8.5 Days in India - Insane?

Jan 2nd, 2012, 05:50 PM
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8.5 Days in India - Insane?

I have until tomorrow to book two AA FF business tickets for a mid-October journey/birthday celebration that would give us just 8 1/2 days on the ground in India (11 days total travel). We're both very eager to go (okay, I'm obsessed) but, sadly, we cannot take six weeks off like some of you. And although Mr. Crosscheck and I both travel often on shorter business trips to distant places, we fear that eight days won't cut it for the sub-continent.

We would fly in and out of Delhi limit our journey to three destinations:

1 night Delhi
1 night Agra
3 nights Varanasi
3 nights cool rural retreat TBD
+ 1 Delhi shopping day before midnight departure

Opinions appreciated. I have a feeling you're all going to say that we should wait...but it's very difficult for us to get extended periods of time off during India's travel season.
crosscheck is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2012, 06:02 PM
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It's not insane if you pace it right, IMO. I'd cut Agra. Promise yourself you'll see the Taj when you go back.
Kathie is online now  
Jan 2nd, 2012, 07:16 PM
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I don't think it's insane at all, but I do think it will need careful planning.

A couple of questions.

Why, when you only have 8.5 days there and part of that will be travelling, are you spending three in a "cool rural retreat"? I would use those days to make your overall trip a little more relaxed and go to the retreat somewhere closer to home later on.

Secondly, is there a specific reason for Varanasi? If so, keep it in. If not, consider somewhere closer to Delhi like Jaipur.

Consider an extra day in Delhi on arrival to allow for jetlag. Plan nothing for that day, just relax and wander around near the hotel if you feel energetic, or veg out in the room or the bar if you don't. If you try to be up and active when your bodyclock is still in the USA (I'm presuming that from AA) you will feel exhausted for days.

For that reason I suggest choosing a hotel in the Karol Bagh market district for your first two nights. There will be lots of interesting things right outside the door.

I would not miss the Taj Mahal. Spend as little time in Agra as you need to, but you will regret missing it. For me, it was the most spectacular building I have ever seen; and I've seen a lot:

Before I make any more suggestions, what means of transport do you intend using, especially for the long haul to Varanasi?

Some of my experiences in '08 may offer ideas: http://loraltravel.blogspot.com/2006...of-france.html

(yeah, I have to change that url

Cheers, Alan, Australia.
Born Under a Wandering Star
Trav_Eller is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2012, 07:23 PM
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it is doable, but 3 days in varanasi is way too much...two would be fine and you could even do it reasonably well in one full day...

i like 2 nights in agra thus allowing you a full day there..
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:56 PM
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I would do it. In some ways a short trip is a nice intro to India. You're moving quickly, but won't be there so long that it will become exhausting. Of course, keep in mind that I've gone to Japan on three or four day trips when an opportunity jumped at me!

Unless you plan to go to Sarnath, I agree that 3 nights in Varanasi is too much for this short trip. The first time I went to Varanasi, we spent just two nights, and it was still worth the trip. If I recall, the flights all arrive mid-day, so with two nights you get a half day, one full day, and then another half day on day three.
(You can read my report at http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...--dec-2005.cfm)

I'd also like two nights for Agra, but you can still see enough with only one night. Take the early morning tourist train from Delhi. You'll arrive about 9am and have the rest of the day. I'd arrange a driver in advance to pick you up from the train, so you don't waste time negotiating once there.

You could visit the Taj late that same afternoon or at sunrise the next morning. You'll also have enough time to visit Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb (the Baby Taj), the Fort, and maybe even the gardens across the river from the Taj. Keep in mind that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
lcuy is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:59 PM
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Thanks, everyone. I will be hitting all of you up about the specific itinerary once we decide what to do about the tickets.

Alan, here are the answers to your questions:

- Jet lag? Yes, we are traveling from the west coast of the U.S, but I'm still not sure we want to spend two days in Delhi. Thanks for the tip about hotel locale.

- Why Varanasi? Because it's quintessential India, plus we have an interest in the music there. Bob, interesting to note that you think two days is plenty (gleaned that from your trip report). A shorter stay there would free us up for more time elsewhere. Or maybe we should save it for the next trip.

- How are we traveling? Flying to Varanasi, train to Agra, for the rest probably a private driver.

- Why a "retreat"? We tend to prefer rural Asia over giant cities - would hike to villages and get a little off the beaten track. Thinking of several spots in Rajasthan, but tops on my list is Ahiya Fort in Maheshwar near Indore, which might not work because it requires an additional internal flight.

- Delhi: Thinking of avoiding Delhi entirely...just spending one night then going to the Oberoi at the Taj to relax.

- South of France? Sounding very easy, compared to all this.
crosscheck is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 12:02 AM
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A possible itinerary for you to consider.

Presuming 8.5 days = 8 nights.

I still think you need at least 24 hours in Delhi to relax, so consider two nights. Why do I think that? The voice of experience; Australia is a long way from anywhere: http://my.flightmemory.com/AlanS

However, I have designed this as something for you to work with based on one night there. The distance from Agra to Varanasi may look short, at about 600km, but Indian times on routes like that are loooong (see my blog on Indian Roads). You would be really struggling to drive that comfortably in a day. So I suggest a car for Delhi-Jaipur-Agra but the train for Agra (Agra Fort Station) to Varanasi and the plane to return to Delhi, although a train may do for that.

Night 1 Delhi Karol Bagh. Lots of hotels from cheap to expensive to choose from.
Night 2 Car to Jaipur, arriving mid-afternoon. Stay Jaipur.
Night 3 See Jaipur.
Night 4 Amber Fort in the am, then drive to Agra via Baoli and Fatehpur Sikri. Stay Agra.
Night 5 Taj Mahal in the early morning, Red Fort after lunch, then say goodbye to the driver and take the night train (Marudhar Express) to Varanasi.
Night 6 Varanasi (possibly hire another driver).
Night 7 Varanasi
Night 8 Air to Delhi
Night 9 Depart

I didn't travel by rail myself so I suggest you also drop in on IndiaMike: http://www.indiamike.com/
The members there were a great help when I was planning my own India trips.

Cheers, Alan, Australia
Trav_Eller is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 02:05 AM
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The flights will be quite long it will take days to get over jet lag usually expensive visas involved lots can go wrong there on a crammed itinerary.October not the best month particularly in the south.So I am firmly in in the wait
till you have more time camp.I might consider Bali Hyatt Sanur beach www.komaneka.com Monkey Forest same Hindu vibe you are looking for with a more seamless experience.

Good luck either way.
qwovadis is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 06:15 AM
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I am going to differ from all of the above comments. You like rural, and so do we so I've been looking into such places. I think you can acheive your goal of seeing some of the true India and having some relaxation all at the same time. Do so by skipping ALL of the usual places most people visit in India (or Rajasthan anyway). Read this article that recommends that first time visitors to India do not do the usual, and get some ideas for some spectacular heritage places you could spend your time.

Book 3 of them (or similar places) and take life easy in your 8.5 days.

And, if you want to do some more outdoorsy things, take a look at this place that is only 70k from Agra. It sounds quite interesting and could probably fit nicely into an itinerary. http://www.chambalsafari.com/activites.html
julies is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 06:19 AM
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Thanks - I actually like your itinerary, Alan, but Mr. C is now saying that we should wait until we have more time. We know about Australian distances/jet lag...Have been there three times and it's one of my favorite places. Quo - I spent a month in Bali in the '80's and have been reluctant to go back because it was truly paradise then and seems so resorty now. But we will return at some point with our sons and combine the orangutans in Borneo.

To complicate this dilemma, we just found tickets to India for longer in mid-September (11 days), but I'm concerned about the monsoon. It seems as if India is chaotic enough without having to worry about floods and landslides.
crosscheck is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 06:39 AM
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I think we were posting at once. We are considering out-of-the-box places, including a short tribal tour led by Indian art expert Louise Nicholson (http://www.louisesindia.com/) but we're reluctant to give up Agra and Varanasi. I do think others have a good point about jet lag/relaxing. No matter where you go, it takes a while to get into the rhythm of the place, and it seems that India works its magic slowly.
crosscheck is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 07:14 AM
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crosscheck - we were in India Sept 14-Oct 10 and did not experience rain once. I would jump at the chance to travel, even if limited in time. Visit Varanasi at the end of the trip when the monsoon waters may have subsided a bit. The water levels at the ghats (steps) will lower.

I agree with the prior posters about limiting Varanasi to 2 days. Just remember that it takes time to get to and from places and that there can be delays.

I like Tra_Eller's itinerary, but think you should include another day in Delhi if you have additional time. We were greatly surprised at how much we enjoyed our time there and there is much to see between New Delhi and Old Delhi. I suggest you hire a driver as things are greatly spread out in Delhi.

I also suggest you make stops at the Monkey Temple and Stepping Wells between Jaipur and Agra. We liked those stops even more than Fatehpur Sikri as they were so different from other sites that you will see. The drive between these cities also affords you with an opportunity to see village life along the way.

We rated Jaipur very highly on our list of cities and we enjoyed just strolling through the streets and watching the people in addition to seeing the sites. When it got unbearably hot, we stopped in for a reprieve at the theatre to see a Bollywood movie which was great fun, especially to my husband who had not seen one before. While we could not understand everything, the storylines of these movies are easy to follow and quite entertaining.

As for jet lag - be sure to sleep on the plane and push yourself forward. The jet lag on the return flight is usually much worse.

I would not give up Agra and it is so easy to get to.
dgunbug is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:33 AM
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In Agra......do visit Fatehpur Sikri too......Mughal Emperor Akbar's capital for a while............about 40 kms away from Agra. It is really a splendid collection of buildings about open-spaces, if you are interested in Architecture.

Ofcourse Taj Mahal is peerless.

Talking about a collection of buildings, let me also mention the Capitol Complex of Chandigarh, designed and conceived by the great French/ Swiss architect Le Corbusier.
Blwetorch is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 11:57 AM
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Just one small tip on jetlag that works for me.

I set my watch to destination time as soon as I have settled in my plane seat. From that moment on I think in that time. For example, if it's 1pm when I leave LA for Hong Kong and it's 5am in Hong Kong, then my watch is set to 5am and the first meal served on the flight is breakfast in my mind regardless of what it is called by the flight stewards. I still try to get some sleep during the trip, but I am unconcerned if I don't get a lot of sleep because I never plan any activities for my first 24 hours. That lets me relax and get adjusted to local time on arrival.

I make sure I wake before local breakfast time on my first morning in the hotel and from then on any jetlag is gone.

Cheers, Alan, Australia
Trav_Eller is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 01:25 PM
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Thanks, all. I'm glad everyone is still looking out for me. I managed to extend the hold on all the various flights and I'm going to call a few Indian friends/experts today to get their opinions. As of yesterday, we were thinking of Bhutan instead (still flying through Delhi) because all of the itineraries there seem to be just a week. But India keeps calling to me.

djun, Mr. C is reluctant about September, not just because of the rain, but because of the heat. I vividly remember something about a "three-shirt day" in your trip report.

Blwe, yes, the Taj Mahal is still on our list. Will be consulting all of you about specific itineraries once we decide whether to go. As of today, I'm thinking of skipping Varanasi and just doing Agra-Jaipur-Ahilya Fort - that would be just two domestic flights.

Trav, Wish I could say that I follow your jet lag advice - I almost never make it to the hotel breakfast in Europe.
crosscheck is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 01:34 PM
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If you are thinking about Bhutan, why not consider Sikkim? Sikkim, an independent kingdom until 1975, is now a part of India. Less touristed than Bhutan, with dramatic Himalayan scenery, dotted with Tibetan Buddhist monestaries, it is one of the most fascinating places we've visited. A week in Sikkim would be perfect.

Kathie is online now  
Jan 5th, 2012, 05:36 PM
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crosscheck - you are right about Sept being brutal! My husband and I swear to one another that we will not travel to Asia again in the heat. We did Vietnam in May. Not a pretty site looking at my husband in his sweat soaked shirts.
dgunbug is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 05:59 PM
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September in India will be generally rainy........Delhi and plains of north India are exceptions. These areas will be rather humid and sweaty. It will be raining in the hills mostly.

@ Kathie.....Sikkim is really wonderful, particularly North Sikkim.......Yumthang, the valley of flowers( during May) on the Chinese border is simply wonderful. In September, it will be rainy and slushy though.
Blwetorch is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 06:48 PM
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What else would you be doing those 8.5 days that would top India? Eastern and Southern Africa is excellent that time of year....

With your sense of humor, you'll have a blast. Go for it.

It appears you may have to enjoy some of the destinations you want to visit in moderate slices and savor small bits. Not a bad setup.

Have fun.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 10:54 PM
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@Dgunbug, Thank you for your suggestion of the Monkey Temple (Galta?) and the Stepping Wells. I have these on "the plan" so glad to hear they are worth it! (Step Wells between Jaipur and Karauli . it will be my first ever time in the area--first time in Jaipur!!!

@Crosscheck--so did you book?????!!!!
CaliNurse is offline  

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