Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Whirlwind North India Itinerary


A 300 year old painting inside the Rai Praveen palace in the town of Orchha. Rai Praveen was a famed dancer in the late 17th century, though her palace is only one of many we'll visit on our nine day trip across North India. 

This itinerary will pack as many incredible sights into nine days of travelling as humanly possible. Everyday you'll see something new and unexpected. Simply put, it'll be a week and a half you'll never forget!

Starting off in the chaos of Delhi, we'll visit many of that city's most spectacular sights, before getting on a train to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal. After an intense, in-depth exploration of that city, we'll head south, again by rail, to Orchha, a small and not especially well known town in the middle of nowhere which boasts an astonishing concentration of India's most stupendous architecture. With some of everything, from tombs and palaces, to mosques and temples, to peacocks and monkeys, this itinerary will show you just about as much of India as a person could see in nine days!

We'll be seeing plenty of these!

MAIL ME AT: anselmrogers4@gmail.com to book a seat or to request more information!

Note: All pictures are by me unless otherwise credited. All links are to my travel blog: http://evenfewergoats.blogspot.com/ All text is by me.

DATES:  This trip runs three times in 2017. Dates are JANUARY 27-FEB 4, MARCH 25-APRIL 2, and JUNE 5-JUNE 13. I will pick you up at the New Delhi International Airport on the first day of the itinerary drop you off on the last.

IN ORDER TO BOOK A SEAT: Please send me a 200 dollar nonrefundable deposit via paypal. Deadline to apply is two months before the program start date. The deposit amount will be the same regardless of group size.

A highly aesthetic niche in Lodhi Gardens, Delhi.


The full trip fee is U.S. 800 per person for a group of up to 6 people. For a group of 2 people, pricing is U.S. 1100 per person.

WHAT THAT COVERS: All in-country accommodation. All group activities, including monument tickets. All in-country transport, including train tickets, long distance road journeys, airport and railway station pickups, Delhi Metro rides, auto-rickshaw rides, cycle-rickshaw rides, etc. Tips.

WHAT THAT DOES NOT COVER: International airfare. Visa/Passport processing fees. Travel/Health Insurance. Meals (meals usually cost between 2-6 dollars). Miscellaneous personal expenses, such as bottled water, snacks, gifts, additional medical supplies, batteries, etc.

Maximum group size is 6 people. Minimum group size in 2 people (with a slightly higher rate).

Another highly aesthetic niche, this time with birds and elephants, in the tomb of Akbar, the most illustrious ruler of the Mughal dynasty. 


[NOTE 1: Be advised that India is a very flexible place, which means that to adapt, we will also have to be very flexible. Hence, be ready for a few on-the-spot emendations to this itinerary once we get there. Unpredictability is a vital part of the Indian experience! 

DAY 1 DELHI: You'll arrive at New Delhi International Airport. I'll pick you up at arrivals, and then we'll all transfer to our hotel in Majnu-ka-Tilla, Delhi's center of Tibetan culture (which is an interesting destination entirely in its own right). If people are up to it, we can do a little sightseeing at the nearby Northern Ridge, an unexpected patch of urban jungle full of ruins and monkeys (and a few peacocks), that will be within walking distance. Then we'll settle in for the night, and get some sleep.

DAY 2 DELHI: We'll wake up relatively early and have breakfast at one of Majnu-ka-Tilla's many very good Tibetan restaurants. After that, we'll take our first-of-many  cycle rickshaw rides to the Delhi Metro, which we'll take to Humayun's Tomb, the historical and architectural predecessor of the Taj Mahal, and one of Delhi's most simultaneously lovely and laid-back major sights.

Humayun's Tomb, and reflection

After that, we'll go back to the metro and ride to Patel Chowk Metro Station, from where we'll walk to the nearby Jantar Mantar, a huge 18th century astronomical observatory, and then to the spectacular Agrasen ki Baoli, a giant, several stories deep, 14th century step-well improbably situated right next to one of Delhi's main business districts.

Going back to Majnu-ka-Tilla to have lunch and sit out the heat of the day, we'll return to the Delhi Metro around 3-3:30. Getting off at the same stop as earlier in the day, we'll walk to spectacular 18th century Safdarjung's Tomb, the last of the great Mughal tombs, and then finish the day off with a stroll through Lodi Gardens, a huge green space created by the British which contains several large 15th century tombs. If we're lucky, we may see some Flying Foxes waking up for the night as the sun's going down.

We should try and get to sleep relatively early, as it'll be a 5 a.m. start the next day.

Safdarjung's Tomb

DAY 3 DELHI-AGRA: On this day, we'll head out to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal. Getting up early, we'll take a comfortable two hour train ride to our destination, and then transfer to our accommodation for the night, Hotel Shanti Lodge, which has perhaps the best rooftop view of the Taj of any hotel in the city. We'll have a late breakfast (or maybe even an early lunch), and rest up for a while.

In the early afternoon, we'll head out to see some of Agra's incredible non-Taj Mahal sights. First we'll go to Sikandra to visit the massively unusual tomb of Akbar, the most illustrious ruler of the Mughal dynasty. From there we'll go to beautiful Agra Fort, which contains the most extensive collection of 16th-17th century Mughal palaces anywhere in India.

After Agra Fort, it's back to our hotel for a spectacular rooftop sunset.

The Khas Mahal, the emperor's private audience chamber, inside Agra Fort.

DAY 4 AGRA: At the crack of dawn, we'll head over to the Taj Mahal and spend a leisurely time walking around the complex and viewing the mausoleum in the best light of the day. Absolutely no hurry. Then it will be time for breakfast (and possibly a nap).

Later in the day we'll go to see some of the old Mughal gardens and tombs on the opposite side of the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal. These include the rarely visited Chini Ka Rauza, or China Dome, which was once covered entirely in blue ceramic tiles, the Itimad ud Daulah, known as the Baby Taj, an incredible mix of white marble and stone inlay, and Mehtab Bagh, an old Mughal garden which affords one a spectacular view of the Taj from across the river.

We should be back at our hotel in time to see another grand sunset.

I suspect you know what this is....

DAY 5 AGRA-JHANSI-ORCHHA:  On this day, we'll get up moderately early and then go and board the same train that we rode to Agra, but head about two and half hours south, to the city of Jhansi. There, we'll have a pickup from our hotel for the next three nights, Hotel Betwa Retreat in Orchha. It;ll be about a 45 minute ride to our hotel.

 Orchha is a tiny town that contains an astonishing amount of incredible 16th century architecture, all of it very close together. It's far more laid back and less "discovered" than most of North India's other major tourist towns, so it's a good place to walk around. From our hotel, we'll be able to stroll to any of Orchha's many temples, tombs, and palaces. Since we'll be based in the town for most of three days, we'll be able to take it easy. Even though we're covering so much ground in so short a time over the course of out nine days, in Orchha we'll get a chance to relax.

Our afternoon on this day will be spent entirely on wandering around Orchha. Diner in our hotel, or in one of several other fine hotel restaurants in town.

Orchha's incredible Jehangir Mahal, one of India's grandest palaces

DAY 6 ORCHHA AND SONAGIRI: This day will begin with a morning excursion to the absolutely surreal Jain temple town of Sonagiri, where 103 blazing white Jain temples dot a barren landscape of granite boulders. If we're feeling really energetic, we could even wake up early and see the temple priests doing their morning prayers at around sunrise.We'll come back to our hotel, and then spend the rest of the day soaking in Orchha's sights at our leisure.

The surreal landscape of Jain temples that is Sonagiri.


On this day, there isn't anything specific planned for the morning. We can spend a few more hours in town, doing whatever else we've left undone, before heading back to the Jhansi railway station around 4 or 4:30 PM. Now we'll take the same train all the way back to Delhi, where we'll arrive at around 11 or 11:30 P.M., and transfer to the same hotel where we stayed before in Majnu Ka Tilla.

A mythological battle scene from the Ramayana depicted on the inside of Orchha's Lakshmi Narayan temple. 

DAY 8 DELHI: On this day, those who have the energy can come out with me to the crazy lanes of Old Delhi, where we'll first visit the incredible Jama Masjid, Delhi's most magnificent mosque, before plunging into the wild maze of Old Delhi's back lanes. As we make our way through the narrow, almost canyon-like medieval streets, we'll visit plenty of bazaars, decaying 19th century mansions, and old Jain temples.

Sitting out the heat of the day, we can head out again in the afternoon to your choice of any of Delhi's incredible sites. There's still quite a few of them that aren't included on this itinerary, but we can decide what people feel like doing on this day itself (and that includes resting!).

A shop selling highly colorful decorative junk in Kinari Bazaar, one of Old Delhi picturesque specialty markets....every shop on the crowded street sells nothing but brightly colored decorations.

DAY 9 DELHI-ONWARD DESTINATION: Depending on when flights are, it may still be possible to see something in the morning.

I'll ride with you down to the Airport, and see you off.



This will be a moderately physically rigorous trip: There will be no huge hikes, but we will cover a whole lot of ground, and will need to be on our feet for extended periods of time. Our explorations of palaces and temples will involve a lot of steep narrow staircases and vertigo inducing walkways. Additionally the heat in late March/early April and in June, particularly in Orchha, will be intense. Be ready for some seriously hot weather!


Note 1: I am not a doctor. You should consult with a trained medical practitioner several months before departing.

Note 2: Please bear in mind that, upon signing up, I'll be sending you a much more detailed list of health/safety information.

FOOD:   As a rule of thumb, meat and uncooked fruits and  vegetables are the foods most likely to get you sick. Meat should generally be avoided unless it's from a relatively upscale restaurant with visibly decent health standards. Eating street food is generally unwise, particularly cut fruit. There are some exceptions, which I'll show you when we're there (it's impossible to explain without being there!). Fruits with peels or rinds (bananas, oranges, litchis, unopened watermelons, etc.) are usually fine. 

WATER: On this trip, only drink bottled water, and avoid drinks with ice. DO NOT PUT TAP WATER IN YOUR MOUTH FOR ANY REASON! Also, please refrain from sharing water bottles, as this can facilitate the transmission of various ailments (and this goes even if you're feeling fine!). Avoid swallowing water while brushing teeth and in the shower.  

BUGS: While you should consult with your doctor as to specific medications to be taken to combat certain mosquito and other insect born diseases, it is also highly recommended that you have a ready supply of bug spray or anti-insect ointments. It's difficult to anticipate how bad the bugs will be in any given place in India at any given time of year, so simply plan to be prepared!

MOTION SICKNESS: If you're prone to motion sickness, please have a ready supply of medication available when you land in Delhi. Driving in India is always interesting!

The almost perfect Itimad-ud-Daulah, otherwise known as the Baby Taj.


The temperatures during the late Jan/early Feb trip will be mild to warm. Delhi will still probably be on the cool side, with lows going down into the 50s. Have warm clothing available, as our hotels will not have indoor heating. However, Orchha will be probably be warmer, so be prepared for temperatures going up into the low 80s during the day. 

During the March and June trips, temperatures will be hot. In the middle of the day, 90s-100s will be common, with lows only going down into the 70s or 80s. Monsoon rains are possible in June.

Since India is a conservative country, be prepared to cover up, especially at religious sites. The best footwear for this trip will be sandals, as we'll be going to many places that require one to take off one's shoes. Long sleeved shirts and long pants are necessary. In general, from a cultural standpoint, long pants are preferable to shorts.

AGAIN, MAIL ME AT anselmrogers4@gmail.com to book a seat or request more information. Get in touch soon as seats are limited. See you in India!

Inside a beautiful mosque, directly adjacent to the Taj Mahal. 

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