situated close to historic Delhi, cradle of numerous civilisations and cultures, the corner-stones of this trip—Agra, Khajuraho and Varanasi—witnessed astonishing bursts of creative energy from various dynasties. For this reason, they represent many of the images India has projected over the centuries. The finest quintessence of medieval and Mughal art and architecture in the northern states, they are major tourist attractions. Consequently, the pace of life is generally hectic and crowded, but in Agra and Khajuraho transport and hotels are a marked improvement on those in many other parts of the country. The sights themselves are consistently good, and rarely disappoint. Within the same region are other less well-known towns worth the effort of taking a small detour to visit.
Agra is the Mughal city of the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, and the most extravagant monument to love ever built. Also at Agra, magnificent palaces and mausoleums, gardens and handicrafts, an imposing fort and (at nearby Fatehpur Sikri) a ghost city of poignant grandeur. At least two days for each city is recommended as a minimum stay. South of Agra is the Maratha city of Gwalior, dominated by one of the finest forts in India. A further 120 km (75 miles) south from Gwalior, and a slight detour from the road to Khajuraho, is the charming and little changed 16th-century town of Orchha on the banks of the Betwa river. South-east of Agra, below the great central plateau of Madhya Pradesh, are the graceful temples of Khajuraho, creation of the eclectic Chandella kings. Once seen, never forgotten. To the north-east of Khajuraho, and back in Uttar Pradesh, is the holiest of India’s sacred cities, Varanasi or Benares. The cities are well connected to each other by air and there is a daily flight in both directions (IC407/408 ) that links Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi-Kathmandu.
Season: October to March.
Climate: 11°-48°C (summer); 2°-32°C (winter).
Monsoons: Mid-June to September.
Route duration: 5 to 8 days.
Delhi to Agra 204 km (327 miles)
One flight daily-IC407 at Rs525 throughout the year and between October and March there is usually a second flight. From Agra airport to town centre (8 km; 5 miles) it costs Rs30 by airport bus (which is not always available), Rs30 by cycle-rickshaw, Rs40 by auto-rickshaw, Rs30 /90 by taxi. Bargain hard for these rates.
Agra is on the main line between Delhi and southern India. Numerous trains stop throughout the day and night but there are two excellent express trains connecting the two great Mughal capitals. Both these are considerably more reliable than the flights and a lot less traumatic than the drive.
The fast Shatabdi Express and Taj Express can work out even quicker than the plane. Both leave New Delhi Station early in the morning and return at about 10 pm. Tickets are purchased in advance from the Tourist Counters at the respective stations, or from an agent. He is always advisable to both the return leg in advice too. Jhansi is :he best rail connection for Khajuraho.
Shatabdi Express Timings NEW – AGRA – GWALIOR – JHANSI – BHOPAL DELHI CANT :635 –. 0830 -, 0930 -, 3040 –. 3400 2220 .- 2033 .– 3855 ,- 3750 ,– 3440 Taj Express Timings 3700 -. 0950 -. 1350 2220 •- 3835 3700 Shatabdi Express Train Tariffs (Rs: Executive class/1st class) DELHI – 200/400 255/530 300/600 420/840 AGRA 200/400 – 335/230 165/330 325/650 GWALIOR 255/510 335/230 – 330/220 275/550 JHANSI 330/600 365/330 330/220 – 240/480 BHOPAL 420/840 325/650 275/550 240/480 -