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4 Underrated Backpacking Destinations in South Asia

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By Amelia Bristow

Last updated: 17th April 2024

So you’re looking for something new… Do you like the weather of Thailand or Bali, but want a unique experience? Why not visit one of South Asia’s many hidden gems? Here are 4 destinations that give you the new adventure you’re craving! South Asia is the subregion of Asia which includes the Himalayan mountains and anything below it like India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka... It is the ultimate place to experience something unique that other travellers haven’t visited as much. South Asia offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or discovering the sea life by snorkelling in crystal clear waters. The phenomenal Thailand, Bali and Cambodia are amazing places, but have a read of these underrated destinations that are bigger and better…


Travellers dancing in a circle in India

India is a vastly underrated destination for those who want to experience some of the best cities in the world stunning beaches to relax on and iconic landmarks to admire! This South Asia destination has a unique lifestyle to immerse yourself in diverse places and people. Whether you just want to explore the North through our Highlights of North India or see it all on our Total India group trip, there is something for everyone in this boundless destination! It goes without saying that Indian traditional cuisine is phenomenal, from the delicious drink of a mango lassi to the flavoursome chicken pakoras, you’ll want to try it all.


Highlights of this destination 

Of course, first things first… the Taj Mahal. It is a worldwide ornate landmark built in 1631 and is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure is simply spectacular and a must-see when travelling. Other sites to include on your India bucket list are the Amber Fort in Jaipur and the Savitri Temple during sunrise in Pushkar. You can tick off most of these landmark sites and more on our India Golden Triangle group tour! 

The highlights of India don’t just stop at the cities! Goa has some of the most beautiful beaches to soak up the sun. After travelling through the exciting cities these beaches are a slice of paradise. During your time in India, we highly recommend a food tour to taste some incredible flavours. If this sounds like your kind of trip, check out our Uncover India - Delhi to Goa where you can tick off all the above and more!


The best time to visit

Gardens of the Taj Mahal

The best months to travel to India are between October and March. The weather will be warm, dry and sunny before it gets increasingly hot in the later months. This is also avoiding monsoon season (June to September). Although India is a large country, there are diverse climate regions so there is somewhere to travel all year round. 

Traditional dishes 

There's a good chance you’ve tasted the fantastic flavours of Indian food already. But nothing beats authentic food cooked fresh from its home country. Here are some dishes you should try out!

  • Paneer curry (paneer is a type of cheese similar to the texture of halloumi) 
  • Paratha (flaky golden brown bread typically eaten at breakfast or accompanied by a curry)
  • Vada Pav (traditional Mumbai street food similar to a sandwich filled with fried spicy potatoes in chickpea batter)
  • Lassi (yoghurt drink that is blended with fruits that are in season) 

Sri Lanka 

Blue train going along Nine Arches Bridge in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a small island in South Asia often called the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” and the “Teardrop of India”. This destination is underrated in South Asia for its abundant landscapes, culture, food and people. It also has one of the largest populations of Asian elephants so keep your eyes peeled! Sri Lanka is considered to be vastly diverse from the misty mountains, surfing beaches and thick jungles all combined on a small island. Make your trip a big adventure with our Sri Lanka & Maldives Escape group trip.


Highlights of this destination 

Another destination with a UNESCO World Heritage Site! You just have to take a trip to Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress with the ruins of a palace on it’s peak. Then stroll through the ruins of Polonnaruwa filled with temples and Buddha statues. Another highlight has to be Minneriya National Park! Take a safari trip through the park and see the largest Asian elephants, plus other animals too such as monkeys, leopards and sloth bears. Plus, have you really been to Sri Lanka if you haven’t hiked to the iconic Nine Arches Bridge? Snap some incredible photos for Instagram then head on to hunt for stunning waterfalls! 

The best time to visit

Sigiriya Lion Rock in Sri Lanka

For a chance to win the best weather plan to travel between December and April for good days at the beaches and dry weather. However, for a keen hiker, September to October will be cooler but still dry. 

Traditional dishes 

Sri Lankan food is simply fantastic! Due to the tropical climate, Sri Lankan food has a similar style to Indian dishes but has a twist of fresh coconuts, fresh seafood and vibrant spices to enjoy. So be ready to fill your heart's content with these dishes and delicacies… 

  • Hoppers (Coconut pancake served with an egg and garnished with chillies or onions)
  • Pol Roti (Similar to the breaded Indian roti version but this time it is made with fresh coconut)
  • Sour fish curry (Cubed fish cooked with spices and goraka fruit, served with rice)
  • Kottu (dish with chopped roti, meat curry, scrambled egg, onions and chillies)


Man at a mountain edge on Base Camp hike in Nepal

Nepal is home to the most famous mountain - Mount Everest. It is a land full of amazing temples and the Himalayan mountain range bursting with culture and history to learn about. It is located between China and India. The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, is set in a valley surrounded by stunning mountains. This South Asia destination is a trekker's paradise! 

Highlights of this destination 

It goes without saying, the highlight of Nepal is, of course, Mount Everest! Why not take the trekkers challenge and hike to base camp on a guided tour? If hiking to Base Camp isn’t your favourite travelling idea, we have other Nepal trips that are just as exciting! Like The Nepal Express or the Dehli to Kathmandu Adventure where you can experience the culture of the Nepalese people and explore the areas on guided walks. Visit the captivating monasteries in the city and mountains and admire the amazing views!



The best time to visit

Mount Everest next to Nepal flag with blue skies

If you book your trip between October and December you’ll have clear skies giving you fantastic views during your hike on your Everest Base Camp Adventure and other journeys. Up to April, the weather is dry so it’s ideal to travel during these months too. However, travelling during January and February can get quite cold with an average temperature of 6 degrees.  

Traditional dishes 

Nepalese dishes are diverse and delicious. Dishes typically are vegetarian due to meat being expensive or the people do not eat meat for religious reasons. Make your time memorable through the taste of these recommended dishes!

  • Dal Bhat (A dish served with rice and dal which is a lentil curry, along with side dishes)
  • Momos (street food dumplings, stuffed with meat, vegetable or cheese)
  • Pani Puri (backed pastry shell that has a hole for a tasty filling) 
  • Sel Roti (sweet, fluffy snack that's deep-fried often found at street food stalls)


A man paddle boarding in the Maldives next to sandy islands

It is well known that the Maldives is a paradise of dreamy islands, white shore beaches, unbelievable sea life and crystal clear waters to dive into. It is the ultimate spot to kick back and relax, soak up the sun, or snorkel through the seas during your time at this destination! The Maldives is considered a luxury destination but we are here to prove that you can visit the Maldives backpacker style. Our Sri Lanka and Maldives trip includes a 6-day cruise around the islands. Maybe you fancy Floating Around the Maldives group trip instead? Or how about checking out our guidebook on The Best Maldives Island for Your Travel Style if you want to book independently? 

Highlights of this destination 

The Maldives has a few unforgettable highlights… after all, it is heaven on earth. Try out some snorkelling and see what you can spot. There should be some incredible manta rays, tropical fish and huge whale sharks. Soak up the spectacular paradise atmosphere by relaxing and exploring the beaches. Why not sign up for some watersports if you want something more active? 

Other highlights of the Maldives include the spectacular local islands of Fulhidoo and Felidhu. You can visit these during our Floating Around the Maldives trip! Meet the locals and see their way of life in the villages on these stunning islands.

The best time to visit

Boat on the white sandy shore of Maldives Island

Visiting the tropical islands during November and April is considered the best time to travel due to the warmer temperatures with an average of 29 degrees Celsius. January to April are the driest months making it peak season for tourists. 

Traditional dishes 

On these paradise islands, the food is immaculate! You can imagine the popular dishes will, of course, be seriously fresh seafood! Taste the sensational traditional dishes of the Maldives to experience the destination to the fullest. 

  • Garudiya (fish broth served with rice, lemon, onion and chilli) 
  • Boshi mashuni (Banana leaf salad mixed with coconut, curry leaves and chillies)
  • Kukulhu riha (Chicken coconut curry lightly spiced and flavoured)
  • Fried Yams (A vegetable when cooked is crunchy on the outside but fluffy on the inside)


So there we have it! These four fantastic destinations are just waiting for you backpackers to discover them. South Asia is completely underrated as a travel destination bursting with exciting new experiences. There’s something for everyone in South Asia, depending on what your ideal travelling journey looks like. Plus, now you know what these four incredible destinations offer, what time of the year to go and what yummy dishes to tuck into. Check out all of our South Asia trips for more information on these destinations and what we offer. 

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