Despite working in travel for 15 years and having travelled extensively, before my first trip to India I quite literally had no idea what to expect. It was an exciting prospect! I was embarking on a 3 month sabbatical from my role at Travel Nation to travel independently through this vast, colourful land in search of… well, why does anyone go to India? To find myself of course!
We arrived into Delhi and made our way to our hotel in Karol Bagh, a district home to lots of markets. It’s tucked away from the modern hubbub of Connaught Place; Delhi’s commercial centre and home to several fine hotels and western style restaurants.
Booking the first hotel and transfer beforehand made arriving into the madness of the city much easier. We grabbed a few hours rest before spending the next few days exploring some of Delhi’s highlights.
“I’d recommend a short tour or hiring a guide and a driver to help maximise your time, it can be quite overwhelming so having someone on hand to point you in the right direction is invaluable”.
A driver/guide can introduce you to the best Chai in town, but whilst you’re in Delhi, don’t miss:
After a busy day sightseeing your hotel will be your refuge so if budget permits, I do recommend treating yourself. A few little comforts will help you unwind and get you ready for the next stage of your Indian adventure.
Taking an overnight train in India was an unforgettable experience. We actually almost missed the epic 18-hour journey as the train ended up departing from a different platform, meaning a quick sprint and a heave-ho onto the carriage with our bags. What an entrance we made!
We had to book a Second Class class sleeper for this trip as the train was full, but on a later journey I booked First Class class. I’d recommend First Class for that extra level of comfort; you’ll be in a cabin for 4 with plug sockets, fresh linen and a little more privacy. Second Class is part of an open carriage and the bunks can be three high! It’s certainly fun mixing with all of the other passengers – everyone is keen to try out their English and find out about what you’re up to, where you’re from, where you’re going, what job your father does… expect unending questions!
“Booking train travel arrangements ahead is essential especially during Indian holidays as trains are the most popular mode of transport and waitlists are often high.”
Plan your trip out and ensure your cabins are confirmed before arriving. Meals can be purchased on-board and the views as dawn breaks are will stay with you for a very long time.
We arrived in Jaisalmer and spent a lovely couple of days wandering around the fort, tasting the local food and sweet treats and watching kids play cricket on the rooftops. The city is gateway to the Thar Desert so camel treks and overnight safaris are the big draw here – and we spent a magical night under the stars. Don’t forget a hat or a wrap that you can fashion into a turban to keep that sun off your head, all day camel trekking leaves you rather exposed!
Our next stop was beautiful Udaipur, reached via a terrifying overnight bus journey. Private drivers are the best way that you can spend your money here – don’t even think about the bus unless you are really on a shoestring and want to live on the edge!
The city of Udaipur deserves every compliment it gets; it’s a gorgeous place to unwind – laid back, with friendly people and some great architecture. The lake is dazzling and there are some excellent cookery courses to take part in here along with bike rides and horse-riding in the surrounding countryside.
After Udaipur we headed north to Pushkar, again by bus, this time on a daytime service. Pushkar is sat upon the shores of a lake and is a renowned Hindu pilgrimage site – it’s one of the oldest cities in India. It’s busy and loud! We spent a couple of nights taking it all in and listening to the chanting before hitting the road again, this time up to Jaipur.
The ‘pink city’ as it is known, is Rajasthan’s state capital and got its name from the trademark colour of the city palace complex. It’s busy with gem traders who flock from all over the world.
The Amber Fort is the star attraction and we spent a great afternoon in the hills surrounding the city exploring it. Jaipur is a great start/end point for any journey through this colourful state and it has an airport too, handy if you’re short on time and want to fly on to your next destination. Alternatively, the transfer time back to Delhi by road is around 5 hours.
Our journey ended with a private driver whisking us back to Delhi (finally, no buses!) where my friend flew home and I continued on through Northern India as a solo traveller.
The highlights of my Rajasthan trip would have to include the food; tomato based, lots of warming spices, chapattis and vegetarian fare. Also the landscapes; which are vast and dusty and dotted with the most incredible forts and complexes. The towns and cities are colourful and the people are very curious.
“I think if you can embrace the chaos of India, you’ll have an experience to remember. We spent a lot of time laughing too - India is best taken with a pinch of salt and a lot of patience!”
Here are some India trips that include places that I visited. They can all be tweaked to match your interests and places you most want to see:
If your schedule is tight or you’re looking for a soft landing in India, let us help you make the most of the time you do have. Consider an India trip or a tailor-made India holiday based on what interests you (we can tailor make anything to suit you). You could also look at joining a small group trip if you’re travelling alone or have a specific interests – group travel can be hugely rewarding. If you’re planning a longer stay we can piece together a variety of options to create your ultimate journey through ‘Incredible India’.