Planning a month long India itinerary is a daunting task as the country is geographically vast and has innumerable cities, temples and sights worthy of a visit.
Most first time visitors usually partake in the popular “Golden Triangle” route that consists of:
This route can be accomplished in a week and gives first timers like me a quick taste of some of this incomparable country’s greatest attractions.
For myself though I have almost a full month to plan for and while all 3 of the above listed cities will definitely be included on my trip I have decided on the itinerary below:
Day 1 – Delhi
The arrival centre for the majority of international visitors this bustling metropolis of 17 million people is the capital of the country and has long been considered the heart and soul of the nation.
While the noisy, dirty and congested urban sprawl can be a turn off for many visitors there is simply no denying that a journey to this world class city that is unlike any other on the planet is a must for any traveler to the Indian subcontinent.
Plan to spend at least two or three days in the capital to wind down from the long overseas flight, give yourself a taste of the country, and prepare you for the rest of your unforgettable adventure.
Delhi’s strategic location, legendary wealth and status as the nation’s capital has long drawn invaders and traders alike and the result is a bounty of historical sights and architectural gems that make spending more than one day in the unique destination an easy choice.
Unwind from the long flight, check into your hotel and grab a bite to eat then simply relax for the rest of the day to re-charge yourself as you will need all of your energy for the jam packed days ahead.
Day 2 – Delhi
This is where your India adventure really begins. Venture out from your hotel and head to Old Delhi, the vibrant heart of this unforgettable city.
Old Delhi if full of many of the cities greatest historical sights and is a definite must see and depending upon where you are staying most can be seen in 1 long day.
There is a tourist “hop on – hop off” bus that passes by most sights included below but fortunately for myself I will have access to a car and driver to navigate through the chaos of Delhi’s jam packed streets.
First stop up is Chandni Chowk (translated means Silvery Moonlight Square). First laid out in 1648 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the centerpiece of his new capital Shahjahanabad it remains the heart and soul of Old Delhi and contains some beautiful sights including:
- Digamar Jain Temple
- Sisganj Gurdwara (this Sikh temple is built on the site where the 9th Sikh guru, Tegh Baradur was beheaded)
- Sunehri Masjid – the Golden Mosque
- Kinari Bazaar
- Jama Masjid – India’s largest mosque it was built on the orders of the Emperor Shah Jahan and completed in 1656. Not to be missed all visitors should climb to the top of the south minaret for magnificent views across Old Delhi.
- Red Fort – The base of Mughal power from 1639 to 1857 Lal Qila (Red Fort) was constructed by Shah Jahan and is one of India’s most recognized national symbols. Expect to spend a few hours wandering around this vast complex as there is much to see including:
- Lahore Gate – all visitors enter the fort through this massive gate
- Chatta Chowk – a covered bazaar selling paintings and trinkets
- Naqqar Khana – a pavilion that once featured ceremonial music being played three times a day
- Diwan-i-Aam – A carved stone canopy hall where the Emperor held daily audience’s with the public
- Rang Mahal – A beautiful chamber that was once only open to women it features a beautiful marble fountain in the shape of an open lotus flower as its centerpiece.
- Khas Mahal – the Emperors royal apartments
- Diwan-i-Khas – the Emperor’s magnificent throne room that once contained the legendary “Peacock Throne” until it was pillaged in 1739 by the Persian invader Nadir Shah.
- Hammans – the Royal Baths
- Moti Masjid – The “Pearl Mosque” was built in 1659 by Emperor Aurangzeb.
- Delhi Gate
After finishing a tour of the incredible Red Fort head down Mahatma Gandhi Road to Rajghat, the cremation site of India’s most famous son. Across the street is the Gandhi National Museum that contains memorabilia of this historical figure considered one of the fathers of modern India.
Right beside the museum is the remains of Delhi’s fifth city Ferozabad’s palace: Feroze Shah Kotla. Enter through a gate next to the Indian express building and venture into the ruins that have seen some of the cities most significant events.
Highlights here include:
- Jama Masjid – once the largest mosque in the city the legendary conqueror Timur once prayed here in 1398.
- An ancient Ashokan obelisk moved and erected here in 1356 by Emperor Feroze Shah.
- Khuni Darwaza – The “Bloodstained Gate” it was built by another legendary conqueror: Sher Shah Sur but is most famous as the sight where the British shot the sons of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar after the Indian mutiny of 1857.
Continue down Mahatma Gandhi Road to the remains on Delhi’s sixth city Dinpanah. It is here you will visit its impressive citadel Purana Qila (Old Fort), built by the Emperor Humayun.
Also on site is the Qila-i-Khuna Mosque built in 1541 by Sher Shah Sur and Sher Mandal (Humayun’s library) the sight of the Emperor’s accidental death when he tripped and fell down its steps while trying to kneel for evening prayers.
Talaagi Darwaza is the forts most imposing gateway and also the main entrance to one of Delhi’s most incredible attractions: Humayun’s Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Humayun’s Tomb was constructed in 1565 and is generally considered the inspiration for many other Mughal monuments including the spectacular Taj Mahal in the city of Agra. Topped by a beautiful white marble dome the complex also contains the tombs of his wives and other lesser nobleman. A must see for any visitor to Delhi it is definitely one of the cities most beautiful sights.
Right next to Humayun’s Tomb is the Nizamuddin Complex. This historic medieval settlement and necropolis contains the tomb of the Sufi Saint: Sheikh Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and many of his disciples. Also inside the complex are tombs of other important officials as well as beautiful pavilions and market stalls.
To complete this first long day continue south outside of Old Delhi to visit Tughluqabad the third of Delhi’s seven cities. Containing the remains of its once impressive fort a trip to the top of its ruined ramparts offers excellent views of the city and the adjoining Adilabad Fort. Also within the ruined city is the beautiful Ghiyasuddin’s Tomb constructed of red sandstone inlaid with white marble.
Before heading back to my hotel visit one of Delhi’s newest attractions: the Laxmi Narayan Temple or more commonly known as the “Lotus Temple”. A religious destination for the Baha’i faith it has quickly become one of the cities main attractions as its unique design has made it one of the most beautiful buildings in the country.
Day 3 – Delhi
This is the day to explore New Delhi, the city layed out by the British as the headquarters of their Indian Empire just before the start of the First World War.
The area is centred on Vijay Chowk (Victory Square) and this area still contains beautiful colonial mansions and most of India’s main federal government buildings including the Presidential residence known as Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Beside Rashtrapati Bhavan is the Mughal Gardens a beautiful manicured garden full of fountains and terraces (note that these are usually only open to the public during the spring months).
Just east of Rashtrapati Bhavan is Raisina Hill which is topped by the two huge government buildings of the Secretariat. Just north of these is the circular Sansad Bhavan that houses the Indian Parliament.
Head east from Vijay Chowk along the Rajpath, Delhi’s grand two-mile long avenue that hosts most of the cities major events and parades and is flanked by beautiful fountains and canals.
Along the Rajpath is one of the capitals major attractions, the National Museum. Completed in 1960 it houses the world’s finest collection of Indian historical artifacts. Highlights include:
- Aurangzeb’s Sword
- An 8th century Koran
- Nataraja – a 12th century Chola statue of Lord Shiva
- Kubera – a 2nd century Hindu god statue
- A terracotta mask from 2700 BC
Expect to spend at least a few hours exploring this large museum containing 8 separate exhibition galleries spread out over three floors.
At its eastern terminus of the Rajpath is the India Gate. This huge red sandstone edifice is India’s equivalent to the Arch D’ Triumph in Paris and is a memorial to Indian soldiers who died in:
- World War One
- Third Afghan War
- Battle of the North-West Frontier Province
- 1971 India – Pakistan War
After visiting the India Gate head further east across the Yamuna River to the beautiful Akshardham Temple.
After a short visit at this temple head back across the river and head just north of the Rajpath along the Janpath to the Jantar Mantar, an observatory complex built in 1724 by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur
A little further north of this is Connaught Place, once the premier shopping destination in the city it is a nice place to have lunch and go shopping if desired.
Head west from here and visit the beautiful Lakshmi Naraysan Mandir Hindu temple.
After visiting the temple head south to Lodi Gardens. This intricately manicured park is known as the city’s “green lungs” and contains the tombs of Delhi’s last sultans before the conquest of the city by the Mughals. Highlights inside the park include:
- Tomb of Muhammed Shah
- Tomb of Sikander Lodi
- Athpula stone bridge
- Bsara Gumbad (Big Dome) mosque
Just south of the park lies Safdarjung’s Tomb. Constructed in 1754 of marble its interior contains some beautiful stone inlay work.
The day will end by visiting one of Delhi’s premier attractions, the Qutb Minar in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. This park is huge and in addition to housing the UNESCO World Heritage Qutb Minar tower it is also filled with weekend homes of some of the city’s richest citizens.
Other highlights within the park include:
- Jahaz Mahal – a beautiful pavilion constructed in the late 1400’s
- Madhi Masjid – Mosque built in 1200
- Bagichi Mosque
- Jharna waterfall
- Hauz-i-Shamsi reservoir built in 1230
- Mehrauli village
- Zafar Mahal Palace
- Dilkusha Gardens
- Jamali-Kamali Mosque and Tomb
- Balban’s Tomb
- Rajon ki Baoli stepwell
- Dargah Qutb Sahib (Pearl Mosque)
- Adham Khan’s Tomb
Of course the highlight of the park is the Qutb Complex housing the Qutb Minar (Victory) Tower. This huge 240 foot high tower was constructed in 1193 to mark the Islamic victory over the previous Hindu rulers and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate. The complex also contains:
- the Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam) Mosque
- A 4th century iron pillar
- Alai Darwaza gateway completed in 1311
A Delhi must see sight it should be visited first before other sights in New Delhi if you are crunched for time.
Day 4 – Delhi – Amritsar
Wake up early and head to the airport to travel northwest to the city of Amritsar in the Punjab near the border with Pakistan.
Flights are short at just over an hour non-stop and leave at various times during the day. I plan on leaving early enough so that after checking into my hotel I still have enough time to do a little sightseeing.
As I plan on staying in the heart of this bustling city I will immediately head to its main attraction the Harmindir Sahib (more commonly known as the “Golden Temple”). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the country’s premier attractions and is the holiest shrine in the world for practitioners of the Sikh religion.
This gold topped temple was constructed between 1589 and 1601 and sits in the middle of the Amrit Sarovar or “pool of nectar” after which the city is named. The temple is part of a vast complex that contains a number of interesting sites worth seeing including:
- Darshani Deohri – the main entrance to the complex
- Parikrama – the marble pathway that encircles the Amrit Sarovar
- Central Sikh Museum – containing important items and artifacts from Sikh history
- Gurudwara Dukh Bhanjani Ber tree shrine
- Ath-Sath Tirath – an important Hindu shrine
- Sri Akal Takhat Sahib – the seat of the Sikh order
- Sheesh Mahal – Hall of Mirrors
- Guru Granth Sahib – the Sikh holy book
After spending a few hours wandering through this beautiful sunset I will find a few spots along the Parikrama to capture some stunning photos of the temple at sunset and dusk.
Day 5 – Amritsar
Wake up early to catch the sunrise over the Golden Temple and Amrit Sarovar then spend the rest of the day enjoying some of the lesser known sights of the city including:
- The Jallianwala Bagh Memorial that marks the sight of the 1919 massacre of Sikhs by the British.
- Durgiana Temple – a sort of mini “Golden Temple” but one that is the holiest Hindu temple in the city
- Baba Atal Tower – this 9-storey tower marks the spot where the son of the Sikh’s 6th guru attained martyrdom
- Gobindgarh Fort – historic ruined fort in the centre of the city
In the late afternoon I will head a little north outside the city to the small town of Wagah. This village sits on the border between India and Pakistan and each evening two hours before sunset the Wagah border ceremony takes place.
This amazing flag lowering ceremony is jointly conducted between the Indian Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers, two usually deadly enemies. Colourful and full of pomp and ceremony it is an event that can’t be missed.
Day 6 – Amritsar – Varanasi
This will be pretty much a full travel day as you catch a flight from Amritsar to Varanasi (also known as Benares or Kashi) via a stopover in Delhi. Expect to spend about 5 hours in total at airports so with an early arrival at Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport in Amritsar you should be checking into your hotel on the Ganges River in Varanasi after about 8 hours in total of travel time.
If time permits, take an evening boat ride along the ghats to catch the famous aarti ceremony at Dasaswamedh Ghat. This 1000-year old nighttime prayer ceremony is not to be missed.
Day 7 – Varanasi
Wake up early to catch the sunrise over the Ganges in this holiest of holy cities for Hindus from across the planet. One of the oldest cities in the world it is centred on the mystical Ganges River and is best viewed from on the water.
Catch an early morning boat ride along the river and pass the various Ghats (steps) for which the city is renowned and watch the city come awake with bathers filling the unbelievably polluted waters. The various Ghats are filled with historic buildings, temples and a dazzling array of colours.
After disembarking from your boat ride explore the Ghats on foot. Some of the most popular Ghats, from north to south include:
- Panchganga Ghat – the meeting of the five rivers
- Manikarnika Ghat – the main cremation ghat where funeral pyres burn day and night. A must-see, but remain quiet and never take photographs.
- Scindhia Ghat – next to manikarnika but quiet and more picturesque with half sunken temple
- Dasaswamedh Ghat – known as the ‘main’ ghat, this is the site of the large evening aarti ceremony, MUST SEE
- Rana Ghat
- Kedar Ghat – brightly painted in stripes and busy with bathers, very photogenic
- Narad Ghat – the ghat on which bathing with spouse is not advised because the legend of contention
- Harishchandra Ghat – the cremation place where Raja Harishchandra did the last rituals of his son.
- Hanuman Ghat
- Shivala Ghat
- Tulsi Ghat – site of the large water purification plant
- Assi Ghat – a popular place to stay, with many hotels, restaurants, and internet cafes
Other popular Ghats include:
- Chet Singh Ghat – nice fort
- Darbhanga Ghat – Huge palace
- Bhosale Ghat – palace
Once you move away from the river’s edge this ancient city becomes a maze of narrow, crowded alleyways that are tough to navigate without the help of a guide and as there are many sites to see away from the Ganges it is highly recommended that you hire the services of a guide.
As another evening and sunset boat ride along the Ganges to see the aarti ceremony is on the itinerary later in the day spend whatever time you have before this visiting some of the more popular of the cities sights including:
- Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple) – topped with 750 Kilograms (1654 pounds) of gold this shrine dedicated to Shiva is a definite must see sight.
- Sankat Mochan Temple – dedicated to the god Hanuman it is also famous as the home to thousands of monkeys.
- Alamagir Mosque (also known as Aurangzeb’s Mosque) – dominating the skyline overlooking the Panchganga Ghat it offers great views over the area
- Nepali Temple this small golden temple is built in the Nepali architectural style
- Gauri Matha Temple
- Kaal Bhairav Temple – known as the oldest temple in the city
- Durga Temple – also known as the monkey temple due to the proliferation of the creatures at the site.
Day 8 – Varanasi
Get up early for another early morning adventure along the Ganges (either explore on foot or take another boat ride)
Take an excursion 13 Kilometres outside the city to the small community of Sarnath. One of the most sacred places on the planet for Buddhists it is the place where the Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.
The main site here is the 5th century Dhamekh Stupa said to be built on the excat site where the Buddha delivered his first speech.
Nearby are the ruins of the Dharmarajika Stupa that at one time housed the Buddha’s relics.
Make sure to also visit the small Archeological Museum on site that contains a fine collection of Buddhist artifacts and the Ashokan lion capital, the country’s national emblem.
Head back to Varanasi and visit any of the sights you missed the day before and also make sure to take in the Ramnagar Fort across the river. Home to the Maharaja’s of Varanasi for over 400 years it now lies in a dilapidated state but does contain a nice little museum with some interesting local artifacts.
Finish your time in the city with another sunset boat ride to catch the mesmerizing aarti ceremony.
Day 9 – Varanasi – Khajuraho
Head to Varanasi airport in the morning for a short flight to my next destination: Khajuraho, site of some spectacular Hindu and Jain temples that have been designated as a UNESCO World heritage Site.
Over 1000 years old these isolated temples were hidden in the dense jungle for over 700 years before being “rediscovered” in 1883. Divided into three groups without a doubt the most spectacular are the western group containing the Kandariya Mahadev Temple and its erotic sculptures that form the basis of the Kama Sutra.
Finish the day by exploring the other important temples in the western group including:
- Lakshman Temple
- Vishwanath Temple
- Matangeshwar Temple
Also worth seeing at the site is the:
- Statue of Varaha (Vishnu’s boar incarnation)
- Archaeological Museum
Day 10 – Khajuraho
Explore the eastern group of temples of which the Parsvanatha Temple is the most remarkable then head over to the southern group of which the Chaturbhuj Temple should not be missed.
Spend the rest of the day exploring whatever temples were missed in the western group during the first day in Khajuraho.
Day 11 – Orchha
Get up early for my first road trip. Meet the hired driver then hop into a car and head west for a 4-hour journey to my next destination, the historic town of Orchha. Arrive mid-afternoon then spend the rest of the day visiting the former capital of the Bundela kings.
Majestically situated on an island in the Betwa River the fortified town contains some picturesque palaces and temples worth visiting including:
- Raja Mahal
- Jahangir Mahal
- Praveen Mahal
- Ram Raja temple
- Lakshmi Narayan Temple
- Chaturbhuj Temple
Just outside the main complex are 14 spectacular cenotaphs of the former Orchha rulers.
Day 12 – Gwalior – Agra
Get up early and continue heading west and en route stop in the city of Gwalior and visit its historic fort.
The massive fort is enclosed by 33 feet (10 meter) high walls that stretch for nearly 2 miles (3 kilometres) atop a 328 feet (100 metre) hill. Built in the 8th century the fort contains some beautiful palaces and temples of which the most spectacular is the Man Mandir Palace built in the late 1400’s.
After checking out the small archaeological Museum on site head a little south outside of the fort to visit the opulent Jai Vilas Palace which was originally constructed for the Maharaja of Gwalior.
Get back into the car to finish the days journey by arriving in the city of Agra with enough time to spare to catch the sunset over the magnificent Taj Mahal.
Day 13 – Agra
Get up extremely early to make sure I catch the sunrise over what may be the most beautiful man made structure in the world, the Taj Mahal.
Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his dead wife this UNESCO World Heritage site was completed in 1643 and has been called the most perfect building in the world. Spend the morning exploring the complex on the Yamuna River and see some of its beautiful sights including:
- The lotus pool
- The marble screen
- The main tomb chamber
- Pietra Dura
- The dome
- The mosque
Grab a quick bite to eat at the Saniya Palace Inn and sit on the terrace for great views of the Taj.
After visiting the Taj head into the city itself to visit it’s other UNESCO World Heritage site the Agra Fort. Completed in 1573 by Emperor Akbar its huge red sandstone walls contain a multitude of must see sights including:
- Amar Singh gate
- Arches of the Diwan-i-Aam
- Jahangiri Mahal
- Khas Mahal
- Anguri Bagh garden
- Sheesh Mahal
- Masamman Burj
- Mina Masjid
- Machchhi Bhavan (fish house)
- Nagina Masjid
- Moti Masjid
If time permits Agra’s Jama Masjid is also one of the cities must see sights.
The long day will finish with me heading back to the Taj Mahal to make sure I see the sun set over its magnificent spires.
Day 14 – Fatehpur Sikri – Jaipur
Get up early and once again watch the sunrise over the Taj Mahal but this time from a different perspective as I head over the Yamuna to its east bank.
After catching the sunrise at the Moonlight Garden I will visit the east banks other sights including:
- Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb (this building was one of the inspirations for the Taj Mahal and is known locally as the Baby Taj)
- Chini ka Rauza
Before lunch I must hop into the car and continue my journey by heading 5 miles (8 kilometres) northwest for a short stop in Sikandra the site of Emperor Akbar’s Mausoleum.
The visit at this magnificent tomb can only be short though as I have to spend a few hours in Fatehpur Sikri, the areas other UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This deserted city was constructed by Emperor Akbar between 1571 and 1585 as the site of his new capital. Due to a lack of water it was however abandoned a mere 15 years later and has been left silent and empty ever since. Seemingly frozen in time it remains a splendid example of Mughal architecture. Sights worth visiting within its imposing red sandstone walls include:
- Abdar Khana
- Anoop Talao
- Haram Sara
- Sunehra Makan
- Pachisi Court
- Ankh Michauli
- Panch Mahal
- Turkish Sultana’s House
- Jama Masjid
- Jodha Bai’s Palace
- Hiran Minar
- Buland Darwaza
- Badshahi Darwaza
- Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chrishti
Leave the Fatehpur Sikri complex in the late afternoon in enough time to reach my next destination: Jaipur by early evening.
Day 15 – Jaipur
Wake up early to explore the “Pink City” of Jaipur, the third part of India’s famed “Golden Triangle” tourist circuit.
Start the day early and head just north of the city to visit the famed Amber Fort. This gorgeous fort palace is best approached by hopping on an elephant’s back for a ride up the steep cobblestoned ramp leading through the fort’s main gate. Note that the elephant rides are popular and limited and end by 11:30AM each morning so make sure I get there early enough to catch one. I know this is an extremely “touristy” thing to do but in my opinion is a MUST.
Once inside the walls there are many things to be seen including:
- Sheesh Mahal
- Ganesh Pol
- Shila Devi Temple
- Jas Mandir
- Jai Mandir
- Suraj Pol – the “Sun Gate”
- Chand Pol – the “Moon Gate”
- Sukh Niwas
- Kesar Kyari Bagh
- Akbari Mosque
Next to the Amber fort and also worth visiting are the Ramgarh Fort and the Jaigarh Fort. In between the beautiful Jal Mahal (“Water Palace” is a palace that seems to be floating on the water and is worth a short stop.
Head back to the city to visit the cities beautiful sites which fortunately are all in close proximity to each other and laid out around the Badi Chaupar (“Large Square”).
Start by visiting the City Palace. Now known as the City Palace Museum it has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the 18th century and part of the building is now open to the. Housing a splendid collection from the city’s royal past things not to be missed include:
- Mubarak Mahal
- Pritam Chowk
- Sileh Khana
- Chandra Mahal
- Rajendra Pol
- Riddhi Siddhi Pol
- Silver Urns
Right next to the Jantar Mantar and also best entered from the rear is the unique and spectacular Hawa mahal or “Palace of Winds”. Unlike any other building on the planet it was originally built in 1799 as a means for the Maharaja’s ladies of the harem to watch events occur on the streets below unseen by its crowds.
Make sure to climb the winding ramp to the top for some beautiful views over the city below.
After visiting the Hawa Mahal finish the tour of the old city by visiting:
- The Jama Masjid
- Tarkeshwar Temple
- Tripolia Gate
- Ishwar Lat – climb to the top of this tower for spectacular views over the Tripolia Bazaar
- Albert Hall Museum
If time permits head back outside of town to catch the sunset at the Galta Ji Temple (aka Monkey Temple) where hundred of monkeys come out as the sun descends and they take over this small temple.
Day 16 – Chittorgarh – Udaipur
Continue my Indian adventure by heading south out of Jaipur towards Chittorgarh and ultimately Udaipur.
Stop for a few hours in the sprawling Chittorgarh Fort. One of the most famous forts in Rajasthan it has a few sights well worth visiting including:
- Rana Kumbha’s Palace
- Fateh Prakash Palace (with a museum inside)
- Kumbha Shyam Temple
- Meerabai Temple
- Vijay Stambh (Victory Tower)
- Kalika Mata Temple
- Padmini’s Temple
- Kirti Stambh
After exploring the massive fort leave in mid-afternoon in order to arrive in the city of Udaipur before nightfall.
Day 17 – Udaipur
Generally considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country it is commonly known as “Venice of the East”.
Wake up early and visit what is without a doubt the city’s main attraction the massive City Palace. The largest palace in Rajasthan it stretches along the shore eastern shore of Lake Pichola and is actually a complex of several palaces built 22 Maharanas between the 16th and 20th centuries and is now known as the City Palace Museum.
The huge complex has much to see and I expect to spend half a day wandering its various buildings to see some of its main sights including:
- Tripolia Gate
- Ganesh Deorhi Gate
- Rajya Angan Chowk
- Chandra Mahal (great view of Lake Pichola from here)
- Bari Mahal
- Dilkhushal Mahal
- Moti Mahal
- Mor Chowk
- Shambhu Niwas
- Fateh Prakash
- Shiv Niwas
After exploring the City Palace I will hop on a boat for a ride around Lake Pichola to visit the Jag Mandir Palace and then cruise by the spectacular Jag Niwas (Lake Palace).
Spend the rest of the day exploring some of the main sites in the city including:
- Jagdish Mandir Temple
- Bapu Bazaar
- Bara Bazaar
- Bagore ki Haveli
Make sure I am in the vicinity of the Bagore ki Haveli at around 7:00PM as a folk music and dance performance is held here each evening.
Day 18 – Kumbhalgarh – Ranakpur – Jodhpur
Get up early to capture some images of the sunrise over Lake Pichola and the City Palace before heading north to my next destination, the sprawling fort of Kumbhalgarh.
Built in the 15th century its massive walls stretch for 22 miles (36 kilometres) along the Aravalli Hills. While huge I cannot spend much time here and will visit its most important sights including:
- Kartargarh Fort
- Bada Mahal
- Neelkantha Temple
- Navachoki Temple
After leaving the fort head northwest and visit the mesmerizing Jain Temples at Ranakpur. One of the 5 holiest places of the Jain Faith this unbelievable complex of over 1400 marble pillars is dominated by the Adinath Temple. A site like none found anywhere else on the planet the ornately carves marble pillars are a sight to behold.
Leave Ranakpur and continue to head north so as to reach Jodhpur, my next destination, by nightfall.
Day 19 – Jodhpur
Get up early to catch the sunrise over the beautiful Mehrangarh Fort that towers over the “blue” city of Jodhpur. Located on a 410-foot (125 metre) rock jutting skywards in the centre of town this is one of the most imposing forts in all of Rajasthan.
Have breakfast at Pillars restaurant which has great views of the fort.
As soon as the fort and museum opens I will begin exploring its many sights including:
- Phool Mahal
- Shringar Chowk
- Moti Mahal
- Takhat Mahal
- Palki Khana
- Suraj Pol
- Nagnechiaji Mandir
- Chamundi Devi Mandir
- Zenana Chock
- Chokelao Palace
- Jhanki Mahal
- Sileh Khana
- Jai Pol
- Daulat Khana
- Umaid Mahal
As soon as I finish exploring the impressive fort I will head through the old narrow streets to check out the Sardar Sazaar the visit the nearby Jaswant Thada memorial.
I will finish my sightseeing in the region by visiting the immense Umaid Bhavan Palace. Still occupied by the former Maharaja of Jodhpur’s family this is one of the largest and most opulent palaces in the world.
Day 20 – Mandore – Osian – Jaisalmer
Wake up early and head northwest and go deeper into the Thar Desert.
Head north out of the old walled city to visit the cenotaphs at Mandore, the former capital of the region prior to Rao Jodha’s construction of Jodhpur.
Stop in the small town of Osian and visit the Jain Temples. Then head west towards Jaisalmer, the “golden” city. Arrive in time to explore the town’s main sight, the Jaisalmer Fort.
With its golden sandstone ramparts rising from the flat sands of the Thar Desert the magical forts looks like a mirage.
Constructed in the 12th century it is a definite must see and has many sights inside worth visiting including:
- The ramparts
- Jain temples
- Gyan Bhandar
- Annapurna Bhandar
- Moti Mahal
- Naqqar Khana
- Rani Mahal
- Royal Complex
- Sarvottam Vilas
- Dussenhra Chowk
Finish my tour of the fort in enough time to set up my camera in a perfect location to catch the sunset over its imposing ramparts.
Day 21 – Jaisalmer
Spend the bulk of the day exploring this sleepy desert outpost and visit its best sights including:
- Manik Chock
- Badal Vilas
- Gadisagar Lake
- Salim Singh’s Haveli
- Nathmalji’s Haveli
- Patwon ki Haveli
After lunch had out of town and visit the royal cenotaphs at Bada Bagh. Then head further out into the desert to take a camel ride on the huge sand dunes at Sam at sunset.
Day 22 – Jodhpur
Get up early to catch the sunrise over the dunes of the Thar then head back to Jodhpur as I will be flying out of its tiny airport to my nest destination.
If time permits head a little south of Jodhpur to visit the interesting villages of the ethnic Bishnoi tribes, a visit here will be unlike anything else I will have yet to experience during my entire month long Indian journey.
Finish the day by watching the sun set over the “blue” city before heading off to my next destination: the historical and storied city of Aurangabad.
Day 23 – Aurangabad
I will have a little time to recuperate as this will be a travel day as I head to Jodhpur airport to catch a plane to the southern Indian city of Aurangabad.
The flight has a short stopover in Delhi so I won’t arrive in Aurangabad until the early evening making the day seem to stretch a little bit longer than it really should. With really no time to do anything today I will head straight to my hotel to rest for my next day’s adventure.
Aurangabad will be a completely different experience from what I have already encountered anywhere else on the sub-continent and should prove to be extremely enjoyable.
Day 24 – Aurangabad
Get up early and head northwest to visit the UNSECO World Heritage sight: Ellora Caves.
The temples of these 34 rock-cut caves are the main reason I am visiting the Aurangabad area and I plan to spend the bilk of the day exploring this magnificent sight.
Along the way I will visit the impressive fort at Daulatabad. Perched high atop a granite rock it at one time was the capital of the vast Indian Empire created by Muhammad bin Tughluq who marched the entire population of Delhi here before forcing them to return to Delhi a few short years later. Of course thousands perished along the way trying to follow their leaders whims.
Inside the fort a few sights worth visiting include:
- Ambarkot (the outer fort)
- Chand Minar (the 197 foot high victory tower)
- Jama Masjid
- Kataka (inner fort)
- Chini Mahal
- Qila Shikhan (an enormous bronze cannon)
Continue to head northwest and pass through the walled village of Khuldabad. Stop for a short visit to see the simple tomb of Emperor Aurangzeb and the Rauza (a religious complex dedicated to the Muslim saint Sayeed Zain-ud-din.
After passing through Khuldabad I will continue to head north until I reach my final destination at Ellora.
The caves at Ellora are spread out along an escarpment 2 kilometres (1.3 miles) long and are divided into three distinct groups:
- Caves 1 – 12 are the Buddhist caves and were constructed between the 7th and 8th centuries with Caves #10 being the most spectacular.
- Caves 13 – 29 are the Hindu Caves and were carved between the 7th and 9th centuries. Of particular importance are Caves #14, 15, 21 and 29.
- Caves 30 to 34 represent The Jain Caves that were carved in the 9th century with Cave #32 being the highlight.
Of all the caves without a doubt the most magnificent is the Kailasanatha Temple in Cave #16. Worthy of a visit all in itself it was carved in the 8th century and is simply huge.
After spending the bulk of the day at Ellora I will head back to Auargabad and visit the historic walled city and check out some of its older sights including the ruins of Naukonda Palace and the Jama Masjid.
Day 25 – Aurangabad
Today I will again head north and start my day by visiting the Bibi ka Maqbara. This famous building is more commonly known as the “fake” Taj Mahal as it is a less luxurious replica of its more famous cousin. Completed in 1678 by the Emperor Aurangzeb’s son in memory of his mother.
I will then visit the Aurangabad Caves. This small cluster of rock cut temples was mainly carved in the 6th and 7th centuries but do include Cave #4 that was cut in the 1rst century.
After visiting these two sights within Aurangabad I will head a couple hours northwest of the city to visit the Ajanta Caves.
Another UNSECO World Heritage sight it contains 30 rock-cut caves carved along a horseshoe-shaped escarpment along the Waghora gorge.
Older than the nearby Ellora Caves the Ajanta caves are divided into two distinct groups.
The first group was carved in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC while the second later group was carved in the 5th and 6th centuries.
These caves contain some incredible Buddhist murals that are remarkably well preserved.
Cave #1 contains what many consider to be the most spectacular mural but other caves worth visiting that also contain some beautiful paintings include:
- Caves #2, 10,16 and 17
In addition to the murals the caves also contain beautifully carved sculptures. The most magnificent are located in Caves #16,17 and especially # 26.
Head back to Aurangabad and try to reach it before nightfall.
Day 26 – Mumbai
Catch an early morning flight to the mega metropolis of Mumbai. Check into my hotel in south Mumbai and then immediately head to the docks to take a short ferry ride across the Arabian Sea to see the caves on Elephanta Island.
Finish the day by heading back to Mumbai to explore the sights of the touristic south Mumbai including:
- Gateway of India
- Kala Ghouda
- Prince of Wales Museum
- Marine Drive
- Take a sunset cruise on the Arabia Sea
Day 27 – Mumbai
Get up early and head right to the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Teminus (more commonly known as the Victoria Terminus) then catch a suburban train and head to Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Visit the Kanheri caves and zoo within this sprawling patch of green within the congested city.
Head back south and visit:
- Bandra-Worlii Sea Link
- Shree Siddhivinayak Temple
- Haji Ali Mosque
- Chowpatty Beach
- Flora Fountain
Day 28 – Delhi – Home
Get up late and head east back into Delhi. My plane leaves at 12:30 AM on Feb. 23 so I will not make any stops along the way I will just get into Delhi whenever possible and spend the bulk of the day at the airport as I don’t want to miss my flight.
My exhaustive Indian adventure ends as I wait at the airport for my flight back home