There’s no greater freedom than throwing on your backpack and hitting the road by yourself.
At first, the idea of being completely independent in a foreign country might be intimidating, but let it sink in and you’re on your way to experiencing all the wonders of solo travel.
Of all the places I’ve traveled by myself, India always sticks out. My train of thought is often taken over by daydreams of days gone by, thinking about seeking out street snacks with newly acquainted friends, meeting fellow travellers on beaches, exchanging head nods with locals on a 30-hour train ride.
There’s nothing like trying to find yourself amidst the colourful chaos of Indian streets and markets. No matter if you’re on a path of self discovery (for which India is the perfect destination), or looking to hop in the boat with other like-minded adventurers, again, India is the perfect place.
Of course, it’s wonderful to team up with friends and strangers, all the while travelling solo, and you can do just that by joining one of Intrepid’s tours to India. But first, check out these five great destinations for solo travel in India.
Though technically a state, Goa is one of those places that upon being uttered, the eyes of soon-to-be travellers light up with wonder and anticipation. Located on India’s southwest coast, Goa has been on the itineraries of hippies and backpackers for decades, though this does mean some areas are more on the commercial and crowded side. However, many beach-side towns have retained their irresistible charm, which is what brought travellers, like me, there in the first place.
Goa is great for solo travellers because there’s likely to be an abundance of other solo travellers ready to tackle the same tourist trail as you, which means it will be easy to make friends and settle in, if that’s what you want. It’s also great for first timers because of its easy accessibility.
Catch some rays on the beach in Palolem, where your beachside hut is feet away, and where the waves will lull you to sleep. Enjoy a candlelit dinner at Dropadi restaurant on the beach. Or dance into the wee hours of the morning in Anjuna, where you’ll find many recipes for fun.
Located well inland in the state of Karnataka, this ancient village has developed quite a reputation as a backpacker oasis over the years.
Giant boulders sit picturesquely on the surrounding hills, which cover the terrain for kilometres into the horizon. The village itself is a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site, and is covered in intricately-carved monuments and ruined temple complexes. This all makes for great sightseeing, if only for one day, but likely for much longer as this town’s charm pulls you in.
It’s all good if you want to tour around and quietly soak in the history, but it’s probably even better if you’re ready to team up with some other solo travellers – Hampi has lots of them.
Hampi Bazaar is the main traveller hotspot. Situated below the Virupaksha Temple, the village is filled with budget accommodation, cafes, and restaurants, including the uber popular Mango Tree. Top off a day of cycling and bouldering by watching the sunset from Matanga Hill with fellow wanderlusters.
If you really want to get away from it all, hop on a scooter and create your own itinerary, stopping at your leisure at secluded, palm fringed beaches all along the coast. Although I loved all the time I spent in Varkala, nothing beats those afternoon scooter rides past small villages, leading to a beer on the beach as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean. I was by myself, but it proved easy to find a group of like-minded people who wanted to put their lives, like me, in the hands of rental scooters. Wind in our hair, the horizon on our radars.
Located in the state of Kerala near India’s most southern tip, Varkala is a bit of an alternative town. Sitting atop a monstrous cliff, lined with a string of cafes and restaurants (take your pick, lots of great sea-view options) catering to visitors, Varkala is a place many people visit to wind down. Choose from massage, reiki, ayurveda, yoga, and get down with the relaxed, easygoing lifestyle.
Hit up the Papanasam Beach in the afternoon to toss a frisbee around, watch the locals play a game of soccer, or join in with the hoards of other sun seekers.
Looking for romance? You might consider looking for it in Udaipur, the Venice of the East, located in the south of Rajasthan. Part of the appeal of solo travel, after all, is making connections with people, and if that includes romantic partners then no-one’s judging! And if that’s not what you’re looking for, don’t sweat it – Udaipur is just an ideal place to visit for its scenery, architecture and chill vibe.
Also referred to as The City of Lakes, Udaipur surrounds the peaceful Lake Piccolo, where the magnificently white Lake Palace seemingly floats in the middle of it all. Don’t miss the opportunity of taking a blissful boat ride around the lake, from where you’ll have unobstructed views of the City Palace, perched on the edge of the lake. (Partake in all these activities and more on this 15-day Classic Rajasthan trip!)
Dip your head into many of Udaipur’s friendly cafes, such as Lotus Cafe, grab yourself a chai and sip up the sugary deliciousness with fellow chai lovers (for which there’s clearly no shortage). Who knows, maybe you’ll end up leaving with company after stepping into the most romantic spot, arguably, in all of the country.
Undeniably one of the most sought-after destinations for solo travellers in all of India, Pushkar is tranquil town, one where travellers will reap the rewards of visiting.
Pushkar Fair, otherwise known as the camel fair, one of the largest animal fairs in the world, is one of the most common reasons for visiting the city, which is situated in the middle of Rajasthan. For five days, over 50,000 camels are brought to Pushkar to be traded and sold. Not only camels and backpackers flock to Pushkar, but many Hindus also visit this prominent pilgrimage town.
Banana pancakes and parachute pants may be ubiquitous throughout town, but there’s still an undeniable charm that runs much deeper.
If you want to get in touch with your inner-self, you can take part in the prayers, chants, and drumming which happens across town. If that’s not your jam, you can enjoy relaxing with other solo travellers, taking in the hippie-centric atmosphere and feeling the energy of this mystical Rajasthani desert town.
Get your fill of good food at Funky Monkey Cafe and meet some other go-getters along your way.
For love, adventure, self-discovery, friendship, solitude, the list goes on. Whatever reason you’ve chosen to hit the road solo, India will not let you down.
Much of the vast country is filled with friendly globetrotters and even friendlier locals. Say hi, smile, and meeting people and making memories will be the least of your worries.
Ready to have the adventure of a lifetime? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group adventures in India.
(Image credits from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel, Matt Sims, Intrepid Travel, iStock/iBeePix, Intrepid Travel x5)