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The Best One-Month Backpacking Itinerary for North India

Updated: Jun 21

In this travel guide for North India, I have put together a one-month itinerary which I feel encompasses the best of what this region has to offer, whether it's the iconic Taj Mahal, the glorious Himalayas, or the mystical city of Varanasi!


I have been to India 6 times, spending just about 2 years there altogether, and if I were to compose a one-month itinerary for North India for 'first-time me' this is how it would go...



CONTENTS




 


The Best One-Month Backpacking Itinerary for North India


Fly into New Delhi

Delhi (1 Day)

Train

Jaipur (3 Days)

Train + taxi

Pushkar (3 Days)

Taxi + overnight train

Amritsar (2 Days)

Train + bus + taxi

Dharamkot (5 Days)

Bus + taxi + hike

Parvati Valley (4 Days)

taxi + overnight bus

Agra (2 Days)

Overnight train

Varanasi (2 Days)

Overnight train

Kolkata (Calcutta) + The Sundarbans (4 Days)

Fly out of Kolkata



Pretty doorways Rajasthan
Keep an eye out for all the pretty doorways in Rajasthan!

I Dream of Mangoes hiking in North India
Hiking in North India

 

Getting Around


If this looks like a lot of trains and buses, fear not, you can also take domestic flights between the majority of these places. That is not my preferred way to see a country - which is why I have prioritised trains as a mode of transport, followed by buses, for this one-month North India itinerary.


This article I wrote recently will walk you through everything you need to know about buying a train ticket in India:



For buses - it can be tricky to book ahead without an Indian Bank Card – I think currently 12Go Asia is the only site that allows you to book buses in India with a foreign card.



Cow and dog Agra
A street dog and a roaming cow sharing a snack in Agra

 


This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you make a purchase through this website, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products and services that I use and love.


Why These Places in North India?


This is not just your bog-standard 'Golden Triangle' which essentially offers city-city-city. This one-month itinerary for North India mingles in the heavy hitters with a taste of the heavenly Himalayas and the truly wild and unique Sundarbans 'Tide Country'.


Although Kolkata is technically not considered North India, but rather 'East' it is still in the northern half of the country which is why I am including it in this one-month North India itinerary.


This one-month itinerary for North India does not cover it all. We've only skimmed the surface of Rajasthan and have not ventured far north into the mountains of Leh Ladakh and Kashmir. Sikkim is also awesome but so undeveloped it takes a huge amount of time to travel around there (it once took us 5 hours to travel 10km in a 4x4). India's off-beat northeast is something else on my bucket list – but again, that's an adventure that is deserving of its own itinerary.


You may be wondering, why not Rishikesh? It is a beautiful place – but the whole town is basically a Yoga Teacher Training on steroids, it is SWAMPED, and IMO the crowds make it not an enjoyable place to be any more.



Roaming goats and street art in Varanasi
Roaming goats and street art in Varanasi

 


Other Useful Information for Travelling in North India


I have written quite a bit about India and these two articles in particular will definitely help you prepare for your trip:


&


As I always say though, say Goodbye to personal space and Hello to colour and chaos!


Another super-helpful post for those embarking on a one-month backpacking trip to North India:




Chai stall India with umbrella
Indian style Chai is delicious, and normally only 10p from a street vendor.

 

Not got your travel insurance sorted yet? You could do what I do and have a last-minute browse on Travel Supermarket – where I choose the cheapest policy I can find a recognised UK-based brand with a high defaqto rating.


 


The Best One-Month Backpacking Itinerary for North India



Fly into New Delhi

New Delhi – 1 Day

About New Delhi & Things to Do in New Delhi


I hate New Delhi. I have tried, believe me. And it is not an Indian city thing – I really like Mumbai and Kolkata. New Delhi is just dank, smoggy, spread out, and the hustle is so harsh, it is impossible to do anything without getting hassled and harassed.


If you have friends there and someone can show you around, by all means, see if you can dig deep (real deep) and find the city's charming side, but for me, New Delhi just serves as the shortest stop-over possible.


Grab a taxi for about 600rs from Indira Gandhi International Airport to the Paharganj district, as it is close to NDLS train station, book a cheap hotel on booking.com - walk to the station and buy your ticket to Jaipur for the next day, and crash.



A typical rickshaw in India
A typical rickshaw in India

 


Train New Delhi – Jaipur: 5 Hours

Jaipur – 3 Days

About Jaipur & Things to Do in Jaipur


Jaipur, fondly nicknamed 'The Pink City', is the glittering capital of Rajasthan and the India of your dreams. Most of the buildings were painted pink in the 1870s in preparation for Queen Victoria's visit, and nowadays Jaipur is known for its grand palaces, forts and temples, and its dazzling bazaars.


Jaipur Highlights


  • Hawa Mahal Palace

  • Abundant Markets

  • Rooftop Restaurants


AVOID: Chokhi Dhani, it is a trashy tourist trap.


For more information on exploring Jaipur, check out my article: Travelling Rajasthan Independently.




 


Train Jaipur to Ajmer: 3 Hours

Taxi Ajmer to Pushkar: 20 Mins

Pushkar – 3 Days

About Pushkar & Things to Do in Pushkar


Pushkar is one of India's sacred sites of pilgrimage set around the beautiful Lake Pushkar. This holy site is filled with a myriad of ample jewellery stores, cute cafes, and pretty temples. Depending on when you visit, Pushkar can be a relaxing place to unwind for a few days or a non-stop festival!


Pushkar Highlights


  • Brahma Temple, the only one of its kind in the world

  • Evening Aarti at Pushkar Lake

  • Celebrate Holi in March, or the world-famous Pushkar Camel Festival in November



Camels in Pushkar
Camels in Pushkar

 


Taxi Pushkar to Ajmer: 20 Mins

Overnight Train Ajmer to Amritsar: 15 Hours

Amritsar – 2 Days

About Amritsar & Things to Do in Amritsar


Amritsar is a city in Punjab, in NW India on the border with Pakistan, and of the 25 million Sikhs in the world today – 75% of them live here. Amritsar is a unique and vibrant city with delicious food and an amazing sense of hospitality from the locals. Amritsar is so refreshing when compared to New Delhi, and it is great fun to get lost in the maze of alleyways and frenetic bazaars!




Amritsar Highlights


  • The Golden Temple

  • The Wagah Border Closing Ceremony

  • The Partition Museum


There is loads to do in Amritsar, and for more information on travelling there during your one-month itinerary for North India, check out my article: Must Visit Places in Amritsar.



 


Train Amritsar to Pathankot: 3 Hours

Bus Pathankot to Dharamshala: 3 Hours

Taxi Dharamshala to Dharamkot: 30 Minutes

Dharamkot – 5 Days

About Dharamkot & Things to Do in Dharamkot


Dharamkot is a cute little hippy village just north of Dharamshala, which is the home of the Dalai Lama. There are no roads in Dharamkot, just a stepped pathway connecting all of the cute cafes, yoga shalas and clothes boutiques. After a few hectic cities, Dharamkot is where you can just chill out and breathe in the fresh mountain air.


Dharamkot is definitely on the tourist trail, or rather what is known as 'the hummus trail' (almost everyone travelling there was Israeli), but it is still lovely, and don't worry, this one-month itinerary for North India will be taking us off the beaten track very soon.


Dharamkot Highlights


  • Beautiful hikes

  • Yoga and meditation classes

  • Swimming in ice-cold waterfalls



I Dream of Mangoes hiking in Dharamkot
Hiking in Dharamkot

For more details on the best hikes, waterfalls and yoga schools in Dharamkot, check out my article: The Highlights of Himachal Pradesh. 


I have also written an article: The Best Places to Eat in Dharamkot – which will be super handy if your whole day revolves around food like mine does!



 


Taxi Dharamkot to Dharamshala: 30 Mins

Bus Dharamkot to Bhuntar in the Parvati Valley: 7 Hours

Taxi Bhuntar to Lapas: 2 Hours

Hike uphill to Parvati's Lap: 45 Minutes

Parvati Valley – 4 Days

About Parvati Valley & Things to Do in Parvati Valley


I have deliberately skipped Manali ' the Ibiza of north India' as the all-night trance parties have really killed the peaceful mountain vibe there. Instead, I strongly recommend spending some time in the Parvati Valley, a stunning region just a few hours shy of Manali. It used to be only cannabis tourists that came here (weed grows wild everywhere) but it is now becoming more well-known.


To avoid the cliché crowds of crusty hippies, head straight PAST Kasol to the serene village of Lapas - where you'll need to climb the last 45 minutes to Parvati's Lap; the dreamiest of hostels with views of snow-capped mountains and impossibly starry skies. We loved it here.




Parvati Valley Highlights


  • Guided hiking

  • Star-gazing and unwinding surrounded by spectacular views

  • Sampling the local landrace Marijuana


For a guide to visiting the Parvati Valley, check out my article: The Highlights of Himachal Pradesh.



 


Taxi or bus Lapas to Kasol: 1 Hour

Overnight Bus Kasol to New Delhi: 12 Hours

Train New Delhi to Agra: 3 Hours

Agra – 2 Days

About Agra & Things to Do in Agra


Agra is loud, polluted, hectic, and a little bit hostile. I hate to be so harsh but it is a horrible city, however, it is still worth visiting for the magnificent Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is actually a tomb built by Shah Jahan in the 17th Century, to pay tribute to his favourite wife Mumtaz, who died at the age of 39 whilst giving birth to her 14th child!


Agra Highlights


  • The Taj Mahal

  • Agra Fort

  • Sheroes Cafe (a must-visit)


For all of the information on how to navigate Agra and the best way to see the Taj Mahal, check out my article: Things to Do and Places to See in Agra in One Day Only!



 


Overnight Train Agra to Varanasi: 15 Hours

Varanasi – 2 Days

About Varanasi + Things to Do in Varanasi


Varanasi is one of the most shocking yet compelling places I have ever been. This city is one of the 7 sacred sites of Hinduism that sits on the River Ganges and is famous for its 88 Ghats, as it is on these steps that millions of Hindus come every year to pray, bathe in the water, attend to their dead, and to die.



Families taking a dip in the Ganges in Varanasi
Families taking a dip in the Ganges in Varanasi


Varanasi Highlights


  • Sunrise Aarti at Assi Ghat

  • Street food tour (this was awesome)

  • Ponder mortality at Manikarnika Ghat

  • Sunset boat tour




For a more detailed itinerary and to find out how we arranged our street food tour, check out my article: How to Spend One Day in Varanasi.



 


Overnight or Day Train Varanasi to Kolkata: 12 Hours

Kolkata & The Sundarbans – 4 Days

About Kolkata & Things to Do

Kolkata used to be the capital of India under the British Raj, it is a fascinating city steeped in history, and it is my favourite city in India. This is where you can experience the charming India-of-old, surrounded by hand-pulled rickshaws, and where you can buy a 10p chai in a clay cup and smash it on the ground afterwards.


Bengali culture and food are unique, and whilst this city is the chaotic frenzy you expect from India, Kolkata is also considered the intellectual, artistic, and cultural capital of the country.



Kolkata Highlights


  • College Street

  • Malik Ghat Flower Market

  • Howrah Bridge



About The Sundarbans & Things to Do




Ever since reading 'The Hungry Tide' by Amitav Ghosh, I have dreamt about visiting the Sundarbans, a huge cluster of low-lying islands entangled by one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, shared by India and Bangladesh, and home of the Bengal Tiger. This area is collectively known as 'The Tide Country' and it is one of the most unique and inhospitable places on Earth.


You can book a 1D2N trip with Tour de Sundarbans which starts and ends in Kolkata, it is a 6-hour journey and the views along the way are stunning. Visiting the Sundarbans is a truly unique part of this one-month North India Itinerary, and it is one of my favourite experiences ever in India.


Fly out of Kolkata


 


Thank you for reading my post: The Best One-Month Backpacking itinerary for North India. If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post articles once per week filled with travel tips, inspiration, and stories from my adventures around the world.


Happy Travels

xx



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Disclosure:
I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

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