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Posted by on Apr 2, 2011 in Countries, India | 10 comments



Tourism in India – top 5 destinations that will leave you breathless!

India is a country that never gets boring. Love it or hate it, India is an overdose for all senses. If you hated it, I’m sure there are a few spots you actually enjoyed, and if you loved it, then I’m sure you’d have loved it even more if you had visited these places!

This is my perspective and experience after 5 full months traveling most of the subcontinent. India is not always an easy country to travel around, but a few places stood out for me. These are my top 5 destinations for tourism in India!



 Havelock and Neil Island – Andaman coast


 The view from my hut

Havelock, Neil and most of the islands are a paradise on earth.
Very distant from mainland India (it’s actually closer to Thailand than India), very hard to reach, the Andaman Islands archipelago is the best of the best destination and my favorite place during my 5 months of traveling through India.



My resort in Havelock


There are only 2 ways to get there, either on a 3 or 4 day ship trip, which is a nightmare even for the most experienced backpacker, or by a couple of hours flight from Chennai.

With very few tourists and little development, you feel this place is very real, pristine and pure. The beaches are clean, basically empty and the calm warm waters are more inviting here than anywhere else.



My humble hut



Havelock beach number 3


Havelock and Neil are two of the best spots on the planet for diving and snorkeling! Due to the distance and inaccessibility, these waters are filled with fish, from all kinds and colors. The corals are untouched, and awaiting to be discovered by the curious divers.

We actually had the privilege to swim with a massive turtle and many fish which were bigger than myself. This was my first experience snorkeling and I fell in love!
In Neil, there are massive cliffs and labyrinths, where you can explore the dramatic contracts between the canyons. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a few manatees.

Udaipur City




A scenic view of Udaipur and the lake



 A beautiful happy cow



 The Jagdish Temple



 Two little girls who were dying to take a photo with me


Beautiful city! The most beautiful city in India, in my opinion.

With amazingly white washed walls and incredible architecture, Udaipur is also called the “white city” and “the romantic city”.
The famous lake of  Udaipur, is relatively clean and on certain days, you can see the locals showering and bathing there as well as washing their beautifully colorful clothes. The sunsets are amazing there and there’s always someone playing music. Days go by slowly in Udaipur.

Udaipur is cleaner than most cities and friendlier as well. Rajasthan is famous for the dance and arts. You can find many different traditional dance shows basically every night.

With many options as far as hotels and guest houses for all pockets, from the famous 5 star Maharaji palace in the lake, that once hosted Maddona, to the backpacker friendly style or even the family guest house where you can interact and immerse yourself into the Indian and Rajasthani culture.

The highlight of my staying in this city was the friendship developed with the owner of the guest house where we stayed, G2 (or Jeetu). We spend great moments chatting, cooking, eating and just hanging out.
The temples are amazing, the monuments and the lifestyle are a delight!


Darjeeling  sightseeing

Not much more to add about Darjeeling… the tea capital of India and a mountain hill station, the Gurkaland and its people will make you feel home and never leave!
Closer to the Nepali culture and mentality than Indian, is a big tourist destination for Indians.
The cleanest city we’ve visited, with the best choice of food and drinks, from hot chocolate to the traditional Chai.

Goa India


Old Portuguese colonial houses



What a nice day to relax on the beach!!


The pink and white paint on the ceiling covering the ancient frescoes


My new best friend!

Goa feels like home!
The streets are still written in Portuguese, you can see the Portuguese influence in every corner!

The architecture and the local culture are so radically different from the rest of the country, that often, Goans say they are not Indians, but Goans!

Goa is clean, has the highest rate of alphabetization, which is noticeable. People are kind, friendly and relaxed. No one tries to fool or scam you and you’re probably free to do whatever you want without being constantly molested.
With beautiful tropical beaches of yellow sand and a zillion little tropical bars and restaurants to choose from, that will serve every taste and pocket!

This little state, was once the capital of the Hippy culture, with thousands of Hippies flocking here from all over the world, dreaming of living free and lightly. There a famous flea-market during high season and you can see the remains of the flower power generation there.
Goa has a lot of culture, old colonial buildings and churches to explore in the old capital Panaji. Be aware, however, that most of the ancient frescoes and most art inside the churches got destroyed by the Archaeology society, who decided to paint the whole interior of the churches white and cover the ancient stone and graves on the ground bathroom tiles.

When I was there, I witnessed the last grasp of the golden Portuguese frescoes being destroyed as you can see on my photos.
All in all, no wonder many people restrict their trip to India, to the Goan region.


Kolkata tourism


The Tabla jam – my first Couchsurfing experience



A letter typing service… this service helps a lot of people who are analphabets

Home of mother Theresa de Calcuta, Kolkata was a little surprise for me.
Kolkata has a little tourist hub where you can have a lot of fun and find interesting things to do.

The housing is more expensive than anywhere else and with a lower quality, vegans and vegetarians can feel a bit challenged there as well, but still… there’s something about Kolkata I can not explain.
We had a great time during our week there. We visited the planetarium, which was very interesting with a little Indian twist. The speaker is talking and reading the text live, so… if it happens that he has a sore throat, don’t be surprised! He’ll be coughing during the whole session!

We found a great library, stuck at the back of a vegetarian restaurant, quite close to the planetarium, which is worth a visit.
Be aware that Kolkata has tons of drug addicts and this was the first time we actually saw people shooting heroine on the streets. The “real” Kolkata outside the tourist bubble can be intense, but we did explore it and didn’t regret it.

Contrary to most Indian cities, Kolkata has a night life and I don’t mean in the sense of bars and clubs, but people and families enjoy hanging out at night, eating something on the many street stalls. I was fascinated by the great energy at night.
I got in contact with Joao through Couch Surfing, a Portuguese student of Tabla music and he invited me for a tabla jam at the house of his host family.

The night was very special and interesting, and probably one of the highlights of our trip to India.



The Andaman Islands – A guide for the dive and snorkel lovers

Study ayurvedic massage in India

Darjeeling – the world capital of tea

Bodhgaya – the place the Budha found enlightment

Top 5 myths about India

25 reasons to love India


    • Brigada! Mas a India é um pais muito difícil de se viajar….

  1. yara!!! it’s steph! you’ve been to andaman islands??? the huts look sooo beautiful and I’d love to go there soon!!! has there been any surf nearby? hope to meet you again sooner than later! xoxo

    • Hey Steph, what a surprise! Still surfing in Morocco?
      Yes! I’ve been to the Indian Andaman (and the Thai Andaman) islands. There’s NO surf near by because the Andaman sea is a big warm bathtub, basically. On the other hand, if you’re into snorkeling or scuba diving you’ll be amazed with both Neal Island and Havelock. There’s a beach in Havelock that is only accessible after a 30/40 minute walk through the jungle, and offers an amazing snorkeling with gigantic turtles and huge fish who are not scared of humans!

      If you go to Neil island, you’ll find the most amazing underwater canyons! We were so amazed with the Canyons and cliffs we went back for more during out stay.

      I will pass through Austria in 2014, if you’re around, we might meet :)

  2. Waves??? Well, not in Neil or Havelock when I was there. It was just a big warm swimming pool. Well, you have nothing to lose, if there’s no waves there’s snorkeling and a lot of fun!

  3. Havelock in Andaman looks awesome!
    We were supposed to go there with a group of friends for this upcoming NYE but couldn’t find a place with available accommodation. I believe there are still less hotels and hostels and during high season everything gets booked in advanced. But Andaman is definitely high on my list of placed to go to! Lucky you! 😉

    • I was really lucky to go there in 2009, when it was still non-commercial and very, very few tourists made their way to the islands. The whole atmosphere was very relaxed.and the islands felt really pure. I’ve talked to many islanders who told me they loved their Andaman that way: pure. I remember in 2009 the local people were in panic with a possibility of an air connection to Thailand. They said they had no prostitution, no drugs and no drunk people around and were terrified if all the crazy tourists would turn these almost untouched islands into another Thailand. They were terrified to have their children exposed to that.

      Do you know if the connection between the Andaman and Thailand went through? You might find a totally different Havelock now, than I found 5 years ago :(

      The Anadaman islands were the only place in India where we didn’t go through daily harassment and scamming, I’d be so sad to find out it all changed :(

  4. Hello Yara,

    I believe you enjoyed your stay India but I wonder you have not included Taj Mahal in your list. It is the most popular place in the country and most of the tourists who come to India visit the Taj Mahal to admire its beauty and glory.

    • I didn’t visit the Taj Mahal during my 6 month trip to India, that’s why I didn’t include it. Although it’s probably the most famous site in India, I believe India has other places that are much more beautiful and interesting than the over-expensive and over-crowded Taj. I visited the Baby Taj, where I was the only tourist and enjoyed it. I traveled to Agra with the ilusion of visiting the Taj, till I realized the rip off in prices for tourists and how crowded it would be.

      India is so diverse, I truly believe people shouldn’t focus on this one spot only.

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