Highlights of Northern India
Delhi ● Udaipur ● Jaipur ● Agra ● Khajuraho ● Varanasi
This journey travels through the classic sights of India’s most populist circuit – Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra, Khajuraho and Varanasi. This tour has been put together to represent the kaleidoscopic colors that can be witnessed whilst travelling through the princely state. Start by exploring the Mughal and Imperial monuments of Delhi, journey onward into Rajasthan—the Land of Kings, to experience the majesty of Royal India. Next visit Agra, home of the impressive Taj Mahal, the archaeological splendor of Khajuraho and end the journey in the oldest living city in the World – Varanasi.
On this journey, you will become familiar with the urban center –Delhi, rich in history and buzzing with life. Gain deep insight into India’s history, from the Mughal empires through colonialism and into the contemporary age. Rub shoulders with mystics, priests and vendors of all description on your walks. Savor artful cuisine renowned throughout the world!
Day 1- ARRIVAL INTO DELHI
Upon your arrival in Delhi, our representative will meet you in the arrival area of the airport after you clear all immigration and custom formalities. Depart for your hotel and check in for your stay.
Delhi is India’s capital and a major gateway to the country. Perhaps there is no other capital city in the world so steeped in history and legend as the Indian capital Delhi. It was the magnet, which drew the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals and the British, all of whom contributed to its glorious but turbulent past. The fascination with Delhi was such that even though it was abandoned many times, its rulers returned to it again and again rebuilding it at least seven times. Today, the twin cities of Old and New Delhi still intrigue Indians and tourists alike as the cultural and political capital of the largest democracy in the world.
Overnight in Delhi. (D)
Day 2- DELHI
Your tour guide helps you discover the origin and history of the Hindi language, as well as teach you key words and phrases that will help you communicate with locals.
Morning, begin exploration of Delhi, India’s capital city that sports a rich history spanning over 2,000 years. Discover the secrets of the only clearly visible historic settlement of Delhi. From the majestic Red Fort to the gold lined shops of Dariba Kalan, this tour allows you to savor a 350 year old culture up-close. Arrive in Old Delhi and drive past Red Fort and Jama Masjid – the largest mosque in India built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in year 1650 AD. From here you board your cycle rickshaws for a tour of Chandni Chowk (Silver Street) for a glimpse into an old world lifestyle. While on the tour, stop at Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest wholesale spice market – operating since the 17th century. Learn about the spices on sale and smell their aromas. The street is congested with shops on both sides selling spices, nuts and herbs. The overall appearance seems to be very chaotic but in reality it is very well managed! There will be great photo opportunities here!!!
Continue to a Gurudwara (sikh temple) and witness the community kitchen where thousands of worshipers are fed round the clock. At the temple, an expert will talk to you on Sikhism.
Afternoon, explore New Delhi, passing by Presidential Palace- the one-time imperial residence of the British viceroys; the India Gate – a memorial raised in honor of the Indian soldiers martyred during the Afghan war, Parliament house and other government buildings built in the first quarter of the 20th century by two famous English architects, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was during this time period that the capital of the British Empire was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. The tour to Imperial Delhi will include a visit to the Qutub Minar, the tallest stone tower as well as one of the finest Islamic structures raised in India. Then visit Humayun’s tomb, built by the widow of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, it is an outstanding monument in the Indo-Persian style, a precursor of the Taj Mahal.
In the evening, a welcome dinner is arranged at local specialty restaurant. Overnight in Delhi. (B, L, D)
Day 3- DELHI- UDAIPUR
After breakfast, check out or your hotel after breakfast as you transfer mid-morning to the airport for your flight to Udaipur.
On arrival, assisted transfer to the hotel and check in for your stay.
Udaipur: Set on the shores of Lake Pichola and surrounded by hills, Udaipur grew in complete contrast to the harsh deserts of the rest of Rajasthan. From the late 16th century, peace brought about an era of renaissance in the arts and encouraged the building of beautiful palaces around the lake, culminating in the City Palace, one of the largest palace complexes in the world.
Evening, enjoy a boat cruise to Jag Mandir, a palace of splendidly carved marble on an island in Lake Pichola. The lake Pichola is best explored on a boat ride as it covers all the attractions around the lake. One can also wander along the bathing and washing ghats by the lakeside. The most resplendent sights on the boat ride are the island palaces. (B, L, D)
Day 4- UDAIPUR
Morning, we will visit City Palace. This majestic palace is a stunning blend of medieval European and Chinese architecture, surmounted by balconies, towers, cupolas, and terraces with wonderful views of the city and lake. The main part of the palace is now a museum with a large and eclectic collection of miniature paintings. Next, take a private tour of the Crystal Gallery in Fateh Prakesh Palace to see the breathtaking collection of crystal objects. Next, we will stop at the three-story Jagdish Temple, a wonderful Indo-Aryan temple built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651. Climb up stone steps flanked by sculpted elephants and admire the intricate pillars, carved ceilings, stunning frescoes and the massive black, stone image of Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. Continue on to the Sahelion-ki-Bari (Garden of the Handmaidens), a good example of the Hindu art of landscape gardening on a princely scale. Ornamental pools with finely sculptured cenotaphs of soft black stone are surrounded by a profusion of fountains.
Afternoon, we see the Vintage and Classic vehicle Collection – The original Palace Garage, near the City Palace Complex, was painstakingly reconstituted into the Vintage and Classic vehicle Collection in February 2000. The new collection showcases old limousines and rare automobiles belonging to the Royal House of Mewar. All of the vehicles are in perfect running condition. An original Burma Shell petrol pump is also located on the premises. The quaint pump (still in working condition) adds yet another touch of nostalgia and authenticity to the Collection. The preservation and development of the Vintage and Classic vehicle Collection demonstrates the sensitivity of the House of Mewar towards cultural heritage conservation.
Return to the hotel and remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B, L)
Day 5- UDAIPUR- JAIPUR
Morning, drive to Jaipur, known as the “pink city” for the abundance of pink plastered stone used to build its massive forts, magnificent palaces and exquisite temples. Today’s drive takes you across the Aravalli Hills, the oldest mountain range in the world. The scenery along the way is superb and you will see many vignettes of Rajasthani rural life. Among the sights you see are colorful villages and farms where an ancient system of irrigation using bullocks and a Persian wheel are still in practice, outdoor schools and the sartorially vibrant people who add a splash of color to the countryside.
On arrival, check in for your stay.
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan province and is known for its arts and crafts, jewelry, hand-painted fabrics, and stone sculptures; it is one of North India‘s finest examples of a planned city embodying the best of Rajput and Mughal architecture.
Rest of the day is at your leisure. Overnight in Jaipur. (B, L, D)
Day 6- JAIPUR
Set off this morning to Amber Fort. Jaipur’s Maharaja Man Singh, Mighal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started constructing Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. The Fort is surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the Moat Lake. You will ascend the hill leading to the fortress on elephant-back and then walk through the sprawling complex of courtyards and halls. Many of the rooms have delightful wall paintings with precious stones and mirrors inlaid in the walls. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the Sheesh Mahal (hall of mirrors) where a single lamplight is reflected in the many mirrors, lighting up the room.
In the afternoon, we return to the city with a photo-stop at Hawa Mahal (the Palace of Winds). Five stories in height and built of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white quicklime, it is thought that the women of the royal harem used the many casements to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. Continue to Jantar Mantar, an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II in the 18th century. The Maharajah, a scientist as well as an astronomer, had the principles of Euclid translated into Sanskrit. One of the most remarkable sites in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar has fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and planets. Just next to the observatory is the City Palace. Built within the fortified area of the original city, it has one of the great treasures including miniature paintings, carpets, royal garments, and other interesting objects from Jaipur’s intriguing past. The former royal family retains a part of the palace for their personal use.
Some leisure time will be available at the hotel or opt to visit the local market. Walk through the old city of Jaipur past the Palace of Winds and market stalls before heading back to the hotel. Please be aware that these are very old market places in Jaipur used almost entirely by local people, hence you should be prepared for the hustle and bustle in the streets!
Overnight in Jaipur. (B, L)
Day 7- JAIPUR- AGRA
Morning, begin driving to Agra while passing some incredible scenery.
In the afternoon, we will stop for lunch at a charming heritage hotel in Bharatpur. On arrival, check in for your stay. Continue on the remainder of your journey with an en route stop at Fatehpur Sikri. The deserted red sandstone city is an outstanding example of Mughal architecture built by the Great Mughal Emperor Akbar as his capital and palace in the late 16th century. It was abandoned after 15 years due to scarcity of water. It was a veritable fairy tale city and its ‘ruins’ are still in a pristine condition.
Agra, in terms of ambiance is still associated with its Mughal period. The Mughal’s, besides being great rulers, were also great builders as they preserved their best architectural wonders for Agra and its neighborhood. It has many wonderful monuments and the Taj Mahal, the greatest of them all, is a masterpiece of Mughal architecture at its best. Their architectural genius can also be seen in the forts, palaces and aesthetically laid-out gardens- each one a silent witness to a grand style of a golden era.
The rest of the evening is at your leisure. (B, D)
Optional activity: Watch Live cultural show- Mohabbat the Taj
The Kalakriti Theater is the same venue for this vibrant dance drama that depicts the saga of love and a memorable journey into history. The Drama portrays the Mughal era in the 16th century. It is a series of play depicting the true and immortal love of Shajahan for Mumtaj Mahal- his beautiful wife, the lavish lifestyle of Mughal era, emaculate hardship of the artisans for 22 years that created the most precious specimen of craftsmanship. The show lasts for 90 minutes.
Day 8- AGRA
At dawn, watch the sunrise over the incomparable Taj Mahal. It is fitting to see this extraordinary monument by the first light of day and will create an unforgettable memory. Said to be one of the most elegant and harmonious buildings in the world, Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in 1630 AD to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal manifests the wealth and luxury of Mughal art as seen in architecture and garden design, painting and calligraphy. The 144 ft. double dome of of the Taj is capped with a finial and the four minarets each 131 ft. high and crowned by an open octagonal pavilion highlighting the perfect symmetry of the tomb.
Return to the hotel for breakfast.
Later, make way to Agra Fort, which was the seat and stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations. This was the seat of Mughal rule and administration, and the present structure owes its origins to Akbar who erected the walls and gates and the first buildings on the eastern banks of Yamuna River. Shah Jehan added the impressive quarters and the mosque while Aurangzeb added the outer ramparts. Visit its Hall of Public Audience and its Royal Pavilions. From here, continue to the 18th century Roman Catholic Cemetery, a 450+ year old cemetery, also being North India‘s oldest cemetery. The tombs in this cemetery are the resting places of initially the Armenian Christians in the 1550’s and other European Catholics in the city. The European Christians in Agra were creating their own fairy-tale-like mausoleums in a cemetery dating back to Akbar’s time in carved red sandstone, yellow basalt and whitewashed plastered walls. However, the tomb that stands out from the rest is of British Colonel John Hessing. Also popular is the Islamic mausoleum for Christian souls; the Red Taj Mahal (small replica of Taj Mahal built in red sandstone).
Afternoon is at your leisure.
In the evening, join your local hosts for High Tea and local savories with interactions on the Indian family value system. (B, L)
Day 9- AGRA- JHANSI- KHAJURAHO
Post breakfast, transfer to the railway station and board the train to Jhansi.
This train journey will offer opportunity to see the early morning life around the country-side. Please note, on this train seat will be on air conditioned Chair car coach class. Though Indian Railways is the largest rail network in Asia, traveling by train in India isn’t similar to travel on Amtrak or European rail services. You will be assisted in boarding the correct coach seat, and once you have reached the destination, just wait at the platform and do not leave the station.
Arrive Jhansi and drive for Orchha.
Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela king, Rudhra Pratap, on the banks of the Betwa River. This is a medieval city existing today as it existed back in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was built. The country-side undulates gently between plains and forest-clad hills. The landscape is dotted with palaces, temples, a fortress, and cenotaphs. The architecture is a mixture of traditional Hindu, hybrid Indo-Saracenic and ornate Mughal. One of the finest sights is the view of the cenotaphs from across the Betwa River. Visit the Jehangir Mahal, the grandest structure in Orchha; the Raja Mahal Rai Praveen Mahal.
Lunch will be at Amar Mahal hotel restaurant and then drive to Khajuraho where all of life; joy, love, divinity, and war is depicted in fine detail throughout the 85 Hindu and Jain temples.
Khajuraho was built by the Chandela dynasty, which rose to power in Central India between the 10th and 11th centuries. It is home to some 25 odd temples depicting different facets of life, including the erotic. These erotic carvings on some panels have been given rise to much speculation since Khajuraho’s rediscovery by a British officer in 1838. To preserve it for posterity, Khajuraho has been declared a World Heritage Site and is among the most prominent destinations on the world tourism map.
On arrival, check in for your stay. (B, L, D)
Day 10- KHAJURAHO- VARANASI
Morning exploration of the Western Group of Temples with your guide.
The name Khajuraho is derived from the Hindi word ‘khajur‘, meaning ‘date palm.’ The city was once the religious capital of the Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10th to 12th centuries. These temples were built over a span of a hundred years from 950 – 1050. The whole area was enclosed by a wall with eight gates, each flanked by two golden palm trees. There were originally over 80 Hindu temples, now only 22 standing in a reasonable state of preservation scattered over an area of 8 sq. miles. The temples of Khajuraho are an example of religion laced with erotica. They are fine examples of Indian architectural styles during medieval times. They were rediscovered during the 20th century and jungles have taken a toll of some of the monuments.
Afternoon, transfer to airport and fly to Varanasi
(Please note, luggage allowance on this flight is 15 kg checked-in baggage and 7 kg hand luggage).
Arrive Varanasi and transfer to the hotel and check in for stay.
Varanasi, or Benares, is known as the ‘eternal city.’ It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India. The Ganges, which flows through the city, is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. The Satpious Hindu city has always been considered an auspicious place to die, ensuring an instant routing to Heaven. On arrival, assisted transfer to the hotel.
Experience Aarti (sacred Hindu blessing) ceremony on the Ganges on candle-lit country boats. The presiding priests stand on a Chauki (wooden stand) near the water to chant Sanskrit mantras. The river is worshiped in flowers, incense, sandalwood, milk, and vermilion. The blazing camphor and aarti lamps are raised high and arched back to the water, which reflects the golden flames as Ganges accepts the worship. It is the Ganges that gives Varanasi its spiritual resonance.
Overnight in Varanasi. (B, D)
Day 11- VARANASI
Sunrise boat ride on the Ganges River. Watch wonderful colors of the sunrise as you ride along the sacred river. A part of pilgrimage rights, the faithful walk down steps into the river to perform their religious ablutions. Watching this worshiping at the ghats is an extraordinary experience. You may also witness a funeral pyre, as essential part of the traditional Hindu funeral ceremony.
Disembark the boat and walk through the narrow streets of Varanasi before returning to the hotel.
This walk will take you through small streets and alleyways, with no less than 2,000 temples and shrines.
Return to the hotel for breakfast.
Later, excursion to Sarnath. Here, Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon after achieving enlightenment, setting in motion the wheel of law. Right near the Dhamekh Stupa are the remains of Ashoka’s pillar with his name engraved in stone. The stupa is believed to mark the spot where Buddha preached his sermon at Deer Park. Sarnath is also home to the museum that houses the iconic Ashoka Pillar with its four guardian lions, the emblem of independent India. Around the site are a series of temples built by Buddhist groups; we will have the special opportunity to chant with the monks at one of the Buddhist temples.
Afternoon, visit Bhara Kala Bhavan, an outstanding museum housed within the sprawling grounds of Benares Hindu University. The extraordinary collection features sculpture, paintings and textiles dating as far back as the prehistoric Indus Valley civilization.
In the evening, interact with a Hindu scholar to discuss the philosophy of Hinduism. (B, L, D)
Day 12- VARANASI- DELHI- DEPARTURE DELHI
Morning fly to Delhi (Please note, luggage allowance on this flight is 15 kg check in baggage and 7 kg hand luggage).
Arrive in Delhi and connect flight for onward destination. (B)
Delhi: Le Meridien http://www.lemeridiennewdelhi.com/?SWAQ=958C
Kharuaho: Radisson Jass Hotel https://www.radisson.com/khajuraho-hotel-in/indkhaj
Varanasi: Radisson https://www.radisson.com/varanasi-hotel-up-221002/indvaran
Cost per person is $3,895.
NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT!
- Full services of an English speaking Tour Leader with local guides and drivers.
- Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) with mineral water as required.
- All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
- All accommodation. NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS!!
- All entrance fees, as per itinerary
- Airport transfers