There are several places to visit over the weekend or for a day trip from Delhi. Here is a list primarily for myself and friends of such places. These include mostly places that I have visited myself.
Please note that several of these places would be done better, if you include an extra day i.e friday or monday or do it over a long weekend of 4-5 days as traffic and road conditions make it difficult to cover much distance for a reasonable trip in India unlike US or other western countries.
Common ones, first choice, if you haven’t seen them before:
* Agra – Famous for Tajmahal & Fatehpur Sikri (which is about 25 km from Agra). Agra is appx 200 km from Delhi & it takes about 3.5 to 4 hours on average each side.
* Mathura & Vrindavan – It is en-route to Agra from Delhi – Appx 150 km from Delhi. It is famous for temples & ashrams & birth place of Lord Krishna. A good place to visit, if you into this but can skip, if you are not too fond of crowded places. It can get very crowded especially on weekends.
You can do both Agra & Mathura in one day, if you leave early or you can spread it over 2 days.
* Jaipur – Appx 200 km from Delhi in Rajasthan, famous for its palaces, handicrafts, Rajasthani food & culture.
* Ajmer Sharif – Appx 50 km from Jaipur, Holy shrine of Khwaja Ajmer sharif attracts a lot of visitors. It is one of most sacred shrines in India.
* Pushkar - Appx 20 Km from Ajmer sharif, famous for its Bramha temple, food & culture that attracts tourists from all over the world. It is probably one of the most visited (among lesser known places) by foreign tourists.
Jaipur, Ajmer Sharif & Pushkar can be done in appx 3-4 days comfortably. If you want to cover other places in Rajasthan (which are certainly worth visiting) such as Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer etc you need several additional days.
If you love mountains or are planning to travel in summers, here are the destinations up north. Again, first the most popular but a bit crowded ones:
Shimla: Appx 250 km from Delhi in Himachal Pradesh – Good Road, you can reach in appx 7 hours. It used to summer capital of India during British Rule. It still is a very popular choice to beat heat of people from Delhi & nearby areas. Shimla has several places nearby for local sightseeing. You can do Shimla in 2 days, but a 3 day weekend would be better.
Mussorie: Appx 250 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a nice hill station has good hotels & sight seeing. Can get crowded during summers so try to do hotel booking in advance. It would take appx 3 days to cover Mussourie & nearby places.
Nainital: Appx 300 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a nice hill station surrounding a lake with many nearby local sightseeing places. You need appx 3-4 days for Nainital.
Landsdown: Appx 200 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a quiet militray cantonment can be done. Make sure you don’t reach there after 6pm as most of the market closes by then. Leave Delhi early morning so that you can reach Landsdown by noon.
Kasauli – Kasauli is also a miltiray cantonment hill station in Himachal Pradesh, 50 km before shimla. You can leave friday after noon. A quiet place with nice weather.
Chail – 40 Km from Kasauli on route to Shimla is also a good hill station in Himachal pradesh. There are about a dozen hotels to choose from. Can be done in 2-3 days & can be combined with Kasuali & shimla if you have additional days.
Parwanoo – Timber trail resort in Parwanoo is a recent destination that has become favorite among weekend travelers. The resort is great with awesome views. You reach the resort via a Gandola. Advance booking of the resort is highly recommended.
Other destinations that one can cover over the weekend or in 3-4-5 days are Chandigarh, Amritsar in Punjab. Dalhousie, Kulu, Manali, Dharamshala, Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.
Rishikesh & Kudiala: Rishikesh (Shivpuri) & Kudiala have surfaced as very popular destination for river rafting among adventure seeking travelers. Shivpuri is appx 240 km from Delhi. This itenerary can comfortably done in a regular weekend. If you leave on friday afternoon, you can reach Rishikesh late night, can do rafting for 2 days i.e sat / sunday & come back by sunday evening. There are dozens of tour organizers for river rafting and camping for Shivpuri & Kudiala. They charge anywhere between INT 2000 – 4000 per person for the whole weekend including camping in tents, rafting & meals. You can also contact Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), govt of Utrakhand for booking of the package.
There are many other exotic places if you have a few more days i.e 5-7 days that I would cover in one of the other posts. Feel free to ask questions or clarifications via comments.