India’s Golden Triangle is one of the most popular tourist circuits in the country, and it’s definitely not just hype. Adventure-seekers and history buffs will marvel at the 10-day itinerary we’ve put together, which takes you through Northern India’s most magical gems: New Delhi, the country’s capital city of contrasts, Agra, seat of the iconic Taj Mahal, and Jaipur, Udaipur, and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, the “land of kings”. No Best Exotic Marigold Hotel here (although it is set in Jaipur)—we’ve recommended top places to stay, whether your budget is high or low. For efficiency, convenience, and the ability to pull over at any village or temple that catches your eye (and many are likely to), hire a driver to get around. Or save your money for trinkets by traveling like the locals, and book a ticket on the country’s famous railway, where you can sip sweet tea from the chai wallah and watch the scenery go by from your air-conditioned berth. Check out our itinerary and start dreaming of India.

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

Jump right into teeming Old Delhi with a bicycle rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk’s heady spice market. After a spicy Mughlai lunch of butter chicken and biryani, limb the spiral staircase to the top of the minaret at Jama Masjid, one of India’s largest mosques, then tour the dramatic Red Fort.

Stay high:

Leela Palace New Delhi (starting at $264 USD per night)

Oberoi New Delhi (starting at $277 USD per night)

Taj Mahal New Delhi (starting at $222 USD per night)

Stay low:

Maidens Hotel New Delhi (starting at $138 USD per night)

  • Jama Masjid, Delhi, India Photo Credits: Ellen Freeman (@e__l__f)
    Jama Masjid, Delhi, India Photo Credits: Ellen Freeman (@e__l__f)

Day 2: Delhi

With spirited former street children as your guide, take a unique walking tour of the Paharganj neighborhood organized by the Salaam Balak Trust, an NGO which provides opportunities for children in distress. Gaze in awe at New Delhi’s fascinating monuments; there’s the colonial India Gate, Humayan’s Tomb (which inspired the Taj Mahal), and the Qutab Minar, a 12th brick minaret and model of ancient architectural perfection. Finish the day shopping for souvenirs at trendy Connaught Place, hip Hauz Khas Village, or Dilli Haat crafts emporium.

  • Humayun Tomb, New Delhi, Delhi, India
    Humayun Tomb, New Delhi, Delhi, India

Day 3: Delhi – Agra  

On the way to Agra, explore the well-preserved palaces that slumber in the abandoned 16th century metropolis of Fatehpur Sikri. Arrive in Agra in time to catch stunning sunset views of the incomparable Taj Mahal.

Stay high:

Oberoi Amarvilas (starting at $617 USD per night)

Stay low:

ITC Mughal Agra (starting at $145 USD per night)

  • Taj Mahal, Arga, India
    Taj Mahal, Arga, India

Day 4: Agra – Jaipur

Walk through history at Jaipur’s City Palace (where the teenage maharaja still lives), then ogle at the otherworldly astronomical instruments at Jantar Mantar Observatory. People-watch from the elaborate Hawa Mahal, which was built to allow ladies of the court to observe goings on about town in secrecy. Observe young boys flying kites from the rooftops as the storybook buildings in the Pink City turn even pinker with the sunset.

Stay high:

Sujan Rajmahal (starting at $755 USD per night)

Oberoi Rajvilas (starting at $462 USD per night)

Taj Rambagh Palace (starting at $671 USD per night)

Stay low:

Park Regis Jaipur (starting at $59 USD per night)

  • Sujan Rajmahal, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
    Sujan Rajmahal, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Day 5: Jaipur

On an excursion to nearby Amber, be dazzled by the palace of mirrors at the immense hilltop Amber Fort—which you can approach by elephant, jeep, or on foot. Feel like you’ve stepped into an Escher sketch at the Panna Meena Baori step well, and later enjoy cultural activities like henna painting and a jungle elephant safari at the Dera Amer Camp. On the way back to Jaipur, snap a selfie in front of the dreamy lakeside Jal Mahal, a palace that seems to be floating on water.

  • Sujan Rajmahal, Jaipur, India Photo Credits: Firoze Edassery
    Sujan Rajmahal, Jaipur, India Photo Credits: Firoze Edassery

Day 6: Jaipur – Bijaynagar – Udaipur

After the journey to Udaipur, enjoy a little R & R with a boat ride on glassy Lake Pichola. Glide past bathing and washing ghats to the picturesque Lake Palace Hotel, as seen in the James Bond film Octopussy.

Stay high:

Leela Palace Udaipur (starting at $547 USD per night)

Taj Lake Palace (starting at $486  USD per night)

Stay low:

Trident Udaipur (starting at $139 USD per night)

  • Taji Lake Palace Hotel, Lake Pichola, India Photo Credits: sonyaandtravis.com
    Taji Lake Palace Hotel, Lake Pichola, India Photo Credits: sonyaandtravis.com

Day 7: Udaipur

Delight in the City Palace’s impressive collection of miniature paintings, then drool over the sparkling objects d’art, perfume bottles, dinner services, decanters, and furniture at the Crystal Gallery at Fateh Prakash Palace. Listen to hypnotic chanting at the intricately carved Jagdish Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

  • Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur, India
    Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur, India

Day 8: Udaipur – Ranakpur – Jodhpur

En-route to Jodhpur, make a pilgrimage to the exquisite Ranakpur Jain Temples, where no two of the 1,444 carved pillars are the same. Breathe in equal parts history and nature in Jodhpur’s Mandore Gardens, where monkeys play on ancient cenotaphs.

Stay high:

Umaid Bhawan Palace – Taj Hotels (starting at $339 USD per night)

Stay low:

RAAS Jodphur (starting at $270 USD per night)

  • Jain Temple, Ranakpur, India
    Jain Temple, Ranakpur, India

Day 9: Jodhpur

If you visit in October, you’ll be lucky enough to catch this superlative city’s Rajasthan International Folk Festival, one of Songlines magazine’s top 25 world music festivals. In February the Blue City is home to the World Sufi Spirit Festival, “an amazing spiritual and musical journey in the splendor of the historical forts of Jodhpur and Nagaur.” Savor city views and traditional cuisine with dinner at Hanwant Mahal.

  • Blue City, Jodphur, India
    Blue City, Jodphur, India

Day 10: Depart Jodhpur 

Before saying goodbye to India, snap up last minute souvenirs like spices, textiles, and bangles in the Clock Tower Bazaar, one of Conde Naste’s 100 Great Markets of the World.

  • Jodhpur Bazaar, India
    Jodhpur Bazaar, India

  • Delhi India
  • Taj Mahal
  • Udaipur-Rajasthan India
  • Jodhpur Bazaar
  • Jain Temple
  • Udaipur City Palace
  • Humayan's Tomb
  • City Palace Jaipur India

Dream it, Book it, Live it. 

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