Splendors of India

This is a wonderful itinerary for the first time traveler to India. Not only does it include a variety of cities but also a few villages to see how 70% of India lives. Special immersion experiences beyond just seeing the monuments are included. These immersion experiences will introduce you to the local people and culture with a guide. Shahpura Bagh and Chhatra Sagar Luxury Tented camp are two of our favorite boutique properties where you will have a wonderful stay with delicious food and a great rural experience.

General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Delhi, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra, Jaipur, Shahpura, Nimaj, Jaisalmer, Johdpur, Udaipur, Mumbai and Aurangabad

Departure Dates 

Departures are flexible since this is a private custom tour.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1

Arrive Delhi Namaste! Welcome to India! Our representative will meet you in the arrival area of the airport after you clear all immigration and customs formalities. Depart for your hotel where you will check in for your stay.

Day 2

Delhi Delhi stands as the capital of Modern India. Here you can see the mingling of the Old and New India, the ancient and the modern. Delhi is made up of seven ancient cities, spanning the period from the 11th to 20th centuries. Delhi has seen the rise and fall of many emperors, which has left behind a plethora of monuments that commemorate the grandeur and glory of bygone ages. Very few cities in the world can express such a profusion of architectural styles. The guided tour will begin with a visit to Raj Ghat, a simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi; drive past the Red Fort continuing to the Jama Masjid or Friday Mosque, walk down the narrow streets of Chandni Chowk to reach the mosque. It is the largest mosque in India, accommodating up to 25,000 worshippers at one time. Designed by Shah Jahan, this grand red sandstone and white marble mosque was built by approximately 5,000 artisans from 1644 to 1656. The tour to Imperial Delhi will include a visit to the Qutub Minar; the five-storied tower with a 14.4meter base that tapers up to two and a half meters at the top and is visible for a long distance around. 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.

Day 3

Delhi - Varanasi Today you will be assisted for your scheduled departure transfer to the airport on time to board the flight for Varanasi. (9W 2423 – 1040/1155) On arrival, you will be met and transferred to the hotel. In the afternoon, you will be met by an expert for the guided Bengali Tola walk where in you will have an opportunity to get a glimpse of the symbiotic life of the riverside people of Varanasi. Eventually, as you tour through the city you will end up on Bengali Tola, the street of the Bengalis, where you will be visiting the hidden Mother Goddess Kali shrines, and the vistas of life along the riverside. The tour continues to the historic ritual bathing site called Dashaswamedh, or the ten-horse sacrifice Ghat, the perfect way to conclude this walking city tour. Every evening, an illuminated aarti is performed at Dasahwamedh Ghat. Halt your boat right at the steps for the best view. The presiding priests stand on a wooden Chauki in the water. To the chant of Sanskrit mantras, and the clash of cymbals and drums, the river is worshipped with flowers, incense, sandalwood, milk and vermilion. First the blazing camphor lamp and then the many flamed aarti lamps are raised high and then arched back to the water, the dark river reflecting the golden flames as Ganges accepts the worship. It is the Ganges that gives Varanasi its spiritual resonance.

Day 4

Varanasi In the morning take a boat ride on the river Ganges to view the sunrise. Varanasi's unique culture is associated with the river Ganges, where life and death intermingle. The living flock the ghats to pray with the belief that bathing in the waters of the sacred river will result in the remission of their sins, while the ashes of the dead are scattered in the water to break the cycle of reincarnation and let the soul rise to enlightment. Post breakfast visit some of the other important sites in the city with your guide. Dotted with temples, the city's principle shrine is the Vishwanath temple, dedicated to Shiva. The temple was destroyed repeatedly during various invasions but was finally rebuilt in 1776 A.D. by Rani Ahilyabai of Indore. Visit the famous Banaras Hindu University that was established in 1916 and the objective was to achieve the national awakening by spreading education all over the country. At present it is the largest residential university in Asia with large number of students from over 34 nations. In the afternoon, you will visit Sarnath. After attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya the Buddha went to Sarnath; and it was here that he preached his first discourse in the deer park to set in motion the 'Wheel of the Dharma'. Sarnath museum (Sarnath museum Closed on Fridays) is amongst the most important in India and contains carvings representing a whole range of styles: archaic, the Mathura School, Gupta, past Gupta and Medieval, covering work of sculptors from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D.

Day 5

Varanasi - Khajuraho Today you will be assisted for your scheduled departure transfer to the airport in time to board the flight for Khajuraho. On arrival at Khajuraho, you will be met and transferred to the hotel. (9W- 2423 – 1255/1315) In the evening you will attend the Light and Sound show at the famous Western Group of Temples. The show portrays the life and times of the great Chandela kings and tells the story of the exclusive temples from the 10th Century to the present day. The 50-minute fascinating show is held every evening at the temple where technicolor floodlights sweep across the temples as Indian classical music soundtracks a history of Khajuraho narrated by the 'master sculptor'.

Day 6

Khajuraho – Orcha – Jhansi - Agra In the morning visit the famous 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 the 12th centuries. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of a hundred years, from 950 to 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, of which only 22 now stand in a reasonable state of preservation, scattered over an area of about 8 square miles (21 km²). The temples of Khajuraho are an example of religion laced with erotica. They are fine examples of Indian architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their salacious depiction of the traditional way of life during medieval times. They were rediscovered only during the 20th century and the jungles had taken a toll on some of the monuments. Later drive to Orcha and on arrival transfer to the charming Amar Mahal Palace for lunch. Post lunch visit the Orcha which is a marvelous example of a medieval Fort Palace. Within the turreted walls are gardens, gateways, pavilions and temples, near the confluence of the Betwa and Jamni rivers. The Raj Mahal with its Hall of Private Audience exemplifies Bundela Rajput architecture. Despite the neglected appearance, there are some beautiful murals on the ceilings and walls of both religious and secular themes. The Jahangir Mahal was built in the 17th century and synthesizes both Hindu and Muslim styles. Around the central square courtyard are the three storied royal apartments decorated with domes, arches and hanging balconies. The decorative turquoise blue tiles, and latticed screens give this palace a delicate and airy feel. Later you will be transferred to Jhansi station on time to board the train for Agra. (Shatabdi Express : 1755/2025) On arrival at Agra station, you will be met and transferred to the hotel.

Day 7

Agra Visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise. The Mughal Emperor Shahjahan built the Taj Mahal in 1630 AD to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal manifests the wealth and luxury of Mughal art as seen in architecture and garden design, painting, and calligraphy. The 144 foot double dome of the Taj is capped with a finial and the four minarets each 131 ft high and crowned by an open octagonal pavilion highlight the perfect symmetry of the tomb. The filigree screen, meant to veil the area around the royal tomb was carved out of single block of marble. The Mughals believed that flowers were the symbols of the divine realm, thus in the Taj, pietra dura has been extensively used to translate naturalistic forms into decorative patterns that complement the majesty of its architecture. The monument changes with light and presents different times of the day. Return to the hotel for brakfast. Visit the massive Agra Fort that was originally started by Emperor Akbar in 1565, but his son, Jahangir, and grandson, Shah Jahan, later made valuable additions to it. It houses the Dewan-e-Khas and Dewan-e-Aam (Halls of Private and Public Audience). Its walls and palaces are a silent witness to the rise and fall of the Imperial Mughal Empire and feature a variety of ingenious Islamic inspired devices (some decorative, some more practical) within the fabric of the buildings. It’s a citadel with marble palaces, ornate alcoves, and terrace pavilions. Early evening visit Kacchpura Village (Mughal Heritage Trail). This Heritage Trail brings amazing behind the scenes of life and times throbbing in the shadows of the Taj Mahal. The trail is a community - based enterprise. All that is earned from this trail goes directly to the funding of welfare work. Walk ends in Mehtab Bagh from where you will have the opportunity to watch the Taj Mahal during sunset.

Day 8

Agra – Fatehpur Sikri - Jaipur Today you will be assisted for your scheduled departure by road for Jaipur (approx.235 kms/6 hrs). En-route visit Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri, located 37 km southwest of Agra is a magnificent fortified ghost city that was constructed by Akbar in the 16 century to honor the Chishti Saint, Sheikh Salim, who foretold the birth of Akbar's son, Jahangir. The city is a combination of Hindu and Persian architecture, and is in a remarkable state of preservation. The city was abandoned soon after it was built when the local wells went dry, and it remains much in the same condition as it was over 300 years ago. Post sightseeing the tour continues to Jaipur and on arrival check into the hotel. Evening is reserved for a special cooking demo/dinner.

Day 9

Jaipur In the morning start your tour by visiting the magnificent Amber Fort. It was once the ancient capital of the Rajput Empire. From the road you can climb up to the fort in approximately 10 minutes, but a jeep or elephant ride will spare you the trouble of walking up to the fortress. Once on the top, you will stroll with a guide 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. Later visit the City Palace and Royal Observatory. First visit the City Palace which houses a museum containing rare manuscripts, paintings and an armory. Then, proceed on to the Royal Observatory (Jantar Mantar), built in the 17th century by Jai Singh, a famous astronomer. The observatory has a 900-foot-high sundial. The Central Museum, founded in 1876, has a large collection of antiques. Later drive past the Hawa Mahal, also known as the “Palace of Winds”. Hawa Mahal, built in a unique design, is the landmark of Jaipur, and was used by the ladies of the court to watch the daily goings-on in the street below. The pink sandstone carvings are extremely intricate, and it is a great place to take pictures. From its creation in 1727 the royal families and nobles of Jaipur patronized the craftsmen and artisans of the city. These traditions continue to this day and as a result many people consider modern day Jaipur the craft capital of India. Traditional methods are still used to produce many valuable and highly prized items. Using skills passed down through generations, artisans and master craftsmen can be seen in the areas of Ghat Darwaza and Vishveshwar ji. On this fascinating late afternoon walk mingle and talk with the locals whilst sampling some of the regions culinary delights: try pakoras, aloo tiki, samosa and sweets from some of the city’s most popular street food vendors. Observe local artisans in their workshops; jewelers and silversmiths, gold and silver foil makers. The iconic Hawa Mahal also called the Palace of the winds is the meeting - point at which this two and a half hour walk begins. Here you also have the option of seeing and trying the art of Henna painting as well.

Day 10

Jaipur - Shapura Early morning experience the spiritual side of the locals by visiting colorful temples, interact with residents over a cup of tea in their homes and discover some of the architectural wonders of this fascinating area of Jaipur. The walk has been carefully designed to offer a rewarding and enriching experience. Uncovering some of the best - kept secrets of the walled city of Jaipur, the city takes pride in sharing a warm association with the resident artisans, shop owners, temple priests and local citizens. This association makes the walking tours more engaging; here one have a genuinely interactive experience getting to meet the residents and gain an insight into their traditional way of life. Chand Pol’ gate, one of the original seven gateways into the old walled city of Jaipur, is the point at which this 2 and a half hour walk begins. Post breakfast drive Shahpura (approx. 220 kms / 4 hours) and on arrival check into Shahpura Bagh. Glistening lakes (seasonally) teem with birds surround this wonderful garden estate. Formerly the summer home of the rulers of Shahpura, the style and decor of Shahpura Bagh is very much a mixture of Rajasthani meets colonial, with a quiet, understated yet elegant air. The large, lofty rooms have been superbly decorated and the bathrooms are spacious, with state of the art fittings. Very much a family concern, they all reside here and greatly enjoy chatting with guests. However, by living in a separate residence, guests retain their privacy and may choose to dine privately should they wish to. The rural activities are great fun and offer guests a chance to really get under the skin of the area. At the end of the day, visit the stunning step well and exquisite temple before heading out to the old fort for refreshing drinks at sundown. The cuisine is delicious Rajasthani home-cooking and limited continental.

Day 11

Shapura Over the centuries, various family members have played an active part in supporting Shahpura and the environs. This has ranged from founding schools in various mediums and agricultural schools; donating land and property for the creation of hospitals, schools and homes for the destitute; and the Rajadhiraj Sudarshan Deo Charitable Trust. This trust works in close coordination with the local municipality and Government Schools and aims at supporting rural children. The Shahpura family contributes a portion of its turnover towards this charity In the morning explore the area with your hosts visiting the farmlands owned and maintained by the Royal family and visit the local village. Evening is reserved for an exclusive candle lit dinner, set up near the pool where the hosts will be glad to share the stories of a by gone era during the dinner.

Day 12

Shapura - Nimaj Today your next destination will be Nimaj (approx.130 kms/ 3 hours) and on arrival check into Chhatra Sagar Luxury Tented Camp. Chhatra Sagar had developed into a lush green oasis. With its wide - open spaces and enchanting views, it became the entertainment venue of choice. Luxury tents have always been an important part of Rajput lifestyle. Constant campaigns in far - flung lands meant long stays in tents under inhospitable conditions. Tents were the only luxury available and soon these evolved into mobile, mini-palaces. Chhatra Sagar captures the essence of this romance. The descendants of the people invited here by Thakur Chhatra Singh still live in settlements around Chhatra Sagar. Predominantly farmers and shepherds, they live a self – contained and harmonious life which has changed little in the last century. Chhatra Sagar continues to recharge their wells and provide water for their livestock. In the afternoon take a bird watching walk near the campsite with one of the owners. Here you will love the silence, the bird watching, the isolation, the fresh pomegranate juice on the terrace and the tangible humanity of this singular place.

Day 13

Nimaj - Jaisalmer The Rathore family deeply loves the land, and view water harvesting as an ancestral responsibility. Stewards and guardians of a unique place, their personal involvement and constant presence reinforce their commitment. While on the village tour, one will witness the same. Following their conservation effort, over 200 varieties of wildlife have returned, egret, heron, kingfishers, antelope, wild boar, small jungle cats, all easily observed from the ramparts of the dam or on nature walks into the habitat. The sustainability quotient is optimal—the camp serves all locally sourced food, has intense community involvement, and is furnished by indigenous craft. The property employs 30 local families from the nearby village of Kheda Deogarh, sponsors teachers, provides medicine, classroom furniture and brings specialized educators who address subjects ranging from family planning to recycling to soil conservation. They bring to the equation a natural grace and elegance, making the experience an altogether authentic one. Drive to Jaisalmer (approx.350 kms / 7 hrs). En-route, you will stop for lunch at Manwar.

Day 14

Jaisalmer After breakfast proceed for a city tour of Jaisalmer. Your first stop will be Jaisalmer Fort also known as Sonar Qila (the Golden Fort). Jaisalmer fort shimmers like a mirage amidst the desolate beauty of the hot barren deserts of Rajasthan. Built in 1156 by the Bhati Rajput ruler Jaisala and reinforced by subsequent rulers, the fort situated on the Trikuta Hill had been the scene of many battles. Standing at a height of 100 meters over the city, the fort houses a citadel within its huge ramparts. The world's only living fort, about a quarter of city’s population lives within the fort's walls. Jaisalmer Fort is sheer magic. Built entirely of yellow sandstone; it turns to a magical honey-gold as the sunsets. The main attractions inside the fort are the Lakshminath temple and the Jain temples, which built between 12th and 15th centuries, are dedicated to Rikhabdev and Sambhavanth. The city of Jaisalmer is famous for its intricately latticed Havelis, built by wealthy merchants. These beautiful sandstone buildings are still in very good conditions even today. Late afternoon drive to Khuri Sand Dunes for a camel ride into the desert to watch the sun set on this golden desert city, emitting a lustrous glow off the desert sand. A camel safari is one of the unique ways to explore small villages in Rajasthan. Atop this ship of the desert embark on an exciting soft adventure. Board a camel to discover the rich desert culture and meet the colorful tribal people.

Day 15

Jaisalmer - Johdpur Today post breakfast drive to Jaisalmer (approx. 290 kms / 7 hrs). En-route you will visit the famous Jain Temple at Osian. The temple is a masterpiece of ancient architectural style and the carvings in the temple depicts the life story of Bhagavan Neminath. The architectural beauty of the circular arches at the entrance is unparalleled. Thousands of tourists and Jain devotees visit this shrine to appreciate and to offer their prayers in this ancient old Jain shrine. Later continue your drive to Jodhpur and on arrival check into your hotel. Johdpur is known as the ‘Blue City’. Rao Jodha, a chief of the Rathore clan of the Rajputs, found Johdpur on the edges of the Thar Desert in 1459AD. It was the capital of the Rathore Kingdom, which was the largest in the Rajputana. Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur, and is encircled by a high 10 km long wall. Bright colors are an integral part of the lives of the people in Jodhpur. The locals wear a variety of artistically designed costumes, aflame with bright colors and mirror work. The women folk wear wide gathered skirts and a hip-length jacket with three quarter length sleeves and the men sport colorful turbans on their heads! Jodhpur has a very strong tradition of folk art, where the figures are mainly robust warriors and dainty women.

Day 16

Johdpur In the morning proceed for half - day sightseeing tour of the city. The Mehrangarh Fort is the most impressive fortress in Rajasthan. The 5 km long ramparts of the fort, perched on a 125 meter - high rocky cliff in the middle of the city, has four gates that can be approached by a winding road. The fort offers a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. Inside the fort, one can see magnificent palaces adorned with intricately carved panels and latticed windows. The palaces have evocative names that match their character like Moti-Mahal, Phool-Mahal, Sheesh-Mahal, Sileh-Khana and Daulat-Khana. These palaces house a fabulous collection of trappings of Indian royalty: palanquins, elephant howdahs, miniature paintings of various schools, music instruments, costumes and furniture. Visit Jaswant Thada memorial. This cluster of royal cenotaphs in white marble built in 1899 A.D. in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, also houses the portraits of various kings who ruled Jodhpur in the past. Visit old city where the clock tower is a prominent landmark. But the main attraction is the Sadar Market. The market has kept alive the old 'haat bazaar' culture. Sadar market is a lively, bustling, colorful market that runs from Sojati Gate to the Clock tower (which is late 19th century). In the distance you can see the vast bulk of the Meherangarh fort that dominates the skyline for miles around. These colorful markets with tiny shops dotting the narrow lanes are situated in the heart of the city and are popular for a wide range of handicrafts, making them the favorite haunt of shoppers.

Day 17

Jodhpur – Ranakpur – Udaipur The drive today 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, 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. There are endless opportunities for photography. Your destination is one of the architectural gems of the area, The White Marble Temples at Ranakpur. Surrounded by tangled forests with monkeys abounding in the courtyard, Ranakpur is one of the five important pilgrim centers for the Jain community. The whole, including the extraordinary array of 1144 pillars each distinct in design, carved ceilings, and arches decorated with friezes depicting scenes from the lives of the Jain saints, is fascinating. Post lunch at Fatehbagh Palace, continue driving to Udaipur and on arrival check into the hotel. Dotted with marble palaces, hibiscus - laden gardens and fountain pavilions, Udaipur appeals to the imagination of poets and painters, travellers and writers like no other city in the country. The city's inherent romance and beauty and its remarkable past redolent with episodes of heroism and splendor, continue to enthrall the visitor even today. Udaipur, the City of Dawn, looms up like a vision in white. Surrounded by hills and mountains and set on the edge of three lakes that lead on to a fertile plain, it is a truly enchanting city. Narrow streets lined with vividly colored stalls, gardens, temples and palaces mirrored in the placid blue waters of Lake Pichola, add to the magic of Udaipur.

Day 18

Udaipur Today you have the full day to explore and experience what the city has to offer starting at Jagdish Temple built in 1651. Notice the many heritage mansions that line the city boulevards, the art shops and boutiques that lead to the old bathing ghats that fringe the banks of Lake Pichola. Visit the City Palace, (part of which has been converted into a museum housing the largest collection of crystal in the world) and see the gorgeous peacock mosaics, striking blue and white ceramics and Dutch inlaid tile work, glass and porcelain figures and miniature paintings are just two of Udaipur's main attractions. In the afternoon, take a boat ride on Lake Pichola, covering the City Palace and Jag Mandir, a refuge of the rebel Mughal prince Shah Jahan, soon to be the creator of the incomparable Taj Mahal.

Day 19

Udaipur – Aurangabad Today early morning, assisted departure transfer to the airport for the flight to Mumbai. (9W-7202 – 0715/0830 hours) On arrival at Mumbai airport, you will be met and will proceed for a short orientation tour of the City. Visit Gateway of India that is the landmark of Bombay, which, was before the advent of air travel, the only gateway to India. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George and Queen Mary to India in 1911. Drive along Marine Drive, the seafront boulevard. It is also known as the Queen’s Necklace as in the evening, the breeze from the Arabian Sea comes over Marine Drive and as the streetlights on this U-shaped road light up, the view from south Bombay’s skyscrapers or from the exclusive residential area, is that of a Queen’s Necklace. Visit the Jain temple and drive past Victoria Terminus train station and the Dhobi Ghats, the out door laundry. Post lunch at airport hotel (on direct payment), you will be transferred back to the airport to board the onward flight for Aurangabad. (AI- 442 1500/1550 hrs) On arrival in Aurangabad, you will be met and transferred to the hotel.

Day 20

Aurangabad Visit the famous Ajanta Caves (closed on Mondays). Nestling in an inner fold of the Sahyardi hills, 100 km from Aurangabad in the shape of a mammoth horse- shoe, are the 30 rock-hewn caves of Ajanta. The caves date from the 2nd century BC. Discovered in 1819 by a group of British army officers, these startling achievements took around 600 years to create. Carved with little more than a hammer and chisel, Ajanta, once the retreat of Buddhist monastic orders features several 'chaityas' (chapels) and 'viharas' (monasteries). The exquisite wall and ceiling paintings, panels and sculptures of Buddha's life are famous throughout the world as the earliest and finest examples of Buddhist pictorial art.

Price

Price 

Price depends upon the hotels and time of year. High season for India is October 1 - March 31.