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For first-timers in India, it can be a challenge just knowing where to start. While South India undoubtedly has its charms, the northern part of the country is packed with enough sights, attractions and experiences to fill many months of travel. By concentrating on the northern region, you will be able to sample much of the magic of India in the shortest amount of time. Here are just a few of the things that shouldn’t be missed, along with some top suggestions for the most memorable North India tour packages.
If you are interested in a North India tour package that packs as much as possible into a whirlwind three-week trip, this adventure is for you. Take in all the main cities like Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi, visit less-famous sites such as the enigmatic ruins of Orchha and stop off at more surprising attractions including the scandalously erotic temples of Khajuraho. In between, you will still have time to pass through smaller villages to learn about local culture and customs and, of course, taste local food.
If you don’t have time for a longer trip and you just want to see the unmissable essentials North India has to offer, then this tour is a great choice. Visit the most important cities, including Delhi, Agra and Varanasi, while also stopping off at the popular Ranthambore National Park, one of the best places in India to catch sight of an elusive tiger.
This North India tour takes you to a diverse range of destinations all in just over two weeks. Of course, you will see all the most important sights, including the Golden Triangle, but you will also branch off from the standard tourist circuit to see lesser-visited attractions. The majestic Golden Temple in Amritsar and the towns nestling in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas are just some of the highlights that will leave you spellbound.
4. Taj, Tigers and Temples Family Holiday
This tour will be an eye-opening journey that can be enjoyed by both you and your family. You will experience a vibrant mix of sights, sounds and smells while visiting important destinations like Delhi and Agra, but there’s plenty for children too. They will love the excitement of travelling by rickshaw, taking a camel cart ride — and even heading into the jungle in search of ferocious tigers.
There is so much to see and do on any North India tour, and most visitors only scratch the surface. You won’t be able to see everything in one trip, but here are some of the highlights you will certainly want to consider.
Only a short train journey from the capital, Agra is visited by almost every tourist who travels to India for one very specific reason — the Taj Mahal. India’s most iconic monument is one of the world’s great buildings and something that no North India trip should leave out.
However, Agra is not only about the Taj Mahal. The town — the former Mughal capital —amply allows a few days of further exploration. Highlights include the imposing Agra Fort and the Mughal emperor Akbar’s mausoleum. Akbar’s former capital, Fatehpur Sikri, also lies within easy striking distance on a day trip from Agra.
Located on the banks of the sacred River Ganges, the holy city of Varanasi will provide you with some of your most vivid memories of the country. Varanasi is considered to be the centre of the Hindi universe, and this is where you will see the religion at its most intense and most fervent.
Whether it is watching devotees engage in ritual bathing at sunrise, witnessing the chilling yet compelling spectacle of cremations at the Burning Ghats, observing religious ceremonies along the river after dark or simply exploring the labyrinthine streets on foot, Varanasi is a place that leaves few visitors unmoved.
Home of the Rajput kings, Rajasthan offers a glimpse into a bygone age of chivalry, heroic deeds, pomp and splendour. Some of India’s most evocative cities are found here, all conveniently located and well connected, making a tour of the state relatively simple.
The "Land of Kings" boasts a myriad of attractions and activities, including the palaces and bazaars of Jaipur, the imposing fortress at Jodhpur, camel trekking into the desert at Jaisalmer, the impossibly romantic Lake Pichola at Udaipur, and many more.
For an adventure far removed from the India of the hot and steamy plains below, head to the Himalayan state of Ladakh. Here, Buddhism replaces Hinduism as the predominant religion, and with the scenery, customs and culture that surrounds, you can almost feel as though you have crossed over into Tibet.
Highlights of the region include the serene and welcoming state capital of Leh, mountaintop medieval monasteries filled with esoteric treasures, and some of the most dramatic and breathtaking landscapes to be found anywhere in the country.
Located near the border and only 50 km from the Pakistani city of Lahore, Amritsar, capital of Punjab state and heart of the Sikh religion, feels markedly different from other parts of India.
The major highlight of any trip to Amritsar is a visit to the Golden Temple, a magnificent complex and the Sikhs’ most holy monument. In accordance with the Sikh tradition of hospitality, it is possible to sleep and eat at the Golden Temple free of charge; an unrivalled way to experience Sikh customs first hand.
A quirkier attraction that can be reached on a day trip from Amritsar is the ceremonial closing of the India-Pakistan border at Wagha. Here, outlandishly-mustachioed and uniformed guards on either side strut, posture and face off before ritually slamming the gates shut for the night in front of festive crowds of aminated onlookers more reminiscent of fans at a football match.
For those seeking a North India tour that is different than what is usually on offer, a custom-designed itinerary, as suggested below, could be an alternative.
Day 1: Delhi
Visit the immense Akshardham Temple, the world’s largest Hindu temple complex, before taking time to explore the chaotic streets of Pahar Ganj, one of Delhi’s liveliest bazaars. In the afternoon, visit the imposing Red Fort, the former seat of the Mughal government.
Day 2: Delhi to Agra
Take an early train to Agra and visit the world-renowned Taj Mahal, India’s single most unmissable attraction. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Agra and its bazaars. Stay the night.
Day 3: Agra to Jaipur
Get on an early train to complete the four-hour trip to Jaipur. Visit the Jantar Mantar, the fascinating medieval observatory, and the Hawa Mahal, the Pink City’s most famous sight. Take it slow today.
Day 4: Jaipur to Amritsar
Take a guided walking tour of the city or go on one of the day trips to nearby towns. We highly recommend Tonk and Pushkar for the trip. Take an afternoon or evening flight to Amritsar. Depending on the flight engine, the journey can take from 1 to 9 hours (with at least one transfer).
Day 6: Amritsar
Visit the Golden Temple in the morning before exploring the city on foot. In the evening, take a car out to Wagha on the Pakistani border to witness the spectacle of the border closing ceremony.
Day 7: Amritsar to Varanasi
Get on a 4-hour long flight to Varanasi (with a transfer in Delhi). Take a tour of the holy city, including the most important temples and the Burning Ghats.
Day 8: Varanasi to Delhi
At sunrise, take a boat trip out onto the Ganges to see devotees ritually bathing in the sacred waters. The afternoon is dedicated to free exploration of the city. In the afternoon, take an overnight train back to Delhi — also an essential experience in any North Indian tour.
May you wish to create a tailor-made itinerary for North India, connect with one of our India Travel Experts.
- In the North, the main staple of food is unleavened breads such as chapatti. They are held in the right hand and used to scoop food and sauce from the plate.
- Try and time your visit to North India to include the month of March for Holi, India’s most vibrant and boisterous festival. Some of the top destinations for Holi are Delhi, Varanasi, Rishikesh, Mathura and Vrindavan.
- North India is not just hot year-round. While March to June can see the region baking in unbearable temperatures, from late June to September expect heavy rainfall with the arrival of the monsoon. The cooler, drier months of winter, from November to February can be the most pleasant time to visit but you should take warm clothes, especially for the evenings.
- If you are planning to travel to the Himalayan region, expect even chillier conditions. Make sure you take the right clothes and dress appropriately — extra layers, hats and gloves are advisable.
- If visiting Ladakh, keep in mind that it lies well above the height at which altitude sickness can set in. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea and insomnia among others. Drink lots of water and don’t drink alcohol for the first few days. Sometimes, the only way to alleviate the symptoms is to descend to lower altitudes.
Perhaps your idea of India involves the sumptuous Rajput palaces on the edge of the desert, or maybe India evokes images straight from the pages of Kipling, featuring steaming jungles filled with crumbling ruins and populated by fearsome tigers. Possibly you associate India with the deeply spiritual life and customs along the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi, or maybe it’s all of these combined. Whatever it is that India brings to your mind, you will experience it on one of these North India tour packages.