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Unique, alluring and intoxicating, the Indian sub-continent boasts more celebrations, colour and spectacle than most other countries on earth. This sample journey through India’s ‘Golden Triangle’ is the perfect introduction to this fascinating country and promises simply incredible experiences combined with unforgettable adventures.
Gain an insight into the country’s vivid history, rich cultures and religious beliefs as well as enjoy a glimpse into the tranquil everyday lives of India’s villagers. And of course, you have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the country’s many culinary delights – with the chance to learn how to cook the traditional way, and sample your efforts!
As with all our tailor made itineraries, we can amend all aspects of a holiday to India, from the type of accommodation you stay in, to the places you visit and the unique experiences you can enjoy. The tour below includes ‘must see’ highlights in the form of the Taj Mahal, Jaipur’s Amber Fort and the Ganges at Varanasi, with a few more surprising locations thrown in for good measure…
Namaste and welcome to India! You will be met at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and whisked off to your accommodation, where you can freshen up before heading out to explore the majestic boulevards and avenues of New Delhi.
Visit India Gate, built in memory of the Indian soldiers who died in World War 1 and drive along Presidential Avenue for a photo stop at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the Indian President. Visit the remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site, Humayun’s Tomb, the tomb of the Mughal Emperor commissioned by his son Akbar in 1569. Designed by a Persian architect it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale. Later, visit Qutab Minar, the 72.5-metre high brick minaret, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating back to the 13th century.
Hotel Palace Heights or similar
This morning explore Old Delhi, the walled city formerly known as Shahjahanabad. Drive past the imposing Red Fort, wander inside the Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India), stroll through the lively alleyways and by-lanes, then take an exhilarating cycle rickshaw ride along the busy streets of Chandni Chowk bazaar, ending at the colourful spice bazaar, Asia’s largest.
There are a number of activities you can enjoy this afternoon, depending on your preference. Choose to learn about three local religions with visits to Sikh Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, one of the most prominent Sikh houses of worship in Delhi; Laxmi Narayan Temple (Birla Mandir), dedicated to Laxmi the goddess of prosperity; and the famous Lotus Temple, where you can discover the intriguing beliefs of the Bahai faith.
Alternatively, visit Shahpur Jat, one of the city’s most creative areas - home to a plethora of food, fashion and lifestyle stores as well as the city’s only tea boutique. Here, you can learn about India’s varied tea growing regions whilst indulging in a delicious high tea, complete with classic teas, handmade teas and bespoke infusions created by in house tea sommeliers.
Cooking fans meanwhile, may wish to enjoy a private cooking demonstration and meal in the home of local family. You can start with a visit to a local market to uncover the secrets of the various spice mixtures and unusual ingredients before joining your host in the kitchen to prepare a delicious Indian meal. After the cooking you get to eat all of your hard work!
Hotel Palace Heights or similar
Fly to India’s holiest Hindu city, Varanasi. After you have transferred to and checked in to your hotel, embark on a private boat cruise along the holy river Ganges at dusk to release sacred offerings into its waters. That evening, witness the magical Aarti ceremony - listen to rhythmic drumming, the sound of chanting and cymbals clashing, with the scent of sandalwood and incense swirling around whilst lantern-bearing priests bid Mother Ganga, the gods and goddesses a restful slumber.
Radisson Hotel Varanasi or similar
As the sun begins to rise, drift slowly down the Ganges on your private boat, listening to the sounds of traditional Indian music (sitar and table) as you watch the many ghats come to life with pilgrims who come to bathe in the holy waters. Then, return to your hotel for breakfast.
It’s then time to explore the hidden alleys, lanes and traditional markets of the Old City on a guided walking tour. Discover some of the oldest temples in the city; peep inside the shops and see the lives of the local people and their families who have inhabited this area for many decades.
Afterwards, journey to Sarnath and spend time at one of Buddhism’s four major pilgrim destinations. Buddha came to Sarnath after achieving enlightenment at Bodhgaya to give his famous first sermon. Believers from around the world are drawn to Sarnath and you can tell the nationalities of the monks who visit by the colours of their robes; saffron robes are favoured by Indian monks, brown ones are typically worn by Thai monks, red robes suggest a Tibetan background, and the almost purple robes are of Myanmar monks.
Radisson Hotel Varanasi or similar
Fly to Khajuraho, famous for its magnificent UNESCO World Heritage-listed temple architecture. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.
Be inspired as you explore the exquisitely sculpted sandstone temples. Dating back to the Chandela dynasty, the complex of 21 carved temples is famed for their erotic Kama Sutra decorations. Exquisitely intricate carvings from the 10th and 11th centuries cover every pillar from plinth to spire, and are among the finest examples of temple art in the world.
Radisson Jass or similar
Journey to the sleepy 16th century town of Orchha, beautifully set in the forest along the banks of the Betwa River. With the ochre spires of the cenotaphs, temples and ramparts of the Jehangir Mahal Fort Palace rising above a boulder-strewn landscape, Orchha is a wonderful glimpse of an undiscovered India. Best explored on foot, discover a treasure trove of palaces, temples and gardens, including the elegant Lakshmi Narayan Temple and wonderful murals in the Raj Mahal. Stroll along the riverbank to watch the sunset and visit the Ram Raja Temple, a converted palace of pink tiles and gold domes where devotees gather every evening to sing a rousing chorus.
Bundelkhand Riverside or similar
Drive to Agra, the home to the famous Taj Mahal and a city filled with the legacy of the Mughal Empire. Join an intriguing private Mughal Heritage walk through the farming community of Kachhpura, led by USAID trained guides. Learn about the significance of the little community during the time of the Mughals and discover how your walk helps the community implement its social commitments. The walk ends at the peaceful Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden).
Trident, Agra or similar
Witness sunrise at the Taj Mahal and watch as the first rays of sun reflect off the famous monument’s glistening white marble - truly something special and unforgettable. Considered the pinnacle of Mughal art in India, the Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.
There are few words that can describe the magnificence of this monument although many have tried. India’s Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore described it as 'a teardrop on the cheek of eternity', Rudyard Kipling as 'the embodiment of all things pure', while its creator, Emperor Shah Jahan, said it made 'the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes'. How will you describe it?
Later, walk around the impressive red sandstone Agra Fort built in 1565. This is one of the finest Mughal forts in India - construction was begun by Emperor Akbar and further additions were made by other Mughal Emperors, in particular his grandson Shah Jahan using his favourite building material, white marble.
This afternoon, again you have a few choices when it comes to how to spend the rest of your day. Animal lovers may wish to spend some time at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, the world’s largest sloth bear rescue centre, to learn about bear conservation and its challenges in India. Here you can interact with the bear keepers, watch the bears from close quarters and find out about their feeding habits.
Alternatively, visit some of Agra’s oldest and most famous eateries and sample local delicacies including parantha, chaat and the wonderful and unique petha. Made from the ash gourd vegetable, more commonly known as winter melon or white pumpkin, this translucent soft candy flavoured with ingredients including saffron, pistachio and chocolate is famous all over North India.
Trident, Agra or similar
This morning, set off for Fatehpur Sikri, a fortified 16th Century ghost city built by Emperor Akbar as his palace. Explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site, the short-lived Mughal capital which was abandoned due to lack of water, and admire the blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture styles.
Continue your journey to Jaipur, known as the ‘Pink City’, and capital of Rajasthan. Founded by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743), Jaipur is surrounded on all sides by rugged hills, crowned with magnificent forts and enclosed by medieval walls. The whole city was painted pink by Maharaja Man Singh II when Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, visited Jaipur in 1876 AD. Enchanting rose-pink houses with latticed windows line the streets and, even today, every home within the city is obliged by law to maintain its facade. The city offers an endless variety of handicrafts and Jaipur's lacquer bangles are famous all over the world.
Venture into the Old City and taste some of the area’s culinary delights, including samosa and kulfi, as you mingle and talk with the locals. Observe local artisans like silversmiths and bangle makers at work and meet with a local family to share a steaming cup of chai - experiencing true Indian hospitality first hand.
Alsisar Haveli or similar
Visit the striking hilltop Amber Fort, beautifully reflected in the waters of Maota Lake below it. Explore the Maharajah’s apartments and the palaces richly-decorated with exquisite paintings and intricate carvings. Later, uncover the skills of Indian craftsmen at the unique and interesting Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing. Located in a magnificently restored haveli, the museum displays a selection of block printed textiles alongside images, tools and related objects. You can even try your hand at some block printing if you want.
Then, explore the City Palace, a complex of courtyards, gardens and buildings - some housing a wonderful collection of costumes, shawls and armory. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jantar Mantar, an observatory begun by Jai Singh in 1728 that resembles a collection of giant bizarre sculptures. Marvel at the distinctive Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), an extraordinary, fairy-tale, pink sandstone building constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city.
Enjoy afternoon high tea followed by a discussion on different saris and turbans plus a demonstration on how to wear one.
Sunrise hot air balloon flight over Jaipur.
Alsisar Haveli or similar
Continue your journey to Bundi, a sleepy town with narrow lanes, wonderful bazaars and a fantastical palace rising from the hillside.
Bundi came into its own in the 12th century; it was loyal to the Mughals and maintained its independent status until 1947 when it was incorporated into the state of Rajasthan. Wander through the laneways during a walking tour, visit the colourful vegetable market and explore Bundi Palace, a magnificent monument towering over the town and overflowing with history and culture. View the rooms filled with stunning architecture and fine murals explaining in detail the history of this grand palace.
Enjoy a cooking demonstration of traditional Rajasthani dishes.
Bundi Vilas or similar
Sit back and enjoy the scenic drive to Bijaipur and your accommodation, the 16th century Castle Bijaipur. This is home to the ruling family who run it not as a hotel but as a ‘home’ where you will experience traditional Rajput hospitality.
Today, take a jeep safari to the surrounding villages and spend time learning about the culture and activities of the community before witnessing a traditional opium ceremony in the village.
Castle Bijaipur or similar
After a leisurely start, continue your journey to Udaipur. Founded in 1568 by Maharana Udai Singh, its hilltop forts, city palaces, tranquil lakes and quiet alleyways have earned it the nickname ‘the Venice of the East’.
End your day with a relaxing boat cruise on Lake Pichola. This 14th century lake made by local banjara (gypsies) was extended in the 16th century by Rana Udai Singh II to establish Udaipur, the 'city of lakes'. The picturesque boat ride provides the best scenic view of the lake, the city’s illuminated skyline and the mountains beyond.
Enjoy a private morning yoga lesson at your hotel.
Udai Kothi or similar
Standing on the banks of Lake Pichola is the City Palace. Stroll through its main entrance, the triple-arched Tripolia gate built in 1725 and uncover a series of courtyards, overlapping terraces, corridors and gardens. The balconies provide panoramic views of ‘Jag Niwas’ – now the world famous Lake Palace Hotel – Jag Mandir on one side and the city of Udaipur on the other. The palace is home to a profusion of antique articles, paintings, decorative furniture and utensils which attract hundreds of visitors every day. Continue to Jagdish Temple, raised on a tall terrace and completed in 1651, it is a great example of Indo - Aryan architecture. Finally head to Sahelion Ki Bari, (Garden of the Maid's Honour), a small ornamental garden that was a popular place among the ladies of the court.
Miniature-painting workshop (1-2 hours).
Udai Kothi or similar
Today you are free to enjoy your last day as you please until your transfer to the airport for your onward or homeward bound flight.
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