India in 2 weeks

Posted by on Apr 6, 2013 in Featured, India | 3 comments

As our adventure through India has come to a close, I find myself reflecting on the trip.  These two weeks have been filled with unbelievable experiences in a foreign land but have also been riddled with frustration.  I have felt outside of my comfort zone for 90% of my time in India and that is what makes it so wonderful and so terrible all at once.  I have never encountered such high highs with such low lows all at the same time.  Many people have asked me if I would recommend traveling to India now that I have experienced it.  The truth is, I am not sure.  India is not for the traveler that wants comfort or relaxation. The country will show you abject poverty, aggressive vendors wanting money at all costs, and sexism like you would never believe.  However, I do feel that I am better off having spent time there.  I have compiled a brief summary of each of our stops through Rajasthan in case you do want to take the plunge.

Delhi:  Our first stop in our trip to India was the hectic capital city of Delhi.  We dove right into chaotic India by staying in an authentic area near the main bazaar called Pahar Ganj.  Our time in Delhi was spent exploring some of the famous monuments (in which there are many) and getting acclimated to India in general: the crowds, the food, and the fact that everyone wants money from us. We rented a driver for a one day tour of the major sights which is necessary because of how spread out the city is.  Highlights included Hamayan’s Tomb, Qutb Minar (both UNESCO World Heritage sites) , India Gate, the Lotus Temple, and Akshardam Temple.  Delhi is also a great springboard for coordinating the rest of your trip so we worked with a local hotel owner to book a driver, Anil, for the remainder of Rajasthan.  While Delhi should not be missed, we found it to be more of a big crowded city and lighter on character or charm. 

Agra: Visit for the Taj Mahal and leave immediately after…seriously.  We did, however, enjoy a guided tour of Fatephur Sikri, a famous mosque and World Heritage site, on the drive from Agra to the Tiger Park.

Sawai Madhopur:  As far as I can tell from our brief (one night) stay here, the only draw to this town is Ranthambhore National Park that runs several tiger safaris daily.  We opted for an early morning safari as tigers tend to be more active during the cool times of the day thus increasing chances of a tiger sighting. Unfortunately, we did not see a tiger (or leopard for that matter) but we still had a blast.  The safari drives you in a small open jeep (also options for a larger jeep) through the jungle and enables you to see all sorts of animals in their natural habitat (we saw plenty of monkeys, peacocks, antelopes, deer, gazelles, and indigenous birds) and enjoy nature.

Jaipur:  The “Pink City” of Jaipur is known for its fabric block printing and gems.  It also apparently houses one of the nicest movie theaters in Rajasthan so we took advantage by experiencing a Bollywood flick.  We stayed outside of the main drag overlooking Jai Mahal (a palace that sits in the center of Man Sagar Lake) and enjoyed walking by the lake in both the morning and evening (fabulous people and animal watching: boys playing cricket, couples out for a walk, locals feeding the fish, and a myriad of animals).  As in every other city, we also did the obligatory fort/temple touring:  Amer Fort,  Jaigarh Fort, and the Birka Mandir Temple (an ornate Maharaja cemetery). We also spent time driving through the old town in which every building is painted pink.  One highlight was receiving a traditional henna tattoo from a woman named Sunita who zoomed up on her motorbike in a full sari to a small snack stand on the side of the road to beautify my hand and arm.  Thanks to Anil’s suggestions, we were also fortunate to dine on some delicious local cuisine.

Pushkar:  As you can tell from my other blog dedicated entirely to Pushkar, this town was a true highlight.  This holy city, known for housing the only Brahman temple in India and a camel festival each November is a must when traveling through Rajasthan.  The city itself has several attractions: the Brahman Temple and Pushkar Lake, an inviting main street for shopping, and a short, but steep hike to Sawitri Temple which affords glorious views of the city and is a nice spot to enjoy sunrise or sunset.  Pushkar is also an option for partaking in a camel safari.  While tourists with more time typically opt for the sand dunes in Jaiselmer for their safari, Pushkar is an excellent choice if you are short on time or simply don’t feel like taking another full day (each way) to drive to Jaiselmer.  Safaris range from short (2-3 hour) rides to overnight journeys (which we opted for) where you sleep under the stars and have dinner and breakfast included.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time in peaceful Pushkar.

Jodhpur:  Known as “the Blue City” because a large number of houses and shops are painted blue, Jodhpur’s narrow and chaotic streets seem to epitomize a typical Indian city.  We arrived the day before the festival of colors and spent one day in Jodhpur to take in a few of the sites and see, firsthand, the frenzied preparation of the local people for the Holi Festival.  Jodhpur is famous for antique crafts (glass, metal, and steel) and spices.  Since Mike and I are in no position to be buying large antiques this trip, Anil brought us to M.V. Spices, the best, most well known, and awarded spice shop in Rajasthan.  We were amazed by the variety of spices and enjoyed smelling the foreign aromatics.  We also visited the Umaid Bhawan Palace (the last great palace built in India and current home to the Jodhpur Maharaja) and the Mehrangarh Fort (a legit museum, but expensive because it is owned by the Maharaja).  We also successfully survived navigating the Sardar Market, aptly described by my guide book as “a full-on bustling Indian market with a barely contained riot of sights, sounds and stinks.”  While not my favorite city, Jodhpur is worth a stop.

Ranakpur:  Ranakpur is a small village in western Rajasthan that we included in our itinerary to break up the city tours.  Unfortunately, I was knocked out by a 24 hour flu bug during our time here but I can vouch that the area is very quiet and enables you to feel close to the outdoors.  Nature walks and trekking are available in the area and the village is home to the Ranakpur Temple, a famous Jain Temple.  After sightseeing for 2 weeks in India, we had seen our fair share of temples but this one really stood out because of its large size and ornate and varied architectural style.  We were in Ranakpur during one of the major Indian holidays: the Holi Festival.  This celebration involves a day of prayer with bonfires followed by all sorts of revelry including a lot of eating, drinking, and playing with colors.  Holil is a huge deal to every Indian person and a high light of their year so we felt fortunate to be able to see the celebration first hand.  (Picture children and  grown men and women partying and chasing each other around with water and bright multicolored powders).

Udaipur:  Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East,” the City of Lakes (five in total) was my favorite of the large cities we visited on our tour.  The more laid back atmosphere, lakes, gardens, and accessible shopping made Udaipur inviting and memorable.  The old city is easily walked which further differentiates Udaipur from some of the more spread out cities.  We spent a morning visiting the City Palace (our favorite of the many palaces in Rajasthan) and walking through the shopping areas, past temples, and over quaint bridges. One afternoon, we perused  the Maharani Gardens and learned about the famous painting techniques that the city is known for. And in the evenings, we enjoyed the sunsets:  first by circling  Fadh Sagar Lake (perfect for people watching and taking in views of Moon Palace), then by treating ourselves to a dinner and views at Ambrai Restaurant.  After visiting this thriving city, I now understand why it was chosen as the setting for the famous James Bond movie, Octopussy.

Rajasthan was the perfect introduction to India.  We were able to see and experience a lot in a short amount of time.  While I don’t know if I will ever return to this complex country, I am glad that I had the chance to spend two weeks here.


  1. Hi, Kat. I enjoyed your post! My partner and I are thinking of doing a similar two-week journey in India next year. Did you work with the hotel to line up your driver before or during your trip? And for your time outside of Delhi, did you book your hotels beforehand? I’d love to learn more about how you planned your journey in India.

  2. Thanks Marilynn! Unfortunately, I was sick all day during the Holi festival. But our driver, Anil, and his friends made sure that Mike was fully covered in colors,

  3. Belated congrats on another great blog, Kat! Did you spray paint Mike?

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