About North India
New Delhi, the capital of India, has direct flights from Europe, Asia and the Gulf, so it is convenient as the starting point or the final destination of one’s tour. Besides high- budget hotels, low-budget ones like Hotel Central Point, are also available. Reservations for these may not be made outside India, but the information counter at Delhi airport helps with hotels for various budgets and also with reservations. Visitors are advised to be cautious and deal only with authorised agents.
Connaught Place, the core business district, is convenient for shopping; also many airlines have their offices located here. There is a reservation counter inside Jeevan Bharati. One can make reservations for travel within the country at the Indian Airlines office, nearby. Galgotia Bookshop and the New Book Depot, stock books on architecture. Archaeological Survey of India’s publications are on sale at the counter inside the National Museum. The bookshop will freight the books you buy, to your address back home, for a fee. Janpath Street has the offices of the Survey of India that sells maps of the region.
Delhi is historically, a very important city. One can sight-see in a taxi or by auto rickshaw. It is sometimes difficult however, to get transport to Delhi or New Delhi station to catch the night train. If you do get a taxi, be prepared to pay an exorbitant rate.
Chandigarh and Amritsar are two cities which are accessible by air and rail. Chandigarh is 3 hours from Delhi by the Shatabdi Express while Amritsar is five-and-a-half hours away. Express buses ply between the two cities.
Amritsar International is a good hotel, while in Chandigarh, hotels near Piccadilly are recommended. Foreigners are not allowed entry into Le Corbusier\'s Capitol complex.
Broad gauge trains ply from Kalka. They are metre-gauge from Kalka to Shimla. One can also fly to Shimla which is five hours by road from Chandigarh and seven hours from Rampur. A taxi from Rampur to Sarahan takes one-and-a-half hours. It is advisable to stay at Hotel Shrikhand, near Bhima Kali Temple. One can hire a van to visit Kamru, Hatkoti and south Sarahan. Manali, is ten and a half hours by road from Shimla. Reservations for the Castle Hotel at Nagar, can be made at the tourist office in Kullu. Chamba in the west, is five hours from Pathankot, while Pathankot to Amritsar is a three-hour trip. Bharmaur is accessible by bus from Chamba, but a taxi is safer and a one-way ride takes three-and-a-half hours. While in Chamba, Hotel Irawati is a good place to stay at. A convenient midway halt for the above destinations is Mandi or Kullu. Take a bus or a taxi to the temples.
When Kashmir became a disputed territory in the 1980s, entry for foreigners into the area has been periodically banned. Visit Kashmir at any time of the year, except winters. Kashmir\'s climate is cooler than that of the rest of India and therefore the hot Indian summers (April-May) is peak season here. Kashmir has had negligible tourist traffic due to the turmoil. The army has taken up most of the hotels, but tourists can stay in the houseboats on Dal Lake. Staying in one of the deluxe houseboats is a rare and remarkable experience.
After negotiating the price at the taxi-stand, you can arrange for a daily taxi pick-up and visit the gardens and ruins of Kashmir. It is pleasant to have lunch surrounded by all the greenery with the sound of running water, so a packed lunch would be a good idea.
The bus journey from Srinagar to Ladakh takes two days. The mountain passes are sealed off in winter so buses ply only between June and October. Ladakh can also be accessed by air, but be careful about altitude sickness, when flying in.
When in Ladakh, stay in Leh and perhaps one night in Kargil. Ga-Ldan Continental, in Leh is a good, simple hotel. The gompas (monasteries) can be visited every day by hiring a taxi from the taxi stand, for an agreed upon price. The rates are higher than in the plains as one has no bargaining power here. You are allowed inside the gompas for a fee but there is no charge for photography.
All the monasteries can be seen in a day\'s trip, except for Lamayaru, for which a halt at Alchi, is essential. The only accommodation here is one of two inns standing adjacent to each other. It is better to stock up on food and water in Leh. If travelling by taxi from Srinagar, one can stop en route at Murbek. It is then possible to visit Lamayaru and stay overnight at Alchi; an expensive option, as it takes three nights to reach Leh. Drivers can also be hired in Kargil, but they will need the required travel permit.
The Shatabdi Express runs from Delhi to Agra and back, on a day’s trip. If on an architectural tour, stay in Agra or Sikandra for two days, then take in Fatehpur Sikri on the third day.
Agra has a number of starred hotels. Grand Hotel, which is medium budget, is fairly good. Autos provide for comfortable transportation so it is better to engage one for the entire day. Visit Fatehpur Sikri by taxi, but if one wishes to merely go there and back, take a bus. Meals in Fatehpur Sikri are available near Buland Gate. The Delhi-Agra-Jaipur triangle is connected by rail and bus routes. For Brindavan, take the bus to Mathura, (1 hour 30 minutes) and then return in a taxi, after visiting the museum.
If you have a tight schedule, take the air-route, Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi. The Shatabdi Express from Delhi takes 6 hours, or one can fly to Lucknow and take the five hour bus/train journey to Allahabad. The Allahabad-Varanasi leg is 3 hours. Taking the overnight train from Lucknow saves time. A good choice of hotels is Hotel Gomti in Lucknow, President Hotel in Allahabad and the luxury hotel Clarks Varanasi, or the tourist bungalow in Varanasi. Both, are some distance away from the ghats. Sarnath, in the northern outskirts of the city is accessible by auto. You can go to Jaunpur by bus or taxi and return on the same day.