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Arrive at your first night’s accommodation in Delhi and check in. Hotel (AAA) - 1 night
You will receive full details of exactly where to meet your Group Leader on the Joining Instructions which will be sent to you 2-3 weeks before your trip starts. For information on when the trip ends please refer to the itinerary as described below.
This morning, you’ll make a very early start for your train journey to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal! Alternating with Delhi as the capital of the Moghul Empire, the city’s past is inextricably linked with the most famous of India’s rulers. Today it is best known as the home of the Taj Mahal but also boasts a fort, a Friday Mosque and the royal tombs on the opposite bank of the river.
You will have plenty of time to explore the Taj Mahal, the masterpiece which shelters the tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Many people believe it to be the most perfectly proportioned building ever constructed; at first glance it appears to be simply white marble, but closer inspection reveals that the surface is inlaid with a profusion of semi-precious stones which form stylised flowers and bowers. Words fail to do it justice; only by visiting it can you appreciate its exquisite beauty. Further along the banks of the river Yamuna, you visit Agra Fort. It was from here that the Moghul Empire was ruled and you spend some time exploring the nooks and crannies within. The afternoon is left free for you to wander at leisure, or relax.
Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (Swimming Pool – may be closed in winter) (B)
You set off early today to take the road leading to Fatehpur Sikri, some 38km (about two hours) away. Along the way are the remains of the Kos Minars - wayside markers which survive only as crumbled towers, pointing the way to this city built of rich red sandstone. Akbar the Great built Fatehpur Sikri, (the ‘City of Victory’), outside Agra as a tribute to a sage who foretold the birth of three sons. He duly moved his court to this new capital, only to abandon it after 15 short years because the water supply deteriorated. Today its rose-coloured walls provide the visitor with an unforgettable impression of the majesty of a 16th century royal court.
You continue by road to Bharatpur and then take a train journey of just over two hours to Sawai Madhopur and Swai Mansingh Park, near Ranthambore National Park, arriving tired, but rewarded. Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights (Swimming Pool) (BD)
During the hot summer months, Ranthambore National Park is closed. Therefore during July and August we alter our itinerary and take the opportunity to visit the nearby Swai Mansingh Sanctuary instead. A wide variety of interesting wildlife is resident here, including hyena, sloth bear, wild boar, panther and cheetah. While there is the rare chance to spot a tiger, this should not be expected. An exciting wildlife walk and a game drive will be included here.
Please see the climate section of this dossier which outlines expected temperatures in northern India during the hot, and often wet, monsoon months of July and August. (BLD)
After a leisurely start, you travel the three hours by train north-west to the famous ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. Travelling on an Indian train is an experience in itself; it’s like being in a town on wheels with a complete cross-section of life aboard. Jaipur, like Delhi, has both old and new parts, and this trip concentrates on the old. Kids will be goggle-eyed as the streets are busy with camels and bullock-carts; above it all monkeys make their home in the old city walls. During your stay you visit the City Palace, once the home of the Maharaja, before seeing the 18th century Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built by the city’s founder Jai Singh. You’ll also see the famous Palace of the Winds; here royal maidens once watched the streets below through the fabulous jali (lattice screens) which hid them from prying male eyes. Today snake charmers and fortune-tellers ply their trade below the same hideaway. The afternoon of day seven is left free for you to explore at leisure. Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights (Swimming Pool – may be closed in winter) (Bx2)
Perched on a hill some 11km from Jaipur and nestling among the Aravalli Hills is the historic fort-palace of Amber. You reach the palace along a twisting road that passes Maota Lake before turning uphill, past the elephant stables, to Jai Pol ‘Victory Gate’. This is the ancient capital of the Kachhawaha Rajputs who gave their loyalty to Moghul overlords. From the spoils of war they gradually built a fabulous complex of royal rooms. Today these rooms remain lavishly decorated with murals, jali-work and scalloped niches that once held candles to reflect the soft light from tiny mirrors, embedded in eggshell plaster.
You can thoroughly explore the site and village opposite before travelling into the ‘Land of Princes’ – Rajasthan. As you take a four-hour drive through the princely state of Rajasthan you will catch glimpses of life in the most colourful of India’s regions. Most notable are the elegant women, who carry terracotta pots of water from the village well, dressed in saris in a myriad of colours, their bangles tinkling as they walk. There may be an opportunity to walk around the village and meet or even have a game of cricket, with the locals! Hotel (AAA) - swimming pool (may be closed in winter) – 1 night (BLD)
The Shekhawati region was home to many rich merchants and their wealth is evident from their finely built havelis (mansions). Surrounded by large walls, with many internal courtyards, the havelis provided security, privacy and shade. They were painted with floral designs of Moghul influence, scenes from Hindu mythology and - since the arrival of Europeans - modern inventions such as trains, bicycles and cars. These paintings document the changes that took place in India during the nineteenth century. Nawalgarh, founded in 1737, is a typical Shekhawati town. The temples and town walls still survive today and the old fort has some fine examples of painted frescoes. Perhaps one of the best examples is the Poddar haveli, with paintings of trains, cars, processions, and a game of chequers. It has now been converted into a school and must surely be the most decorated and ornate one in India!
After lunch you leave Shekhawati and begin your journey eastwards back to Delhi, by charter bus. To make this journey non-stop would make for a very tiring and arduous day, therefore after just a couple of hours driving you’ll make an overnight stop at another Shekhawati town - Surajgarh. Your hotel is a former fortified palace, and makes for both an unusual and memorable night’s stay. Hotel (AAA) - swimming pool (may be closed in winter) – 1 night (B)
After breakfast this morning, you leave the Shekhawati region and continue your onward journey to Delhi, where you’ll arrive by midday.
Delhi is a city of contrasts. The present metropolis is the eighth city to have been founded on this site; its predecessors have been largely razed to the ground. After a chance to freshen up and have some lunch, this afternoon you’ll take a guided sightseeing tour of Old and New Delhi. Old Delhi is bustling and vibrant, a network of narrow streets and alleys teeming with people. Mosques and temples are squeezed into unlikely places between shops and market stalls. You’ll visit the Jami Masjid (Friday mosque), Delhi’s largest mosque. Not only is it a place of religious worship, but also a lively meeting place for the city’s Muslims and a fascinating insight into Delhi’s way of life. In Old Delhi you travel by local transport, the rickshaw (own expense), to ply your way through the crowds and down to the impressive Red Fort. A fascinating contrast awaits as you head into New Delhi. Its wide boulevards and imposing buildings conjure up images of the British Empire at its peak. You visit the main sights - Parliament House, President House and India Gate before returning to your hotel.
If you have any free time remaining you may choose some final sightseeing or shopping. Ghandi’s house in New Delhi tells the life story of one of India’s most renowned figures, whilst there are bargains galore to be found in the shops and markets around Connaught Place. No doubt your Group Leader will arrange a ‘last supper’ where you can look back over the trip of a lifetime. Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (B)
The trip ends at your hotel in Delhi. (B)
Key: (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner
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