India is a land of diversity with an extraordinary range of cultural, natural, and social experiences.. Vacationing in such a place calls for careful planning!

Rashtrapati Bhavan, President's Estate. New Delhi, India
Rashtrapati Bhavan, President’s Estate. New Delhi, India
Photo by: Mohd Aram on Unsplash

You could land on the airport of the bustling capital city of New Delhi on a hot summer afternoon and reach the cool Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh via road on the same day! Such diversity invites tourists from all across the globe and this makes India one of the largest tourist destinations in the world.

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
Photo by: Allen Job on Unsplash

However, to reap the benefits of such a diverse country, you have got to come up with an optimum vacation plan. This includes managing your financial resources smartly. Here are the top 6 cities in India that exemplify the heterogeneity of the country in the best possible way and at the same time does not cost you an arm and a leg. You can also broaden your understanding of the cultural expanse of India by visiting some of these places.

Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Houseboats on Dal Lake.
Houseboats on Dal Lake.
Photo by Raisa Nastukova on Unsplash

With everything that the Kashmir Valley of India has encountered, its beauty is one thing that has remained unchanged. Srinagar is a city situated on the banks of river Jhelum in the valley of Kashmir. It has a major historical, political, and cultural significance which makes it the unofficial jewel of India. Srinagar is renowned for its lakes, houseboats, and exquisite gardens.

Dal Lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, which harbors magnificent floating gardens and houseboats. The unique Kashmiri handicrafts, textiles, and exquisite Walnut furniture attracts a multitude of shoppers from across the country and abroad.

If you are visiting in the winter season and crave a skiing experience, you could take a trip to the town of Gulmarg which is just an hour away from Srinagar. You could get a bus to and fro the town easily on the same day. A week’s stay at Srinigar will cost you around $300-$350 on average for two people. This includes the expenses you will incur during your hotel stay, transportation, and meals.

Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

Camping at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
Photo by Rishabh Pandoh on Unsplash

The state of Himachal Pradesh is located in the Himalayas and is renowned for its scenic mountains. The city of Dharamshala is situated in the middle of dense coniferous forests in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. It is famed for being home to a Tibetan exile community which is why you will find many monasteries in the region. The Tibetan community is particularly concentrated in the McLeod Ganj, which is the upper Dharamshala, where the Dalai Lama and his followers found refuge after fleeing from Tibet.

Dharamshala’s scenic beauty will leave you awe-struck and mountain lovers will have a great time in the place. It is an excellent spot for trekking and camping, and the experience is even greater during the winter season. Although the city is not big, a trip of 7-10 days is recommended to absorb the beauty and tranquility of the place. People often visit Dharamsala and adopt various new hobbies such as playing the flute, meditation, yoga, anything that signifies peace.

One of the best things to do in Dharamshala is to wander and get lost in the magnificent city. It’s okay. You can find your way back through e-maps. The city is all about culture and attaining peace. So go there, do yoga, meditate, read, write, play instruments, wander, and do anything that makes you feel at peace. It is the place that could change your life. A trip to Dharamsala could cost you anywhere between $68 to $340, inclusive of the hotel stay, local transportation, meals, and luxury.

Pushkar, Rajashthan

Pushkar Lake, Pushkar, Rajasthan
Pushkar Lake, Pushkar, Rajasthan
Photo by Manu Gupta on Unsplash

Pushkar, also known as the town of fairs and festivities, is one of the oldest cities in India. It is situated in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. Pushkar has great mythological and architectural significance, which draws people from all across the country and abroad. The architectural heritage of the city has been embodied in the magnificent temples of the Hindu Deities. One of the most prominent temples of the city is the Brahma Temple which was constructed in the honor of Lord Brahma.

According to the Hindu folklore, Brahma, who is considered to be the creator of the universe, dropped a lotus to the ground which led to the instant creation of Pushkar Lake. Pushkar is especially famous for its annual festival known as the Pushkar Camel Fair which revolves around the trade of cattle, camels, and horses. It is held in the month of either October or November.

Moreover, if you are a sucker for desert-like landscapes, then you are in for a treat. Pushkar has some of the best desert sceneries, one of the things the state of Rajasthan prides itself in. The average cost of a trip to Pushkar for a week would be around $170 for two people, which includes hotel stay, local transportation, and meals.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
Photo by Smit Shah on Unsplash

Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a group of Islands stretched across an area of 8,100 kilometers. Being a former penal colony of Britain and the permanent home to unnumbered aboriginal tribal groups, this Union Territory of India has political and cultural importance. There are some forest areas that are exclusively reserved as the dwellings of certain tribal groups, and tourists are to stay strictly away from these regions.

Nonetheless, this island is a perfect tourist destination, especially if you love watersports. The prominent islands such as Havelock and Neil are homes to coral reefs, exquisite natural vegetation, and most notably picturesque spots for sightseeing. You could indulge in various water adventures in these islands such as deep-sea diving, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet-skiing, parasailing, etc. These islands have long stretches of reefs and owing to the protection of corals and fishes by the administration of Andaman, you could get the best possible aquatic life experience here.

Since its a tropical region, it does not get too cold during the winters, which makes the months between October to February perfect for a visit. The Union Territory covers a small area and thus, a visit of 3-4 days would suffice. This will cost you around $250-$300 for two, inclusive of necessities and luxury.

Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal

Kolkata, India
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A city with vast and at the same time grim history, Kolkata is a major hub of festivities. It is considered as the cultural capital of India. As the former base of the British Empire in India, it has exquisite colonial architecture that is worth a look. The cultural impression of Kolkata heightens in October, when the Hindu community pays homage to the Hindu deity, Durga. This period is known as ‘Durga Puja’. The beginning is marked by the setting up of exquisite pandals (which roughly translates to ‘temporary shelters’) that enshrines the structures of the goddess for the duration of the puja, which is 10 days long.

Notable places to visit in Kolkata are Esplanade, Howrah Bridge, Kumortuli, Khalighat Temple, and New Market. Furthermore, the city is also celebrated for delicious Bengali cuisines and street food. The street food of the city offers incredibly inexpensive and delectable food. The modes of local travel include underground metro, buses, and taxis. Traveling is easy within the city.

As per the data provided by past travelers, a week’s visit will cost you around $180 for two people, this includes the expenses you may occur during the hotel stay, local transportation, and meals. The cost may be higher if you are visiting during the festive season. The public places are extensively crowded and busy in the month of October so if you are planning to visit during the festive season, you are advised to make the necessary reservations beforehand.

While traveling to a heterogeneous country such as India, you ought to prepare yourself well. Familiarizing yourself with the social protocols and laws of a region beforehand is recommended while traveling. This allows you to blend in and have a wonderful experience. Happy traveling!