Itinerary: How to Experience Northern India 9 Days

From deserts to mountains, Delhi local Ariel Sophia Bardi shares her top experiences in northern India.


Photo © iStock/Oleh_Slobodeniuk

Delhi: 3 Days

India’s mega-metropolis boasts residents from all corners of the country, and has a palette to match.

Before all those on-the-road dhaba meals, treat yourself with a sit-down dinner at Potbelly, a Bihari fusion joint in hipster Shahpur Jat.

Wander the medieval ruins in nearby Hauz Khas Village, and indulge in a bit of Delhi’s pub culture.

But don’t overdo it! You’ll still have to tick off a list of Mughal sites, from the world-famous Humayun’s Tomb to the lesser-known (but arguably more appealing) Safdarjung Tomb.

Uttar Pradesh: 7 Days

Make your way by train or flight to Varanasi, the ghostly, unrelentingly chaotic Hindu holy city clinging to the banks of the Ganges.

Chai tea vendor near the river Ganges, Varanasi. Photo credit: iStock

Join prayers at the heavily-guarded Kasha Vishwanath, or Golden Temple, then hop a wooden dinghy for a sunset river ride. Spectacular aarti performances take place nightly. Better yet, wander the ghats on foot.

Love or hate the City of Shiva, you won’t soon forget it.

From Shiva’s abode, head to Krishna’s birthplace: Mathura, a picturesque pilgrim town, and nearby Vrindhavan, smaller and brimming with temples.

Time your visit with Holi, India’s festival with colors, and get clobbered with pink gulal powder!

Mathura is a short hop by bus or train from Agra, home to none other than the Taj Mahal.

Rajasthan: 6 Days

Go by bus or train from Agra to Jaipur, and explore sprawling, sun-kissed hillside forts, like Amer or Nahargarh, and check out Pink City, the rose-painted downtown.

A short bus ride takes you to Ajmer, with its magnificent, 16th century Sufi shrine, and nearby Pushkar, a laid-back, hippie-trail town famous for its annual camel festival.

Further south is glorious, lakeside Udaipur, Rajasthan’s picture-perfect White City.

Himachal Pradesh: 7 Days

From Rajasthan, catch a train to Chandigarh, a Le Corbusier-built Punjabi city.

From there, an overnight bus will take you high up the Himalayan mountains to Manali, a foggy, pine-covered resort popular with both stoners and honeymooners.

Trek to the mysterious hash hub of Malana, or to beautiful, serene Kheerganga, which has its own holy hot springs.

Indulge in momos and meditation in Dharamsala and Mcleodgang, home of the Dalai Lama and India’s exiled Tibetan community.

Jammu and Kashmir*: 9 Days

A death-defying, two-day bus ride climbs a No Man’s Land of rocky peaks to the former Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh.

Thiksey Gompa, Ladakh. Photo credit: iStock

Adjust to extreme elevations before setting out on a teahouse trek through peaceful stone villages, or tour high-altitude lakes like Pangong or Tso Moriri.

From Leh, either a short flight or another bouncy, beautiful bus ride down the mountains will take you to Srinagar – capital of the troubled, yet unforgettably alluring, region of Kashmir (check security advisories first).

Drift in a vintage houseboat on glasslike Dal Lake, or wander the tulip-filled Shalmir Bagh.

*Areas such as Jammu and Kashmir may not be covered due to government warnings. Be sure to check your government advice before you buy a policy, so you're aware of how the policy can cover you.

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  • Pamela Blair said

    Hello Ariel,

    I am an active, single woman in my 60's from Los Angeles, California, and will be arriving in Delhi a couple of days before meeting up with my tour group. I would be very interested in meeting with a local person such as yourself to enjoy a bit of Delhi from a local's perspective. This will be my first trip to India and I will be there in early December. Please let me know if you would be interested in meeting an American! Many thanks, Pam.

  • jill gocher said

    hi ariel
    thanks for your guide but there is so much you have not touched on

  • AmeliaMcGrath said

    Hi Jill,
    Are you able to give us a few tips on your favourite areas to visit, or specific things to do in Northern India?
    It's quite a large area, so it's difficult to cover all the amazing sights and sounds in one article, from one perspective. So we'd love to hear your tips too!

  • Ariel Sophia Bardi said

    Hi Pam- thanks for your comment. Feel free to shoot me an email at and we can discuss possibilities. Take care!

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