Hey love, finally the journal post you’ve been waiting for: Our India itinerary! But first and foremost, I can’t thank you enough for always being with us during the whole journey. I’ve read your messages and comments on Instagram and though I can’t reply to every single one of it yet, please do know that every word warms my heart and has encouraged me throughout the whole trip. You guys are amazing.
It took me awhile to write this first India post, had to rush back to the normal daily life with the photoshoots, meetings and also gazillions of unedited photos. We explored six cities in Rajasthan and Agra for two weeks starting from Jaipur and journeyed anti-clockwise through some of the most charming, vibrant and most astounding landscape and man-made architecture we could ever wish to see. The time was actually too short to even scratch the surface of this northern India region. I truly think that in order to understand, feel and see Rajasthan, it would require more than a thousand lifetimes. But alas, two weeks was all we had.
But of course, not everyone can have the luxury to escape work/school/life that long, and some of you might only be able to do a one week trip. This journal contains all the destinations that we visited, and you can decide which cities you want to skip for a shorter trip. If one week if all you’ve got, choose only three cities and save the other ones for your next visit instead of forcing to do this whole itinerary in a short time.
I cannot stress this enough: Trying to cram too much in this country is the biggest mistake that many people make when visiting India for the first time. Trust me, if you’re bouncing around you aren’t experiencing anything so don’t even try. Don’t worry, India’s movement, smiles and energy are so vibrant that I guarantee one visit will change your life forever and you’ll yearn to return again and again and again for more.
Jaipur / Jodhpur / Jaisalmer / Ranakpur / Udaipur / Pushkar / Agra / Jaipur
(16 days in total including travel days)
Most people travel to and from Delhi and start the journey from there, but we chose to fly directly to the capital of Rajasthan, none other than the beautiful pink city of Jaipur. It was a wonderful coincidence to hear early this year that AirAsia X had announced a new direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jaipur with four weekly flights (they’re the first, one and only low-cost long-haul carrier to offer this route.)
The flight from Jakarta to KL is a short two hours (where we spent the transit time resting in the comfortable AirAsia Red Lounge), and from KL it’s a five hours journey to Jaipur. Our seats were on the Quiet Zone area where we could have maximum comfort and rest during the whole flight.
The time of the departure and arrival couldn’t be better. Our arrival in Jaipur in the evening allowed us have a good night rest before starting our adventure the next morning. Conversely, our flight back to Jakarta was on the daytime so we still had our chance to enjoy our last sunrise of the trip before heading back home.
AirAsiaX flies to Jaipur 4 times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday)
Book your flight here.
Since it’s our first time in Rajasthan, we opted for the roadway instead of flight or trains. The distance between each cities can be reached in approximately 5 hours, which was not too bad. We chose to travel in daylight (10am-4pm) when the sun is at the strongest and temperature the highest, therefore we can always enjoy the sunrise/sunset in every destination.
If you think traveling in India will be a bit scary or overwhelming (and you have extra budget to spare), then I will 100% recommend booking a car and a driver from a reputable website prior your trip. It’s highly efficient and safe; for us it was the perfect way to get to know the country. The other perk of doing a road trip is you can always make pitstop at interesting places in between your destinations.
We booked our car and driver from the Rajasthan Tour and Driver website, sent them our own pre-made itinerary and let them calculate the cost for the whole journey (including tolls, gas and driver allowance). They can help you plan your itineraries too, but trust me, it’s much better if you do your own research so you won’t end up in places you might not be interested in.
The driver assigned to us was Mr. Arjun Singh, a kind, caring, Rajasthan-born man who was more like our dad than our chauffeur during this whole trip. He brought us to off-the-beaten-path temples, invited us to his house where his sweet family cooked us a delicious lunch, was always patient with our sudden last minute change of plans, and managed to seamlessly pick up the hard drive in Gurgaon (story about the hard drive here) and got it delivered to us on the day of our flight back.
Day 1-2 Jaipur
Jaipur is a sensory overload, in all the best way. The regal architecture, whimsical dream palaces at every turn, spellbinding festivals and heartwarming temple rituals would be enough to make the city an expert in stealing everyone hearts.
Honey colored forts, spread out like stone garlands around the surrounding hills; the mute spectacles to the rises and falls of the dynasties, victories won and battles lost, the glory to the empire and power to the people throughout the centuries. There are three forts on top of the hills in Jaipur, our favorites are Amber/Amer for sunrise and Nahargargh for sunset.
But amid all the grand incarnation of Rajputana glories, my heart was truly stolen inside the Govind Dev Ji Temple, where I had a humbling experience of witnessing the indescribable devotion and faith of the Jaipurites. The energy, peace, joy and friendliness of the people in this temple is incredible.
Day 1: Govind Dev Ji temple, Hawa Mahal, The City Palace, Jantar Mantar (all of them within walking distances from each other), Albert Hall Museum, Nahargargh Fort (sunset)
Day 2: Amer Fort, Any elephant camps around Amer, Galta-Ji / The Monkey Temple (sunset)
Badaraka in City Palace
Umaid Bhawan Jaipur: a beautiful restored traditional Haveli (villa with a central inner courtyard) turned into a heritage hotel.
Zone by The Park: A modern and clean three stars hotel in Bani Park area with excellent service and wonderful restaurant.
Day 3-4 Jodhpur
Pedestrians, seeming like have come from a mix of centuries, stroll inside the bazaars, small alleys and roadway, surrounded by a parade of rickshaws and motorbikes, tractors and cattles; all buzzing with a robust vibrance against the backdrop of the old city with its blue tinted Brahmin cubes and narrow cobbled medieval streets.
One thing about Jodhpur that surely left a wonderful warm feeling in my heart is… the local people hospitality. Everyone whom I met here are very welcoming with the hearts of gold and ready to help you anytime, anywhere.
Being a highly spiritual country, festivals are at the heart of people’s lives in India. We were lucky to be able to experience the local festival on both of our days in Jodhpur. Elaborately decorated trucks were out on a vibrant parade through the main streets. Everyone was out there, singing, dancing and celebrating a religious event and paying homage to their worshipped deity. The mood was so festive and magical that we somehow got swept up into the parade (and danced up footloose, too.)
Merangarh, Jaswant Thada, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mandore Garden
Walk around the blue city and spend sunset in any restaurant with rooftop view.
Shingvi Haveli’s restaurant
Indique Restaurant in Pal Haveli
Shingvi Haveli: Another beautiful Haveli restored into a heritage hotel. Shinghvi has a rooftop cafe with killer 360’ view of the Blue City and the fort.
Day 5-6 Jaisalmer
The quintessential Rajasthan, with all the romance of desert dunes, fortified cities and camel caravans. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this place. The sandcastle fort that rises out of the desert alone like a mirage is a pretty spectacular sight, and wait until you see the royal cenotaphs Bada Bagh. The whole Jaisalmer looks and feels like straight from a tale in Arabian Nights. Most of the region is covered by the Thar Desert, which also extends into Punjab, Gujarat and Pakistan.
The fort of Jaisalmer is alive and breathing, and it has been for the last few centuries. Ninety-nine bastions are still inhabited just like the ancient time. In between the twisting, maze-like golden lanes; jain temples, hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and travel agents are bustling and active with 3000 people residing within the fort walls.
The narrow streets of the old city boasts magnificent havelis, all carved from the same golden-honey sandstone as the fort. It’s almost like the gods took Jaisalmer to be their canvas and carefully poured gold paint in perfection, hence Jaisalmer’s nickname, the Golden City.
Gadisar Lake (beautiful on sunset), Patwon-ki Haveli, Bada Bagh Royal Cenotaphs, Jaisalmer Fort, Jain Temple (inside the fort), Desert Safari in the sand dunes.
All of the restaurant above are rooftop restaurants which offer wonderful view of the fort.
Stay in: Fort Villa
Day 7 Ranakpur (daytrip), Udaipur
On your way to Udaipur the next morning, be sure to make a pitstop at Ranakpur Jain Temple. Hidden inside the secluded wooden alley of Ranakpur/Aravalli Hills is this soaring mass of elaborately carved white marble structure. The temple’s overpowering presence will leave you breathless the moment you climb up its enormous flight of steps to the entrance.
The temple has 1,444 elaborately carved pillars and no two pillars are the same. As you look up to the intricate dome ceilings, you’ll see the awe-inspiring workmanship created over six centuries ago. The quietness of this huge temple complex and the sudden drop of temperature inside will make you feel as if you can find inner peace here. It feels like a nice break from the overwhelming sensory overload of the whole world outside.
Jainism is an ancient Indian religion practising the act and belief of ahiṃsā (“non-violence”) towards any living thing. This includes the tiniest living micro-organisms to insects and larger species. Jain vegetarian diet is one of the most rigorous and comprehensive forms of spiritual diet in India. The Jain cuisine is completely vegetarian and also excludes onions, potatoes, and garlic and other root vegetables as pulling up these vegetables involves killing the entire plant. Honey is forbidden, as its collection would amount to violence against the bees.
Their thorough way of applying nonviolence to everyday activities, and especially to food, shapes their entire lives and is the most significant hallmark of Jain identity. Aside from ahiṃsā, Jains also practise anekāntavāda (“many-sidedness”), aparigraha (“non-attachment”) and abstinence/chastity as their main principles.
Day 8-10 Udaipur
Ah Udaipur, the Venice of India, the most romantic city of the subcontinent. A city so picturesque with its ever-growing charm gleaming with royalty. A lakeside paradise of shimmering white marble, timeless romance, and the European feel you just can’t find anywhere else in Asia. Udaipur is a living movie set, a statement which has been proven true by the numbers of great movies shot in this city (“The Darjeeling Limited”, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “Octopussy” and “The Fall” amongst many others.)
Up until today, the whole city is still bathed in her ancient Mewar glory; shown in the Maharana’s magnificent and enormous city palace, beautiful havelis and lakeside heritage hotels. From all the Rajasthan cities we visited, Udaipur takes top place being both the most opulent and also the place with the chillest vibes. It is the right city to unwind after ten days of city hopping, so we decided to stay here one day longer and take it slow.
The City Palace, Jagdish Temple, Monsoon Palace, Lake Pichola sunset/sunrise boat ride
Jagat Niwas Palace restaurant
Millets of Mewar
Jagat Niwas Palace: A restored 17th century villa turned into a lakeside heritage boutique hotel. Jagat Niwas is a everything you could dream of about orient indulgence. It was so difficult to move our bums out because the hotel has everything you need: palatial bedroom, huge bathroom, fast wifi, and especially a beautiful rooftop restaurant with a view over the majestic Pichola lake. As we finally forced our lazy legs to move, we’re glad to find out that the hotel is only 5 minutes walk from the City Palace and Jagdish Temple.
The Jagat Sagar, a beautiful private boat owned by the property, provided an experience which we wouldn’t ever forget. A sunrise/sunset boat ride in Lake Pichola is one of the must do while in Udaipur, but instead of cramming inside the public boat, you can blissfully enjoy the tranquil ride inside this luxury boat with mirrored interior reflecting the sun glitters, comfy velvet lounge and pillows, while having your chai or coffee.
Day 11 Pushkar – Abhaneri – Agra
Please do one thing I didn’t do: stay longer in Pushkar. I only spent half day here so I couldn’t truly soak in the chill vibe and religious charm of the city but I’ll surely come back for more.
Since I only spend a couple of hours in Pushkar, I can only suggest to you what I’ve been reading everywhere else: Visit the Brahma temple, Shiva temple, Savitri temple, any temple you can find. Pushkar is like no other place in Rajasthan. It’s a holy town curled around a holy lake, brimming with 52 ghats, 400 temples, soul searching pilgrims and backpackers; and devoid of Rajasthan’s usual luxuries of royal palaces, forts, human’s greed (well, only theoretically) and non-vegetarian food.
We arrived in this town very late at night, checked in to our hotel and rested. In the morning, we walked around the markets and temples and tried our best to dodge the infamous Pushkar flower petal scam around the ghats.*
*Pushkar flower petal scam is a well-known scam around the ghats in Pushkar where some locals will approach and talk to you, then (magically) produce some petals and put it in your hand. The moment the petals reached your hand, you’re it. Not that it’s dangerous or anything, you just have to pay them some money; but we were told that the amount can be really ludicrous, from 1000 to 5000 rupee.
If things get unfortunate and you can’t dodge the petal, remember that you can get away with 100 and walk away. These people are so experienced and convincing, most of them will even dress up as the holy men. They will tell you that they’re going to bless you and your whole family, then charge you for that. Do not fall for it.
Abhaneri / Chand Baori (daytrip)
The route from Pushkar to Agra is the longest (8 hours) so I recommend you to take a break in between by visiting the Chand Baori Stepwell in Abhaneri. Chand Baori is one of Rajasthan’s most spectacular stepwell and an incredible geometric wonder. Yes, it is that stepwell in the movie “The Fall”.
Day 12-13 Agra
What can I say about Agra? Other than of course it’s brimming with UNESCO Heritage sites. I’d say that you probably will need more patience to deal with this city. It’s way more touristy than every other cities we visited so everyone is out hustling and touting. Persistently. Infuriatingly. All. The. Time.
Everyone comes to Agra with the same reason: The Taj Mahal (which fortunately, despite the hype, is as good as you’ve heard). I’m going to repeat the same suggestion that everyone else on internet says; go as early as possible when the crowd is still bearable. We arrived at 6 am along with few other hundreds visitors and as the day goes, the number could and would go up to forty thousands. Taj Mahal is closed on Friday and hella crowded on weekends so if you really want to drop a visit, arrange your schedule so your Agra visit falls on a weekday.
But Agra is more than just the Taj. There’s the mighty red Agra fort, a beautiful Mughal legacy and the beautiful white marbled tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah. The latter one stole our heart.
Agra can be “finished” in one day, so on the next day you can choose to take a daytrip to Fatehpur Sikri, a fortified ancient capital city boasting the biggest gate on earth, built by the Great Emperor Akbar to symbolize his victory. This Persian/Mughal architectural masterpiece was made of red sandstone that had been sunwashed for centuries which resulted in the most striking hues of burnt sienna.
Day 1: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, Mehtab Bagh
Day 2: Fatehpur Sikri, then continue to drive to Jaipur
Pinch of Spice
Good Vibes Cafe
Stay at: The Retreat Agra
Day 14 Jaipur/Delhi, depend where you take your final return flight from!
Some more tips:
- We didn’t get a local simcard because too much hassles. Sometimes I turned my data roaming on but most of the times we relied on the pocket wifi that was provided by Arjun in the car. All the hotels we stayed in and most of the restaurants we dined at have wifi.*
*After a while, we stopped expecting fast connection, we just expected it to connect.
- Government official guides are available in most tourist destination, with a fixed price written on the entrance sign. Lots of people will approach you at the gate offering their service, not all of them are official guides. We hired a guide on our first two days in Jaipur and two days in Agra/Fatehpur, but for the rest of the trip we opted to supply ourselves with information from the internet or audio guide.
- India is not for the faint hearted travelers (although Rajasthan is the most tourist friendly state), therefore trying to travel fast and to see too much will cause you to get worn out, sick, and start to “hate” the country. So…
- …Don’t schedule your itinerary by the minutes, hell, even by the hours (learned it the hard way). Distances, congested roads, poor infrastructures and roaming cows/goats/camels on the road could mean that getting around might takes longer than you think; yet this is all part of the India ride.
- India can be challenging, particularly for the first-time visitor. Even long time travelers will find their nerves unraveled at some point. Take my advice: travel slow, savor every moment, enjoy that warm cup of chai, take your time, breathe, let go. To embrace India’s unpredictability is to embrace its soul. Trust me, adopting a ‘go with the flow’ attitude is wise if you wish to retain your sanity.
That’s all love! Hope this itinerary will help you to plan your next trip to this magical country! Let me know on the comment section if you have more questions. Kisses.