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First Trip to India -- Need Help Deciding Where To Go!

First Trip to India -- Need Help Deciding Where To Go!

Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 05:23 PM
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First Trip to India -- Need Help Deciding Where To Go!

My husband and I are preparing for our first trip to India next December. I am looking for advice on where to go, what to see, etc.

From what I have read, it looks like we should plan to spend 2-3 days in Delhi, 2 days in Agra (visiting the Taj Mahal, Fort Agra, and “Baby Taj”), 2 days in Jaipur (visiting Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, City Palace and Jantar Mantar Observatory), and 2 days in Udaipur.

Does this seem like the right amount of time to spend in each place? What should we do with the rest of our time? Is it better to see Bombay, one of the beaches (Goa or Kerala), or something else?

lw2117 is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 06:10 PM
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you have not told us how long your trip will be or what your interests are...

many of us, myself included, do our first trip in the so called golden triangle: delhi, agra, and jaipur...if time permits then we do other things: national park, vanassi and other places...

remember it generally takes 5-6 hours to drive from one place to another and almost as much time of the train if there is one so you really have to add a day for travel between each site...

i will do the golden triangle and then 3 days in kathmandu i think and that will account for 14 days total...

i have considered spending an extra day in jaipur as there is more to do and you can spend your arrival day and one more day in agra as there is not too much there i am told...

also delhi has quite a bit to see so i am spending 4 days there total i believe, plus my arrival day and an additional transit day...

getting around is slow so you have to plan to move slowly...don't over plan...

i am using an indian agent to assist me...i have spoken to several and am still considering which one to use trip will be next november---2006...
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:25 PM
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Your destinations are all great, but if you can manage to shorten Agra to one night and a day, it would probably be better. Apart from the obvious attraction of the Taj, its one of the least-appealing places in India; I'd suggest doing it as a day-trip from Delhi except for the fact that, unless you get to the monument at the crack of dawn (it opens at 6 a.m.), you won't even enjoy your visit to the Taj, as it is crawling with people by 8:30. So a night in Agra, at a hotel very close to the entrance ticket office, is a good idea.... so is getting out ASAP after your visit is complete.

How much time do you have on your hands? Jodhpur, Jaisalmer (wow!) and Bundi are all interesting places in the same general area as your planned destinations, and they are all quite wonderful! Varanasi is one of the great sights of the world and one of the two or three most interesting cities in India. Goa, which you are considering, is lovely, but more like Europe than India, and much of it is VERY touristy. It's a long way to go from Delhi, and, unless you have a month at your disposal, I really think that you'd probably get more bang for your buck by concentrating on places you can get to overnight from Delhi.

Trains are a good way to travel, and when you are considering major destinations like Delhi and Varanasi, you can always count on several trains a day from which you can choose the time that suits you. The one place that is a bit difficult to get to from just about anywhere else is Udaipur; I was rather overjoyed to find that there is an overnight bus between Udaipur and Bundi, which may be worth keeping in mind when you're planning the remainder of your trip.

Have a great time!
Alan is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 07:29 PM
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I personally would not miss out on Varanasi, there is nothing quite like it..Also would take a side trip to Mandawa, it was probably my fav. spot..And if you have the time, check out Kerala..It is totally different than Rajasthan, but just beautiful...and the people are soooo friendly...Agra is only good for Taj Mahal...don't spend 2 days.
TracyB is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 09:38 PM
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I already briefyl replied to your other post. I think u need 3 nights in Delhi i.e. 4 days if your first day is the one you fly in - it will be a long flight and u will not get much done.From Delhi take an early morning train or car/driver to Agra. U will reach Agra in 3 hours. Go to see the Taj once that day, see Agra Fort. If u can afford to splurge the hotel to splurge on for this 1 night is Amar Vilas in Agra. The next morning wake up for the 6 AM morning Taj viewing - this is the least crowded time. After brekafast pack up and en route your drive to Jaipur see Fatehpur Sikri. 2 nights in Jaipur is rushed but doable. Ditto Udaipur. From Jaipur look into flying into Udaipur. From Udaipur you can fly to Goa via Mumbai or back to Delhi. I would not include Kerala in this trip - too rushed. Other things you could add in lieu of Goa which fit well with this itinerary are Ranthambore - if you want to do a safari tho seeing tigers is a challenge in the winter esp., Jaisalmer - one of my fav Rajasthan cities tho out of the way, Jodhpur, Bundi, Varanasi.
hobbes is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 09:46 PM
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a. Three days in Delhi on arrival is recommended, after a long journey of about 18 hours & considerable amount of jetlag. This allows you to have not only a fixed itinerary for sight seeing but also a day extra to explore Delhi, as you may like.
b. A day in Agra is good as you can see Fort Agra & Tomb of Itmaduddaullah, on arrival. Taj is best seen early next morning when one is fresh & the rising sun, modulations of it’s rays, enhances the beauty of the monument. Spend an hour here to soak in the ambience.
c. 2 days in Jaipur would mean rushing through it. Remember, on the day of your arrival, you will see the Taj in Agra, Fatehpur Sikri & Keoladeo Bird sanctuary – with every tree & lake full with myriads of birds both local & migratory & adding every call to the nature’s orchestra – in the month of December! An extra day for you to catch up on your diary.
d. Two days in Udaipur is sufficient for sight seeing, may be one more day for side trips. This is one of the green belts of Rajasthan.
e. Apart from these destinations, most recommended for your introduction to India, we have some delectable hotels & palace properties in rural Rajasthan, both east & west of the road from Jaipur to Udaipur. The charm of Rajasthan lies in it’s villages, the same ambience that you feel while reading books of Thomas Hardy’s 19th century England but happily, the engine of social change in Rajasthan is chugging along at a slow merry pace!! You shall see irrigation being still done through Persian wheels, little girls taking lunch basket for their papa who is working in fields, the shepherds bringing their burden home & the sight of the sun disappearing over the Arravali mountains, as you sip your evening tea/coffee, sitting as you are on the ramparts of an old fort!
f. After your sojourn in Rajasthan, you may take off from Udaipur for Mumbai on the way to either Goa or Kerala. Goa is best when explored on your own, with maybe, a days fixed itinerary. There is a lot to see & experience here. Further down south you have Backwaters of Kerala where one can stay on a houseboat & beautiful beaches of Varkala & Kovalam. Selection of one of these destinations will obviously be in consonance with your own interests & likings.
Best Wishes!
vp_singh is offline  
Old Jan 7th, 2006, 07:30 AM
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Thanks everyone for all the great tips! We are planning a 14-day trip as most of you guessed. From your recommendations, it sounds like we should plan for:
- 3 nights/4 days in Delhi
- 1 night/2 days in Agra
- 2 nights/2 days Jaipur
- 2 nights/2 days Udaipur

Then we should spend the remainder in Rajasthan. We recently did a 2 week safari in Africa so I can skip Ranthambore on this trip, but I'd love to leanr more about Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bundi, Varanasi, and Mandawa. What makes each of these locations special? How close are they? Can we fit 2 or 3 in or do I need to focus on 1?

Thanks for all your help!
lw2117 is offline  
Old Jan 7th, 2006, 08:59 AM
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Hi lw2117,

I just returned today from India after 21 days traveling in this fascinating country. I am a bit too weary from traveling to get into detail, but I will be posting a trip report shortly.

Just quickly however, I wouldn't miss Varanasi! It is an absolute must. I'm with Alan on Agra. If you can do a day trip, then do it and get out of Agra. Agra has nothing but the Taj. (forget the "baby Taj") Yes, the Red Fort is nice in Agra, but you will see 50 forts before you are done and there is nothing like the stunning fort in Jodhpur (which turned out to be one of my favorite cities.)

I spent a couple days in Mumbai which I found very interesting as well.

Anyway, I will be posting a trip report with photos soon.

Thanks to everyone for the great pre-trip input. It was invaluable!

Time for a nap
BostonHarbor is offline  
Old Jan 7th, 2006, 11:06 AM
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Great choices and suggestions so far. I think you have to figure out if you want to stay localized and concentrate on Rajasthan, or go for something completely different ala Varanasi, Goa, Kerala. Also, you are going to 4 extremely popular areas (for good reasons), so you might consider something off the beaten path. The Mandawa suggestion is intriguing, like a ghost town frozen in time. Also, you may choose to leave a blank in your itenerary to respond to fellow traveler's suggestions. One of my most enjoyable times was taking a break from it all and chilling out in Ranakpur (near Udaipur). Jaisalmer for the quintessential Rajasthani desert experience, Jodhpur for the Blue City and the incomparable Meherangarh.

Kerala is popular, but there are lots of areas to go to. We spent our last 5 days there resting at Lake Vembanad and cruising the backwater canals.

As a side note, I didn't find Agra any better or worse than a dozen other Indian big cities and would rather do the two days there than the 4 you have for Delhi. I could sit on the bridge across the Yamuna (Jama Masjid Rd?) during "rush hour" for hours - just mind boggling. There's a lot more to do in Agra than just the Taj, and I agree doing that at opening time.

So, so many choices - you can't go wrong.

India Travel Photos --
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Old Jan 7th, 2006, 02:03 PM
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Welcome back, Patricia (BostonHarbor). Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I look forward to reading your report and seeing your photos. I agree with you that the Agra Fort is like many others. We did not do Delhi's Red Fort for just that reason. I hope to get to Jodhpur and Varanasi on a future trip - with only 12 days on land, it was difficult to cover everything. I totally disagree with you on the Baby Taj. The drive there alone makes it worth it - we got some of our most colorful photographs in the area just across the bridge. The ride back and forth on the bridge was an adventure in itself. The Baby Taj was special in that we were the only tourists there when we went. The marble inlay is much more detailed than at the Taj and the landscaping is beautiful. It was neat to see our first Indian squirrel there. The Baby Taj has its own interesting history - I hope you had a decent guide when you went. We also were able to take great photos of river activity from the Baby Taj.
Craig is offline  
Old Jan 7th, 2006, 02:50 PM
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We too are about to take our first trip to India. We will be in the country for about 18 days in March.

After careful consideration and research we have settled on the following itinerary:

Delhi: 4 nights
Darjeeling: 7 nights
Siliguri: 2 nights as a transit stop to and from Darjeeling (Indian Air from Delhi)
Agra: 3 nights

It would seem that there is quite a lot to see around Agra, including Fatepur Sikri.

Getting into the mountains is a high priority, thus Darjeeling and the DHR. <>

Also, as a 50 something couple with some considerable travel experience, we have decided that we wish to spend a few restful days in each location as opposed to trying to get everywhere in a short period of time.

We are obviously missing so much, but then again, who isn’t?
tatersalad is offline  
Old Jan 7th, 2006, 03:06 PM
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We found one night in Agra to be plenty. The town has the TAj and about two hours more of monuments. Fatepur Sikri is one hour out of town and takes about an hour to see. We took the 6am train from Delhi, saw the Baby Taj, the Fort, shopping and a quick taj view the first day, Stayed at the Amarvilas that night, then got up early to be a the Taj at opening. Stayed there about 2 hours, then ame back for breakfast, swam in the pool, and drove to Fatepur "Sikri. Still had time for the 6 hour drive to Jaipur.

Shopping in Agra is junk...I wouldn't waste time there. Two nights would be plenty if you want to come back after touring Fatepur Sikri the second day or I'd take the late afternoon tarin back to Delhi on day two and fly to Siliguri from there.

Also, can you take Jet or Sahara insted of Air India? I din't fly Air India, but my daughter did several times and said there is a big difference in the planes, service and on time record. I found Jet and Sahara to be the same price and to fly essentially at the same times as well.
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Old Jan 7th, 2006, 03:18 PM
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You will love India. We just returned from a 15 day trip with our children. New Delhi, Agra (Baby Taj is absolutely beautiful, a jewel box, and not packed with crowds) Fatekpur Sikri en route to Jaipur is amazing, and Kelodeo Bird Sanctuary is also wonderful but you will be exhausted when you pull into Jaipur. From Jaipur we drove back to Delhi and flew to Kolkatta (which was absolutely wonderful). We flew into Bagdogra and
drove to Darjeeling which lies in the foothills of the Himalayas. You are truly at the ceiling of the world. Sunrise on Kantenjunga, the world's third highest peak, after K2 and Everest, is gorgeous.

Our trip was very special in that we were searching for ancestral clues, graves, and homes belonging to my father and grandfather who's family had lived in Kolkatta (Calcutta) for generations.

Months ago I read Craig's (by now) famous travelogue on this site of his trip to India with his wife. Compass Tours, based in New Delhi, made all the arrangementsand and he was very pleased with their work. I too utilized their services which I found to be excellent. All of the hotel bookings (very high end, and some mid-range) were in order as were the internal plane bookings. At every stop Compass was there to meet and greet. The guides and drivers they arranged were all personable (my family's age group is 13-50), knowledgeable, and kind. They're support team was equally thoughtful and helpful. I would not hesitate to work with them again. I was especially impressed with the team they utilized in Darjeeling, our guide Binod and driver Ranjit were fabulous.

Have a wonderful trip.
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Old Jan 7th, 2006, 03:27 PM
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As a follow-up to my recent post to contact Compass write to Varsha or Durjay at [email protected]
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Old Jan 7th, 2006, 04:21 PM
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I’m sure you are right about shopping in Agra; this is the end of our trip so we hope to have all the shopping done.

Actually, we will arrive late for the first night and intend to start late the first day to see some of the less major sites. The second day we will start with The Taj very early in the morning, then the third day we will again get a late start for Fateplur Sirki and then back to Delhi for our over night flight to Amsterdam.

The sites that we intend to visit are: ITIMAD-DU-DAULAH, SIKANDRA, DAYAL BAGH, JAMA MASJID, and of course AGRA FORT, THE TAJ, and FATEHPUR SIKRI.

We are booked at the Mughal Sheraton. They have a large grounds where we intend to rest and relax. We may get bored, but we did decide that we were going to take a much slower pace this trip, unlike we usually have done.

Indian Air was the only flight that we could arrange to Siliguri, Sahara doesn’t fly this route and Jet does only on certain days of the week at a much higher fare. I’m hoping that Indian isn’t too bad (any flight that you walk away from is a good one).

I appreciate your input and have enjoyed your trip report.
tatersalad is offline  
Old Jan 7th, 2006, 05:08 PM
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t- sounds like you have it planned the best way for you, and you're tright, it should be a nice restful period before going home! I just wanted to make sure you kneew what to expect!
lcuy is offline  
Old Jan 8th, 2006, 10:47 PM
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Ranthambore should be eschewed. Let the government wake up to the issue of dwindling tiger population! I would much rather promote tourism to those parks & states that are more concerned with the preservation of this most beautiful of our cats…you must read the article on Tigers by that famous African hunter Robert Ruark…only then one can appreciate fully what loss of tigers means to the Indian forest!!
a. Mandawa lies 108 miles north-northwest of Jaipur. This region is known as Shekhawati. It was on the medieval spice route starting from Egypt through Balochistan, Sind, Delhi & beyond. Because of the extensive commerce on this route the businessmen of Shekhawati built some fabulous houses, painted colourfully. The motifs are Hindu mythology, biblical & local bardic. These houses of Fatehpur & Nawalgarh are centers of attraction. Castle Mandawa is a beautiful property, with old world charm & famous fire dance.
b. From Mandawa one can travel to Bikaner, on way to Jaisalmer, The fort & camel breeding farm is major attraction.
c. Jodhpur has been mentioned a lot by other posters. The Mehrangarh fort situates on a high ridge & is a great monument for a photographers film. Jaisalmer lies 182 miles west of Jodhpur. The central attraction is a ‘living fort’, patrician houses which has great exteriors, sand dunes for camel safaris & bonfire dinners amongst local song & dances complete a nice holiday.
d. Your trip will be distended to the east if you decide to go to Varanasi, the oldest living town…2500 years vintage. The ghats, especially when the sun is rising & from a boat is good sightseeing. You will come across a lot of Sadhus, some decrepit chillum smoking & others repositories of Hindu philosophical wisdom! Taj Ganges is a nice property.
e. Bundi is off the beaten track & situates in a valley. Fort Taragarh is perched high on a hilltop. The Haras of Bundi & Kota were gallant warriors & a thorn in the side of the Moslems. There are several palaces with in the fort & some house nice miniatures of Radha-Krishna motifs.
vp_singh is offline  
Old Jan 11th, 2006, 04:49 PM
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Thanks to all for your ideas and feedback. There is so much to see and do I wish I had twice the time! But now I have lots of info to decide with. Thanks again and best travels.
lw2117 is offline  
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