India Itinerary: How to Spend 2 Weeks in India
Planning your first trip to India for 2021? Here’s my recommended India itinerary for those looking to experience the best of India in 2 weeks.
India is an absolutely fascinating conglomeration of cultures, colors and flavors. They say you either love it or hate it. I went to India a couple years ago, and I still daydream about going back.
As one of the biggest and most diverse countries in the world, India is like a color-changing chameleon, with so many different sides to it. There are chaotic traffic-loaded cities with modern skyscrapers alongside impoverished slums; but there are also lavish ancient palaces and forts as well as amazing tribes and ethnic groups living the way their ancestors do.
Travel in India can sometimes be frustrating, confusing and downright exhausting. It sometimes seems as if nothing is easy. But at the same time, there’s no other place in the world like India. To help you experience India at its best (and worst), here is my recommended 2 week India itinerary for first-time visitors!
The Ultimate India Itinerary & Guide
Tourist Visas for India
Almost everyone needs a visa to enter India, unless you are from Bhutan, the Maldives, or Nepal. But it’s really easy and fast to get an India e-visa. Certain nationalities can also get Visa on Arrival, but those are suspended at the moment.
You just need to apply online at Byevisa.com for the India Visa at least 5 days before your trip. After you submit all your documents, you will receive your visa within 2-5 business days if it’s approved. Check here for visa eligibility.
How to Get to India
The main gateway to India are the Delhi and Mumbai Airports. You can find flights from New York to Delhi (23hours) for about US$700 roundtrip and flights from Los Angeles to Mumbai (23 hours) for $800 return. I flew from the US and had a layover in London, UK.
For those in Europe, you can fly from London to Mumbai via Istanbul (12hours) for around $500 return or direct for around $900 roundtrip. Flights from Paris to Delhi (10 hours) are also cheap at $500 roundtrip.
Search for Flights to India
Travel India Independently or on A Guided Tour?
Does traveling through India sound like an exciting adventure or does it make you feel a little scared? If you want spontaneity and don’t mind a little uncertainty, travel India independently!
Traveling India can be overwhelming and downright shocking, especially for inexperienced travelers. Despite being a seasoned traveler, I still found India challenging. There is extreme poverty and chaos in many parts, and tourist touts can be very persistent. Just practice patience and learn Hindi online before your trip, though most people speak English in India.
If it’s your first time traveling on your own, I recommend booking a tour with like-minded people and flexible schedule. Check out G Adventures’ 15-day Essential India trip that shows you the best of the country through local homestays and activities. I have traveled with G Adventures many times and can highly recommend them.
Best Time to Travel India
India is a big country and it has different climates. Depending on which areas you plan to visit, the best time to travel India may be different. For most of the country, the best time to travel is between the end of September and mid-March. The air is less humid and the temperatures are more moderate.
January and February can be a little cool if you’re visiting northern India. So be prepared for colder weather if you visit during these months! If you’re looking for a cheap deal, the best time to travel India is probably April or May. Humidity is the worst during these months though, and there are also a lot of thunderstorms.
Monsoon season is usually between June and September. Monsoons affect most of the central and southern regions of India. If you plan to visit these areas, be sure and avoid these months.
How Long to Travel India?
India is the 7th biggest country in the world, with each state offering a very different experience to the others. Distances are huge and it takes a while to get from one town to another. You’ll need months or even years to explore all of India!
For the first taste of India, I recommend a minimum of 2 weeks in India. You’ll be able to experience the most famous parts of India in 2 weeks, including the major cities like Delhi and Mumbai, as well as my favorite state, Rajasthan.
In my recommended itinerary, I have included The Golden Triangle: a route made up of the famous trio Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. These three cities are home to India’s most iconic landmarks like the Taj Mahal and Amber Fort, and so are worthwhile to visit for good reasons.
Summary of the Ultimate India Itinerary
- Days 1-3: Mumbai
- Day 4: Old Delhi
- Day 5: New Delhi
- Day 6: Agra (Taj Mahal)
- Days 7-9: Jaipur (Pink City)
- Days 10-11: Jodhpur (Blue City)
- Days 12-14: Beaches of Goa
- Day 15: Fly home!
Book a private transfer to your hotel to avoid any hassle or delay.
I recommend staying in Colaba, a neighborhood in the southern part of Mumbai that is near many major landmarks and famous restaurants. If you’re on a budget, then check out Bandra west, a northern Mumbai neighborhood packed with boutique hotels and lively restaurants.
After you get settled in your hotel, I suggest walking around to get an idea of your surroundings. The best way to start taking in Indian culture is to take a stroll through the streets and people watch. Mumbai also has some beaches, like Juhu and Girgaum Chowpatty. If you time it right, you can watch the sunset on the beach!
Itinerary Days 2-3: Explore India’s Biggest City
For your first proper day in Mumbai, I suggest booking a sightseeing tour to get your bearings and understand a bit more about the city through an experienced guide.
The tour takes about 10 hours, and you’ll get to see UNESCO sites, neighborhoods and Bollywood studio with a small group. If you’d rather explore on your own, these are some of the must-see spots in Mumbai.
Admire the Gateway of India
The Gateway of India was built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Now, it’s one of the icons of Mumbai. It’s located on the waterfront at Apollo Bundar.
It’s free to visit, and there are a lot of local restaurants located nearby!
Take a Boat to Elephanta Caves
After a visit to the Gateway of India, you can take a 1-hour boat ride to the Elephanta Caves. The Elephanta Caves are a group of 7 caves that are tucked away on a remote island.
The caves are dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. They contain different rock sculptures and artwork that can teach you about India’s history and culture. Entrance to the caves is 600 rupees (US$8) per person.
Visit the Global Vipassana Pagoda
The Global Vipassana Pagoda is absolutely stunning. It’s an enormous golden pagoda where visitors can go to meditate. It was built to express Hindu’s gratitude to Buddha.
It’s free to enter, and you definitely can’t miss out on it!
A flight from Mumbai to New Delhi is around 2 hours and costs $100 return. Domestic flights are cheap and save you tons of time. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also take the 15-hour night train on the previous night to Delhi (skip to ‘how to get around‘ section).
Delhi is huge, and you don’t want to waste a bunch of time traveling between destinations. Because you’re here for two days, you can spend a day in Old Delhi and the next in New Delhi.
Take a Walking or Bicycle Tour of Old Delhi
Old Delhi may be one of the biggest cultural shocks you have while in India. It’s chaotic, energetic and crowded…and so much fun! I took a rickshaw tour through Old Delhi and was completely mesmerized by the chaos. There are a few different tours catered to people with different interests, like this food tour with a local chef and bazaar walks.
Glimpse into India’s Past at the Old Delhi Landmarks
There is no shortage of historical buildings and sites in Old Delhi. If you want to narrow them down to a handful of sights, we recommend visiting these three. Even though Delhi has decent public transportation, your easiest option for getting around is hiring a private car and driver.
- Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque; 500 rupees)
- Red Fort (Old Delhi’s largest monument; 500 rupees)
- Chandni Chowk (one of the oldest street markets in Delhi; free).
Swaminarayan Akshardham temple, Mahatma Gandhi’s home Gandhi Smitri, and the lush Lodhi Garden. Entrance fees for these attractions are free!
If you’re looking to eat in the best restaurants in town, check out the high-end Indian restaurant Dilli 32 or upscale international restaurant Thyme.
the Taj Mahal.
Travel between Delhi and Agra is pretty simple, and you can take a bus, train, or car. The fastest morning train from Delhi to Agra takes just 1.5 hours and costs $10 for an air-conditioned seat. It’s a great way to see the “real” India outside of the touristy spots.
Once you arrive in Agra, drop your bags at the hotel and set off to see the most famous site of India.
Visit the Taj Mahal
Of all the landmarks in India, the Taj Mahal is the most famous one. It’s a massive mausoleum and one of the greatest architectural marvels in the world. In fact, UNESCO designated it a world heritage site in 1983.
The Taj Mahal is open everyday until sunset, and it costs 250 rupees to visit. The best time to visit is definitely at sunrise, when the crowds have yet to arrive and the sky is a splendid color. I recommend booking a sunrise tour if you want to get there before anyone else does, and have a guide to point out all the details to you.
Other Places to Visit in Agra
After seeing the Taj Mahal, you’ll still have some time to explore the city of Agra in the evening. I suggest heading to Mehtab Bagh, which translates to Moonlight Garden, for the best view of the Taj Mahal from afar (pictured above). It’s such a spectacular spot and yet I had the whole place to myself during my visit. Also don’t miss the Taj Nature Walk, a bird and nature park just outside the Taj Mahal.
Another impressive monument in Agra is the Agra Fort, which in fact was more spectacular than Red Fort in Delhi. This UNESCO Word Heritage site is one of the most robust and important Mughal forts in India. Within the fort, you’ll find mosques, fairy-tale palaces, towers, and courtyards. Be sure to stay for the evening sound and light show that recreates the fort’s history.
Amber Fort, Jaipur’s most impressive sight. Steeped in history, the palace is decorated in marble and ivory. It’s easy to spend a whole day here exploring the many museums and lakeside gardens located inside the fort. The Sheesh Mahal (‘Hall of Mirrors’) inside the fort was once the residence of the royal family and is the setting for several Hindi movies to boot.
See the Iconic Hawa Mahal
Across the road from the City Palace lies the iconic Hawa Mahal, an architectural marvel of passages and balconies overlooking old Jaipur’s main thoroughfare. It was built of pink sandstone primarily as an observation point for processions traveling along the road below, as women from the royal family were not allowed to be seen in public in those times.
The bustling bazaar opposite the Hawa Mahal houses a myriad of shops selling everything from trinkets to glass bangles, home décor pieces to carpets. Definitely worth a visit for the shopaholic in search of unique merchandise.
Watch the Sunset at Jal Mahal
Located in the middle of Man Sagar Lake is the Jal Mahal, or Water Palace. The tastefully-restored palace looks beautiful in the evenings, with multi-colored lights decorating the entire structure. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed inside the palace at present. A similar structure in Udaipur has been converted into a luxury hotel, which makes this example all the more untouched.
Shop in the Colorful Sardar Market
An interesting spot is
Explore the Mehrangarh Fort
You can’t come to Jodhpur without visiting one of India’s most impressive forts: the Mehrangarh Fort. The best time to visit is during sunrise or sunset, when the glow from the golden walls contrasts against the crimson sky. The amalgam of colors is almost unbelievable: glittering blue homes surround the mighty fortress, which still towers 400 feet above ground despite being over five centuries old.
Fly from Jodhpur to Goa via Mumbai. The flight takes at least 7 hours including transit and costs around $250.
India is such a diverse country that southern India feels like a different country from northern India. Goa has a long history as a Portuguese colony and it’s evident from its numerous 17th-century churches and tropical spice plantations. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agond.
For your first day in Goa, I suggest relaxing for a bit, especially after the hectic time you’ve had in the past few days. There are a lot of cool little beach shacks in Goa, so grab some food and drinks and chill out for a while.
Fort Aguada in Sinquerim offers amazing views of the Arabian Sea. You can also explore the old lighthouse, eerie prison cells, and even the secret passageways.
Chapora Fort dates back to the 1700s, and it’s mostly in ruins now. That adds to its charm though. Like Fort Aguada, you can explore the secret passageways and check out views of Vagator Beach.
Mumbai from Goa, as it takes only 1hour 15min and costs around $70.
I recommend booking a hotel near the Mumbai airport so you don’t have to bother getting out of the airport.
More India Itinerary Ideas
For those with more time, there are many other parts of India worth visiting. I haven’t visited every part of India, but I have asked local friends from recommendations and here is a list of other interesting areas in India you can consider.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
A spiritual heart and holy land, Varanasi is a historical city sacred to Hindus and Jains and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi brings salvation/nirvana and so they make the trip to the city when they realize that they are close to death.
For some, the culture shock of the burning corpses in plain view can be a bit overwhelming. However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries-old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world.
Known as the world capital of yoga, Rishikesh is a beautiful town scenically located where the Ganges River comes down from the Himalayas. Rishikesh catapulted to international fame when the Beatles dropped by for a visit to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram (now closed). R
Rishikesh is also the Gateway to the Himalayas and many people heading into the Himalayas stop by here. The Char Dham Yatra (Four Shrines Sacred Journey) ideally begins from Rishikesh.
Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh
Surrounded by cedar forests on the edge of the Himalayas, this hillside city is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. It was this place that sparked my interest in traveling to Tibet.
Dharamsala came on the world map in 1959 with the arrival of the Dalai Lama. Currently, it is a very popular destination for backpackers. There is a calm, peaceful energy in the air and the location is an ideal backdrop for this spiritual haven. I loved it so much during my trip that I extended my stay fin Dharamsala for a week.
Located in southern India, Kerala is a gorgeous state to visit for nature lovers. Kerala is known as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohini Attam.
The quintessential way to see the backwaters of Kerala is by houseboat. Known locally as kettuvallam, these houseboats are made of ancient principles of traditional carpenters using anjili wood and husks. Traditionally they were used to transport rice and spices, but now they have become popular ‘homestays’ for tourists.
How Much Does this India Itinerary Cost?
India is one of the cheapest countries to travel There are some parts of India that are more expensive than the others, such as the touristy parts of Rajasthan and Agra. Still, budget travelers can survive on around $20 – $30 USD per day.
Public transport is cheap. Train fares range from $5 to $25 depending on the distance. For instance, the fastest train from Delhi to Agra costs just $10 for an air-conditioned seat.
Accommodation usually ranges from $10 for a simple guesthouse room to $100 for a 4-star hotel. Indian food is incredibly good and cheap everywhere (but be careful with food hygiene). You can get $1 a meal if you’re on a tight budget, or $2-8 per meal in a restaurant.
a return flight from Mumbai to New Delhi is around 2 hours and costs $100. And a return flight from Delhi to Goa in southern India costs around $117 and takes 2.5 hours.
India is well known for its trains — the country is very well connected by train, though the conditions in some classes can be shocking. The train is often the cheapest (and most interesting) form of travel in India and you definitely have to try the train system at least once during your trip to India.
There are different classes of train: the First Class seats are usually in private air-conditioned booths, while Third Class chair seats can be in daunting conditions. We did attempt Third Class seats once but ended up jumping off the train before it took off (pee on the floor and hundreds crammed into one carriage). We booked mostly Second Class seats, which were reasonably priced and comfortable enough.
If you’re in a smaller or more rural area, the towns may not have a train station. In this case, your best bet is to travel by bus. The buses are pretty crammed usually and in terrible conditions. We’ve taken buses in the Himachal Pradesh (Himalaya region in northern India) and our bus journeys were definitely memorable in a funny way. Traffic in many major cities can be a nightmare, so be warned!
Health and Vaccinations for India
An important thing you’ll need to consider before planning a trip to India is your health. Unfortunately sanitation and hygiene are lacking in India, and can be the cause of illness for visitors.
You’ve probably heard of the Delhi belly — almost everyone who’s been to India has experienced food poisoning in some form. If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid street food and juice stands. If you do like street food, monsoon season isn’t the time to indulge as contamination of water and vegetables increases.
Most of India’s tap water is unfit for consumption. When buying bottled water, make sure the seal is intact. People are known to re-use empty water bottles and fill them with tap water. Make sure you bring antibacterial hand-wipes with you. You’ll find that they’re useful in range of situations including cleaning your hands before eating.
Some of the recommended vaccinations for India are:
- Hepatitis A and B
Is It Safe to Travel India?
Since 2012, the news of several gang rapes and murders in India sparked concerns over travel safety in India. Many countries have issued travel advisories warning women not to travel alone or to remote areas.
India does present some risks for female travelers – with the staring, unwanted attention, and sexual harassment. There is a significant gender disparity in India, and you do come across some negative and outdated attitudes towards women. It’s wise to be mentally prepared.
I advise female travelers to travel India with a partner or in a group. Dress modestly (with covered legs and arms) as India is still generally a traditional society. Try to book hotels and train tickets in advance, and avoid chatting with dodgy tourist touts. Stick to the tourist trail and try not to wander dark streets and alleys at night.
Enjoy Your Epic India Trip!
This India itinerary has packed in the most Instagrammed sights, cultural experiences and culinary flavors of the country. In designing this India itinerary, I have considered many factors including how easy it is to get from one point to another, how much it costs, etc.
2 weeks in India will give you the bare minimum amount of time to experience the country. I hope this India itinerary will help you make the most out of your little time in India. One things’ for sure, your first trip to India will surely not be your last!
Did we miss out anything on this India itinerary? Let us know in the comments field below if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to help you out!
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