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Best Backpacking Destinations In India To Live Off The Beaten Path


Backpack and go where the heart takes you. Travel massive distances and explore the world you were never aware of existed. A planned tour is always better, but an unplanned trip is all about getting out of your comfort zone and expand the boundaries of your mind.

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Uncomfortable rides, unfavourable weather, not-so-good food, deceitful people you meet on the way and many many more reasons can be on your list that can stop you from kick-start your backpacking journey. But believe me, none of them is powerful than the overwhelming feeling that drowns you when you accomplish your travel goal. And when you plan for backpacking an incredible country like India, it’s surely going to be one hell of an experience; hitchhike, couchsurf, stay and eat with the locals, celebrate festivals (as there is no dearth of festivals in India), hike the mountains in the north, play with the waves in the south, sail through the deserts on camels in the west and explore the virgin beauty of nature in the east. All these experiences are waiting for you, only at an easy price; If you don’t mind being a little uncomfortable. So here I’ve listed down some of the best backpacking destinations in India if you want to live off the beaten path:

1. Sunderbans

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Sunderbans is the most significant delta, made by the rivers Brahmaputra and Ganga, and also has the biggest Mangrove forest on the planet. It spreads over more than 10,000 sq Km, out of which, forty per cent of this river-raddled swamp region is in India, and the rest is in Bangladesh. It has been declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO and has the largest concentration of Royal Bengal Tigers. The tigers here are infamous for attacking humans which is the reason why it attracts hoards of adventure seekers and nature lovers every year. You can explore this wild terrain on GPS fitted boat and take a dip into the mangrove forests to truly experience the thrill of an adventure. Backpacking in this dreadfully beautiful and serenely lonely place is all you need if you want to take a keen insight into yourself. The ideal time to visit Sunderbans is from October to June, and you can stay in low-cost lodges here, promising the spellbinding views of this amazing destination.

2. Ladakh

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If you’re one of those who has an adventure DNA, then Ladakh can be your haven, as it is the Mecca for every adventure enthusiast. Located at a soaring height of 3,000 meters, this semi-desert must be on the top of your bucket list if you’re in search of a completely unique getaway from a mundane life. The place might be devoid of greenery, but the heavenly landscape doesn’t lag behind in captivating any traveler with its charm. And Zanskar! What a place it is. You can try rafting on the ferocious waters of Zanskar which is an experience in its own and trekking over the frozen Zanskar river ensures the high adrenaline experience all the way through your backpacking journey. It’s not just the valley, but travelling to one of the most isolated valleys among all the Trans Himalayan Valleys gives you a chance to learn a whole lot about yourself. You can take the road from Leh to Padum via Kargil to reach Zanskar. During winters all the passes remain inaccessible, so the best time to visit Zanskar is between May to September.

3. Spiti

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Want to take the road less traveled? Kick start your backpacking journey to the middle land, Spiti Valley. Nestled between the mighty Himalayas and Pir Pranjal ranges at an elevation of 12,500 feet, backpacking Spiti is bound to turn you into a storyteller. From white snow-crowned mountains to different shades of brown, endless snowfields to vast staple farms and picture-perfect villages, Spiti provides you with scenery that is nowhere else to be found. As the valley is located on the land between Tibbet and India, you can clearly see the impact of both Buddhist and Hindu cultures on the lifestyle here. While passing through the serpentine roads as the chill air caresses your face, you explore the beautiful moonland landscapes, untouched blue lakes, mountain rivers and golden sunsets. The roads to Spiti are open all year round, but the majority of tourism happens between the months of June to September as this is the time when both the routes from Shimla and Manali remain open.

4. Pushkar

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Rajasthan is a place full of colors, zest and zeal and a must visit if you are into all things classic. And by the outskirts of Ajmer city and at a distance of 11 Km from Ajmer lies this quaint, beautiful town, Pushkar. You can rent out a motorbike and go for a spin around the hilly trail along Pushkar, sit by the small cafes and simply enjoy the moment. Pushkar Head to the beautiful Savitri temple atop the hill, which has amazing views of the place best seen at the time of sunrise. Pushkar is famous for its festivals and fairs, and if you’re thinking of backpacking Pushkar, then this could be the best time to visit Pushkar. The Pushkar Mela or The Pushkar Fair is held each year in the period of November when the sands have generally settled down, and the climate is all lovely. To keep you entertained Pushkar Mela has everything Camel safari to handicrafts fair, to traditional folk singers. Pushkar lake is the holy spot of Pushkar and has 52 ghats, and an Aarti that takes place around the ghats is the highlight of the entire fair. If all this tingles the backpacker in you, then Pushkar is the place you should visit.

5. Sikkim

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Holding a warm bowl of thukpa in your hand, which is a traditional Tibetan dish, and a spectacular view of Kanchenjunga in front of your eyes will undoubtedly make you fall in love with the spirit of Sikkim. There is a never-ending list of things that you can do in this spellbinding state; marvel at the snowy Kangchendzonga, photograph frozen lakes, en route to Nathulla Pass, lose yourself in misty mountains and wander aimlessly around the dreamy rivers like Teesta. This is just a glimpse, a written glimpse, just think what would it feel like to backpacking Sikkim. The amalgamation of Tibetan monasteries and Hindu shrines have created some astonishing architectural marvels which must be adorned by every backpacker who is in search of something hassle-free and warm-hearted. September to October is the best time for backpacking this small state of India which as Sikkim has cold winters and wet summers. Sikkim is land filled with cultural, historical and natural wonders and is a perfect escape from the hustle bustle of the big cities.

6. Kanyakumari

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The thrill of standing at the Land’s end of peninsular India and witnessing the sunrise and sunset over the ocean is something that’s really hard to put into words. Kanyakumari, the southern sojourn is situated in the state of Tamil Nadu at the confluence of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and is named after famous Devi Kanya Kumari. Kanyakumari is a relatively small city, and all the point of interest are close to each other, so it’s really easy to get around the town on foot, though bike rental is also available. Kanyakumari is famous for its historic temples, monuments, beaches, and is an important place for pilgrimage in India. Padmanabhuram Palace, Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Thirparappu Falls, Gandhi Smarak and Triveni Sangam are some of the must visits when you’re backpacking Kanyakumari. Being principally a tourist town, there are plenty of options to stay here, and that too at very reasonable prices. When on a backpacking trip to Kanyakumari, its best to avoid the monsoon months, otherwise it is a year-round destination.

7. Goa

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Backpacking Goa is all about dazzling nightlife, free-flowing booze, daring water sports and enthralling beaches. Even though it is the smallest state in India, Goa is probably one of the most visited as it draws people from all over India and across the globe to it’s beautiful, palm-fringed coastline for decades. The quality of life you get in this land of beaches is high when compared to the cost of living. Goa is one of the best places for backpackers in India where they can indulge in cheerful conversations with other travelers, enjoy the beaches, party till sunrise, shop till you drop or have a laidback day or learn yoga. There are limitless chances of having fun and entertainment I Goa. Morjim, Ashwem, Palolem, Arambol, and the Butterfly Beach are some of the best beaches in Goa for the typical budget friendly, backpacking travelers. In Goa, the majority of activities are associated with the beaches, but paying a visit to the wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls, spice plantations can release you from the clutches of extensive beaches of Goa. The best time for backpacking Goa is between December to April as these are the primary beach season in Goa.

8. Hampi

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Want to get teleported into Jurassic Park? Then look for no other place than Hampi. The giant boulders scattered around Hampi will give you a feeling that you’re in some place far back in time when everything was untouched by the hands of man. The real beauty, the raw beauty! Hampi is packed with rock-cut temples, towering piles of rocks, fascinating history and places that are doused in rich historical past. The mystical land of Hampi is situated in the Northern region of Karnataka and is a protected world heritage site under UNESCO. Virupaksha Temple, Anjaneya Temple, and Lotus Mahal are some of the architectural marvels which make the essence of Hampi more endearing than any other religious place on earth. A coracle ride in the serene waters to Anjaneya hills is one of the best experiences you can have in Hampi. The amazing history of this city inspires you to know more about the dynasties that flourished during that time in India. Hampi has great accommodation options for backpackers with plenty of cheap hostels and places to stay in, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can pitch a tent on Matunga Hill and gasp at the breathtaking sunset view.

9. Dzukou Valley

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Nestled on the border between Nagaland and Manipur lies a surreal dreamscape, Dzukou Valley. With its lush green forest, crystal clear waters, colorful flowers covering the entirety of landscapes, you will clearly get the idea how abode of God’s look like. Dzuokou and Japhu rivers weave through the valley like gold threads embroidered on silk fabric. Dzuokou valley which is located at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters is famously known as the Valley of Flowers of the North East. The pure and untouched beauty is surrounded by the Japfu hill range making it an ideal trekking and backpacking location. The valley can be reached via a four-hour trek up through the dense forests of Kohima. Isn’t it an added advantage? The best time to visit this heaven is from October to May but if you are a rain child, then the best time for you is from June to September when monsoons make the valley more exhilarating. Before starting your journey to Dzukou it is advisable to apply for Inner Line Permit, which can be collected from any Nagaland House found in major cities like New Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata or Shillong.

10. Varanasi

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Watching funeral processions might not be a good idea but what if I say it’s a sight to behold in Varanasi? There’s this feeling which slips deep into your heart when you stroll through the bustling streets and liberating ghats of Varanasi, which whispers there is much more to life than it seems. As a backpacker, Varanasi will be a completely liberating experience for you. The sunrise in Varanasi is not just any other; it gives you an opportunity to capture the different colors of life. You’ll find people taking a bath along the holy Ganges, performing rituals at the ghats, enjoying boat rides in the serene waters, and just sitting on the ghats, soak in the peace and tranquillity of the place. Varanasi has thousands of temples, and some of them are 1400 years old; no doubt why it is known as the oldest city in the world. The ideal time to visit Varanasi is from October to March, and in November you can be here for the auspicious Ganga Mahotsav festival which is very popular among tourists.

11. Gokarna

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Yes, Karnataka is again in our list! And why not it would be, the state is blessed with majestic waterfalls, mysterious Western Ghats, mythological wonders and a never-ending coastal range which are something you can’t afford to miss. And there lies this small temple town, Gokarna in the Uttar Kannada district which is famous for its sparkling sand beaches apart from the holiness of its temples. If you’re one of those backpackers who are done with the crowded beaches of Goa, then Gokarna can be your perfect getaway. Paradise Beach, Om Beach, and Half Moon Beach are some of the best beaches in Gokarna where you can take a walk on the pristine sands while the waves kiss your feet. You must visit Mahabaleshwara, which is the main temple here and houses the original image of Shiva’s Lingam. The best time to visit Gokarna is during the Mahashivratri festival when the whole town is decorated for four days. If you want to experience the hippie and chilled out beach lifestyle, then Gokarna is a place that should be in every backpacker’s bucket list.

12. Munnar

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Munnar is nothing but pure bliss! The idyllic hill station is located in the Idukki district of Kerala and is one of the best locations in India to relax, revive and rejuvenate. The secluded setting of Munnar coupled with misty environment lends a wonderful charm to this stunning place. You will definitely fall in love with this place when you find yourself amidst the bright green mountains, and clouds kissing your skin; the feeling is heavenly. Munnar is also famous for a rare flower, Neelakurinji, which blooms once in twelve years and covers the landscape with its purple that’ll take your breath away. There is no shortage of places to visit in Munnar; from waterfalls to lakes, tea gardens to lush parks, trekking trails to adventure sports, Munnar has it all. As Munnar is the most sought-after destination in Kerala so finding a right place to stay wouldn’t be a difficult task for any backpacker. You can reach Munnar by a three-hour drive from Ernakulam, which is the nearest railway station. There is no best time to visit Munnar, owing to its pleasant climate Munnar remains the ideal backpacking destination throughout the year.

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