I’ve been in India quite a long time and still feel like I haven’t seen enough of it, but I have done some pretty significant exploring in the last two years. I’m going to share the places that I loved the most.
For each place is a link in the title that will take you to a specific post with more information if you’re interested to go to these places.
My 5 Favorite Cities in India
1. Udaipur, Rajasthan
This town is not just my favorite in Rajasthan, but maybe my favorite in all of India. There’s a reason Kings took to this place, “India’s Venice”, and it’s not just the spicy food! The people here may not all be rich, but they sure look it. Jewelry is layered on heavily, eyeliner is drawn on even the youngest of babies and men have huge colorful turbans on with big gold rings adorning their fingers. The lake palace floats out in the distance so you can look at the lights from a rooftop table. There is so much to do: get a massage, volunteer with animals, learn Reiki, learn traditional dance, and ride elephants to the gates of a palace. Take in the culture here, as it’s a pilgrimage spot for Hindus and ceremonies take place at the Ghats every day.
2. Bombay, Maharashtra
Bombay (Mumbai) is wild. That is the best word to describe it. Everywhere you look people full of life and something will surprise you. You don’t just have a “simple” day in Bombay. The streets are packed to the brim, slums are shadowed by skyscrapers, some kids beg while others sleep on the streets, and just as you feel surrounded by poverty a Mercedes goes by. It’s the definition of culture shock. People are friendlier than you’d ever guess and the city is safer than anyone assumes. You might spend two hours in traffic cursing as people honk for no reason then right after, enter a dimly lit quiet restaurant serving 15-dollar cocktails. Nothing makes sense here and that’s why I love it.
3. Anjuna, Goa
Okay, it’s a village not a city but still. If you’ve read this blog more than once you don’t even need the description of Goa, but in case you’re new here: Goa is the beach, the party, and the tropical paradise of India. There are other’s of course, but none is quite like Goa. The hippies ended their long trip across Europe down on these shores and although it’s not the same, people strive for that feeling every day and beach parties rage all night through the sunlight hours. Check out my ebook the Insider’s Guide to Goa. After five years of living here, I’m sure this 170-page book is the most comprehensive guide to Goa on the market. Click here to buy it.
4. Hampi, Karnataka
This small town in Karnataka has recently become a UNESCO world heritage site. There are boulders strewn all over the ground, but how did they get there? There is a river separating the Hindi temples and the Hippie café’s. A tiny boat will take you across each morning. Rent a bike and ride out to the reservoir for cliff jumping and incredible paddy field views. Are their crocodiles? They say yes, but that doesn’t stop the women from washing their clothes in the river.
5. Amritsar, Punjab
When I look back on all my travels, seeing the Golden Temple in Amritsar was something that I didn’t appreciate enough at the time. I hadn’t been in India longer than a few months and didn’t really know until after living here a while how amazing it was. People putting caste aside, free meals for everyone, complete respect and extreme devotion in a place (with serious history) they will let tourists sleep for convenience. Seeing men bathe in the water while women are completely covered on the side chatting to one another not allowed in seemed unfair at the time, but now I understand it more. Volunteers made the entire thing happen. It’s a place I want to go back and learn more about. It’s great that in the same place you can take time to see the Wagah Border ceremony at the Pakistan border.
So there you have my 5 favorite cities in India! (and if you’re curious, check out my 5 favorite cities in the world!)
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Your blog is Always so inspiring when it comes to India travels!
I have a friend from Amritsar, who advised me to visit it because of the Golden Temple, and I can see why :)
He is a sikh, so I wonder if that one in the picture is him..??? :)
Thanks Pam! I didn’t already ask you about being in my new series did I? Shoot me an e-mail if you want to do an interview!
Hi doll! Did you get my email? I’m afraid it might have ended into spam … xxx
Hi Pam, I did get it and I wrote back on the 29th to info@ablonde… etc. did you not get it? I’m going to send it again now but let me know if it doesn’t show. THe subject line was “hi from Pam”
Your travel stories are very inspiring….your passion for travel is palpable.
Thanks, Roxanne :)
I love your description of Udaipur. I’m such a fan of spicy food and the fashion and culture sound amazing there. You’re making a very persuasive argument for me to travel to India this year…
This is what I’ve been hearing, maybe I need to let India tourism know I’m sending a few people to them ;) lol
I want to eat alllll that food in that Udaipur photo!!! And I adore that sunset photo in Hampi. Great post, Rach!
I’m trying to narrow down the list of places I want to visit for my trip to India and this helps- thank you! Would you suggest Mumbai over Delhi if I only have the time to visit one?
Yes! Mumbai is much more friendly, easy to get around, and a little more laid-back.
Looks like Armistrar is on the list for next time!
My top 5 would be:
3 ) Udaipur
I love Varanasi! I haven’t been to varkala though which is nuts for how often I’m down in Kerala. Next time I have to go
Loved your comment about Bombay being so awesome because it doesn’t make any sense — you really nailed it with that one! And Hampi! One of my top 2 favourites, along with Coorg.
I get to go to Coorg in a month! Any tips for me?
If you don’t already have accommodation set up, you should stay at Honey Valley! It’s one of my favourite places of all time. It’s a homestay near Virajpet / Kabbinkad, and it’s run by this super sweet family. The prices for room and food are pretty reasonable, and they have about 8 different trails – including a few waterfalls! – that you can check out, or you can just chill out on the terraces with some chai and a book and enjoy the weather and the view. But wherever you go, make sure you try the Coorgi pork — it’s amazing!
I’m so jealous you’re going to Coorg! Enjoy!
And make sure to pack a rain jacket and some sturdy boots — it’s always wet there!
Thanks Veena! I am totally looking Honey Valley up right now! And I’ll pack my rain boots as well :)
hi rachel,yes it’s always tough one to call out fave lists.10 people 10 different lists.but that withstanding i still like yours.on my list ? maybe somewhere in the himalayas darjeeling,especialy leh,kochin,but it looks like i ‘d need a lager list.!
hi rachel,yes it’s always tough one to call out fave lists.10 people 10 different lists.but that withstanding i still like yours.on my list ? maybe somewhere in the himalayas darjeeling,especially leh,kochin,but it looks like i ‘d need a larger list.!
I’d love to go to Darjeeling. I still haven’t made it to the NE.
The Lake Palace in Udaipor looks absolutely stunning…and so does that food!
Ohh yeah, the food is great! They have this pepper that only grows in the Thar desert and it makes their curries very distinct tasting. So yummy!
I’m not sure I can do curry at 5:30 AM here in the States…but you’re making me hungry. Maybe I’ll hit one of the local Indian restaurants this weekend! Of course, it can’t possibly be the same ;)
Great List, Rachel. Thanks for all the information. Udaipur and Hampi would be on my list.
Your welcome. They are 2 of the best!
Wow great introduction to India! I especially love that sunset photo in Hampi – just gorgeous!
ah… Hampi is maybe the prettiest place I’ve ever been!
Udaipur sounds like my kind of town! I love OTT glamour. Hope we can make it there in October…
It’s fabulous in Early October, just before tourist season picks up again.
Great timing then!
These are amazing photos! Reading your blog always makes me want to book that flight to India. I really need to get over there. Thanks for the tips!
Thanks Laura, that’s such a compliment!
I loved Amritsar! My friends and I spent the night at the temple, and the breakfast in the morning was seriously one of the best I’ve had. Though I think Dharamsala is still my favorite place in India (even if it’s more Tibetan than Indian).
I only did a day trip or I probably would have stayed as well, although I can’t imagine it was a very quiet place to sleep? I loved Dharamsala as well!
Hi Rachel, women can go in, but they have a separate area. It’s off to the side, I believe. For modesty’s sake, they don’t go in where the men do. :)
Good to know! Thank you :)
Rachel, everything you post on here is making me more and more convinced I should do a solo trip to India! I’d intended to do a group tour, but every time I read a new post on this blog I realise that the 1-2 days tours offer in each place will never be enough!
That photo of Amritsar is amazing, I love the serenity and the detail.
You could try to do both: start with a tour to get comfortable then go solo!
Great list- sadly I have not been to any of them..yet!
One day… :)
My interest to travel to India has been piqued! This is a great post, and I love the photos and descriptions, especially of the first two cities. It’s interesting to hear that Rajasthan is called “India’s Venice” – I’ve been laughing at all the places through Europe that dub themselves something-Venice or name areas in towns after Venice (saw an example even this past weekend – Chartres, France has a park/canal area called La Petite Venise). Funny to see that places outside of Europe make comparisons to Venice as well!
That’s true a lot of places use Venice don’t they!? How funny!
Bombay sounds absolutely like a must-see in every way, shape, and form! This makes me put India at the top of my next big trip list, seriously.
I’m glad! that’s where India should be on everyone’s list!
You’re blog is literally one of my biggest inspirations to actually get on the bus to india and use my visa when I return to Nepal soon! I didn’t expect Mumbai to be on the list, and I didn’t really plan on spending too much time there, but now I might just have to check it out properly! thaaaaanks again for another inspiring post :))
Thank you so much, you’re too kind!
If you love Mumbai, you will like the book “Maximum City, Bombay Lost and Found”. He spends too much time on the mafia and the police but otherwise it is a great read. The chapters on the B-grade Bollywood actors are hilarious.
Personally I would discourage people from going to Mumbai, particularly first-timers to India. Its too overwhelming and not enough beauty.
When I first arrived in Mumbai they still had auto-rickshaws that used leaded gas. The pollution was horrendous. At least that has been cleaned up.
I might substitute Mysore for Mumbai on the list; more laid back.
Mysore is lovely! So clean, no traffic. Mumbai has it’s charms as well but is hard on first timers.
Mysore is the best place to settle. Clean and peaceful. Also very good people.
Agree it’s clean & peaceful!
I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and the information is amazing so thank you!! I am going to India in 2 weeks and I can’t even believe it! I was excited to see Mumbai on your list because thats where I am flying into. I hear a lot of negatives about it, so happy to hear some positives! Also I am from Ohio as well, but have lived in Florida for 7 years :) Thanks again for your amazing blog, I would be so much more overwhelmed without it. India looks so amazing I’m having hard decisions trying to fit all these amazing places in 3 weeks!
Mumbai can be overwhelming but is such a cool city and I love going there now for the nightlife. I’m glad my blog made you feel better about coming to India!! have fun
I am fan of your blog. I have visited all the place you have mentioned in the blog. Hampi is my fev.
I am Aniket, IT engineer and travel is my passion. Landscape photography is my fev .
Please visit Kolkata Once. I am sure you will be gone love that place. And please spend some time with kolkata people. We used to call Kolkata as city of joy in india.
Hope you will visit shorty.
Ah no hyderabad :(