My India Travel Highlights
February 11th I flew to India. The reason for my journey was, apart from the fact that I had not been there yet, that I was going to join a Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, which was going to start in March. These four weeks in an Indian yoga school have been the highlight of the whole travel. I started with a lowlight in Delhi. My arrival day had been a disaster and I decided to leave Delhi. My first train travel lead me to Rajasthan.
Rajasthan literally means “Land of the Kings”. The many palaces and forts are a magnet for many tourists and make this department to one of the most travelled adresses in India.
People there are used to a lot of tourists, so they also know their foolishness and some of them take it for their advantage. So do not travel there naively. Be aware that they are going to trick you at every corner. If you’re lucky you’ll find some friendly people without hidden intentions – they are supposed to exist here as well.
In Jaipur I lived in a Hotel, got to know two rikshaw drivers and spent some days with these colleagues. They showed me a lot things worth seeing in Jaipur and around. I was especially interested in the gemstone market. One in two gemstones is said to be have been in Jaipur at least once.
These photos show the Amber Fort (l) and the Mal Mahal (r).
Pushkar, one of the many holy cities in india, is well known for its mesmerising little lake, surrounded by blue temples in the middle of the city. If you are lucky this is a meditative place and you can silently enjoy the reflections of the blue temples one the water surface. But most of the time the tourists on the ghats are tried to be talked into an expensive, spiritual practice.
This well arranged place is a travellers enclave. A lot of cool hostels offer accomodation (Pappi Chulo!). The daily market of course has focused on the tourists. But there is a strict alcohol and meat ban in the holy city. You can still buy a beer on the black market.
The “Blue City” Jodhpur attracted me intensively, because exactly one year before I had been in Chefchaouen, the “Blue City” of Morocco. I was fascinated by the fact how similar city, landscape, culture and people were.
Mainly I came there to check out who has painted their walls more properly. The “Lust-4-Life Thoroughness Price” goes to the painters of Chefchaouen.
The unproper painting does not make the city less worth seeing. The Mehrangarh Fort (up left), which sits enthroned above the city, is one of my “India Travel Highlights“.
Everybody has seen this building on a photo at least once. A lot of words have been told about it. It is worth to see but I personally cannot share this inflated amazedness. Apart from the Taj Mahal there is not much interesting to see in Agra. It is still one of my “India Travel Highlights” – just because I was there.
Varanasi is the holiest city of the Hindusim. The holy river Ganges flows through the city and its waters bring a lot of spiritual flair along. Dead bodies are cremated on the ghats in public. It is the final satisfying act in a life of a Hindu to go into the ganges in Varanasi.
Because it is the probably most spiritual city in the world (which was constantly inhabited) I spent a whole week there to feel the vibe of this special place. Especially for a yogi it is very important to be confronted with death. That is why you will meet a lot of yogis and holy men or so called “Sadhus” in Varanasi.
After one week I was done with this city. The commercialized overload of spirituality and all the wrong holy men stressed my mind and the holy river is tortured by the population each day. I feel pity for the true spiritual seeker coming there.
Rishikesh is one of the most important cities when it comes to yoga and its development. Therefore Rishikesh is rich of numberless yoga schools, meditation centers and other diverse institutions for spirituality. Naturally you can find good and bad offers. I am glad that I have attended a four week yoga teacher training in Rishikul Yogshala, which was definitely a good choice. Those four weeks of intense yoga have been the most formative experience and my personal India travel highlight.
Sadly but naturally spirituality is commercialized and sold in a very unspiritual manner. But the quite clean Ganges and the surrounding, wild nature make up for that and make Rishikesh a lovely place. I have spent five weeks there and only the call of the close Himalayan Mountains could make me move again.
A unique experience was the Festival of Colours “Holi”. I celebrated this day with my companions of the yoga school in the streets of Rishikesh. I was constantly afraid of my camera, which I had only protected with a plastic bag. I think this shot was worth this dangerous engagement.
Also check out: Rishikesh, Beatles Ashram: Street Art in the Jungle
This region is especially attractive for nature and extreme sport lovers. Almost 70 percent of the state is covered with forest. You have plenty of possibilities to discover the mountains, rivers and forests and your own limits by going hiking, sky diving or white-water rafting.
The Himachal Pradesh is also worth to discover for lovers of good hash. The “Manali Cream/ Malana Cream” attracts international travellers and Indians from all over the country, in such a way that the design of the places are made for a comfortable chill.
Manali was the first place I visited after my Yoga Teacher Training. In this place, especially in Old Manali, plenty and diverse travellers gather and have a good time. The wooden architecture, the forests who resemble the forests where I come from, the huge mountains and waterfalls who resemble nothing from where I come from and the relaxed Indians took me to a dream land and even the three days of rainy and foggy weather couldn’t belittle my amusement.
We started our trek in Kasol, which is called „Little Israel“ among many tourists and locals – you’ll find some menus and traffic signs in hebrew! From Kasol we walked to Manikarnika with its hot springs, Barshani, Tosh and finally to Kheerganga. This unique place with its mountain scenery, those genuine, rural huts, the legends about shiva, the hot springs and the atmosphere in 3000 meters impressed me big time. This is why Kheerganga is one of Lust-4-Life Favourite Places.
Dharamsala or more precisely McLoed Ganj is the city of the Dalai Lama, easily spoken. Since this refugee from Tibet has found his exile here, plenty of travellers and tourists come from all over the world to hear his speeches. The high demand for spiritual guidance made this once calm and comfortable little place Mcloed Ganj become a hard to digest mix of Buddhism, Capitalism and honking vehicles. This is why I preferred to stay about 500 meters uphill in Dharamkot, a calm and blessed place where you will find no cars, not even motorbikes or scooters roaming around. Little paths lead through the little village consisting of some houses, cafes, restaurants and some smooth esoteric shops.
It is not an easy and comfy journey to get to Kashmir. My bustravel took me to Jammu, where I was stuck for several hours trying to organise a good connection to Srinagar. There was chaos and the atmosphere was more intense than in the rest of India. Thus this hard-fought region is a big debate among India and Pakistan and has been the victim of terror attacks many times.
But Kashmir is supposed to be one of the most beautiful regions on the planet and so I had to go there.
Srinagar, Dal Lake
Here i stayed some nights in the house boat of an Indian family living there. I made some boat trips, relaxed on the veranda and observed the plenty of eagles making their circles above the lake. The company of the young brothers of the family, the flat, glassy surface of the lake and the reflections on it and the surrounding, distant mountains at the horizon were the final highlight of my journey in North India.
After I had enjoyed some days there reflecting about my already passed travel and making myself ready for South India, I packed my stuff and flew down there.
I was looking forward to see Hampi for a long time. This magic place fascinates travellers ever since and makes them pass weeks there. I arrived there in the hot season, so it was no option to stay for a long time. But the few days there have been very impressive. I took advantage of an air conditioned room and wrote, worked on the laptop and slept during the hot midday hours.
I discovered the wide landscape on a scooter – the best option in my opinion. The breeze of the ride made us stay on a cool level. It is a unique experience to discover the boulders and the ruins, especially during sunrise and sunset.
Although I had high expectations of Hampi it did not disappoint me. On the contrary it is one of my India travel highlights.
Kerala attracts plenty of tourists every year, who chug along the backwaters, enjoy the South Indian cuisine, climb tea plantations and relax at one of the beaches. The South Indian climate is very intense, especially in May when I was there; the high temperatures sucked out all my energy. The unexpected highlight for me was Munnar with its mountain climate – one of the rare chances to cool down in South India.
Kochi is an old port which unites multicultural influences, has got plenty of exotic accommodations, fancy fish restaurants and some chic shopping opportunities. This is why Kochi is one of the most visited cities in Kerala – especially for tourists, not really for backpackers. Still backpackers use this intersection spot to hang out for some days before they get a good connection to Munnar or Allapuzha.
The town’s landmark are the chinese fishing nets which you can find almost everywhere at the waterside – in all Kerala. A nice walk at the waterside and visiting the fish markets is a day filling and money saving activity which you should not miss.
Certainly tea plantations are part of the ABC of every India explorer. To dive into these smooth shaped, endless and emerald green mountains is a must do! You will find many diverse treks to enjoy in Munnar. The city itself is not very big, only a bit chaotic, there is the tea museum, some simple Indian restaurants, few international kitchen. To lose contact to the normal world fully, I suggest to rent a bungalow in the middle of the forest.
This hectical and dirty city, which is crossed by a few channels, is called modestly „Venice of India“. The town itself is not worth to see at all. But it is the starting point for the famous boat tours on the backwaters. There are different trips on different boats with different duration (few hours to a few days). The most famous way to explore the backwaters is to rent an own house boat. This is not for backpackers – except you organise a big group to share the costs. For a solotraveller it is advisable to make day trips on a Shikara or a canoe.
I also did my obligatory boat trip – even two – and I can say that the Shikara, which is an engine run, roofed, Kashmiri version of a boat, is the best option for backpackers.
Sadly I had to witness how locals and tourists treat their beloved backwaters. All the garbage ends up in nature, the water is covered by a slight layer of oil and plastic is floating everywhere.
Not far from the city (30-60 minutes) are some nice beaches where you can rent little huts for small money. It is the best option to flee the ugly city and to meet other travellers.
To end my Kerala journey I was hanging out some days in Varkala. This relaxed beach town was perfect for me to reflect on my past journey and just do nothing. Those wide beaches are inviting for long walks during sunset or sunrise (but get home before it gets to dark – people and dogs can be strange).
„The Cliff“ is the place to be in Varkala. Here all the shops, restaurants, yoga ashrams, surf schools and bars accumulate.