Because India is huge and broken into 36 diverse states and union territories, the city guides will be sorted as such.
Budget (2014): If you eat where local people do, bargain for cheap hotel rooms, and take sleeper class trains, $15 a day is quite doable. Food is insanely cheap, with a meal usually running 50 cents to a dollar. Guesthouses can be had for $5-10 per night. Transportation (assuming you stick mostly to public transportation and sleeper class trains) is also ridiculously cheap.
This is the capital city of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, located between the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It's quite a pleasant place, and is certainly worth an afternoon's visit. Similar to Pondicherry, it is not part of any state; rather, it is self-governed. Along with Goa and Daman and Diu (another union territory) it was under Portuguese rule, and thus the architecture is different from that of your average Indian city.
This is part "A" of the union territory of Daman and Diu. Before becoming independent, it actually belonged to Goa. Therefore, the architecture is Portuguese. Chances are, you will be the only foreigner here; however, it is quite and interesting place. Indian tourists come here for the alcohol, which is some of the cheapest in the country (no tax). The city also has a bustling marketplace, and many affordable tailor shops.
Delhi is capital city of India, and is its own union territory. The city is huge, one of the largest in the country. While there is quite a lot of modernity in Delhi, there is also a ridiculous amount of chaos and grime. First timers are likely to be hit full-blast by the intensity of India. Thankfully, this was my last city, rather than my first. Either way, prepare yourself for the experience of a lifetime.
Wonderful, serene, quiet, with a beautiful beach. This is everything I came to Goa for: it's a perfect getaway from the rest of the country's intensity.
This is Goa's second largest city, and is the railway entrance to the state. It is rather bustling for a Goan city, beacause it happens to be its commercial capital.
This is the largest city in Gujarat, and the financial capital of the state. It's decent for a large city, but gets very congested, like any other big Indian city.
Gandhinagar is the capital city of Gujarat. It is often referred to as the "greenest capital in India," and indeed has lots of trees and fairly low density. However, it's worth visiting for one afternoon, at most.
This is the second largest city in Gujarat, and the eighth largest overall in India. If you like big crowded cities, I guess it's OK.
It's one of the closest cities to the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, as well as Daman and Diu. Other than that, there's really nothing to recommend about this place.
Bangalore (or Bengaluru) is the capital of Karnataka. It's a huge city (India's third largest in size), and is the IT capital of the country. Because of this, it feels much more modern than say, Chennai. It probably goes without saying, but the city is extremely crowded.
Mangalore is a large, tropical, humid city. That's about all I gleaned from it.
Now here is a big city I can get behind! Mysore has all the hustle and bustle of an Indian city, yet somehow manages to be clean and inviting. It also contains many great local dishes and deserts. It is a fantastic place.
This small city borders Kasaragod. It's a quaint and quiet township. There's literally no reason to come here, though.
It's a city in Kerala. That's honestly all I can say about it.
This is a seaside town located near Thiruvanathapuram. It has very nice beaches and plenty of restaurants. However, it can get very crowded and touristy.
Also called Trivandrum, this is the capital city of Kerala state. This is a wonderful, large, very busy city. It is fairly clean, modern, and has lots of mosquitoes (like most of Kerala). The city is a wonderful place to start or end your travels in South India.
This small city is a mildly relaxing hill station. It makes for a nice getaway from the big cities (Mumbai, Pune) that it lies between.
Wow, Mumbai feels BIG, because it is. This largest city in India feels rather more modern than a lot of places in the south. Because of its size, there are endless things to do and see here. It takes its place among the great metropolises of the world.
This is a big university town, so there are lots of colleges and students here. I found it hard to find accommodation here (several places wouldn't rent to foreigners), so I only spent one afternoon in Pune. However, it is quite modern and pleasant.
Called the "pink city" because of its distinctly colored architecture, Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state. It definitely feels like many big cities in India; however, I found it to be much friendlier than the capitals of other states.
Located in middle of the Thar Desert, this city is frequently an entry point for tourists to do a camel safari. Like many cities in Rajasthan, it has a nice fort. However, I noticed that the town has a much higher density of touts than even the larger cities (Jodhpur, Udaipur, etc).
Affectionately called the "blue city" because of its distinctly colored architecture, Jodhpur is a wonderful place with winding roads, marketplaces, and a friendly atmosphere.
This is a fantastic city, full of temples and palaces. It has quite a nice atmosphere, and you can enjoy simply walking around the place.
This fantastic town is experimental in nature. It is very organized, has quite a bit of nature, and is comprised of residents from over 40 countries. It's located only 6km from Pondicherry, and is far more relaxed and inviting.
Also known as Madras, this giant port city is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. It's not a particularly attractive city, and I felt inclined to quickly move to another place. Nevertheless, it was a fascinating introduction to India.
While this is a pretty standard Indian city, it is a much more palatable stay than say, nearby Madurai. Very friendly.
A hill station located several thousand feet above sea level. It's cold, it's foggy, and it's absolutely one of my favorite cities in India. If you are arriving in Madurai, this would be a good place to go next.
It's pretty much on par with other big cities in Tamil Nadu. Interesting, but not a particularly pleasant place to stay.
Pondicherry is capital of the union district Puducherry, and has a lot of French architecture. It is a fairly big city that looks kind of like Vietnam, but feels distinctly Indian. It is still very crowded and polluted, and you will see cows walking around everywhere.
While Agra may not be particularly stunning on its own (in fact, it's a pretty standard big Indian city), let's get real: you're probably coming here to see the Taj Mahal, one of the most famous buildings on Earth.