Day 1 - Arrive Delhi
Arrive Delhi by the International flight. You’ll will be met at the planeside and assisted through immigration, luggage collection and customs. Thereafter, meet with our representative to be transferred to your hotel.
Overnight in Delhi.
Day 2 - DELHI
Delhi, the capital of India, has been the seat of power of a number of dynasties – the Rajput’s, the Afghans, the Turks and the Mughals who continued their imperial line until the British. Post breakfast, explore the historical part of the city also known as Old Delhi starting with `Shah Jehanabad’ which has some dramatic remnants of the Mughal Empire in the imposing Red Fort and Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, built by Emperor Shah Jehan, creator of the Taj Mahal. We ride a `trishaw’ through its principal street, Chandni Chowk, originally renowned throughout Asia with its tree-lined canal flowing down its center. Post lunch, drive around New Delhi with its majestic boulevards and grand government buildings. India Gate, Delhi’s triumphal arch, the residence of India’s President, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a complex of buildings that mix Mughal and Western architectural styles. Thereafter, visit the Tomb of Humayun an early example of Mughal architecture, brilliantly restored by experts sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation.
Overnight in Delhi.
Day 3 - DELHI - AMRITSAR
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the Vistara Airlines flight UK 691 which departs Delhi at 11.00 a.m., arriving at 12.10 p.m. into the ancient and holy city of Amritsar in the country’s richest State Punjab, to visit the Golden Temple, holiest of the Sikh shrines. Amritsar, which means “Pool of the nectar of Immortality” (named after the sacred pool in the Golden Temple) was founded in 1577 on a site donated by the great mughal Emperor Akbar. It became an important junction on the trading routes and the presence of different peoples; Yarkandis, Turkomans, Kashmiris, Tibetans and Iranians indicate its connection with the Old Silk Road. These days it is the second largest town in the northern State of Punjab. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
Early in the evening, drive around 45 minutes to Wagah Border to witness the Closing Ceremony. After an early dinner, visit the “temple at night” is recommended to witness the dramatic ceremony when the `Holy Book’ is reverently closed after the final evening prayers and carried in a silver palanquin back to the adjacent building called the Akali Takht (seat of the Sikh religious order) for the night. The floors of the temple are then washed with milk and water before the doors are closed. As part of the ritual, the Holy Book is carried back to the Golden Temple at daybreak each day.
Overnight in Amritsar.
Day 4 AMRITSAR - DELHI
After breakfast, revisit the Golden Temple with a detailed tour of the complex. The name “Golden Temple” comes from the gold–colored lining of the building from the
copper cupolas down to the marble walls. The temple has always been celebrated for its riches and has been plundered several times over the centuries. Despite the
splendor, an atmosphere of deep religiousness envelops the temple. Founded toward the end of the 15 th century by Guru Nanak, Sikhism was a reformist monotheistic religion, a reaction of the inequalities that prevailed under the caste system of Hinduism. Later, it acquired a militant charter in opposition to the religious
zealotry of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Called “Darbar Sahib”, which means “Court of the Lord”, the Golden Temple is a splendid example of Indo-Moslem art. It was begun in 1574 and continually restored and embellished. The temple stands in the center of an enormous pool circled by marble steps and wings of buildings. The pavilion on the water is connected to the enclosure wall by a narrow marble bridge a symbol of what souls are required to pass through after death. Delicate inlay work of ivory and mirror and elegantly molded stucco come together to create an extravagant and opulent interior. An essential part of the temple is the `Langar’ or public kitchen where free food is prepared and served to at least fifty thousand worshippers everyday; an expression of the Sikh belief that “Nothing is more important than Seva”, the realization of brotherhood.
Post lunch, check-out and transfer to the airport enroute visiting the colourful markets for shopping. Thereafter, depart Amritsar by the Air India flight AI 115 at 7.00 p.m. and arrives Delhi at 8.10 p.m. On arrival, once again transfer to your hotel in Delhi.
Overnight in Delhi.
Day 5 DELHI - VARANASI
After breakfast, check-out and transfer to the airport for the Vistara Airlines flight UK 631 which departs Delhi at 10.45 a.m. and arrives into the city of Varanasi at 12.10 p.m. It’s a 40 minute drive from the airport to your hotel. Varanasi, also called `Kashi’ (the city of light) is one of the oldest cities in the world.
The banks of the `sacred Ganges' teem with masses of humanity, as the rich and the poor, the families and the sanyasis (renouncer) dip in the river’s holy water in an
effort to achieve purity. Late afternoon, seated in trishaws, pedal through the heart of this ancient city and its markets towards the banks of the Ganges River. At dusk, take a boat on what is referred to as the `River of Heaven’ immersing in the daily life, rich with the chant of priests, the sound of temple bells and the fragrance of flowers and incense.
Aarti is a Sanskrit word which stands for homage or devotion. The aarti or offering of the lamps is observed at prescribed hours of the day and night to invoke the gods. It is believed that the gods physically present themselves before devotees at this ceremony.
Return to your hotel for dinner.
Overnight in Varanasi.
Day 6 VARANASI
After a cup of coffee, proceed to the banks of the Ganges river, enjoy a cruise at sunrise when the banks are alive with the multitude of worshippers who come to
immerse themselves honouring life’s milestones as they face the rising sun. Later, we visit the Akhara (wrestling ground) to watch the traditional way of exercise & wrestling.
Return to the hotel for breakfast
Visit the buried site of Sarnath after breakfast and some rest, where the Buddha, arrived after attaining `sambodhi’ (enlightenment) and preached his first sermon; All is Sorrow. This is known in the Buddhist world as the turning of the religious wheel (Dharma-Chakra Pravartana). Sarnath remained an active center of Buddhism up to the end of the twelfth century. Centers of learning arose and many sects and sub-sects flourished here, until the Moslems plundered and raised it to the ground.
At 4.00 p.m., we proceed on a North Bazaar walk. We visit several interesting wholesale markets in the city like ‘Paan’ - a beetle leaf that people chew here, very very popular! Next, we visit the weaver’s colony where the most important handicraft product of Varanasi, silk, is produced. Onward to the Dalmandi market where you can find anything that you can possibly think of! We also visit the whole sale flower market and get an opportunity to ride rickshaws.
Overnight in Varanasi.
Day 7 - VARANASI - MUMBAI
Post an early breakfast, check-out and transfer to the airport for the Indigo airlines flight 6E 711 which departs Varanasi at 10.00 a.m. and arrives Mumbai at 12.30 p.m. With a population exceeding 20 million, this one time group of low lying mud flats is now India’s economic power base and her most industrialized city.
While transferring to the hotel in Mumbai, we stop at the Dhobi Ghat. This open air laundry is another facet of Bombay, like the Dabbawallahs. Dhobis (washer men and women) attend to an astounding quantity of washing daily.
Overnight in Mumbai.
Day 8 - MUMBAI
After breakfast, visit the Gandhi Museum located on leafy Laburnum Road, a quiet lane named after its shady trees, Mani Bhavan is the old Mumbai residence of Mahatma
Gandhi. Later, drive onward to the Churchgate Railway Terminus to see the `Dabbawallahs’ members of the Bombay Union of Tiffin Box Carriers. They provide a very essential service to the city’s several thousand office goers by delivering fresh meals to them. The service which costs a few rupees a week is a good example of the fine division of labor in India.
Before lunch, we explore the city passing through the teeming commercial areas, Crawford Market and many handsome buildings of Victorian Bombay, including the
University and Victoria Terminus. Continuing to the seafront called the Queen’s Necklace, uphill to enjoy the vistas.
We recommend lunch at the popular `Trishna’ located within the heritage section of the city. The restaurant is noted for its seafood and prepares authentic recipes from the west coast of India. The late New York Times gourmand R. W. Apple Jr. declared this spot’s seafood worthy of hopping a plane for.
Post lunch, drive on to the Lalbagh market, its rural color, a quality absent in other city markets; here one finds shops selling an array of spices, chilies, rustic lanterns, metal trunks and colorful cow bells of various sizes as gifts – articles which the migrant worker might take home on his periodic visits to the village. (Closed on Mondays).
An option to explore the shopping options or just relax.
Cosmopolitan Bombay offers a variety of activities and interesting shopping opportunities, which can be independently explored with assistance of a guide and car. There’s a range of shopping options, for exclusive fabrics and jewelry stores.
Overnight in Mumbai.
Day 9 - MUMBAI - UDAIPUR
After a leisurely breakfast, check-out and transfer to the airport for the Vistara Airlines flight UK 613 which departs Mumbai at 12.15 p.m. and arrives Udaipur at 1.45 p.m. Welcome to the desert-land of Rajasthan, wedged between two major river systems of the Indian subcontinent. Peopled by a most remarkable warrior race
of valiant fighters and passionate builders who ruled from their numerous hill fortresses, this geographical region nurtured a most extraordinary culture – rich in legends of romance and chivalry, sacrifice and heroic deeds. Abundance of building materials, extremes of climate, love of life and the dire necessity of
fortifications made architecture a living tradition. Who were these illustrious people? Renowned by legend to have been born out of the sacred fire pit, these
`sons of kings’ trace their Vanshavalis (genealogical lineage) to the sun and the moon.
The city of Udaipur or the city of `sunrise’ that combines real beauty with a picturesque association of a great and glorious past. It stands in a valley, amidst green hills on the banks of the wide, steel blue lake Pichola and is regarded as the most romantic spot in
India. On arrival, transfer to your hotel for lunch and thereafter check-in.
Post lunch, drive to see the massive City Palace, crowning a ridge in which the city clusters along the lake. Begun in the 16 th century the palace is a maze of reception halls, residential suites and internal courts built above the water. The most elaborate of the inner courts is the `Mor Chowk’ or Peacock Court. Also, visit the vintage car museum, which displays the private collection of the Maharaja.
Thereafter, an option to explore Udaipur’s by lanes. Take a walk through this buzz amongst stalls selling spices, stopping by a local studio of artists specializing in the traditional miniature painting, who have helped keep alive this fine tradition.
Overnight in Udaipur
Day 10 - UDAIPUR
Following breakfast, take a 40-minute drive to visit the interesting little temple of Eklingji, (shoes & socks must be removed) which is an important pilgrimage site where people flock to worship Lord Shiva, the protector and destroyer. Also, visit the nearby ancient temples of Nagda, which date back to the 4 th century.
Next, we proceed to Vatsalyaa, meaning love – unconditional, unhinged, unbound. Once a family home, this 10 acre paradise is carefully curated to provide a perfect
experience in the Udaipur countryside. We meet the family and partake in a cooking demonstration followed by lunch.
Return to your hotel with the afternoon at leisure.
At sunset, take a boat ride on lake Pichola. On little islands in the lake, from the waters edge, rise marble palaces of pure white that glisten like fairy castles.
If the Venetian owned the Pichola (Lake) he might say with justice, “See It And Die” – Rudyard Kipling.
Overnight in Udaipur
Day 11 - UDAIPUR - JODHPUR via RANAKPUR
After breakfast, check-out and drive around 2 hours to visit the spectacular Jain temples at Ranakpur, situated in the remote and peaceful Aravalli valley. Among the five holy Jain sites, this is one of the best temple complexes in the country.
Lunch midway after which continue our journey driving around 3 hours to Jodhpur. Jodhpur was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, a chief of the Rajput clan ‘Rathores’ and
boasts one of the country’s most spectacular fortress and palace complexes. It was from here that those baggie tight horse riding trousers `jodhpurs’ took their name.
In Jodhpur, stay at the magnificent Umaid Bhawan Palace built by the late Maharaja Umaid Singh. This Palace is one of the world’s largest and grandest royal residences
and Maharaja Gaj Singh, the grandson of Maharaja Umaid Singh resides here with his family. The afternoon is at leisure with an option to visit the picturesque Mandore Gardens. After the town was abandoned for the protection of the Mehrangarh Fort, the garden remained as a reminder of its glorious past. Enjoy the stunning architectural monuments including abandoned temples and cenotaphs.
You may choose to explore a section of the palace which has been devoted to a museum of interesting collections and artifacts from the Maharajas including a serious
selection of fine old wrist-watches and wall clocks. There is a collection of vintage cars housed in the gardens of the Palace.
Overnight in Jodhpur.
Day 12 JODHPUR
After breakfast, drive up to the Meherangarh Fort and its Museum section which has a well documented collection of the Maharajas private art and miniature paintings. The ‘impregnable’ fort remained the royal residence until the Umaid Bhawan was completed in 1943.
We then ride tuk tuks into the city center and enjoy a heritage walk through the old city. A fascinating experience as you walk through and perhaps visit a few local homes, pass through the bazaar laden with spices, grains, utensils and other daily use items. We visit a traditional store which offers some wonderful Rajasthani textiles. The store seems chaotic but it is exhilarating with a marvelous collection of textiles and shawls. We recommend lunch at Raas, an architectural marvel in the city center. Later, visit the step-well “Toorji Ka Jhalra” which was built in Jodhpur in the 1740s by a Royal patron, Maharaja Abhay Singh’s consort, continuing an age old tradition that Royal women would build public water works. Explore the step well square which houses many charming stores.
Dinner tonight is recommended at the charming `Khaas bagh’ restaurant.
Overnight at Udaipur.
Day 13 JODHPUR - NIMAJ
Post breakfast, check-out and drive 2 hours into the interesting Rajasthani countryside to the principality of Nimaj, the interesting Rajasthani countryside to the principality of Nimaj, the site of the luxury tented camp Chhatrasagar. The tented accommodation is built on an old reservoir strategically located over the Chhatra Sagar Lake.
The rest of the day is at leisure however, there is an option to take a nature walk where one can spot some rare birds of this region.
Overnight at Nimaj
Day 14 NIMAJ - JAIPUR
This morning, there is an opportunity to see the rural environs as 65% of the Indian population still earns their livelihood from agriculture.
Explore the area walking or by jeep to the villages that provide an insight in to the interesting lifestyles of people and farms where they grow cotton, anise, cumin, henna, chillies and a range of pulses. Post an early lunch, check-out and drive around 4 hours to Jaipur. Jaipur is where the enduring charisma of the past blends with the throbbing vitality of today. Where a colorful cast of characters - from painters and potters to artists and antique dealers - present a fascinating picture of a city that is alive to both tradition and change.
Overnight in Jaipur.
Day 15 JAIPUR
Early this morning there is an opportunity to visit the Govind Dev Ji temple, the private temple to the royal family and join locals as they immerse in a daily morning Aarti. The Govind Dev Ji Temple was built in 1735 by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh II and is adorned with beautiful chandeliers and old Indian paintings. The temple is positioned in a manner affording a direct view for the Maharajah from his palace.
Return to the hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast, drive into old Jaipur stopping by the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds, a stunning example of Rajput artistry made of red and pink sand stone, beautifully outlined with white borders and motif’s painted with quick lime. Continue on to Amber Fort the former seat of the Rajput rulers of Jaipur. Ascending the
fortress seated in a jeep, wander around the beautiful palaces within. Onward to the Panna Meena Stepwell, constructed in the 16 th century. During ancient
times, this place was utilized mainly as a water protect pool. This beautiful ‘Kund’ is a unique architectural mystery! The locals believe that nobody can use the same stairs to go down and back upstairs.
Thereafter, proceed to Dera Amer for a fun afternoon with elephants! This is the estate of Udaijit Singh, in the forested Kukas valley behind the historic Amber Fort. Fortified medieval monuments and traditional `Chatris’ are remnants of a bygone era. Animal welfare is the topmost priority for Udaijit and Dera Amer is home to adopted elephants that were rescued from a life of hard labor.
Participate in feeding, bathing and decorating these marvellous creatures in organic colors. You also have the option of embarking on a short safari on elephant back
through the surrounding wilderness. A home style lunch is served thereafter.
Post lunch, an option to explore the markets of Jaipur with transport and guide available. Shopping in Jaipur is quite exhilarating. It is famous for gems and jewelry and the specialty of the traditional hand block printed fabric, antique textiles, carpets and handicrafts.
Overnight in Jaipur
Day 16 JAIPUR
Post breakfast, visit the open air royal observatory, the “Jantar Mantar” built by Maharaja Jai Singh, the creator of Jaipur. Opposite the Observatory is the City Palace and Museum. The City Palace occupies the center of Jaipur, covers one seventh of its area and is surrounded by a high wall. It differs from conventional Rajput fort palaces in its separation of the palace from its fortifications, perhaps modeled on the Mughal architectural style with its main building scattered in “a fortified campus”. The Royal family occupies a portion of this Palace.
The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the hotel or further explore the shopping options.
Overnight in Jaipur
Day 17 JAIPUR - AGRA via FATEHPUR SIKRI (The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays)
After breakfast, check-out and depart for Agra, stopping en route at Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone former capital of the Mughal Empire. The city lived between 1571 and 1585 before it became a ghost town, abandoned possibly due to complexities with the water system. Late afternoon, proceed to the Taj Mahal – ‘the ivory gate through which all dreams pass’. A lacy white grandeur, perhaps the most perfect architectural monument accomplished. At the day’s end, the monument appears to change its hue, tinted by the glow of the setting sun.
Overnight in Agra.
Day 18 AGRA
After coffee & croissant in the lobby, there is an option to return the Taj Mahal at sunrise when the crowds are less and the light is delightful! Return to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, visit the Agra Fort, a World Heritage site credited to Emperor Akbar, India’s great visionary. His sons and theirs added to this imposing structure situated by the banks of the Yamuna River. The astonishing palaces, mosques and audience halls contained within its massive walls of red sandstone became once more a monumental mission of the Mughal Empire embellished by the artistic fusion of Islamic and Hindu tradition. Later, visit the Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, which became the first Mughal structure totally built from marble. It is popularly called the ‘Baby Taj’. Return to the hotel for lunch. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. An option exists to visit Kohinoor, the erstwhile jewelers to the Mughal Court that have been featured in National Geographic. They have an excellent tapestry collection on display which is worth seeing. The Marble Inlay factories steeped in this decorative art are also a specialty of Agra.
Overnight in Agra
Day 18 AGRA - DELHI - HOME
The morning is at leisure. Post lunch, check-out and drive 3 ½ hours to Delhi via the Yamuna expressway. Upon arrival, transfer and check-in to a hotel near the airport where a room will be reserved until your departure. Later tonight, transfer to the international airport for your flight back home.