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India can be one of the most complicated countries to travel as a backpacker.
Locals are constantly harassing you. Vendors are trying to scam you. Rickshaw drivers charge you exaggerated amounts of money. Monkeys threaten to rob your belongings. The odors are unbearable. The hygiene levels are low, perhaps too low.
So, why go to India?
Well, the answer could be: “Because its unique and magical.” Im saying this after hating India during my first weeks of traveling. It wasn’t until I saw how things worked in India that I started enjoying it.
Click here to read about “My First Night in India”.
I spent three months traveling in the north of India and I must say that it was a short time taking into account how big this country is. However, I managed to visit the places that I had in mind and wrote this post about the TOP 5 PLACES TO VISIT IN NORTHERN INDIA.
I will not include Agra on this article because it’s usually a destination that most tourists already include on their itinerary when they visit India. Agra is the place where the Taj Mahal is located, in case you were wondering.
Amritsar is located in the state of Punjab near the border with Pakistan. This is the place where most of the Sikh community has settled.
Some of the articles of faith of the Sikh people are: not cutting their hair, wearing a kashera as underwear, carrying a knife on their waist, a wooden comb and an iron bracelet.
Sikhism is a very friendly and hospitable religion. There are many places in the state of Punjab where you can stay and eat for free or on a donation base. Amongst them, you can find the famous Golden Temple.
The Golden Temple is one of the most important symbols of the Sikh religion. It’s made of gold (obviously) and inside of it you can find the holiest scripture of this religion: Guru Granth Sahib.
Besides the Golden Temple, its worth visiting the parade of the Indian and Pakistani army at the border of both countries. Every day, at 6 p.m. big masses gather to witness this celebration.
To be honest, I did not find this ceremony to be spectacular at all. Nonetheless, it did call my attention because of the meaning behind it. India and Pakistan have been fighting for decades and this celebration seems to make things less worse, at least for the tourists.
Known as the “Capital of Yoga”, Rishikesh definitely worth visiting in the north of India. In here, you will find hundreds of Ashrams where people go to meditate and do yoga.
Among them, you can find the Ashram of the Beatles. The British band spent a while in Rishikesh when they were searching for spiritual and artistic guidance. Nowadays, this place is abandoned but can be accessed as long as you pay a small fee to the man at the entrance.
Besides Yoga and meditation, Rishikesh offers outdoor adventures in the Ganges. There are many tourist plans that include rafting and bungee jumping. In this town you can swim in the most famous river in India without any risks of getting infections or mutate into something else.
Dharamsala is one of the most beautiful and coziest places in India. It is located near the Himalayas and it´s the place where His Holiness, the Dalai Lama lives.
Most of the travelers stay at McLeod Ganj, a small town located north of Dharamsala. It´s a very peaceful and tranquil area. Some of the houses have Alpine designs and the atmosphere is different from the rest of India.
Dharamsala is the place where the Tibetan refugees migrated to after the persecution by the Chinese government. Nowadays, there are several schools and voluntary workshops where people teach English to the monks.
Every morning, the meditation school called Tushita offers free meditation sessions. At the end of every class, the professor gives a brief lecture on Buddhism. I definitely recommend this if you stay in Dharamsal for a few days.
My favorite activity in Dharamsala was trekking to Triund and Snowline. These mountains are located near Dharamsala and they offer a pretty spectacular view of the Himalayas. You can hike to Triund where there is a camping spot with tents and food. Next morning, wake up at 5 a.m. to hike to Snowline and enjoy the nicest scenery in the area.
This is the place where the majority of the cremations in the Ganges river take place. Varanasi is unique and special.
However, I have to be honest: Varanasi is dirty and smells very bad. The traffic jams are some of the most chaotic ones in India and the heat can be unbearable during the warm periods.
Nonetheless, Varanasi should be a mandatory stop when you are traveling through North India. Every day, you will be able to witness the cremations in the Ganges and see how these rituals take place. There are small children playing and bathing themselves next to the water buffaloes and the ashes of the dead. You will only experience this in Varanasi.
I definitely recommend taking one of the small boats around the river to see the city from another perspective. Just manage not to fall.
One of the most popular plans among travelers is to go to the Blue Lassi. This is shop is considered the best lassi shop in Varanasi. The place is small and packed with pictures of many travelers that have been there, including mine. Though I have to go back and look for it.
This place is, without a doubt, my favorite place in India. Ladakh is a region located in Jammu & Kashmir. This place is just magical. The main town is called Leh and its located 3.500 mts above sea level.
Leh is dusty but cozy. The people are very welcoming and friendly. The physical traits of the locals can only be found in there. They look more Tibetan and Aryan than ordinary Hindu people.
The magic word in Ladakh is JULLAY, which is used for saying hello, goodbye and thank you.
Ladakh has incredible landscapes since a big range of the Himalayas cross it. One of the most popular activities in Ladakh is trekking.
The Markha Trek is one of the most popular hikes since you do not need a guide and there are many homestays on the way. The scenery during the six days of trekking is breathtaking. You cross green fields, dry areas, rocky mountains and then you get to the snowy peaks at 5.200 mts above sea level. It is definitely worth doing.
Another place worth exploring in Ladakh is the Nubra Valley. This region has several villages with different landscapes. You can visit the Big Buddha in Diskit, the sand dunnes in Hunder and the barley fields in Turtuk.
One of my favorite places in Ladakh was the Pangong Lake, which is shared between India and China. The color of this lake changes depending on the sun light. There is a chance that you see it blue, green, purple and even pink on one same day.
I hope that this list of places helps you to plan your next trip to India. If you want to read on How to Plan Your Trip, click here.
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