Looking at 3-4 weeks in India starting mid-March 2008.
Fly Perth - Delhi (2 nights)
Train Delhi - Agra (2 nights)
Train Agra - Jaipur (2 nights)
Fly Jaipur - Jaisalmer (2 nights)
Camel Trek Thar Desert (3-4 nights)
Jaisalmer (1 night)
Fly Jaisalmer - Jodhpur (2 nights)
Fly or train Jodhpur - Udaipur (3 nights)
Fly Udaipur - Goa (5 nights).
Fly Goa - Mumbai (2 or 3 nights)
Fly Mumbai - Perth
Question 1) Would it be better to do Bikaner rather then Jaisalmer for desert trek?
Question 2) How much would I miss if I dropped Jaipur or Jodhpur from the itinerary?
Question 3) Should I add or subtract nights from any of the stops?
Any info greatly appreciated.
I would strongly recommend you to go as early as possible. It gets very hot in India from the end of March. For example, the company I did a camel trek with in Jaiselmer do not run treks after the holi festival (around 22nd Mar) because it is too hot in the desert. I went during holi and it was incredibly hot.
Jodhpur is amazing, the blue city is a lovely atmospheric place to stay and the fort was probably my favourite in India. Jaipur didn't really agree with me, the pink city I found quite drab and lacking in atmosphere and it's very intense with persistant hawkers, rickshaw wallahs etc. I heard about some quite serious scams in Jaipur directed at westerners, so watch out. I found Jodhpur a lot more laid back and friendly.
Also, when you are in Agra, don't miss Fatephur Sikhri. It's a ghost town about an hour away on local bus. It's pretty amazing architecture and the new town has a lovely market. It's a nice break from Agra too, which is also very intense!!! You'll see what I mean!
I've travelled all the places on your list, so if you need any more advice, feel free to PM.
Following the itinerary you could drop a day at Agra and Jaipur to have more time else where.
Arrive Delhi we could or better still look up the bed & breakfast listed on travellers point. At Vasant Kunj is good value for money stay at Delhi, two nights - to get over the jet lag
third day - Book a superfast morning train to Agra, spend the full day including a visit to Fatehpur Sikri. Here you have the option of staying a night there, again look up travellers point bed & breakfast.
Or if you return for overnight again at Delhi, you have a choice of taking any super fast train to Jaipur ( more choice from here) or even a bus which have super efficient services departing every hour.
Trains for Agra to Jaipur are limited and not the best way as usually they are long distance trains catering to long distance passengers. This route is better only if you are visiting the Bharatpur bird sanctury or Sawai Madhopur wild life park.
Stay two nights at Jaipur one night after you arrive - that evening you can visit CHokhi Dhani a small replica of a village. Next early morning day tour of jaipur with a visit to the Amber Fort and so on.
You can take a night train to Jodhpur or there are other many options as well. spend two nights here.
You can visit some sand dunes close to this place or on your way to Jaisalmer/Bikaner.
Instaed of a Thar trek we suggest your camel rides/safaris would be enough they can be quite painful and also in summer rather difficult.
Spend those extra days visiting either Haridwar on the foot of Ganges or Varanasi or a trip to Dharamshala via Amrisar. These are accessible from Delhi and just need those 2 or 3 days only.
Feel free to ask for more information.
I would stick with Jaisalmer instead of Bikaner for the camel safari simply because Jaisalmer is a town you can't miss, and Bikaner, while not too bad of a place, is misable. I think you'll planned a good amount of time in each place. I also wouldn't drop Jaipur or Jodphur from you itinerary as they are both worth seeing. However, they were my two least favorite towns in Rajasthan and I think 1 full day of sightseeing at each is plenty.
Hi claireh, mayaroy and Degolasse,
Thanks a lot for the suggestions and advice.
I've copied all of it to my itinerary doco and will pay special attention to your ideas.
Your help greatly appreciated.