Last January I set out on one of the most incredible and popular tours in the world. I flew to Delhi, India and trekked to Agra and then Jaipur before moving on through India. The tour route between these three cities is known as the Golden Triangle of India. Traveling to these cities gives you a window into the amazing culture, history and wanderlust available when you visit India. This was the first stop for me as I set forth on a month-long adventure across the subcontinent of India. I spent most of my journey traveling with group tours and some time exploring independently. India is wonderful, overwhelming, beautiful, hectic, chaotic and serene all at the same time.
I’m really happy that I began my experience in India with a group tour, local guide and pre-planned itinerary. Researching and executing such a tour on my own would have been a daunting task – even as an experienced traveler. I would only recommend traversing this region with an India Golden Triangle tour. Here’s what you need to know about selecting the right one and what to expect once you’re on the road.
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Where is the India Golden Triangle and How Do You Get There
The Golden Triangle of India is located in Northwest region of the country. It connects the three most-visited cities in that area. It’s given that name because, as you can see on the map above, the route resembles a triangle. Most tours begin in Delhi because it’s the easiest location to fly into for foreign visitors. From there, the common route is to travel to Agra and visit the Taj Mahal and other attractions. The third stop is to traverse the desert region of Rajasthan and stop in Jaipur. There, most visitors will explore The Amber Fort and other attractions before returning to Delhi.
The total distanced traveled is about 720 km or 450 miles. There are train and bus options between all cities, but most tourists travel with a tour group. This means driving about 4-6 hours per leg of the journey depending on traffic. As I mentioned, a tour is the smartest way to see these three cities. Northern India is hectic and intimidating to travel without a local guide. I found Delhi to be incredible, but even more chaotic than I imagined from media and online research. Urban herding, lack of public services and 19 million inhabitants made it a very intense start to the trip.
The Best Golden Triangle Tour - G Adventures
I selected my tour company on the recommendation of a friend and after some serious research and comparison online. If you regularly read Robe Trotting, you know that Mike and I are extreme with our travel preparation. This was no different, even though the itinerary was planned for me.
I decided to book my India tour through G Adventures after scouring reviews and listening to a friend rave about the company. G Adventures India has a great reputation and their search, comparison and booking process is fantastic. Their online booking is easy, informative and user-friendly. So is their knowledgable customer service staff who I wanted to walk me through and confirm everything before I clicked “book now”.
I also wanted to book this tour company because they have a dedication to sustainable travel. Beyond that, they create projects along the way to positively influence the destinations in which they operate. For example, in Delhi, we ate at Kitchen With a Cause. It’s a restaurant that is owned and operated by former homeless residents of Delhi. It’s funded by a grant through G Adventures and I was happy to know that the money I spent there went back into the local community.
Beyond that, G Adventures India has a ton of options. At the time of writing this, G Adventures has 43 India tours with a variety of locations, physical activities, length of itineraries, prices, travel modes and service levels. Their tours of India are inexpensive and they often run sales – I was able to book during a 30% off sale. This kept the cost under $90 per day with flights, hotels, transportation and all activities and optional excursions.
Visiting Delhi, India - Stop 1
As I mentioned, most tours begin in Delhi because it’s the easiest airport to fly into India. I arrived late to Delhi and waited to be processed through the visa and passport checkpoint. Even though I applied for an e-visa and was approved, the lines in the airport were slow-moving and took a long time. Luckily, my driver waited for me and transferred me to the hotel. I was able to arrange the airport transfer through G Adventures when I booked the trip. I passed out at the hotel and had a full day tour the next day. I wish I had more time and recommend planning a 2 day Delhi itinerary to see more than I did.
In Delhi, you’ll want to take in the highlights like Red Fort in Old Delhi. It’s located in the neighborhood which dates back to the 1600s. Another must-see attraction is the Jama Masjid mosque. It’s massive in size and the courtyard can hold up to 25,000 worshippers. Chandni Chowk bazaar is also a cool place to visit in Delhi. It’s a vibrant and bustling marketplace filled with food carts and spice stands. I picked up some souvenirs and wandered the maze of the market.
With a G Adventures trip you’ll spend the day on a guided walking tour that covers these highlights. It’s done with guides from City Walk, a G Adventures supported program that employs former at-risk youth as guides. This gives you a unique perspective and you support the education of these university students.
Touring Agra, India - Stop 2
After being introduced to India through chaotic Delhi, my tour moved on to Agra. This is the most common second stop in any India Golden Triangle tour. I was happy to leave the congested city and couldn’t wait to visit the Taj Mahal. It was surreal to realize that I would soon be standing before one of the 7 Wonders of the World. The experience was incredible – I describe it in a lot more detail in this post HERE.
Our tour also included a visit to The Red Fort – yes, there’s another one in Agra. It’s actually where the Mughal Dynasty held the capital of their empire until the mid-1600s, when they moved it to Delhi. The fort is massive and the design is quite impressive. From the inside you have a fantastic view of The Taj Mahal and learn a lot about the man who had it built. Our guides were fantastic and the tour lacked nothing.
Visiting Jaipur - Stop 3
I knew almost nothing about Jaipur, the third city of India’s Golden Triangle. I read up on it a bit before my trip. However, besides consulting the Lonely Planet India book that I got for Christmas that year, I had almost no expectations. That’s usually when I end up falling for a city – when I go into it with few to know assumptions. And that’s what happened with Jaipur. From the three cities of India’s Golden Triangle, Jaipur won me over with its low-key allure. You can read more about my time in Jaipur HERE.
Jaipur doesn’t have the clout of a crowded capital like Delhi. She doesn’t have the world-wide wonder that comes with the Taj Mahal. Still, Jaipur will capture your heart with unassuming attractions like The Water Palace, City Palace and The Amber Fort. I was immediately in love with the old city and its pink walls. The people were so friendly and the local artisans we met demonstrated how to make fabrics and polish locally mined jewels. There are even some amazing road trips from Jaipur if you visit on your own or can book excursions. Once you see Jaipur for yourself you’ll know why it’s a leg of the India Golden Triangle tour.
This was also the city where our group really started to form. I realized how important it was to do a group trip for a destination like India. I’m not afraid to travel by myself, and I didn’t know anyone on the tour when we arrived. You could say that all of us alone were together – but by Jaipur we had started to bond and really enjoy each other.
I’m also really glad that we had a guide to help us plan our time. Even when we had unscheduled time to explore the city, we were told what to avoid and offered arrangements for transport and pre-booking at attractions through our guide. Our guide took us to a really cool street food park in Jaipur that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. He helped us with everything from getting SIM cards for our phone to getting us stamps to send postcards home.
Variations to the Golden Triangle Tour of India
As mentioned, G Adventures offers a large portfolio of tour options. I took a month-long tour that went from the Golden Triangle cities in the north to golden beaches of Varkala and Goa in the south. It included stops in Mumbai, Fort Kochi and the backwaters region of Alleppey and Kollam. My tour was designed for travelers between age 18 and 39 and had a basic service level. It’s designed to move fast and cover a lot of ground with no-frills travel. It guarantees 3-star and above hotels but spares some luxury for a fantastic trip with good value. I cant recomend the experience enough. The full details, current prices and trip itinerary can be found HERE.
The G Adventures India Golden Triangle Tour includes a few stops between Agra and Jaipur. On the trip you stop at the now-deserted city of Fatephur Sikri. It’s the former capital of the Mughal Empire and a well-preserved UNESCO site. That night you stay in the rural village of Dhula which is designed to give you a taste of local life. We had a similar experience staying in a local village called Tordi Sagar on my tour. It was a highlight to visit the local village and farms.
The Golden Triangle tour is a classic tour, so the lodging is upgraded and the service level is a step above the tour that I completed. It begins in Delhi and finished there with private vehicle or coach bus transportation. To view the 8-day G Adventures India details, current prices and itinerary click HERE.
How to Book a G Adventures India Golden Triangle Tour
Booking any of the tours offered by G Adventures is simple. Their process is simple and they walk you through everything required of you from passport and visa acquisition to packing lists and travel insurance. They can even book your airport transfers and help plan your trip with dietary and activity restrictions in mind. Here’s what to expect when booking:
Find the Right Tour
Select a tour, dates and reserve your spot online from their website. You can use the buttons below to read up on and select a tour. Click below for the Golden Triangle tour, the North to South tour or review other tour options.
Find a Flight
Find a flight on your own or use G Adventures to book your flights. You can get a free, non-binding flight quote if you call their customer service department. The phone number is on their website. For my India trip they even helped me plan an extra few day in Varanasi and created a flight itinerary to help me make it happen.
I recommend checking online so you can compare your own flight quotes. For India I found that G Adventures could offer me a cheaper flight than the ones I found online. When Mike and I did a G Adventures safari a few months later I found cheaper airfare on SkyScanner with this link. We always find them to be the best for publicly available flights.
Apply for a Visa or e-Visa to India
Check the requirements on entering India for citizens of your country. As an American, I was able to apply for an e-visa or an on-demand visa when I landed. For G Adventures, I was required to show proof of my visa prior to traveling. They call it being “good to go” and they help you along once you reserve your spot online.
Check visa requirements and apply for an e-visa (if possible) by clicking HERE.
Get Travel Insurance
Part of being “good to go” with G Adventures is having travel insurance. I booked mine online with World Nomads and have used them ever since. G Adventures requires that you are covered from the moment you leave your home to the moment you fly back and walk in the door again. Keep this in mind when you enter your dates for coverage. You’ll have to upload proof of your coverage into your online profile with G Adventures.
The best and easiest travel insurance can be booked HERE through World Nomads.
Print Your Important Documents
At this point you should be good to go – literally. Some destinations may have other requirements, but G Adventures is super good at making sure you’re aware of what’s required before you travel.
Print out copies of your trip itinerary, flight information and boarding passes, visa information, travel insurance documents and make copies of your passport. It’s also a smart idea to locate the embassy information for your country and any consulates that you’ll be traveling near. It’s always better to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Count Down the Days
Once you’re set with your travel plans all you have to do is contain your excitement until it’s time to leave. You can download the G Adventures app and possibly connect with your tour-mates before the trip. It’s mostly helpful to track your itinerary as you’re traveling.
Read as much about the destinations you’re visiting as possible. I mentioned it earlier, but the Lonely Planet India book was my bedtime reading for a good month before I took off to Delhi. Check them out to help you learn about your upcoming experiences and determine what optional excursions you want to do on the trip.
Let’s Keep in Touch!
Have you been to India’s Golden Triangle? What did you think?
Leave a comment below and let us know. I still haven’t convinced Mike to go back with me – maybe you can! 🙂
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