First time to India--North India Itinerary Feedback

#1 Jan 16th, 2019, 07:24
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  • rebeccalynn is offline
#1
Hi! I have really appreciated all the information on this website and would love your feedback.

I will be traveling to India for the first time next month, part of the time with friends and part of the time solo. I'd love feedback on the itinerary I am considering (below). I have booked a guesthouse in South Delhi and arranged a driver for Agra and the Taj. We have already booked our yoga retreat in Rishikesh. The other cities / travels are not set in stone, and I haven't booked my flight back home yet.

Monday, Feb 25: arrive in Delhi Sunday late eve/early morning Monday, recover from jet lag
Tuesday, Feb 26: Delhi
Wednesday, Feb 27: Agra -- via private driver to see Taj at sunrise
Thursday, Feb 28: Express train to Haridwar (already booked)
Feb 28-March 7: Yoga retreat in Rishikesh (already booked)
March 7: Overnight bus to Dharamsala?
March 8-12: Stay in Mcleodganj (4 nights: temples, Tibet museum, Triund and Naddi treks)
March 12: Fly to Varanasi via Delhi (I know it's not a direct flight from Dharamsala, but thinking it will cut down travel time and be more comfortable, there's an 8am out of Dharamsala and an 11am from Delhi to Varanasi)
March 12-14: Varanasi (2 nights, arrive mid day on the 12)
March 14: Fly/train to Delhi (is there an overnight train? how often are flights and trains delayed? Is one better than the other for reliability?)
March 15: Fly home (added a buffer day here as I am concerned about cancelled flights per comments above, and am likely to take an 11:55am flight out of DEL)


I'd love input on time spent in both Dharamsala and Varanasi, and if I need to build in a buffer day for my flight out of Delhi. Given my flexible timeline, I'm also curious to hear if you would add a city/stop on to my travels (I did consider Kerala backwaters but wasn't sure if it made sense given all my other travel is North India). Thank you so much for your feedback!
#2 Jan 16th, 2019, 10:19
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  • aarosh is offline
#2
Would you leave Delhi on March 26 night in order to see Taj Mahal in the morning? Would not it be better that you leave during the day on March 27, see other places in Agra and then see Taj Mahal on 28th morning.

There is a direct train from Rishikesh to Pathankot, however this train reaches Pathankot at 2:15. If you do opt for this option you could wait in the waiting room till day break and then take a cab to Mcleodganj.

For a list of trains from Varanasi / Mughal Sarai (Deen Dayal Updahyaya) to various stations in Delhi (New Delhi / Old Delhi / Nizamuddin / Anant Vihar) see https://erail.in/trains-between-stat...new-delhi-NDLS
#3 Jan 16th, 2019, 11:05
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#3
Stick to North India at the moment. You can plan for Kerala during your next trip.

Do note that Mathura/Vrindavan are options on the way to Agra or while coming back. Not everyone stops there though.
However there are more places to explore in Agra and hence it could make sense to reach Agra with a 1.5 day plan. Fatehpur Sikri itself can take upto 4-5 hours if you want to explore it at length.
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#4 Jan 16th, 2019, 13:29
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  • rebeccalynn is offline
#4
hey @aarosh, thanks for the info!

Yes, the plan would be to leave Delhi in the middle of the night to get to Agra by sunrise. My thinking on this was because 1. I heard mixed reviews on Agra and staying there 2. the tourist trains don't leave Delhi until 6am at the earliest and 3. it allows me to leave my belongings at my hotel and then catch an express train north the next day. Does this make sense to you?

Great to know about the train option to Pathankot! Would you recommend this over the overnight bus to Dharamsala? I did a quick google and saw that Pathankot is about 2.5 hours from Mcleodganj.

Found the Varanasi-Delhi train thru your link. 16+ hours...whew, I'm sticking with a flight

Thanks again for the feedback!
#5 Jan 16th, 2019, 13:33
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#5
Thanks for the confirmation @snotty -- I was definitely thinking Kerala could be a great trip to combine w Mysore and other places south. It just got hard to narrow down my itinerary once I started researching everything...there's so much to see and so much I'm interested in!

I've heard of Vrindavan--thanks so much for the reminder. I hadn't considered Fatehpur Sikri as I read somewhere it was on the way to Jaipur, and that's not a part of my iten this trip. Do you think it's worth staying the night in Agra to see these two? Or choosing one to see post Taj? If you had to choose one, which would you recommend? I wasn't planning to stay in Agra because of feedback from friends and reasons I listed in my response to @aarosh above.

Thanks again for your help!
#6 Jan 16th, 2019, 13:41
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  • aarosh is offline
#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by rebeccalynn View Post Yes, the plan would be to leave Delhi in the middle of the night to get to Agra by sunrise. My thinking on this was because 1. I heard mixed reviews on Agra and staying there 2. the tourist trains don't leave Delhi until 6am at the earliest and 3. it allows me to leave my belongings at my hotel and then catch an express train north the next day. Does this make sense to you?
Except for traveling in the night the rest makes sense. Any which ways you are taking a train on 28th March to Haridwar. I assume that you are taking the train from Agra and not from Delhi.

An option could be to stay in Bharatpur closer is Fathepur Sikri and then leave for Taj Mahal early so that you can see it during sunrise.
#7 Jan 16th, 2019, 13:43
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  • aarosh is offline
#7
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Originally Posted by rebeccalynn View Post Great to know about the train option to Pathankot! Would you recommend this over the overnight bus to Dharamsala? I did a quick google and saw that Pathankot is about 2.5 hours from Mcleodganj.
I personally would prefer taking the train (I love train journeys). However it is your journey and if you are comfortable traveling by bus you could take that option since it will drop you in Mcleodganj / Dharamshala.
#8 Jan 16th, 2019, 13:46
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  • bristi.sarkar is offline
#8
Sunrise for 27th is 6:44AM. Are you staying one night in Agra ? 27th night ? Add a night extra in Varanasi.
#9 Jan 16th, 2019, 14:10
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#9
Thanks so much for the quick response! I would much prefer a train over a bus too...I didn't know the train option previously (although I'm not super keen on the 2:15am landing--thoughts on middle of the night solo safety?).

I'll look into staying in Bharatpur the night before seeing the Taj
#10 Jan 16th, 2019, 14:16
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Thanks @bristi.sarkar for the feedback on Varanasi! To be honest, I've read so many of the posts on here about Varanasi and had a hard time deciding length of stay. It seems that folks are quite bi-polar about it, either loving it or hating it. It's a must see for my first trip to India as I recognize how sacred the city is and am curious to learn more / observe. In the threads I read some people were ready to leave after a night and some said six nights weren't enough, so it was so hard to figure that out for me! I appreciate the feedback

Re Agra, I planned to not stay but just drive there to arrive by sunrise, which yes is early see thoughts above. But am looking into Bharatpur per @aarosh's rec!
#11 Jan 16th, 2019, 14:23
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  • aarosh is offline
#11
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Originally Posted by rebeccalynn View Post (although I'm not super keen on the 2:15am landing--thoughts on middle of the night solo safety?).

I'll look into staying in Bharatpur the night before seeing the Taj
I think the waiting room inside the railway station could be a good option. There should be a separate waiting room for ladies only as that is the case with other major stations / stations near tourist places.

Do look into the option of staying in Bharatpur. If you do opt for that and if time permits you can visit the not often visited Deeg Palace and the Government museum inside Bharatpur fort.
#12 Jan 16th, 2019, 14:36
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#12
Awesome. Thanks so much @aarosh. This is helpful for my itinerary and I'm happy to hear there's a train option! How much do you think the cab will be from the train to Mcleodganj?

Definitely taking your advice and opting for the night closer. Now that I'm thinking about it, I don't know what I was thinking...it will be so much easier this way!

Any thoughts on my length of stay in Mcleodganj? I had planned for 4 nights thinking it will be beautiful, active, and cultural w the mountains and the temples.

Are trains / planes often delayed in India? Specifically curious about planes given I plan to fly to Varanasi next and will have to layover in Delhi....
#13 Jan 16th, 2019, 14:54
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  • nycank is offline
#13
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Originally Posted by rebeccalynn View Post
Are trains / planes often delayed in India? Specifically curious about planes given I plan to fly to Varanasi next and will have to layover in Delhi....
Depends on the route pairs, and airline's on-time performance. Given the weather patterns, it is difficult to predict March weather in the valley.
#14 Jan 16th, 2019, 15:03
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Thanks @nycank I didn't even think to look up airlines on-time performance
#15 Jan 16th, 2019, 15:29
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#15
I don't have an idea about the cab fare from Pathankot to Mcleodganj. There are shared cabs also available outside the station. Check if your fellow travelers are going to Mcleodganj so that you can take the shared cab.

4 days I think is good enough for Mcleodganj.

Plane delays happen due to weather. As nycank mentioned weather in the valley is unpredictable. Trains are usually on time except for the period from December to Mid February due to fog in the northern part of India.

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