2018A DDN NZM AC SPL
Agra doesn't have to be a day trip.
Train 2307 departs Agra Fort daily at 19:35 and gets to Jodhpur at 07:20 (2A, 3A, SL.)
A slight disadvantage of this train, it starts it's journey from Calcutta, so may be up to a couple of hours late.
A big advantage of this train, it calls at Bharatpur at 20:45, rather than going all the way back to Delhi, you could stay in Bharatpur for the night, then go for a relaxing walk in the morning and visit Fathepur Sikri (25 kms from Bharatpur) in the afternoon.
Train 9105 departs Jaipur daily at 23:05 and gets to Haridwar at 12:30 (1A, 2A, 3A, SL.)
I think this train runs for the last time on 18-11-2007. it was only a 'special' train, and these are normally only for a short period.
not what you were asking, but i reckon you should do a night in agra and make jodhpur 2 days.
2 nights in Jodhpur is more than enough - you will have seen all you want by this time. Why not take the overnight train to Jaisalmer? Even if you stayed one night here and the following night took your train to Jaipur (the same train return connects with fast train to Jaipur and you arrive Jaipur around 10.30 a.m.) you would have 2 full days for plenty of sightseeing. This time of year is wonderful for walking about all day! Spruiking for my city here!! But seriously, you have come so far, don't miss out on a unique experience - it is the 'golden city' and when you come you will see why!
Is your reason the standard "you gotta see the Taj at dawn"? If so, I am tempted by this but trying to keep things simple. Thx for the feedback.
One of my main activities in India will be photography, and the blue city of Jodhpur looks like it would be incredible for photog. Hence the 3 days. Also, I am trying to avoid spending just 1 or 2 nights in a bunch of different places. Too stressful and tiring. First trip to India and I want to keep things simple, rather than have the focus of the trip be constant travel.
Jaisalmer looks very interesting, and if it were closer I would definitly go. Maybe next trip...
Re: the 2307 - Since I only have two weeks, I'm trying to keep the number of destinations to a minimum. Going back to Delhi does mean backtracking, but it also means I don't have to search for a hotel in Agra nor schlep my bags to one more town, and I can travel light and simple for the day, having only to think about enjoying the Taj and maybe the fort, then riding the reliable and comfy Shatabdi back to my hotel in Delhi. But perhaps I will forever regret not seeing the Taj at dawn...
Re: the 9105 - Since this train originates in Ahmedabad, with 20 stops before reaching Jaipur, wouldn't this be likely to arrive in Jaipur late? This would have me waiting in the Jaipur station till wee hrs of the morning (if late).
Re: the 2018A - Thanks a lot for pointing this out. Had no idea. [whoa] What do u think about taking the 4318 DDN INDB EXP instead?
4318 looks OK, and in reality it wouldn't cost you much time, there would have been little you could have done in the morning before departing for Haridwar for train 2018A, so you're not really loosing much time, put your bags in a cloak room at Nizamuddin and go and do a bit of shopping before heading to the airport. (all parts of all bags/cases must be locked)
Actually, forget 4318, the Shatabdi (2056) departs Haridwar only 80 minutes earlier (06:20, getting to New Delhi at 11:15), this journey will be at the time the fog starts to cause problems in the north, so you're best to have a few hours to play with, also, the Shatabdi will get priority over other trains if there are delays, I know you'd have to get up at a dreadful time in the morning, but you can get some sleep on the train, and you just can't gamble with your flight home.
9105 - yes, this train could be a little late, there's never any guarantees, though this line isn't generally known for delays, I just didn't like the look of your original options, both great and reliable trains, but I doubt you'd get a lot of sleep in a hotel in Delhi, and in your situation I'd rather be on a train (saves money too).
Agra - I can agree, I think the daytrip to Agra (without luggage) is a good idea, especially if there's more you want to see in Delhi.
You could take your luggage to Agra and as soon as you get to Agra, you could put the luggage in the cloak room for the day, then get the overnight train to Jodhpur, this way you'd get to Jodhpur a day early*, but be warned, the train from Delhi arrives at Agra Cant station, the train to Jodhpur departs from Agra Fort station.
(*giving the option of spending day in Delhi on your way from Jaipur to Haridwar)
Jaisalmer, I loved the place, I also enjoyed Jaipur, but think it may be hard work if you're only there for a couple of days, if you wanted to replace Jaipur with Jaisalmer you could go from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, then get a flight from Jaisalmer to Delhi (Indian are starting flights on 1st December, Jaisalmer 14:10, Delhi 15:20), then overnight train to Haridwar).
My 2 Rupees as a former wife - and, therefore, free assistant - to a filmmaker-photographer :
One of the reasons for seeing the Taj at dawn is you'll remember it as long as you live. If you get there early enough, some mornings you just can't see it for the mist, then the cupola appears, free-standing, floating in the mist, then a column, then another cupola... Surreal.
Another reason is that the Taj is white. Not really, more like grey-pink, but basically it's a big chunk of white marble. Translate into photography requirements : as soon as the sun gains strengths, you're photographing a big flat yogurt. Get there early for depth and matter, and atmosphere.
However, sunset is cool too. Not as cool IMHO, but cool. Also, as another member rightly noted, in the morning you'll take pictures of the empty place, a miracle available for about one hour a day, if that.
Note that this will be the case during most of your Rajasthan trip : you're not very likely to take a lot of good monument / landscape photographs between, say, 10 AM and 4 PM. Too much hard light.
And I'd like to chime in with other members : 3 days in Jodhpur is 3 days taking the same picture of the blue city. I'll admit that is a vast exageration meant to carry my point, no offense to Jodhpurians on this site, it's a fine place. But for a 1st time in India I would strongly insist on going to Jaisalmer. Or, as I hear your objections, perhaps Udaipur ? Closer to Jodhpur, much simper to go to, a very pleasant city for a first-time visitor and plenty of photo ops. (As I think Wonderwomanusa remarked in another thread, Jodhpur can be a bit hostile at first, it takes several days for Jodhpur to open up to you. Since, in my view, it's also the case of Delhi and Agra, and Jaipur not being immediately lovable either, I'm thinking maybe you need an friendlier place somewhere before Rishikesh. Sorry if I'm wrong.)
Mid-day light can be harsh and (colorless) but keep in mind that in December the sun is lower in the sky and so the light can be interesting the entire day, whereas in summer the sun is straight up and not so good. I'm not real big on photographing monuments or landscapes, I prefer shooting in the streets of interesting cities.