10 Best Destinations for Backpacking in India

Plus, Where to Stay!

Woman Admiring View Of Pushkar
••• Axiom Photographic/Getty Images

India has always been a popular backpacker destination. However, up until recently accommodations for backpackers were limited to cheap guest houses. This is dramatically changing with authentic, quality backpacker hostels popping up all over India. These hostels also attract young Indian travelers, creating a true international backpacker scene that brings together people from all over the world. They are a boon for solo travelers as well -- particularly women, as many of the hostels have female-only dorms. Here's where to go and stay.

Wondering how to get around? GoMowgli provides a novel and convenient hop-on hop-off bus service in Karnartaka, Kerala and Goa.

  • 01 of 10

    Jaipur, Rajasthan

    Woman Sitting In Small Temple At Dusk, Jaipur
    ••• Ian Cumming/Getty Images

    The "Pink City of Jaipur" is part of India's Golden Triangle Circuit, and hence it's a destination that features on the itineraries of many travelers. Yet, what makes it particularly good for backpackers is that it has the best range of backpacker hostels in India, as well as plenty of other inexpensive accommodations. It's top value and you're sure to meet plenty of people to hang out with! 

    • Where to Stay: 12 Top Hostels, Guest Houses & Cheap Hotels in Jaipur
    • Jaipur Travel Information and City Guide
    • Top 10 Jaipur Attractions and Places to Visit
  • 02 of 10

    Pushkar, Rajasthan

    Woman Admiring View Of Pushkar
    ••• Axiom Photographic/Getty Images

    When the Camel Festival isn't in progress, Pushkar is a laid-back holy hippy town. It's a spiritual place with a relaxing vibe, which is no double why many long-term travelers choose to spend time there. It has achieved almost cult status among backpackers. Think rooftop yoga, cooking classes, henna tattoos, and alternative healing therapies.

    • Where to Stay: Close to the lake, Hotel Everest is a favorite! Otherwise, try Zostel Pushkar.
  • 03 of 10

    Anjuna Beach, Goa

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    ••• Anjuna Beach, Goa. Kimberley Coole/Getty Images

    If you're heading to Goa but are not sure which beach to choose (there are a lot of them, and they're all different), Anjuna stands out because of its sociable backpacker hostels.  This beach was once home to Goa's hippies. These days it's more famous for its Wednesday flea market and Curlies beach shack.

    • Where to Stay: 14 Best Hostels, Guest Houses and Cheap Hotels in Goa
  • 04 of 10

    Varkala Beach, Kerala

    Backpacker at Varkala beach.
    ••• Jenny Acheson/Getty Images.

    Varkala beach, one of the best beaches in Kerala, has a dreamy cliff-top setting with a paved path that runs along it bordered by coconut palms, shops, beach shacks, hotels, and guest houses. It provides a relatively peaceful alternative to overly-commercialized Kovalam and is the perfect place to unwind for a while (and perhaps even get an Ayurvedic treatment).

    • Where to Stay: Vedanta Wake Up!, a chain of "luxury backpacker hotels" with dorm rooms, has a property there. Otherwise, you'll find plenty of budget guesthouses in the vicinity of the cliff. 
    • Varkala Beach Essential Travel Guide
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

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    ••• Varanasi at dawn. Jon Larson/Getty Images

    You'll either love it or hate it, but Varanasi definitely needs to be experienced. The fascinating thing about this mystical city is that its rituals are revealed openly to along the many riverside ghats, which are used for everything from bathing to burning the bodies of the dead.

    • Where to Stay: The groovy Stops Hostel focuses on exploration, and offers immersive activities and tours. Zostel Varanasi is also popular. Check out the International Travelers' Hostel, located in a family ancestral home, as well.
    • Varanasi Essential Travel Guide
    • 8 Important Ghats in Varanasi that You Must See
  • 06 of 10

    Amritsar, Punjab

    Golden Temple, Amritsar
    ••• Angad Singh Sodhi/Getty Images

    Amritsar's exquisite Golden Temple is one of the most recognized landmarks in India. This sacred Sikh shrine attracts pilgrims from all over the world who go there to pay their respects and do voluntary service. The opening of a number of new backpacker hostels in the city has added to its appeal.

    • Where to Stay: Jugaadus Eco Hostel runs its own tours in and around Amritsar. InnDia Boutique Hostel is also recommended.
    • Amritsar India Essential Travel Guide
  • 07 of 10

    Hampi, Karnataka

    Man at Hampi.
    ••• alex grabchilev / evgeniya bakanova/Getty Images

    Hampi was the last capital of Vijayanagar, one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India’s history. It has some extremely captivating ruins, intriguingly intermingled with large boulders that rear up all over the landscape. It's possible to explore on foot or bicycle. Virupapur Gadde, with its chilled-out environment on the edge of paddy fields across the river, attracts plenty of backpackers.

    • Where to Stay: 5 Best Hampi Hotels and Guest Houses
    • Hampi Essential Travel Guide
  • 08 of 10

    McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh

    Cow at McLeod Ganj.
    ••• Image Source/Getty Images.

    Home to the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government, McLeod Ganj sits just above Dharamsala and certainly has a different feel to the rest of India. The atmosphere is friendly and the air relatively clean. It's a popular place for travelers who want to volunteer, learn about Buddhism or holistic therapies, and participate in retreats.

    • Where to Stay: Pink House is one of the oldest backpacker havens and offers a range of rooms. Opposite it, is Backpackers Inn.
    • McLeod Ganj Essential Travel Guide
    • 10 Things to Do in McLeod Ganj
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Old Manali and Vashist, Himachal Pradesh

    ••• Grant Dixon/Getty Images

    Uphill from busy Manali town, Old Manali is full of quaint guest houses, surrounded by apple orchards and snow-covered peaks. It's a refreshing and magical place to spend some time. On the opposite side of the Beas River, Vashist village is another backpacker hangout with inexpensive accommodations and alternative therapies. There's an excellent Reiki center there. Kasol, around three hours away in the Parvarti Valley, is a popular side trip. It's frequented by trance lovers, hippies and Israeli backpackers.

    • Where to Stay: 11 Budget Guesthouses and Hostels in Old Manali
    • Manali Essential Travel Guide
    • Top 10 Places to Visit in Manali
  • 10 of 10

    Mahabalipuram Beach, Tamil Nadu

    Shore Temple.
    ••• Mahesh/Getty Images.

    Mahabalipuram, less than an hour from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, is the pick of beaches on India's east coast. Backpackers typically head to the thriving scene on Othavadai Street, which leads down to the beach near the Shore Temple. It's lined with brightly painted, inexpensive guest houses with rooftop restaurants.

    • Where to Stay: Top 5 Guest Houses and Budget Hotels in Mahabalipuram
    • Mahabalipuram Beach Essential Travel Guide