Northern India Itinerary Questions

Old Sep 30th, 2011, 08:19 AM
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Northern India Itinerary Questions

We (age 61 & 65) will be spending two weeks in northern India (arriving in Delhi on Jan. 5) and have received a multitude of suggestions on an itinerary from this site and from tour operators. We are trying to flesh out the details and are asking for comments. We are not interested in seeing how much area we can cover, but rather spending time soaking up the culture. So with that in mind what are the "must sees" for our first trip to India and what can be left for a later trip, assuming there will be one. The following are cities we are considering, but if you have other ideas we are open to additional suggestions:
Agra
Varanasi
Udaipur
Jaipur
Jodhpur
Ranthambhore (Have been to Serengeti, so any comparison)
Khajuraho
Pushkar
gpotvin is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2011, 10:10 AM
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I think you have the right attitude about touring northern India. On our first trip we visited Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambore and Delhi over 12 days. Having since returned for a second trip (Varanasi, Udaipur and Aurangabad), I have somewhat of an opinion on what you should do:

Since you will have to fly into Delhi anyway, I suggest you spend a day or two there even though it is not on your list.

Agra is a must for the Taj Mahal.

I would pick Udaipur over Jaipur, if I had to choose.

Game parks in India are different from those in Africa - there's no "Big 5" but you may see a tiger and there is other interesting wildlife to see. Game drives are long - I think one per day is enough (3 over a 2-night stay). Do make sure you arrange your vehicle ahead of time and try to get a private jeep. The vehicles and guides are provided by the government but can be arranged through your lodging. We enjoyed Ranthambore - it is a beautiful setting and was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the Indian cities.

If you can somehow squeeze in Varanasi (and I strongly recommend that you do if you don't plan to return), do it toward the end of your trip.

We have not been to Jodhpur, Khajuraho or Pushkar, mainly because they too far flung...

I have written reports on each of our India trips. Click on my name to access them.
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Old Sep 30th, 2011, 03:38 PM
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I will add one place for your consideration: Amritsar and its GoldenTemple (and other sites in the town) is "must-see" as much as is the Taj Mahal. Why? Because the Golden Temple is a LIVNG monument--by that i mean, it is history AND currently used. YOu will be "soaking up the culture" in a coupl;e hours spent walking round the pools, and seeing how thousands a day are fed, than in many other places.

However, Amritsar is in a different direction from the rest of your places. YOU can fly or take a train from New Delhi.
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 01:01 PM
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If you have not been to India before I would recommend starting in Udaipur. It is gentler than starting in Agra and Varanasi.
You could then drive to Jodphur (hire a car and driver, stopping at the fort and Jain temple on the way).
I would not do Pushcar, I did not like it at all but that is just my opinion.
As Craig says, I would omit the game drive as I hear many dont see the tigers anyhow and if you are short of time I would cut that out.

You could go to Jaipur, then Varanasi and Agra last. You can do the overnight train from Varanasi to Agra and then the train again from Agra to Delhi. The last two cities are rather intense and by the time you get there you will be more used to India and not so overwhelmed. That being said I think they are both a MUST SEE.
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 02:16 PM
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Hi gpotvin!

My preferred sites on your list are:

Agra. Try to go during a full moon when they open the gates for nighttime viewing.
Varansi. Simply amazing, but I agree with live42day, you might want to put that later in the itinerary. We stayed in the city at a small boutique hotel and ate at the Taj outside of the city.
Khajuraho. The temples are wonderful and the pinnacle of the northern temple style.

Re Tigers: The two of the best places to see tigers are Kanha National Park or Bandhavgarh National Park (outside of Khajuraho). They are the only two wildlife parks in India that offer you the opportunity to ride into inaccessible areas of the park on mahout-driven elephants to view tigers up-close during the day (this is called a “tiger show”). In addition, both parks have a large tiger population, making them the two premier spots in India for sightings.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 05:40 PM
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I found Khajuraho the most serene and pleasant place I visited on my entire trip to India last fall. It's a must, and the temples are magnificent. I think I'd have to second the point someone above made about Jaipur. I didn't really find it so great, so Udaipur might be a better choice. You almost have to visit Agra, if only for the Taj, but it's otherwise not my favorite place. I found Varanasi to be magnificent, but also a mess, so you just have to deal with the crowds and the chaos.

Now about Ranthambore. It is in no way comparable to the Serengeti. The abundant wildlife is just not there, and you may or may not see anything other than monkeys and peacocks. We saw a wild boar, which I'm told is very rare, but other groups the same day spotted a tiger. No such luck for us. So don't go expecting to see a lot of wildlife. It's an interesting park, but not like an African safari.
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 06:35 PM
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if you have not been there before, i would do 3 days delhi and the rest split between agra (two nights) and jaipur (3 nights) and one other stop---maybe a flight to varanasi
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Old Oct 7th, 2011, 08:15 PM
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The Pushkar Camel Fair (usually in November) is wonderful for photography, but I wouldn't put it on my short list at any other time of year.

Concur that Ranthambore is totally different from Africa (it can't begin to compare with the volume of animals you find in the Serengeti) -- but IF you need to see a tiger...here's your CHANCE. It's really a matter of luck -- we had two days at Ranthambore and it rained one of those. We spotted a tiger the next day and followed it for 20 minutes -- but the other half of our group did not see even a trace of one.
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Old Oct 8th, 2011, 11:43 AM
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Consider the possibility that "must sees" and "soaking up the culture" are concepts that can be at odds with one another. The first is often following the crowd with consequent crowds. The second is going to places possibly off the beaten path where one can actually participate in a more authentic, or at least less crowded, version of the culture of the country. They are often not the same places and I urge you to consider your real goals as you make your destination decisions.
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Old Oct 10th, 2011, 11:40 AM
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Hi Gpotvin. I am following your thread as my friend and I will be touring Northern India in January as well, albeit for 3 weeks. We are currently building our itinerary and we are feeling we may be a little late. (We were recently told that the private jeeps in Ranthambhore are all booked up already. We hope this isn't the case when we select our hotels.)

We are looking at a lot of similar destinations, however, we also wanted to spend a few days at a yoga retreat or ashram. Does anyone have any suggestions for a real tranquil place and/or whether they think this would be a good experience for a first trip to India? I am in no way an experienced yogi . . .
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