India is an amazing country with a wide variety of natural and manmade attractions.
Highs & Lows
Make sure to try India's iconic dessert, "Hello to the Queen"!
Prepare to be approached by beggars
India is a popular travel destination for many Israelis, so growing up in Israel I constantly heard about the incredible experiences my friends had there. I had to see it for myself and planned a three-week trip to see Dharamsala, Agra, and New Delhi. Before traveling to India, I was warned about the ‘culture shock.’ I first went to Dharamsala and brushed this off since it’s incredibly remote and serene. I only realized how true this statement was when arriving in New Delhi. The sheer amount of people and the hustle and bustle in the city were overwhelming. In addition, the high population of impoverished people was heartbreaking to see. India is not a place for the faint of heart, and although I made incredible memories on my trip, it definitely pushed my limits at times. I also would stress taking the proper precautions if traveling alone as a woman (e.g., wear modest clothing, never travel at night, and keep an eye on your valuables at all times).
When arriving in Delhi, I experienced a sensory overload. The city has an impossibly dense population plagued by poverty, pimps, and pollution. The friends that I traveled with ended up staying in their dorm rooms because they disliked the city so much. I was determined to find something redeeming about the chaos. The receptionist at my hostel offered me a bike tour and I ended up having an incredible day. We went to the stunning archway of the India Gate, a war memorial. We visited a community shelter that was preparing food in large vats for the poor. Last, we visited the Sikh religious site, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. This site was especially beautiful since white marble is used throughout the structure, and is topped with a golden dome. Modest dress is required for women (they provide head coverings) and you have to remove your shoes when entering the site.
I would recommend a guided tour since this city does have beautiful locations but is too overwhelming to do without a local.
We stayed at the Moustache hostel which was nothing special, and I would also recommend bringing earplugs since the roads will remain noisy throughout the night.
It is always a good idea to haggle in India, especially with rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers. Decide on a price for your ride before getting in a cab.
In northern India, Dharamsala is situated on the side of a mountain next to forests and the Himalayan mountain range. I ended up staying there for only two weeks and then rushed to see check off all of the locations I had planned in my ‘India itinerary.’ I strongly recommend doing the exact opposite! The purpose of Dharamsala is to enjoy living life slowly. Dharamsala is where I learned how to enjoy doing nothing. I slept in, sat in cafés to sketch, got cheap massages, and took wood carving and yoga classes.
On days that you plan on being more active, there are plenty of beautiful hikes to choose from. I wouldn’t say that one is better than another, it simply depends on the level of intensity you want for your hike. For example, the Bhagsu waterfall hike is absolutely breathtaking, with goats hiking up with you. It is an easy route and takes an average of 54 min to complete and there is a lovely café at the top called the ‘Shiva cafe.’ On the other hand, the Triund hike was incredible as well, but it had very steep ascents and took around 6 hours to complete. I would recommend camping once reaching the top!
Q & A
What would you have changed?
I should have stayed in Dharamsala for longer than two weeks.
Anything go wrong during the trip?
Even though we were all very careful with the food we ate and water we drank, all of my friends on the trip (myself included) got sick, which is normal as a tourist and something to take into consideration before traveling.
Tips you would give a friend?
Don't try to visit as many places as possible like I did. I was overly ambitious when I planned to visit both the north and south of India in a limited timeframe. As long as you're enjoying yourself, stay in your location!
Bring scarves if you plan on checking out religious sites, and modest clothing.
Be prepared to haggle! You will always be quoted the most expensive fare when you first hail a cab. Regarding overnight buses-- be prepared for a noisy and shaky night! Regarding buses-- be prepared for chaotic driving!
Cows are considered sacred!