India, my boyfriend and I had 3 weeks to explore this gigantic country. We focused on the northern province of Rajasthan, combined with cities Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, and Varanasi. The result was an amazing variety of smells, colors, and landscapes. Of course, if you have more time, it’s always better. India can be an overwhelming country, so taking your time and do a bit of slow travel would be a better fit for this country. However, three weeks was all the time we had. So without further ado, here’s our 3-week India itinerary.
India 3-week itinerary
Crazy Delhi: 2 days
We began our journey right in the chaotic heart of the country, in the capital Delhi. Honestly, this is not the most attractive destination in India. And when I say this, I am mainly talking about the old part of Delhi. The few hours I spent there were marked by constant honking traffic of motor and bicycle rickshaws and pushing myself through crowds of people on Chandni Chowk. Why should you still go to Old Delhi, you ask? Well, this is the place where you can find some amazing sights such as the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid mosque.
Street art in Lodhi Colony
Fortunately, not every place in Delhi is crowded and chaotic. The new part of Delhi offers a completely different experience. We spent an afternoon hunting for street art at Lodhi Colony. A lovely green neighborhood with zero honking motor rickshaws. Another great place in Delhi is the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib temple, the largest Sikh temple in Delhi.
Golden city of Jaisalmer: 2 days
By night train we headed for the desert province of Rajasthan. Our first stop was India´s golden city Jaisalmer. In Jaisalmer, everything revolves around two things: the Golden Fort and the Thar desert. Both places are beautiful but are also suffering due to the increase in tourism. The fort has been sinking for years, because of an outdated sewage and drainage system. The growth in hotels and souvenir shops within the fort has only made this worse. In order not to contribute to this, it is recommended to find a hotel outside the fort. The Thar desert offers a commercial one-size-fits-all experience: desert tent camps with a dromedary ride. I highly disapprove of all animal entertainment and that includes touristic dromedary rides. Real change starts with the tourists themselves.
Blue streets of Jodhpur: 3 days
After Jaisalmer, we continued our journey to the blue city Jodhpur – my favorite city in Rajasthan. A labyrinth of lively streets, water wells (baoris) that are almost art pieces, and the Meherangarh Fort perched on a hill high above the city. Of course, you cannot skip the highlight of the city: the famous blue alleys. An entire area where the walls of houses are painted blue, a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon stroll. There are different explanations for the blue color. One says that the blue paint repels termites, the other says that the blue paint refers to the former inhabitants of the high-ranking brahmin caste. Whatever it may be, it is stunning!
An afternoon in Ranakpur
The journey from Jodhpur to Udaipur takes about five hours, but with the Indian road conditions, it can easily take longer. Therefore we chose to schedule a little break in Ranakpur. In this small town, you will find one of the most important Jain temples in India. Jainism is derived from Hinduism and focuses on nonviolence, inner peace, and tolerance. The white marble temple in Ranakpur is stunning to see, both outside and inside. It is estimated that 144 pillars support the temple and each pillar is a work of art in itself. If you want to visit the temple, there are a couple of rules to take into consideration. For instance, you cannot bring leather belts, bags, bottles of water of food into the temple. Furthermore, you need to buy an entrance ticket for every camera device you want to take with you.
The white city of Udaipur: 2 days
Rajasthan is the province of colors and after the golden and blue cities, we visited the white city of Udaipur. Udaipur was the ultimate relaxing destination for me. In my opinion, this city felt less crowded and chaotic than the other cities. We took a boat trip over the Pichola lake and visited the Hindu Jagdish temple. However, the best activity in Udaipur was the cooking workshop at Shashi’s place. A woman with an interesting story, a wonderful personality, and a talent for cooking. We tasted here the best dishes of our entire trip through India. Our stay in Udaipur felt too short. I would have liked to have stayed a day longer.
Where to stay: Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel: 9,0 rating on Booking.com + view on Pichola Lake
Read next: Relaxed Udaipur: 5 things to do in the White City.
Pink Jaipur: 3 days
The last destination of the colorful Rajasthan quartet was Jaipur. Jaipur is also called the pink city, but in reality, you see more a terracotta orange color than pink. On our first morning in Jaipur, we took a bicycle tour with Cyclin ‘Jaipur. On our second day, we visited the City Palace and the Amber fort, both beautiful places you do not want to miss when visiting Jaipur. Unfortunately, India still has a long way to go when it comes to animal-friendly tourism. For example, tourists are offered an elephant ride to the upper gate of the Amber Fort. An elephant ride sounds like a dream to many travelers, but please realize that it is a result of animal cruelty. Say no to these kinds of activities.
Where to stay: Hotel Pearl Palace: 9,0 op Booking.com + rooftop restaurants with delicious thalis
Read next: Jaipur cycling tour tour: on the pedals in the Pink City.
An afternoon at Fatehpur Sikri
On our way from Jaipur to Agra, we made a quick stop at the former Mogul capital of Fatehpur Sikri. In the 16th century, this city was the most important city of the Islamic Mughal Empire. It only enjoyed this status for a short time, because after 14 years the city was completely abandoned. The result: a ghost town with no residents. For me, this story was really intriguing and it initially convinced me to go there. But as I told in my blog post about Fatehpur Sikri, I look back on this city with mixed feelings.
Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal: 2 days
Taj Mahal is a must-see on an India 3-week itinerary. However, I also recommend checking out Agra, the city where the Taj Mahal is located. It is known as a dirty and busy city, but I found it not that bad. I mean Agra is a busy city, but which city in India isn’t. I was also pleasantly surprised by the modern boulevard leading to the East Gate of the Taj Mahal. Clean, neat and lit in the evening. We visited the Taj Mahal during sunrise, one of the best moments to visit this beautiful sight. Unfortunately, we were battling with a lot of fog that morning. The Taj Mahal was playing hide and seek with us. Yet the fog also had advantages, because once the sun was up there was a mystical atmosphere.
Where to stay: The Coral Tree Homestay: 9,5 rating on Booking.com + communal home-cooked dinners every evening
Read next: How to experience an unforgettable sunrise at Taj Mahal.
Spiritual Varanasi : 2 days 1 day
From Agra we took the train to Varanasi. We had a 12-hour delay, so instead of arriving at 10.00 in the morning we arrived at 22.00 in the evening. An entire day went up in smoke. We also received no updates in the train about the delay, so we had no clue when we would arrive at Varanasi. All in all, it was a special, yet exhausting experience.
Although we only had one day in Varanasi, we really enjoyed this city. We made a boat trip across the holy river Ganges, saw the burning Ghat ceremonies, and watched the evening Aarti ceremony. A quick tip for travelers who like a beer or wine: in the holy city there is almost no alcohol available. Still, sometimes it is possible to drink a beer in a restaurant, but you have to do that in a closed-off room out of public sight.
Where to stay: Stay Banaras Boutique Hotel: 8,4 rating on Booking.com + quiet & beautiful hotel in chaotic Varanasi
Read next: Speed dating with Varanasi: things to do in less than 24 hours.
Gigantic Mumbai: 3 days
From Varanasi, we flew to the metropolis of Mumbai. The city that formerly went through life as Bombay. Mumbai had a couple of great neighborhoods. Visit the area of Fort for the colonial architecture, visit the boutique shops in Khala Goda, or get scouted as a Bollywood movie star in Colaba. Want to get away from the crowds in Mumbai? Then go to Chowpatty Beach. People like to come here in the evenings to relax and eat at the street food trucks with the family. I also recommend walking around Marine Drive to see the Art Deco architecture. Or go to the Hanging Gardens to spot the unique collections of green animal sculptures.
And there you have it: a 3-week India itinerary. For me, it was a first introduction to this fascinating country. Would I want to go back to India again? Yes, India is such a diverse country. I would like to see the south of India. Moreover, as a vegetarian, the delicious vegetarian food is a perfect excuse to return to this exotic destination!
Things to know before traveling in India
- The Indian train system is hopelessly outdated. So please reserve a full travel day in your itinerary, because it happens regularly that trains leave too late and will stand still a few times along the way.
- We visited India in the month of January and we thought India was all year round hot. We were wrong. In Rajasthan, Agra, and Varanasi the maximum temperature was 16 degrees. If you plan to visit this region in wintertime, bringing a few extra sweaters is a great idea.
- As a woman I recommend you to bring a couple of scarves with you. This is great for covering up your shoulders or neck or covering your mouth in case of exhaust gases or other smells.
- Earplugs are a lifesaver. In India it is never quiet, during the night there is still noise everywhere. In Rajasthan, the barking dogs at night drove us crazy.
- Indian cities are not made for strolling around. The distances are quite large, the traffic is chaotic and there are hardly any sidewalks. Make it yourself easy and take a rickshaw, taxi or order an Uber.
Is India on your wish list?
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you book something through these links, I earn a small commission without you paying extra for it. You can read more about it in my disclaimer.