I went to India in April – a place I’d dreamed of visiting for years. As you’ll know if you followed along I had a few issues, but with the benefit of hindsight my 3 weeks in India were brilliant.
Every day was something different, the people were lovely, the trains were an adventure and I was lucky enough to sample India in style with some awesome hotel.
This 3 week India itinerary is a great introduction to a country that will seem even bigger once you’re in it. There’s a lot to see in India!
I wanted to write this post to show you my route from start to finish, with recommendations of what I did or didn’t do along the way. I’ve covered transport, hotels, food recommendations and things to do.
If you’ve got three weeks in India, I’d definitely recommend Delhi, Kerala, Goa and Mumbai. Here’s why…
India 3 week itinerary: the route
Delhi > Golden Triangle > Kochi > Alleppey > Goa > Mumbai
WEEK ONE: Delhi and the Golden Triangle
1. Arrival in Delhi
I arrived in Delhi and got a taxi from the front of the airport to my hotel. Whatever a taxi driver states as the price in India, you need to half it to get somewhere near a fair price. I knew that already yet I fault like my offer of 500 rupees (£5) was still far too generous as he jumped at the chance.
My taxi journey was so sketchy. I’d arrived in Delhi late and already booked into the Airport Hotel Metro Tower, apparently 10 minutes away but I didn’t have the exact address. The taxi driver told me he knew where it was, turned out he didn’t, and neither did his mate who’d jumped in the taxi with us. It was so scary, and the hotel wasn’t much better either. I barely slept.
India tip #1: If you’re gonna be spending any amount of time in India, let alone backpacking India for 3 weeks, quickly learn that a head wobble means yes even though it looks like a maybe, not sure, kinda. It’s super confusing and can easily lead to situations like this.
2. Highlights of Delhi tour
I pretty much ran out the hotel and into my Tripzuki driver’s arms when he came to pick me up for my tour. We went straight to the Rose Hotel in Haus Khaz (now shut down!). It was a dream and I loved Haus Khaz as soon as I saw it.
It was the cricket final so my driver took me out for some Choley for breakfast (a spicy chickpea mix) in front of the TV – a definite when you’re in Delhi. The guide arrived an hour later and off we went for a full day of exploration to see a few of the must see sights of Delhi.
- Qutub Minar
- Humayun’s Tomb
- Indian Gate and Parliament
- Lotus Temple
- Purani Delhi
- Red Fort
- Jama Masjid
The taxi driver added a few extras on the bill when I arrived back at my hotel, which I soon found to be standard in India. I was too polite (and scared) to challenge so paid the £45 just to get back to that hotel room. It’d been a long day, after a long night, and I fell on the bed exhausted.
For dinner I went for a Rothi roll from the street food market up the road, and oh my days it was delicious.
India tip #2: I know you always hear about Delhi belly – and that a potential prime place to pick it up may be from a street food cart, but I think that’s where you get some of the best food. Always opt for the place with a few locals eating there too, go veggie if you’re really worried about dodgy meat, and stay clear of sauces that may have been made with tap water.
3. Exploring Haus Khaz
After an incredible breakfast at The Rose Hotel, which included eggs, granola, yogurt and fruits, I walked round Haus Khaz. I soon found out it’s one of the coolest districts in Delhi. I’m so grateful to Tripzuki for introducing me to this place. I wandered round the shops, explored the ruins, bought presents for my family and drank tea and coffee at as many places as possible. I love Haus Khaz.
India tip #3: Kick off your time in Haus Khaz with a coffee at Kunzum Travel Café. Not only will it give you a coffee fix, but they often have tours, loads of guidebooks and travellers who know the area hanging out (often writing their own India travel blog). You can tap them up for their expertise, plan whether you want to simply wander, discuss whether it’s worth visiting the Delhi Art Gallery or join one of the tours.
READ MORE: Unfortunately The Rose Hotel has since shut down, I know, sad times. If you’re looking for recommendations for hotels in Delhi, check out this guide on chasingtheunexpected.com.
Read more: 52 Coolest Things to Do in Delhi
and check out the Best Books About India to read before you go on BreatheDreamGo
EXTRA TIME IN DELHI?
Go to the National Zoological Park, Delhi, India, it’s one of the world’s largest zoos!
4. Fatehpur Sikri on the Golden Triangle Tour
I had to get up early to get across town to the Delhi Tourism office to start my Golden Triangle tour at 6am. The tour was only £70 including two nights accommodation, which was about £200 cheaper than any other one that I found. I really liked the fact I was the only Westerner on the trip, and I’d be seeing all these sights with Indian people. It just seemed all the more authentic.
We drove to Agra and walked round the incredible Agra Fort.
I decided to go vegetarian in India so chose a spinach and paneer curry for dinner, with naan. Absolutely incredible. Never really eaten paneer before, but I’m definitely planning on more.
India tip #4: The Agra Fort is a MUST. It was a priority for me during my 3 week India tour and it didn’t disappoint. The opening times are determined by sunrise and sunset and I’d recommend trying to either be among the first or last ones there so that you get to see this amazing fort against a stunning sky.
I was doing the Taj Mahal the following day but I know many opt to do them both in the same day. If that’s the case, make sure to do the Agra Fort first because while it is impressive, it might not seem as impressive if you saw the Taj first. Finally, book your Taj Mahal tickets online if you’re not going as part of a tour to save some queuing time.
5. Taj Mahal day
Today was the day I saw the incredible Taj Mahal. I loved hearing the true story of the Taj Mahal – so damn scandalous – and actually seeing the building I’d seen in so many photos before. The experience was better than I imagined and I’d hate for anyone to dismiss the Taj as ‘too touristy’ which I’ve heard before, it was stunning.
Sounds weird but I was impressed by the main roads in India too – they’re wide and not nearly as busy as you’d expect. Even I’d be happy to drive between the big cities here, maybe not in them though.
I had paneer in a fancy place for breakfast, in a rothi roll. Not nearly as good as the street food in Haus Khaz.
If you’ve got three weeks in India, I’d definitely recommend making the Taj Mahal a priority!
Best way to see the Taj Mahal, join a tour!
I joined a Golden Triangle tour with the India tourist board, which was great, but definitely meant for Indian people. They’ve since taken the tour down and you can no longer book it on the English speaking page.
I’d recommend you book one of these Taj Mahal tours. It just makes travelling between the sights so much easier, and you get a guide to take you round. Also helps when you’re trying not to get hassled, and to help you with which queue you need to be in on entering the sights and attractions.
India tip #5: Don’t forget to pack some clothes that cover your shoulders and ankles. Whether it’s here or another destination on the India itinerary, you’re going to need to cover up at some point. A pashmina that you can quickly whip out is always a good idea to have.
The Taj Mahal isn’t super strict at enforcing a more modest dress code, but it is usually the custom and I think it’s nice to always be respectful. Also, make sure to check the Taj Mahal’s website for the full list of things you can’t bring inside. Food is one of them so if you’ve got some nuts stashed for later, get them eaten.
6. Amber Fort
We went to see the incredible Amber Fort high up in the hills. Again, as I often have been on this trip, I was amazed by the skill and effort that must’ve gone into building these huge landmarks, especially when you think about what tools and equipment they actually had back in the times they would’ve been built in.
After a few hours exploring it was time to head back to Delhi. I bought a bag from a man who promised me it was to fund his studies, then got a lesson in haggling from my new Indian friends who said I’d definitely paid too much.
We arrived back at around 6ish and the tour guide shows me to his friend’s ‘Hotel Amax’ via tuk tuk. I went out for a look around in the surrounding area and everyone stared at me. I’m at least a foot taller than your average Indian, with blonde hair. I guess I’d stare too.
India tip #6: There’s a sound and light show most nights at the fort. I didn’t get to go but I reckon it’d be really cool to see the place all lit up at night and to learn a little more history about the fort.
7. More of Delhi
I had a few hours of extra time in Delhi, thanks to my 10-hour flight delay. I met up with a friend from the tour and went on a motorbike tour round the city and out for more Choley. Everyone here has these Bullet bikes; never heard of them before but now I want one.
A tuk tuk to the airport later and my Delhi adventure was over. Onto Kerala, and some friends!
India tip #7: I didn’t need a full three weeks in India to see for myself just how nuts traffic is here. A few days in Delhi would do it. I’d recommend always allowing extra time to get somewhere, especially when you’re trying to catch a flight and, like anywhere, try not to travel at rush hour.
WEEK TWO – Kerala
8. Exploring Kochi
I arrived just after midnight last night and just managed a quick ‘hello’ and then a ‘goodnight’ to my friends who’d arrived earlier.
After a walk round Kochi in the morning we decided to take the boat over to Ernakulum. It was 5p. We didn’t really know what to do in Ernakulum and it was so hot that we decided to jump in a tuk tuk and cruise around. For the equivalent of about £1 each we had an hour tour round the sights. We decided we were better off in Kochi so rode the boat back again, after we get conned by some kid into paying a ridiculous amount for a bracelet that is.
We chilled out at the Pepper Tree Coffee Shop before taking another tuk tuk ride round Kochi in search of the Jewish area. Then we realise it’s a Saturday, their Sabbath, and we were in the Jewish area but nothing was open. So we went for a huge curry meal followed by an hour-long search for alcohol, which ended fruitless.
We stayed at Aaron’s Guesthouse in Kochi – it was clean, in a great location, and the owner Johnson was really kind and helpful too.
India tip #8: Alcohol is a tricky business in Kochi given that it used to be a prohibition city. Now that’s not the case, but it does mean there are certain rules as to where you can buy it.
Beer and wine is available in bars or Kerala Government Beer and Wine stores (not always the easiest to find), but the hard stuff is only available in certain hotels. It might have been easier to pick up a bottle from Delhi and bring it with me or, if you’re also following a three week India itinerary, perhaps this is the place to give the liver a rest.
READ MORE: 52 Coolest Things to Do in Kerala
9. Road trip to Thekkady
Today we took a taxi for what was meant to be 5 hours, but soon became 7 after the car broke down. Lucky for us it broke down outside a very nice family’s house who invited us in for tea.
I was so ill along the way. I ended up being sick off a bridge when I couldn’t wait another second for us to clear it. I’m pretty sure it was the buffet in the lounge at Delhi Airport.
It cost 4000 rupees for the four of us to get from Kochi to Thekkady in the car, and we gave a 10% tip. We were concerned it wasn’t enough for the amount of time it took but it wasn’t our fault he broke down. Anyway,v he tried to persuade us to come back with him so we can’t have upset him that much.
India tip #9: Maybe watch a few videos of kathakali to make sure you think it’ll be up your street before spending some of the 3 week India budget on something you’re not sure about…
Listen to my podcast!
I caught up with Ellie, who runs the travel blog Wandering Quinn. She’d just spent four months in India and travelled around extensively. If you want to learn more about India before your trip, have a listen on Spotify.
Or here on iTunes.
We arrived at Periyar Woods Hotel in Thekkady at 3ish and booked in to see a Kathakali show followed by a martial arts show for just 200 rupees. Both were ‘not what I was used to’, rather than calling them weird. The photo above is from the Kathakali show – people pay just to watch the making up. When the show was in full flow they got my friend up on stage, which was well funny.
Ended up going for dinner at Spice Garden with two people we’d met earlier in the tourist information centre, Luke and Emma. It was one of the only places to serve alcohol and so was filled with white people. Shame the food was average.
10. So ill, don’t do much
I was so ill over night. So ill. I decided to avoid the nature walk my friends were going on and stay in bed for the morning, after getting no sleep. They saw elephants and wandered in the wild. Jealous.
So glad I have three weeks in India to try and get over this.
We hung out on the balcony when they got back as it had been an early start. In the afternoon we took a tuk tuk to the spice plantation for £1 and while I sat in the shade trying not to vom, they wandered around. That night we went for dinner at ‘Grandma’s’ – a cute little outdoor restaurant. I could barely eat a thing – there was definitely something severely wrong with me.
We went to the Thekkady Flower Show and enjoyed it, until we were eaten alive by bugs.
Thomas from the Periyar Woods Hotel is a great guy – one of our favourite people from the trip. I’d strongly recommend you stay at Periyar Woods if you’re in the area. Tell him I said hi.
India tip #10: Remember to pack the bug spray. There’s no way you’ll survive 3 weeks in India without it!
11. Rollercoaster bus journey and Marari
We decided to get the bus from Thekkady to Marari in Alleppey. We soon found it was an interesting choice. Despite trying to make sure of the times via about three different people, we still managed to miss the direct bus. We ended up on another one hurtling down the hills of Thekkady with a rollercoaster driver at the helm.
It was so full we had to stand and so as well as holding on to the dangling handles and my backpack between my legs I was also trying to hold onto my stomach. Over 5 hours later, and another breakdown where we had to change buses, we were still 2 hours away. We decided to just get a taxi. In the end we paid as much as we would’ve for a taxi for the three of us the whole way, but then we wouldn’t have had the adventure.
We arrived at the Marari Beach Resort and it was so nice, we thought we were at the wrong place. The afternoon was spent by the pool before going for dinner, via the beach.
Check out my Marari Beach Resort Review
India tip #11: Aside from the bug spray, pack a mini first aid kit with anti-sickness pills and all the other medical essentials. The last thing you need when you’re feeling ill is to have to be haul yourself around to look for a pharmacy. Fingers crossed you won’t need to use it during your 3 weeks in India.
12. Day by the pool at Marari
We spent the whole day by the pool, shame the sun didn’t. We played a lot of Uno and just relaxed in preparation for our organic vegetable cooking class that night.
This turned out to be one of the best nights of our trip and we had a great four hours learning about the produce and how it’s cooked in this part of India. If you stay at Marari Beach Resort you cannot leave without doing this. A highlight was when the lady who worked there told our friend Stu he had half an egg head, and then the other guy in the class that he had a full one. I was speechless.
This was also the first night I felt ok in what seemed like a long time.
India travel tip #12: Learn to eat with your hands. It may seem kind of gross but it’s the way in India and it’s fun to try and master the munch without utensils.
13. Houseboat on the Alleppey Back Waters
We left Marari early, after some debacle with the taxi – be aware that hotels add a hefty levy for calling one for you. We went to nearby Alleppey and rented a houseboat, which was really easy and cost a lot less than we thought. You just rock up and it’s all regulated by the government. For 1000 rupees each we got a one bed houseboat, with space for three, three meals and a cruise along the backwaters.
That night it stormed, which made it even cooler. We had Keralan fish curry and even made a stop to buy some prawns from a canal side shop, which they’d tandoorid to be delicious.
The boat crew wanted to go to sleep at about 10, so we had to vacate the living room. This was even after trying to bribe him with to stay up the rest of our rum, which he took, and then wanted to sleep.
India travel tip #13: Sit outside when it’s time for sunset. The views of the backwaters are really pretty.
14. Ramada in Alleppey
The early night was probably for the best as they chucked us off the houseboat at around 8am after breakfast. We had the day in Alleppey with not much to do and all our luggage, so we paid to spend the day by the pool at The Ramada. A big, fancy hotel that charged us a ridiculous amount for everything, but seeing as it was the only option we had to pay.
At around 4ish we went into town for some dinner and found Thaff Restaurant. It was here that I had one of the best meals of my time in India, well the best dishes. A tomato fry. Basically tomatoes fried up in delicious spices. This was the exact point where I started to feel better, I hadn’t been able to keep anything in for a few days now.
I bought some sunglasses from over the road and life was good again. That evening we went and drank at one of the bars by the beach before getting on the train, Goa bound.
India travel tip #14: If you’re a bird watching fan then this is a great place to whip out the binoculars because Alleppey is home to some of the rarest beauties.
WEEK THREE – Goa and Mumbai
15. Ashwem Beach in Goa
We arrived in Goa and stayed at Village Villa Sunny Cow, which I’d definitely recommend as a cool homestay. It was less than £10 per night. We went out to check the beach and do some bar hopping and we found Tantra, an awesome bar looking out over the beach complete with treehouses.
We drank gin until we couldn’t any more and decided we loved life. All we needed was some dinner. We found a great restaurant by our hotel serving Keralan curry, although I went for the tandoori paneer, which was now my new addiction.
India travel tip #15: I’d definitely recommend staying in homestays in India over hostels. For a start, there’s way more options. You also get to meet lovely locals and see a bit of what life is like in the place you’re visiting. You can book some of these online but I think it’s better to turn up, take a look around and see which one you fancy.
16. Yab Yum Huts Goa
After some of the best porridge I’ve ever had at Sunny Cow, we taxied it to Yab Yum Huts an hour away for what was to be an awesome three days. We spent the afternoon on the beach, sampling the menu and the smorgasboard of cocktails, before collapsing into bed in our awesome hut.
Check out my review of Yab Yum resorts for more!
India travel tip #16: Even though I was all about the cocktails, you have to try a Kingfisher Beer in Goa. It’s the local brand and really light and refreshing to sip on the beach.
17. Lazy Dog beach Goa
We rented scooters from the hotel and went to explore the delights of Goa. We found the Lazy Dog and the beautiful beach there where we hung out and watched the kitesurfers, wishing we were doing it too. After trying unsuccessfully to get on a dolphin trip or similar (we were out of season) we decided to just hang out at Yab Yum and enjoy that instead.
That night we ate at Yab Yum again – going some way to trying all 32 things on the menu. This was a great stop on our India itinerary!
India travel tip #17: Goa has loads of food that’s specific to the state and you’ve got to try as much of it as you can as you make this pitstop on your 3 week India backpacking route. Top local dishes include pork vindaloo, Goan red rice and kingfish.
18. More Yab Yum Goa
We joined in with the morning yoga class at Yab Yum for two hours, ate a good breakfast spread on the table outside our room, relaxed on the beach, ate lunch, spruced up and then had dinner.
Busy day, ready for the onslaught of Mumbai tomorrow!
Indid travel tip #18: Make sure you get a decent amount of yoga in during your India 3 weeker. This is where it all originated so you’ve got the best classes and it feels great after hours on buses in trains. Aside from Yab Yum, Swan yoga do really good classes in Goa, right in the jungle for a fiver.
19. Train to Mumbai
We took a taxi to the train station after managing to change our tickets to a closer station, once we realised just how far the other one was away. So glad we don’t have to take another bus ride after that last one!
We arrived in good time and got on to find our seats. The three of us were pretty tired thanks to the heat and once we managed to get comfy, fell asleep. Towards the end of the journey we made friends with some Indian guys who were on a work trip and were pretty funny. They wanted selfies with us and were chatting about English cricket. We actually came across some really friendly people on the public transport in India.
Five hours later and we arrived in Mumbai, as advised by the lads we jumped on a local train to take us to our place. After a lot of fuss with an eager to please tuk tuk driver we finally made it to our AirBnB apartment. Again, we were exhausted.
Too old for all this.
India travel tip #19: For any train journeys in India, book your tickets online before you go just to avoid any queues, mayhem and general confusion. Also try to book into a carriage with aircon unless you want to be a right sweaty Betty for the whole journey.
20. Slum Tour
We were up and ready for our Local Slum Tour with Be the Local Tours. Again, using the trains. You’d be mad not to in Mumbai. Getting around by taxi is relatively expensive and definitely time consuming. Trains here are cheap and a lot more breezy than any I’ve been on in different countries. You can even stick your head out the window as it’s going along to catch the wind.
We drank Sula wine all afternoon.
Just a few hours later and it was time for our street food tour with Reality Tours. We sampled 10 different dishes around the Chowpatty Beach area of Mumbai, learning about the characteristics of each one as we went. It was brilliant, and the guide was great. The Sevi Puri was definitely my favourite. The trip inspired me to want to do a food tour wherever I go now.
India travel tip #20: I know I’ve mentioned food a lot but it’s so good and if you’re in India for three weeks there’s so much time to try so many different dishes. The local delicacies in Mumbai to try include akuri, tiffin (not the chocolate variety) and batata vada.
21. Elephant Caves and the Taj Mahal
We had booked to do a sunrise bike tour with Reality Tours but after getting back at about midnight last night, and needing to be up at 4 to make it in time we decided we just couldn’t do it. It looks pretty cool though, and all the money goes to charity so I say go for it if you have time.
Instead, we travelled down to look at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Stunning. Then we went for a breakfast feast over the road at the Veggie Restaurant. We had Choley and one of the thali dishes, where you get a little of everything. The Choley was the winner though, especially because my friend Chloe, who I’ve always called Choley was eating it. I was happy.
We walked down to the Gateway of India and got offered tickets to Elephant Island. We’d read it was one of the best things to do in Mumbai so took them up on it. After an hour to get across, an hour running up and going round and then an hour back again, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Gutted we spent so much of our time in Mumbai on this. No need to include this in your three week India itinerary to be honest.
We came back and went to the swanky Taj Mahal Hotel for a glass of wine or three. The prices weren’t as bad as the reviews made out – bit like London but you got loads of crisps and nuts too.
After spending too long there we went round to the Colaba Market and spent up some of our last rupees. Chloe bought some shoes, I bought a belt and Stu a Buddha.
Then came Leopold’s – it was worth the wait. Some say it’s a touristy place because of the Shantaram book, but unless it’s local tourists then I can’t agree. I loved it in there. We had a feast, the best one of the trip. My paneer curry was incredible. And the naan. I’d love to devour all that again.
We topped our trip off with a few drinks upstairs and then a taxi home, and that was the end of our three weeks in India!
India travel tip #21: Even though a 3 week India itinerary sounds like plenty of time, India is so big you need may way more than 3 weeks. It’s also really easy to want to try and squeeze in as many places as possible in that time, but my biggest tip is to not plan too much.
Some of the best days I had were taking it easy and just wandering around a place or hanging at the beach. You can always go back and do another India 3 week itinerary which is exactly what I plan to do.
Book this 3 week India trip
Here are the quick links if you want to follow my 3 week India tour.
Accommodation in India
I booked all my accommodation through Booking.com which is my favourite hotel booking site. Mainly because they have good pictures, the site is set out in an easy to read way, and the bookings are all free to cancel. This is great when you’re on the move and not 100% sure.
Where I stayed
Delhi: Airport Hotel Metro Tower
– me chilling at Yab Yum Huts
Mumbai: stayed in a horrible AirBnB, wouldn’t recommend
Your flight to India
If you’re spending three weeks in India you can fly into one airport and out of another one. Or you can just book a return flight, and book your domestic flights separately.
Activities in India
Book your tours in advance through Viator.
Here are a few of my recommendations for tours for your 3 week India itinerary.
A multi day tour to see the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the surrounding buildings.
You could do an Old Delhi cycling tour, or rent a driver and car for the day and go on a custom tour of Delhi or a 3-Hour Old Delhi Heritage Walking Tour With Rickshaw Ride. Sounds great hey?
Definitely recommend you book a houseboat in Kerala, in the Alleppey backwaters. You can check out all the prices on Viator here.
To be honest, I’d just recommend hiring a moped and cruising around. Or lying on the beach. All the tours and excursions look expensive on Viator, so if you want to go snorkelling or on a boat trip, just ask around while you’re there.
Check out a private sightseeing tour, especially if you don’t have much time. Your guide will be able to show you the highlights of the city in quick time.
I’d also strongly recommend doing a street food tour. I did one and found out about all this amazing food I didn’t know existed.
Also, a slum tour might seem like an odd choice, but it’s how millions of people live in India so it’s a fascinating insight. You can read all about the Dharavi Slum Tour I went on here, and why it’s one of the best ones to choose.
Questions about travel in India?
Just let me know in the comments box below and I’ll try my best to answer ASAP.