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Ideas of places to visit in Northern India/Rajasthan

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Sep 28th, 2009, 07:09 AM
  #1
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Ideas of places to visit in Northern India/Rajasthan

My husband and I are spending our 20th anniversary at the Lake Palace in Udaipur (Whee!) in December. We're spending 3 nights there. We fly into Delhi and have a week before we check into the Lake Palace. I am mad about Indian history and culture and have always wanted to visit Jaipur, Jodphur and Udaipur. I also want to see the Taj Mahal. I am not sure how many forts, palaces, temples and shrines my husband (who is not as passionate about Indian history as me...) will be able to bear and am concerned that the above itinerary will contain too much of the same thing. If you had to choose between Jodphur and Jaipur, what would you reccomend? I was also thinking of including a visit to a hill station like Simla but in December the hills will be covered in snow and I'm not sure what the views will be like. I'd welcome any suggestions on how we could fill our week between arrival in Delhi and reaching Udaipur.
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Sep 28th, 2009, 11:00 AM
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As it is your 20th anniversary I would say Agra and Taj Mahal is a must. From Agra you can go to Jaipur and Jodhpur.Both the cities are different and so are the forts there. I am sure your husband will love it. Otherwise you can fly from Jaipur to Udaipur.
As for Simla, if there is snow fall you may be snow bound so I would suggest to you to forget about Simla if you are time bound
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Sep 28th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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I agree that with only a week, you should not try to "do" too many places, as that would mean most of your trip will be spent in airports, cars or trains. My travel mantra is Less is More. And I would agree that going to Agra is a good idea, so that is 2 days out of the 7 you have (and I wonder if the first “day” you arrive in Delhi is actually being included even though you probably arrive late in the evening. It is important to count just days “on the ground” when you don’t arrive or depart on an international flight.).

I have to say that Delhi offers a tremendous about of history, sights and some of the best museums in India, so given your interests, this may be a place to stay for a few days. (A week in India is incredibly short as you will begin to see).

You also have not included Varanasi, which again, given your interests, you may want to include. This would also be a contrast to the Rajathansi cities you are visiting, which you seem to understand will be somewhat similar in terms of architecture, food and history.

To answer your question, if I had to choose between Jaipur and Jodhpur, I would probably choose Jodhpur just because of its spectacular fort which dominates the city, and the lovely blue colour of the city generally when viewed from the fort. Jaipur’s fort is quite a bit out of town and is not a part of the city in the same way. It also has the twisting streets of the old town which are fun to wander, which is difficult to find these days in Jaipur, as it is much larger. However, Jaipur would offer more in terms of the great City Palace Museum and other architectural sites (like the Hawa Mahal) which you may find more interesting. (I could spend 3 days in the City Palace museum alone, their collection is huge. And places like the observatory are quite interesting and even your husband may think so.) A tough choice I would say.

If you time it just right, you probably could fit in all 3 places in 7 days if you did not do any sightseeing in Delhi, but IMO you may be rushing around more than you really would want, and personally I think you are limiting your experience a bit just going to those 3 places. But look at flight schedules and drive/train times and see if it appears to be realistic.

Now with 3 days in Udaipur, you could also do day trips to Kumbhalgarh or Chittogarh forts, both of which are really incredible, so this may be a good “fort fix” for you. And there are places like the Monsoon Palace up on the hill above Udaipur which you can visit. So Jodhpur and Jaipur together may not be necessary. You could even spend more time in Udaipur but see local sights out of town rather than moving between cities.

I think Shimla would be interesting (and consider Wildflower Hall hotel there), but again with only a week and given your interests, IMO your time could be better spent elsewhere. You could consider a place like Rishikesh, which is in the foothills of the Himalaya and so would not have the snow issues but would offer mountains and Himalaya views (in the distance). It is a small charming place and could be a substitute for Varanasi (it has some similar spiritual significance), as well as offering the chance to do walks, etc. I would look at Ananda in the Himalaya there, see (http://www.anandaspa.com/) or possibly Glass House on the Ganges (see http://www.neemranahotels.com/glasshouse/index.html.htm), although there are more budget options in town, including the option of staying in an ashram. Rishikesh is reachable by air or train from Delhi.
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Sep 28th, 2009, 11:00 PM
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You could do Agra, Jaipur & one fort-palace hotel between Jaipur & Udaipur. It could be Shahpura Bagh or the luxury tents at Nimaaj, located as these are on the banks of a lake. You could add a special poolside dinner at Shahpura Bagh. Simla should be ruled out in the month of December (15 Dec. to 10 Jan), when the schools & colleges are closed & every one makes a beeline for Simla. It is simply too full, especially around Christmas...I would, though, rate the town as the most photogenic of all the northern hill stations, with great views from the rear of the viceregal lodge, the Mall, through Lakkar Bazaar to the Clarkes Hotel.
If you plan on the Glasshouse at Rishikesh, opt for cottage VI (Mangeshwari??). It has fabulous views of the Ganges & the hills in the background. The cute little fire place in the courtyard, adding to the romance of a 20 years special & intense togetherness!
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Sep 29th, 2009, 09:26 AM
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Thanks, guys, for all your detailed comments. They're going to take a while to digest! Totally agree with Cicerone that less is more. Will save Shimla for our next visit!

Hubbie has now come up with the idea of a few nights at Sher Bagh tented camp outside the Ranthambore National Park. I think this might make a nice change from all the forts/museums I'll be dragging him around! Opinions?

Also, is it possible to go by train direct from Agra to Sawai Madhopur or should we go by car?
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Sep 29th, 2009, 09:52 AM
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Car will take a long time. From Agra you will have to go to Bharatpur and take the train from there to Sawai Madhopur. Ranthambore is a good idea. To see a tiger in the wild is awesome.
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Sep 29th, 2009, 04:29 PM
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Hi snookie,

Congratulations on your 20th anniversary; India will be a great place to celebrate!

I can understand how someone can get architecture fatigue! We try to focus our visits the most important (historically and architecturally) sites to make sure that we remain fresh. Here is a Google map http://bit.ly/1YCuj that highlights the best sites in Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri (near Agra).

I saw that Cicerone included Varanasi on the list - I have to agree...it is an incredible site. If you have interest in Varanasi (exactly the opposite direction of Rajasthan, but a wonderful experience), we just posted on the subject: http://bit.ly/VXX04 We have included info about the city and the ghats that I think is valuable for any visitor.
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Sep 29th, 2009, 08:00 PM
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I have been to Ranthambore several times and always enjoy it, even if I don’t see tiger (which is more usually the case, just to keep your expectations realistic). I have not been to Sher Bagh, but others on this board have, run a search or perhaps one of them will post on it. (I also like to read tripadvisor.com reviews; mostly for the bad ones to see what to look out for. There is a theory that some of the posts are written by the hotels themselves, but my view is that they are unlikely to write a bad review on their own hotel. Tons of bad reviews is also a sign that a hotel may not be a good choice.) There is also an Aman, an Oberoi and also a Taj property there, the first two are glitzy and expensive, the Taj is in the art deco former hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Jaipur and is loaded with atmosphere. At that hotel, I would probably take a tent (if available generally they have them in winter) or the suites upstairs in the main building which have the original bathroom fixtures and are quite something. (Taj may offer you a deal for this hotel and the Lake Palace, hard to say as December is high season but worth checking.) There are other hotel/tent options in the area as well.

There are only 2 game drives a day into Ranthambore Park, one at sunrise and one in the late afternoon; so plan for enough time there to do several drives as you can see more animals and IMO this also increases your chances of seeing tiger. Be sure to book drives well in advance (like right now for a December trip). The park is bound to be quite crowded during the time you would be there, and I understand that this can sometimes detract from the experience; so again keep your expectations realistic. This is not Africa. There are no night drives and you can’t off-road to chase animals. But it is quite interesting IMO. You want to be in the small 4-person jeeps and not in the larger jitney/cantor open buses. (The morning drives are going to be cool to cold, so bring gloves and hat and even long underwear is not out of place. The hotels will give you blankets to bring, but gloves and a hat make a big difference, IMO. Once the sun comes up, the temps are very pleasant.)

I completely agree that you don’t want to drive between Ranthambore and Agra. One of the worst roads I have been on in India, and that is saying something. It’s an easy drive down from Jaipur to the park. You can then train to Agra, or vice versa, it takes about 4 hours. (The comment above about going to Bharataphur is confusing to me, as you don’t have to go to Bharataphur to get a train to Sawai Madophur, you can get trains from the Agra Fort train station.) You can also train to Delhi from the park (4-5 hours), so you could go to Agra first from Delhi, drive to Jaipur (on good roads, make stop at Fatephur Sikri), drive Jaipur to the park and then train to Delhi. Or train from Delhi to the park, then drive to Jaipur, then drive to Agra. Or drive back and forth from Jaipur and the park, and fly into or out of Jaipur to another destination like Udaipur, Jodhpur or Varanasi. You could even train to Jodhpur from the park, about 8-12 hours depending on the train you take. There would be several ways to work on an itin. For train schedules look at www.indianrail.gov.in, I also find that Indiamike is a useful source of info on trains in India. See http://www.indiamike.com/india-artic...-indian-train/.
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