Today, we set off on our biggest adventure to date – we’re headed to India!
Ancient forts, saris, chai tea, camels, marketplaces, bustling cities, cows and curry – we’re so excited to be exploring a country that so many others leave off the list – but that’s not to say we don’t have our own reservations.
We always knew India was a big country and four weeks wouldn’t be enough to explore it. I also didn’t want to remain there on my own for a fortnight whilst Mike worked and then could return and we’d continue our travels. Before we even left Australia, we looked ahead over Mike’s schedule and as he has an 8 week break from work from late November to mid January, we allocated this time to visit India – not only weather wise is it the best time to visit, but we figured that was a decent amount of time to cover a lot of ground – and do it all together too.
It’s the one place on our trip (what we’ve planned of it anyway) that we’re looking forward to the most – but also equally nervous for. I’ve read more about other travellers experiences in India than any other country – doing as much as I can to mentally prepare. We’ve been told by other friends that it takes at least four weeks to really get used to it – the smells, the filth, the people, the customs…. but once you pass that threshold, you come to realise just how much you love it and don’t want to leave.
More planning has gone into this leg of our travels than any other. As we are travelling in peak season, and only have a limited time to see the places we want – and also having dates where we need to be in certain spots – we had to carefully plan out where we were going and book in advance. It’s a different approach to our other trips to date but I think we’ll be grateful for it. It’s been a careful balance of enough time in each spot to see what we want to see, leaving a day here and there ‘unplanned’ to do things we won’t know about until we reach the town, and also carefully calculating the travel to and from each destination.
Travelling around I think will be the biggest headache – we pre-booked all our trains after many frustrations, and there are several journeys in excess of 15 hours on a train – plenty of fun times ahead, but an intrinsic part of travelling in India!
Here’s a look into where we are headed and our plans for the next two months!
1) New Delhi
New Delhi is our starting point – we figured we’d throw ourselves right into the deep end! We have a few days here to get our bearings, sort out any transport that we were unable to book online, and buy some local clothing to wear. There’s also a long list of incredible sights to see that we’re hoping to get through… as long as we don’t get struck down with Delhi Belly in the first few days!
We’re incredibly excited for Agra, and have allocated a whole day from dawn til dusk to explore the magical Taj Mahal. We’ve booked a place just down the road that apparently has rooftop views so fingers crossed we’ll be able to experience its magic throughout our entire stay. We’re also planning a day trip to the nearby Fatehpur Sikri.
Known as the pink city, we’ve got several days in Jaipur to explore its endless list of forts, palaces and monuments. We have based ourselves near the Old City so we can do some walking tours and experience the nightlife.
I’m particularly excited to visit Udaipur – my birthday falls during our visit here, so we have splashed out and booked a beautiful hotel right by the famous Lake Pichola to really make the most of it. Boating on the lake, exploring palaces, and horse riding are all on the agenda during our visit to one of Rajasthan’s most cultural cities.
Next up is a visit to the blue city of Jodhpur, the second largest Rajasthani city. Again, incredible forts and palaces are on the to do list as well as some adventure activities!
We’ll be staying right within the fort area of Jaisalmer which is going to be an incredible experience. The highlight of our visit here will be an overnight camel safari into the Thar Desert – we’ll be booking this once we arrive as we want to look into a number of different providers to ensure we’re picking one that looks after their animals. After Jaisalmer, we take out longest train (21.5 hours!) back to Delhi.
After our few weeks through the golden triangle of Rajasthan, we head to the Punjab district of India with a few days in Amritsar. The highlight here will the be Golden Temple – a temple which many have rated more highly than the Taj Mahal, so we can’t wait to see this as well and compare the two!
8 ) Varkala
We’ll return to Delhi by train from Amritsar, before flying out from New Delhi on Christmas Day to the other end of the country, landing in Thiruvananthapuram (say whaaaaa…. ?!) and heading to the beachside town of Varkala in the state of Kerala. Here we’ll be meeting up with our friends from London, Clare and Meredith for Christmas dinner, which we cannot wait for! This will be followed by eight days of NOTHING… staying put, on the beach, enjoying each others company after our hectic month in the north.
9) Kollam to Alleppey
We’re hoping to travel to Kollam and take one of the famed boat trips through the backwaters of Kerala, arriving in Alleppey at the other end. As we are travelling in the most expensive peak time (Christmas to New Years), prices are insane online so we are going to try our luck at negotiating a better rate in person once we arrive.
We have a few days planned in the beautiful hillside town of Munnar – southern India’s largest tea-growing region. The scenery will be spectacular, so we’ll be getting back to nature with lots of outdoor activities and hopefully a visit to a nearby wildlife sanctuary.
Our last few days with the girls will be in Kochi, an old trading port in Kerala with an incredible mix of culture – Chinese, Portuguese, English and Dutch culture, buildings and food are all present in this area.
After saying our goodbyes, we’ll be taking a quick flight to Bangalore before taking an overnight train to the UNESCO World Heritage site of incredible and out of this world ruins and rock formations. It wasn’t on our original plan but we opted to visit here as opposed to Goa, seeing as we’d already had a chunk of time on the beach and wanted to see something totally unique. It reminds us a lot of Cappadocia in Turkey, so we can’t wait to visit!
Our very last stop is several days in Mumbai. I think Mumbai is going to be fascinating, especially to see the stark contrast of the wealthiest of the wealthy and the nearby slums. After 7 weeks in India by this time, I’m sure another big city won’t phase us in the least…
What’s next? Mike will fly out of Mumbai and return to Perth for two weeks of work, and I’m headed to sunny Sri Lanka where I’ll be meeting up with a friend to spend the following fortnight exploring. We’re still undecided about what’s next, but we’re fairly sure we’ll head to Myanmar as February is a great time to visit and there are some great flights available.
We are so excited to share with you everything we discover and learn about India – the good, the bad and the ugly of it. Wish us luck – it’s going to be the biggest culture shock to date – but bring it on!
Have you been to India? Do you have any tips for first time travellers? Is there anything you’d recommend seeing in the above listed places? We’d love to read about it, please leave us a comment below!