When traveling across India, do you only visit the famous landmarks and scenic spots? Or, do you also engage with the locals and lean into their culture? You must have been to all the monuments in Delhi but have you savored its local street food?
Traveling is not just about visiting tourist attractions with a selfie stick. It also involves learning about new places, their history, and cultural heritage. Simply put, it’s about being both a tourist and a traveler.
Having said that, all tourists are travelers, but not all travelers are tourists. Read on to understand if you are a tourist or a traveler.
Difference Between a Traveler and a Tourist
What separates a traveler from a tourist? It’s the zeal for exploring the unexplored. While tourists flock to the most popular attractions, travelers visit the hidden gems.
A tourist depends on the itinerary, but a traveler on instinct.
As a tourist, you spend your time sightseeing and clicking pictures. But as a traveler, you share stories, learn the native language, and live in the moment.
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Tourists seek pleasure and leisure, whereas travelers leave their comfort zone behind. You will witness the beauty of Goa as a tourist.
But as a traveler, you elevate your adventure by becoming a part of the Goan culture. This includes trying the local cuisines, blending in with the locals, and understanding their culture.
So which one are you?
If you are tired of visiting the overrated and overhyped sites and want to take the road less traveled, how about becoming a traveler and indulging in non-touristy experiences? You will get to see the place in a new light and take a heart full of memories back home.
Here are the 10 Non-Touristy Things to do in the famous Tourist Destinations in India.
1. Goa – Ditch the North and Explore the South
Bored of visiting the same old beaches like Baga and Anjuna? How about exploring the other side of Goa? While tourists flock to North Goa for its happening nightlife and famous forts, travelers explore South Goa to indulge in non-touristy things.
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Away from the large crowds and the wild atmosphere, South Goa is a place where you can immerse yourself in the Goan culture. Try local Goan delicacies like Goan fish curry and coconut rice.
Visit hidden gems like Rivona Caves, Cumbarjua Backwater Canal, and Netravali. Furthermore, you can relax at the untouched Butterfly Beach, visit the Osho Meditation Retreat, and witness mesmerizing Portuguese Architecture at Sinquerim Fort.
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2. Manali – Visit the Hidden Hamlets
How about ditching the overcrowded tourist attractions like the Manali Mall Road and exploring secluded hamlets in the valley? If you want to go the non-touristy way, visit remote places like Jibhi, Jagatsukh, Gulaba, and Barshaini.
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You can stay at local homestays and try the traditional dishes of Himachal Pradesh which are freshly prepared by the locals. These ancient villages will give you a glimpse of the centuries-old culture of Himachal and its people.
Those seeking adventure can take the Deo Tibba trek to enjoy the mesmerizing views of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayan Mountains.
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3. Delhi — Party and Shop Like the Locals
Most tourists visit historical monuments like the Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Lotus Temple, and India Gate during their Delhi trip. But the National Capital has so much more to offer other than ancient temples and heritage sites.
If you want to experience the Delhi vibe in a non-touristy way, start with shopping at the Sarojini Nagar Market and Paharganj. You will not only master the art of bargaining but witness a different side of Delhi altogether.
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Try the street food in Lajpat Nagar, visit the cafes near DU South Campus, and party at Summer House Cafe or Piano Man Jazz club at night.
4. Ladakh – Explore Unknown Villages
Leh-Ladakh is a destination on every traveler’s bucket list. When traveling to this breathtaking place, we mostly visit famous tourist spots like the Pangong Tso, Khardung La, Changla Pass, and Thiksey Monastery.
But how about delving into the culture of this barren desert? If you want to indulge in non-touristy activities in Ladakh, stay in untraversed villages like Hanle, Turtuk, Lamayuru, and Sumur.
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Relish the local Ladakhi cuisines like Thukpa, Momos, Skyu, Chhutagi, and Chhurpe. Additionally, you can stay with the locals in their homes, partake in Ladakhi traditions, and even learn to weave.
Get a chance to understand their dialect and learn about the history of this magnificent paradise.
5. Agra – Relive History Through Iconic bazaars
A popular tourist hotspot in India, Agra is known for the incredible Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri. But there is so much more to this city. Did you know that Agra is home to the largest markets of textiles and shoes?
This ancient city has preserved centuries-old Indian crafts in its famous bazaars. On your next trip to Agra, ditch the architecture and relive history through its bazaars and narrow lanes that date back to the 16th century.
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Visit bazaars like Kinari, Subhash, Sadar, Malko Gali, and Hing Ki Mandi to buy souvenirs, handcrafted jewelry, and decorative marble pieces. You can also spot the historical buildings (Havelis) built by the Britishers during colonial rule in India.
6. Varanasi – Walk Through Banaras ki galiyan
Experience the culture of the oldest city in the world by exploring the narrow lanes of Varanasi. If you want to do non-touristy things in the spiritual capital of India, drop the idea of visiting the ghats and temples.
Instead, walk through the lanes that were made five thousand years ago. Taste the finger-licking street foods like kachoris and samosas. Try the local bhang and engage in rejuvenating conversations with the sadhus.
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How about going down memory lane and spotting ancient homes and buildings? Listening to mysterious stories about karma and salvation and drowning in the rich Hindu culture?
7. Rishikesh – Go Trekking
The Yoga Capital of the world, Rishikesh is famous for its ancient temples, Ganga ghats, water sports, and medication centers. All tourists that visit Rishikesh take a holy dip in the river Ganga and explore sites like Ram and Laxman Jhula.
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But if you want to experience Rishikesh in a non-touristy way, you should go for treks like Deoria Chandrashila, Valley of Flowers, Roopkund, Pangarchulla Peak, or Kuari Pass.
They have spellbinding trails and take you through dense forests surrounded by snow-capped mountains. You can camp in the jungle and spot many rare birds, animals, and flowers.
8. Kashmir – Seek Adventure in Tiny Villages
Kashmir and royalty go hand-in-hand. Traveling to this heaven means a luxurious stay, a memorable Shikara ride in the Dal Lake, shopping at Srinagar, and visiting Gulmarg.
Apart from these tourist attractions, Kashmir is also a perfect destination for adventure seekers, but only if you want to indulge in non-touristy activities. You can visit the mysterious Kala Roos Caves in Bangus Valley, known for their Stone Age wall paintings.
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Or, indulge in enthralling activities like rock climbing, heliskiing, and snow skiing at the hidden Karnah Valley. If treks give you an adrenaline rush, go to Warwan Valley–a trekker’s paradise.
9. Kolkata – Have a Drink at Khalasitola
Ever heard about Khalasitola? It’s not your ordinary bar–it is a historical place with a touch of legacy. World-famous artists like Sunil Ganguly, Ritwik Ghatak, and Kamal Majumdar would stop at this place for a drink.
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Built in the early 19th century, this place is connected with a long history of intellectuals, artists, and literary legends of Bengal. It is believed that back in the 1900s, this bar served the best country liquor in the world.
So when you are traveling to this city of joy, ditch the regular tourist hotspots like Eden Gardens and visit this legendary place.
10. Mumbai – Take the Mumbai Local
Want to witness the spirit of Mumbaikars? How about Experiencing the authentic Bombay vibe and exploring the city of dreams on foot (not literally, though)? Take the popular local train to commute throughout the city.
Because of its reputation of being overcrowded and congested, tourists often avoid traveling in the local and hire taxis instead. But in my opinion, if you really want to explore Mumbai in a non-touristy way, riding the local train is the right way to go about it.
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As a tourist, you may take memorable photos at the most famous attractions, but as a traveler, you explore the soul of the destination. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing awful about visiting tourist attractions.
But don’t forget to keep a day to just experience the place in a non-touristy way. It gives you memories for a lifetime, fills your heart with stories, and allows you to get out of your comfort zone. You not only discover the unknown routes but also make pure connections.
So, when taking a trip across India, list all the non-touristy things you plan to do for a fulfilling holiday.