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
The capital of India is a true reflection of the old and new of India. We explore 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 the visit to Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. In the evening we enjoy a welcome dinner at Garam Masala Restaurant. (B, D)
Day 03: Delhi / Agra
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. After the tour of New Delhi we drive to Agra. On arrival in Agra, we check in our Hotel.
Overnight: ITC Mughal (2 Nights) (B, D)
Day 04: 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. Later we drive to 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 05: 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 (B, L, D)
Day 06: 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, D)
Day 07: 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 08: 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 (B, D)
Day 09: 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 10: 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 11: Udaipur / Ranakpur
In the morning after breakfast we drive to Ranakpur. Renowned for some marvelously carved Jain temples in amber stone, Ranakpur is amongst the five holiest places of the Jain community and exceptional in beauty. We visit the famous Ranakpur temples, constructed in the AD 1439. The temple, with its distinctive domes, shikhara, turrets and cupolas rises majestically from the slope of a hill. The Ranakpur Jain Temple was built during the reign of the liberal and gifted monarch Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. There are four subsidiary shrines, twenty-four pillared halls and eligibly domes supported by over four hundred columns. Over 1444 marble pillars, carved in exquisite detail, support the temple. The pillars are all differently carved and no two pillars are the same. In the assembly hall, there are two big bells weighing 108 Kilograms whose sound echoes in the entire complex.
Overnight: Maharani Bagh Orchard Retreat (B, D)
Day 12: Ranakpur / Jodhpur
In the morning after breakfast we drive to Jodhpur. On arrival, we check in our Hotel. In the afternoon we visit Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest forts in India. The fort is situated 400 feet (122 m) above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards. We enter through the Gate of Victory (Jaipol) and explore the series of courtyards and palaces decorated with beautiful terracotta lattice work. The museum in the fort has one of the best collections of the splendid trappings of Indian royalty, including some amazing elephant’s howdahs (essential for glittering processions), miniature paintings and the inevitable Rajput armory and ephemera from ivory inlaid ladies dumbbells to camel bone carpet weights. Later we visit Jaswant Thada, a white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II with an array of whimsical domes, and the beautifully landscaped Mandore Gardens and the museum at the Umaid Bhawan Palace, now a luxury hotel.
Overnight: The Gateway Hotel (B, D)
Day 13: Jodhpur / Jaisalmer
After breakfast we drive to Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, crowned by a fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples are finely sculptured. It lies in the heart of the Thar Desert. On arrival we check in at our hotel. The remainder of the day is free for relaxation.
Overnight: The Gateway Hotel (2 Nights) (B, D)
Day 14: Jaisalmer
We visit Jaisalmer Fort, one of the largest forts in the world. It was built in 1156 AD by the Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from where it derives name. The fort stands proudly amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert, on Trikuta Hill, and has been the scene of many battles. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion color during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason, it is also known as the "Golden Fort". Life within the citadel conjures up images of medieval times as we wander through narrow lanes filled with havelis (mansions), temples, skilled artisans and of course camels. We then explore the Jain temple dating to the 11th century BC, the Folk Museum and Patwon-ki-Haveli, the home of a wealthy merchant belonging to powerful Oswal Jain community and banker who had over three hundred trading centres from Afghanistan to China. This ornate five-storey complex took fifty years to complete and is the largest, and most elaborate of Jaisalmer’s havelis. We also visit Gadisar Tank, a scenic rainwater lake with numerous beautiful shrines around and a spectacular avian variety. In the late afternoon we drive to Sam village in the Thar Desert. We ride on camels to the nearby sand dunes to enjoy the beautiful desert sunset. After that we are treated to dinner with a cultural show. (B, D)
Day 15: Jaisalmer / Bikaner
In the morning after breakfast we drive to Bikaner and check in our heritage hotel. Lalgarh Palace was built between 1902 and 1926 according to Rajput, Mughal and European architectural styles. The building was commissioned by Maharaja Ganga Singh and was designed by the British architect, Sir Swinton Jacob. It is coated in red sandstone and has several grand halls, lounges, cupolas and pavilions. The building features magnificent pillars, elaborate fireplaces, Italian colonnades and intricate latticework and filigree work. The palace houses the Shri Sadul Museum as well as a large and important collection of Sanskrit manuscripts, the Anup Sanskrit Library. In the afternoon we visit Junagarh Fort, built by Raja Rai Singh. Rai Singh had conquered part of Marwar and had been granted territory in Gujurat and Burhanpur by the Mughal emperor Akbar as a reward for his services as military commander. During his imperial service he travelled extensively, giving him an appreciation of art and architecture. These ideas have been incorporated meticulously into the architectural style of Junagarh Fort. Later we visit camel breeding farm set within the sand Dunes, the only farm of its kind in whole of Asia.
Overnight: Lalgarh Palace (B, D)
Day 16: Bikaner / Mandawa
Day 17: Mandawa / Delhi
In the morning after breakfast we drive to Deshnoke to visit the famous Rat Temple dedicated to the Goddess Karni Mata. This ornate, isolated Hindu temple was constructed by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 1900s as a tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. Intricate marble panels line the entrance and the floors, and silver and gold decorations are found throughout. But by far the most intriguing aspect of the interior are approximately 20,000 rats that call this temple home. These holy animals are called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects. Later we continue our drive to Mandawa, one of the finest of the small towns in the Shekhawati region. In the afternoon we explore Mandawa’s famous "The Open Air Art Gallery of Rajasthan", visiting havelis, where the walls have been decorated with beautiful frescos depicting different aspects of the life in Rajasthan.
Overnight: Alsisar Mahal (B, D)
Today we drive to Delhi. On arrival, we enjoy a 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)