Top Picks to Enjoy Backpacking in 2013

You’ve probably come across hundreds of such segments where people talk about ‘places to see’, ‘places to visit’ and so on. What sets “Top Picks to Enjoy Backpacking in 2013′ apart from the rest? Well, nothing much really.

But you’ve gotta ask yourself if you’ve actually gotten down to seeing the places you may have read so much about. Here are 6 places in India you’ve simply got to check out. After all, you’ve a whole year to plan on going to at least one of them.

The numbered list doesn’t have any significance. They’re all great places and the first one on the list is just as brilliant as the last.

Munnar

MunnarThis place is one cliché that never goes out of fashion. From the cool kiss of the climate to the beautiful rounded hillocks, sensuality comes alive in Munnar like no other location. The most rewarding way to explore this hill station in the Idukki district of Kerala state is to go cycling or trekking. The sprawling tea plantations are yet another sight to reckon with.

How cost-effective is it? Well, consider the lodgings here. 10kms. outside the infamous Cardamon fields sits Oliver Brook, which is a budget option or enjoy the beauty of JJ Cottages. And the cheapest of the lot but a place just as amazing is the Zina Cottages.

The Keralite cuisine is simply too delish for words. Health isn’t an issue you need to be concerned about because most of the dishes are steamed and therefore easy on the intestines. Indigenously grown passion fruit is something you’ve gotta dig into too. Most people will demand you get a bag of tea—aromatic tea, no less—and not to forget those sensational homemade chocolates that could well beat the taste of most international brands. The spices are one other thing you mustn’t forget to take back. Your spice-list should have pepper, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla.

August through March is a good time to go to Munnar. Before you leave the place, you must have seen or done: Mattupetti Dam, Top Station Trekking, Eravikulam National Park, Echo Point, Annamudi peak and Maravoor.

Agra

Agra FortIt’s famous and known the world over as the city in which stands the fabulous Taj Mahal. Speaking of which, Agra is also known for so many other historical monuments. Nothing a good guide can’t help you see, photograph and remember.

Of course, seeing as how hectic the tourist industry is here, it’s probably a good idea to confirm the legitimacy of your guide by asking after ID and don’t forget to bargain when it comes to the cost of the tour.

The Taj Mahal is, in essence, a symbol of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz. It’s also a mosque, so consider it closed for viewing on Fridays. February is the month to look out for, because that’s when you’ll see Taj Mahotsav take place. It’s a ten-day long cultural performance that opens you up to the grandeur and diversity of all things Indian.

Shopping is great, especially when it comes to souvenirs. As for Agra cuisine, the Shahi Thali says it all. Lest you think you can imitate it at home, I refuse to give you the ingredients that make it up and hope you wouldn’t Google it. Tasting it right where it was first made is the better choice. The Agra ka Petha is a sweet that, as tasty as it may be, isn’t too friendly on the waistline, so take it in moderation.

October through March is a good time to go to Agra. Before you leave the place, you must have seen or done: Fatehpur Sikhri, a walk through the old alleys and streets, Agra Fort and, of course, the Taj Mahal.

Hampi

HampiOf the hundreds of historic locations here in India, Hampi stands out in the crowd. It’s one of those places where history is so well preserved, you’d think this place—finding its origins all the way back to 1 AD—was stuffed into a bottle of preservation fluid.

Here you’ll find ruins, carvings, ancient architecture and more, and to know this was once a bustling hub of market life is pretty amazing. Moving around is best accomplished through hired cars instead of risking it with street hawkers. You’ll certainly hear talk of nearby locations like Aihole and Pattadakal. If you know you’ll be staying longer at Hampi, visiting those two locations will be a great experience.

Mostly everyone who goes to Hampi will say Hotel Malligi has the best lodgings. Be it information or hired vehicles, you’ll find great service here. And their food is a treat for the palate too. Check out the Hampi Bazaar and get yourself some souvenirs and handicrafts.

October through March is a good time to go to Hampi. Before you leave the place, you must have seen or done: visit that café on the river side, Vithala Temple, Royal Enclosures, Pattadakal’s stone temples and, of course, Hampi Bazaar.

Darjeeling

Rock Garden DarjeelingYou’ve probably heard it being called the Queen of Hill stations, and it sure does live up to that title. Darjeeling has plenty of experiences for a backpacker, rookie or professional. From the scenic vistas to the panoramic views, from the lush landscape to the waterfalls and valleys, and from the trails to the trekking chances, this hill station will blow you away.

It’s quite easy for you to get lost here, so be sure you’ve a map of the trek area you’ve settled on or take a guide with you. Winter time has you enjoying superb winter sports, so make the most of that. Staying at the Bellevue hotel is a step in the right direction, because not only does it have amazing views it’s also quite affordable. For something a bit more rustic and therefore cheaper, go for Hotel Aliment. It has some nice views of the adjoining valley.

Almost every menu here has what’s called Darjeeling chai with Tibetian momo. This is one tea you’ve gotta taste to believe, it’s that good. Ethnic is the name of the game when it comes to shopping. Hill Cart Road has cool woven sweaters to check out, Hayden Hall has some nice Tibetan carpets and Chowrastha and Nehru Roads are the places to head to for curios and other trinkets.

September through May is a good time to go to Darjeeling. Before you leave the place, you must have seen or done: a trek up to the snow-capped Kanchenjunga Mountains, Tiger Hill, Shingamari Ropeway, Tea Gardens, Darjeeling Zoo, Batasia Loop and the Mahakal Dara Temple.

Jaipur

Blue Room - City Palace - JaipurFrom tradition and culture to ancient architecture, you’ll find all this and more here in Jaipur. This city will transport you to a different realm from the moment you step out of the airport and into the city proper. Stay for about five days or so in the Pink City, because that’s how long you’ll need to truly soak up all the place has to offer.

Precious as well as semi-precious stones are sold very successfully here in Jaipur, but be certain you get your purchases from legit establishments. Amber Fort is an ode to Indian History and there’s nothing better than taking the elephant ride all the way to it.

As far as accommodations are concerned, there are plenty of beautiful lodgings that come at affordable costs, so do your research before settling on one of them. Jaipur is a Rajasthani city and, being so, gets you the chance to appreciate fine Rajasthan cuisine. Dal Baati and Rajasthani Thali are two of the myriad suggestions you’ve got to try.

While handicrafts and puppets are a couple things to buy here, you can also try out Bandhni or Bandhej weaves, which are basically dupattas, saris or ethnic Indian tunics, depending on which form you plan on buying them in. Then there are Jootis, which are traditional footwear. Don’t worry, there’s something for both men as well as women in this category.

October through April is a good time to go to Jaipur. Before you leave the place, you must have seen or done: walk through Nehru market where the vendors will be attired in their traditional vibrancy, Hawal Mahal, Nahargarh and Jaigarh Forts, The famous Rajasthani theme village Chokhi Dhani and the Jaipur City Palace.

Goa

GoaYou could assume we saved the best for last, because we just couldn’t leave Goa out of the picture. This sensational wonder of Nature and modernity has something for everyone. Not only is the beach and party scene lively, modern and upbeat, the trekking, scuba diving and other opportunities make for an awesome time here.

Being one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, you’ll find hawkers increasing rates by about fifty percent, so be sure to bargain smart. Renting bikes to get around by yourself is another amazing addition to your experience. Take a map, other essentials and you’re all set to explore the verdant countryside.

Being this popular, Goa has lots of affordable accommodations. You’ll find superb places that cost you about 1000 or even 500 rupees, so keep your options open until you settle on the one you like.

The cuisine is unmatched. The beaches have shacks that act as restaurants, so grab a bite or two therein. Indulge your sweet tooth at one of many Pastry Palace outlets. Parties here are outta this world. One of the first party places that come to mind is Fiplees Pub in South Goa.

Among so many things you may have put up on your shopping list, don’t leave out those signature sequined jhola bags and Goan wine.

Anytime in the year is great to go to Goa. Before you leave the place, you must have seen or done: played water sports, Basilica de Born Jesus, the flea markets, Fort Aguada and the famous beaches—Candolim, Baga, Calangute, Colva, Benaulim, Palolem and Vagator.

Image Credit: kees wolters, snikrap, x_jamesmorris, Honza Soukop, Shahnoor Habib, { pranav }

Comments

  1. I want to go to visit all of these places! They all sound so amazing, the photos are beautiful, and you just make them sound magical! Thanks for making my bucket list longer. :)

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