Siddhartha takes place in India during the time of the Buddha (~625 B.C.E.). More specifically, the story unfolds in a series of small gardens, groves, and towns along an unnamed river. Each location corresponds to a stage of Siddhartha's journey: he moves from his childhood home to the forest of the Samanas, to the town of the Child People, and finally ends up on the bank of the river as he replaces Vasudeva as a ferryman.
The first few chapters present settings that juxtapose the comfort of home with the challenging path to enlightenment. For example, Chapter 1 presents a Brahmin household in a serene Indian village. But when Siddhartha ventures into the forest of the Samanas to become an ascetic, he discovers the "fierce sun's rays" and "[stands] in the rain" and "crouche[s] among the thorns." There is great contrast here between the shady, peaceful village and the harsh reality of the Samanas' natural environment.
When Siddhartha leaves the Samanas, he goes to a pleasure grove in a different town. This is the home of Kamala, a beautiful courtesan who teaches Siddhartha "the art of love." However, he does not achieve enlightenment until he stays at the most important place in the story: the river. By living on the riverbank and learning to listen to its flowing waters, Siddhartha sharpens his spiritual senses and becomes a mature adult. Each stage of his journey takes place in a different location along this river, and each setting signifies a new stage in his development.