3 weeks India itinerary - First timer's guide

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali


Ever since I started living/traveling in Europe, and started meeting people interested in travel, they get delighted when I mention I'm from India. This has happened way too many times which prompted me to write this post! 
2 situations are super common (1) Yes, I've been to India, and seen the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. (2) No, but I want to visit India and thinking of starting from Delhi... 
where to go in India?
Here's the thing - India is huge!!!! Like huge!!! With the known issues of the popularly used map projections, it 'looks' small! The size of India is 3.287 million sqkm and size of Europe is 10.18 million sqkm. Europe/USA is only 3 times bigger than India......... so........ one third of European countries put together is - India! 
So.... whatever question you have about India - compare it with whole of Western/Central/Eastern Europe and not just one country of Europe - and you might get an idea! So yeah - Cuisine? The difference between North & South India is as vast as the difference between the cuisine of Belgium & Italy! More often than not, many would have tasted Indian cuisine at a friend's place or a restaurant. Then again, here's the thing - India is vast! North Indian cuisine & South Indian cuisine are vastly different. North Indian cuisine & Pakistani cuisine are more similar than South Indian cuisine! Ofcourse there are special cuisine of each & every state & community - we are 28 states & 8 union territories! If you entered a random Indian restaurant in Europe, its most likely a North Indian restaurant and likewise, if you entered a randon Indian restaurant in Middle East & Singapore, its most likely a South Indian restaurant. It primarily boils down to where the Indian diaspora living there came from!!!
places to visit in India in december

Beaches of India
Weather? The difference between the weather of Kashmir & Rajasthan is as vast as the difference in the weather Poland & Malta! Languages - Don't even get me started on it! To begin with, there is no language called 'Indian'! We don't have 1 official language! We have 22 official languages spoken by majority of people and hundreds of other languages spoken by several minor regions and communities.

Safety? Men? Well.... Its a problem of percentage with International news channels - let's talk real numbers... With world's 2nd largest population, we are 1.3 billion people! Assuming half of it is men, that's 650 million! Even if there are 1 million bad men, there are still 640 million good men who would ignore you normally and help you if needed! The common sense of safety is very much needed and there are some precautions that you'd have to exercise. India may not be the safest country but there are 640,000,000 good men in India....
South India itinerary

Where to go in India
Finally - Tourism.... If you've seen the Golden Triangle of India, it only means you've been to some of the places to see in north India. While these are some of the best places to visit in North India, it most definitely it does not represent the whole of India.

Here's your barest minimal, basic 3-week India itinerary of where to go in India.
Begin with south of India. Why south? Its calmer with less tourist traps than New Delhi or Rajasthan or Agra which have been 'tourist destinations' since very long time.
Land in Bangalore or Chennai or Cochin and see the other 2. Here's what you have to see here -
2 Days: Hampi (close to Bangalore airport) - for historic, 14th C city in ruins
3 Days: Backwaters of Kerala & get some Ayurvedic massage (close to Cochin airport)
2 Days: Mahabalipuram (close to Chennai airport) - Rock-cut 8th C CE monuments
(optional 2 Days: Tanjavur & Gangai Konda Cholapuram (close to Trichy airport or overnight train from Chennai) - Living temples built in 11th C CE.)
Then fly to NewDelhi and do the usual Golden Triangle tour 
5 Days - New Delhi, Agra (for Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (called Pink City for its gorgeous Rajasthani palaces)
Note: I haven't mentioned Day 1-2, I've mentioned 2 days, meaning, I've ignored time for rest or travel. Will add it up as a bulk later. Check below....

Must-try Indian Food
Pic Courtesy: By Karthick - Own work via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 

South India vs North India similarities and differences
Along with the days spent on travel & rest, you'll need atleast 3 weeks for your minimal Indian trip and you'll see a huge variety of what India has to offer and the vast difference between the various regions of India in terms of food, weather, language and clothing! This is approximately 10 days in south India & 10 days in North India. This ways, you'll experience somewhat of India. I've literally skipped east, west & central India in this itinerary and that's why I call it the barest minimum. Many Indians reading this would be pissed because I've ignored their state!!! All these are places of tourist interest in India and not lesser known destinations. You could spend atleast 1 month in each & every state of India! There are people who have chosen to live in and travel around India for a year or more, coz India is way too vast with way too many cultures and cuisines and destinations and more! If that's not something that you can do - follow the above or create a similar itinerary. This will be whirlwind, this will be hectic, with flights between the states, it might even be a bit costly, but this 3 weeks in India will be the best 3 weeks of your life!
Our doctrines include 'Atithi Devo Bhava' which means Guest is equal to God and 'Vasudeva Kutumbakam' which means The whole world is One Family! Welcome to our Incredible India!!!
India 3 weeks itinerary where to go in India


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. hi
    such a thoughtfully written post. Being from India i could immediately connect on a different more personal level with this post. Truly India is too vast to handle for a single visit or even three weeks an you rightly said . It is like a place that will make you definitely come back again no matter what

  2. Interesting to hear of the differences between the weather and the food from the different ends of India, it is not something I had considered having never travelled there, however those who I know who have say it is a country like no other and you need a decent amount of time there to really immerse yourself in the culture. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  3. Very nicely written post for foreign travelers who are curious about India and rightly feel that india is a cultural hotbed! While aggregating homestays and interacting with many travelers, I have tried tried answer the question that how many days in india are enough and frankly, I never had an answer because India is so vast to see. However the highlight of this blog post is that it makes it easier for a traveler to understand how to plan a trip with starting point as south India and why.

  4. I can so much relate with your thoughts as I too have actually faced very similar situations and had conversations when traveling abroad to Europe and other countries. Since I am if the friendly kind I land up communicating quite a lot and keep advising them when they enquire. This is such great plan for a 3 week holiday in India.

  5. India is a country I also want to visit someday with my boyfriend, and we will consider 3 weeks of stay, to explore the most of India. But I reckon 3 weeks still not enough coz I love slow travel. I like to immerse in each places, my way of remembering things that helps me on my writings.

  6. Great itinerary for India! I think it is important to focu on the whole country and exploring different parts other than the main tourist attractions. It gives you so much more of a sense of the contry than just staying in one spot will. India sounds very diverse. I haven't had the chance to visit yet, but hope to one day.

  7. The question should be how many years in India :D I spend few months and didn't have time to visit a lot of places I wanted to, like eastern Rajastan and Kashmir. I hope to come back there one day. About your itinerary, I think you covered a great part of the places for someone who has limited time for India. It's a very diverse and huge country so communication between places takes a lot of time.

  8. It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.

  9. Even in these many days, people will be overwhelmed ;-) India has so much to offer that no matter how many days you plan, you are going to fall short. Why we people, staying in India, too, feel that way? Don 't we? But for a first timer, you have given a well balanced itinerary. A little nature, a little heritage and opportunity to see different styles of it.

  10. India is so vast and all states are like countries itself! India has so much to oofer from himalayas,western ghats, holy cities, great architecture to eastern India's tribal areas! Wherever you go, you will love it! As a first timer, It is always good to start with Places as you described with Golden triangle and Places of South India. Great Post! I have visited 20 states still I am not done with many Places of it!

  11. India is such a big country it's always a battle where to go! As for my first time, I went to Rishikesh and then my second time in Jaipur. I think the trick in traveling India is to do it by state and do it little by little. I once computed how many years I will need to see all India and I ended up calculating 10 years. HAHAHAHA! Thanks for the great guide and advice for first-time travelers. Xx

  12. I think India is like Brazil or China or USA or any other big country. It needs 6 month to get to know the country outside the main attractions. But I agree bare minimum is 3 weeks.

  13. Love this guide from a local! Much more insightful since you know the country more in depth. I can't wait to visit one day soon! and am bookmarking this guide!

  14. We've been thinking about visiting India for years, but it's such a big country that it's a daunting prospect. Not only to come to terms with what to expect, but also which destinations need to be on the list of places to visit. I had no idea that there were so many languages - thanks for sharing these newbie tips.

  15. You have definitely given a nice picture of India, the way we are, diverse, real, too wide, and culture-rich to the highest. India is too difficult in few days or weeks but yeah one has to pick places as per choice. THe Northern states have their own beauty, the Southern are impeccable, the eastern is quaint and the western parts are heart-warming. India is a beauty indeed!

  16. I liked that you've recommended the Southern States to visit first in order to avoid touristy traps of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. India is a pretty little chaos and has its own charm that you can't find anywhere in the whole world.


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