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Seeking Itinerary Assistance for 12 nights in India

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Greetings,

We are considering plans for our next trip, and India seems to be at the top of the list for mid-late February. Looking at probably 12 nights on the ground excluding international flights. After some preliminary research I am pretty sure we will focus on a northern itinerary...main interests as of now: New Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ranthambore. Obviously it will not work to include all six destinations...New Delhi a must because of flights, Agra a must for Taj. I am drawn towards including Varanasi and while I really love the idea of Ranthambore, think that will have to be one of the two locations we drop. So....that leaves Udaipur and Jaipur - how to choose between them? Thoughts? Suggestions?

We love history, architecture, good food, and a mix of city/country. We enjoy experiencing new cultures, hiking, and love scenic beauty. A little shopping goes a long way for us and we generally choose 1 or 2 museums on a trip, but that is rarely our focus. Recent trips have combined Istanbul with Cappadocia and Ephesus/Sirince, and trekking the Inca Trail to M.P. with time in Cusco and the Amazon Basin outside of Puerto Maldonado in Peru.. I hope that helps give a feel.

Any suggestions for an amazing first trip to India in February for 2 active couples, mid 40's-mid 60's folks? We want some diversity of experience and are willing to schlep a bit if going that far, but don't want to hop around constantly. I am thinking we will do some combo of flying and hiring a driver. Would also consider a train if that would be most effecient for a particular leg.

Other main question...logistics. Assuming we do a combo of New Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, and either Udaipur or Jaipur...any suggetsed "routing" or recommended number of nights? Thinking 3 nights Delhi (1 on front end and 2 on back end or vice versa), 2 nights Agra, 3 nights Varanasi, ??

Thanks for any help you may be able to provide in gathering our thoughts/plans.

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