The vast subcontinent of India has many treasures and we will capture a few of the jewels. Our classic tour of India begins in Delhi as we are swept away to another time and another place. Dotted with hundreds of landmarks, Delhi, India’s modern capital, is also a very ancient city. From the beautifully carved 12th century Qutab Minar to the parliament house with its Victorian and 20th century influences, Delhi’s architectural gems transcend time.
Next we’re off to Agra to tour the famous icon of India, the Taj Mahal, We’ll also visit the Agra Fort with its 65-foot-tall walls and maze of temples, halls, gardens and mosques. Then we take a two-hour train ride to a lodge near the Ranthambore National Tiger Reserve for two nights and a chance to see tigers in their native environment. We’ll spend two days around Jaipur, the lovely “pink city” with its broad avenues and harmonious architecture. Then continue to Udaipur, considered by many to be the most beautiful city in all of India.
OverviewThe vast subcontinent of India has many treasures and we will capture a few of the jewels. Our classic tour of India begins in Delhi as we are swept away to another time and another place. Dotted with hundreds of landmarks, Delhi, India’s modern capital, is also a very ancient city. From the beautifully carved 12th century Qutab Minar to the parliament house with its Victorian and 20th century influences, Delhi’s architectural gems transcend time. Next we’re off to Agra to tour the famous icon of India, the Taj Mahal, We’ll also visit the Agra Fort with its 65-foot-tall walls and maze of temples, halls, gardens and mosques. Then we take a two-hour train ride to a lodge near the Ranthambore National Tiger Reserve for two nights and a chance to see tigers in their native environment. We’ll spend two days around Jaipur, the lovely “pink city” with its broad avenues and harmonious architecture. Then continue to Udaipur, considered by many to be the most beautiful city in all of India.
Upon arrival in Delhi, a guide will meet you at the airport, and escort you to our hotel, the Taj Mahal in New Delhi. You can rest in your sumptuous quarters, take a walk to shake off the jet lag, hit the pool or relax and rest for our India adventure. The Taj Mahal Hotel is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and offers many amenities to help you recover from the long flight. (NOTE: hotels listed here have been reserved, but all hotels are subject to change.)
Today we will explore the fascinating and sometimes fast-paced city of Delhi on a full-day tour. In the morning we visit Old Delhi and see the Raj Ghat, a simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. We will drive past the Red Fort, a massive structure built with red sandstone and a magnificent symbol of Mughal elegance and design.
Then we’ll visit India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid, built in the 17th century. It took 5000 artisans fourteen years to complete and is a unique architectural piece of the Mughal period. It has three gateways, four towers and two minarets as tall as 120 feet. Nearby is Chadni Chowk, once an imperial avenue down which Shah Jahan rode at the head of lavish cavalcades and today is often the scene of world’s most picturesque traffic jam with every kind of vehicle imaginable.
Old Delhi exhibits the traditions of the Mughal emperors who presided there, and New Delhi, the British capital during colonial days, shows off the more modern side of India. In the afternoon we leave the walled city of Old Delhi behind to explore the sights of New Delhi.
However, even in New Delhi are some very old monuments. We’ll see the 12th century Qutub Minar, the highest stone tower in all of India. It was erected by Qutub-ud-din Aibak as a victory tower in 1199. It is considered one of the finest Islamic structures ever raised, and Delhi’s recognised landmark, even though it was built with the columns from 27 Hindu and Jain temples. Gracefully hand-carved along its entire height of 234 feet, the tower stands near the Iron Pillar, which has withstood the ravages of time and not rusted in over 1500 years.
We’ll visit the graceful mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and drive past the modern Birla Temple, built in 1938. The uniqueness of this beautiful temple lies in the fact that it is open for all; it does not recognise any social or religious stratas. This was the condition on which Mahatma Gandhi agreed to inaugurate the temple. The temple houses idols of several deities, but is mainly dedicated to Laxmi (the goddess of wealth) and Narayana (the preserver). We will also see the President’s house, the Parliament house and the India Gate war memorial.
Agra and the Taj Mahal
Today we transfer to Agra, which was established in 1475 by Badal Singh and came into its own when Sikander Lodhi of the Lodhi dynasty chose it for his capital because of its proximity to the Yamuna River. In the mid-16th and early 17th centuries, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time that the symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality. Besides the monuments, Agra is known for the masterpieces of craftsmen recreating the glory of the Mughal period and for the Mughlai cuisine, the aroma of which fills the narrow lanes of Agra.
During our first evening in Agra we will follow the Mughal Heritage Trail, a community-based enterprise, to Kacchpura Village. Here we will get a behind-the-scenes look at the daily life of Agra. All funds paid for our visit are used to upgrade the village schools and to create sustainable livelihoods. We will also get a unique view of the Taj Mahal from across the River Yamuna.
No trip to India would be complete without a visit to the vast and unmistakable icon of India, the Taj Mahal, selected in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This mythic structure with its history of romance and survival from the ravages of various marauders threatens to underwhelm visitors who have lived in the shadow of its hype. But its symmetry, its purity, the whiteness, the elegance of its curves, the majesty of its size and silhouette can still surprise and astound visitors.
The Taj Mahal will be our backdrop throughout our stay but we will enter its graceful walls by horse carriage at sunrise, the most beautiful time of the day for viewing. We will have a chance to explore the edifice before most other visitors arrive, then return to our hotel for breakfast.
Later in the day we will also visit the Agra Fort, which evolved during the reigns of three Mughal Emperors. Here we can witness the apparent transition of the stern red sandstone citadel raised by Akbar to the lavishly beautiful shimmering white palaces built by Shah Jahan. We will also visit craftsmen who create works of art by embedding semi-precious stones in marble, using geometric and floral patterns. This ancient art has been revived in the past 50 years after long neglect.
Ranthambore and Tigers!
We start our day with a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, built of red sandstone by Emperor Akbar the Great in 1569 and deserted 14 years later because its water supply failed. It is a perfectly preserved ghost city characterized by a harmonious synthesis of Hindu, Mughal and Persian architectural style.
From there we drive to Bharatpur train station, then take a 2-hour train ride to Sawai Madhopur, the entry point for the famous Ranthambore National Park. We then drive a short distance to our home for the next two nights, the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge.
The Park is one of the prime examples of Project Tiger’s conservation efforts in Rajasthan. It covers an area of over 400 square kilometers with many steep crags embracing a network of lakes and rivers. Atop one of these hills, the 10th century Ranthambore Fort stands like a silent sentinel. The terrain is a blend of impregnable forests and open bush land.
Ranthambore is best known for its reclusive tiger population, but there are also many panthers as well. Kachida Valley is considered to be the place to sight these rather elusive cats. One can also find marsh crocodiles, hyenas, jungle cats and sloth bears. The avian population includes black storks, quails, Bonelli’s eagles and painted storks. During the winter months, the park attracts a lot of migratory birds, including a variety of ducks.
The best time to visit the park is between October and April, so we will offer both a morning and a late afternoon “canter safari” during the best times to view game. It is the ideal park for wildlife photography. With so much to see and plenty to do, we will enjoy a leisurely two night stay here.
After one final early morning game viewing drive, we will have breakfast at our lodge, then drive about four hours to Jaipur. We’ll check into our rooms at the Taj Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, then the rest of the day will be free.
Jaipur is called the Pink City because most of its buildings are of sandstone, and was chosen by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1693-1743) for his capital. It still is the vibrant capital of the desert state of Rajasthan. Surrounded on all sides by rugged hills, crowned with forts and enclosed by embattled walls, Jaipur is a must see for travelers to India.
The Old City, the actual Pink City, is a great place to wander around. Maharaja Man Singh II had the whole city painted pink when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, visited Jaipur in 1876. Today, every home within the old city is obliged by law to maintain this facade. Fabulous, tall houses with latticed windows line the narrow streets of the old city, their rose pink color lending enchantment to a scene which is almost magical at sunset.
During the afternoon of our arrival day, we will take a half-day tour of the city visiting the Maharaja’s City Palace and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Jaipur’s walled City Palace (1732 AD) occupies one-seventh of the city’s area. We will also see the Mubarak Mahal, museums of textiles and armory etc. We will see Jantar Mantar, literally meaning “instruments for measuring the harmony of the heavens,” the oldest in India. Each instrument has a specific purpose and gives an accurate reading. We will also make a photo stop at Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), then drive past the rose-pink residential and business areas of Jaipur.
The following morning we will visit the Amber Fort, which was the ancient capital of the state until 1728. With its honey-colored fortress-palace in the Aravalli Hills which can be reached by elephant, Amber Fort has been described as the sleeping beauty of Rajasthan. The somber exterior belies the richness of the royal apartments, which open on to striking views of the gorge.
This evening our guide will take us to the local market for a walk.
This day has been set aside with no formal touring until we fly to Udaipur late in the day. However, our guide will be available to help you enjoy the lively Holi, Festival of Colours, and the Jaipur Elephant Festival.
Holi is also considered to be the day of friendship, when in keeping with the spirit of the day, people forget petty enmities and renew their friendship. It’s also the day when people toss powder of various bright colors on their friends to celebrate the day. (You are welcome to observe from a safe vantage point, or jump into the middle of the celebrations!)
Jaipur Elephant Festival is perhaps the only festival where elephants are the center of attention. During the festival, Jaipur comes alive with elephants, dancers and musicians who entertain visitors from throughout India, and from all over the world. The elephants stride majestically, parading their decorated trunks and tusks. One of the most noticeable features of this festival is that all the elephants which take part are female Elephants. Groups of people flood the streets, playing cymbals and singing songs. The merrymaking goes on until early afternoon.
We will request a late check-out from our hotel to give a chance to wash off some of the colors from our more adventuresome travelers, then head to Jaipur Airport for an early evening one-hour flight to Udaipur.
Udaipur, one of the most romantic places in India, is situated around the shimmering clear blue lakes which whisper the mood of a bygone era. Founded in 1567 by Maharana Udai Singh on the advice of a sage, Udaipur was the last of the numerous Mewar capitals.
The city acquires its scenic beauty from the three lakes, Pichola, Fateh Sagar and Udai Sagar, that make it a lovely oasis in the desert. Full of enchanting tales, Udaipur has a remarkable past, with episodes of heroism and splendor. Our home base as we explore this city will be the exquisite Lake Palace Hotel, one of the most famous hotels in all of Asia.
Today we will visit the vast City Palace, comprised of 11 smaller palaces whose walls stretch for more than a mile along the shore of Lake Pichola, and Jagdish Temple, one of the largest and most popular Vishnu temples in northern India. We’ll take a drive around the Fateh Sager Lake and see the Sahelion Ki Badi (Queen’s resort). We’ll also have time to just wander through the hustle and bustle of the old market, including locations where the James Bond film Octopussy were filmed.
In the late afternoon, we’ll take a relaxing boat ride on the placid waters of Lake Pichola, have the opportunity to witness evening rituals on the bathing ghats (steps leading into the lake), and watch the sun set against the backdrop of the magnificent palaces. Then we will return to our hotel to enjoy our Farewell Dinner together.
Return to Delhi
In the late morning we transfer to the airport for our two and a half hour flight back to Delhi, with one stop enroute. After check in at our hotel, the rest of the day is at leisure. Perhaps you need to do some last minute shopping or want to enjoy our fine hotel before a long trip home. Hotel rooms are reserved through the morning of Day 12, but depending on flight schedules, you may wish to leave in the late evening of Day 11 (March 10, 2012) or early morning on Day 12 (March 11).
Our main tour ends this morning, but those joining our post-tour extension will fly to Varanasi today.
We hope you have enjoyed our Grand Tour of India. We look forward to seeing you again soon!
Post-tour extension to Varanasi and Khajuraho. Many of our travelers will join our post-tour extension to two of India’s most sacred cities to enhance their tour of India and to experience more of the richness of Indian culture. We will begin the extension with a morning flight to Varanasi, where we will spend two nights.
Varanasi (formerly called Benares) is situated on the banks of the holy Ganges River and is presided over by Lord Shiva. It is called the Eternal City and is distinguished by the many “ghats” along the riverside. (A ghat is a broad flight of steps that provides access to the water, especially for bathing). From time immemorial Varanasi has been a seat of learning and an important religious center for Hindus. It is also one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage, being visited by millions of people every year. In addition to its role in Hinduism, Varanasi also holds an important place in Buddhism, since Buddha’s first sermon was given nearby.
From Varanasi we’ll fly to Khajuraho, where we will spend two nights in this ancient capital of the Chandela Rajput Empire, built over one thousand years ago. We’ll also tour some of the temples built between the 9th and 12th centuries. Not only are these temples of the “nagara” style in splendid condition, they are famous for their beautifully sculpted surfaces which are covered in exquisitely detailed erotic content. This has been such a popular stop that we have made it a two-night stay instead of just one night.
We will fly back to Delhi in the early afternoon. Since many flights to North America and Europe depart around midnight, no overnight hotel is included for this night. However, we will have a day room available at a hotel in Delhi so you can freshen up for the flight home. For those flying out the following day or later, please let us know if you would like to add additional hotel nights. In 2012, the departing flight will be late on March 15 or early on March 16 for those on the extension.
So are most of the people who travel with us. You do not need to pay extra to travel by yourself. Prices are per-person, and the single supplement applies only if you’d like a room by yourself. For selected trips, especially if the trip includes a cruise, we charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate, but we are not able to match you with someone.
Transfers between Delhi Airport and hotel on arrival and departure
All surface transportation within India as outlined in tour itinerary in air-conditioned mini-coa
Flights from Jaipur to Udaipur, and from Udaipur to Delhi, including airport departure taxes
Five Star Superior hotels or hunting lodge each night, with private bath, in double occupancy
Two nights at the world-famous Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, surrounded by its own lake
Daily breakfast and six dinners, including wine at Welcome and Farewell dinners, plus two lunches
Admission to sites described in itinerary
Services of English-speaking Indian guides, plus Hanns Ebensten Travel tour director (with minimu
All hotel service charges, government taxes, porterage, and gratuities for included meals
International flights to and from Delhi
Visas for visting India (information about obtaining a visa will be sent about 4 months before de
Camera/video fee which is charged at some monuments
Lunches and dinners not described as being included
Personal items including: alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls
Gratuities for guides
Explore Delhi with its vast and rich history.
Watch sunrise illuminate the Taj Mahal.
Visit a tiger preserve, with the possibility of observing the reclusive Bengal tigers in their native habitat.
See the dreamy “pink city” of Jaipur and its famous seven gates.
On our 2012 tour, experience Jaipur during both the Holi Festival of Colors and the Jaipur Elephant Festival.
Visit the romantic and lovely city of Udaipur built around Lake Pichola.
Relax after a day of touring at sumptuous five-star hotels, including the storied Lake Palace Hotel on an island in Lake Pichola.
See Mughal history come alive before your eyes.
Enjoy a four-night post-tour extension to the ancient cities of Varanasi and Khajuraho.
Explore India, a land of overwhelming sensations!
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