I absolutely loved this trip from start to finish. The Taj Mahal was everything I hoped it would be and more, the overnight train ride to Varanasi was superb and being with such a lovely group and tour leader really made the trip even more enjoyable. Having been on trips with long drives before, the time we spent on the road didn't phase me. I do think that off roading would be a fairer description of most of India's roads, while Nepal seems not to have any completed roads at all (and this was not due to the earthquake). So bus suspension and lack of air con were annoyances I could have done without, but I tend to think everything is an experience just waiting to become a traveller's tale.... Delhi wasn't particularly interesting, but as soon as we got to Jaipur, the sights and sounds (and smells) of India really began to get intense. The Amber Fort was worth the hot walk uphill and the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri was beautiful. The guides really helped you learn a lot about the Mogul emperors (I can now recite this list of rulers!). All this was even before we got to the Taj Mahal (just go and stare with wonder. It truly is beautiful). As somebody who doesn't 'do souvenirs', I was so impressed by the quality of the craftwork we saw (carpets, jewellery, marble tables) that I became a shopaholic! Beware the problem of space in your luggage on the way home if you go on this trip...
Varanasi was interesting to see and I loved the experience of a high speed Tuc Tuc ride through incredibly crowded streets. The flower laying moment on the Ganges was lovely, but public burning of bodies on funeral pyres at the water's edge may not be everyone's cup of tea (interesting but wasn't really mine either). Sunrise over the Ganges and the peacefulness of the boat ride was lovely though.
On to Nepal and a remarkably trouble free border crossing near Lumbini (though don't bring US dollars with ANY pen marks on them as the borders guards like them pristine). The birthplace of the Buddha was a very restful sight to visit, before we made our way to Chitwan National Park. Don't go believing you will see a tiger (impossible), a sloth bear (unlikely) or even a rhino (3 hours in before we spotted our first), but again I've done safaris before so was quite happy with what we did see. On to Pokhara, where the volume of dust on the 'roads' meant you would struggle to identify any of the beautiful scenery outlined in the trip notes. Pokhara felt quite westernised and I'm not really a daredevil sports fan, but I really liked the drive to Sarankot to see sunrise over the Annapurna range and the walk back down. The highlight of Kathmandu for me was the flight over Everest: well worth the extra money! I managed to spend literally every last penny, dollar, rupee or Nepalese rupee I brought with me by the time we got to the airport for the flight home, which I reckon is a sign of a good holiday. Do not rely on ATMs to give you money when you need it though. Luckily the group members frequently turned banker to help each other out so it didn't really matter (and craft places always take credit cards...).
Finally, the group were lovely and the tour leader was excellent. Don't bother with single room supplement as it is fun to share. I didn't bother but got a single room for free anyway because the others had paid the supplement (but I spent this saving on the beautiful crafts...). As a first trip to India, this was just right. I'd highly recommend it.