Itinerary and budget for 10 days in India's Golden Triangle
India’s Golden Triangle makes a fantastic 10 day / 2 week-trip and is a great way to dive straight into the glorious culture shock that is India. This itinerary is perfect if you’re into seeing all the sights on a short time scale. From the bustling city of Delhi, fun tuk-tuk rides, majestic mosques, amazing Shah Jahan architecture and of course, the most romantic building in the world: the Taj Mahal.
I actually spent 9 days discovering all of the below, but I’ve compiled a slightly different itinerary to share with you, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did! For all my favourite bits of this trip, check out my blog: India’s Golden Triangle: The Best Bits. I've also included my budget, which is right at the end of the blog.
Day 1: Arrive in Delhi and acclimatise!
We arrived on an afternoon flight and caught a taxi from the airport into the centre of Delhi Paharganj where we were staying. Paharganj was a great place to stay as its very close to the train station, and has the nearby Main Bazaar where there’s plenty of cheap hostels, places to eat and shops selling everything. After putting down bags and resting up for a bit, we went for a wander to acclimatise and get used to the sights and sounds of India.
Day 2: Sight see in Delhi
After fuelling up on a delicious curry breakfast at one of the many local places to eat, head to Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, one of the largest mosques in India. Built by Shah Jahan in the 1650’s this red sandstone impressive structure is in complete contrast to the bustling narrow roads around it, which have some great street food on offer.
In the afternoon, visit Red Fort one of Delhi’s iconic monuments. As you will learn, these Mughal era forts are absolutely massive and you can easily spend hours wandering round the gardens and rooms within. The symmetry and shapes of the architecture are really pleasing and a great photo opportunity.
Day 3: Train to Agra and rooftop views of the Taj
Get the morning train from New Delhi station to Agra Cantt. The journey is just over 200km and takes around 2.5 hours by train depending on which one you get. We opted for seats in 2nd class, and got lower berths which had plenty of room for us and big bags. People watching at the station is great, as is seeing the rural areas go by out of the train window.
Arriving at Agra, a short tuk-tuk ride took us to the hotel, which had a rooftop view of the Taj Mahal. We had a wander around, but Agra doesn’t really have that much going on. There’s still all the beeping cars and craziness as in Delhi, but it’s different. It certainly looked a lot more rural, with low red sandstone buildings, and lots of cows, camels and even pigs wandering around and drinking from the stagnant water - yum. We got our bearings to the Taj Mahal – even the gates around it are beautiful and build anticipation!
Day 4: Visit the majestic Taj Mahal
An even earlier morning start, we woke up at 5.30am to make it to the Taj Mahal in time for sunrise. Agra at this time in the morning is so lovely and peaceful and the sunrise casts an amazing light on all the red stone. Enjoy all the time within the Taj Mahal as you can, we spent the whole morning exploring every inch of it and were exhausted when we left. At this point we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the other sites of Agra by tuk-tuk but I wouldn’t recommend as it was so tiring. Instead do this the next day! A great way to end your day at the Taj Mahal would be to take a tuk-tuk to Mehtab Bagh. These Mughal era gardens sit on the opposite side of the Yamuna River to the Taj Mahal and give amazing views of the Taj and river, and great spot for sunset.
Day 5: Tour around the sites of Agra
I said Agra didn’t have that much going on, but it is worth seeing a few of the less famous sights. Get a tuk-tuk to drive you round – they should be able to suggest all the places you might want to see. For us this included Agra Fort – a sprawling fortress of red sandstone still used today by the military (so some parts are off limits). A marble palace built by Shah Jahan sits surprisingly in the middle of the fort.
Next up was the Tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah often referred to as Baby Taj. It’s a very cute building that looks like a jewellery box thanks to the intricately carved marble. I really enjoyed this visit, as it’s a really beautiful place with barely anyone there compared to the Taj!
Lastly, we visited Chini Ka Rauza which was hidden away down some pretty sketchy looking dirt roads. But as soon as it opens up, this mausoleum stands in pretty gardens on the bank of the Yamuna River. Chini Ka Rauza has beautiful blue patterned tiles on the exterior and interior, thought to have come from China, hence the name ‘chini’.
Day 6: Train to Jaipur and visit Jaipur's step wells
Agra to Jaipur is actually a similar distance as Delhi to Agra, but for some reason takes double the time at just over 4 hours on the train! It still wasn’t long enough to warrant an overnight train so we travelled by day, again going 2nd class but this time in seats, where we were served about 4 courses on the way – an unexpected treat!
Now this next recommendation is the only thing in this blog that I didn’t personally do, and I’m kicking myself now! I’ve read up a lot about this, and a great intro to Jaipur after arriving would be to visit Panna Meena Ka Kund, one of Jaipur’s stepwells. These amazing places are a labyrinth of steps down to a body of water used for drinking, bathing, religious ceremonies and socialising. Northern India has a concentration of stepwells, and they are normally off the tourist route but this one can be easily visited by tuk-tuk as its just north of Jaipur, if your visiting Amber Fort or Nahargarh Fort you’ll practically drive past it.
Day 7: Tour around Jaipur’s forts
One thing that Jaipur the ‘Pink City’ isn’t lacking is forts! They are everywhere, sprawling and impressive! We spent a day with our tuk-tuk driver taking us to all the forts and covered a LOT of sightseeing in 1 day!
We spent the morning exploring all the Palaces and forts in the hilltops around Jaipur. First up was the maze-like Amber Palace. Inside you’ll find the Hall of Mirrors (a personal fave of mine) and the lattice verandas are amazing, and it also boasts great views of the forts, and Man Sagar lake.
Jaigarh Fort has great views over Amber Fort and of all its walled boundaries. Nahargarh Fort at its higher vantage point overlooked Jaipur and makes for some interesting tuk-tuk riding going up and back down the very steep windy roads. You can easily spend an hour or 2 in each of these forts.
In the afternoon we headed into the city, stopping at Jal Mahal, the Water Palace – which is exactly what it says on the tin, a Palace in the middle of a lake. Then we drove in and around the city, passing by the Ajmeri City Gates, one of seven city gates which mark the boundary of Jaipur. Lastly make sure you see Hawa Mahal, which is probably my favourite place in Jaipur. Hawa Mahal means ‘Palace of Winds’. The building has over 900 windows so the breeze circulates through keeping the palace cool, and the lattice windows mean you can see out but not in, perfect for the rich ladies inside to watch the go by outside without being spotted.
Day 8: Jaipur's Bazars and the Monkey Temple
There are a number of bazars (or markets) in Jaipur specialising in different handicrafts and goods – from textiles, jewellery, spices, leather goods and everything in between. We checked out Bapu Bazar, Nehru Bazar and Tripolia Bazar. Guaranteed to be a lively experience and one you will want your camera handy for.
In the afternoon we caught a tuk-tuk to take us to Galtaji, or the Monkey Temple. We got warned about the monkeys on entering, but actually found them to not be bothered at all by us, which after a bad monkey experience in Delhi was a relief! There’s a steep climb up to the Balaji, Sun Temple which has amazing sunset views over Jaipur, and then a climb down to the various temples at the bottom of the complex.
Day 9: Train back to Delhi & explore Old Delhi's spice market
The distance from Jaipur to Delhi is a little bit further at 300km and the train should take around 4.5 hours. This is where this suggested itinerary differs a little bit from my own. Our train broke down on route to Delhi and the journey took a painful 10 hours where we sat without AC and waited for a new train engine to arrive! Hopefully this doesn’t happen to you!
If your train isn’t delayed I’d suggest spending the afternoon checking out the Spice Market in Old Delhi, nearest metro station is Chandru Chowk. It’s Asia’s largest wholesale spice market which has been operating since the 17th century. Found on Khari Baoli street in Delhi, this place is a photographer’s dream. With colourful spices piled high, hessian sacks unrolled at the top showing off the abundance of dried chilli’s inside, and trays of dried pulses, beans and nuts. I spent hours here navigating the crowded walkways and taking photographs.
Day 10: Explore Delhi's temples
On your last day in India why not check out some temples, the two I’ve suggested are very different. The Lotus Temple (nearest station Kalkaji Mandir) is like the Indian version of the Sydney Opera House! It’s a house of worship that is open to all religions and is a symbol of unity of all mankind. It’s unusual structure and that anyone can worship here makes it quite a unique place to visit.
Akshardham is a Hindu temple, and Delhi’s largest. Like the Lotus Temple it’s fairly modern, but this place is strikingly different because of the amazing intricate carvings of gods, deities, and animals all around the temple.
I’ve recapped below the average costs of our trip, based on 2 people travelling together. This is what I’d describe as a ‘flashpackers’ budget – staying in budget hotels or hostels (private rooms) and exploring mainly on our own. We ate local and also drank alcohol where we could find it… Being a mainly Hindu country quite a few places didn’t serve alcohol, which lead us to being secretly being served beer in a teapot!
India is incredibly cheap for the Western traveller – you can eat like a king for a few ££. And transport via tuk tuk for the day is very affordable given you basically paying for your drivers time all day to show you around the sights. It’s also a place where your tip is really appreciated, as is buying your driver a snack or 2 as they show you around, and you can tell these little things makes a massive difference.
Average spend per day (food and sightseeing): £11.00 p/p
Accommodation costs: £10 p/n for a private double room with A/C in budget hotels / hostels.
Transport costs: £47.50 p/p for all 3 trains (Jaipur > Agra, Agra > Jaipur, Jaipur > Delhi)
Hope the above has given you some great ideas for your trip to India’s Golden Triangle, for all my favourite bits of this trip, check out my blog: India’s Golden Triangle: The Best Bits. Drop me a note and let me know your faves!
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