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Top 10 India hostels from Varkala to Varanasi as ranked by Nat Geo Traveller

The landscape of affordable hostels in India has been changing over the last few years, moving away from dingy, musty and dark rooms to quirky, stylish lodgings that are on par with their European counterparts. A recent article published on Nat Geo traveller ranks the top 10 India hostels from Varkala to Varanasi. Read on to find out who made the list.

Top 10 India hostels from Varkala to Varanasi as ranked by Nat Geo Traveller

In more recent years India has given an incredible boost to its selection of value lodgings with newer, spruced up versions that are a far cry from previously dingy, musty and uninspiring dorms. These newly refreshed, quirky and colourful hostels have nothing to envy the standards of similar European accommodation.

Fabiola Monteiro, writing for Nat Geo Traveller, recently compiled a list of the top 10 hostels covering the long span between Varkala in Kerala to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, creating an ideal multi-stop journey where the best budget retreats all offer atmospheric decor, cosy rooms and fantastic add-ons such as free Wi-Fi.

Starting from all the way down, at India’s south-westernmost point we have the Vedanta Wake Up! in Varkala, a beautiful property with a spacious courtyard in which guests can relax on a hammock beneath the shade of leafy coconut trees. Perfectly sitting atop North Cliff, this hostel enjoys a great location, just steps away from magnificent beach views and in close proximity to the main street, bursting with colourful cafes.

Moving our way up, the next property is in beach-perfect Goa but its location will allow you to explore beyond the golden sands. The Old Quarter in Panjim sits right at heart of Panjim’s Latin Quarter in Fontainhas, a neighbourhood full of Portuguese-style houses and singboards. Beyond the cosy accommodation, guests can look forward to a pretty cafe boasting a fantastic book collection.

Moving sideways from Goa to Karnataka, the next hostel in the top 10 list is the Social Rehab in Bengaluru, found just footsteps away from the popular microbrewery of Toit and offering private rooms as well as cosy male and female dormitories. For unwinding there’s a common area with board games and a good selection of DVDs. To top it up the hostel also helps guests arrange trips to nearby attractions in Goa, Hampi and Mysore.

On our way up once again and moving to the east this time, we find our next two hostels, just 15 minutes from each other: Stops Hostel and International Traveller’s Hostel, both in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. First up, the Stops Hostel occupies a spacious flat in Bhelupur, just a 10-minute stroll to Kedar Ghat. Rooms are basic but the common room comes alive with quirky wall paintings, including one quoting “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, while the wooden benches on the terrace are an inviting place to enjoy the sounds of Benaras and mingle with other travellers. Regular Bollywood movie nights entertain guests as well as frequently arranged heritage walks through Varanasi.

Around three kilometres to the north we have the International Traveller’s Hostel & Bistro, where rooms feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows with striking views to the lush garden. The hostel was once a summer house for the Queen of Nepal and you can tell there’s something definitely regal to it. Now a family-run property guess can choose from dorms beds (with female-only dorms available) to double private rooms and tents in the garden. The bistro serves international cuisine, ranging from pasta to puri bhaji, with spice levels turned down for foreign palates.

Moving back to the west, to the south of the Rajasthan region we have the Bunkyard Hostel, where the beauty lies in the details with creeping plants hanging from the stairwell, scalloped arches adding character while glass-shaded lamps add charm and big wall art livens it all up. What’s special about this hostel is its system for allocating rooms, as it does so based on guests’ music preferences. Here backpackers can choose from jazz, RnB, flamenco and reggae which is played all throughout the day inside the dormitories. The rooftop is the place to go in the evening to drink in a complimentary cup of chai accompanied by beautiful sunset views.

Up and to the right a bit the Moustache Hostel in Jaipur, Rajasthan is next. With vibrantly coloured upholstery and typical Rajasthani furniture in its common room, this hostel is faithful to the region it sits in with plenty of design features inspired by authentic Rajasthani style and crafts. Rooms might be basic but they’re clean and comfortable. The big draw here is the hostel’s rooftop cafe, which overlooks the historic Nahragarh Fort.

Continuing with our upwards journey, next on the map we have the Jugaad in Delhi, perfectly located to two of the capital’s biggest tourist attractions: the cafe and bar ascene at Hauz Khas Village and the bustling markets at Sarojini Nagar. The rooms here are a blend of both worlds and they are named after historic monuments in the city. Its best feature is the atmospheric open terrace dotted by cane armchairs and frequently filled with chatty travellers exchanging travel stories. Girls-only rooms are available too.

Moving upwards again, about 500 kilometres north of Delhi’s Jugaad stands the Jugaadus Eco Hostel in Amritsar, Punjab. Its location makes it a great base for exploring the rich cultural heritage of Amritsar, while guests can tuck into delicious, buttery dhaba meals served at the hostal’s common room. Accounting for the hostel’s eco credentials, tables are made from recycled rubber tyres while mattresses are filled with organic cotton obtained from local farms. And they don’t plan to stop here either as there are plans for switching to solar energy and growing veggies on the terrace. Food walks and guided tours such as the night tour of the Golden Temple are also offered here.

Next up, in Himachal Pradesh, the Zostel in Spiti takes the gold when it comes to budget. Offering breath-taking mountain views at low altitude prices, this is one of the newest properties in the market and takes enormous pride in being the highest hostel in all of Asia. From its inner courtyard and some of its rooms you can drink in spectacular views of the Himalayas and verdant fields. For those wanting a closer encounter with nature outdoor tents are also available for starry nights under a star-filled sky.

And that pretty much wraps it up, here you have the list of India’s top 10 budget-friendly hostels as judged by Nat Geo Traveller. These are the top value lodgings in which to enjoy culture, history and good company in the form of similarly-inclined fellow travellers and backpackers for a fraction of the cost, without having to rough it up too much.

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