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Itinerary help please - 18 nights in Rajasthan & Calcutta, Dec 12/Jan13

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Hi all,

I am in the early stages of planning our first trip to India, albeit its for this Christmas and New Year, and would love some help/advice with itinerary.

We have decided on Kolkata, Agra and Rajasthan, the details of which we are still unsure of but here's the initial plan ...

20 Dec Fly Australia to Delhi
Delhi (2 nights)
Morning train to Agra
Agra (1 night)
Drive Agra - Jaipur
Jaipur (2 nights)
Pushkar (2 nights)
Jodhpur (2 nights)
Udaipur (3 nights)
Fly Udaipur - Delhi - Kolkata
Kolkata (6 nights)
7 Jan Fly Kolkata - Australia

We are a couple in our 40's with no kids. I know we could add more places to our itinerary but we live a hectic life and tend to do the same on holiday but normally throw in some beach-time at the end to compensate. We don't want beaches this time (I have been to Goa years ago) so we're trying to experience India, but at a more relaxed pace without it being too exhausting (if that's possible!) hence the reason we're trying to space out the travelling, and deciding not to include Jaisalmer.

Our main interests are experiencing the local culture, markets, sightseeing and enjoying the food. Photography is a huge part of our trip. We are not hugely into forts, palaces, temples etc - want to see the main ones but not go out of our way, and wouldn't spend days wandering round them.

We definitely want to do the Taj Mahal, Udaipur has huge appeal, and we've just guessed at the nights for Jaipur, Jodhpur and Pushkar, to break up the travelling, but I need to do more research. Love the idea of horseriding in the desert and maybe staying in a tented camp.

We want 6 nights in Kolkata as its somewhere that we've always wanted to go. We decided to do it at the end as we'll stay at the Oberoi and can have some relaxing pool time there too. But we could still swap it round and do it at the beginning, we just thought that all the travelling at the end would be the most tiring part of the trip.

I do wonder if we should be doing Varanasi, I think the photography there would be amazing, but what would we cut back on?

The other thing is we need to get hotels booked as it's Christmas/New Year and lots are fully booked already. We're budgeting about $200 a night but will splurge for the odd special places. We really wanted to stay at the Taj Lake Palace but there seems to a min 2 night stay (1 would have done) and at $800 a night, is it worth it? I've never spent that much on a hotel room in my life! We'll probably never go there again though ... maybe we could cut back on our other hotels to help fund it.

We're mostly doing car and driver, but if there were any parts that were better by train or plane we'd consider that too ...

Any help /advice much appreciated.

Thanks so much, Steph

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