The loop from Delhi to Agra and Jaipur packs a lot of wonders into a few days of driving. Begin the adventure in Delhi, where the ruins of eight cities tell the story of India’s greatest Islamic empires. Hit the city’s highlights, including Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, the Jama Masjid and the bazaars of Chandni Chowk, which have changed only superficially since Shah Jahan’s time.
With your own vehicle, it’s easy to swing by the sacred cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, where Krishna frolicked with milkmaids in the Hindu epics. After these peaceful stops, steel yourself for a mix of the stressful and sublime in Agra, where the glorious Taj Mahal more than lives up to its reputation, as compensation for the hassles and scams. Find more Mughal magnificence at nearby Fatehpur Sikri, the abandoned city founded by Akbar. Once you follow NH21 to Jaipur, you’ll share every fort, palace and mystical observatory with a crowd, so make the most of your experience with a detour.
Before zooming west from Fatehpur Sikri to Jaipur, consider a detour south to Gwalior, whose beautiful fort is less mobbed than other stops on this circuit. Before you complete the third side of the triangle, tack on one more detour to spot tigers stalking ruined battlements in Ranthambhore National Park before diving back into the urban chaos.