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Finally India! Rajasthan, Agra, Varanasi and National Parks

Finally India! Rajasthan, Agra, Varanasi and National Parks

Jan 5th, 2019, 07:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 161
Finally India! Rajasthan, Agra, Varanasi and National Parks

First time to India! Thank you for all the wonderful trip reports and advice we have poured through. Every bit helped us craft this trip. So many choices! Inspired by these wonderful trip reports, thank you jft, progol, loncal, rje, rhkkmk, ellen75005 and as always a huge thank you to Atravelynn!

We divided our trip between wildlife and historic towns and sites. We don’t like to feel rushed, so we avoid one night stays where possible, but India seems to warrant a lot of one night stays to be able to see so many of it’s magnificent sites!

We will be traveling by plane, train and automobile and depart in about 3 weeks. We are three women family members (me, mom and our cousin), and a first time for all of us. We planned the pace of this trip to give us down time, and keep things slightly slower. We tried to keep travel days in the car at less than 6 hours – we’ll see how well that worked out

After contacting a few tour companies and agents, we decided to book this trip by ourselves. We are using Discover India by Car, and they have been very responsive and super helpful.

So many favorite destinations had to get knocked off the list and this routing is a little unorthodox, but here’s the plan:

Day 1: Arriving Delhi in late morning, spending night at the Aloft for convenience.
Day 2: Fly Jodhpur, be met by our driver – RAAS
Day 3: Jodhpur – RAAS
Day 4: Jodhpur – RAAS
Day 5: Drive to Pushkar – one night Orchard Tents
Day 6: Drive to Bundi – Bundi Vilas
Day 7: Bundi – Bundi Vilas
Day 8: Drive to Ranthambore – Dev Vilas
Day 9: Safari (half day) - Dev Vilas
Day 10: Safari (full day) – Dev Vilas
Day 11: Jaipur – Jasvilas
Day 12: Jaipur – Jasvilas
Day 13: Jaipur – Jasvilas
Day 14: Drive to Agra, visit Fatehpur Sikri - overnight ITC Mughal
Day 15: Fly to Varanasi – BrijRama
Day 16: Varanasi – BrijRama
Day 17: Train to Katni – overnight Kings Lodge
Day 18: Safari - Bandhavgarh
Day 19 Safari - Bandhavgarh
Day 20: Drive to Kanha – Kanha Earth Lodge
Day 21: Safari – Kanha Earth Lodge
Day 22: Safari – Kanha Earth Lodge
Day 23: Fly Jabalpur to Delhi – ITC Mauya
Day 24: Sightsee Delhi – ITC Mauya
Day 25: Fly home

Here’s my ask from Fodorites: Advice on what to absolutely see vs what could get missed. I’ve read all the tour books and trip reports, and we have crafted lists, but we can’t do it all! We love photography (wildlife, landscapes, palaces, people, street scenes, markets), and will be getting up early to chase the light. I’m pretty fascinated with stepwells, so please direct me to any we are near

We love seeing some things off the beaten track that we would not have known about if it were not for advice from fellow travelers. The hidden gems, or just something that every tour book said “this is a must see” and it turned out to really be a “must see.” In Bangkok we searched out a little jeweler down a million side streets that a fodorite suggested. The journey and discovery were wonderful! (Sorry I can’t think who suggested it!)

Things that are on the list at the moment:

Delhi (1 day beginning of trip, 2 days at end):
Swaminarayan Akshardham – we thought we could do this the first afternoon we arrive in Delhi.
Qutab Minar ?
Red Fort – skip? I have seen a couple comments that mention it would be okay to skip this as there were other similar sites
Some shopping – Connaught Place

Jodhpur: Mehrangarh Fort, street photography in old parts of town, recover from jetlag.
Pushkar: I am desperate to interact with camels, but we could not swing the time to go see them at the Camel Breeding Center. Hopefully someone will let me meet their camel.
Bundi: Stepwells
Jaipur: Amber Fort, Jantar Mantar, City Palace, Jal Mahal
Agra: both sunrise and sunset Taj Mahal
Varanasi: we’ve booked Varanasi Walks for a morning and an afternoon walk, but we haven’t decided which of the walks to choose – advice?

(I’m sorry we will not be able to see the Ranakpur Jain Temple nor Jaisalmer - they were top of my list)

Thank you for all the travel inspiration over the years and all the advice! Appreciate it so much!
Local2542 is offline  
Jan 5th, 2019, 09:38 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4,388
Have a fantastic trip Local!! I envy you the excitement of your first time in India. It is always amazing (in ALL kinds of ways) but there's something about that initial visit. Nothing can sufficiently prepare you for it!

Both your ITC hotels are lovely (I was fortunate to stay in them with Starwoood points yrs ago). Staying along the Ganges in Varanasi is a great location,. A friends stayed at Brijrama and loved it. You should be able to get a boat from there direct to the evening aarti . For the ceremony itself use the video setting on your camera or cell phone, with sufficient battery power! (Sounds obvious but my camera died at the most inconvenient time!)

Stepwells: between Jaipur and Agra is the small countryside village of Abhaneri with a fantastic stepwell which fronts the small palace. As you note, there are stepwells in Bundi (I havent seen those so can't compare to Abhaneri's.)

Yes, you can skip Red Fort in Delhi, if you have time to see the Agra Fort. If you arrived late afternoon into Agra, you could see the Fort then , as well as sunset. Note: dont expect much of Agra's sunrise/sunset..it may very well appear as just a small orange ball in the midst of grey.

You are right to be "open minded" about drive times. Neither Rome2Rio, nor Google Maps, will necessarily be accurate.Estimate an additional 50% over the "best case scenario" times.I f les than that---hurray!!

Bring N95 masks!!. You might be able to buy there, but I'd have them on arrival. Amazon has great prices. The usually bad winter air in Delhi/New Delhi is currently particularly horrendous. Google "Air Pollution Delhi" for news and photos. Forewarned is forearmed. Hopefully improved --fingers crossed!!--when you arrive, and then at end of your trip, but be prepared.

Know that the trip, with your long hard excellent planning, can be close to seamless, but will have inevitable snafus. It wouldnt be"Incredible India" if this weren't so!!!
CaliNurse is offline  
Jan 6th, 2019, 10:43 PM
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 204
That sounds like a great itinerary, enjoy your trip! Just a couple of suggestions if you are in the mood for some food experiences. Near the Aloft in Delhi, there's the Andaz which houses a lovely restaurant - Annamaya. It's a nice way to start to your Indian food journey.

Also while the ITC Maurya has some of the best restaurants in Delhi (think Dum Pukht), for a slightly more relaxed time, head to the Taj next door. It has a very good north India food restaurant called Masala Art.
galactus is offline  
Jan 7th, 2019, 03:27 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,645
Sounds like an amazing trip! I agree with CaliNurse's recommendation for the step well in Abhaneri. It is by the far the most spectacular step well we visited and worth a stop. We saw a few in Bundi which were nice to see but not as spectacular.
progol is online now  
Jan 7th, 2019, 03:54 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 161
Thank you so much for the great tips! There is so much to take in when researching any trip, but India seems particularly full of sights and I'm realizing that my notes just don't seem to cover everything.

@CaliNurse I had forgotten about the Abhaneri stepwell! super details and I always appreciate your insights! My mom and cousin will be thankful for the mask suggestion.

@progol thanks for the Abhaneri reminder as well. I'm so intrigued by all the stepwells! I may have to plan my next India visit to be all about stepwells

@galactus great restaurant suggestions! Especially when jet-lagged, it's nice to have a plan in place.

Thank you!
Local2542 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 03:01 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
Just dropping in to see if I can pick up any tips for the trip that I have promised myself I will make, though I'm still not sure when. Perhaps next January or Feb.

i hope that you have a great trip and come back and tell us about it!
annhig is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 05:00 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 161
Thanks @annhig! I'm not so great about finishing trip reports, but I will try to help if I can! We are getting excited! I will be posting another thread or two with specific questions if I can't find the answers by searching. Hope you get to take that trip to India soon!
Local2542 is offline  
Jan 30th, 2019, 03:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 459
Just returned from 4 weeks in India on a personal friends' tour with help from Perfect Travel. I'm jet lagged and have a bad cold, but want to highly recommend the Abhaneri Stepwell. It is truly amazing - allow around 30 minutes there. Also, the food at Dum Pukht at your hotel in Delhi is very, very good and the restaurant is lovely. Our dinner was the best we had in India and one of the best meals I have ever had! The cooking style makes the food melt in your mouth with a unique array of spices. The prawns and lamb chops were especially tasty. You can go on-line to watch videos from the chef!

In Ranthambore, the safaris are very dusty and the roads are bumpy. We took a 2 hour morning tour (cold and few animals) and afternoon (many animals but no tigers). There is also a wonderful women' art collective there off the main road that my friend, who is extremely picky and well researched in crafts, (after going to India 15 times in the last 20 years) took us to. I'll have to get back to you with the name.

We also enjoyed eating at Peshawri restaurant in the ITC Mughal hotel in Agri.

Last edited by gailscout; Jan 30th, 2019 at 03:41 PM.
gailscout is offline  
Jan 30th, 2019, 04:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 459
Tribal Wild Women Craft Industries - Women Craft Ranthambore. H1-20, Riico Industrial Area, Ranthambhor Rd, Sawai Madhopur.
Very high quality items and an amazing variety. We purchased a pillow case made from 125-150 year old bridal saris. Never saw anything like it!
Everyone in our group of 12 purchased items as the variety of clothing, tiger paintings, textiles, children's clothing was very good. They give a short talk and display items the women are working on - they are very proud of their work. We even saw their cow and calf!
gailscout is offline  
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