Our Itinerary through India
In September 2017, I traveled with a good friend (Olga) to India for the month of September. She toured around the famous sites (guide coming soon), whereas I opted to skip some of the usual and famous Rajasthan targets.
Week 1 – Delhi to Rishikesh
Delhi: Delhi is a chaotic bustle of old and new, people, dust and cows. It’s a massive metropolitan area and where you’ll likely land. Spend some time in Old Delhi, with its Mughal-era Red Fort the sprawling Jama Masjid mosque.
Rishikesh: We opted to leave right away, flying directly to Dehradun Airport and taking a brief taxi to Rishikesh (journey also possible over land). The city itself is known as the birthplace of yoga, and there are plenty of ashrams to spend a week or a month studying. It probably has some of the cheapest residential YTT trainings. Monkeys, cows, people and tuktuks fill the streets, and people often bathe in the Ganges; it’s more chaotic and dusty than you might imagine for a yoga mekka. Starting late September, there is some river rafting.
Week 2 – Manali
Manali: From Rishikesh, there are overland connections to Manali, known as “the Alps” of India. We chose to travel over land, taking taxis and local buses along the way. The trip was cheap, but we were crammed and sometimes one of very few women on the bus (from Rishikesh to Haridwar to a junction at Mandi, and finally to Manali). There are plenty of guesthouses in Manali and a long winding street dotted with plenty of bars, restaurants and shops. It’s a good place to chill in hot springs, climb, take multi-day treks, explore waterfalls and canyons, and even paraglide.
Week 3 – Leh, Ladakh, and the Markha Valley
Getting to Leh and the Ladakh Region: If it’s open, a trip to the Himalayan region of northern India is well worth it. Newly opened to tourism—and sometimes closed—it is still a relatively undiscovered place full of impressive natural beauty and landscapes. In 2017, the “good” road connecting Manali to Leh was still being constructed (impassable during the winter), although flights connect Leh to the other parts of India.Manali
Manali to Leh: Over land, the journey to Leh from Manali is typically broken down into two days. We opted for a 1-day option (16 grueling hours), which is both stunning and exhausting; the views are unparallel, and therefore I recommend the overland route. Walking is also possible and takes 3-4 weeks.
Leh: The city itself sits at 3500 meters, and is more Nepalese perhaps than Indian. It’s an excellent place to explore on motorbike, white water raft, explore exotic places (Pangong Lake and the Nubra Valley). Stay a few days in town to get acclimated to the atltiude. Oxygen is only 70% of that at sea level, so everything moves a bit slower
Markha Valley: A distinct highlight is making the multi-day Markha Valley trek through the small villages of the high Himalayas. You can do this without a guide as Maps.Me is fairly good and with few exception, trails are generally well-marked (although people have gotten lost). Towns are a few kilometers apart. You can hire a guide for as little $40-50/day, depending on the season. Maximum height is the Kongmaru La pass (5130M)
Week 4 – Goa
Goa: Goa is a place unlike any others in India. Jungle beaches meet the sea in a series of coves north and south of the state’s main airport—each with their own vibe. Anjuna Beach is a hippie alcove, whereas Vagator is known as the Russian beach. A good place to spend a week with a scooter, chilling, doing yoga or having a few beers.