My wife and I (aka the GroovyOldies) and another retired couple (all over the age of 65) did a recent 18 day tour of North India in February. Our tour included Delhi, Rajastan state, Agra and Amristar. We planned and booked the whole tour ourselves. The main website we used to book our accommodation was Agoda.
The months of February to April is spring and the average temperature was around 17°C . We used light warm clothes throughout the trip. Diseases such as hepatitis A, cholera and typhoid are common in India so ensuring you eat hot cooked food, avoiding uncooked vegetables and tap water is crucial. We would definitely recommend the relevant vaccinations to reduce your risk of acquiring these infections (see post by GroovyT on travel vaccinations).
Cholan Tours Pvt Ltd , Tiruchi , India, was responsible for our car rental through their counterpart in Delhi Indian Panorama. We hired a 7 seat Toyota Inova along with a driver (Ramesh). Ramesh drove us to all locations except Amritsar. He picked us up from New Delhi Airport and he was with us throughout the tour. In the evenings he would drop us off at our hotel, and then pick us up in the morning at a prearranged time. The 2 couples had put together our itinerary which we had provided to Cholan Tours and in turn they had sorted everything out with the driver. The car journey started in New Delhi and finished at the Delhi airport after traveling through Rajastan and Agra.
The Driver was fluent in conversational English. He was a safe driver and also a friendly and happy chap who made recommendations of restaurants for meals and coffee breaks.
Summary of Itinerary:
Day 1 to 2: New Delhi (2days)
Day 3 to-5: Jaipur (3days)
Day 6 to 7: Jodhpur (2 days)
Day 8: Ranakpur (1 day)
Day 9 to 11: Udaipur (3 days)
Day 12: Pushkar (1 day)
Day 13 to 14: Agra (2 days)
Day 15 Delhi (1 days)
Day 16 to 18: Amritsar (3 days)
Day 1-2: New Delhi
In New Delhi we stayed at the Hotel Regent Grand which is a 3 star grade, old established hotel. Facilities are reasonable for the price paid.
We visited the following places of interest around New Delhi:
- India Gate
- President House and Parliament area
- Swaminarayan Akshardham
- Lotus Temple
- Red Fort
- Raj Ghat & Samadhi of Mahatma Ghandi
- Qudup Minar
- Chhatarpur Temple.
Tourist guides were not hired as our driver was helpful in reaching the locations and guiding us to the entrance of each of the places visited.
All of the above places are of historical importance, well maintained and kept clean and tidy. Thousands of tourist visit these places daily. The attached photo reflects their beauty and importance given to them based on history, culture and heritage.
Day 3-5: Jaypur – The Pink City
After two days of intense site seeing around New Delhi we started our journey to Jaypur. Jaypur is about a 6 hour drive from New Delhi. We stayed at the Umaid Bhawan Heritage Hotel. This was originally a small palace which has been converted into a 3 star hotel. Facilities and services are overall of good standard and staff are very helpful. Live entertainment by the Rajasthani dancers was available every evening at the hotel restaurant. The bathrooms including the toilet and shower are of an older design, and need improvement! This is a common issue among lots of the older hotels in India. This hotel is in an established residential area and there is no garden space.
We kept this hotel as our base and visited all the important sites in Jaipur including:
- Amber Fort
- Water Palace
- City Palace
- Jantar Mantar
- Sheesh mahal
- Hawa Mahal
- Birla Temple
- Nahagargh Fort
Day 6-7: Jodhpur
Our next destination was Jodhpur. We were booked in at the Lords Inn. Main places of interest include:
- Umaid Bhawan Palace
- Meharangarg Fort
- Jain Mahvir Temple
- Mandore Garden.
Day 8: Ranakpur
It is about 4 hour driving time from Jodhpur to Ranakpur. We stayed at Mana Hotel for the night. This is a modern hotel /resort with 2 storey buildings and maintained to a good standard. It is situated in a rural area and the hotel restaurant caters for all visitors. Places of interest to see around Ranakpur are:
- Kumhalgargh Fort
- More Jain Temples
- Villagers activities
We only stayed for one night, but the few places we saw were fascinating. We visited these places while approaching from Jodhpur or while leaving to Udaipur.
Day 9-11: Udaipur
Udaipur, also known as City of Lakes was our next destination. The distance between Ranakpur and Udaipur is about 95 km. We reached Udaipur in the late evening after stopovers at a few site seeing sites closer to Ranakpur. The Jegat Niwas Palace hotel that we stayed at is situated in the old city area of Udaipur. The roads in this area are very narrow and vehicles bearing non Rajastani registrations are not permitted to drive in this area. Our vehicle was stopped at a designated place and we had to travel the last part in a local three wheeler to get to the hotel. Our driver could be contacted by cell phone at any time if we wanted to go outside of the old city, we simply had to ring him, and meet him at car park which we get to on a three wheeler. The cost of hiring a three wheeler was 100 Indian rupees (approx US$1.50) one way to the hotel. The entrance to the Jegat Niwas Hotel is a narrow passage and the reception desk is a small counter and simply manged by one or two staff. However, after we had checked into our rooms and walked about and went to the rooftop restaurant we realised that the hotel was spectacular had magnificent views of lake Pichola and surroundings.
Places of interest in Udaipur include:
- City Palace
- Jagdhis Temple
- Boat ride to see sun set and surroundings
- Sahelion Ki Baari – park
Day 12: Pushkar
It is a long drive from Udaipur to Pushkar. We started early morning and reached our destination Pushkar Resort around 3.00 pm. It is a beautiful resort little away from the city center. Our main purpose of coming here was to use it as an overnight transit to go to Agra the next day. There are lot of Hindu Temples and Jain Temples in and around Pushkar, but instead of more temples, we choose to go for Camel ride to see the sunset on the same evening.
Day 13-14: Agra
Pushkar to Agra was another long drive. The drive was pleasant passing through farmlands, scenic mountain terrain, and roadside industries like manufacturing of sculptures, and a marble quarry. We checked in at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel. It is a beautiful modern hotel with good services. In the same evening we drove to see Taj Mahal from other side of Jamuna river. Quite a stunning view before the sunset.
The next day early morning before the sunrise we went to Taj Mahal to have a view at of it at sunrise. We also hired an English speaking guide to show us the entire complex of Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. He was really good and provided us with lots of information on these two sites.
Day 15-18: Brief stop in Delhi, then Amritsar
After two days in Agra, we drove to New Delhi to spend the night at the IBIS Hotel near the Airport and took an Indian Airlines flight to Amritsar the next morning. On arrival at Amritsar, we checked-in to the Hong Kong Inn for 2 nights. Through a friend of ours in New Zealand we had arranged a University Student from Amritsar to meet us at the Hotel to act as a local guide. He took us on the same evening to the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple and its vicinity are kept clean 24/7. Free food for visitors is provided 24 hours a day. Food is prepared continuously, served and cleaned by volunteers on a roster. The next morning we visited a Hindu temple and then went to back to the Golden Temple to have a day time view. Both day-time and night-time views are fantastic.
Golden Temple complex with the pool surrounding the Temple and the visitors queuing to enter the Temple on the other side of the pool.The entire complex is kept spotlessly clean in-spite of thousands of visitors walking through daily day and night.
After visiting Golden Temple in the morning we hired a car and drove to border village of Attari to witness the changing of guard in the evening. This is the border post between India and Pakistan. The ceremony on both side of the border starts at 5.00 PM and finishes around 5.45 PM.
This Beating Retreat Ceremony includes the closing of the international gates and lowering the flags of both the countries. The flag ceremony has been conducted by the Indian Border Security Force (pictured above) and the Pakistan Rangers since 1959.
On the return journey from the border to Amritsar, we went through a historical site: the birth place of Lavan and Kusan (Luv and Kush) son of Rama and Sita. This site has been well developed into a Temple complex at Tirath as a Sri Ram Tirath Temple. This picture shows a portion the temple complex dedicated to the Sage Sri Valmiki, the author of Ramayana (a famous Sanskrit ‘epic’ poem consisting of 24,000 verses describing ideal human characters, and presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages. It has played an important role in South and South East Asian Hindu culture and tradition).
We were very happy to end our 18 day tour at this historic site. It was tiring, but certainly worth the effort. The next morning flew out of Amritsar. Please share our experiences with any family or friends who may be traveling to this part of the world to help them plan their journey.