Places Visited: Delhi, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Orchha, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur
Staying in five star hotels you experience India’s cultural, sacred and religious heritage on this tour of the North's historic highlights. Spanning 2,500 years of monumental architecture, this loop from Delhi across the Gangetic Plains to Varanasi and southern Rajasthan weaves between India’s most iconic temples, palaces and forts, culminating with a stay in the dreamy lakeside city of Udaipur. In the course of a highly varied fortnight you’ll travel in the footsteps of the Buddha, experience the erotic intensity of Khajuraho’s tantric stone carvings and watch the sunrise over the Ganges, as well as seeing the Taj Mahal and many other fabulous medieval wonders of Agra, including a couple of rarely visited gems.
Your experienced English-speaking escort and guide remains with you thorughout the journey ensuring your every comfort at all times.
Cultural Holidays Beach Holidays Active Holidays
- Group Size 4 -16 people
- Internal Travel Arrival & departure transfers, Internal travel by road, rail and air
- Accompanying Guide English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved
- Accommodation 13 nights
- Meal Plan Breakfast daily. Lunch on days 2, 4, 6, 8, 12. Dinner on days 1, 11
Itinerary for Classic India
On arrival in Delhi, you’ll be met by your TransIndus team and transferred to the Taj Mahal hotel or similar, where you’ll be staying for two nights. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from your journey with a leisurely swim in the hotel pool, and perhaps a stroll around the local neighbourhood later. In the evening there will be a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Delhi, India’s capital, is where most new arrivals alight – a megacity whose fast pace and jarring contrasts are guaranteed to induce a degree of wide-eyed exicement, no matter how many times you’ve been there. Afghan mausolea, millennia-old fort walls and Sufi shrines endure alongside Delhi's race for modernity. Five-star hotels host recitals by ghazal singers, sarod players and kathak dancers whose arts have been painstakingly preserved since the days of Mughals. Echoes of the British Raj abound, too, in gand architecture and uniforms of the sentries strutting down Raj Path and amid the sprawl of the southern suburbs, you can even sip cappuccinos in trendy air-con cafés while gazing over the remnants of 11th-century tombs, water tanks and rose gardens.
Explore Delhi on a full day sightseeing tour. Enjoy a cycle rickshaw ride in the bustling lanes of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi followed by a visit to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India and the Raj Ghat, a memorial built for Mahatma Gandhi, a prominent figure in India’s struggle for freedom. In the afternoon, drive past Lutyen’s New Delhi. Visit the tomb of Humayun and the lofty Qutb Minar, an early Mughal structure made of red sandstone and white marble.
Cycle-rickshaws are a relaxing, and eco-friendly, way to explore the lanes of Old Delhi. Different streets are to be given over to different trades in this atmospheric district, which formed the hub of the former Mughal city. Dominating its skyline is the massive white dome of the Jama Masjid mosque, the next stop on your tour. After admiring the extraordinary view from its minarets, enjoy lunch at one of the famous kebab restaurants below, before driving past the Raj-era capital to Humayun’s Tomb, one of the India’s greatest early Mughal buildings. Older still is the iconic Qutb Minar victory tower on Delhi’s southern outskirts, the day’s final stop.
Take a short flight to Varanasi, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and, for Hindus, one of the holiest places in India. Stay at The Gateway Hotel or similar for two nights. The afternoon is at leisure. Witness the spectacular Ganga Aarti (spiritual worship) this evening on the ghats of the Ganges river.
On the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi (‘Kashi’ or ‘Benares’ as it’s also known) is among the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. Streams of Hindu worshippers still come here today to bathe in the sacred waters of the river, believed to wash away the sins of past lifetimes. After an amble around the ghats and temples with your guide, you’ll return to Dashashwamedh Ghat to watch Ganga Aarthi, an impressive ritual in which teams of young priests in splendid ceremonial dress wave blazing oil lamps next to the Ganges. Devotional hymns, chants, drumming, bell ringing and gongs combine to create an intense atmosphere.
A peaceful early morning boat ride on the Ganges to see devotees at prayer at the waters’ edge. Visit Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s first public discourse and now home to many magnificent stupas and monasteries. In the afternoon, stop by at one of Varanasi’s famous silk workshops.
Watching the pre-dawn rituals on the ghats of Varanasi is a must, and there’s no better vantage point than from a rowing boat. When the sun rises, it bathes the sacred steps and people on them in a radiant light. Somewhat less uplifting, but an essential part of religious life in the city, are the cremation ghats, where bodies are burned on large pyres. Sarnath was where the Buddha gave his first sermon in 530BC, revealing the ‘Eight-Fold Path’ to his five disciples. The exact spot is marked by the cylindrical Dhamekh Stupa, built in 500 AD on the remnants of a much older one commissioned by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. The structure takes pride of place in an immaculately kept park of well-tended lawns and flower beds.
Take a midday flight to Khajuraho and transfer to the Radisson Hotel or similar for an overnight stay. Enjoy an afternoon tour of the legendary temples of Khajuraho, renowned for their erotic art.
Khajuraho’s extraordinary assemblage of shrines owes its survival to the remoteness of the location in central India. Even in the period between the 10th and 13th centuries when they were being built, the temples lay well of the beaten track and miraculously escaped the attention of the marauding Muslim armies that destroyed so much of India’s religious art in the medieval era. Famed above all for their erotica, the stone sculpture that adorns the Khajuraho shrines today appears astonishingly fresh. You’ll arrive in time for a look at some of the main temples before supper. The sensuously carved stonework looks at its most ethereal in the late-evening light.
Khajuraho, Orchha, Agra
A morning drive (4 hours) to the unhurried settlement of Orchha to see the 16th century temples and palaces. A short drive to Jhansi, after lunch, to board an express train to Agra, arriving in the evening. Stay at ITC Mughal or similar for two nights.
Orchha ranks among our favourite destinations in northern India, thanks to its tumbledown, sleepy feel and picturesque setting amid swaths of dhak forest on the banks of the Betwa – an idyllic backdrop for a leisurely lunch. The monuments are deserted and in a generally poor state of repair, though all the more atmospheric for that. The most iconic are the 14 beautiful chhatris, or cenotaphs, rising from the river’s northern banks, which you’ll have the chance to visit before continuing on your journey to Agra.
A half day sightseeing tour of Agra starts with a visit to the Taj Mahal, regarded as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture. Followed by a visit to the impressive Agra Fort whose buildings, made of red sandstone and marble, are a mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture. Finally, see the ornate tomb of Itamud-ud-Daula. The afternoon is at leisure.
Agra’s great Mughal Fort, on the banks of the Yamuna River, was where Emperor Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned at the end of his life by his rather fanatical son, Aurangzeb – the old man is said to have wiled away his days gazing at the tomb through the windows of a gilded rooftop pavilion. On the opposite bank, the exquisitely decorated Itimad-ud Daulah tomb provides the next stop on today’s tour. The mausoleum’s inlay work foreshadowed that of the Taj, which you’ll visit towards the end of the afternoon, when the changing light transforms the marble surfaces from a pale ochre to orange and crimson.
A full day drive to Jaipur (6-7 hours) with a stop at Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city built by Emperor Akbar and abandoned after just 14 years. Closer to Jaipur, stop to see the impressive 9th century AD Chand Baori step well at Abhaneri. Stay at ITC Rajputana or similar for two nights.
Fatehpur Sikri, the former capital of Emperor Akbar, was built at lavish expense at end of the 16th century but only occupied for sixteen years, when the court decamped to Lahore. Today, the finely carved, dark-red buildings remain in fine condition and vividly evoke the opulence of the Mughal era. Among many highlights are the Diwan-i-Khas audience hall, with its richly sculpted throne pillar, the beautiful Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti (a revered Sufi mystic) and Buland Darwaza gateway.
Today’s other sightseeing stop, the famous Chand Baori stepwell, lies just off the main Agra–Jaipur highway at Abhaneri. Its ornately modelled steps provide a fine photo opportunity, and a welcome chance to stretch your legs!
In the morning, visit the 17th century magnificent hilltop fort of Amber and the sparkling Mirror Palace. In the afternoon, visit the City Palace with its museum and the 18th century Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory. Drive through the busy bazaars for a photo stop at the recently restored Hawa Mahal, one of the most famous buildings in Jaipur.
Perched on the rim of a dramatic escarpment, Amber Fort retains some of the finest interiors surviving from the 16th and 17th centuries in India, notably a glittering ‘Hall of Mirrors’, or ‘Sheesh Mahal’, lined with intricate mirror mosaics where the Maharaja and his consorts would enjoy music and poetry recitals. Anyone interested in traditional Rajasthani textiles will also enjoy a visit to the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, located in a beautifully restored haveli in Amber village.
Jaipur itself is a swirl of life and colour, and its numerous monuments and markets provide the focus for the rest of the day. You’ll begin at the famous City Palace complex, which includes the much photographed ‘Hawa Mahal’, or ‘Palace of Winds’, a five-storey façade of elaborately screened windows from where the women of the royal household used to watch processions in the streets below.
A long day’s drive today takes you through the heart of Rajasthan to Jodhpur, former capital of the princely state of Marwar, and one of India’s most visually arresting cities. Stay at ITC Welcome or similar for two nights.
With its awe-inspiring fort and labyrinthine, blue-painted old city, Jodhpur is without doubt one of the great highlights of this region. All being well, the group will arrive in time to freshen up and sample its unique atmosphere with a stroll around the bazaar area before supper back at the hotel.
Enjoy a half day sightseeing tour of Jodhpur focussed on the majestic Mehrangarh fort. Also visit the Jaswant Thada, a marble cenotaph and take a walk through the Sadar Bazar to see its Clock Tower that dates back to 1912. The afternoon is at leisure. In the evening, enjoy dinner at the residence of a local family. Optional excursion: Camel Cart ride, Osian
We generally allow at least a couple of hours to tour the palace, museum and temples of Mehrangarh Fort, and to soak up the amazing views over the old city from the ramparts. The afternoon will be free for a spot of R&R back at the hotel, or an optional excursion to Umaid Bhavan – a vast, Art-Deco-style complex on Jodhpur’s southern outskirts, where you can enjoy high tea served by waiters in old-fashioned livery, as peacocks graze the lawns.
Head to the scenic beauty of the Aravalli Hills and the town of Ranakpur (3 hours) to visit the intricately carved Jain temples before continuing on to Udaipur (3 hours). Stay at The Lalit Laxmi Vilas Palace or similar for two nights.
The first half of the journey from Jodhpur to Udaipur takes you across a vast, dusty plain studded with giant boulder hills and old-fashioned market towns. In the west, the shadowy wall of the Aravalli Mountains gradually grows more distinct. Before climbing into the range, the group will pause at Ranakpur to visit a cluster of richly sculpted Jain temples. From there the road ascends steeply then follows an undulating course through a rural hinterland inhabited mostly by Bhil farmers. Having checked into your hotel in Udaipur, you should have time to wander down to the lakeside to see the city’s great Rajput palaces in the sunset light.
A morning city tour takes in the City Palace, a complex of 11 palaces, all with intricate stone work and interiors featuring glass mirror and ornamental tile. Also visit the gardens of Sahelion Ki Bari, the old city and the Jagdish Temple. The afternoon is at leisure. Optional excursion: Sunset champagne hiking.
Udaipur’s City Palace, seat of the Sisodia Dynasty, holds a feast of Rajput architecture, and yields magnificent views over Pichola Lake to the Aravallis. After visiting its museums, apartments and courtyard gardens, wander down to the Jagdish Temple nearby before heading into the old city with your guide to explore the markets. Late afternoon is the time to be on a rooftop at the water’s edge, soaking up the sunset colours and unique atmosphere of this romantic city over a long drink – a fitting end to this fabulous tour.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
Group Tour 14 days from £2045 per person
✓ 13 nights accommodation
✓ Arrival & departure transfers, Internal travel by road, rail and air
✓ English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved
✓ Breakfast daily. Lunch on days 2, 4, 6, 8, 12. Dinner on days 1, 11
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Holiday Extensions for this tour
Classic India - Laid-back Kerala
6 days, 5 nights from £725 per person
Single supplement £ 415 per personview itinerary
Udaipur, Mumbai, Cochin
Take a set of flights via Mumbai to Cochin, arriving mid afternoon. Transfer to the Casino Hotel or similar for two nights. In the evening, take a sunset cruise in the harbour for views of the landmark Chinese fishing nets.
Sightseeing of historic Fort Cochin includes a visit to the Dutch Palace, the Jewish Synagogue and St Francis, the oldest church in India. Attend a Kathakali dance performance.
Drive to Kumarakom (2 hours). Stay at the Zuri Kumarakom for three nights. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Transfer to Cochin airport for your onward flight.
Classic India - Beaches of Goa
4 days, 3 nights from £665 per person
Single supplement £ 425 per personview itinerary
Udaipur, Mumbai, Goa
Take a set of flights via Mumbai to Goa, arriving mid afternoon. Transfer to the Holiday Inn or similar (upgrades available) for three nights.
Transfer to the airport.
Places and Experiences in this tour
Delhi, India’s capital, is home to an estimated 20 million people. A compelling hotch-potch of ancient and modern, it holds the vestiges of at least seven great urban centres: Afg...
The city of Agra makes up one-third of India's 'golden triangle', along with Delhi and Jaipur, three of northern India's most popular destinations for tourists. Agra’s heart-stop...
Amber Fort (Jaipur)
The great arched gateways of Amber Fort, the seat of the Kachwaha dynasty, who ruled over Rajasthan in the Mughal era is a fortress straight out othe Arabian nights. Rising from t...
Varanasi, or ‘Benares’, is the holiest of Hinduism’s seven sacred cities. It stands on the banks of the Ganges, at a bend in the river where traces of human settlement have been u...
Capital of the former Kingdom of Marwar, Jodhpur owes its prominence to the trade route that once passed its gates, connecting the ports of Gujarat with the cities of the northern...
Udaipur, India’s most romantic city, is spread around the shores of shimmering Lake Pichola. Tiers of ghats (sacred steps), whitewashed havelis and temple towers line the shore, o...
The forts of Delhi and Agra may have lost much of their former lustre, but it’s not hard to envisage the lavish lifestyle led by the royal inhabitants of Akbar’s court, thanks to ...
Orchha often turns out to be the unexpected highlight of tours across India’s northern plains. Now little more than a sleepy village, the site on the banks of the rocky Betwa Rive...
Just down the mountain from Kumbhalgarh lies the famous Jain temple complex of Ranakpur. Built in the 15th century, the shrines here are renowned above all for their richly carved...
Beaches of Goa
Virtually the entire 105-km coastline of Portugal’s former colony is edged by glorious, golden-sand beaches. The warm surf of the Arabian Sea here has soothed weary foreign travel...
Old Delhi Walking Tours
The old quarter of Delhi was established by the Mughals in the 17th century. In its heyday, ‘Shahjahanabad’ ranked among the most culturally sophisticated, architecturally impress...
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