India itinerary 3 weeks – 5 itineraries you can easily copy

You want to visit India outside of a classic tour and are looking for an India itinerary for 3 weeks?

You will find in this article 5 itineraries to visit India at your own pace and with local transport.

Obviously, they give a large part to the population and the tribes, my blog being specialized in ethnographic travel!

For each India itinerary, you will find the type of traveller(s) to whom I recommend it.

In this article you will find:

  • 5 itineraries to visit India independently or with a tailored tour.
  • the average time it takes for each one.
  • what you will discover there in particular.
  • the ideal time of visit.

Updated on 28.05.2023

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On the Indian map below, you will locate the places included in each of these itineraries:

  • Red and turquoise for South – itinerary one (Tamil Nadu and Kerala)
  • Blue and purple for the Tribal belt – itinerary two and three
  • Light blue for Ladakh Zanskar – itinerary four
  • Orange for North Eath states – itinerary five

Note: the map is new and not totally finalised. It will include all the places and English resource links that will help you get additional information.

Map created with Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android
India itinerary 3 weeks
3 Tribal women from Bastar

How to prepare your trip to India?

  1. Order your Indian visa.
  2. Book your flights.
  3. Book your first hotel night or more.
  4. Book your train, bus or taxi tickets.
  5. Buy the accessories you need.

1. Check the visa conditions and if you need a special permit (Arunachal).

2. Check Qatar airways flights here

3. Book your Indian hotel on Booking here

4. Book your bus, plane, train, ferry tickets on 12Go.Asia here

5. Check the travel accessories you need in my article here

India itinerary n°1 : South India Itinerary 3 weeks – Tamil Nadu and Kerala for a first trip.

For who?

  • For a first visit to India.
  • For lovers of traditional temples (Tamil Nadu).
  • For nature lovers (Kerala).
  • For wildlife lovers (Kerala).
  • For honeymooners (Backwaters).
  • For those interested in Ayurveda (backwaters).
  • For those who are looking for serenity.
Little boat with Kerala sunset and coconut trees
Alleppey Backwaters

For what?

  • Spectacle of women bathing in saree (Chennai).
  • Temples atmosphere (all Tamil Nadu).
  • Traditional festivals.
  • Wild reserve (Peryar). You can see reviews here
  • Backwaters (Alleppey).
  • Quiet wild beach (Marari beach near Alleppey).
  • Ride on the canals by public ferry (backwaters from Alleppey to Changasserry).
  • Houseboat cruise.
  • Ayurvedic stay.
  • Kathakali show (Kochi).
  • Chinese nets (Kochi).
  • Historical and colonial city (Kochi).

Departure and arrival places.

You can book a regular flight to Chennai, return from Mumbai, or a regular return flight to Mumbai and then a low-cost flight from Mumbai to Chennai. On the way back, if you decide like me to take the train from Kochi to Mumbay, make a stop to rest in Goa. Otherwise, it is very very long and there is always a delay. Another solution: take the plane from Kochi if you have already visited Mumbai.

Best time to visit.

The beginning of the year, especially February-March, is a very good time to visit South India.

Try to coincide your dates with Shivaratri (beautiful night of traditional dances at the Thanjavur temple) and Pradosham (Thanjavur). Ask about Thaipusam dates if you are interested in this festival and have your heart set on it.

How long?

Plan on 3 to 4 weeks to take full advantage of it and don’t rush.

the must-see.

Tamil Nadu:

  • Kapaleeshawara temple and Chennai beach.
  • Mahabalipuram historical site.
  • Possibly temples of Kanchipuram (one can nevertheless do without).
  • Gingee fortress near Tiruvannamalai.
  • Rock Fort and Srirangam temple at Trichy.
  • Brihadeswara temple in Thanjavur (during Pradosham and Shivaratri, the summit).
  • The temple-city of Madurai.

For other locations and more information, read this article

Devotee hung on a swing for Thaipusam
Devotee during Thaipusam

Kerala :

  • Peryar Wildlife Reserve.
  • Alleppey Backwaters.
  • Cochin, with all the reserve needed because of the mercantile side of the town.

Bombay, its historic districts, the island of Elephanta, the archaeological museum.

For other locations and more information, read this article

Enjoy Kathakali during your India itinerary
Kathakali in Kochi

India itinerary n°2: The tribal Belt – Orissa/Bastar.

For who?

  • For those interested in tribal culture.
  • For those who want to live with the locals.
  • For those who want to discover the longest festival in the world (in Jagdalpur).
  • For those interested in Indian history (Buddhist sites near Vizag. Dhauli, site of the battle of Kalinga near Bhubaneswar).
  • For lovers of the Ramayana.
Bonda Tribal woman wearing her traditional jewels
Bonda woman

For what?

  • Tribal culture.
  • Bastar Dussehra, the longest festival in the world.
  • Tribal markets.
  • The god Jagannath.
  • Arraku valley by train from Vizag.
  • References to the Ramayana.
  • Emperor Ashoka, the Maurya Empire and the Kalinga.
  • Chitrakoot Falls, Indian Niagara Falls.

Departure and arrival.

Book a regular flight with Qatar airways to Delhi and then a low-cost flight from Delhi to Vizag and back to Bhubaneswar-Delhi.

You can take the night train from Jagdalpur to Bhubaneswar or even stop on the way if you have a permit.

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Best time.

At the time of Bastar Dussehra, the 75-day festival! The last 10 days more precisely, corresponding to Navratri.

How long?

Plan on 3 to 4 weeks to fully understand the tribal culture and especially to stay during the 10 days of Bastar Dussehra.

Bastar Dussehra's rath or big chariot, illuminated at night
Bastar Dussehra rath

The must-see.

  • The train journey from Vizag through the Arraku valley.
  • Koraput, its temples, surrounding markets, the God Jagannath and his magnificent temple in town.
  • The last 10 days of Bastar Dussehra.
  • Tribal markets.
  • Staying in a tribal village of Bastar.
  • The Kanger Valley and its waterfalls.
  • Chitrakote falls.

For more information on the District of Bastar, read my complete guide here

You want to visit India and have questions or need help to prepare your trip, contact me! I know offer a service for tailored tours thanks to my partnership with an Indian travel agency.

India itinerary n°3: Chhattisgarh and Telangana – Tribal Belt.

For who?

  • Those who are interested in the high places of Buddhism.
  • Lovers of the Ramayana.
  • Lovers of travel to the West
  • Lovers of tribal culture.
Gadaba Tribal woman with her traditional jewels
Gadaba woman

For what?

  • The visit of a large Buddhist historical site visited by Xuanzang, the famous Chinese monk of the West.
  • The visit of the ashram of Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, and the birthplace of Luv and Kush, the twins of Rama.
  • The exile forest of Rama.
  • The tribal culture.

Departure and arrival.

Arrive in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, and depart from Nagpur, north of Telangana.

Best time.

At the time of Bastar Dussehra (September or October depending on the year) or local tribal festivals (February-March).

How long?

3 to 4 weeks.

The must-see.

  • Sirpur, ancient capital and Mecca of Buddhism
  • The Barnawapara reserve and Valmiki ashram.
  • Bastar, its tribal markets, Kanger Valley and its waterfalls, Chitrakoot Falls, living with the tribes.
  • Adilabad and its surroundings to meet the Gond tribes.
Meet the Dhurwa people of Bastar during your India itinerary
Dhurwa woman

India itinerary n°4: North India Itinerary 3 weeks – Kashmir, Ladakh and Zanskar.

For who?

  • Lovers of wide open spaces.
  • Those who are interested in Buddhism.
  • Lovers of road trips.
A monastery in Ladakh during an Indian itinerary throughout Jammu Kashmir
Monastery in Ladakh

For what?

  • The monasteries of Ladakh.
  • The great lands of Ladakh and Zanskar.
  • Tibetan culture.
  • The Buddhist religion.
  • Hiking in Zanskar.
  • The tribes of Ladakh and Zanskar.

Departure and arrival.

This itinerary is a little peculiar. It’s the one I wanted to do. Unfortunately, I was stuck in Srinagar for a very long time. So I advise you to do it in the opposite direction than my planned itinerary, that is to say to start from Himachal Pradesh and eventually end up in Kashmir… or even leave from Leh if you don’t have time. Kashmir can be dangerous at times and I found the people there deeply traumatized.

Departure from Shimla via Manali and Keylong to Leh. You gradually climb in altitude, which allows you to acclimatize. Return from Leh or loop via Srinagar. Between Srinagar and Delhi, it is imperative to take a plane.

Best time.

When the roads are no longer snow-covered: from the beginning of June to the end of September for buses and from mid-May to mid-October for jeeps. From mid-September it is nevertheless random with risks of snow at any time.

Try to plan your trip during the festivals in the monasteries.

Lama performing the mask dance at Hemis Festival

How long?

3 weeks minimum, especially if you go to Zanskar and hike.

The must-see.

  • Palaces and monasteries.
  • Mountainous landscapes.
  • The wide open spaces of Zanskar.

India itinerary n°5: North-East – Arunachal Pradesh.

For who?

  • Lovers of tribal culture.
  • Nature lovers.
  • Lovers of wide open spaces and mountains.
  • Those who are interested in Buddhist culture, especially the Nyngma current (red hats).
Tutsa Tangsa Naga Tribe performing drum dance
Tutsa Tangsa Naga Tribe of arunachal Pradesh

For who?

  • Meet the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh: Nishis, Monpas, Apatanis, Galos, etc.
  • Visit Buddhist monasteries.
  • Attend morning prayer at Tawang monastery.
  • Trekking in grandiose landscapes, from village to village, to meet the tribes.

Departure and arrival.

Northeast is not easily accessible. You will have to go through Guwahati airport in Assam.

Best time.

At the time of the Nishi festival in Nyokum Yullo. This will allow you to meet all the tribes and discover the Nishi culture.

How long?

As you need a special permit (PAP), you might as well stay there for the whole duration: 30 days!

The must-see.

  • Nyokum Yullo in Yazali to then continue towards Ziro (Apatanis) and why not further North. Beware, only some roads are open to tourists.
  • Dirang, Old Dirang (Dirang Dzong), hike in the mountains in search of monasteries and why not get in touch and hike with Nyngmapas Lamas.
  • Attend a Nyngma exorcism session in a monastery.
  • Sela Pass, between Dirang and Tawang.
  • Tawang, its monastery, walks from village to village, meeting the Monpas, New Year’s Eve Cham dances.
Monpa cham dances in Arunachal Pradesh

FAQ on India itinerary 3 weeks.

What do is called the Indian tribal belt?

The Indian Tribal Belt are the central states of India, where there is a high concentration of tribal groups.

Where do we find tribes in India?

All over the place. But more particularly in the Indian tribal belt, in Rajasthan and Gujarat, in the northeast.

How many tribal states are there in Northeast India?

There are seven of them.

What are the tribal states in Northeast India?

Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram.

Is it dangerous to visit the tribal states of India?

Not at all. Like everywhere else, precautions have to be taken, but tribal states are no more dangerous than other places in India.

Conclusion – India itinerary.

These 5 itineraries to visit India are particularly aimed at the adventurous temperament and who like to meet the local people.

In the Northeast, I deliberately eliminated Nagaland and Meghalaya from my India itinerary. The culture of the Naga tribes has been completely destroyed, except in very remote and hardly accessible areas. The Meghalaya is famous for its living bridges. I was more interested in the Khasi culture. The way tourism is developed there doesn’t match my values. Anyway, Arunachal Pradesh has many more tribes and is much more interesting.

What is your favourite India itinerary? Any suggestion? Let us know by commenting below!

For more articles about visiting India, visit this page

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India itinerary 3 weeks – 5 itineraries you can easily copy

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