“Incredible India!” claims the national tourism campaign, and Incredible it is! Incredibly intriguing, incredibly tasty, incredibly cheap (and incredibly dirty). But above all incredibly beautiful!
Two weeks isn’t enough to see all that this culture packed country has to offer, but this itinerary ensures you see the most famous sights as well as get plenty of relaxing time in the sun.
Itinerary at a Glance
Flight (UK to India return): 400 british pounds(gbp)
Internal Flights: 150gbp
Spends: 500gbp max
Currency: Indian Rupee (£1 = R86)
See the itinerary and cost details in the photos at the very bottom of this post.
Day 1 to 3 – Arrive & Explore Mumbai
Mumbai has it all, from street food to high end luxury restaurants. Rooftop cocktail bars to humble backstreet beer haunts. Winding streets busy with bazaars and markets spill into marble lined shopping plazas. Colonial architecture remains from the British empire against a cityscape combining the world’s poorest slums and some of the world’s most extravagant high rises. Nowhere is the gap between rich and poor so tangibly visible. Spend the first few days getting your head round this fun and vibrant metropolis.
- GATEWAY OF INDIA: situated on the Colaba waterfront beside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel this “old” monument perhaps feels a tad out of place amongst it’s surroundings, but is worth a visit. The surrounding area has some nice bars and restaurants on the seafront. There are also masses of tour guides who can help you see other parts of the city.
- CRICKET AT OVAL MAIDEN: Cricket is India’s national sport and you can witness (particularly at a weekend) just how much love the locals have for this game and they will be more than happy for you to get involved.
- SLUM TOUR: tour guides can arrange a tour of the slums, lasting a few hours. The opinion is maybe divided on whether these help or hinder the slums, but I think it’s worth a visit because it’s such a huge part of life here. Avoid visiting alone as they are labyrinths and you could easily find yourself lost and needing directions (which won’t be free!).
- WALK AND EXPLORE: you can easily walk from Colaba up to Kamathipura and back down in a day with a lunch stop in between. Explore the extensive bazaars and markets, visit the huge Chhatrapati Shuvaji train station and wander up palm lined streets where the victorian architecture houses universities and government buildings. See families who live on the streets setting up their kitchens and stalls. The Post Office and Bank of India buildings are particularly impressive.
- CHAPATI TIME: you could easily step out of your hotel doors on to the streets in Mumbai and have a huge variety of eating and drinking options within a short walk. But check this post for the best places to seek out.
- WHERE TO STAY: The Colaba area is a great base! We stayed at Hotel Diplomat – DON’T! It was a dump; by far the worst place we stayed in India.
Day 4 to 5: Varanasi
Book an early morning flight from Mumbai to Varanasi on Day 4 and a late afternoon flight out of Varanasi to Delhi on Day 5. This will give you a full afternoon, one night and a morning in Varanasi.
Now… this may seem like a ridiculously short stop over, but Varanasi is a place like no other I’ve ever been and gave me an insight into a fascinatingly ritualistic and spiritual side of India that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss, so much so, I’ve written a post here on why you should visit.
Day 6: Delhi
Our visit in Delhi was cut short due to flight delays and made all the less sweet due to a bout of Delhi Belly.
We had booked into the Prime Balaji Deluxe hotel. This hotel was also in a great location, surrounded by a vast number of tour operators meaning we could easily barter ourselves a good deal for a driver to take us on The Golden Triangle (Taj Mahal & Jaipur) for approx. 70gbp per person, departing the next day.
TIP: No need to book Golden Triangle tour in advance of arriving in India. You could leave the day you arrived if you so wished.
The area close to the hotel we stayed in was a minefield of (very) cheap bazaars and shops selling anything from counterfit clothes to traditional indian lanterns and home decor. Further north along the side of station the streets have a fair few “trendy” sort of hippy style spots for coffee, lunch and dinner.
Delhi is far more hectic than Mumbai, and to be honest was quite overwhelming coming into it. The pollution here is toxic and you can feel it with every breath. The roads are overflowing with motorbikes/tuktuks/cars/buses/bikes/horses and are incredibly hard to navigate on foot. But we managed a walk up to the Red Fort, where they hold light shows on an evening (just not the evening we were there!), other sights to seek out and explore if you have more time than us:
- Jama Madjid (Huge 17th century Mosque)
- Lotus Temple (with it’s modern, flower design)
- Qutb Minar (victory tower)
- Chandi Chowk (the area surrounding the red fort – colourful markets)
I’d love to hear what you think of Delhi, because to be honest I didn’t leave with particularly fond memories. But then again, we didn’t have much time.
Day 7 to 9: The Golden Triangle (Taj Mahal & Jaipur)
Your tour guide will collect you and your luggage from your hotel early on Day1. You need to arrange accomodation in the cities of Agra (Taj Mahal) for the first night, and Jaipur for the second night. This three day trip was definitely a highlight for us, here’s what to expect:
- CRAZY-BEAUTIFUL DRIVING: 700km across India will look very different, from empty motorways, to hectic cities, dusty dirt tracks; you’ll see it all. And everybody uses the highways here in there own unique ways, whether it’s somebody drying out manure on the hard shoulder to sell as fuel. Or a motorbike carrying the contents of a house. But be sure to stay awake and take in the views, because it’s quite an experience – and a necessity to ensure you driver doesn’t fall to sleep at the wheel (seriously)
- TAJ MAHAL: sometimes landmark sights don’t stand up to their expectations and can feel a bit less impressive in reality. The Taj Mahal is NOT one of those. Surrounded by huge walls, it’s difficult to get a glimpse of this magical mausoleum until you approach the arching entrance and the view will instantly steal your breath. The sheer imposing scale and intricate detailing of this marble masterpiece can’t be appreciated until you’re stood within it’s beautifully manicured grounds. Being there made me feel so proud that I was able to see it for myself. Definitely pay for a tour guide, as they can also take photos.
- AGRA: others may argue to the contrary, but I’d suggest Agra hasn’t much to see other than the Taj Mahal. Our tour guide drove us to a market and another red fort, but they were less than impressive having already seen Mumbai/Varanasi/Delhi. I’d suggest booking a nice hotel with swimming pool and getting some chill time (see the hotel we stayed at on the itinerary details at the end of the post).
- JAIPUR: it’s a long drive from Agra to Jaipur, but when you arrive in the Pink City you’ll instantly gravitate towards what must surely be the most colourful and vibrant of all the cities on this itinerary. Spend your afternoon walking the streets within the city walls, smelling the spice stalls and take in the beautiful palaces and architecture.
- EMPEROR FOR A DAY: we stayed at Hotel Vimal Heritage. It was a taxi ride out of the main city walls, but totally worth it! The family who live here are incredibly warm and welcoming. The decor is the traditional indian palace of your dreams with stunning gardens and courtyards in which to sit and relax
- AMBER FORT ELEPHANTS: on the third day your guide will stop off at this hilltop fort where Elephants carry tourists to the top to take in the views. Elephants are my favourite animal and I don’t like to ride them because I think it’s cruel, but do as you wish. Either way, you will enjoy the beauty of these animals who are adorned with beautiful sari’s and paints. The fort itself has alot of history and some even better views. Make sure to grab some freshly fried Pappadums from just outside the city walls – it’s a long drive back to Delhi!
- OLD RAO HOTEL: we told our driver that we refused to go to anymore “tourist trap” restaurants. After some arguing back and forth he agreed to take us to this road side treasure on the main road to Delhi for lunch and he did all the ordering of food and set us up a feast. This was the best food we ate in all of India, sprawling with locals and no foreigners it was clear to see it was going to be good! We took the opportunity to treat him to this meal as our thank you for his driving (we also gave him a tip when we got back to Delhi).
Returning to Delhi in the evening, take the opportunity to explore some more or, like us, hit the hay ready for tomorrows flight.
Day 10 to 15: Goa
Goa is the perfect sun-holiday destination for us Brits; Sun, Sea and Curry! What more could you want? After 10 days and several flights around Northern India, trust me when I say you’ll be sick of the city life. India is the most exhausting and tiring country I’ve visited and the thick smoggy air of Delhi and Mumbai really gets to you.
So book in advance a beautiful hotel in Goa for some much needed R&R. We were blown away by how cheap the hotels were in Goa. We stayed at Rio Resort and it was around 135gbp for 5 nights (per person). It didn’t have beach frontage, but situated down a long private driveway, it was surrounded by jungle, rice fields and lagoons which were equally as stunning and had a beautiful pool.
It was a short taxi ride into downtown Goa where the bars, restaurants and street clubs were, but we only ventured there two of five nights. The streets from the hotel, through the jungle, had some incredible spots to eat (think naan, curry, dahl, chapatti, samosa and beer for 5pounds!!). If you do make it to downtown Goa, check out Jamies restaurant on the main street for amazing food in a beautiful garden location – just make sure to take bug spray!
Fly to Mumbai late on Day 15 so you’ve got a full day of Goan sun, beers and fish curry.
Day 15 to 17: Mumbai High Life
Leave India on a high (rise) and book yourself into a swanky hotel for a final two nights of luxury; ideally in a different part of the city to when you arrived. Many readers will recoil at the thought of going on holiday without all hotels booked, but I’d suggest searching online whilst in Goa to book these final two nights in Mumbai, because you’ll get some amazing last minute deals!!
We stayed at the St Regis for 50gbp (pppn) and I couldn’t recommend it more! It has beautiful rooms, a rooftop pool and spa and was part of a huge shopping complex which was a great way to experience how the other half life in Mumbai as well as pick up some cheap buys. The restaurants in this area of town were also much more upmarket and an opportunity to see a more modern style of Indian food.
Remember to check out where to eat in Mumbai here.
So, that’s 2 weeks in India, I’d love to hear if it has made you want to visit? Or if you’ve visited before; what do you think to my itinerary, have I missed anything? What did you love?