Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Sat August 20 2016

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  • Shannon Wolf | August 20, 2016 9:00 PM ET

    The Ultimate 6-Month Route Through India

    The Ultimate 6-Month Route Through India

    PHOTO: The aftermath of partying and throwing color at Holi in Pushkar. (All photos by Shannon Wolf)

    As they say, “If you can travel India, you can travel anywhere.”

    Out of all of the countries I have backpacked through, nothing will quite compare to everything I experienced in the four months I was in India. Although I visited a large number of places, I feel as though I’ve hardly scratched the surface.  It has left me anticipating my next adventure through the north sometime in the near future.

    Being in India is like a roller coaster that never ends. In one single day, you can experience every type of emotion and event. It’s beautiful and passionate, raw and uncomfortable, spiritual yet never peaceful. It’s a walking contradiction, a wild and often lawless state making you feel nothing but the epitome of “alive” because it is always testing you in every single way. You hate it, you love it and you will never understand it, which is why you will always be drawn back to it.

    READ MORE: Up Close and Personal With Indian Sadhus

    India consists of 29 states, each one vastly different than the next, feeling as though you’ve somehow been transported to a totally different country by each train you take. There are 18 official languages with English being widespread, along with seven different religions dispersed throughout the land, though 80 percent of Indians are Hindus.

    In the north you will find the breathtaking Himalayas. In the east, Sahara-like deserts and in the south, a tropical paradise with landscapes you can’t begin to believe are real. You could spend your entire life traveling through the country, never being bored for a minute of the day. This is why I will return to this country for years to come despite my love-hate relationship with it.

    PHOTO: Hampi was one of the main reasons I first decided to come to India. One of the most magical places I have visited in the world.

    If you have time available, be sure to apply for a six-month, multiple entry visa which allows you to go in and out of the country as much as you’d like.

    Below is the ultimate route for those of you who want the full Indian experience, from tranquility to partying, spirituality to adventure-seeking:

    Fly into KOCHI but head onwards to ALLEPPEY > MUNNAR > HAMPI > GOKARNA > GOA > MUMBAI > UDAIPUR > BUNDI > PUSHKAR > JODHPUR > JAISALMER > AGRA (only if you desperately need to see the Taj Mahal) > VARANASI > stop over in NEPAL for some much needed relaxation > RISHIKESH > DHARAMSALA: McLeod Ganj > SHIMLA > MANALI > PARVATI VALLEY > LEH.

    Top things to do in each town:

    Alleppey: House-boating.

    Munnar: Driving through the tea plantations and hill stations.

    Hampi: Hippie vibes with landscapes reminiscent of the “Flintstones.”

    Gokarna: More chilled-out beach vibes for those not wanting the trance-party like Goa.

    Goa: Party, party, party.

    Mumbai: Slums tour and party.

    Udaipur: Beautiful landscapes. Best location in Rajasthan.

    READ MORE: Dharamsala: Where India and Tibet Meet

    Bundi: A little off the beaten path but where “The Jungle Book” was created.

    Pushkar: The best place to do shopping and try delicious foods in India.

    Jodhpur: Explore the Blue City and eat some of the best street food.

    Jaisalmer: Desert camel ride.

    Agra: Taj Mahal.

    Varanasi: Visit the burning Ghats, take a boat ride at sunrise or sunset and learn how to play classical Indian instruments.

    Nepal: Trekking and relaxing.

    Rishikesh: Known for yoga and various courses, relaxing and swimming in the Ganga.

    PHOTO: Trent, Joe and I break into the Beatles Ashram at 6 a.m. to explore the surroundings and stumble upon beautiful street art along the way.

    Dharamsala: Known for meditation. Partake in a vipasana or the famous Tushita Intro to Buddhism course. You can attend any and every kind of course from jewelry making to singing to energy healing!

    Shimla: Hill stations and scenic views.

    Manali/Parvati Valley: Lush forests and landscapes with great options for trekking.

    Leh: Intensive trekking and exquisite landscapes.

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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