Even if you only have 2 weeks in India, it’s possible to pack in a lot when you narrow your trip to one state.
India was always one of those places at the back of my mind, often in my thoughts as a faraway land that I dreamed of going to one day. The truth is I’d been wanting to go to India for years, but had never made an active plan to do so.
It was always too far, too expensive to get to, and I never had enough time – most people recommend at least 1-3 months for a trip to India.
I was also concerned about traveling alone as a female, even though I’d been told numerous times that most female travelers are completely fine traveling around the country on their own. It’s still hard to not get sucked into the common media perceptions of India.
It’s dirty, overpopulated, dangerous, human life doesn’t have the same importance as it does in [insert western home culture]. It’s a wild west of violence, sexual assault, and contrasting religions and tensions.
You don’t often hear about the graciousness of the majority of Indians, the welcoming hospitality, the endearing head bobs, the sheepish and/or cheeky grins that draw you in and make you want to understand the intricate differences, and yes contrasts, of Indian culture.
You don’t always hear about how those contrasts are often beautiful and baffling at the same time. How they somehow make the country even more of an enticing and layered place to get to know.
That is, unless you hear it from other travelers who have actually been there and experienced the dusty, hectic streets themselves, and get to know the people who walk them every day.
I wasn’t following my own advice of not judging a place before I arrived. But the thing is, sometimes it’s impossible to not have some misconceptions when you’re going to a destination that’s talked about as much as India.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to go so much, I knew it would be a completely different experience than anything I could imagine.
India has become a destination for the seasoned traveler. I hear some travelers talk about their time in India like it’s a badge of honor for having been there. For some, it’s seen as a rite of passage, one of the more challenging countries that makes you a “real” traveler.
I don’t buy into that kind of bullshit, of what does and doesn’t make someone a ‘real traveler’ vs. a ‘tourist’, and let’s not even get into the whole ‘white people coming to India and being proud of the fact that they survived it’, but it’s true that India was one of the more challenging countries I’ve been to.
And, even though I could’ve done it on my own, I’m glad I had another female traveler with me to experience the harder days and enjoy the daily wins when we were immersed in the culture together.
I also put together this trip to India (maybe ‘winged it’ is it a better way to put it) in less than two weeks, and attempted to travel India in 2 weeks as opposed to months like most travelers.
Although I’d recommend going for as long as you can – 3 months seems to be a common timeframe for first-time visitors – I’m glad I got to experience even a little slice of India with the short time I had. It was well worth the cost and time it took to get there, even with just two weeks.
This post is also to show you that two weeks around India, or at least Rajasthan, is possible, if not a bit rushed. And that if you’re like me and want to start with just a taste of the country before diving full in, you can still have an abundance of wonderful experiences in a couple of weeks.
I’m not claiming that I acquired a deep understanding of the country or Indian culture in two weeks, but it did help that my friend Pascale and I mostly hung out with locals around our age for the duration of our trip. It helped us understand certain customs and put our trip in perspective better.
If you only have two weeks in India and it’s your first time in the country, I do recommend spending it in Rajasthan. There are so many cool cities to visit in this region of northern India, and it’s one of the more well worn tourist trails that’s perfect for a 2 week India itinerary.
India can be hard enough to travel, you may as well ease into it by going to a region that’s easier to travel around. Especially if it has a lot of famous sites that are a short(er) distance from each other and you’re lacking time.
This 2 week India itinerary is also a good one to reference if you’re spending longer in India, but want to get an idea of what to see and how much time to spend in the Rajasthan state specifically. Although I would say if you have more time in the country, spend at least 3 weeks in Rajasthan.
My other choice if we hadn’t done our 2 weeks in Rajasthan, would’ve been to fly into Mumbai or Goa and do a southern coastal 2 weeks in india itinerary. I’m saving that for next time, hopefully when I have a longer time in the country.
Keep in mind that although this is the India 2 week itinerary in full that we did for our trip, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone.
Since we only had two nights max, sometimes not even, in each city, it always felt like we were moving. We didn’t get as good of a feel for some places as we would’ve liked. And we didn’t get to explore areas outside the major cities because we never had enough time.
It’s also important to note that travel times are often longer than you think they’re going to be, and public transit can be slow and a struggle somedays. We always felt extra exhausted on travel days, and that was every other day.
This is because there are so many different things you have to think about and deal with in India, especially when it comes to travel. It’s almost never a straight forward process. Something to keep in mind if you’re traveling India in 2 weeks only.
We knew this trip would be extremely whirlwind, but we were so excited about seeing as much as possible during our 2 weeks in India that we just ignored it. I’m glad that we were able to see as much as we did, but we were also exhausted and worn out by the last couple days of our trip.
If I could go back, I’d probably take off 1-2 of these cities and spend more time in the places we loved (of course, we didn’t know which places we would really connect with until we got to them).
It’s true what the expert travelers say who have traveled the country a lot – for every two weeks in India, pick 3-4 destinations tops instead of trying to fit in too much.
I look forward to the day I get to travel India for a month or more (it’s going to happen!), but for now, this is a look at our short two weeks in India around the Rajasthan area – minus Delhi and Agra, which are just outside the state, but often included in Rajasthan itineraries because it’s where traveler’s usually fly into and where the Taj Mahal is!
Two Weeks in India: An Itinerary for Rajasthan + Deli & Agra
Delhi ~ 1 night
Our first day in Delhi was meant for us to simply get our bearings and adjust to jet lag. Neither one of us was that interested in seeing the sites around Delhi, we mainly just wanted it as a landing base to start off our 2 weeks in india itinerary, but one where we wouldn’t stay for long.
Therefore, we only had one night in Delhi. We didn’t do much research and chose one of the first places we saw with good reviews on Booking.com for our accommodation.
Unfortunately, we found that the guesthouse we picked was in a residential spot in the south of the city with not much around. Starved, tired, and getting a bit hangry, we walked around for a good hour in the late afternoon and found nothing open.
We did come across dentist offices on every corner, usually next to candy stores or ice cream parlors (ironic or purposeful coincidence?), but it was a ghost town in terms of restaurants.
We finally found one slightly sketchy chicken curry place that sold both frozen and fresh chicken. We bought a couple of curries to take back with us, and were dismayed to find them cold to lukewarm when we opened them at our hotel.
Keep in mind this was our first night in India, but we ate most of our curries anyway and hoped for the best with our stomachs. Luckily, we never experienced Delhi Belly.
This experience convinced me that it’s worth it to look up good places to eat in Delhi and take an Uber or tuk tuk there. I found it a hard place to walk around, like I generally do in most new cities, when I wanted to find a random place to eat that looked decent (or was actually open).
The food seemed to be a mixed bag in the city – my least favorite meals in India were in Delhi. Again, this is probably because I didn’t research the best places to go ahead of time.
Delhi is sprawling with a lot of traffic at any given time so it takes awhile to get anywhere, but Ubers are cheap and easy to take if you have a local number. If you haven’t had a chance to get a local SIM card yet, grab a tuk tuk but make sure you know what price to barter for ahead of time.
All this is to say that we didn’t actually do all that much in Delhi that first day besides get lost and sit in traffic. Our trip would start looking up as soon as we left the city, however.
What to Do in Delhi
The Red Fort – A historic fort in Delhi from the 17th century and the main residence of Mughal emperors for close to 200 years. Arguably the most famous tourist site in Delhi. In addition to housing a number of museums, the Fort has become synonymous with Indian independence since it’s where the speech announcing independence from Britain was given. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Qutb Minar Complex – Includes the tallest brick minaret in the world – if that’s not enough of a push to make you go, I don’t know what would be – and a number of monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli. Basically a really cool place to go look at Afghan architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Humayun’s Tomb – The tomb of the Mughal emperor, Humayun. Built in the 16th century, it was the first structure in India to use red sandstone at such a large scale. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is also one of the best accessible places visit in Delhi.
Jama Masjid – One of the largest mosques in India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century and cost a whole lot of rupees (1 million to be exact).
National Ghandi Museum – A museum for anyone who loves Ghandi or wants to know more about his life, principles, and ideals. He’s one of the more fascinating men in India’s history to learn about.
Lotus Temple – One of the most unique temples you’ll come across in India, the Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship. If you’re looking for a perfect place for your Instagram photos, this is it. The temple is actually in the shape of a lotus and cost $10 million to build in 1986.
Where to Stay in Delhi
Madpackers Hostel – The place that we stayed at for our last night in Delhi, Madpackers has all types of personality and a social atmosphere that allows you to meet other chill travelers. Private rooms are large and there’s a rooftop. Rated the #1 hostel in India.
Bloom Rooms @ New Delhi – Located in a busy part of Delhi near the train station, Bloom Rooms offers a bright (and very yellow) welcome to any weary traveler. Location is central, beds are comfy, breakfast is included, and WiFi is good.
Maidens Hotel New Delhi – If you have some rupees to splurge, this heritage hotel is the one to spend them at. Dating from 1903, the hotel is a grand representation of neoclassical design with high-ceilinged rooms, two restaurants, and a pool.
Agra ~ 2 nights
Travel time from Delhi to Agra ~ 3.5 hours
We traveled to Agra by train. It was our first train ride in the country, and one of those learning experiences that we grew to expect on any travel day during our two weeks in India.
Once in Agra, we took a tuk tuk a little ways from the train station and were dropped off outside one of the inner city gates.
At this point, we were exhausted and we made the best decision of our trip to go for our first real Indian chai. We stumbled into this little cafe called DosTea and ended up staying there for over an hour, chatting with Vivek, the husband of the owner, drinking multiple chais, and eating Indian finger foods.
Refreshed and happy, we found our hostel after it had already grown dark and started our two days in Agra on a good note.
We were actually only planning on staying in Agra for one night to see the Taj Mahal and move on, but we got there on a Friday. And, of course, the only day that the Taj Mahal is closed to the public is on Fridays. Again, it pays to do some research before a trip to India.
It ended up working out better than we expected though because we loved Agra, and we quickly realized that there’s so much more to see there than just the Taj Mahal.
We befriended Abnish, who worked at our hostel, and asked him about local customs, prices, and his life in Agra and the small village where he grew up. We went out to dinner with him and he helped us order dishes in Hindi and gave recommendations for local specialities.
On our full day in Agra before seeing the Taj Mahal, we hired a tuk tuk for a half day around the city to explore other popular sites. Raja was our driver and we quickly grew to love his positive attitude and cheeky smile, although he led us to a couple of scammy places.
The first was a lunch spot, which was a complete tourist trap that only had other westerners eating at it and a highly overpriced menu. We asked for him to take us to a more local place, and he took us to a different touristy place that was slightly better.
The other scammy experience we had with Raja was when we told him we wanted to go see a market, and we made the mistake of saying we were maybe looking for saris.
Instead of taking us to a market where we could look at a few different vendors and easily bargain, he took us to his “friend’s” place, who he trusted to give us a good price and great quality.
Of course, we got completely scammed and paid about 4x as much as we should’ve for our saris.
It was our own fault for not checking prices ahead of time, and allowing ourselves to be taken in by the impressively good saleswoman who owned the shop and made us feel like her long lost western children.
Still, it made us cringe every time a local asked us how much we paid for our saris. It was A LOT more than we should’ve paid, and their looks of horror every time we said the price only solidified that fact.
Other than the sari incident, we absolutely loved Agra. We explored Agra Fort, Baby Taj, Mehtab Bagh, and the Taj Mahal. It would’ve been nice to have more time at the first three spots, but that was a common theme throughout our trip – that we wished we had more time.
The Taj Mahal was just as stunning in person as I knew it would be. The amount of rude and pushy tourists took away from the awe-inducing view, but isn’t that always the case at hyper touristy spots? It was still worth seeing in person and surprising affordable at only US$15 for entry.
What to Do in Agra
Agra Fort – An impressive and expansive red sandstone fort in the middle of Agra. It was the main residence of Mughal emperors until 1638, when the capital moved from Agra to Delhi. The whole fort is 94 acres, so be prepared to spend the better half of a day there if you want to truly appreciate it. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Baby Taj – Also known as the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, the Baby Taj is a mausoleum and another example of beautiful Mughal architecture, with a mix of red sandstone and marble decorations. The tomb was built for Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, the grandfather of Mumtāz Mahāl, who was the wife of Shāh Jahān – the man responsible for building the Taj Mahal. The Baby Taj is often seen as the ‘first draft’ of the Taj Mahal, as it was built in 1628 before the Taj.
Mehtab Bagh – A charbagh, or Islamic quadrilateral garden, that gives a stunning view of the Taj Mahal from further away. Although when we were there, there wasn’t much of a garden, it’s another ideal place in Agra to view the Taj Mahal.
Fatehpur Sikri – If you have time for a day trip while you’re in Agra, we were recommended Fatehpur Sikri multiple times by locals. It’s a fortified ancient city that was founded in the 16th century by a Mughal emperor (who else?) and lies about 24 miles west of Agra. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Taj Mahal – The most famous site in India, and one of the most famous in the world, the Taj Mahal has become synonymous with love and heartbreak. It was built by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his third wife who died giving birth to their 14th child (!!).
It’s said that the Shah was so heartbroken over her death that his hair turned grey overnight, and he started the construction of the Taj the next year. It was finished in 1653, 21 years later, just before he was overthrown by his son and imprisoned in Agra Fort.
Rudyard Kipling once described it as “the embodiment of all things pure”. It’s true, there is an aura of pureness that surrounds the Taj when you see it in person. It’s so bright, so marble white, so beautiful, with the stunning grounds around it.
Be prepared for annoying tourists, but don’t let that take away from enjoying a day at one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The earlier you go in the day, the better.
Where to Stay in Agra
Bedweiser Backpackers Hostel – I could not say enough good things about Bedweiser, especially if you thrive off the ‘backpacker life’. This is where Pascale and I stayed for our two nights in Agra. The staff was always ready with a sassy joke or welcoming smile. No frills, good breakfast choices (additional cost), cheap private rooms, relaxed rooftop, and an ideal location walking distance from the Taj Mahal. Make sure to say hi to Abnish for us!
N Homestay – For a more local stay, Matriarch Naghma and her sons run a guesthouse from their home in the residential Fatehabad Road area. N Homestay offers homecooked meals for dinnner (₹400), 6 guest rooms in their three-storey house, balconies from some rooms, and is located a 15 minute walk from the Taj’s western gate.
Oberoi Amarvilas – If you’re looking for a luxe stay to celebrate seeing the Taj Mahal, Oberoi Amarvilas comes at a hefty price tag but gives you luxury for days. Think relaxing courtyards, fountains, swimming pools, big plushy beds with Mughal themes, and rooms that have views of the Taj. Oh, and 5-star dining.
Jaipur ~ 1 night
Travel time from Agra to Jaipur ~ 4.5 hours (by bus)
We took the bus from Agra and arrived in Jaipur in about 4.5 hours. Once dropped off, we made our way in the dark to Moustache Hostel, about a 20 minute walk from the bus station.
After Agra, Jaipur was a little like being thrown back into the hectic nature of Delhi. Being the capital of Rajasthan and the largest city in the state, there’s a lot going on in the city and we didn’t even have a full day to experience the true busyness of it.
Jaipur is known as the ‘Pink City’ for the common building materials they used when building the city that have a pink/orange tint to them. It’s also where the royal family used to rule and was India’s first planned city, built in the 18th century.
We didn’t get to see much of Jaipur with its sprawling nature and traffic because we arrived at night and left the next afternoon. However, we did have our first clubbing experience and partied until the wee hours with a couple of Indian guys who were working the pub crawl that brought us there – Rishi and Aayush.
We hung out with the guys until about 4am, when Pascale and I decided to call it quits for the night. The next day as we were eating breakfast, Rishi texted us, asking us what our plans were for the day. We told him we were heading to Pushkar and he offered to give us a ride, 3 hours away.
At first we were hesitant, I mean that’s just asking for trouble, right? Getting into a car in India with a guy who we had only met the night before. We looked at each other, shrugged, and said it would be an adventure. Aayush soon joined in on the road trip and the four of us were set to leave around 4pm.
Before we met up with the guys, Pascale and I wanted to see at least one thing in Jaipur, so we hailed the nearest tuk tuk and asked to go to Bapu Bazaar. I was more window shopping, if you will, but Pascale found some items she was looking for, especially in the clothing department.
We found a stand selling something that looked like shaved ice and decided to try it, even though it was ICE from the street (spoiler alert – our stomachs were fine!). We found out later that what we had is called ice gola.
The colorful treat had an interesting incense taste to it. Neither one of us liked the flavor too much, but it was cold and refreshing on a searing hot day in Jaipur. And we may or may not have been a bit hungover from the night before.
We also got henna on the street around the market for the equivalent of about US $0.75. Good thing too because we would be heading to a wedding in a few days in Udaipur, unbeknownst to us at the time.
Although we didn’t get to see a lot of the what the city has to offer – there is actually a lot to see and do here, especially in terms of forts, temples, and palaces – we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Pink City.
Not to mention, it’s a very picturesque city to simply walk around. Just be weary of the heat, it was very hot during the day while we were there in the winter season.
You may have heard of the popular ‘Golden Triangle’ tours. It’s basically the most popular tourist trail in India and Jaipur is along that route, as well as Delhi and Agra. Be prepared for busy streets and more tourists than the following cities on this itinerary.
What to Do in Jaipur
Nomadic Tours – Jaipur is a huge city, it’s worth it to sometimes leave the planning to someone else and join a guided tour around town, especially if those tours are led by knowledgable locals. Nomadic Tours offers sustainable and ethical experiences that have a positive impact on the local community.
They’re currently offering a Pink City Walking Tour, Night Tour, Food Tour, and Village Tour from Jaipur. They also just added a Pink City E-Cycle Tour, which you can find here. I got to experience a night out with the company when they put on a clubbing experience through Moustache Hostel and I had a blast. Make sure to say hello to Rishabh (or “Rishi”) for us! He’s the guy who owns the company.
City Palace – There is no shortage of palaces and temples in Rajasthan, and City Palace is one of the more impressive palace complexes to go to. Built in the 18th century, it used to be the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur, and today you can walk through what used to be the royal residence.
Hawa Mahal – Another palace in Jaipur that’s made from red and pink sandstone and offers a stunning facade. It’s where the royal ladies used to live, so they could watch any kind of procession on the street without being seeing in public. Haha Mahal is right near the City Palace so you can do both in one go. It’s meant to be best viewed in the early morning light.
Bapu Bazaar – A bustling market where you can find an assortment of goods, especially clothing, get henna done on the street for ₹50, and find street treats like ice gola.
Amer Fort – Located 6.8 miles from Jaipur, the Amer Fort is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Jaipur area. Built in the 16th century, the photogenic fort is located on a hill and is known for its Hindu-inspired architecture.
Galtaji Temple – Another photogenic and popular site in Jaipur, Galtaji temple is squeezed between two cliffs and surrounded by a natural spring. It’s sometimes called Monkey temple due to its regular inhabitants, and is a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. Pilgrims often bathe in the sacred kunds, or water tanks around the temple. The temple is located about 6.2 miles outside of Jaipur.
Another more adventurous activity if you can brave the heat is cycling in Jaipur.
Where to Stay in Jaipur
Moustache Hostel Jaipur – You really can’t go wrong with any of the Moustache Hostels in India, and although this one wasn’t as good as the one in Udaipur, I’d still recommend it. Centrally located near the bus station. This hostel doesn’t have the cleanest dorms, but it makes up for it in its common spaces – both in the lobby and the rooftop. Breakfast buffet offered at an additional cost.
All Seasons Homestay – A local spot hosted by Ranjana and her husband Dinesh. All Seasons is a welcoming accommodation that has 10 guest rooms, home cooked meals, and cooking lessons on offer. Located on a quiet back street near Hathroi Fort. Fills up quickly so make sure to book ahead.
Shahpura House – A heritage hotel in a relatively peaceful area that offers clean rooms (some with balconies), in-room murals, a grand reception hall, a rooftop restaurant that sometimes puts on cultural shows, a swimming pool, and a classy cocktail bar.
Pushkar ~ 2 nights
Travel time from Jaipur to Pushkar ~ 3 hours (by car)
The lovable little hippie refuge that is Pushkar was our second favorite city of our trip. The laid back vibe of this small city, its plethora of cute cafes, affordable shops, and scenic lake made us seriously consider moving in and never leaving (as many people do).
Pushkar reminded me of the Indian version of Berkeley, California. Everyone was chill, wearing hippie pants, sporting dreads, and not doing all that much. If you want a full hippie experience you can indulge in a ‘special shakes’ here, most western style restaurants sell them.
Although we loved a lot about Pushkar, it is a very westernized city in Rajasthan. There are a lot of foreigners and a lot of the shops, cafes, and restaurants cater to westerners for the most part. With that said, people were surprisingly not overly pushy like they were in Jaisalmer or Jodhpur.
As with most things in India, Pushkar is a city of contrasts. Besides the western vibe, Pushkar is actually a very holy city in India as well. It’s a popular pilgrimage spot for Hindus and it’s illegal for alcohol to be sold within the city limits.
That’s not to say drinking doesn’t happen, you just have to know friends at the restaurants or bootleg it in yourself. Since we were traveling with two Indian males who spoke fluent Hindi, we didn’t have too much trouble with this.
With our local guides in tow, we managed to see quite a bit of Pushkar and get a lot of shopping done. We even got a cosmic head massage from the brother of the YouTube famous Baba – unfortunately Baba was out for the day when we stopped in.
We spent an afternoon at Pushkar Lake, the most sacred spot of the city that was said to have been created when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. The water from the lake is meant to have healing powers, and you have to take off your shoes when walking around it. It’s one of the prettiest spots in the city.
We also went up to the top of Puskar Hill (where Savitri Mata temple is located) by taking the Savitri Mata Ropeway, or cable car, and watched the sunset.
If that’s not enough, there are another 400 or so temples to explore around the city (I told you it was holy!), including a Brahma temple (there are only a few in the world).
What to Do in Pushkar
Pushkar Lake – A sacred lake to Hindus and a very popular pilgrimage site. The lake is surrounded by 52 bathing ghats, where pilgrims take sacred baths. Taking a dip in the lake is meant to wash away sins and cure skin diseases. The lake has tons of visitors (around 200,000) around the time of the Pushkar Fair (or Pushkar Camel Fair) each year in late October, early November.
Pushkar Hill/Ropeway/Savitri Mata Temple – Pushkar Hill, known also as Ratnagiri Hill, provides a stunning view looking out over Pushkar city, and it can be a great place to watch the sunset if the sky is clear enough.
The ropeway is an experience in itself, especially on windy days when you can feel the cablecar notably swing from side to side. It’s all a part of the adventure right? Savitri Mata temple is a Hindu temple located at the top of the hill, if you’re not already templed out by Pushkar’s 400 temples around the city.
Brahma Temple – There are very, very few Brahma temples in the world and Pushkar houses one of them. Worth seeing for its novelty and colorful nature. It’s seen as the most popular and important temple in Pushkar, which is saying something since the holy city has so many.
Shopping – If you go down any of the main thoroughfares in Pushkar, there are plenty of stores to poke your head into. Pushkar by far had the cheapest and best selection of items for sale. This is the place to shop if you’re looking for souvenirs to take home with you, or a new India wardrobe.
Baba Head Massage – My friend Brian told me about Baba as I was planning my trip to India, and I noted that I would have to visit his famous barber shop while I was in Pushkar.
I unfortunately visited the day he was away from his shop, but I got a short version of the ‘cosmic massage’ from his brother instead who came to sub in for him. You can watch Baba’s popular YouTube videos here, to get an idea of why it’s a unique experience you have to have in Pushkar.
Here’s my massage caught on camera, not as many theatrics as a Baba massage, but I still felt pretty amazing after it was done.
Apteshwar Temple – Another popular spot in Pushkar, Apteshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is actually an underground shrine that was built in the 12th century.
Where to Stay in Pushkar
Hotel Tulsi Palace – We found the least expensive accommodation in Pushkar and Hotel Tulsi Palace was no exception, with a private room that only cost us ₹500. My favorite part of this accommodation was the low-key and friendly owner who was very flexible with the night curfew (a common hindrance in guesthouses in Pushkar). The second floor offers cozy balconies that look out over one of the main streets – perfect for watching wedding processions go by during the right season.
Hotel Rising Star – Another place we stayed at in Pushkar, this hotel is actually more like a guesthouse. They also offer privates from ₹500, but are much stricter with the 11pm curfew – locking the door and making it clear that they don’t want to be woken up to let you in after that time. With that said, it’s a family-run operation and the family itself was helpful and very welcoming. The rooms were super clean and beautiful as well, located down a quiet alley off the main streets.
Inn Seventh Heaven – Heritage hotel with beautiful architecture and a bright and open courtyard. The hotel houses 12 individually decorated rooms with comfy beds, ranging from budget to suites. There’s a relaxing rooftop to hangout on with swing chairs.
Udaipur ~ 2 nights
Travel time from Ajmer to Udaipur ~ 5 hours (by train)
There are actually no trains that leave from Pushkar, so Rishi and Aayush gave us a ride to the train station in the neighboring city of Ajmer. We said goodbye to the guys after three interesting and fun days together, and left Ajmer fairly early to make our way to Udaipur, about 5 hours away.
Even though Udaipur was more of a detour than other spots on our Rajasthan itinerary, it was well worth the journey. It was easily our favorite city of our two weeks in India.
There’s something serene and elegant about Udaipur that we were immediately attracted to. It was nowhere near as small as Pushkar, but it still had a calm atmosphere about it, especially near the lake. And the city itself was stunning.
Udaipur is also considered the ‘White City’ due to the amount of white marble they used in many of the buildings, and also called the ‘Venice of India’ because of the amount of artificial lakes that can be found throughout the city.
Founded in 1559, it used to be the capital of the Mewar Kingdom, remnants of which you can still find in the expansive City Palace in the middle of the city. We probably did the most sightseeing here out of any city we went to India, mostly because we loved simply walking around the streets and taking in the scents, sounds, and colorful scenes.
Udaipur is where I tried my first Rajasthani Thali (yum!). Pascale and I also spent an afternoon exploring the huge complex of the City Palace, talked to a guru at Jagdish Temple, had a romantic sunset boat ride on Lake Pichola, and spent a day going to Badi Lake and Fateh Sagar Lake.
I told you there were a lot of lakes.
Oh, and I forget the most important thing we did of all – we went to an Indian wedding!
We met these two brothers, Krishna and Mayank, who were shop owners in Udaipur, and within 5 minutes of meeting them they invited us to come to a small family wedding with them.
We all smushed into a tuk tuk to get to the family compound on the outskirts of Udaipur. If you know anything about Indian weddings, you know that they’re a multi-day affair. This was the first day of the wedding, so it included feasting, dancing, and the bride wasn’t even there, just the groom.
It was the first time we were able to try proper Indian spice that wasn’t watered down for a foreigner’s palate, and we learned first hand just how much Indians love to party and dance. I befriended a group of teenage girls that were all related to the groom, and they spent the night teaching me Indian dance moves and taking selfies with me.
It was a magical experience that I’ll be writing up in more detail soon, but let’s just say that it was one of those life goals that I also wanted to experience. I’m so glad I was able to during my short time in India.
If you find yourself in India, get yourself invited to a wedding, it’s worth it! I only wish we would’ve had more time to stay in Udaipur to attend the following days of the ceremony.
What to Do in Udaipur
City Palace – Yes! Another city palace! Indian rulers love their palaces, and the City Palace is not one that skimps on lavish grounds, white marble, peaceful courtyards, and gorgeous views looking out over Lake Pichola.
Even though we tried to make it a quick visit, it ended up taking us half a day to explore the grounds and the old royal quarters. To be fair, it was built over a period of 400 years during the Mewar Dynasty, so it should be appreciated timewise.
Lake Pichola – Udaipur is known as the city of lakes and Lake Pichola is its star beauty. This is the main lake in Udaipur and where you can hire boats for sunset rides, or simply to take in the beautiful scenery from the water. It’s an artificial freshwater lake that was created in 1362. Yeah, it old.
Jagdish Temple – The colorful Jagdish temple is not one to miss in the middle of Udaipur. We ended up meeting a guru on the steps of the temple, and witnessed a religious ceremony that included chanting and singing. It has been a place of worship since 1651.
Badi Lake – This lake is a short tuk tuk ride away (15-20 minutes) from the city center of Udaipur, and it’s another stunning spot to go to near the water.
There was almost no one there when we went in the middle of the afternoon, and I only wish we had more time to hang out by the lake and its sparkling water. It was one of the most stunning places we visited during our two week India itinerary.
Fateh Sagar – Although we didn’t get to experience its delicious Indian street food at night that we had heard so much about, we did have a short time to walk alongside the lake on a nice day. It wasn’t anywhere near as stunning at Badi Lake, but still worth seeing, especially if you go when the night market is open.
Where to Stay in Udaipur
Moustache Hostel Udaipur – Probably our favorite hostel of the trip, Moustache Hostel Udaipur was all class with very friendly and helpful staff and clean rooms. We stayed in an affordable double room at ₹1000/night, and enjoyed the rooftop that looked out over the white buildings of Udaipur. We seriously could’ve stayed here for days if we had more time.
Jagat Niwas Palace – A midrange hotel that perhaps has the best location around the lake. Some rooms offer cozy lake-side views, staff are friendly and efficient, and there are plenty of places to hangout with a good book around the hotel – including comfy sitting areas, terraces, and courtyards. The rooftop restaurant comes recommended for its views.
Taj Lake Palace – If you want to feel like royalty in arguably one of the most romantic cities in India, Taj Lake Palace is a glorious stay in a luxe white-marble palace on the lake. Enjoy open courtyards, lotus ponds, and a sparkling pool. Easily seen as one of the best luxury stays in Udaipur.
Jaisalmer ~ 2 nights
Travel time from Udaipur to Jaisalmer ~ 9 hours (by overnight bus)
We pushed on through our India travel itinerary and made our way to Jaisalmer on an overnight bus from Udaipur. I suprisingly slept on the bus – this never happens – but my travel partner was not so lucky.
We were both a bit sore and tired on arrival to Jaisalmer, and we got there early in the morning when the small desert town was still waking up.
I immediately noticed how dusty the town was once we got out of the bus, and how aggressive tuk tuk and taxi drivers were with the western passengers from the bus (i.e. mainly just us). We found one tuk tuk a little ways down the road (my usual tactic to avoid extortionate prices from any train or bus station), but he couldn’t figure out where our hotel was.
He eventually found his way once he stopped and asked for directions, and we soon arrived at a simple guest house that allowed us to check-in early. Pascale decided to take a nap while I caught up on emails in the common room.
Gajju Palace, the place where we stayed, was no frills and not the cleanest for their cheap rooms, but it did the trick for one night before our camel safari. This hotel is connected to Trotters, the company that ran the camel safari that we were set to go on the next day, which is why we chose it. Plus, it was only ₹500 a night, or about US$8 split between us.
We had a day to walk around the small downtown of Jaisalmer, and grab some tasty paneer curry (what else?) from one of the upstairs restaurants that had a great view of the street action down below.
The most popular product that is sold in Jaisalmer is wall tapestries, so we spent a decent chunk of our afternoon bartering with local shopkeepers to take home our favorite pieces. We spent the rest of our time exploring the old fort, taking a lot of pictures, and chilling at our favorite low key cafe – Cafe+.
The next morning we left before sunrise for our camel safari with Trotters. It was an interesting experience and I learned two very important things from the trip – camels are not the most comfortable animals to ride and they fart/poop all the time. And believe me when I say their gas did not smell like roses.
With all that said, it was still an incredible experience to ride a camel for the first time. It’s terrifying the first time they stand up when you’re on their back, almost a 90 degree angle of having to lean forward until they straighten up. My camel’s name was Jabalu and Pascale’s was Babalu – of course we got the two camels who were brothers.
After riding off and on for 4-5 hours we reached our spot for the night, and camped out in the Thar Desert with a bunch of other travelers. It was completely open air, a bit cold and hard, but the stars were beautiful as we fell asleep on our little mats.
The next day we hightailed it back to Jaisalmer proper to make our bus to Jodhpur in time.
Karan, the guy who sold us our bus tickets wasted no time in flirting with us, asking us to stay an extra day so we could party together, and gave us a ride to the station so we didn’t have to pay for a tuk tuk. This was a very normal ocurrence with Indian men in India.
What to Do in Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer Fort – Thought to be one of the few “living forts” in the world, a huge chunk of the population in Jaisalmer still resides within its walls. The 800-year-old fort is the 2nd oldest fort in Rajasthan and is quite impressive to look at from afar and up close, with its glittering yellow sandstone architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Camel Safari – This is one of the most popular activities to do in Jaisalmer, and the reason why most people go to this desert city that’s a little out of the way. There are numerous tour options and operators.
You could just do a quick afternoon camel ride in the desert, or a proper overnight 24 hour tour like we did, or something a bit longer. Our guides said that there have been people who go for two weeks in the desert. We went with Trotters and were happy with our guides, the price, and the service.
Patwon Ki Haveli – A group of early 19th century palaces that make up some of largest and most detailed carved havelis in Jaisalmer. They also house a museum that features desert artwork and carvings.
Where to Stay in Jaisalmer
*Although the tourist favorite is staying in the Jaisalmer Fort, these accommodations are actually causing irreparable damage to the ancient structure, which is why you won’t see me recommend any places to stay in the fort.
Gajju Palace Hotel – No frills and not the cleanest, but super cheap rooms just a short walk outside the fort walls. This hotel is connected to Trotters, so a great one to stay at if you’re planning on doing a camel safari with the company. Bright and sunny common room that fits the desert theme, WiFi hit or miss, rooftop restaurant was under construction while we were there. You can book directly through Trotters if you book a tour with them.
Hotel Pleasant Haveli – No kids allowed at this relaxing accommodation that features carved stone and an attractive rooftop. There are only a small number of colorful rooms on offer, so make sure to book early. Clean bathrooms and air-conditioning. Free pickups from transport terminals are offered to guests if you ask ahead.
Suryagarh – The grandest digs in town, this spacious hotel features Jaisalmer-style architecture, a huge courtyard, and carved stonework. Feel like a prince or princess at the beautiful indoor pool, or indulge at the highly recommended hotel restaurant, Nosh. Plenty of activities are offered to guests, including nightly entertainment.
Jodhpur ~ 2 nights
Travel time from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur ~ 5.5 hours (by bus)
Our final new destination of the trip, Jodhpur ended up being our least favorite city of our 2 weak India itinerary.
This was mainly to do with a series of unfortunate events, but I’m sure it also had to do with our level of exhaustion after racing around Rajasthan for the past couple of weeks. It was a city or two too much for 15 days.
Jodhpur is called the ‘Blue City’, again because many of the buildings are painted blue. It was also a much larger city than either of us were expecting, we didn’t realize that it’s actually the second largest city in Rajasthan, after Jaipur.
Jodhpur is located on the outskirts of the Thar Desert and the layout (not the vibe) of it kind of reminded me of Athens, with a fort located high up on a hill and a city built around that lookout.
The city is also called ‘Sun City’ for the nice weather it enjoys year around. I will say that we definitely felt the heat here more than other cities we had explored in Rajasthan. It was a tad stifling at times.
We mainly did the last of our shopping, walked around the city streets, and got lost with tuk tuk drivers who didn’t know where they were going. We also almost got scammed a couple of times, as we learned was fairly commonplace in this touristy city.
The streets themselves were gorgeous to walk around though, especially when we came across the signature city color painted in such a bright blue.
We also went to the main Sardar Market around the clock tower, spent way too long in a tea shop learning the difference between real and fake saffron, and tried, and hilariously failed, to send off a couple packages to our home countries.
We also had a wonderful, although overpriced, meal at a restaurant called Nirvana. The view looking out over the fort was stunning, especially at sunset. It almost made up for the stressful day we spent running around the city.
The other saving grace was the accommodation we were staying at that had the nicest and most welcoming hosts we found throughout our north India travel days – Dylan Cafe & Guesthouse.
What to Do in Jodhpur
Where to Stay in Jodhpur
Dylan Cafe & Guesthouse – The accommodation that had the chillest vibe in Rajasthan, there’s not much I didn’t like about this place – named after Bob Dylan who the owner has a fondness for. The rooftop is where most guests hangout each night and drink chai, and the view looking over the city and the fort at night is gorgeous. Also, there’s a kitten named Babu who roams around the rooftop and will melt your heart.
Singhvi’s Haveli – A 500-year-old red sandstone haveli that is family-run by two friendly brothers. There are 13 rooms that range from budget to luxury, and a vegetarian restaurant that offers good local fare and a fun ambiance.
Pal Haveli – Probably the most beautiful haveli in town, Pal Haveli was built by Thakur of Pal in 1847. Heritage-style rooms give this luxury stay character, and a central courtyard provides a relaxing place to get away from the hectic nature of Jodhpur. One of the best restaurants in the city, Indique, is on the rooftop.
Back to Delhi ~ 1 night
Travel time from Jodhpur to Delhi ~ 1.25 hours (by plane)
Instead of taking another overnight bus, we took a quick flight back to Delhi from Jodhpur. It was a great decision and saved us a lot of energy and mental power. We were surprised at how nice Jet Airways was, and the whole process of checking in and boarding was suspiciously easy and straightforward.
We had one last half day in Delhi before my crazy early flight the next day, and it ended up being fairly uneventful because I got ill for most of it.
The timing was not ideal because I was boarding my long haul flights back to the US the next morning and had to leave by 4am, but I tried to make the best of the situation. And I was very grateful to have Pascale with me, who was the best at mothering me and bringing me soup and electrolytes, even when I wasn’t able to keep them down.
I somehow mustered up enough strength to go get a tattoo with Pascale before the worst of my vomiting started. I think the pain of the tattoo took away from the intense nausea I was feeling, or something like that.
Plus, we had been talking about getting a tattoo together in Delhi before we went our separate ways. And I really didn’t want to miss it – travel sickness be damned.
I guess I had to get sick at least once during my time in India, and I’m glad that it was at least at the very end of my trip and both of us were able to avoid the dreaded Delhi Belly.
Things to Note
Transportation in India is rarely straight forward, and there are often more hiccups you have to deal with when traveling around the country than other places. Just go to India knowing this, keep an open mind, and bring a whole lot of patience and you’ll be fine.
It’s almost always recommended to book ahead when it comes to transport in India, because seats fill up fast – especially if you’re wanting the nicer buses or upper classes on the train. And the further the journey, the quicker seats book up.
Book early and don’t expect you can just show up the day of and find a seat on the next bus that’s leaving.
Buses – for buses you can either call ahead to the station (usually only the best option if you speak fluent Hindi or you know someone who does who can call for you), or use a booking agent at a tourist office in the city you’re in. We used the latter most often.
There are a few websites that claim they can book bus tickets ahead of time, but almost all of them seemed to have horrible reviews so we never tried to use them. Not to mention, many Indian website won’t accept foreign bank cards.
Trains – although generally the preferred way to travel, trains can be even more complicated to book than buses, at least when you’re first setting up an account to book tickets online through Indian Rail.
Rachel from Hippie in Heels has a detailed guide on the process of booking train tickets in India that you should definitely check out before your trip. You can find it here. Most importantly, you should think about setting up an IRCTC account (Indian Rail) before you even leave your home country.
Flights – flights are probably the easiest form of transport compared to the former two, but can be relatively costly. You can book flights in India like you do in any other country, from websites like Skyscanner or Kiwi.
I had heard from a few online sources that SIM cards were a hassle to get, and that I should use a rental phone service, like Trabug, instead of attempting to get my own SIM once I got to the country.
I ended up having a horrible time with Trabug. The phone got a crack on its screen the first day we had it and was effectively worthless for the rental period we had booked it for, which might I add was extortionate (US$50 for 10 days of service).
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they took the majority of my deposit, $48 out of $65, to pay for the dinky broken screen. AND it took them a month to finally give me an answer about getting my deposit back, even if it was only a partial refund. It was only after I left them a negative review on Facebook that they gave me $17 back for my deposit.
In conclusion, I ended up paying US$98 for a cheap phone that worked all of 12 hours, and then wasted a month sending emails to the company to try and get an answer about my deposit, and was returned a paltry sum. End rant.
All this is to say, don’t use Trabug. I talked to many travelers who had no problem getting a local SIM once they arrived in India. You just have to do your research and make sure to bring the required documents. Most of these travelers were able to get a SIM for their phone within a few hours with the proper documents (namely a copy of your passport, Indian visa, Indian address, home address, etc).
We only came across this in Pushkar, but some guesthouses have curfews that they don’t mention on booking sites or even on their websites.
Always check ahead before you arrive to an accommodation if it looks like it’s a family-run guesthouse and you’re concerned about a curfew.
On one hand, we felt bad about arguing about the curfew with the guesthouse owner in Pushkar, but they also didn’t give us any prior warning that there would be one. In fact, they listed themselves as a hotel, so we were even more confused.
If you’re locking up shop before 11pm, you should let guests know ahead of time IMO. But, that’s not always how it works in India. Be prepared, call ahead to confirm, and plan accordingly, or choose to stay in a hotel or hostel instead.
Sending off Packages
If you’re thinking of sending off a package, walk away slowly and make better choices. You really, really don’t want to send off a package in India. It will only give you premature gray hair and make you raise your fist in dramatic agony like a bad Bollywood film.
If you really, really…. really, must send off a package in India, clear your schedule, it might just take the whole day.
Remember how I said that there are some (*cough* 75%) of things that just aren’t as straightforward as you would like them to be in India? Sending off a package is one of them.
First, know that there is no postage or packaging sold at post offices in India – c’mon that would be too easy! They also require all packages to be wrapped in cloth and sewn shut (I’m sure customs love this nice touch).
So you need to find a box, then bring it to a tailor to have them sew a cloth bag around it, then find someone who is willing to weigh said box and put the appropriate postage on it, and send it off.
We knew none of this beforehand of course, because we didn’t even think about having to do research to send off a package. It’s usually a pretty easy process.
We were so confused by the conflicting things that people were saying and the seemingly ridiculous hoops we were having to jump through, that we got to the postage stage and we thought for sure we were being scammed.
And we probably were with the overly friendly gentleman who just-so-happened to be waiting for two lost westerners to show up at the post office, claimed their servers were down so they couldn’t send off packages directly, and took us back to his shop even though he had to cut his lunch early in order to help us. From the goodness of his heart, of course. *Cue tiny violin*
Once he quoted us a huge sum for international postage, we’re talking around US$130, we hightailed it out of there and vowed to do research back at the guesthouse to figure out what we should actually do.
It turns out this guy wasn’t too far off with all the hoops and even the price (sending packages outside of India is crazy expensive), but I’m still pretty sure he was upping it more than need be.
And if you send with local couriers, as opposed to directly with a courier company such as DHL, stuff from your package more often than not goes missing. This is what happened to Pascale who eventually sent off her package a few days later with a local courier.
I ended up just taking a checked bag on my flight home instead of dealing with the postal service in India. I suggest you do the same.
Overall I couldn’t have asked for a more fun trip that was packed to the brim with one of my closest friends. We had so many adventures during our short time in the country, and it both made us addicted to the idea of coming back for another round soon.
I wish I would’ve had more time to be able to go at a slower pace, and to see spots like Varanasi (the spiritual capital of India), but I think that’s always the case with any India trip. It’s such a huge country that you’ll never get to everything you want to.
With that said, if I could do it over, I probably would’ve taken out Jodhpur and maybe Jaisalmer, so we could’ve had more time in the other cities we enjoyed more, such as Pushkar and Udaipur.
However, it was nice having a non-city related destination like Jaisalmer thrown into the mix to enjoy a taste of the outdoors in India, and not just have all cities on our itinerary.
That would’ve been something that I would’ve loved to do more of as well, spending more time on outdoor adventures that included beautiful nature spots, instead of just exploring cities. Again, our short time limited us, so we stuck to what was easiest and quickest for the trip.
After this trip, India easily became one of my favorite countries. It was an intriguing, challenging, humbling, and beautiful place – sometimes all at once. I love the memories I have from my first trip to the country. Next up, I’d probably plan a trip to the southwest, from Goa to Kochi, but who knows.
India is such a huge country and there are so many gorgeous spots to see, there may be another part that peaks my curiosity before I return. I do know that India will probably be a country that I come back to multiple times throughout my life. It’s just too enticing of a place not to return to time and time again.
Did this itinerary help you plan out your own India travels? Where would you most want to go in India and for how long?
Curious how much my two weeks in India cost me? Read this post.
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