We are going to Rajasthan for two weeks and want to try and see as much as possible; what is the best route and are the trains okay for tourists? Obviously theTaj Mahal is going to be touristy, are there any secret tips to seeing it in a different way? Also, where is the best place to celebrate the Holi Festival?
Jen, via email
Two weeks is a fantastic length of time to visit one of India’s most majestic regions.
I have suggested an itinerary based on your UK flight being to and from Delhi as this is often the most convenient and cost-effective route from the UK. As well as Rajasthan, I’ve also included a few of India’s highlights which are outside the state. If it’s your first trip to India then Delhi’s chaos will be a baptism of fire, but the capital has some great sights, including the Red Fort (Lal Qila), India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid, and Humayun’s Tomb. From here I would recommend jumping on a direct two-hour train to Agra. Trains are absolutely fine for tourists to use; in fact they are the best way to get around for their ease and speed. Opt for a pricier air-con ticket, as these mean you will have a comfortable seat in a spacious carriage.
In Agra, you should take time to appreciate the relics of the Mughal Empire, including one of India’s best forts, Agra Fort, and Itimad-ud-Daulah, a smaller version of the Taj Mahal. Stay overnight in Agra so that you can reach the Taj Mahal first thing the following morning before most of the crowds arrive from further afield and whilst temperatures are more comfortable. If you can, get to the site for sunrise, it is a magical time of day to visit. Remember: don’t head to the complex on a Friday as you will find it closed. I would also recommend spending a day at the beautiful ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri, which is just a short bus or train ride outside Agra. Next, take a detour from the Golden Triangle trail (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) and take a sleeper train south to the riverside city of Varanasi. This holy city is famous for its ghats (riverbank steps) from where you will see a colourful display of events, from cleansings to funerals.
Return to Agra, and from here you can start to explore Rajasthan by train; visiting the pink city of Jaipur, the lakeside city of Udaipur and busy Jodhpur whose unusual blue buildings will add to your colour wheel of Indian cities. From Jodhpur, you can take a train to Delhi for your flight home.
Holi takes place in February or March. If you want to try to experience this colourful paint throwing party, Holi will be best experienced in Udaipur as the royal family hosts a decadent function at the city palace here along with a huge fire ceremony and a horse procession.
Most people this time of year will be looking forward to hitting the Alpine slopes soon. But if you want to get some time on the piste and save a few pennies, then head to Scotland. The Highlands have some great slopes, and they are far easier to get to for a quick break away or long weekend. Aviemore is my personal favourite. And, in case you didn’t know, the whisky is simply great, too. You can bookend it with a stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh as well to make it a skiing citybreak without leaving the UK!
Micky C, via email
PARTY TOUR OF THE BIG APPLE
Some of you might already know this, but if you have a visit planned to New York, check out the Party Shuttle tours.They’re on minibuses so they feel more intimate, and you don’t get gawped at as much as you would be if you were sat on some brightly coloured open-top bus. We just did one and it was the best experience we have ever had doing activity tour – we definitely recommend climbing aboard a party shuttle.
Melanie, via email