India is a large country that can be overwhelming to first-time visitors, as there’s so much to see and do (and eat) -- it might feel that there's no possible way that you can do it all. To properly navigate India, you’ll have to focus your time on different regions. For an incredible first-timer’s trip, we’ve focused this itinerary on Rajasthan, the desert region that starts just outside of Delhi and stretches east across the country. If the India of kings and queens, palaces and temples appeals to you, follow this itinerary from New Delhi, to the "Blue City" of Jodphur, for an unforgettable 10-day adventure.
Day 1: Delhi
New Delhi is exciting and energizing, which is good, because chances are you flew a long way to be here. Though many travelers have a tendency to blow past their arrival city and head straight for other places, New Delhi is different, and you should absolutely plan on spending a few days here before hitting the road. Since you’ve just arrived, spend your first day in a comfortable hotel adjusting to the food, the time zone, and the weather.
Stay: Our top pick is Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, which is smack-dab in the middle of everything and provides the perfect Delhi balance -- close to the chaos and top sights of the city, but secluded enough for when you need some down time.
If the Shangri-La is full, check out Radisson’s Blu Marina Connaught Place, which will put you in the center of Connaught Place (known as CP), an area great for shopping, and also close to several subway lines.
Day 2: Delhi
Start your day off right: have breakfast at your hotel, then head off on a day full of sightseeing. Today, aim to visit the India Gate (close to the Shangri-La), and Humayun’s Tomb, before getting lost in the commerce section of CP. This area is a mecca for shopping -- be sure to check out the Central Cottage Industries Emporium, a five-floor store that sells tax-free wares from different regions in India.
To get around, take the Delhi metro, or a rickshaw, or Uber.
Day 3: Delhi
Today your itinerary includes the famous Red Fort, which you’ll need at least one-and-a-half hours to explore. After that, head across the road to the very old and crowded Chandni Chowk markets. They’re intense, so the most comfortable way to explore is to hire a rickshaw driver to take you through the different sections. Look for someone who can converse in your language, at least minimally, so they can explain what you’re seeing. Have lunch in the market at Karim’s -- it’s an old-world Delhi staple and any rickshaw driver will know where it is.
While you’re exploring Chandni Chowk, pop into Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. You’ll probably be worn out at this point, so head back to your hotel by early evening for a cocktail by the pool.
Day 4: Agra
Travelers have several options when it comes to getting to Agra -- by train, by private tour, or by Uber. We'd suggest the latter. If you’re traveling with more than two people, it works out to be roughly the same price as schlepping it on the train. Traveling India’s railways is an experience, for sure, but requires a necessary bit of gumption and grit. For now, take a car to Agra as it’s only two hours away.
If you arrive mid-afternoon, be sure to visit Agra’s Red Fort, where it pays to invest in having a tour guide to explain all of the beauty you’re witnessing.
Spend the night at Radisson Blu Agra Taj East Gate, and wake up early in the morning to be the first to enter the Taj Mahal.
Day 5: Agra to Jaipur
Get your early start to tour the Taj Mahal in Agra, then head to Jaipur. Jaipur is roughly five hours by car or train from Agra. If you take the train, opt for an air-conditioned sleeper to make the ride more comfortable, and expect delays -- our train traveling from Agra to Jaipur was more than seven hours late, which left us stranded at the Agra train station until 2 a.m. (less than ideal). If you don’t want to deal with that possibility, book a bus or private car.
When you arrive in Jaipur, check into the ITC Rajputana, which is just a short drive from the railway station and the pink city.
If you’ve got the energy, head to the Hawa Mahal as the sun sets to watch the lights of the building turn on, transforming the building.
Day 6: Jaipur
Walk through the pink city in the morning, being sure to visit the city palace. After, visit the Amber Fort, built in the 14th century by the former king of Rajasthan. This massive sprawling complex also houses the former palace and is best navigated with a guide or on an audio tour so you don’t miss any of its fascinating history.
After your visit to the fort and lunch, head to the many bazaars in the city: Jaipur is one of the best places to shop in all of India, particularly if you’re looking for tapestries.
As the sun starts to set, take a rickshaw to the Hanuman's Temple, nicknamed the “Monkey Temple,” and walk to the top to watch as the city changes colors.
Day 7: Udaipur
Today you’ll start your journey onward to the lovely lakeside city of Udaipur, located roughly six hours away by car (7.5 by train) from Jaipur.
Begin this leg either overnight the night before, or very early in the morning, so that you arrive to Udaipur before the sun sets. If this goes according to plan, be sure to wander down by the lake to watch bats flying overhead as the sun dips beyond the horizon.
Spend the night at Taj Lake Palace Udaipur, a stunning property that’s centrally located and quiet.
Day 8: Udaipur
This lovely city is small enough that you can explore most of it within a day or two, so wake up early and get to it! On today’s agenda, you’ll visit the City Palace, which is small enough to visit on your own without a guide, and definitely worth seeing. Don’t miss the mirrored room, made of tiny reflective tiles. Just down the street from the city palace you’ll find the Jagdish Temple, which is also a quick visit you shouldn’t miss.
The pace of life here in Udaipur is wonderfully slower. If you’re feeling a little tired from all of the go-go-go in this itinerary, this is a great time to find a cafe, grab a chai, and sit by the water for a few hours.
In the evening, you’ll take an overnight bus to Jodphur, located roughly 10 hours away.
Day 9: Jodphur
Often referred to as the “sun city” or “blue city,” Jodphur is the second largest city in Rajasthan, and yet the old city here feels more like a town. The old city, where you’ll be spending most of your time, wraps around a very tall fort, which is the city’s main attraction.
After arrival, check into your hotel, RAAS, a restored boutique haveli (mansion) with fort views. Once you’ve relaxed for a little bit, head out to explore the old city. Since it is narrow and winding, it’s very easy to lose your bearings here. We recommend taking a walking tour of the old city, there are several locals who offer this service and it’s a fun experience to see the city through their eyes. Ask your hotel to arrange this.
After you’ve seen the old city, head up to the fort for a spectacular sunset. In the morning, don’t miss a visit to the Jaswant Thanda or the “White Temple.”
Day 10: Return to Delhi
At this point you’ve experienced traveling in India via train and bus, so today you’ll fly back to Delhi via a short one-hour flight. If you book in advance, you can often snag a seat for roughly $60.
If you arrive in Delhi with enough time before your connecting flight, store your luggage at the luggage counter in the Delhi airport train station and head out to Connaught Place for more exploring.
Check out our reviews and photos of 500 hotels in India.
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