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Taj Mahal, India

India

Golden Triangle plus Varanasi - 10 night tailor made holiday

Putting together an India itinerary that works in practice can be quite challenging, but we use a mix of trains, private cars and internal flights to put together your dream trip.

Initially we'll have a brief chat about the key places you'd like to visit and the main experiences you'd like to enjoy. We'll discuss preferred standard of hotels, how long you'd like to be away for, and your price range.

Then it's over to us to put it all together and come up with a great itinerary that works as smoothly as possible. You can tweak as much as you like until it's right for you.

THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE

Almost every trip to India includes the Golden Triangle, usually with one or more other places. So below you'll see Delhi, Agra and Jaipur which make up the Golden Triangle, and then below those a list of options that you can add on to make a longer trip, including Goa in the south of India which is great for a relaxing end to your trip. 

But I've also included a side trip to Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India set on the River Ganges, and which many past customers have said was one of their most memorable . So the main trip is Golden Triangle plus Varanasi.

Please be aware that getting India itineraries to work smoothly can be complex, and often we need to make some compromises such as early starts, or having a night back in Delhi due to flight connections before travelling on to the next destination.

Delhi
 
2 nights

Fly first to Delhi, India's capital, and a 2 night stay is about right - it's worth taking a tour of both old and new Delhi to see the contrast. Old Delhi seems chaotic with tooting horns and traders selling their goods along narrow lanes. New Delhi is much more wide open spaces and grand buildings. You'll see temples, markets, mosques and the Red Fort.

Delhi, India
Varanasi
 
2 nights + 1 night back in Delhi

Varanasi is one of the most atmospheric places in India and sacred to Hindus who come to bathe in the River Ganges to wash away their sins. We include an early morning boat ride along the river, where you can watch people washing clothes and bathing in the ghats as you sail past temples and palaces. Afterwards there's a chance to wander through the old narrow streets.

Due to available flight options, you may need to return to Delhi for 1 night before continuing to Agra. However by this time you'll have had a few days sightseeing and travelling so when you get back to Delhi, why not stay in a luxury or opulent hotel for just the one night? Examples include the Imperial, the Leela Palace and the Oberoi. Then you can spend the rest of the day (and night) in comfort, and perhaps relaxing around the pool.

Apart from the Taj Mahal, Varanasi was my favourite place in India on our 2 week trip.

Varanasi, India
Agra
 
2 nights

The Taj Mahal is the key highlight here, and the best time to see it is sunrise - the light is a beautiful soft, golden colour, which makes for the best photographs, and there are far fewer tourists than later in the day. The other main attraction is Agra Fort, with a distant view of the Taj Mahal. Many tour itineraries suggest one night in Agra, however if you have the time then I'd suggest two nights - it just means you can do things at a slower pace.

A great way of reaching Agra from Delhi is by train and experiencing a rail journey in India. There are several different options throughout the day, and it's best to have everything pre-booked before you go.

Taj Mahal, India
Jaipur
 
3 nights

Jaipur is a big city with lots to see - the key attraction is Amber Fort, set on a hill overlooking a lake. Inside are gardens, temples, and palaces, and the 'Hall of Mirrors'. You can get away from the crowds at the rather excellent astronomy complex Jantar Mantar, and there is a very interesting commentary inside the Palace of Wind, Hawa Mahal.

So the Golden Triangle tour above is the basis for most trips, but there's lots more places you can add on!

Jaipur, India
Ranthambore National Park
 
3 nights

People come to Ranthambore to see tigers in the wild - it's arguably one of the best places in India to spot them, the park is very scenic, and it's relatively easy to add on to a Golden Triangle itinerary. However it's important to stress that even doing 3 or 4 game drives, you might not see one - it's not just the tiger numbers, but the huge territories that each individual tiger has. So it's best to think of spotting a tiger as a bonus, rather than the sole reason for coming - other wildlife includes deer, boar, hyena, gazelle and crocodile.

On my own trip I did 6 game drives in all and didn't see a tiger. It was still worth coming for all the other wildlife, and of course others are luckier than I was!

Ranthambore National Park, India
Shimla
 
3-4 nights

There's a very different atmosphere in the little mountain town of Shimla - it's much cooler than elsewhere and has a much more British feel. The streets in the centre are mainly pedestrian, and there are some great views. One fun way to reach Shimla is partly by the toy train on a narrow gauge railway.

Shimla, India
Udaipur
 
2-3 nights

This is a much smaller city than others such as Jaipur, and is perhaps the most beautiful, set around Lake Pichola. The City Palace is the top attraction, and sunset boat trips on the lake are popular.

Udaipur, India
Goa
 
4+ nights

After the touring part of your holiday you can choose to have a few days on the beach for a bit of relaxation. Goa has the best beaches and the biggest choice of accommodation, plus plenty to do if you'd like to explore a little more. The other option is Kerala which is famous for its backwaters.

Other places in India

This isn't an exhaustive list, just the most popular places I find clients want to visit. Also popular is Amritsar for the Golden Temple, and continuing on to Mumbai. You can also explore deeper into Rajasthan, with places such as Jodhpur - the blue city, and Jaisalmer - the desert town. Whichever places you choose, we'll put everything together to make it work as smoothly as possible with the most comfortable and best located hotels to fit your price range.

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Should I do a guided or independent tour?
A. The main advantages of a guided tour are threefold. One, there will be a guide for all the main sightseeing, and usually the feedback from guests is excellent. Two, you don't need to do much worrying about getting around and transport as everything is done for you. And three, you can enjoy the company of other like minded travellers who are sharing your experiences. But a tailor made tour allows you to choose things in much more detail - how long to spend in each place, the standard of hotels, how long you spend at each sightseeing attraction, and of course the date of travel. You would be on your own, in respect of there being no other travellers, but you would have a driver, a guide for most places, and all the transfers would be arranged for you.

Q. When is the best time of year to go?
A. November to March are the best months to travel to India - other times of year can be very hot, wet and humid.

Q. What are the key places to see in Northern India?
A. The main places of interest are these, together with a typical length of stay:
Delhi - 2 nights - old and new Delhi, Red Fort 
Varanasi - 2 nights - Boat trip on the River Ganges 
Delhi - 1 night (necessary due to flight schedules)
Agra - 2 nights - Taj Mahal
Jaipur - 3 nights - Hawa Mahal, Amber Palace, Jantar Mantar
Ranthambore - 3 nights - wildlife with a possibility of seeing tigers
Amritsar - 2 nights - Golden Temple
Udaipur - 2 or 3 nights - the 'romantic' city with lakes and gardens
Shimla - 3 or 4 nights - cooler (even cold) city in the hills, reached in part by the toy train.

Q. What is the 'Golden Triangle'?
A. The cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur - they are 'relatively' close to each other, so if you are short of time this makes for a perfect itinerary. Plus on the way to Jaipur, you can make a brief stop at the deserted town of Fatehpur Sikri to break the journey.
Delhi - 2 nights - old and new Delhi, Red Fort
Agra - 1 or 2 nights - Taj Mahal
Jaipur - 3 nights - Hawa Mahal, Amber Palace, Jantar Mantar

Q. Can we include time at the beach?
A. Yes - the two main states are Goa and Kerala, the latter famous for its backwaters. Goa has the best beaches, and several upmarket hotels. A relaxing stay at the end can be very easily included as part of your itinerary.

Q. What's included in the package?
A. All international flights, internal flights, private car transfers, trains, accommodation, and some of the sightseeing would be included in the quotation. We would need to know a rough idea what your price range was so that the accommodation choices were suitable.

Q. How much does a typical holiday cost?
A. For a fairly typical two week holiday, expect to pay around £3500-£4500 per person based on 4 star superior hotels. This can double with 5 star and/or heritage hotels, and double (or more) again for top of the range luxury hotel brands and if your budget is lower we can switch to mid range accommodation. 

My own trip

We had 2 weeks away, but as ever the wish list would have required a month so it was a case of choosing what we couldn't miss. The Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur was the basis for the trip, and on the way between Agra and Jaipur we added a 3 night stop in Ranthambore National Park where we hoped to see tigers. The chances are about 50/50, and as luck would have it we didn't see a tiger, although we saw lots of other wildlife such as deer, boar, hyena, gazelle and crocodile. On the way here we asked the driver to stop at the bird sanctuary in Bharatpur, where we had a few hours cycling around the wetlands.

The highlight of the trip however was visiting the holy city of Varanasi on the River Ganges, and in particular the early morning boat ride past the ghats where people are bathing, washing clothes and burning funeral pyres.

Finally one thing we didn't quite realise was that the Holi Festival was on during our stay, or the 'Festival of Colours'. It is to celebrate the arrival of Spring - in practice this means that everyone throws brightly coloured powder around, and tourists are included too!

Escorted Tours

We offer a wide range of escorted tours to India, and most touring companies have several different itineraries on offer.

First, please follow this link to one of our best-selling India guided tours . It's run by Newmarket Holidays and includes the main places on the Golden Triangle route, plus something a little special at the end:  a stay in a cottage at the Vanaashrya Resort.

India - Tigers and Taj Mahal Escorted Tour

 

Next, escorted tours vs private trips...

Group Tours - pros

  • Can be a cheaper way of seeing India than having your own private driver and guide
  • Everything is done and organised for you, so takes away all the stress of getting around
  • You'll tend to see more overall, although often there is free time included.
  • Chance to mix with others who have similar travel interests.
  • Some of the included experiences are a little tricky to arrange yourself.

Tailor made trips - pros

  • You can choose exactly where you visit and for how long
  • Hand picked accommodation in excellent locations, and you can mix things up by booking mostly 4 star accommodation but then treating yourself to a luxury hotel for just a night or two.
  • Greater flexibility in how long you spend at any particular attraction.
  • You can enjoy local restaurants every night if you wish, and at a time that suits.
  • You can get around at a more relaxing pace.

There's been a recent trend of smaller group sizes in the last few years so one thing to consider is how many others will you be travelling with. It's a very different experience going with a group of 6 to a group of 48 for example. Typically, the adventure tour operators such as G Adventures, Explore, Exodus have smaller groups - often a maximum of 16.

While the bulk of the itinerary may be fairly fixed, it may be possible to book an extension either before or after your trip. For example we can normally add an extension to Goa or another part of Northern India even if the main itinerary doesn't include it.

We are official retail partners for the following touring companies...

  • Wendy Wu Tours
  • Newmarket Holidays
  • Riviera Travel
  • Great Rail Journeys
  • APT Tours
  • Titan
  • Scenic Tours
  • Luxury Gold
  • Cox and Kings
  • G Adventures
  • Exodus
  • Explore
  • Intrepid
  • Travelsphere
  • Globus
  • Cosmos Tours
  • Insider Journeys

Please get in touch with your requirements and I'd be delighted to go through a few possible options with you.

More information

Call  01462 677111

Local to Letchworth, Baldock, Hitchin or Stevenage?

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