Say hello to sandstone cities, sacred rivers and spicy street food

Embark on a 22-day odyssey through India’s intoxicating north with Lonely Planet, powered by Intrepid. Discover sights, smells, and flavours that will blaze their way into your memory and stay there forever. See towering sandstone fortresses, pilgrims praying on riverbanks, Maharajah mementos in a ghostly palace, and camels silhouetted on a desert landscape. India can be a daunting place at times, even for experienced travellers, but with the guidance of your local leader, you’ll be navigating the crowds, dodging the cows and eating the best chaat from a cart in no time! From the beating heart of Delhi to the holy city of Varanasi – this is north India.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Delhi, India
Finish
Delhi, India
Destination
India
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience
Code
HHRR
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • Travel into the Thar Desert on camelback, spending a memorable evening eating Rajasthani food under the stars in a camp set among sand dunes.

  • Cut through the chaos of Jodhpur’s Sadar Bazaar with your knowledgeable local leader, haggling for handicrafts and sipping some of the best lassi in town.

  • Snap incredible photos of the immense Chand Baori, a grand ninth-century stepwell in rural Abhaneri that extends over 20 metres into the earth.

  • Explore the centre of India’s spiritual heart – Varanasi – on a guided walking tour through the alleyways of the Old Town right to the bank of the Ganges.

  • India can be intimidating, but with your local leader there the whole way, you’ll be dodging cows, navigating market stalls, and eating from the best chaat stalls in Delhi in no time.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is a Lonely Planet Experience powered by Intrepid, made for travellers who value their independence but also want the benefit of a local leader and a group of like-minded travellers. The itinerary has a mix of included activities and free time when your leader will offer suggestions. Please budget spending money for optional activities you want to partake in.

  • In order to see as much as possible in this vast country, this trip involves some very long bus and train journeys, including a 19-hour overnight train from Delhi to Jaisalmer and a 15-hour overnight train from Varanasi to Delhi. These trips can be tiring but offer a quintessential Indian experience.

  • Overnight trains feature padded berths with sheets, a pillow, and a blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of the same or opposite gender. More information can be found in the ‘Transport’ section of the Essential Trip Information or at https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/india-trains-guide.

  • If you'd prefer an itinerary in Rajasthan with more inclusions, plusher accommodation, and no overnight trains, check out our Comfort-style Rajasthan Experience trip by entering code HHKR on our website.

  • If you are aged 18–29 and would prefer to travel through Rajasthan with only people in this age range, check out our Real Rajasthan tour by entering the code HHYJ on our website.

Itinerary

Namaste and welcome to Delhi! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive in Delhi with time to spare before the meeting, consider finding your feet with an Urban Adventure. The Hidden Gems of Delhi tour offers something a little different from the standard itinerary, taking you to sights most tourists never see.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Humayun's Tomb - INR500
  • Delhi - Qutub Minar - INR500
  • Delhi - Red Fort - INR500
  • Delhi - Gandhi's Delhi Urban Adventure - INR2700
  • Delhi - Delhi Food Walk Urban Adventure - INR3500
  • Delhi - Home-Cooked Delhi Urban Adventure - INR4000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

To find out more about Urban Adventure tours like the Hidden Gems of Delhi, speak to a booking agent or visit urbanadventures.com/destination/delhi-tours.
This morning set off by metro to Old Delhi to explore on a walking tour. Experience the chaos of an Indian traffic jam as you inch your way through the streets around Chandni Chowk marketplace in a traditional cycle rickshaw. Visit the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque, then stop by the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the religion. Tonight, transfer to the railway station and board a 19-hour overnight train to Jaisalmer. Local vendors will board the train at various stops to sell snacks, but it’s advised that you bring some of your own food for the journey too.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Delhi - Leader-led Old Delhi walking & rickshaw tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The total train journey will be 750 kilometres and take approximately 19 hours.

Compartments on the train feature padded berths with sheets, a pillow, and a blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of the same or opposite gender. More information can be found in the ‘Transport’ section of the Essential Trip Information.
If there are no delays, you should arrive into Jaisalmer around midday. Pack a small overnight bag, leaving the rest of your luggage at a hotel, then drive by jeep to the Thar Desert. Meet your guides and climb on the back of a camel, then set off through the desert for the 3-hour ride to the camping ground. Your guides will get a campfire going and cook a traditional Rajasthani dinner while you relax and watch the sunset. Spend the night stargazing and sharing stories in this incredible setting.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaisalmer - Leader-led walking tour
  • Jaisalmer - Camel safari & overnight desert camp
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
The campsite is very basic, with a windbreak set up against a sand dune. Water and soft drinks are available for purchase. Bedding is on a camping cot with a pillow, sheets, mattress, and blankets provided. There are no structured bathroom facilities so please bring toiletries with you, including hand sanitizer. Toilets are simple long drop style.

During the winter months (December and January), temperatures in the desert can drop below zero. Your leader will monitor the weather forecast to decide whether this activity will go ahead. If not, you’ll take a day trip to the Thar Desert instead of the overnight stay. Some travellers also like to bring a sleeping bag and base layers for camping in the colder months.
Rise early to enjoy the sunrise over the sand dunes then eat a simple breakfast. Ride back to the edge of the desert by camel (approximately 90 minutes) and return to the city by private vehicle. On arrival, choose whether to relax or join the group on an optional trip to the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum. This small museum displays a private family collection of printing blocks, musical instruments, religious artifacts, and decorations which offer insights into the cultural heritage of Jaisalmer.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Jaisalmer - Folklore Museum - INR10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free day to explore Jaisalmer. The city’s eponymous fort holds twisting alleys with markets where you can wander for hours. You can also find a series of Jain temples dating from the 15th and 16th centuries within the walls of the fort, and it’s easy to spend a few hours admiring their elaborate carvings. The opulent havelis (traditional Indian mansions) found throughout the city make another fine place to spend some time admiring the desert architecture.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning take a private bus to the railway station and then a 6-hour train ride across the desert to the blue city of Jodhpur. Enjoy a guided walk to explore the sights, including a visit to one of the oldest markets in India – the Sadar Bazaar. Here you can haggle over Bollywood soundtracks, bangles, leather shoes, and colourful saris, or simply soak up the energy of a typical Indian market. Jodhpur is home to some of the best lassis in India, so make sure you try one while you’re here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jodhpur - Leader-led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The total train journey will take approximately 6 hours. This is a Third Class AC train.
Today you have the option to visit the colossal Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest in India. The fort is still run by the Jodhpur royal family. If you choose to visit, you can explore the palaces, galleries, and artillery inside the fortress walls and admire great views over the city. If you’d prefer to see a more down to earth kind of Rajasthani life, it is also possible to spend today touring nearby Bishnoi villages. Spending time in these villages offers a glimpse into rural Rajasthani life and the chance to learn about the rich cultural traditions of the people who live there.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Jodhpur - Bishnoi villages day trip - INR750
  • Jodhpur - Meherangarh Fort - INR600
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning take an auto-rickshaw to the bus station and board a local bus for an 8-hour journey to Udaipur. This romantic city is set amid the Aravalli Hills and curls around Lake Pichola, a man-made lake created in the 14th century. On arrival, take a guided walk to get your bearings. Explore twisting alleyways filled with shops and bazaars selling things like silver jewellery, shoes, bags, leather goods, and miniature paintings.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Udaipur - Leader-led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s bus journey travels 300 kilometres and takes approximately 8 hours.
Enjoy a free day to explore the sights of Udaipur. Perhaps take a short boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola (seasonal) and see the palaces of Jag Mandir and Jag Niwas rise out of the water and their own reflections. Otherwise, you could tour the lakeside City Palace complex, the largest palace in Rajasthan, where you can check out vivid murals and royal antiques. Alternatively, learn the secrets behind making the perfect Indian thali during a half-day cooking class.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Udaipur - Lake Pichola boat ride from Lal Ghat - INR350
  • Udaipur - City Palace - INR300
  • Udaipur - Cooking class - INR600
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take another free day in this beautiful city. Maybe you’d like to visit Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace), a 19th-century palace perched on a hill overlooking Lake Pichola. Named after Maharana Sajjan Singh of the Mewar Dynasty, Sajjan Garh offers ridiculously great views of the city below. Or perhaps you’re more inclined to visit the nearby village of Shilpgram, an ethnographic museum and arts hubs where traditional crafts are sold, and artists perform. Your Lonely Planet app will definitely be of use today! This afternoon, meet the group back at your accommodation and head out to enjoy a concert that combines seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Udaipur - Cultural performance - INR150
  • Udaipur - Sajjan Garh Palace (Monsoon Palace) - INR300
  • Udaipur - Shilpgram craft village - INR25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Transfer to the station and travel by train for around 7 hours to the city of Ajmer. Hop in a private vehicle for a 45-minute drive to your hotel in Pushkar. One of India's holiest towns and a market centre for the surrounding villages, Pushkar is a great place to immerse yourself in Hindu traditions. On arrival, head out to explore the town on a walking tour, wandering through the main bazaar along the way. Finish with a walk around Pushkar Lake and past the bustling ghats and temples, observing the devout as they worship at the holy waters.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pushkar - Leader-led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s train journey travels 300 kilometres and takes approximately 7 hours. This is a seated carriage with air conditioning.
Today in Pushkar is free for you to do as you please. Early morning risers can choose to hike up the hill to the Savitri Temple for sunrise views over the town. If the chai man is there, enjoy a steaming cup of tea at the top for breakfast. Later in the day, maybe pay a visit to the colourful Brahma Temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu god. If you’ve planned your tour to coincide with the Pushkar Camel Fair (which changes each year), today will mainly be set aside to experience one of India’s most famous festivals.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Pushkar - Brahma Temple - Free
  • Pushkar - Savitri Temple - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
We do all we can to ensure that travellers booked on a trip that coincides with the Pushkar Camel Fair (which changes each year) will get an opportunity to see the best of the festival. However, we offer no guarantee that the announced dates will not change. Pushkar hotels raise their rates considerably during the festival, so departures across this period may be at a higher price. Although we make bookings months in advance, accommodation in Pushkar tends to overbook at this time. We ask for a flexible approach from people travelling at this time as accommodation, the order of activities and type of transport may need to change.
Return to Ajmer and travel by local bus to Jaipur (approximately 4 hours). On arrival take an auto-rickshaw to your hotel, then head out to explore Rajasthan’s capital on a guided walking tour. This tour includes a visit to the market and the beehive-like Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), built in 1799 so that women of the royal family could observe street festivities without being seen by the public. Your evening is free, so perhaps ask your leader to point out the best place to grab dal baati (dal served with wheat rolls).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaipur - Leader-led walking & market tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s local bus journey travels 150 kilometres and takes approximately 4 hours.
Enjoy a free day in Jaipur, with plenty of optional activities to choose from to fill your day. For many travellers, an optional hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. If you’d prefer to stay grounded (but still like expansive views) the Amber Fort is both an excellent example of Rajput architecture and a great place from which to see the surrounding area. Or maybe get among the crowds in the city’s bazaars to shop for artisan goods and semi-precious stones. For a true local experience, tonight you could immerse yourself in Bollywood with a movie at a classic cinema.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort - INR500
  • Jaipur - City Palace - INR700
  • Jaipur - Bollywood Movie at Raj Mandir Cinema - INR400
  • Jaipur - Balloon Safari - USD260
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Ballooning can be done in the morning between September and June. For additional details, please see the ‘Important notes’ section of the Essential Trip Information.
Head to Abhaneri by private vehicle (approximately 2 hours). This rural town provides a lovely detour from the bigger cities in Rajasthan. Visit the Chand Baori, a 20-metre-deep stepwell where water was collected and locals used to gather to escape the heat. Built in the late ninth century, the baori is a mind-bending feat of construction. Next visit another jewel of Abhaneri, the Harshat Mata Temple. This temple, which is now mostly ruined, was first constructed between the seventh and eighth centuries and dedicated to the goddess of happiness and joy.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Abhaneri - Stepwells & Harshat Mata Temple
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s journey by private vehicle covers 95 kilometres and takes approximately 2 hours.
Head east by private transport for the 2–3-hour journey to Agra, via Fatehpur Sikri. Rich in Mughal heritage, Agra is a city of gardens, temples, and open rooftops. On arrival visit the Taj Mahal, a white marble mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal attracts over three million visitors each year, so be prepared for crowds. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. If you’re after a cool drink or a light meal, maybe head to Sheroes Hangout. This cafe is staffed by survivors of acid attacks and is located 10 minutes’ walk from the Taj.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Agra - Taj Mahal - INR1300
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s journey by private vehicle covers 60 kilometres and takes approximately 2–3 hours.
Enjoy a free day before boarding the train this evening. Early risers might want to head back to the Taj Mahal for a very memorable sunrise. While you’re here, be sure to visit the spectacular Red Fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. Built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, the fort was originally designed to be a military structure. If you have extra time, you may like to continue onto Akbar's Mausoleum to pay your respects to the great emperor. In the evening, board a 12-hour overnight train to Varanasi (Third Class AC).
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Agra - Agra Fort - INR600
  • Agra - Akbar's Mausoleum - INR210
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s overnight train journey covers 700 kilometres and takes approximately 12 hours.
On arrival in Varanasi this morning transfer by auto-rickshaw to your hotel. Head out on a guided walk around the Old City, following your leader through the narrow alleyways. The rest of your day is free to do as you please. This evening, there are two options you should consider, both centred around the holy Ganges. The first is a sunset cruise along the river which allows you to observe life from a unique perspective in the fading light of day. If you’d prefer to stay on land, you could watch local priests perform a Ganga aarti (fire ceremony) at the Dashashwamedh Ghat.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Leader-led Old City walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Varanasi - Sunset candle flower ceremony - INR140
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
There's so much to see and do in Varanasi. Use Intrepid’s guide to help plan your time at intrepidtravel.com/adventures/varanasi-guide-india.
Enjoy a free day to explore this holy city. We highly recommend starting very early and take an optional sunrise boat trip along the Ganges, passing pilgrims bathing and praying along the colourful ghats. Alternatively, head out to the ghats on foot to watch the dhobi-wallahs (clothes washers) drying clothes along the riverbank. You could even continue your stroll to the sinking Vishnu temple near the Manikarnika Ghat. Perhaps ask your leader about how to visit Sarnath, about ten kilometres outside of the city, where Gautama Buddha is said to have given his first speech after finding enlightenment.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Varanasi - Sarnath (entry) - INR250
  • Varanasi - Sunrise Ganges boat trip - INR80
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, you have some free time to explore more of Varanasi. Perhaps visit the Vishwanath Temple, or simply grab some chaat and watch the world go by. If you’re craving a little peace and quiet before you board another overnight train, consider heading to the Kriti Gallery to check out some contemporary work by local artists. In the afternoon, board the overnight train for a 15-hour journey to Delhi.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s overnight train journey covers 800 kilometres and takes approximately 15 hours.
Arrive in Delhi in the late morning and hop in a taxi to the hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore the city at your own pace. The Home Cooked Delhi tour, which sees you visiting a local’s home for a leisurely meal, is a great way to immerse yourself in the city while still relaxing. Tonight, maybe get together with your group and head out for some dinner – your local leader will have plenty of recommendations.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Gandhi's Delhi Urban Adventure - INR2700
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
For the Home Cooked Delhi tour and other immersive, locally guided adventures in Delhi, speak to a booking agent about Urban Adventures or visit urbanadventures.com/destination/delhi-tours.
With no activities planned for today, your north India adventure comes to an end. You are free to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 dinner

Transport

Overnight sleeper train, Train, Private vehicle, Public bus, Metro, Auto rickshaw, Cycle rickshaw, Camel, Taxi

Accommodation

Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night), Hotel/Guesthouse (17 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Delhi - Leader-led Old Delhi walking & rickshaw tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Jaisalmer - Leader-led walking tour
  • Jaisalmer - Camel safari & overnight desert camp
  • Jodhpur - Leader-led walking tour
  • Udaipur - Leader-led walking tour
  • Pushkar - Leader-led walking tour
  • Jaipur - Leader-led walking & market tour
  • Abhaneri - Stepwells & Harshat Mata Temple
  • Varanasi - Leader-led Old City walking tour

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our North India Revealed trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement excludes Days 2, 17, and 20 (Overnight sleeper trains) and Day 3 (Camping) where you will be in shared accommodation, and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
2. Hot air balloon flights in Jaipur are operated by Sky Waltz. Flights operate from 1 September to 31 April and last approximately 60 mins. Return transfers, tea and coffee plus light refreshments, and a certificate of flight are included in the cost. You can register your interest and pay your tour leader at your welcome meeting on day 1 of your trip. Payment must be made by cash in either INR/AUD/USD/GBP only and is USD 260pp (subject to change). Flights are subject to availability and weather conditions (tickets are fully refundable in case of bad weather).

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

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