Abbie reports on her whirlwind week in Northern India where she was kindly hosted by Exodus along with seven other travel consultants from the UK and Ireland. It was quite a packed programme as you’ll see …
‘We flew overnight with Jet Airways and arrived into Delhi after the 8 hour flight ready to immerse ourselves into this amazing city teeming with sights, sounds, people and quite a few cows too!
We took a bicycle rickshaw from our hotel in New Delhi to the metro station and then travelled by train to Old Delhi. We emerged into the narrow streets which are so busy and bustling, an assault on all of your senses, the sound of horns, traffic and people, the smell of spice in the air, the heat and humidity. The markets are wonderful with locals selling everything from hand-made wedding invitations to home ware!
Early the next morning we take the 6am train from Delhi to Ajemer. We arrive early at the train station and even at 5am the place is alive! It takes 7 hours to travel from Delhi to Ajemer and another 45 minutes by road to reach Pushkar.
Pushkar is much quieter than Delhi, however the markets are still a busy place to be with tuk-tuks zooming past, cows taking a rest in the middle of the road, and locals trying to go about their daily business. Pushkar Lake is very tranquil and is where people come to bathe in its holy waters. This evening we had the pleasure of joining a local family in their house for dinner. We ate on the roof top where the breeze was welcoming after a long day of sightseeing. The family are warm and kind as they serve us a traditional home cooked feast.
Today we drive from Pushkar to Jaipur which takes around 3 hours. After lunch we have a walking tour of Jaipur’s markets staring at the food stalls selling spices and fresh fruit and vegetables before heading to the textiles markets which sell every colour of sari you could imagine. Jaipur is a beautiful city with all the buildings painted in a wonderful pink. This evening we got to watch a Bollywood film at the local cinema – it’s a special occasion for the locals who dress in their finery.
Our second day in Jaipur begins with a visit to the most famous building in Jaipur, the Hawa Mahal. This is the so called ‘Palace of the Winds’ built so the women of the royal household could watch the street festivities below whilst remaining unseen from the outside.
The highlight of the day was a visit to the Amber Fort, a short distance drive from the town. It is a classic fort-palace that was the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachhwahas of Amber before the capital was shifted to the plains. It is a beautiful building and the views are spectacular over old Jaipur.
Today we take a long drive to Agra with a stop en-route at Fatehpur Sikri – a ‘ghost city’ built in the 16th century. It has remained untouched for over 400 years and its palaces are regarded as the best example of the coming together of Hindu and Muslim architecture. After our visit to Fatehpur Sikri we take a walk into the village for lunch before we carry on with our drive to Agra.
Today – and all too soon – is our last day in India and the grand finale…. The Taj Mahal!
The guide arranged for us to see the Taj at sunrise. Feeling tired and bleary eyed at 4am was well worth it to avoid the huge crowds and intense heat. Words really cannot describe the beauty and sheer splendour of the Taj Mahal and hearing the romantic story behind why it was built was very moving and emotional.
After our visit we head back for some breakfast before visiting the Agra Fort. For many people this place is just as beautiful and impressive as the Taj Mahal. We then head back to Delhi for our flight home.
It was a brief but brilliant introduction to India. I would love to see the south of the country next to make a comparison but there is still so much to see in the north – Varanasi, tiger-spotting in the various national parks, the hill-towns of Shimla and Amritsar. India is endless and I know I have only just scratched the surface so far.’