Day 01: Delhi
Arrival. Namaste! We are warmly welcomed the traditional Indian way with hands clapped together at the airport and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free to relax.
Overnight: Sheraton New Delhi/ Vivanta By Taj Dwarka New Delhi (2 Nights)
Day 02: Delhi
We start our morning tour with New Delhi and visit Birla House, the Former Residence of Mahatma Gandhi before he was assassinated by Nathu Ram Godse on January 30, 1948. Later we visit the famous India Gate followed by the Houses of Parliament, Connaught Place and Humayun's Tomb*, the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent, built in 1570. We continue to Qutb Minar and its Monuments* Built in the early 13th century the red sandstone tower of Qutb Minar is 72.5 m high. The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, a masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art and two mosques. Our afternoon concentrates on Old Delhi, starting with the Red Fort Complex*. Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, it is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546, with which it forms the Red Fort Complex. The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under the Shah Jahan, was brought to a new level of refinement and each pavilion reveals architectural elements typical of Mughal building, reflecting a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions. Next we visit the Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque. We end our tour with a bazaar experience at Chandni Chowk, the street of silver and goldsmiths. In the evening we enjoy a welcome dinner at Garam Masala Restaurant. (B, D)
Please Note: Red Fort and Birla House are closed on Mondays and Chandni Chowk is closed on Sundays
Day 03: Delhi / Varanasi
We take a short flight to the holy city of Varanasi, one of the oldest living cities in the world. On arrival we are transferred to our hotel. In the afternoon we start our exploration of old Varanasi, visiting the Bharat Mata Temple, which houses a huge marble relief map of India; the Durga Temple, the Tulsi Manas Mandir beside the Banaras Hindu University and the Mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb. The city is famous also for its silk sarees and we visit some of the houses where the beautiful silk sarees are woven. In the evening we get to the banks of the Ganges to witness the devotional ceremony of Aarti after sunset performed by devout Hindus.
Overnight: The Gateway Hotel (1 Night) (B, D)
Day 04: Varanasi / Khajuraho
In the early morning we take a sunrise cruise on the River Ganges for a most serene experience. One of the cardinal principles of Hinduism is the belief in the holiness of the Ganges. Every morning scores of pilgrims and priests fill the riverbanks bathing in the holy waters and performing various other rituals. This unique experience literally transports you to another world. Later we explore Sarnath, the site of Lord Buddha's first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The Ancient Buddhist Site of Sarnath contains Chaukhandi Stupa, a lofty brick structure crowned with an octagonal tower and the remains of several stupas, monasteries and Ashokan column are built from the 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D.in brick and stone. Later we are transferred to the airport in Varanasi in time to take our flight to Khajuraho. On arrival in Khajuraho, we are transferred to our hotel. In the afternoon we explore the Khajuraho Group of Monuments* The temples at Khajuraho were built during the Chandella dynasty, which reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. Today only 20 temples remain and they fall into three distinct groups and belonging to the religions of Hinduism and Jainism. They strike a perfect balance between architecture and sculpture. The Temples are decorated with a profusion of sculptures that are among the greatest masterpieces of Indian art.
Overnight: Hotel Chandela (1 Night) (B, D)
Day 05: Khajuraho / Jhansi / Agra
In the morning we drive to Orchha to visit this an amazing medieval fortress-city located on the shores of the Betwa River. The fort consists of several connected buildings erected at different times, the most noteworthy of which are the Raja Mahal and the Jahangir Mahal. We continue to the Railway Station in Jhansi to take our express train to Agra. Shatabdi Express trains are fully air-conditioned and travellers enjoy complimentary meals and seating comparable to business class on airlines. On arrival in Agra, we are welcomed and transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: ITC Mughal (2 Nights) (B, D)
Day 06: Agra
We start our day with a visit to one of the most well-known wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal*. An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage. Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna in a vast Mogul garden, this funerary monument combines elements and styles of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture. We then visit Agra Fort*. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques. We also visit Fatehpur Sikri*. Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, the City of Victory was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid and the artistically designed mausoleum of the revered Sufi saint, Salim Chisty. (B, D)
Please Note: Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays. On nights with a Full Moon the Taj Mahal's pure white marble shimmers silver in the moonlight and is open to visitors. We can arrange for an optional tour to enjoy this very special occasion.
Day 07: Agra / Ranthambore
In the morning after breakfast we drive to Ranthambore, the former hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur. Ranthambore National Park lies at the edge of a plateau, and is bounded to the north by the Banas River and to the south by the Chambal River. There are several lakes in the park. It is named for the historic Ranthambhore fortress, which lies within the national park. The rugged terrain and the dense deciduous forests are major features of this national park, which has among the largest and most diverse collection of wildlife species in India. On arrival in Ranthambore, we check in our hotel. In the afternoon we take a jeep safari through the National Park. On our journey we might see various indigenous animals, such as tiger, nilgai, chausingha, chital, chinkara, wild boar, jungle cat, ratel, hyena, porcupine, the Rhesus Macaque and the black-faced Langur. About 150 bird species can be found here including migratory birds that arrive in winter.
Overnight: Ranthambore Regency (1 Night) (B, L, D)
Day 08: Ranthambore / Jaipur
Ranthambhore was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India, and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973.Ranthambore is famous for the famous Royal Bengal Tigers and spotting the big cat in its natural habitat can be a experience. In the morning we take another jeep safari through the park. If we are lucky enough we may be able to spot tigers in their natural environment. After our morning safari, we drive to Jaipur, the rose pink capital of Rajasthan, since most of the buildings in the old city are made of pink sandstone. In the evening we enjoy our dinner at the Spice Court Restaurant with a Rajasthani Cultural Dance performance.
Overnight: ITC Rajputana (2 Nights) (B, L, D)
Day 09: Jaipur
This morning we are treated like the royalty of yesteryear with an elephant ride to Amber Fort, located in a valley formed by a range of Aravallis known as Kalikho hills. The Palace and Fort are located on top of the hill with the city on slopes, and the valley protected by fort walls with four gates in the four cardinal directions. The construction of the fort began in 1592. It shows the evolution from the purely defensive fort settlements of the early medieval period to the palace fortress type of architecture typified in the 16th century. This palace fortress was never attacked or invaded. The fort comprises of number of gardens, courtyards and palatial spaces derived from Mughal architecture and are a distinguished example of 17th Century Rajput architecture. We return to Jaipur to visit the majestic City Palace, which houses a rare collection of Indian art and the beautiful Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds, where the ladies of the royal harem used to watch the city from behind the intricately carved facade. We also visit the Jantar Mantar*, an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century that includes a set of some 20 main fixed instruments designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye. It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period. The evening is free to enjoy both shopping and the cultural experience in the bazaars. Jaipur is noted for its craftsmen, skilled in brass inlay, lacquer work and stone setting. (B, D)
Day 10: Jaipur / Pushkar
In the morning after breakfast we drive to Pushkar, a bewitching little town on the edge of the desert, with temples, bathing Ghats, onion domes and chalk-coloured buildings clustering around its holy lake , which is said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. It's an important pilgrimage centre and we shall see plenty of Sadhus. Pushkar has some temples, though few are as ancient as you might expect at such an important pilgrimage site, since many were destroyed by Aurangzeb and subsequently rebuilt. We visit the famous temple of Lord Brahma Temple, said to be one of the few temples in the world dedicated to this deity.
Overnight: Hotel Pushkar Palace (1 Night) (B, D)
Day 11: Pushkar / Udaipur
In the morning after breakfast we drive through the fascinating countryside of Rajasthan to Udaipur. Udaipur was the historic capital of the former kingdom of Mewar and no other city in Rajasthan is quite as romantic. Misty ochre-shadowed hills and pale, intricate buildings encircle beautiful Lake Pichola. On arrival we check in our hotel. Remainder of the day is free.
Overnight: Ramada Resort (2 Nights) (B, D)
Day 12: Udaipur
We start our experience of Udaipur by visiting the City Palace. The palace has several architectural and artistic highlights such as the Mor Chowk, known for its stunning peacock mosaics and the Bhim Vilas Palace with its series of lovely wall paintings. From the City Palace we can see the Lake Place, shimmering like a jewel in Lake Pichola. Later we visit the Jagdish Temple, Fateh Sagar Lake and Saheliyon Ki Bari, the Garden of Maids. We end our tour of Udaipur with a boat ride at Lake Pichola and visit Jag Mandir, a palace built on an island in 1551. The royal family used the palace as a summer resort and pleasure palace for holding parties. (B, D)
Day 13: Udaipur / Delhi
Today we are transferred to airport for our flight to Delhi. In Delhi we enjoy our farewell dinner. After a memorable journey through incredible India, we are transferred to the airport for our departure home or to our next exciting destination. (B, D)