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November 22, 2011 8:27 PM   Subscribe

India! Where should I go? What should I do?

I have February off. I want to go to India. I know it's a big country and I can't "do" the entirety of it with 3-4 weeks so, lovely hivemind, what would be the perfect itinerary for a solo traveler who will be on a bit of a budget, but not something too restrictive?

I will have a backpack and some clothes and some money. That's about it. I like to walk around and take pictures. I'd love to eat some "real" Indian food, the spicier the better. Also, I'd really like to see the Taj Mahal.

Specifically, as I price plane tickets, where should I fly into and where should I depart from (coming home to Seoul, South Korea)?
posted by bardic to Travel & Transportation around India (15 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: All the answers are here. Have fun!
posted by Shoggoth at 8:44 PM on November 22, 2011

Best answer: The travel & transportation India tag has a lot of information from previous AskMe's on the same topic
posted by infini at 10:01 PM on November 22, 2011

Best answer: Fly in to Delhi and zip around Rajasthan. Jaipur, Jodhpur etc.

We did it this February (with two kids, woo hoo!) and it was great. We were open to travel modes so winged it a bit. Best thing we took was the iphone and looked for accomodation and travel info on the hop. We did the Jaisalmer desert festival and it was fabulous. Your trip will be during that time. World's longest moustache!!! Camels!!! Fabulous! And very tolerable quantities of tourists, for India. If you do decide to do Rajasthan, I'm happy to tell you where we stayed and shopped. Memail me if you like.
posted by taff at 10:18 PM on November 22, 2011

Best answer: Another option would be Delhi - Agra (Taj Mahal) - Varanasi (Hindu holy city on the banks of the Ganges, really fascinating place) - Khajuraho (old temple complex with the most amazing (and pornographic) carvings. You could maybe spend two weeks doing that, and two in Rajasthan. (Of those, I've only been to Varanasi and Khajuraho, but if you want to see the Taj, you should probably fly into Delhi, unless there are direct flights to Agra).
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:37 PM on November 22, 2011

Best answer: I enjoyed my trip to Manali and Leh; much more relaxing than the utter insanity that is Delhi! If you prefer cities, Jaipur and Agra are a good start, don't think I'd spend more than one day driving around Delhi.
posted by deadweightloss at 1:18 AM on November 23, 2011

Best answer: Kerala is a great place to go if you want to get away from the mania of the cities. It's slow and peaceful there - I recommend houseboating in Allepey or going up to the Periyar animal reserve. Fort Cochin is very safe, even if it's a bit touristy. I was pretty overwhelmed when I went to India, so Kerala was a welcome relief. Have fun!
posted by dolce_voce at 1:25 AM on November 23, 2011

Best answer: Delhi is awesome. It is kind of busy and insane, but most cities I've been to in India are like that, and it does have beautiful historical sites like the Lal Qila (Red Fort) and the Qutb Minar (a World UNESCO Heritage site). And it's easily accessible for Agra (for the Taj Mahal), and Jaipur, the "Pink City". This is a very popular tourist route, known as the Golden Triangle, and you will find it easy to get accommodation and transport. While it's popular and touristy, I think it is so for a reason. It's a really interesting trip, though I would only reserve one day for Agra, because to me at least the Taj Mahal was the only interesting thing to see there.

If you go to Delhi, make sure you have a meal at Moti Mahal!
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:20 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: though I would only reserve one day for Agra, because to me at least the Taj Mahal was the only interesting thing to see there. Go upto Fatehpur Sikri (another UNESCO world heritage centre)
posted by infini at 3:09 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I second Varanasi - Kajuraho. Kajuraho is tiny, you can see all the temples in a day (or morning) and after that there's not much else to do there. You could easily use a week exploring Varanasi.
I would do two circles with Delhi in the middle. A Delhi - Varanasi - Kajuraho - Delhi - Rajasthan - Delhi figure 8 type thing.
Try and go to the Taj Mahal when it opens (6 am I think), it gets very crowded pretty early. There's nice views of the Taj from across the river. You can do Fatehpur Sikri in the afternoon after the Taj. Also a "Red Fort" in Agra.
I spent 6 months in India in 2004, memail if you have any questions.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 3:49 AM on November 23, 2011

Best answer: I was going to recommend Fatehpur Sikri if you go to Agra as well. We had a driver from Delhi to Agra, he had no idea where Fatehpur Sikri was and there were some 'adventures' trying to find it ("Oh, it's closed on Saturdays!", etc - all part of a trip to India). Everyone says "the road from Delhi to Agra is fine now" ... still anticipate 3 hours of inching along on the ride back.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:10 AM on November 23, 2011

Best answer: My itinerary over six weeks went: Delhi > Chandigarh > Dharamsala > Manali > Leh ---plane to Delhi--- Agra > Varanasi > Kolkata > Delhi > Jaipur > Delhi.

There were other stops in between, but those were the major points. The first half of the trip, north through the mountains, was gorgeous and interesting. Chandigarh, Le Corbusier's planned city, was really thought provoking, and the mountain stations up through Manali were beautiful places: it was obvious why the Colonials spent their summers there. And the bus trip to Leh was fascinating.

However, the second half of the trip was mindblowing. I can't recommend Varanasi and Kolkata enough, particularly the latter, my favorite city in the trip. I saw things in both places that will be with me for the rest of my life (and was almost gored by a bull in an alley in Varanasi). There's a nice overnight train between Kolkata and Delhi, so it's quite easy to get between the two. Go to Kolkata; you won't be disappointed.

Jaipur and the rest of Rajasthan, though, I did not enjoy, and I definitely wouldn't go back. It's very hard to get off the tourist track there; it's almost like a Potemkin village in a really odd way. I'm having trouble explaining exactly why right now, but I think it's just because I need more coffee this morning.

tl;dr: skip Rajasthan, go to Varanasi and, more importantly, Kolkata.
posted by The Michael The at 4:35 AM on November 23, 2011

Best answer: I'm gonna jump back into this thread to suggest Darjeeling. It's a beautiful city in the Himalayas, and has another UNESCO World Heritage site - the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:41 AM on November 23, 2011

Best answer: You'd have to check to current safeness, but if possible to visit, I would go to Srinagar, stay on Dal lake, and trek through the Himalayas. (Mr. Butt's houseboats are amazing, and he can arrange treks for you. I stayed there and trekked in 1992.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:41 AM on November 23, 2011

Best answer: Noones mentioned the south - it's a great experience perhaps you should give it some thought.

Seconding Fatehpur Sikri if you're in Agra anyway - it's not a place you'll forget quickly.

Regarding Varanasi - it's a long time since I went but I do remember it being a very special place, especially at sunset.

More generally I would avoid road transport whenever you can. Train from Delhi to Agra for instance (there is no train line to Fatehpur Sikri). Don't be too quick to buy 1st class air-con on the train either - there's a lot of India to meet and experience further down the price list.

Food - even if you're not normally consider only eating vegetarian while you're there - it's easy to do and you may find your stomach thanks you for it.
posted by southof40 at 3:47 PM on November 23, 2011

If you're hitting Delhi (and if you want to do the Taj, you have to hit Delhi at some point), I'd recommend the Tibetan district, Majnu-ka-Tilla, over the backpacker ghetto Paharganj. Trust me when I say this, but even us Indians are sometimes shocked at Paharganj's depravity.

Then again, depends on what you'd like, I suppose. I'm the kind of person who'd seek out cheapo accommodations and then go a bit hatke se (removed); so I'd do Sanur instead of Kuta in Bali, (the area behind Berjaya Times Square) instead of Jalan Petaling in KL, Pratunam instead of Khao San Road in Bangkok.

I'd also recommend the South for some unique travel experiences. Be warned about two aspects though: the more you remove yourself from the Delhi- Agra - Jaipur conurbation or the Bombay - Goa belt, the accommodation options increasingly become either catered for domestic tourists or for business / high-end international travellers.

If you're heading south, Bangalore is a great place to use as a base; visits to Hampi, Mysore and the surrounding areas are highly recommended. Pondicherry with its Indo-French heritage is also quite nice; lots of fantastic street-food, beaches and buzz. Hyderabad is also decent for malls and for its north-south, Indian-Persian conflux.

One other possibility is to hole yourself up in a cheapo guest-house in either the west or the east coasts and create, if you've ever wanted to paint/ write your magnum opus. I've always thought of the Malabar coast (somewhere between Goa and northern Kerala) as my "safe" space in this regard, but obviously, Pondicherry or the hills (Dehradun, Mussorie) work equally well.
posted by the cydonian at 3:37 AM on November 24, 2011

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