Popular Topics

Trip Report

The Ultimate Trip to India

I was lucky enough to spend two years living in India and traveled every chance that I got. Based on my experience, I have created the ultimate trip to India!

  • Delhi+ 79
  • Delhi
  • Delhi
  • The Ultimate Trip to India
About Me:As a little girl growing up in Ohio, I dreamed about traveling the world. I finally made it to Europe when I was 15 and have been hopping around the globe ever since! I have now visited 123 countries and all 7 continents and have lived ... read more

AsiaIndia30 days / March 2019

Highs & Lows

The magnificent architecture of Rajasthan

India can be a tiring place. Make sure to include plenty of down-time and recovery days so that you don't wear yourself out.

Itinerary Overview

This itinerary packs as much of India's incredible diversity in as possible.  You can easily add in additional stops if there is something that really catches your eye.    One thing that is important to remember......nothing in India goes quite as planned and you have to be ready for the unexpected.  People will stare at you and take your picture.  You will have beggars surrounding you and see some questionable things.  Just remember that the good outweighs the bad and India is what it is - raw, real and incredible. 

  • 4 Nights: Delhi
    History, culture, street food
  • 1 Night: Agra
    history, monuments
  • 2 Nights: Jaipur
    culture, history, monuments
  • 1 Night: Jodhpur
    culture, history
  • 3 Nights: Jaisalmer
    history, desert safari
  • 2 Nights: Udaipur
    landscape, culture, museums
  • 1 Night: Hotel Ravla Khempur Udaipur
    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • 1 Night: Bundi
    culture, history, monuments
  • 1 Night: Orchha
    culture, history, monuments
  • Day trip: Khajuraho
    Kama Sutra temples
  • 2 Nights: Varanasi
    culture, history, monuments
  • 3 Nights: Mumbai
    culture, nightlife, architecture
  • 4 Nights: Goa
    beach, nightlife, yoga
  • 3 Nights: Hampi
    monuments, scenery
  • Day trip: Kerala
    Houseboats, backwaters of Kerala
  • 2 Nights: Varkala
    beaches, scenery
  • Day trip: Thiruvananthapuram
    Transport links
Delhi - History, culture, street food

Delhi History, culture, street food

Delhi - History, culture, street food - null
Delhi - History, culture, street food - null
Delhi - History, culture, street food - null5+

Delhi is a city that most people try to get in and out of as fast as possible when traveling to India.   Sadly, the city's slightly undeserved reputation precedes it  and most people don't take the time to see the many amazing places that Delhi has to offer.

In my opinion, Delhi is the perfect starting point on your trip to India.   Not only is it the nation's capital but it is also the historical and cultural heart of the country.  From the ruins of Qutub Munar and Hauz Khas to the chaos of Old Delhi and the architectural gems of Humayun's Tomb and Red Fort,  Delhi has something for everyone.

For first time travelers, I recommend doing a guided tour of Old Delhi (the narrow streets can become very overwhelming!).   New Delhi is a bit easier to navigate and most sites can be visited via metro or Ubers.  

My favorite places in Delhi include:

1) Humayun's Tomb - The Taj Mahal's "older sister", Humayun's Tomb is one of the earliest Mughal tomb gardens and the immaculate grounds and magnificent tomb are well worth a visit.

2) Qutab Munar - One of the oldest monuments in Delhi, Qutab Munar is a whopping 800 years old and features the tallest brick minaret in the world.  The complex is striking and gives an interesting glimpse into 13th century Delhi.

3) Lodhi Gardens and Lodhi Colony - One of my favorite places in Delhi, Lodhi Gardens are well-laid out and full of spectacular monuments.  Best of all, it is free to enter!  Nearby, Lodhi Colony is Delhi's street art mecca with amazing murals depicting modern Indian culture.

4) Old Delhi - What is a trip to Delhi without a trip into the heart of the city?  Old Delhi is full of tiny streets and alleyways with sellers offering everything from sarees to everything you could possibly need for an Indian wedding!  Make sure to come hungry as the street food is delicious (and safe to eat!)

As you can see, Delhi is a unique city and definitely deserves a few days of your time!

Agra - history, monuments

Agra history, monuments

Agra - history, monuments - null
Agra - history, monuments - null
Agra - history, monuments - null3+

No trip to India is complete without a trip to the magnificent Taj Mahal.  Built by Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife, the Taj is an example of stunning Indo-Islamic architecture.   

I have visited the Taj twice (in winter and in summer) and I recommend trying to visit as a day trip from Delhi or if you can time it correctly as a short stop-over on the way to Jaipur.  I have gone as part of a Golden Triangle group tour and on a day trip from Delhi taking the fast trip in the early morning.

I know that many people rush to see the Taj at sunrise but when I went during the winter, it was incredibly foggy everywhere in Agra and we actually had to wait until the afternoon to go in.  Instead, we went to the Agra Fort first which was the main residence of the Mughals in Agra.  The sprawling complex is full of palaces and gardens and is more like a walled city than a fort.

The Taj is definitely an amazing experience and something that you don't want to miss. The structure is as beautiful in real life as it is in photos.  Come mentally prepared  that it will be very, very crowded and that many people will try to take photos of you and don't stress out about not getting the perfect photo.  If  you don't expect the Instagram experience and are more prepared for the "real" India, it will be a much more enjoyable.

Jaipur - culture, history, monuments

Jaipur culture, history, monuments

Jaipur - culture, history, monuments - null
Jaipur - culture, history, monuments - null
Jaipur - culture, history, monuments - null

Jaipur is one of the top destinations in India and I was blown away by the city’s many palaces when I visited in 2011.  Strangely, I didn’t go back in the entire two years that I lived in Delhi, despite the close proximity.  This just shows how many amazing things there are to see in India!

Jodhpur - culture, history

Jodhpur culture, history

Jodhpur - culture, history - null
Jodhpur - culture, history - null
Jodhpur - culture, history - null1+

I arrived in Jodhpur by bus late in the evening from Jaisalmer.  Like almost everywhere in India, the city was full of chaos and after checking into my hotel, I went for a short walk around the city center and had dinner near the hotel with a great view of the fort perched high on the hill above me.

The next morning, I woke up early to go visit the fort.   After a relatively easy uphill climb, I entered the complex.  Like most forts in Rajasthan, the Mehrangarh Fort is more like a palace complex than a defense structure.  The fort is now a museum where you can learn about Jodhpur’s history.  I took the time to stroll around the grounds and found some great viewpoints overlooking the city.

From there, I headed back down into the city and wandered around looking for Jodhpur’s famous blue houses.  Despite its nickname as the Blue City, these were surprisingly difficult to find.  I strolled up and down narrow streets before finally finding some picturesque areas.  

Jodhpur is definitely worth a quick stopover en route to Jaisalmer and there are some interesting things to see.  However, I would keep stops here brief as there are so many other great places nearby to visit. 

Jaisalmer - history, desert safari

Jaisalmer history, desert safari

Jaisalmer - history, desert safari - null
Jaisalmer - history, desert safari - null
Jaisalmer - history, desert safari - null4+

Jaisalmer is one of my favorite places in India.   The center of the city is actually located in an old fort perched high on a hill in the middle of the desert and looks like something straight out of Aladdin.  I arrived in the morning and spent the day wandering the narrow streets of the fort poking my head in and out of the many shops that line the streets getting lost in the atmosphere. I visited the Fort Museum which was definitely worth it and  I found a tour operator and booked a desert safari for the next day. 

The next morning, I set off in the back of a jeep into the desert surrounding Jaisalmer with two other tourists.  We stopped and did a short camel ride before reaching our  camp spot.  I spent the afternoon climbing up and down the nearby sand dunes before having a delicious vegetarian dinner made by our guides.  I feel asleep, happy and full under the stars.

The next morning, we made our way back to Jaisalmer where I picked up my bag from the hotel and then headed for the bus.

Udaipur - landscape, culture, museums

Udaipur landscape, culture, museums

Udaipur - landscape, culture, museums - City Palace
City Palace
Udaipur - landscape, culture, museums - null
Udaipur - landscape, culture, museums - null1+

Udaipur is another favorite destination of mine and is much more relaxed than other places in northern India.   The lakefront is full of ghats and one of the most popular activities there is a bike ride around the many lakes.

I arrived in Udaipur after an overnight train ride from Delhi.  After checking into my hotel, I spent the afternoon exploring the city and relaxing near the lake.  I even ran into a friend who was visiting Udaipur with her parents!  I spent the evening drinking beer on the hotel rooftop watching the sunset.

The next morning, I went to the City Palace, Udaipur’s crown jewel.  Unfortunately, the palace was incredibly crowded and I rushed through it.  Make sure to come early! The grounds are beautiful though and worth exploring.  

My time in Udaipur was cut a little short as I unexpectedly needed to take a bus to Mumbai so after visiting the City Palace, I had a quick lunch and then left.

Hotel Ravla Khempur Udaipur - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Hotel Ravla Khempur Udaipur The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Hotel Ravla Khempur Udaipur - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - null
Hotel Ravla Khempur Udaipur - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - null
Hotel Ravla Khempur Udaipur - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - null2+

Hotel Ravla Khempur, otherwise known as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is a bit off the beaten track but not to be missed!  Although a bit overpriced, the rambling old hotel gives you a chance to channel your inner Judi Dench. Fans of the movie will easily be able to pick out where scenes were filmed and if you haven’t seen it in awhile, the hotel shows the movie each night in the common room. 

I was only able to spend one night at the hotel but it was one of my highlights of India!

Bundi - culture, history, monuments

Bundi culture, history, monuments

Bundi - culture, history, monuments - null
Bundi - culture, history, monuments - null
Bundi - culture, history, monuments - null2+

After my stay at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I headed to Bundi.  Bundi was a city that kept appearing on the top ten lists of places to visit in Rajasthan but I didn't know anyone who had been there so I decided to go see it for myself!  I am so happy that I did because this is definitely one of my favorite parts of Northern India. 

I spent my first day wandering around the city and climbed up to the fort.  The fort has beautiful tiled interiors, well-maintained gardens and amazing views over the city.  I visited some never-ending stepwells and stumbled through tiny neighborhoods with bright blue houses. 

The next morning, I sadly had to head back to Jhansi (the closest major transit point) to get back to Delhi.  Luckily for anyone using this itinerary, you can stay as long as you want!

Orchha - culture, history, monuments

Orchha culture, history, monuments

Orchha - culture, history, monuments - null
Orchha - culture, history, monuments - null
Orchha - culture, history, monuments - null1+

A coworker in Delhi told me to visit Orchha when I was about to leave for Khajuraho and although I hadn't heard of the town before, It somehow stuck in my mind.   I am forever grateful!  Orchha is a great little place with a ton of things to see. 

I spent my time in Orchha exploring the town center which has an interesting array of old, abandoned buildings that you can poke your head into.   I headed to the Orchha Fort which is a stunning display of architecture.  During my visit, the place was crawling with schoolchildren so I spent a lot of time being in "selfies" and asking kids to take photos of me!

In the evening, I headed to the chattris, which are beautiful tombs located right on the riverside.  The views of the surrounding landscape were gorgeous and it was a wonderful way to end the day.

The next day, I visited the Lakshmi Temple which is perched high up on a hill above the town and the Chaturbhuj Temple, a gigantic temple right in the town center.  (You can't miss it - it towers over everything else!)

I stayed only one night in Orchha which was a bit short but I managed to see everything.   The town doesn't have the same amount of "creature comforts" as Bundi or Varanasi in regards to food and accommodation so if you have a spare few days, I would spend them in another destination. 


Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples

Khajuraho Kama Sutra temples

Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples - null
Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples - null
Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples - null

India is known for the Kama Sutra and there is no better place to see how imaginative people can be than at the Khajuraho Temples.  Although the erotic carvings are not immediately noticeable, once you see them that is pretty much all you see.   I arrived early in the morning and headed straight to the temple complex.  The grounds are well-maintained and the temples themselves are beautifully ornate.  There are some pretty risque carvings and once you see them, you can't not notice them anymore.  I spent a few hours there absorbing ALL the details and then I rented an old rickety bike and rode out to some outlying temples which I highly recommend (except maybe get a better quality bike!). A security guard at the outlying temple complex insisted on giving me an ad hoc tour making sure to point out the various Hindu gods represented on the temples and all of the various sexually-explicit carvings.  

I arrived early in the morning in Khajuraho after taking an overnight train from Delhi and although I originally planned to stay overnight in there, the lack of decent hotels made me decide to keep moving on.   The few that I looked at had squat toilets and the "showers" were actually just a bucket.   This was a blessing in disguise though as instead made my way directly to a town called Orchha (shown on the itinerary as stop #9) instead which I ended up falling in love with.



Varanasi - culture, history, monuments

Varanasi culture, history, monuments

Varanasi - culture, history, monuments - null
Varanasi - culture, history, monuments - null
Varanasi - culture, history, monuments - null3+

Varanasi is known for being one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and it has quite the reputation.  From images of people bathing in the Ganges to holy men doing all kinds of crazy things, many people head to Varanasi expecting to see the unexpected.  The great thing is that everything you read and see about Varanasi is TRUE!  

After arriving early in the morning, Is pent my first day walking along the many, many ghats and exploring the backstreets of the city.  The ghats were full of people desperate to finally touch the holy waters of the river, saying the final goodbye to their loved ones or just enjoying their time.  Holy men can be found everywhere along the river and the scene is organized chaos (much like everywhere in India!).  In the evening, I attended an aarti ceremony which was very interesting and the next morning, I woke up really early for a sunrise tour of the Ganges with some of the other guests in the hostel.

That afternoon, I did a tour of the various temples around the city that was organized by the hostel and spent my last few hours revisiting some of the alleyways and soaking up the atmosphere before heading off to my next destination.   While I only stayed one night in Varanasi during my trip (I had to get back to Delhi for work), I highly recommend spending at least two nights there.  

Mumbai - culture, nightlife, architecture

Mumbai culture, nightlife, architecture

Mumbai - culture, nightlife, architecture - null
Mumbai - culture, nightlife, architecture - null
Mumbai - culture, nightlife, architecture - null2+

From Varanasi, you can fly to Mumbai and start the next portion of your trip.

While New York is known as the city that never sleeps, Mumbai could easily take that title.  From the bustling streets of Colaba to the party hub of Bandra/Khar to the economic hive of Dharavi, Mumbai is in motion all the time.  I was lucky enough to live there for 6 months after spending a year and a half between Delhi and Mumbai. 

Top Things to Do in Mumbai

1. Dharavi Slum Tour - Dharavi is an economic powerhouse and is considered the beating heart of Mumbai.  Although you can go and check it out yourself, I highly recommend going with a tour guide.  The alleyways are narrow and it is very, very easy to get lost.   Although there are many companies doing it,  I suggest Reality Tours and Travel.  They are part NGO and use part of thee profits to fund their own education-based NGO.

2.  Colaba - Mumbai has an amazing array of architectural styles and Colaba is the best place to see it.  Neogothic , art deco and Victorian styles stand side by side and it is easy to see why Colaba became the backpacker hub of the city. The famous Taj Hotel, Gateway of India and Leopold Cafe (from Shantaram) stand on one side of the peninsula while Marine Drive provides sweeping views across the harbor on the other.

3. Bandra/Khar - While not exactly a tourist hotspot, the adjacent neighborhoods are home to many Bollywood celebrities and offer a plethora of nightlife and dining options.

4. Elephanta Island - Located a short ferry ride from the Gateway of India, Elephanta Island offers a stunning array of millennium old Hindu statues and cave carvings.   Make sure that you don't leave the ferry with ANY food on you.  The monkeys can be very aggressive!


Goa - beach, nightlife, yoga

Goa beach, nightlife, yoga

Goa - beach, nightlife, yoga - null
Goa - beach, nightlife, yoga - null
Goa - beach, nightlife, yoga - null7+

Goa is known as being a huge, international party place but there is so much more than that.  Although the state of Goa is tiny, it has a lot to offer.  Best of all, everything is relatively close together making it easy to beach-hop.   The laid-back capital city of Panjim is full of colonial buildings and definitely worth spending a night in. 

Goa's beaches are as diverse as India itself and you can find everything from secluded beaches offering rustic accommodation (ie huts on the beach) to trendy boutique hotels on the main "party" beach.

I personally am not a big beach bum so I have only been to Goa twice but have managed to visit a few different places.

1.  Ashwem Beach - one of Goa's northern beaches, Ashwem is perfect for people who want to unplug.  I stayed in a trendy little backpacker's resort called Vaayu Village just a few minutes' walk from the beach.  The area is very quiet and I was the ONLY person on the beach one of the days that I went.  The beach isn't the best in Goa but it is pretty close to Mumbai.

2. Palolem - One of Goa's trendiest beaches, Palolem was full of beach bars and restaurants.  I decided to splurge and stayed in one of the tented camps (ie glamping) right on the beach.   I spent the evenings watching the sunset and drinking beer and the days soaking up the sun.

3. Gokarna - Although technically in Karnataka, I have included Gokarna in this list as it is just a bit further south than Palolem.    Om Beach is a laid-back backpacker beach with tons of super cheap accommodation and restaurants selling banana pancakes.  

Hampi - monuments, scenery

Hampi monuments, scenery

Hampi - monuments, scenery - null
Hampi - monuments, scenery - null
Hampi - monuments, scenery - null1+

Hampi is a bit off the beaten track but so incredibly worth the visit!

500 year old ruins of a city,  spectacular temples and a stunning landscape lure travelers from all around the world and the town center is full of budget accommodation.  Across the river, there is a more laid back hippy feel where you rent motorbikes to explore the landscape and lounge around on hammocks.

I spent two days wandering through the ruins and temples of the city and climbed up Matanga Hill to catch a glimpse of the area from above. Some of the attractions are walking distance from the town and for the others, I hired a tuk tuk to take me around.   I sadly didn't have enough time to explore the whole area and I highly recommend staying at least 3 nights for anyone traveling long-term. 


Kerala - Houseboats, backwaters of Kerala

Kerala Houseboats, backwaters of Kerala

Kerala - Houseboats, backwaters of Kerala - null
Kerala - Houseboats, backwaters of Kerala - null
Kerala - Houseboats, backwaters of Kerala - null2+

I flew into Kochi and spent a day exploring the city before heading to Alappuzha to board one of Kerala's famous houseboats.  The boat itself wasn't quite what I expected (the mattress was about 2 inches thick and the boat was tied up to a dock during the night with lots of people passing by) rather than being out in the water.  However, what the boat lacked in amenities, the crew made up for it.  I even got an impromptu yoga lesson!

The backwaters of Kerala are gorgeous and definitely not to be missed.  The area is very different from the rest of India and if you have the time (and money!) I highly recommend staying on a houseboat for a few days.  The change of pace is much needed after traveling around India for awhile and it really does let you see another side of the country. 

Varkala - beaches, scenery

Varkala beaches, scenery

Varkala - beaches, scenery - null
Varkala - beaches, scenery - null
Varkala - beaches, scenery - null

This oceanside town is a far-cry from what you find in Goa.  Perched high on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean, Verkala is a fantastic place to relax for a few days.  The narrow oceanside "road" is full of shops where you can buy clothes, beer and snacks and there is lots of budget accommodation.

The beach itself isn't great but I happily spent a few days there relaxing, hanging out with fellow backpackers and getting my fill of the hippy-lifestyle.   For yoga lovers, there are some ashrams there where you can take yoga teacher training courses.


Thiruvananthapuram - Transport links

Thiruvananthapuram Transport links

Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, marks the end of this itinerary and offers flight options to Delhi, Mumbai or even onwards to Colombo.     The city is a short distance from Verkala so depending on what time your flight leaves, you may decide to stay the night there. 

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    I was lucky enough to spend two years working in India and I traveled as much as I could during my time there. I wouldn't change anything!
  • Anything go wrong during the trip?

    Lots and lots of things went wrong during my travels. From delayed trains to dodgy hotels, I got used to things not going exactly as planned.
  • Restaurant recommendations?

    I am vegetarian and India is a wonderland for veggies. I ate pretty much everywhere and the only time I got sick was when I went to the Shangri-La Hotel in Delhi for brunch.
  • Tips you would give a friend?

    India is an incredible destination and as long as you go into it with an open mind, you will love it. People are friendly and welcoming, the food is delicious, and there is a ton to see. Things are surprisingly well-connected and as long as you keep your wits about you, safety is not as huge of a concern as people lead you to believe. Take the same precautions that you would anywhere in the world and you should be fine.
  • Packing tips?

    Pack as lightly as possible. Jumping in and out of tuk tuks and buses is much easier if you have a backpack instead of a suitcase. Many parts of India are very conservative so leave the shorts at home and plan on wearing capri pants or loose dresses.
  • Transportation Tips?

    Check out the IRCTC website for train times. Buying train tickets can get pretty tricky and they sometimes won't allow you to book with a foreign credit card. Luckily, there is an allotment of tourist tickets that you can get directly at the train station. Book as far ahead as you can as tickets sell out very, very quickly. Don't be afraid to take the overnight sleeper buses as well. Families, single women and old people take them all the time so there aren't any specific safety concerns. Just make sure to keep ALL your valuables in your sleeper cabin.
  • Any surprises?

    Every day is a surprise in India :)
  • Booking details?

    I booked almost all of my hotels on Booking.com and recommend doing the same. I also found that hostels feel much safer than budget hotels, especially if you are a solo female traveler. There are a lot of nice hostels throughout the country so find one with good guest reviews and have fun!


  • I lived in an apartment in Greater Kailash, South Delhi. I highly recommend staying in this South Delhi or New Delhi (close to the embassies) and would avoid staying in Old Delhi. Traffic in Delhi can be chaotic and the metro is fast, safe and cheap so book close to a metro station if possible.

  • Aman Homestay is a great choice and the property that we used while I was working for a tour company in India. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and the location is great. Another good choice is Moustache Hostel. Although I have never stayed there, I have seen the property and the reviews are phenomenal.

  • Horn OK Hostel is a great little hostel that offers both dorm rooms and private rooms and is the sister property of Horn OK Hostel in Mumbai.

  • Blue Stay Jodhpur

  • Hotel Shahi Garh - A gorgeous historic hotel located in the Jaisalmer Fort. The rooms are very comfortable and building makes you feel like you have walked back in time! I stayed 2 nights in Hotel Shahi Garh and did a desert safari for one night.

  • The Little Prince Heritage Home - a gorgeous old haveli with a rooftop restaurant