Focusing on the highlights of one of India's regions in 12 days makes for an excellent introduction to this vast county. Lovers of architecture and history will not be disappointed: each corner of India is chock full of heritage monuments and impressive sacred sites. Nature and wildlife lovers can opt for one of the national parks, while those looking for an adventure will be fascinated by the rugged beauty of Ladakh, tucked in the Himalayan mountains.

Itinerary #1: Highlights of Northern India: Delhi to Kolkata

This 12-day highlights itinerary packs in some of the most iconic spots in Northern India, including the Golden Triangle of Delhi-Jaipur-Agra. It provides an excellent introduction for first-time visitors, with a few standout experiences thrown in, including the chance to see the sun rise over the Taj Mahal, a boat trip on the Ganges River in Varanasi, and a Delhi street food tour.

Taj Mahal in Agra
Sunrise over the Taj Mahal in Agra
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Delhi Delhi
Day 2 Delhi Highlights & Evening Food Tour Delhi
Day 3 Transfer to Jaipur, Visit the Monkey Temple Jaipur
Day 4 Jaipur Bike Tour & Cooking Class Jaipur
Day 5 Transfer to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri Agra
Day 6 Train to Jhansi, Transfer to Orchha Agra
Day 7 Explore the Lost City of Orchha, Transfer to Khajuraho Agra
Day 8 Tour the Temples of Khajuraho, Fly to Varanasi  Khajuraho
Day 9 Varanasi Sunrise Boat Trip, Visit Sarnath & University Varanasi
Day 10 Fly to Kolkata Varanasi
Day 11 Kolkata City Tour Kolkata
Day 12 Depart Kolkata Kolkata

Your 12-day adventure begins in Delhi, where you'll marvel at the India Gate memorial, historic Mughal-era Red Fort, and 17th-century Jama Masjid, one of India's largest mosques. An evening food tour will introduce you to tasty snacks served by curbside vendors. Your next stop is Jaipur, Rajasthan's pink city, making a halt at the famed Monkey Temple. The following day starts with a sunrise bicycle tour, a visit to the City Palace, and UNESCO-listed Amer Palace Fort before ending the day with a cooking class.

The third corner of the Golden Triangle is Agra, home of the iconic Taj Mahal, where you'll arrive after a halt at the historic 16th-century Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri. After experiencing the Taj Mahal at sunrise, you'll board a train to Jhansi and transfer to the island city of Orchha, where you'll explore its temples and palaces. Then it's on to Khajuraho and its sublime UNESCO-listed temple, covered with erotic sculptures. In Varanasi, the Hindu holy city, you'll take a sunrise boat trip along the Ganges River before ending the tour in Kolkata. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Tiger Lands of Central India

This 12-day temple and tiger tour of Central India combines historical sites with nature and wildlife. Historical highlights include a sightseeing tour of the bustling capital Delhi, a sunrise visit of the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, and the UNESCO-listed Khajuraho Temple. Spot tigers and other wildlife during the sunrise and sunset wildlife safaris through two of India's most significant national parks.

Bengal tiger on a sunrise safari
Go in search of the elusive Bengal tiger on a sunrise safari
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Delhi  Delhi
Day 2 Delhi Sightseeing Tour  Delhi
Day 3 Delhi to Agra  Agra
Day 4 Sunrise at Taj Mahal, Agra to Gwalior  Gwalior
Day 5 Gwalior to Orchha  Orchha
Day 6 Orchha to Khajuraho  Khajuraho
Day 7 Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh  Bandhavgarh
Day 8 Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh National Park  Bandhavgarh
Day 9 Bandhavgarh to Kanha  Kanha
Day 10 Kanha National Park Safari  Kanha
Day 11 Kanha to Delhi via Jabalpur  Delhi
Day 12 Depart Delhi Delhi

Begin in Delhi with a sightseeing trip of its historical charms, including the 17th century Red Fort, Jama Masjid, busy Chandni Chowk market, and India Gate memorial. Next, you'll travel to Agra to see its imposing red sandstone Agra Fort and a trip highlight: the celebrated Taj Mahal, which you'll visit at sunrise when its white marble facade turns golden. Then it's on to Gwalior and its massive sixth-century fort. The next day's drive takes you to historic Orchha, an island city complex of palaces, and the following day to Khajuraho, famous for its temple carved with erotic sculptures. 

The second part of the tour has an outdoorsy theme. On Day 7, you'll arrive at Bandhavgarh National Park in time for a sunset safari and the chance to spot Bengal tigers, wild boar, leopards, spotted deer, jackals, and sloth bears. These elusive animals need time; that's why you can join sunrise and afternoon safaris the next day. You'll spend the following two days at Kanha National Park, a tiger reserve since 1973. On Day 11, you'll catch a flight from Jabalpur to Delhi, from where you'll depart the next day. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Southern India: Tamil Nadu & Kerala

This well-rounded 12-day itinerary showcases the highlights of the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some of South India's most impressive temples. Then experience the hilly landscapes of the Western Ghats mountain range, take a stroll through tea plantations, and a slow sail along the serene Kerala backwaters.

Shore Temple complex in Mahabalipuram
Explore the Shore Temple complex in Mahabalipuram
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Chennai, Transfer to Mahabalipuram Mahabalipuram
Day 2 Explore Shore Temple, Transfer to Pondicherry Pondicherry
Day 3 Explore Pondicherry Pondicherry
Day 4 Discover Chola Dynasty Temples, Transfer to Thanjavur Thanjavur
Day 5 Transfer to Chettinad  Chettinad
Day 6 Transfer to Madurai, Visit Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple Madurai
Day 7 Transfer to Munnar Munnar
Day 8 Explore Periyar, Transfer to Thekkady Thekkady
Day 9 Explore Periyar National Park Thekkady
Day 10 Cruise Kerala Backwaters at Kumarakom Kumarakom
Day 11 Transfer to Cochin Cochin
Day 12 Depart Cochin  

On arrival at Chennai airport, your driver will whisk you off to Mahabalipuram, the first stop of your tour. Marvel at seventh and eighth-century UNESCO-listed monuments, including the Shore Temple and Rathas—temples shaped as chariots. Next, you'll take a drive to charming Pondicherry, a former French colonial town on the Bay of Bengal. On the way to Thanjavur, you'll stop at the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, dedicated to Shiva in his form as the Lord of Dance, and two UNESCO-listed temples: the Brihadisvara Temple in Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Airavateswara Temple in Darasuram.

In Tanjavur, explore the great Brihadishvara Temple before moving on to Chettinad to see its richly-decorated palatial mansions and Thirumayam Fortress. You'll continue to Madurai the next day, home to the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, one of South India's biggest. Then it's on to Kerala via the hilly Western Ghats and a stop at a tea plantation. Visiting a spice plantation is another highlight, as is the Periyar Tiger Reserve, a performance of the martial art kalaripayattu, and a cruise of the scenic backwaters on a traditional boat. Your tour ends in charming Fort Cochin. Learn more 

Itinerary #4: Diverse Beauty of Gujarat

This 12-day trip explores the vibrant state of Gujarat, known for its age-old archaeological monuments, Jain temples and step-wells, colorful hand-woven textiles, and nature and wildlife. High points of the tour include a Jeep safari through the Little Rann of Kutch, the Islamic architecture of UNESCO-listed Champaner, and breathtaking Palitana, a Jain holy city.

Rann of Kutch
The dried salt marshes of Rann of Kutch
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ahmedabad Ahmedabad
Day 2 Walking Tour of Ahmedabad, Modhera & Patan Ahmedabad
Day 3 Baroda & Champaner Day Trip Ahmedabad
Day 4 Transfer to Dasada Dasada
Day 5 Little Rann of Kutch: Jeep Safari & Village Visit Gujarat
Day 6 Dasada to Palitana via Lothal Palitana
Day 7 Climb Shatrunjaya Hill, Transfer to Gondal Gondal
Day 8 Tour Gondal Gondal
Day 9 Transfer to Bhuj Bhuj
Day 10 Day Trip to Dholavira Bhuj
Day 11 Explore Villages Near Bhuj, Including Mandvi Bhuj
Day 12 Fly to Mumbai, Depart India  

Get to know the fascinating city of Ahmedabad, where your trip kicks off with a heritage walking tour. Later that day, you'll explore two Jain holy sites: the Sun Temple at Modhera and the step-well at Adalaj. Fifteenth-century Champaner is your subsequent halt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of 114 historical monuments and Islamic buildings. Then it's on to Dasada, where you'll stay at an eco-resort set in wetlands and explore the Little Rann of Kutch on a Jeep safari the next day. A stop in Palitana is a highlight: this sacred city of 1,300 temples is a renowned Jain pilgrimage site.

Next, after seeing the picturesque Gondal and its palaces, you'll drive to Bhuj, famed for its colorful weaving and block-printed fabrics, to explore the hilltop Bhujia Fortress, the palaces of Aina Mahal and Prag Mahal, and the Kutch Museum—Gujarat's oldest. A day trip to Dholavira takes you to a fascinating 4,500-year-old archaeological site. Another must-see is Mandvi in the Gulf of Kutch on the edge of the Arabian Sea and its opulent Vijay Vilas Palace. On Day 12, you'll head to Mumbai to catch your flight home. Learn more 

Itinerary #5: Little Tibet Trek: Delhi to the Himalaya

This adventurous 12-day hiking tour of India's Ladakh region is ideal for avid trekkers and intrepid travelers keen to learn about Tibetan culture. Follow the old Silk Road through Himalayan mountain landscapes, stopping at Buddhist monasteries and bedding down at guesthouses, campsites, and village homestays.

Trek to remote monasteries
Trek to remote monasteries on this Himalayan adventure
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Delhi Delhi
Day 2 Fly to Leh Leh
Day 3 Leh City & Monastery Tour: Shey Palace, Thiksey & Hemis Leh
Day 4 Trek from Leh to Likir via Phyang Likir
Day 5 Trek from Likir to Yangthang via Sumbo Yangthang
Day 6 Trek from Yangthang to Rizong Monastery Yangthang
Day 7 Trek from Yangthang to Hemis Shukpachen Hemis Hemis
Day 8 Trek from Hemis Shukpachen to Themisgam via Ang Ang
Day 9 Trek from Tia to Skinding via Chamla Pass Tia
Day 10 Trek from Skindying to Khaltse, Transfer to Leh Leh
Day 11 Fly to Delhi Delhi
Day 12 Depart Delhi  

Your adventure begins in Delhi, India's capital, where you can relax and recover from jet lag before flying to Leh early the following day. On arrival, you'll need some time to adjust gradually to the high altitude. Spend a chilled day visiting the nine-story Leh Palace dominating the city's skyline, and browse the vibrant bazaars while imagining the time this was a trading stop on the Silk Route from China. On Day 3, you'll get an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by exploring nearby monasteries, temples, and palaces. 

Your trek begins on Day 4 with a short two-hour hike; each day, this will increase, building up to six hours of walking per day. You'll be following river paths and climbing mountain passes, including the Chamla Pass at 13,615 feet (4,150 m), one of the highest. On the way, you'll stop at Buddhist monasteries and visit a remote Tibetan Buddhist nunnery. At night you'll retire for a restful sleep at guesthouses, camps, or village homestays, staying with local families in traditional mountain villages. Learn more

More Great 12-Day Destination Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to India? Check out these other 12-day India itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.


Map of 12 Days in India - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 12 Days in India - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas