Days 1 to 8
New Delhi to Jaipur
New Delhi is your first stop. A mad melting pot with a hugely-colourful atmosphere, it's teeming with people (14 million!) as well as India's heritage.
After transferring to the grand Imperial Hotel, we'd spend the rest of the day exploring the city. New Delhi is the beautifully-planned city the British built when they moved the capital from Calcutta, courtesy of architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Begun in 1911, its wide boulevards radiate out from the boutiques and cafés of Connaught Place with the Imperial Mall, and the Rajpath, leading to the impressive India Gate war memorial.
'Old' Delhi, with its teeming bazaars, lively traders and winding alleys, is from the 17th century and dominated by the immense Jama Masjid or Great Mosque. To its east is Lal Qila (the Red Fort). Named after its sandstone walls, this huge palace stands at the end of a busy shopping street, Chandna Chowk – but through the impressive Lahore Gate, the pristine lawns and tranquil halls are something of a surprise.
After two days in New Delhi, take the early train to Agra – well-organised and efficient, India's railways are by far the best way to get around the country.
Agra, of course, is home to the Taj Mahal, India's most popular tourist site. And your hotel, the fabulous Oberoi Amarvilas, is only 600m or so away – so you'll have front row views throughout your stay. Built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, the Taj Mahal took 20,000 workmen 22 years to complete. However many pictures you've seen the reality is even more breathtaking, especially at sunrise, sunset or under moonlight, when the marble seems to change colour. Absolutely mesmerising!
Before leaving Agra visit the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri too, just an hour's drive away. Built around 1575 it was virtually abandoned within 20 years, and its well-preserved palaces make it a really atmospheric destination.
From here take the train to possibly the most exciting part of our journey – Ranthambore National Park. A spectacular mass of untamed jungle hemmed by ribbons of rocky ridges, Ranthambore is a vast expanse of wild and wondrous protected parkland and part of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
Here, wildlife is left to roam amongst an almost-surreal scattering of historic relics, including the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort. A Maharajas' hunting ground until 1970, this is the only place in Rajasthan to spot wild tigers. The luxurious tents of the Oberoi Vanyavilas feel like a royal hunting party – although the only shooting here is with your camera, over two days tracking tigers, panthers, crocodiles and more (remember to take plenty of extra memory).