gaggle (though I don’t know if it is possible to get away from the gaggle in Delhi).
Although I didn’t really get to see any of the things that I planned to see at all as we spent our one full day on a wild goose chase round and around Connaught Place looking to buy train tickets, I did enjoy just being there, swept up by the noises and movement, the millions of suggestions by deceptive Indian men who looked all too friendly at the time.
On the morning of the 16th, I left Delhi and boarded my first Indian train ride to Bikaner in Rajasthan, which was an experience in itself.
If I were to go back again, I’d spend a couple of extra days in Delhi in order to really explore some more of the architecture and history there.
I mean, your first day there could quite easily turn into a wasted day in an desperate attempt to find your feet so planning at least two or three days in the capital so that you can find your feet and then see some of Delhi, would probably be useful.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 2 or 3
What are the places to visit in Rajasthan?
When planning my one month India itinerary, I was extremely overwhelmed deciding which cities and towns in Rajasthan I wanted to see, and how long I wanted to see each one.
I was pretty clear from the get go that Udaipur and Jaisalmer were the best places to visit in Rajasthan, but I’d heard not so great things about Jodhpur and Jaipur so I wasn’t sure if I would put these on the list.
And then I found out about how great Bundi was and I was even more confused about what to see in Rajasthan.
However, I eventually figured it out. Here’s my final Rajasthan itinerary:
Rangmahal: 3 days
I went to Rangmahal because my then-boyfriend’s NGO were hosting their quarterlies there for a couple of days and they were obligatory for him to attend. This basically put my travels to a halt before they’d even really started.
Rangmahal is a tiny rural village near the border of Pakistan and not a place you should put on your list because honestly, there’s absolutely nothing there other than one tiny local shop selling tobacco and sweets, some dusty buildings and some cows.
I was actually quite thankful to have these few days to rest because I came down with a bad cold and diarrhoea the day we arrived in Rangmahal (it didn’t take me long to get Delhi Belly that’s for sure).
The Rangmahal NGO centre was basically a large dirt courtyard surrounded by brick walls with four separate rooms- a kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. The courtyard in the middle had no roof but the connecting rooms each had a tin roof to protect from rain. My ex’s work mates gave up one of their rooms so that I could have some privacy, and I spent most of the days lying in bed sleeping and recovering from my sudden illness.
I slowly recovered and spent the last day taking a walk around the village in the sand, stalking cows and being waved at by locals. At various times a local would stop what they were doing in a field about 20 metres away and come all the way over to smile and say hello, stare for a bit and then leave.
At one point, a group of children that were on their way home from school all stopped and shouted ‘hello’, seeming scared and excited at the same time. The woman next door kept offering for me to sit down on a chair in her front yard and when I retreated back into the centre, she knocked on the bolted metal doors to give me a cup of chai.
I felt quite intimidated by all the interest and kindness being shown towards me by the locals and unsure of how exactly to react. However, eventually, I left Rangmahal, and the real adventures began.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 0
Jaisalmer: 3 days
When I think of Jaisalmer, the Golden City, I think of sand. It seemed like everything there was made from sand. Jaisalmer rose out out the desert, a sand city with sand houses and a gigantic sandcastle standing over it all.
Jaisalmer is an essential on anyone’s trip around Rajasthan, it’s desert location sets it quite apart from other cities and a night in the desert under the starts is a must.
Jaisalmer Fort is amazing to wander around; I spent hours getting lost within its walls. Past the intimidating ramparts, inside there’s what seems like a little town. There’s narrow alleyways, markets, tiny shops and houses tangled up amongst telephone lines, havelis and jain temples.
I spent three days in Jaisalmer, two days exploring the city and one out in the Thar desert upon my camel and this seemed like the perfect amount of time for me.
We also got free accommodation in a hotel through couchsurfing, which was an amazing experience.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 3
Jodhpur: 1 day
The Blue City of Jodhpur was a place that divided me during my itinerary planning period. I’d heard that Jodhpur wasn’t that impressive, way too busy and just overall a disappointment.
However, despite these rumours, I was still excited to see Jodhpur, its curious blue-washed streets and incredible fort. So, I compromised with myself and decided to spend a full day in Jodhpur but not stay the night.
I arrived early in the morning, way before 5am and left around 10pm that same night, storing my backpack away at the train station for the duration of the day.
This was quite a long and full-on day, having slept a few fitful hours on the train the previous night and walking around all day, knowing that I had no soft bed again that night but yet another hard leather bunk.
However, I made the most of my full day in Jodhpur and I actually really enjoyed it.
Mehrangarh Fort was impressive, though very unlike Jaisalmer fort as entry was restricted to ticket-holders and you also had to buy permission to take photos.
Rather than being a casual, fortified city, Mehrangarh fort is completely tourist-focused with multiple galleries and exhibitions to wander around and learn more about Rajasthani history.
Though I preferred the ambiance of Jaisalmer fort, exploring Mehrangarh fort was still an amazing experience and the views from the fort over the blue city are incredible.
I also had one of my favourite meals in Jodhpur and the textile markets are fabulous. Other than that (and some cool stairwells), there wasn’t much else that I wanted to see in Jodhpur, so one full-on, mega long day was certainly enough for me. Though, maybe consider two if you want to go at a slower pace.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 1, maybe 2.
Udaipur: 4 days
The Venice of India, the City of Lakes, the City of Romance, whatever you call it, you have to admit, Udapiur, is a damn beautiful place.
Udaipur was almost definitely my favourite place in India (I say almost because I keep internally battling over my top three).
I spent Christmas Day and my birthday in Udaipur and despite it being really strange for me to be away from my family for the first time over the holidays, they are some of my fondest memories today.
Udaipur Palace was so busy, especially considering it was a bank holiday for Indians, yet it was definitely worth almost suffocating at times- the architecture and views were second to none.
The hike up to Monsoon Palace was quiet and nice, with beautiful views of the palace as we approached it, perched up on the hill. The palace itself was underwhelming, but still nice to visit, especially due to all the monkeys hanging around!
The palaces, the lakes, the gardens, the havelis, all of it was beautiful. It also felt a lot cleaner than the other cities and less flat, surrounded by a beautiful hilly backdrop. Do not miss out on Udaipur, lest you shall regret it for the rest of your days.
To find out more about this beautiful city, check out Trip Gourmet’s guide on Udaipur Sightseeing.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 4
Bundi: 2 days
Bundi is a must see in Rasjasthan. In fact, it’s definitely in my top three places from my India itinerary.
Bundi isn’t always featured on people’s recommendations for Rajasthan and honestly, I hope it stays that way because one of the best parts about it was that it was way less touristic than everywhere else in Rajasthan. The city centre was still full of restaurants and bars like other Rajasthani cities, but they were much less jam-packed.
The gems of Bundi, however are Taragarh Fort and Bundi Palace, situated adjacent to each other. Both the fort and the palace are abandoned and overgrown. We crawled into the back entrance of the fort after climbing up a rather prickly, wooded hill.
Upon entering the fort, you immediately have the sense that you’ve entered a scene of Indiana Jones, as everything seems to have been left to grow and decay for centuries. You can walk along the overgrown ramparts of the fort for miles, explore a multitude of disused stepwells and cautiously climb up into the decrepit but beautiful havelis and towers for views over the Rajasthani hills.
I spent hours upon hours in the fort and only came across one other human the whole duration. In fact, you’ll probably have more run-ins with aggressive monkeys than other tourists, as some of the pesky creatures seemed perturbed that I’d crossed into their territory.
I descended the fort via the front entrance, which granted me some stunning golden-hour views over the palace. Upon exiting the fort, it came to my attention that there was actually an entrance fee if you entered through that gateway, so to avoid that, go via the back entrance like we did.
Bundi is also relatively close to a couple of lovely natural spots and I spent one day travelling to and exploring Bhimlat Mahadev, a waterfall about an hour away. It was a beautiful spot and absolutely crawling with monkeys (who stole my packed lunch within minutes of me arriving) however if you do want to visit, I 100% recommend renting a moped for a day to get there.
Our guesthouse owner recommended that I get a tuktuk there rather than a moped and it was a grave error, taking way longer than it had to and being an extremely uncomfortable ride with no suspension over a plethora of rough roads and potholes.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 2 or 3
Getting from Rajasthan to Uttarakhand
The journey from Rajasthan to Uttarakhand was quite long but not unbearable. From Bundi I got a four hour train to Jaipur. There, I had a lovely rooftop dinner then made my way to the bus stop for a 12 hour overnight journey on a sleeper bus.
The sleeper bus is made up of several sleeping pods that fit two people, which have a sliding door that you can close. Therefore, when booking your space on a sleeper bus, be aware that could end up sleeping in the same pod as a stranger, unless you have a travel companion who can book the spot next to you.
Some people may not mind sleeping enclosed with a stranger for 12 hours but when I found out that I nearly ended up in this situation (my ex-boyfriend and I nearly booked seats far apart as the bus was nearly full), I was pretty spooked.
Also, you’ll be extremely lucky to have toilets on your bus, so make the most of any travel breaks- though be warned that more often than not you’ll be pissing on the side of the road.
Other than these caveats, I would recommend the sleeper bus when travelling between states where there’s no suitable trains available- the 12 hours actually zoomed by as I was unconscious for the majority of the journey.
My backpacking itinerary around Uttarakhand was partly made up as I went along because I kept changing my mind on where I wanted to see.
I knew Haridwar would be my first stop in Uttarakhand, being the closest and most accessible from Rajasthan. I was also resolute that Rishikesh would be on my itinerary as it’s must see in Uttarakhand but after visiting these two cities, I didn’t decide where to go next until the day.
On my last day in Rishikesh, being pressed to choose where to go next, I struggled choosing a hill station in Uttarakhand that I wanted to visit. I knew I wanted to stay somewhere in the mountains, but there was so many options that I was overwhelmed. I nearly chose to visit Nainital, a beautiful Himalayan resort town, however its distance from Rishikesh made me change my mind. Instead I visited Mussoorie, a hill station relatively close by, accessible by bus via Dehradun.
Here’s my final travel itinerary for Uttarakhand.
Haridwar: 1 day
After a long night on a sleeper bus from Rajasthan, my first stop in Uttarakhand was Haridwar, one of India’s holiest cities. Considering how famous Haridwar is and how it’s lauded as a spiritual centre of India, I was surprised by how downright awful I personally found it.
Rather than spiritual it just felt like the city was made up of people making money out of the spiritual. It was pretty sad how many people were commodifying their religion as a tourist attraction, but then I guess maybe it’s sadder that people are forced to do this in the first place.
I observed the Ganga Aarti twice, once in the evening and once at sunrise and the latter was much nicer and quieter, so if you do want to tick off Haridwar, I recommend seeing the Ganga Aarti in the morning at least once. Otherwise, the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh was so much more peaceful and beautiful than the one in Haridwar.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 0!
Rishikesh: 4 days
As my favourite place in Uttarakhand and one of my favourite places in India, Rishikesh was everything I wanted and more. After being completely disappointed by Haridwar, Rishikesh was the perfect place to recover my love for India.
On my first evening in Rishikesh, I went down to the bank of the Ganges to observe the Ganga Aarti, being unsure of what to expect after two strange non-events in Haridwar.
However, watching the ceremony this time round was a beautiful and peaceful experience, despite a couple of pushy tourists next to us trying to take pictures.
Rishikesh is much more elevated than Haridwar, and I loved being surrounded by the lush green hills that promised days of adventure to come. I also really enjoyed the layout of Rishikesh, being stretched out along the Ganges, the two banks being connected by large colourful suspension bridges that became ridiculously busy throughout the day.
Rishikesh is pretty famous for its ashrams, yoga and meditation, so that’s where you should head if you’re looking into taking up the yogi lifestyle.
Rishikesh was also the main place in India where I could explore more of India’s wild side. On one day, I rented a moped to explore the nearby Neer Garh Waterfall, riding down the long lanes through the valleys and climbing up a rocky cliff to reach the beautiful falls and swimming pools.
On another day, I undertook the Kunjapuri trek, getting up before dawn to start the day by watching an incredible sunrise over the Himalayas from the Kunjapuri temple before making my way down through Rishikesh valley, through small villages and rice paddies with exquisite views the whole while.
As both a thriving spiritual city and a gateway into the mountains, you definitely get the sense of having the best of both worlds in Rishikesh.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 4
Dehradun: Half a day
Dehradun was a stopover city for me between Rishikesh and the hill-station of Mussoorie, as you can only get into the mountains via a bus that ascends from Dehradun.
The main thing we saw in Dehradun was the Mindrolling Monastery, which is really the only reason I wanted to go and I’m not sure what else there actually is in Dehradun despite it.
However, the monastery is pretty cool and considering Dehradun is a good spot for transport links into the mountains, it’s worth it to stop over just for a couple of hours to check out the monastery before moving on.
This is where you’ll find one of the biggest stupas in the world, one of the biggest Buddhist statues in the world and some rather pretty gardens too.
According to a sign as you enter the Mindrolling Monastery, just hearing about the place means that you are granted a blessing in life, so here’s your blessing, you’re welcome.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? Half a day.
Mussoorie: 4 days
Mussoorie in Janurary is cold. And before you make the same mistake as me and think, oh Indian cold isn’t cold, I’m from North Europe I know what real cold is like, I’m just going to stop you right there: it is cold, it will probably snow and your hotel or hostel will not have central heating.
The only time I was warm in Mussoorie was when I was huddling under the three thick duvets with my ex-boyfriend. The rest of the time, I was permanently cold.
However, that being said, it was January and that means it’s likely that Mussoorie in summer has a pretty mild climate compared to the rest of India.
If you’re brave enough to go to India in the thick of summer, maybe think about visiting some mountain hill stations to break away from constant coat of sweat that you’ll be dragging around.
Though, I still don’t know if I’d recommend Mussoorie even if it wasn’t so cold. It just didn’t impress me all that much.
Despite being surrounded by hills, there wasn’t amazing access to nature like I’d imagined, which I found to be the case in most places in India. A lot of the time you have to pay admission into woodlands, parks or hiking paths and sometimes its obligatory to be part of a trekking group, which just didn’t feel that… free.
It didn’t feel like I could just hit the road and find a path to get lost and explore the mountains, it felt like a town suffocated by hills that should rather be equivocal to freedom.
How many days would I spend on a future India itinerary? 0
What would I add to my India itinerary?
My ex was pretty adamant from the start that he didn’t want to see Jaipur as he’d heard it was underwhelming and overrun with tourists as it’s on the Golden Triangle route.
I personally did want to see Jaipur because I knew that there was a lot of amazing landmarks to see there but like him, I was also wary of how busy it would be.
Eventually, we compromised and decided to use Jaipur as a stopover on the way to Uttarakhand, intending to potentially spend half a day in the capital of Rajasthan.
However, due to delayed trains and connecting coaches, we only really had time for one meal in Jaipur and looking back, seeing other traveller’s tales and pictures of Jaipur, I do regret not seeing any of its stunning landmarks and monuments. (Reminder to self- never listen to the men in your life!)
This 1 month India itinerary was really only a taster of future adventures. To be honest, India isn’t somewhere that I wanted to explore for a just month or two, with a rigid plan and an imminent flight home looming. The main reason I did go to India was to be with my boyfriend at the time over Christmas, and I probably would have gone anywhere in order to be with him.
The way I want to explore India (and elsewhere) in future is with the freedom to really just be there. I’m really passionate about the idea of slow travel, spending weeks at a time in one spot and choosing when to stay and when to go according to what I feel that day.
I think this method of travel would suit India best, with its massive scale, slow transport, inevitable delays and lack of any sense of time.
However, I am so grateful for the time that I did have in India and for what I did get to see and do there. My time spent in this crazy country has definitely made its mark on me and I’m excited to return in the future.
What would you put on your 1 month India itinerary?