The Best Destinations in India for Solo Travel

If you want a relaxing, laid-back beach holiday in India, put Varkala on your travel list
If you want a relaxing, laid-back beach holiday in India, put Varkala on your travel list | © travelstock44 / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Poonam Binayak
India Writer6 April 2021

Solo travel is exhilarating: it’s a chance to learn more about yourself while connecting with like-minded travellers. Whether you’re seeking something spiritual or adventurous, India is a great country to explore alone – if you know where to go, that is. From quiet beach towns to bustling cities, these are the best Indian destinations to visit if you’re travelling alone.

Delhi

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Vegetable market in Old Delhi, India
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You won’t feel alone in Delhi, home to New Delhi, India’s capital. This vibrant city is the starting point for most tours of the country, so you’ll bump into plenty of other travellers. There’s accommodation to suit all budgets (Paharganj is one of the most popular spots for backpackers), and it’s easy to get around using the metro system. When it comes to sightseeing, marvel at the Red Fort’s grand facade and gaze up at Qutab Minar, the world’s tallest brick minaret at 72.5m (238ft). Built in 1986, the Lotus Temple is a more modern architectural wonder, comprising 27 marble petals that come together to resemble the eponymous flower. Keep your energy levels up by sampling some of Delhi’s delicious street food, with stuffed paratha (flatbreads), sizzling samosas and juicy kebabs among the tastiest offerings.

Mumbai

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Western Railway Headquarters, Victoria Terminus, Mumbai, India
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Mumbai, one of India’s largest and busiest cities, might seem intimidating at first, but its residents are warm and friendly. This coastal city is a melting pot of old and new – think ancient temples and historic landmarks near towering skyscrapers. It’s home to three Unesco World Heritage sites: the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, the grand Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, and the Elephanta Caves, on one of the islands in Mumbai Harbour. Hoping for some retail therapy? You’ll find a cornucopia of treasures at the Colaba Causeway Market, flea-market finds at Chor Bazaar and jewellery at the renowned gold market, Zaveri Bazaar. How about relaxation? Book into wellness centres at hotels such as the Oberoi, Grand Hyatt and Four Seasons.

Kerala

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Alappuzha, Backwaters, Kerala, South India, Asia
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Travellers flock to the state of Kerala to enjoy its paradisiacal scenery and laid-back atmosphere. There are some fantastic trekking opportunities, thanks to six national parks of varied terrain, more than a dozen wildlife sanctuaries and two tiger reserves in the majestic Western Ghats and Sahyadri Ranges. You’ll find a mix of species, including the Indian sloth bear, the lion-tailed macaque, the Indian bison and the Bengal tiger. Continue your adventure through Kerala with a beach safari across golden sand, where ecolodges and resorts overlook palm trees. If you really want to get into the Kerala state of mind, book yourself into a week-long yoga retreat or surf camp.

Darjeeling

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Darjeeling, India - Darjeeling Himalayan Railway at Darjeeling Railway Station in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India. It is part of the World Heritage.
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Spend a couple of days in Darjeeling, in Northeast India, if you’re looking for a breath of fresh air. This quaint hillside town, which was one of the main summer destinations during the British Raj, is home to some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. It makes for a refreshing break from India’s frenetic cities, and with plenty of affordable guesthouses and hostels, it’s a great destination for solo travellers. Soak up the scenery by taking a joy ride on the Toy Train via the Batasia Loop, which offers stunning views of Mount Kanchenjunga. Fancy climbing it yourself? Sign up for a course with the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, or if you’re fairly experienced, trek to the top of Sandakphu. At 3,636m (11,929ft), it’s the highest point in the state of West Bengal, and you’re rewarded with some killer views of Mount Everest from the top.

Manali

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Tourists engaged in paragliding, skiing and  other sports at Winter Sports Centre at Solang Valley of Himalaya in Manali, India.
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If you consider yourself an adventurous type, spend your holiday in the Himalayan mountain town of Manali, in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state. Skiing, whitewater rafting, hiking, and paragliding are all on the agenda at this charming hillside resort, which is a backpacking paradise with plenty of affordable hotels and hostels. March to July are the best months to visit if you want to get stuck into water sports (on the Beas River), while December to February is the best window to hit the slopes. Aside from the adrenaline-pumping activities, Manali is the perfect spot for a spiritual sojourn. There are many temples tucked away in the valley, and the ancient Hidimba Devi Temple is one of the more popular pilgrimage sites in the region. The Dalai Lama has previously chosen it as a place to share his teachings.

Ladakh

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The streets of Leh in Ladakh in India Jammu & Kashmir state.
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Longing for some thrilling adventures? A trip to Ladakh is in order, with its rugged terrain, icy glaciers, snow-clad mountains and ancient Buddhist monasteries. In the “Land of High Passes”, you can indulge in adventurous activities such as trekking, mountain biking and riding on Bactrian camels. You might even catch a glimpse of a snow leopard, which are only in a few locations across the world. Those seeking peace and quiet can stay at one of the area’s many monasteries and partake in spiritual retreats to find inner peace.

Varkala

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View from the cliff looking north. Varkala, Kerala, India
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Varkala, a laid-back beach town, is ideal for those who want sun, sea and serenity with their soul-searching. Unlike other Indian beach towns, such as Goa, Varkala isn’t particularly touristy, so you can relax in peace. Spend your days sunbathing on Varkala Beach (also known as Papanasam Beach) and enjoying water sports before boating around the picturesque Kappil Lake and visiting the historical Anchuthengu Fort, established in the 17th century by the British East India Company.

Hampi

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Virupaksha Temple, Hampi Bazar, Hampi, Karnataka, India
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If you’re interested in history, architecture and religion, Hampi, in eastern Karnataka, is a must-visit, as it’s one of India’s 38 Unesco World Heritage-protected sites. It’s also known as the “Group of Monuments at Hampi” as it’s home to many temples and remains from the Vijayanagara Empire. Join a tour to meet fellow travellers, or marvel and snap pictures of intricate carvings, rock formations and stone boulders at your own pace.

Kasol

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KASOL, INDIA - OCTOBER 02, 2019: Local houses at the main street in Kasol village in Himachal Pradesh state in India
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Be at one with nature in Kasol, on the banks of the Parvati River, in Himachal Pradesh. Trekking through pine forests and camping are popular ways to explore this region – Kheerganga, Sar Pass, Pin Parvati Pass and Yanker Pass are among the most well-known routes. Go it alone or join backpackers and international tourists on expeditions that culminate in bonfires and music.

Gangtok

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Cable car ropeway at Gangtok, Sikkim, India.
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Gangtok, in the Sikkim Himalayan region, is a playground for adventurous types. Hop in its famous cable car and take in panoramic vistas of the city before building an itinerary of trekking, mountain biking, paragliding and rafting on the Teesta River. If that’s not enough, plan a yak safari along its rugged terrain. Everything in Gangtok is relatively affordable – from staying at hilltop hotels to exploring its attractions – so you don’t have to fret about breaking the bank while travelling solo.

Pondicherry

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Pondicherry, India - November 7, 2019: Street with colorful houses at Pondicherry in India
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There’s so much to do and see in Pondicherry, the French capital of India, that you’re unlikely to get bored when travelling by yourself. The best way to discover its beaches and cobbled streets dotted with colonial architecture is on a guided bicycle tour. The town is safe and easy to get around, and it boasts a great food scene, featuring a fusion of South Indian and French influences.

Spiti Valley

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Himachal Pradesh, India - Spiti Valley in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India.
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Spiti Valley, high in the Himalayas between Tibet and India, is Ladakh’s lesser-visited cousin. Its mountains, Buddhist monasteries, and scenic lakes and valleys are among the most beautiful in the country; discover it all through trekking, camping and mountain biking. The people of the hamlet are friendly and welcoming, and as there aren’t many hotels or guesthouses in the area, you can plan to stay with them.

Rishikesh

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Laxman Jhula bridge over Ganges river.  Rishikesh
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Rishikesh has long attracted backpackers and solo travellers who come for the spiritual vibe and adrenaline-pumping adventure. There are numerous yoga and meditation retreats to choose from at ashrams and centres in this city, while outdoor adventures include river rafting, bungee jumping and kayaking. While you’re here, don’t miss the world-famous Ganga Aarti, a daily holy ritual at sundown that uses fire as an offering.

Goa

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People on Palolem beach in Goa India
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You can expect to leave Goa with a whole new group of friends who you’ll meet at its many lively bars and nightclubs. While this city attracts travellers from across the globe as India’s party capital, it’s also a deeply spiritual place with many retreats and yoga courses on offer. Fill your days by relaxing on its beaches, indulging in water sports and snapping pictures of the architectural ruins that date back to the Portuguese era.

Rajasthan

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Nai Sarak, a busy street in the city centre, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
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Come to Rajasthan – popularly known as the “Land of Kings” thanks to its royal past – for its art, culture and history. Rajputs, Mughals and Marathas all ruled at one point, and there’s an abundance of temples, forts and palaces that reflect this past. Discover its rich culture and traditions through lively fairs and festivals, dance, folk music, and exquisite art and handicrafts. Rajasthani people are known for their warm hospitality, so the solo traveller will never feel alone.

Sadie Whitelocks contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on April 6, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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