top of page

The Best One-Month Backpacking Itinerary for South India

In this travel guide for South India, we will offer you an awesome one-month itinerary for exploring this incredibly diverse and dizzying country. 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 South India for 'first-time me' this is how it would go...



Kerala houseboat
A houseboat in Kerala


 


The Best One-Month Backpacking Itinerary for South India


Fly into Mumbai

1 - Mumbai

3 Days

Overnight train

2 - Goa

5 Days

Train

3 - Hampi

3 Days

Bus

4 - Mysore

2 Days

Bus

5 - Ooty

3 Days

Bus

6 - Kerala

12 Days

(Cherai Beach, Fort Kochi, Munnar, Alappuzha, Varkala + Neyarr Dam)

Explore Kerala by moped OR bus/train

Fly out of Cochin International Airport



The beaches of Goa
The beaches of Goa

 


Getting Around


If this looks like a lot of trains and buses, fear not, you can also take domestic flights between many 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 South 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. Otherwise, you should have no problem booking with ticket agents on the fly, for a small commission.



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.


Ooty lush hill station
India's hill stations are nothing short of amazing

 


Why these places?


Arriving in South India is a breath of fresh air from the chaotic scenes further north. For some reason, this part of the country just feels more gentle and more serene, there is certainly less hassle and less pollution – and the landscape is stunning. The further South you go the more tropical the hues, the air feels dense and humid and the pace slows down.


If this itinerary was three months long, I would have delved further into Tamil Nadu and added a leg in the untrodden lands of Odisha – but time as our main obstacle I believe this one-month backpacking itinerary for South India offers a little bit of the best of everything.



 


Other useful information for travelling in South 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!


 

Not sure what to pack for your trip to South India? Check out the I Dream of Mangoes article:



 


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 Mumbai


Mumbai – 3 Days


About Mumbai


Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is an excellent starting point for this one-month backpacking itinerary for South India. It is a fascinating city, and if you have not read 'Shantaram' by Gregory David Roberts, or the 'Dishoom' cookbook, I suggest you do both before your visit - to get your imagination flowing and taste buds tingling.


The Colaba district in Old Mumbai is where it's at - and for Mumbai and all other destinations on this one-month itinerary for South India, I would use booking.com to find accommodation. Take in Mumbai's electric energy, and don't forget to LOOK UP. The buildings are amazing, so don't just zone in on the harshness of life on the streets.


P.S. Do not be surprised if you get approached to be an extra in a Bollywood movie, this is not a scam!



Indian men on the train in Bombay
Taking the train in Bombay is its own adventure


Mumbai Highlights


  • A tour of Elephanta Island

  • Wander the Colaba district and check out Leopold Cafe

  • Take some snaps at the Gateway of India

  • A self-guided food tour using the Dishoom Cookbook

  • Pop into the Taj Palace Hotel for tea and admire the grandeur! (Or stay here for a night as an extra special treat!)



The Gateway of India
The Gateway of India

Leaving Mumbai


Overnight train Mumbai – Goa: 12 Hours



 

Goa – 5 Days


About Goa


Goa is the hippie haven of India, a small Christian-dominated region once colonised by the Portuguese, and now the centre of Indian tourism for many internationals and locals.


Goa has 35 beaches - some offer all night trance parties favoured by Russian travellers and domestic tourists (e.g. Arjuna, Palolem), others a breeding ground for life-coaches, yoga teachers and cacao ceremonies flocked to by Israeli visitors (e.g. Arambol), and some still hold onto a little shred of what they once were– sleepy fishing villages by beautiful stretches of sand with the occasional cute beach bar (e.g. Agonda, Patnem). I don't know about you but the latter appeals to me the most. CHOOSE YOUR BEACH WISELY.


The train from Mumbai will drop you at Madgaon Station, which is more or less in the middle of Goa, and from there you can grab a cab to your chosen beach.



Cows on Goan Beach
Cows on the beach is a regular sight in Goa

Goa Highlights


  • Coastal walks

  • Yoga classes

  • BEACH LIFE!


The 'activities' in this area such as visiting the spice plantation I have tried and tested, I just don't rate them – and for me, Goa is about enjoying the beach and the cuisine and taking a few days to relax between Indian cities.



Pina Coladas in Goa
Pina Coladas in Goa

Leaving Goa


Howrah Express Train to Hampi: 6 Hours



 

Hampi– 3 Days


About Hampi


Next up on this one-month itinerary for South Indian we have the amazing Hampi! Hampi is the remnants of the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th-16th Centuries, and it is a remarkable place.


The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and much of it has not even been excavated yet. I strongly urge you to pick up a guide to give you some context - and all three of the Hampi highlights below were guided tours for less than £10 each. We had such a fantastic time in Hampi because of our tour guide.



Cows and temple in Hampi
Hampi scenes at dusk

Hampi Highlights


  • Bicycle Tour

  • Royal Enfield Motorbike Tour

  • Walking tour to Mathanga Hill + Monkey Temple



Leaving Hampi


Overnight Bus Hampi to Mysore: 9 Hours



 


Mysore (Mysuru) – 2 Days


About Mysore


Mysore is a heritage city in the state of Karnataka, it's earned the title as coming 1st out of 467, making it the cleanest city in all of India. It may not make it onto everyone's one-month itinerary for South India but I believe it is well worth the stop.


I have spent several months in Mysore as it is the world's foremost hub for Ashtanga Yoga, and if you'd like to drop into a class you'll want to stay in the cute, leafy neighbourhood of Gokulam. Don't worry though, there are plenty of other things to do besides yoga...


inside Mysore palace
Inside the beautiful Mysore Palace

Mysore Highlights


  • The opulent and very impressive Mysore Palace (head there early on a weekday)

  • Yoga and meditation classes in Gokulam

  • Visit the government sandalwood + silk factories

  • Hike Chamundi Hills

  • Enjoy the bustling Deveraja Market


If you would like a more in-depth look at travelling Mysore, check out my articles: A Yoga Student's Travel Guide to Mysore and The Best Places to Eat in Gokulam, Mysore.



A Tibetan singing bowl lesson in Mysore
A Tibetan singing bowl lesson in Mysore

Leaving Mysore


Bus Mysore to Ooty:4 Hours



 


Ooty – 3 Days


About Ooty


By visiting Ooty, this one-month itinerary for South India dips it's toe into Tamil Nadu for just a moment – and gives you your first taste of a 'hill station', a high-altitude town surrounded by lush green hills and sprawling tea plantations, and Ooty is aptly named 'Queen of the Hills'.



Ooty landscape
Tha landscape around Ooty is stunning!

Ooty Highlights




Leaving Ooty


Taxi/Bus Ooty to Coimbatore: 2 Hours

Train/Bus Coimbatore to Ernakalum



 


Kerala – 12 Days


About Kerala


Kerala is so vastly different from the rest of India, and this state is known as 'God's Own Country' for a very good reason.


In Kerala there is little to no hassle, they have the best healthcare and education in all of India, and the world's only democratically elected communist government. Cuisine-wise in Kerala you're going to find plates piled high with fat paella-type rice, banana leaves holding a variety of different light coconut curries, an abundance of locally caught seafood, fluffy Parrotta bread (which may be the best bread ever), and of course DOSAS! (Coconut chutney wins everything!)



South Indian Thali
South Indian Thali

Kerala is the home of Ayurveda, Kathakali dance, tranquil backwaters and sprawling tea plantations. The backwaters and the ocean can be captured in one lens; and if you're lucky you will see dolphins play in the Arabian Sea and eagles soar above you as you bob around in the warm, balmy water.


The real charm of Kerala lies within her people. They'll go out of their way to help you with anything, their eyes glistening with pride that you're choosing to visit their home. I have never once been bothered in this state, and after what can sometimes be rather hectic travel in other parts of India, in Kerala you feel like you can just BREATHE.



Cycling around the backwaters of Cherai Beach
Cycling around the backwaters of Cherai Beach


Getting Around in Kerala


For me, the best option would be to hire a moped and explore the state by self-driving. Once you get out of the Ernakalum area, you can follow the A66 which hugs the ocean and it is not hectic at all to drive (Do not get this confused with the NH66 which is the main road and not as fun).


If you start your itinerary at Cherai Beach (which you should) – you can rent a moped through your guest house for £3 a day.


If you are not comfortable driving there are plenty of other options, including hiring a driver, trains, and buses.



Trekking around the tea plantations of Munnar
Trekking around the tea plantations of Munnar

Kerala Highlights


  • Cherai Beach – A charming fishing village and the perfect place to start your Kerala itinerary and hire a moped.

  • Fort Kochi – A really cute city with cobbled streets and Portuguese architecture, art museums and trendy cafes.

  • Allaphuza (Alleppey) – Enjoy a backwater tour or splash out and stay on a houseboat.

  • Varkala – The beautiful cliffs of Varkala are like Kerala's 'mini Goa' where you can take surf lessons and yoga classes.

  • Munnar – A gorgeous hill station surrounded by beautiful tea plantations and full of beautiful treks. The drive here alone is amazing, look out for elephants on the way.

  • Neyarr Dam Sivananda Ashram – This is a peaceful Ashram in far South Kerala, and if you want to experience an ashram I can personally vouch that Sivananda is in no way 'culty' like many others.


The above really needs more than 10 days, so if it was me I would choose 3 or 4 stops for this one-month South India Itinerary, if you have more time then that's great!


For more details on how to visit these Kerala highlights, check out my previous article: Coming home to Kerala: A 10-day itinerary through God's Own Country.



A yoga philosophy class in Sivananda ashram
A yoga philosophy class in Sivananda Ashram


Leaving Kerala


Fly out of Cochin International Airport in North Kerala, or for more onward flight options check out flights from Bangalore or Trivandrum.



 


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



START PLANNING YOUR NEXT TRIP




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.

Comments


bottom of page