This post about Northern India is written by our host blogger nomadiciv@.
Incredible India. This slogan is wonderfully all-embracing. It comprises all the positive and the negative features of India you will deal with. The glittering golden roofs of palaces, but streets full of garbage and shit. Pure virgin nature under the Himalaya peaks, but poverty and despair of people in slums. Locals who will be genuinely curious about your country, but drivers and stall sellers who will rip you off badly. India is full of extremes and people either love it or hate it. Anyway your experience will be unforgettable...in both ways :)
Do you want to know the prices in India? Check out our
India budget guide.
Places from the photo journey on the map
We entered India by land from Nepal. The first thing we noticed was the garbage everywhere on the road, not only on the sides of the road as we knew from other countries.
A place with huge atmosphere and energy. We arrived in Varanasi in very early morning. There were empty streets and the fog was rolling up everywhere. It was a completely different city than we experienced by day. There are narrow streets leading to the river Ganges and it's very easy to get lost.
Ghats - Varanasi
These steps, leading down to the river, are so typical for this city. People come to Ganges to wash themselves and do the laundry, wash the cattle and they even drink the water. There are also many temples scattered alongside the banks.
Varanasi is a sacred place for Hinduists. It is believed that when their ash is thrown into the river Ganges, they will be released from the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation. That is why people save money for the journey to Varanasi at the end of their lives. There are fires here 24 hours a day and you can meet mourning processions in the narrow streets.
A sacrifice flowing on the river Ganges - Varanasi
Varanasi is definitely a very spiritual place. We met a German guy who planned to stay here for 3 weeks, but we moved on already after 3 days.
The city is located 13 km from Varanasi and it's an awesome day-trip destination. It is also the first teaching place of Buddha after his enlightenment.
Taj Mahal - Agra
An epic place and the picture known from all travel journals. Total must-see for many people. The place is crowded and expensive, but definitely worth it. As usual, the entrance fee is several times higher for foreigners. Probably as a satisfaction - the toilets for foreigners are for free while the locals need to pay :)
Another characteristic sight for Agra is Agra Fort. It is a large complex of red buildings. It used to serve as a residence of emperor in 17th century when Agra was the capital of India. There is a nice view out of here.
Agra Red Fort
As an UNESCO sight the admission costs a bit more, but the fort lacks the information about the place e.g. in form of signboards. After a while you find yourself roaming through buildings with the only information from your guide book.
Another tip for a great day-trip is Fatehpur Sikrí, a large red complex from 16th century 30 km of Agra. We had a strange experience here with local children that claimed our tickets from Agra (Red Fort, Taj Mahal), probably to resell them. After we refused to give them the tickets (and they were extremely insistant), they ended our conversation by: “never come to India again”.
This was also another place where we swallowed the hook. We took an “official guide” who showed us around for a small fee. At the end he insisted on more money than we paid. Finally we found out that there are no official guides at all.
Jaipur - The Pink City of India
It is the largest city in Rajastan and you can notice it in locals’ appearance. People are more corpulent and luxuriously dressed. People in the public transport did not stare at us and did not let us sit like everywhere else.
City Palace - Jaipur
There is a lot to see in Jaipur. Among the best you can visit Birla Mandir, Amer fort, or Jantar Mantar. For us Jaipur was a place where we suffered severe stomach problems. Btw. after eating a meal at our accommodation recommended by Lonely Planet. It was really annoying as we had 10 hours in the night bus ahead of us.
Choose your sacrifice to Gods. You can see these stalls everywhere in India. They create a peaceful balance to omnipresent noise and garbage.
Galta Ji Monkey Temple - Jaipur
Galta Ji or Hanuman Temple is a temple where local women come to ask Gods to have a baby.
Jaisalmer - The Golden city
The city is situated at the edge of the Thar Desert near the borders with Pakistan. It is definitely the least crowded place we visited in India and we really enjoyed it.
There is a sandstone fort with Jain temples. As the city is close to Pakistan, there are a lot of Muslims. It happened that I paid our dinner myself as a woman, but the waiter put the money back to my male friend.
Thar Desert - The Great Indian Desert
There are small sand dunes in Thar Desert that offers tourists a day or multiple-day trips.
Humayun's Tomb - Delhi
This tomb is predecessor of Taj Mahal in Agra. Visiting sights in Delhi is a bit problematic. Delhi is huge city with 14 million people. Finding a map of the city is impossible and haggling the prices with drivers is exhausting. Finally we ordered a driver at tourist information office to take us around the main sights and we did not regret it.
The Lotus Temple - Delhi
The temple is open to all, regardless of religion. It is very quiet and clean place in the middle of the capital's buzz. Unless there is not much to see inside, the garden around is beautiful.
Red Fort - Delhi
It is located in the center of Delhi and houses a number of museums. We visited this place during the local holiday and met people from all corners of India, whereas we Europeans were a bit rarity.
This is picture taken near our hotel. We didn't dare to try one of those street foods. There is also an interesting fact that we didn't find any supermarkets in India. Even when we asked a driver and described it, he answered that there is nothing like that in India.
Railway station - Agra
Everyday theater even for monkeys. There are no English signs leading to the platform or the train you need in less touristic areas. We met a guy who had the ticket for the same bunk as one of us. That is a bit inconvenient for another 8 hours of journey. A local family advised us to give a tip to conductor, but it did not work. Finally the same family offered us a bunk they paid extra to have a place for their huge luggage.
This picture was taken from the train passing the slum in Delhi suburb. We couldn't believe that it was true. After this you realize how lucky we are in Europe.
We saw these pictures in every city. Local people are just used to throw the garbage wherever they are and garbage cans are rare. Did you finish you bottle of coke? Throw it away. Do you need to go to the toilet? Just crouch down on the side. Luckily they don't use toilet paper.
Places from the photo journey on the map