I joined the eight-day classic G Adventures Golden Triangle Tour that started and ended in Delhi. It was my first time joining a group tour and what a terrific experience it was! Below is a day by day account of the tour, what we did and saw, and inspiring photos that will make you pack your bags and head to India!
Day 1: Arrival in Delhi
My flight arrived early in the morning. A driver from the hotel picked me up at the airport and by 10h00 I was checked into my room.
I faced a difficult decision to either catch up on some much needed sleep or explore a new city. Duh? I chose to explore Delhi with my roommate. We shared a car with a personal driver for the whole day. We visited all of the main attractions in Delhi – India Gate, a couple of temples including The Lotus Temple and lots of markets.
The tour officially started with a welcome meeting in the hotel roof bar. I met our excellent chief experience officer (CEO), Sutickshan Singh Chauhan (aka Romi), and the rest of the people in the group. We were a small group (15 people) from all over the world.
After introductions, we all headed out to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
Day 2: Delhi to Agra
Our day started at 07h00 with a wake-up call, followed by a jam-packed morning in Delhi.
First up was a walking tour of the backstreets of Delhi by a former street kid (think Slum Dog Millionaire). The tour was both interesting and heart-breaking. It ended on a positive note with us visiting a home for boys and playing with the kids (G Adventures-supported New Delhi Streetkids Project).
The second half of the morning we walked through Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Delhi, visited Jama Masjid, the oldest mosque in Delhi and one of the largest mosques in India, and we visited the ancient Sikh temple of Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib.
Adjacent to the Sikh temple is a soup kitchen that serves food to anybody, rich or poor. We were invited to eat lunch here and I was blown away by the hospitality. As soon as my food was finished, it was quickly topped up with more.
After a busy morning in Delhi, we travelled to Agra by private bus in the afternoon. The bus ride was actually fun! Along the way we stopped for a late lunch and as we approached Agra, we celebrated by drinking beer (Kingfisher is the best, and I’m not a beer drinker).
In Agra we checked into our hotel, settled into our rooms and headed out for dinner.
Day 3: Agra and the Taj Mahal
We got up really early, but with good reason. This is the day we visited one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, The Taj Mahal! The bus took us to the entrance, where we lined up to enter the grounds at sunrise.
In that queue I discovered one of the culinary highlights of my India trip – masala chai. Yum!
We were given a brief introduction before we entered through the arch to see the Taj for the first time. Wow! I was not disappointed! A local guide shared the interesting history of the Taj Mahal with us. We also had a photographer taking group and individual photos.
Afterwards we had enough time to explore and discover every corner of the Taj Mahal on our own.
We went back to the hotel for breakfast before we continued to explore Agra. We went to the Agra Fort, an impressive Mughal fort built with red sandstone, and the ‘Baby Taj’, the structure that inspired the design of the Taj Mahal.
Our day ended at Mehtab Bagh, a charming garden with beautiful views of the Taj Mahal across the river. This is the best place for a sunset view of the Taj Mahal.
Before dinner, we visited a marble shop. We saw how marble is processed using traditional implements, as well as the finished products. Everything from marble elephants to chest sets to artworks.
Day 4: Agra to Bharatpur
We left Agra for Bharatpur. Just outside Agra, we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, the former capital of the Mughals. The beautiful structure was built by King Akbar for his three wives – one Hindu, one Muslim and a Christian wife. We met our local guide there and he showed us around, explaining the history behind the symbolism.
Leaving Fatehpur Sikri was a bit of a nightmare though. The merchants were very aggressive. It’s best to ignore them altogether.
We arrived at our beautiful hotel in Bharatpur in the afternoon.
I opted to visit the Keoladeo National Park (formerly called the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary). I took a bicycle rickshaw ride through the park to see the bird- and wildlife. It was really great to see a different side to India (nature as opposed to crowded cities).
Back at our hotel, the girls in the group indulged in that one activity you have to do in India – getting henna tattoos!
That night we saw a saucy puppet show (x-rated due to the references to bestiality), celebrated a birthday, had a delicious dinner buffet, busted out our dancing shoes and played drinking games until late.
Day 5: Bharatpur to Jaipur
On our way to Jaipur, we stopped at the 9th century Abhaneri stepwell. The well is said to be magical and mystical. According to legend, it was built in one night.
We also admired pottery in the local village.
We continued unto Jaipur where we checked into our accommodation. From there we went to the City Palace right in the heart of the old city. It’s beautiful and contains the largest silver objects in the world, two huge silver water urns.
We explored the markets, drove past Hawa Mahal and made a photo stop at the Jal Mahal.
Late in the afternoon, we visited a textile shop. It was fascinating to see hand printing done in action.
Day 6: Celebrating Diwali in Jaipur
Our day started with a visit to the Amber Fort, located in Amer, just outside Jaipur. The fort was huge with great views of the surroundings.
We stopped for lunch and explored the streets by ourselves in the afternoon. Later we visited a jewellery store.
Then the biggest surprise! Romi invited us to celebrate Diwali in his house with his friends and family. What a spectacular night it was! How do locals celebrate Diwali? With fireworks and food!
Day 7: Back to Delhi
Today we drove back to Delhi. On the way back we stopped for lunch and arrived back in Delhi in the afternoon.
We explored the streets around the hotel in the afternoon on our own. A couple of us opted to buy McDonalds. Now I am not a McDonalds fan, but I highly recommended the veggie or paneer burgers.
That night, we had a farewell dinner. A couple of people left the tour group later that night. You know you really enjoyed a tour when you are sad to see the people go.
Day 8: Going home
I ordered room service before packing my bags and sharing a ride to the airport. This was the end of my first fantastic group tour!
I really loved everything about this tour! The itinerary was great, we spent enough time at each location, we had a fantastic tour leader and the group composition was good. For the most part, everybody got along really well.
The accommodation was much better than I expected. We travelled from city to city in a private bus, which was very comfortable. A local tour guide met us at each sight.
We had the best CEO! Romi really went out of his way to make the tour memorable. He negotiated prices with the merchants on our behalf. That meant no haggling for us! He ordered a cake when he heard one of the girls in the group was celebrating her birthday. He opened up his home to us and invited us to celebrate Diwali with his family. Romi went far beyond what you would expect from a tour guide.
I had nothing to complain about. The tour came pretty close to perfection! If anything, I wished the tour could have been longer.
Would I do it again?
Yes! Without a doubt! I will cherish and always remember this trip. If you are thinking about going to India, I highly recommend this tour.