Help! So many India honeymoon options!
January 31, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

We are planning to honeymoon in India for around 12 days in November. We are overwhelmed by all of the options and places to go. For first time travelers to India, what did you love, what did you hate, what would you do differently? What is your personal best advice that you would tell your best friend about a short vacation in India?

I know that we can't travel the entire subcontinent in 12 days, so we want to do 2-4 locations and see the sites, relax a little, be amazed, be pampered a little, etc. We are normally pretty laidback about international travel but want to pre-plan a lot of sites and tours closely in the cities and regions were are looking at, so pre-planning is a must. We are interested in wildlife, nature, cultural and historical sites and of course want to spend some time in India's amazing cities. A few days in a resort or beach area would be very nice as well. We dream of seeing some tigers and riding some elephants and camels. We also want to pamper ourselves a little without being detached and isolated? What are the best places to do those sorts of things?

The internet and books are hard to use to make the cuts about where to go and what to do when time is at a premium. All the research we've done overwhelms us, and that's the first time travel planning has done that to us. All our Indian-American friends say "Geez, I've been all over when I was a little kid, now when I go I spend lots of time visiting my family. Where do you want to go?" None of our close none-Indian-American friends have traveled there.

Some of the places we have been thinking about Mumbai, Udaipur, Kochi and Goa. We have not planned to go to Delhi but we are thinking about adding it so we could take a day trip to the Taj Mahal, although it seems to be somewhat remote and we're wondering whether to travel to it just for that.

Help me return to being appropriately-whelmed in terms of planning travel to India!
posted by iknowizbirfmark to Travel & Transportation around India (17 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
My tip: don't try and chew off too much. Which you've kinda got, but which really translates as both:

- Don't change hotels too often. It's not especially relaxing, doubly so on your honeymoon
- Don't travel too far. Driving is slow. Flights aren't relaxing.

Some commercial 12 day itineraries to get your juices flowing:

First visit
India's Majesty
Splendor of South India

If it were me, I'd do something like the third one in a heartbeat - houseboats and hills are the way to go on honeymoon.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:07 PM on January 31, 2010

Mumbai is a good place to fly into, and you can get down to Goa easily from there, which I highly recommend. Goa was one of my favorite parts of India. In Mumbai, you'll probably enjoy a boat ride out to Elephanta island, and a walk along Juhu beach at sunset (though it is very the rest of India!)

Be careful about some of the wildlife refugees where they claim you can see wild tigers. We went to Ranthambore and I couldn't help feeling like they hadn't seen an actual tiger in years, but were keeping things quiet in fear of losing out on tourist dollars.

It's true that Delhi makes sense if you want to see the Taj Mahal, but there are other places near by that might make the trip north worthwhile. For instance, Jaipur is near by and quite nice. Delhia->Agra-Jaipur is a nice little triangle of day-trip distances by car (hire one..with a driver).

I also really enjoyed Mt. Abu, but it's not near anywhere really, and might be too far out of the way for such a short trip.

If you are hitting up so many places in a small amount of time, flying is an absolute must. Train travel is very very unreliable and slow (though still enjoyable -- take a train once at least!) and by car is equally slow. India has a lot of discount airlines, and we flew everywhere from Mumbai to Goa to Delhi to Udaipur to Bangalore for not a whole lot of money.

You'll have a blast. India is insane and beautiful and crazy and definitely my most memorable trip of all time, and I've been a lot of places!
posted by nitsuj at 2:08 PM on January 31, 2010

Also, if you like the idea of India, but want something with great beaches and a bit more... manageable, consider Sri Lanka.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:10 PM on January 31, 2010

A friend's parents just celebrated their 25th anniversary with a trip to Delhi, Agra, and Udaipur. They loved it, but as they were only there for two weeks, they flew between the cities. Not sure who they flew with, but there's a lot of competition with low-cost airlines offering very cheap tickets - Spicejet, for example, can get you from Jaipur to Goa for something like $50 one-way, in the space of a couple hours, for a random day I chose a few weeks from now.

A highlight was their stay in the Taj Lake Palace Udaipur - the floating hotel featured in Octopussy!

This site has a lot of detail on trains and timetables - Agra's only 2 hours 10 minutes from Delhi on a morning Shatabdi Express train, for example.
posted by mdonley at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2010

I should also add a disclaimer to my advice to fly everywhere: though it is much faster to fly, some of my favorite parts of my trip to India were day trips by car where we'd stop off in some remote village to get lunch or petrol. You get to see things you most definitely wouldn't see if you fly, so try to set aside some time for land-based travel in between destinations.
posted by nitsuj at 2:13 PM on January 31, 2010

You really don't want to try and do too much with only 12 days to play with. Either go round the Golden Triangle in the north or stick to just Mumbai and Goa (you might be able to fit Kochi in too).

In addition to Elephanta Island near Mumbai, make sure you visit the law courts and actually sit in on a case. Goa is just for the relaxing portion of your honeymoon and if you get to Kochi, go as deep into the backwaters as you can and also check out the Chinese fishing nets from close-up.

For Delhi, don't miss Red Fort and Humayan's Tomb. Lodhi Gardens are cool to relax in and get an ice cream - also, check out Qutub Minar and go up the tower at Jama Masjid. Another thing I wouldn't miss at all which is totally worth the long auto ride out to is the Bahá'í Lotus Temple down in the south. Utterly spectacular and serenely beautiful and also a lovely relaxing respite from the bustle of New Delhi.

The highlights of Jaipur are the Amber Fort and the incredible doorways of the City Palace. Hawa Mahal is a stunning driveby and Jantar Mantar has fascinating massive astronomical instruments.

Agra is a bit of a hole but so so so worth it for the Taj alone. I was so worried it would be a massive let down but was completely blown away. Fatepur Sikri is also a worthy detour.

The only things I'd do differently is to have twice as long there and eat twice as much.

nitsuj: "It's true that Delhi makes sense if you want to see the Taj Mahal, but there are other places near by that might make the trip north worthwhile. For instance, Jaipur is near by and quite nice. Delhia->Agra-Jaipur is a nice little triangle of day-trip distances by car (hire one..with a driver)."

I strongly, strongly recommend not taking a car or flight anywhere in India. The trains really are fantastic and not only offer great scenery but are one of the quintessential India experiences. It will be far more interesting than other modes of transport and much cheaper too though there is a price bracket for any level of comfort. If there is a train route between the places you want to visit, I wouldn't even consider any alternative.

A great resource for trains is If your route is sold out and you get put on the waitlist, there are really helpful people on who have a really good idea of whether you'll get a seat. If you have time constraints getting around, it can be really useful to know.
posted by turkeyphant at 3:37 PM on January 31, 2010

Udaipur is so beautiful! But for 12 days it might make sense to take in less and stick to either Rajasthan (where you could see Udaipur and the Taj Mahal) or the south, for Goa and beaches.

I second the advice about not missing out on the trains--you see so so much of the landscape and have such a more interesting experience. I only took a plane there once, but heard that I skipped over the most beautiful train ride of the whole time: Mumbai to Goa.

The only thing I hated was that at 6 weeks I only was able to do a fraction of what I wanted to. It's just so densely packed with riches that I wasn't expecting and hadn't read about, and is just such a crazy, overwhelming, wonderful experience. I wouldn't recommend the golden triangle; I know a lot of people who did it and missed out on a lot. If you want to do wildlife/pampering/cities (as cultural and historial sites are everywhere), you'd need to take a plane, which I wouldn't do.

Ft. Cochin and Kerala were absolute treasures. I would go there, home of ayurvedic medicine, for your pampering, veering away from an overly westernized pre-packaged place you'd find through a travel agent.
posted by blazingunicorn at 3:58 PM on January 31, 2010

We went for two weeks in India followed by two weeks in Nepal and it was insanely great. We spent two weeks just in Delhi and Rajastan and never ran out of things to see. A few highlights:

Mount Abu is an inter-rajastani honeymoon destination with Jain temples which have to be seen to be believed. Plus you can go watch the sunset with a huge friendly crowd of Indian honeymooners.

In Udiapur we stayed at the Shiv Niwas across the lake from the Octopussy hotel. We went over there for dinner and it was a bit odd, unusually not-great food as well.

For a super fancy few days we were at the Rajvillas.

A few general points - allow India to change you, dont try to change India. You may have traveled in the third world before but you also may not be ready for some of the things you see there. If you get off the beaten path, you may be the exotic one. We had people thrust babies into my wife's hands so they could take a picture with her. Also, friends or relatives might have sort of an are-you-sure-you-want-to-do-this? look when you tell them. As always, travel as if you will be coming back.
posted by shothotbot at 5:21 PM on January 31, 2010

If you're willing to rough it, just a little, I recommend looking at the Jungle Lodges. I've stayed at quite a few and they are relatively inexpensive, located in gorgeous locations, the staff is helpful and there are many safe-but-fun wildlife opportunities offered at the various locations.

Also, I agree with everyone who said the trains are not to be missed. Taking the train from Mumbai to Goa was one of my favorite parts of my trip.
posted by bluestocking at 7:09 PM on January 31, 2010

This blog is mostly written by a couple travelling through India at the moment.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 8:07 PM on January 31, 2010

I also highly recommend Udaipur and staying somewhere that has a restaurant on the roof overlooking the lake (if not the lake palace itself). I stayed at this place called the Jagat Niwas, it was absolutely stunning and incredibly romantic if youre going with your partner. You can fly in cheaply from Mumbai or Delhi. There is something incredibly enchanting about it that I havent found anything quite like in other parts of India.
posted by postergeist at 3:57 AM on February 1, 2010

Oh and i'm not sure if youve ever traveled in India before but you did ask what I would do differently (been to India twice). I would be VERY VERY careful with what you choose to eat. Food poisoning is extremely common and with 10 days, you do not want to get sick. I see a lot of backpackers and tourists who show up there with a lot of bravado and say aww fuck it i know i shouldnt eat this but....

Well my advice is DON'T. Unless you are in a very upmarket hotel which trains its staff to use filtered water, I would avoid Lassis, salads, meat (the veg food is so good anyway) anything washed down with water or anything raw. A good rule of thumb is this.. if its deep fried in front of your face then its good to go and if its piping hot and you can see steam coming off it then youre probably okay too. If you get food at a restaurant, and it comes out luke warm, send it back and tell them to heat the crap out of it. It may make you socially uncomfortable to do that but trust me on this its MOUNTAINS more comfortable than you'll feel if you get food poisoning.
posted by postergeist at 4:04 AM on February 1, 2010

Eh. I know plenty of people who have never gotten sick while visiting India. Maybe you won't either.

My advice to you is that twelve days is nothing and the country is huge. It will entertain you no matter where you choose to go prowling. So allow me to suggest you prowl through Rajasthan. :) It's the most romantic part of India, in my opinion... and November is a great time to see it.

So. Fly into Delhi. Spend a couple of days recovering from jetlag and freaking out that this place is even dirtier than you ever expected. Poke your nose around a few Mughal ruins -- Humayun's Tomb, the Red Fort, Qutb Minar. Do a day trip to the Taj Mahal and freak out even more, because Agra is a filth pit. See Fatehpur Sikri to sweeten things up.

Come back to Delhi. This is the fifth day, yes? Get on the express train that leaves around 11AM from Nizamuddin Railway Station. Arrive in Kota, Rajasthan about 4 hours later. Hire a car and hie thee to Bundi, beautiful little town made famous by Rudyard Kipling's Kim. Explore the palace, the ruined fort above it, the summer palace that lies a couple hours away by bicycle. Bask in the pollution-free air, the beautiful lakes, the rolling countryside. Do your best to avoid all the insane aggressive monkeys. Spend your six and seventh day there.

Eighth day - travel to Udaipur via Chittorgarh, a major Indian tourist attraction that seems to draw absolutely no foreigners. Chittorgarh blew my mind. It is the largest fort in Asia. Seven kilometers across! Utterly gorgeous. So many buildings still intact. Such a grim, fierce, amazing history. You can stop here for 2-4 hours as part of a verrry long day trip from Bundi to Udaipur.

Ninth day - in Udaipur, do the tourist thing, stay in a pretty but affordable hotel (Jagat Niwas, or Jaiwana Haveli if you get a room with a view -- rooftop restaurant there is DIVINE), moon about, try not to get too annoyed at the touts. Do a day trip to Kumbhalgarh, another gorgeous fort.

From here you can fly back to Delhi. Alas that you cannot hire a car to take you onward to Jodhpur! In which case, I would tell you to be sure to stop on Ranakpur on the way, a truly astonishing Jain temple complex, white marble, the works. And after Jodhpur (the Mehrangarh Fort), I'd tell you to take the night train to Jaisalmer and do a camel safari, if that's your thing. And THEN take overnight train back to Delhi.

But that would add a few days on to your itinerary, and if you want to see Agra/the Taj (which, in my opinion, is a wee bit overrated), I don't think you'll be able to do the Jodhpur/Jaisalmer stint.
posted by artemisia at 4:45 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was in India for four months for a study abroad tour.

General tip: take acidophilus capsules. I only got sick when I stopped taking mine regularly, whereas everyone else in my group was sick nearly the entire time. And try to be as careful as you can about food, as others have said. Because your trip is so short, you won't want to be ill while you are there trying to enjoy yourselves.

Location tips: I would generally agree with everyone to stay in either Rajasthan OR do the south coastal thing. Rajasthan is what outsiders think of as India. I loved the palace in Udaipur, and they had some great shopping there. Also already said, the trip to the Taj is worth it. We drove from Delhi to Agra and back in one day, AND 16 people in a 15 person bus (such a hardship for Westerners, I know). The ten hour trip there and back left us with about an hour and 15 minutes to explore--and it was totally worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

The south is different but perhaps better for relaxation. Taking a houseboat and lazing through Kerala was fun and sounds amazing for a honeymoon adventure. Fort Cochin and the Ayurvedic pampering is great. I wasn't able to make it to Goa, but my friends raved about it.

Here are some other options for tours.
posted by emkelley at 11:19 AM on February 1, 2010

I'd advise against Kochi/Cochin and Kerala in general, especially at that time of year. It is overcast and rainy for much of October and November. In addition, the accomodation is overpriced and most of it just.. depressing, and I don't mean just shabby, (eg you have to spend western prices to get a room that isn't lit with one big hideous flurescent tube, and one weak blue or red-tinted light bulb that gives off hardly any light, and decorated with hideous 80s curtains etc). There are few places to swim apart from Varkala; drinking alcohol is pretty much impossible in most places, and it lacks the verve and liveliness that I'd expected to find in India (though if you've never been to a developing country, that could be a good thing). The houseboats are so expensive we didn't bother. Our ayurvedic massages that were terribly unpleasant. But definitely, worst of all was the fricking weather.

Obviously we didn't have the greatest luck but we went to quite a few places and it didn't let up. Of 4 other lots of friends we know who've been there, they are split evenly on the area, which I think is a pretty poor rate.

The food was quite good, but I'm sure you can get good food anywhere in India. Oh and we never got sick in a two-week holiday, and were only moderately careful (eg we'd eat those little pancakes from street stalls, which generally seemed to use good hygiene).
posted by 8k at 11:55 PM on February 1, 2010

I'll second a lot of what other people have said-- most importantly, don't plan to do too much, and leave yourself plenty of time. Everything in India takes way longer than you think it should, and you're probably going to want to spend a lot of time just relaxing in hotel rooms or restaurants and decompressing from the India experience. With this in mind, for twelve days you're going to want to pick one or the other, South India/Goa/Mumbai or North India/Golden Triangle/Rajasthan. If you go South, you'll probably want to fly into Mumbai and make that your starting-off point; if you go North, you'll want to fly into Delhi. Both cities have some pretty amazing stuff to check out, but they're both dirty and hectic, and you'll want to balance that out with some time in the country and in nature.

I can't give much advice on South India, but North India I know pretty well. Rajasthan is a pretty amazing place to visit, especially for a first-time traveler: it's romantic, historical, traditional, colorful. Jaipur (where I'm currently living) is about six hours from Delhi by train or bus, and it has a number of forts and palaces worth seeing; it's also a six-hour bus from Agra, if you want to make a day trip to see the Taj, and avoid any extra time in that pit of a city. If you have any more specific questions about Jaipur just let me know! I'd offer to show you around town myself but I won't be here in the fall...

From Jaipur, Udaipur is an overnight train-- and again echoing other folk, the trains are a really great Indian experience. Udaipur is a lovely city, and very romantic... splurging on a nice hotel here would be a good opportunity for that pampering you want. Mount Abu also isn't too far away, if you want to go somewhere quieter... it's a quaint little Indian vacation town, with some stunning Jain temples you can walk to around the hills.

Jaipur would also be the best starting out point for Rathambore National Park, if you really want those tigers. However, keep in mind that a lot of people go and don't end up seeing any. Still, it's a beautiful area if you want to take in some scenery, and there's lots of other wildlife to see there too.
posted by bookish at 5:53 AM on February 3, 2010

artemsias answer says all that I would have said.

But would like to add that I found Kochi overly touristy - Fort Kochin was about 75% foreigners which is astronomically high in India.

Also check out the Mughal buildings on-line because some of the less famous places are spectacular eg in Agra: Akbar's Tomb and the Agra Fort. Fatehpur Sikri was stunning. And in Delhi I loved Humayun's Tomb while finding the Red Fort disappointing.

Also for the honeymoon you've got to do Udaipur - picture postcard. Do a sunset at the Monsoon Palace.
posted by meech at 3:27 AM on February 9, 2010

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