10 Days The Golden Triangle with A Sprinkle of Goa
If there's one circuit that you definitely need to cover when you're in India, it's the Golden Triangle. Complete with a perfect visit to Delhi and Agra, out to Jaipur with the perfect end in Goa, this is India at its very best, and then some.
Start with the heart of India - Delhi. Lutyen's gardens, magnificent Mughal edifices, museums, galleries and government houses, Dalrymple's 'city of Djinns' has numerous stories around every corner. Mayhem for some, New Delhi is filled with the magic of untold legends for others.
Shah Jahan's Taj Mahal has made everything Agra is today. With its UNESCO World Heritage Site status and as one of the seven wonders of the world.
India's official 'pink city', there's much more to Rajasthan's capital than its pink-red tinged buildings and historic splendour. This majestic home to erstwhile royals is complete with old-world charm surrounded by colourful markets and chaotic streets.
End your holiday with the charm of the coastal state of Goa. Sun-kissed beaches with spectacular sunsets, beach shacks, forts and feni (cashew liquor), banana boats and flea markets - un[travel] Goa for most things hippie and some things not, as well as that lip-smacking seafood.
Land at the capital city of India. Known as the 'heart of India', Delhi is a heady mix of old with the new, metros and cars alongside Mughal tombs and forts. Representing everything modern about India with a heavy colonial aftertaste, there's no place in the country quite like Delhi. Spend the rest of your day getting to know your neighbourhood once you're here.
Explore Mughal Architecture of Delhi
The City of Djinns has a lot of history embedded in its walls and structures that have stood the test of time. Though half a day isn't enough to do justice to this city, here's a quick tour of its most sought after gems that truly describe this city. Our local expert will accompany you and tell you stories behind these structures.
In the afternoon you take the 235 kilometre drive to Agra from Delhi. The expressway is good and it takes around 3 hours to reach Agra. Check-in to your hotel and relax for the night.
Start early today. One of the world's seven wonders, the Taj has made Agra a permanent feature on any itinerary for the subcontinent. Gleaming white on the banks of Yamuna, intricately inscribed marble makes the Taj a worthy testament of Shah Jahan's eternal love for his wife, Mumtaz. Sunrise and sunset visits make great opportunities for amazing photographs.
Move on to Agra Fort with its public courts, mosque and chambers that formed residences in times gone by.
Around 37 kilometres from Agra, on your way to Jaipur lies the once mega-capital of the Mughal Kingdom - Fatehpur Sikri. Founded in 1569 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, it served as the capital of the empire from 1571-1585 and various constructions were done on this rocky ridge. Shortly after it was completed in 1985, it was abandoned due to the scarcity of water. This walled city was kept in use in irregular periods. The British under Lord Curzon carried out extensive repairs.
In the afternoon you take the 240 kilometre drive from Agra to Jaipur. It takes around 5 hours to reach Jaipur. Check-in to your hotel and relax for the night.
Tour of royal forts and palaces of Jaipur.
Packed with history and heritage, Jaipur is the epitome of cultural royalty. From the architecture and craftsmanship to the fantastic cuisine here, there's much to be done. Head over to Amer Fort, 11 kilometres away, through ancient cobbled pathways towards the fascinating serpentine stairs that lead up to the fort. Built on separate levels, step out onto each courtyard for amazing views of the Aravallis beyond. The main palace and public halls are well maintained and our local expert will let you in on the history and the significance of the architecture here.
Drive back towards downtown Jaipur past the gorgeous Jal Mahal literally built on the man-made lake. Jaipur's Hawa Mahal, built specifically so women from the royal household could look out into the street has a lovely screen with a hundred windows that you can look out through before you go to Jantar Mantar. This astronomical complex, home to the world's largest stone sundial, dates back to the 18th century and measures time still accurate to 2 seconds. The other instruments here in Jantar Mantar are used to calculate and predict the movement of the sun, the moon and the planets, and are worth a quick reconnaissance as well.
In the evening you can opt to visit - a complex built on the model of a Rajasthani Village. Here you can enjoy traditional Rajasthani cuisine and some folk performances.
Take a short flight out of Jaipur and head to the home of Bollywood (the Indian equivalent of Hollywood).
The city of dreams has stories around every corner. Spend a day visiting Mumbai's best. The first stop is the iconic Gateway of India. The construction was started in the year 1911 to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary in India. Right next to it is the Taj Mahal Hotel Palace, which first opened its doors to guests in 1903. Since then it has hosted many notable guests and country heads. One of the largest universities in the world, the Mumbai University's original fort campus was built in the year 1857. The campus is built in a Gothic style and the splendid Rajabai Clock Tower rests in its lawns.
Drive past the iconic Victoria Terminus Train Station which has since been renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. Stop for a while at the Chowpatty Beach and gulp down some vada pavs and then drive past the Marine Drive to and head towards the world's largest open air laundromat at Dhobi Ghat where many washers are involved in washing clothes in concrete pens, each having its own flogging stone.
Enjoy a walk in the Hanging Gardens with bushes trimmed to resemble different animals and have a look at the Parsi Tower of Silence where they leave the bodies of the dead to be consumed by scavengers. A complete tour to understand the character of the city that is Mumbai.
Take an afternoon flight to Goa and check in at your hotel. The evening is for you enjoy the beach near you. You definitely have earned this leisure time after travelling half-way through India.
Heritage Walk around Fontainhas in Goa.
Named after the original Phoenix fountain, this is a residential Latin quarter of Panjim with colourful well-preserved Catholic and Hindu houses. Begin at Tobacco Square where the erstwhile tobacco warehouse is now the present Post Office. Move on, past the small 200-year-old white Sao Tome Church and the century-old public library (of Shree Mahalaxmi Prassadik Hindu Vachan Mandir) to St. Sebastin's Chapel. Stop here for a quick glimpse of the statue of Jesus on a crucifix with his eyes open, which once lay in the Palace of Inquisition in Old Goa.
The walk then goes on around the Panjim Inn, once a colonial home and now a heritage hotel, with well-preserved colonial furniture and wrought iron railings. Take a walk on the cultural side of Goa here at the Fundacao Oriente and the Geetanjali Gallery in the vicinity as well. End with lunch at one of the lively cafes here for some delicious seafood and a much-needed beer.
Spice farm tour of Goa
There has to be a source for all those lovely spices that go into making those lip-smacking delicacies that Goa is now renowned for, and there's no better way to figure this out than at a spice plantation. Head over to a Spice Farm where our local guide will take you on a walk through the fields where you learn about what each spice can be used for and how its grown. Enjoy the fantastic buffet selection of Goan food on conclusion of the tour, for a typically Goan meal and complimentary Feni (cashew wine).
Boat Safari Birding and Crocodile Watching at Zuari River in Goa
The 'Life of Pi' you may not be living, but drift along the mangroves on the Zuari river for the reptiles and birds here. There are, unfortunately, no tigers on this route. A half-hour drive from Panjim would take you to Cortalim Ferry Point where you get onto a boat for this fascinating cruise. Don't forget your camera as you get strapped into a life jacket for the 15-kilometre ride along the Cumbharjua canal that joins the Mandovi and Zuari rivers. Catch spectacular shots of the Indian Mugger (marsh crocodile) sunbathing or slowly moving through shallow waters near the mangroves.
Smaller creeks in the canal offer closer encounters with crocodiles and their mouths wide open on mud banks. Spot those elusive bright birds perched on the trees. From Sea Eagles and Ospreys to Brahminy Kites and Kingfishers, there's much to be seen on this river ride. Our naturalist will help you identify these different birds and tell you more about their unique features and habitat. You'll also get a chance to stop for your packed lunch on the cruise; and you don't need to worry, because your lunch stop won't be near the crocodiles.
This must-do tour of India comes to an end and it's time to head back home with extra baggage of memorabilia and memories. There's so much more to see here and you'll forever be drawn to the magical land of India.