Independent travel in India

MY HUSBAND, 17-YEAR-OLD SON AND MYSELF ARE KEEN TO VISIT INDIA FOR ABOUT THREE WEEKS DURING THE CHRISTMAS SCHOOL HOLIDAYS. DO WE HEAD NORTH, SOUTH OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN? WE ARE USUALLY INDEPENDENT TRAVELLERS. IS THAT POSSIBLE IN INDIA? WE LOVE HISTORY, FOOD AND A BIT OF FUN. CAN YOU SUGGEST AN ITINERARY?

S. BRACKEN, KELLYVILLE 

Northern India is prime at Christmas, and especially the state of Rajasthan since the fierce heat of the desert is blunted by winter's icy breath. Rajasthan, "Land of Kings", is India's paint box, one of the most colourful and likeable regions in a country that specialises in the flamboyant. Palaces, warrior kings, camel fairs, elephants, peacocks and desert cities that might have sprung from The Arabian Nights – every exotic notion finds its feet in Rajasthan. 

What you could do is fly into Delhi and spend a couple of days seeing the sights of the capital, then head south to Agra to take in the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri then continue to Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan and the entry point for most visitors. From there you might travel in a meandering loop through the state to take in Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. You could do this trip either by rail or road but a car with a driver would be your best choice. This itinerary would keep you busy for around two weeks. For the final week you could fly south to Kochi in Kerala, spend a couple of days exploring the wonderful old spice port of Fort Cochin and take a houseboat cruise on the backwaters. 

Independent travel is fine if you've already travelled in other parts of Asia that require flexibility, resourcefulness and a tough disposition at times, such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. However India is chaotic and confronting and not easy until you adjust your expectations. For first time visitors a guided tour is a safer proposition. 

If you want to do it in style, contact Delhi-based Banyan Tours, banyantours.com, who can put together a top-notch trip, tailored to your specifications. Another cheaper option is Ram World Travel, ramworldtravel.com.au,based in Sydney.

History, food and fun are no problem, you'll have them all in spades.

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