We are planning our trip to India for end October 2016. We are a bit lost as to where we should go. One thing we don't want to do is travel 3+ hours every day (we don't need to see the entire India). We have 21 days and the following is what we want:
- Golden Triangle (no more than 6 days)
- Rest of time in the South (but where!?)
- Sai Baba Temple/Ashram in Puttaparthi is a must
We would not be interested in backpacking/super budget hotels, but we are also not looking for 5* all the way. We would not want to join a group tour. We are South African and we are not interested in overly tourist areas unless it can provide for a stunning sight/experience (Taj Mahal for instance). We are also more "hardcore/adventurous" than normal travelers. We do not want to be rushed.
Can anyone help please!
In my opinion, Cryastal's spot on about The Golden Triangle, sightseeing in Delhi and night life in Hauz Khas Village. Mumbai is definitely a city worth visiting for the various reasons already mentioned, but if you want to go straight down to the south, I would suggest that you fly from Delhi to Bangalore. Puttaparthi (Prasanthi Nilayam) is about a 3 hours drive from Bangalore city, provided you've managed to avoid the Bangalore city traffic. Bangalore traffic is the worst in India and you can get stuck for hours so make sure you leave the city around 7am or earlier.
It is possible to make a day trip to Puttaparthi from Bangalore, I've done it when I was living in Bangalore, but as you would have already checked, there's lots of accommodation available in Prasanthi Nilayam and in the small town of Puttaparthi. Accomodation in Prasanthi Nilayam itself would somewhat fit into your idea of backpacking/super budget, Puttaparthi town, however, is supposed to have a few decent hotels.
Bangalore city has a lot of sights to see and is driving distance from many must visit places in the state of Karnataka of which it's the capital city. If, however, you choose to visit the state of Kerala, then maybe you could spend another two days in Bangalore where you could include a trip to Hoganakkal Falls. They aren't the largest in India or the most beautiful in the world, but you get to cover some part of the distance in a coracle and it's a lot of fun, especially when you feel like you're about to fall out of it, but you're actually not going to.
The state of Karnataka isn't as overwhelmed with Tourists as Kerala or Pondicherry or even Goa which isn't considered a southern state, but is in the south. Karnataka has amazing natural beauty (coffee plantations, nature camps, beaches, trekking tracks, white water rafting, fishing) and historical sights with easy road access from Bangalore or Mysuru , also known as Mysore. Some places you could check out are Mysore, Coorg(Madikeri), Karwar, Dandeli, Kabini , Masinagudi, Talakad, Hampi. Not many people know about the submerged Rosary Church of Shettihalli near the town of Hassan. There's a lot of information online, especially blogs, about these places so I won't go into detail. If what you read doesn't interest you, you could always decide on Kerala or Goa which are very high on the international tourist circuit and there's lots of information online, I'm not going into detail as I don't know if it's beaches or house boat experiences or rain forests or hills and mountains that interest you.
I would suggest that you fly wherever possible, especially Delhi to the South and stick to private taxis or private buses for your journey from Delhi to Jaipur and Agra. Indian Rail is a massive network and an unforgettable experience, but it would, either, take you a lot of time to cover distances or you won't be able to get reservations unless you book 3 months in advance. I wouldn't suggest that you travel without a reservation in the General Compartments.
Do let me know if you'd like more detailed information, I'd love to help. I've lived in Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai which are east, north, south and west of India and I've seen quite a bit.
All the best! You'll love India.
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I have traveled to India several times and it is positively one of my most favorite places to travel (and eat). It is a positively huge country with a lifetime of places to explore, and without knowing your more specific interests it is difficult to narrow down the best places for you. That being said I can still offer a sample itinerary with a variety of to get you started.
I'm going to guess that you will be flying into Delhi as that is where most people begin. Delhi is a place many travelers hate, but a few (such as myself) grow to love. It is, as I'm sure you have heard, extremely crowded and dirty, but can really offer travelers an amazing experience if you can handle the challenge. Either way you look at it, Delhi is overwhelming for everyone at first. Let's say you spend three days here to adjust to the time change, get over the culture shock, and see a few of the big sites. One of my favorite sites that I have seen here are the Lotus Temple, but there are many more you can read about an any guide book, or on wikitravel.org . The best area for hip nightlife in my opinion is Hauz Khas. It is a small very non-touristy neighborhood bordering a park called Deer Park. In addition to deer you can look for peacocks (the national bird) and ancient Mogul ruins.
Next take a bus or train to Agra, possibly the most touristy place you will go on your whole holiday. Of course the big draw here is the Taj Mahal, which is absolutely incredible. The rest of the city can be a bit of a nightmare with all the touts and pushy sales people. 2 days here should be plenty.
Next take a bus or train to Jaipur, the last stop on the Golden Triangle. It is also one of the most touristy areas of India, but has a beautiful setting on the edge of a desert and many amazing sites. It's definitely not as bad as Agra. When I was there I had the hotel help me arrange an auto rickshaw (three wheeled tuktuk) for a day of sightseeing which was a good deal and an efficient way of hitting a lot of the big sights. While our driver didn't speak much English he was really nice. I would take 3 days here I think.
Between here and Puttaparthi you have a lot of options to choose from. You will also have to decide if you want to travel overland or by airplane to cover larger distances. Overland you can experience and absorb more culture and see more smaller cities and countryside that less tourists see. It obviously takes a lot more time and can sometimes be a huge headache/adventure to figure out all of the transportation on the fly. Budget airlines are getting more and more popular, and sometimes the prices rival that of taking the train! So for the sake of argument, I will use a variety of transport in this itinerary.
From Jaipur you can fly to Mumbai. This city hosts a lot to see an do! You can easily become an extra in a Bollywood film, check out the British colonial architecture, or explore the slums with a hired guide. Take 3 days here.
To continue south take a train and bus combination to Hampi, one of my favorite places in India. It is a small town in an arid region surrounded with agricultural land. It has a little bit of a hippy vibe. The temples hear are awesome and many of them are built right into the rocky landscape. You can hike around them or rent a motor bike to cover more ground. It is not uncommon to find an ancient temple ruin to explore with no other people around. Two days here is good, three if you want more time to chill out, watch monkeys, and get ayuverdic massages.
From Hampi you are not terribly far from Puttaparthi. It is a place I have not yet been to so I can't advise on it or how long to stay there, but it does look amazing!
After that I think you will only have time for either Kerala or Tamil Nadu. Both are great choices. I would choose Tamil Nadu if you are leaning toward diving into South Indian architecture with huge colorful temples, eating lots of delicious dosas washed down with local coffee, and spending more time in small to large cities. Go with Kerala if you want fish coconut curries, touring spice and tea plantations, beaches, and more laid back rural/island type vibe.
I think that should be plenty to keep you busy for three weeks! I love helping people create itineraries and budget for travel as a hobby. Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more advise on how to spend your time in India!
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For Golden Triangle tour Delhi is best. For South India tour Bangalore would be the preferred choice as you also want to visit Puttaparthi. So, first you can stay in Delhi and then can visit Bangalore.
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