Stunning Mughal architecture, heritage hotels, old palaces, forts, and colorful markets make North India an exciting experience that imparts a heady, sensory feeling in any visitor. No 2-week trip can exhaustively cover all the main sights, but this itinerary covers many of the most popular tourist attractions of northern India. It’s a hectic schedule, so keep in mind that relaxation is required between sights, if only to catch your breath and dwell on what you’ve seen before leaping forward to the next equally striking sight.
North India is characterised by a great diversity in culture, geography, weather, food, languages and lifestyle. To explore north India is like exploring different cultures. There are too many things to explore and too many places to see. While the Taj Mahal at Agra is an epitome of love and romance, Cultural & heritage sites, pilgrimage places, magnificent monuments, forts & palaces, hill stations, adventure sports, wildlife sanctuaries & national parks, Rajasthan forts & palaces, Delhi monuments, Varanasi, etc are forte of North India tourism. You will treasure a unique experience of lifetime. India Travel Tours offers an assortment of north India tour packages to choose from.
Varanasi, Benaras, Banaras, Kashi - this city on the banks of river Ganga (nullGanges) has been known by all these names through its three millennia long history. A history that is all the more remarkable as its great contemporaries - Athens, Jerusalem and Beijing â have long moved away from their ancient way of life. Any attempt to encapsulate the essence of Varanasi is to touch the very core of Indian Spiritual Thought. Much of India's inclusive ethos stems from here.
Pushkar is one of the most visited destinations for pilgrimages and cultural vacations in India, attracting thousands of visitors annually from India and abroad. Situated 14 km from Ajmer, Pushkar is one of the five sacred Dhams, and lies on the shore of the holy Pushkar Lake. Pushkar has five main temples, along with many smaller temples and 52 ghats, where pilgrims can bathe in the sacred waters. Pushkar has the only temple in India dedicated to Lord Brahma, creator of the three worlds.
You’ll most likely arrive in Delhi in the wee hours of the morning. As a general rule, take it easy on Day 1 in India — the country takes serious acclimation. On day 2 Take in central New Delhi’s imperial architecture — beginning at India Gate, built to commemorate those who died in World War I. From there, set off on foot along Rajpath to the beautifully ornate gates of Rashtrapati Bhavan, official residence of the president of India. Then drive south to visit the 12th-century Qutb Minar. For a break, escape to Lodi Gardens, where lawns and golfing greens are studded with the crumbling 15th-century tombs of once-powerful dynasties. A short drive west brings you to the splendid medieval buildings of Humayun’s Tomb (which your suite at Aman will overlook) and Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia. On Day 3, explore Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad). Must-sees include Lal Qila (Red Fort) and Jama Masjid, both built by Shah Jahan, the most prolific architect of the Mughal empire. You can also stop off at vibrant Gauri Shankar Temple, which has an 800-year-old lingam (a phallic symbol used in the worship of the Hindu god Shiva); Sisganj Gurudwara, an unassuming but atmospheric and welcoming Sikh temple that marks the spot where Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, was beheaded by Aurangzeb; and Sunehri and Fatehpuri masjids. If you can handle the massive crowds, wander around Chandni Chowk, Khari Baoli (reputed to be Asia’s biggest spice market), and jam-packed Kinari Bazaar — but keep a close watch on your belongings at all times.
Fly into Varanasi, a crumbling maze of a city that rises from the ghats (steps) on the western banks of the Ganges River. Varanasi is in many ways quintessential India — it is one of the holiest of Indian pilgrimage sites, home of Shiva, where the devout come to wash away their sins. Many come here to die with the hope that they may achieve moksha, salvation of the soul from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Take a boat cruise past the ghats at dawn; you can repeat this at sunset or, better still, head for Dasashwamedh Ghat to watch the Ganga Fire Arti. For 45 minutes, young Brahmin priests perform age-old prayer rituals with conch shells and burning braziers, accompanied by drummers, while children hawk candles for you to light and set adrift. Aside from these must-sees, you should set aside some time to wander the ancient lanes of the Old City, particularly those around Kashi Vishwanath Temple. When you feel the need for peace and solitude, hire a car and visit Sarnath, where Buddha first revealed his Eightfold Path to Nirvana; spend a few hours exploring the archaeological ruins and the modern Buddhist temple and monasteries.
Khajuraho is known the world over for its beautiful, taboo-breaking erotic sculptures, images that are almost as intimately associated with India as the Taj. But the temples also represent an outstanding synthesis of advanced architecture and refined sculpture. Try to enter as soon as the Western Group of temples opens (sunrise), not only for the light’s quality, but to avoid the busloads of tourists who will arrive later. Take your time admiring the beautifully rendered friezes of gods, nymphs, animals, and energetically twisting bodies locked together in acts of hotblooded passion. Cover the Western, Eastern, and Southern Group (unless you visited them the day before), ending your day at the 50-minute sound-and-light show held at 6:30pm, which provides a fascinating history of Khajuraho.
From Khajuraho, drive to Orchha, the deserted royal citadel of Raja Rudra Pratap, on a rocky island on the Betwa River. This is one of India’s most fabulous Mughal heritage sites and a wonderfully relaxing stop sandwiched between the intense huckster-heavy destinations of Varanasi/Khajuraho and Agra. Orchha, founded in 1531, was the capital of the Bundela kings until 1738. Today the weathered temples, palaces, and cenotaphs are the royal quarters of emerald parakeets and black-faced langurs, while traditional whitewashed, flat-roofed structures house the laid-back villagers. Besides the palace complex, three beautiful temples are worth seeking out, as well as 14 graceful chhatris (cenotaphs) commemorating the Orchha rulers, built upstream along the riverbank.
Drive to Jhansi, and take an express train to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Besides the exquisite Taj, visit the city of Fatehpur Sikri and the tombs of Itmad-ud-Daulah and Akbar, as well as well-preserved Agra Fort. Ideally, visit the Taj at dawn and spend the whole morning there. Built by Shah Jahan as an eternal symbol of his love for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj has immortalized him as one of the great architectural patrons of the world. Not only does the Taj have perfect symmetry, ethereal luminescence, and wonderful proportions, but every inch of marble is covered in exquisite detail.
Drive to Jaipur, where you can explore the City Palace and Amber Fort in a day; you’ll need a little more time if you want to go to Samode Palace, an hour’s drive away. However, no amount of time is enough for the shopping; Jaipur is a bargain-hunter’s haven, where you will find gorgeous Rajasthani crafts for sale that are hard to resist. In Jaipur, overnight at Taj Rambagh Palace (if you prefer an authentic historical experience close to the heart of the city), or Rajvil?s (if you enjoy the illusion of being far away from everything, combined with absolute luxury). Alternatively, stay at Samode Haveli, easily the best heritage property in the Old City, or simply refer to any of the heritage properties reviewed, which cover a range of budgets.
Late in the afternoon, drive from Jaipur to the temple town of Pushkar, stopping en route to view Dargah Sharif, the top attraction of Ajmer along the way. Get your “Pushkar Passport” as early as possible, which will then free you from further harassment by priests. Spend the night on the shores of Pushkar Lake, preferably at Pushkar Palace.
Start out early to explore Pushkar, a charming (if very filthy, touristy) town surrounding a sacred lake on the eastern edge of the Thar Desert, and an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. Browse the street bazaar, where you can pick up the most gorgeous throwaway gear, great secondhand books, and CDs at bargain prices. Pushkar can be explored entirely on foot — it will take you about 45 minutes to walk around the holy lake and its 52 ghats (stairs). From Pushkar, move on to Jodhpur, where you must set aside half a day to visit fabulous Mehrangarh Fort and Museum, arguably Rajasthan’s most impressive and cleanest fort, with sheer clifflike walls that soar above the city. Situated on another raised outcrop, with sprawling grounds creating a majestic ambience, is Umaid Bhawan Palace, built by Maharaja Umaid Singh as a poverty-relief exercise to aid his drought-stricken subjects. Designed by Henry Lanchester, a great admirer of Lutyens (the man who designed New Delhi), it was started in 1929, took 3,000 laborers 13 years to complete, and remains one of the best examples of Indo-Saracenic Art Deco style. Move on to the new, sexy Mihir Garh and go for a sunset gallop into the Thar Desert.
Enjoy the morning at Migir Garh or Rawla Narlai, then head to Udaipur, stopping at the Ranakpur temples (and, if you’ve left early enough, Kumbhalgarh, overnighting at Aodi) en route. Time allowing, take a sunset cruise on the lake or enjoy a muscle-tingling treatment in the Taj’s spa boat. The following day, visit the City Palace and Museum in Udaipur. Prime attractions worth pursuing and doable in the time available are the temples at Nathdwara and Eklingji. Or spend the rest of the day lounging around the pool under the shade of its 263-year-old mango tree. If you wish to squeeze in an extra day, do so at Devi Garh, 45 minutes outside Udaipur.
Enjoy a leisurely morning roaming Udaipur’s lovely bazaars, or relax at the Devi Garh pool, before taking an afternoon flight back to Delhi. If you have space left in your baggage (fat chance!), stop for last-minute souvenirs and gifts before you board your flight home.