North Indian Tourist Itinerary

This tour is a broader version of the overdone Golden Triangle trip that normally concentrates on the Konark Temple, Puri Jagannath and Lingaraja, Bhubaneshwar. To have a more comprehensive and meaningful experience in India, I suggest including Khajuraho and Varanasi, which add a spiritual dimension, and five overnights for relaxation: three nights at architecturally rich yet lesser known destinations; two nights at a game park. Since air travel is unreliable, I organize most of the tour by car with driver, which also allows for impromptu stops along the way.

Duration: 17 days

GETTING AROUND: Travel by car and driver from Delhi to the Khajuraho temples, then fly to Varanasi and fly back to Delhi.

THE MAIN ROUTE: Three days: Delhi to Jaipur. Drive 122 kilometers (76 miles) from Delhi to Rajasthan’s Neemrana Fort Palace, located just off the main highway between Delhi and Jaipur. This restored palace, set on a bluff, affords great views and allows for complete relaxation or delightful short walks in the afternoon. The next day, it’s about three hours to Jaipur, where you can stay at a choice of converted palaces or Heritage Hotels while you explore Jaipur’s old bazaars and city monuments.

Two days: Bharatpur. From Jaipur, head to Bharatpur, 176 kilometers (109 miles) to the northeast and India’s most famous bird sanctuary, with more than 300 species in its marshlands and forests.

Three days: Fatehpur Sikri and Agra. Head 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Bharatpur toward Agra and visit the ancient and deserted Moghul capital, Fatehpur Sikri, with its splendid architecture. Then proceed to Agra, where you’ll find the world-famous Taj Mahal and other architecturally powerful tombs and a fort.

Two days: Gwalior and Orchha. Drive 118 kilometers (73 miles) to Gwalior, the capital of a former princely state, which has stunning palaces and a fort. Take an optional excursion to Orchha, a 17th century city of palaces.

Two days: Khajuraho. Drive about 160 kilometers (100 miles) to Khajuraho and spend two days enjoying the wonderful Chandela Dynasty 10th- and 11th-century temples and the surrounding pastoral villages that cling vigorously to an agrarian lifestyle. Two days: Varanasi. Fly from Khajuraho to Varanasi. Take a peaceful morning cruise on the Ganga River to witness Hindu rituals performed by the devout on the ghats and in the sacred waters. Visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, silk and carpet emporiums, and nearby Sarnath, imbued with Buddhist significance.

Three days: Delhi. Fly to Delhi. Explore the old and new capitals. Don’t miss the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, and the Charity Bird Hospital - all in Old Delhi. Enjoy the crafts museum and save time for last minute shopping in Delhi’s wonderful shops.

If you are flying out from Mumbai, then be sure to catch a glimpse of the Elephanta Caves, a few kilometers off Mumbai in the Arabian Sea, and also make the trip to the Ellora Caves and Ajanta Caves.

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