Tailor-made Tour 10 days from £2350 per person
Places Visited: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur,
Experience the great monuments of Rajasthan and India’s ‘Golden Triangle’ for half the normal price. Travel in the off peak period between April and september and you’ll find the tomb gardens, palaces and forts of northern India far less busy, while the discounts offered by hotels in the region mean you can enjoy five-star luxury throughout – for a fraction of the cost.
But how about the weather? Is it too hot and wet to travel at this time of year? The short answer is ‘no’. Periodic downpours and frequent cloudy skies keep the temperatures restrained, while the rain has a transformative effect on the Mughal and Rajput buildings. After a refreshing downpour, the white marble of the Taj Mahal glistens magnificently; the sandstone domes and pillared courtyards of the Emperor Akbar’s former palace complex at Fatehpur Sikri adopt a rich, red hue; and the farmland of the northern plains turns from a dry dustbowl into a lush patchwork of vegetation.
We’ve devised a tour perfectly adapted to the monsoon conditions and which takes full benefit of these off-season reductions. So if you are restricted to travelling in the European summer, then this trip is for you!
✓ Luxury five-star hotels throughout
✓ Sunset and sunrise at the Taj Mahal
✓ Guided tour of Fatehpur Sikri
✓ Old Delhi’s great Mughal mosque, the Jama Masjid
✓ The tomb gardens of South Delhi
✓ Amber Fort and the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur
✓ Udaipur’s fairy-tale palaces
✓ Souvenir shopping in some of the country’s finest emporia
On arrival in Delhi, you’ll be met at the airport by your TransIndus representative and driven to your hotel, which will be located in the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri. Having checked in, spend the remainder of the day recovering from your journey, perhaps venturing out for a walk in the local neighbourhood before supper.
Chanakyapuri is one of the most affluent neighbourhoods of south Delhi and is where the majority of foreign embassies, consulates and high commissions are located. The enclave is one of broad, tree-lined avenues and green spaces that are at their most fragrant and striking in the monsoon period. A recommended acclimatiser once you’ve rested is a visit the Safdarjung’s Tomb, a couple of blocks from your hotel. Set in a classic, Persian-style ‘charbagh’ garden, the mausoleum is crowned with a trio of red- and grey-striped sandstone domes that look at their best after a rain shower. Flanked by mature palms, the pathways leading to and from the monument will also be full of water at this time of year, reflecting the extravagant 18th-century stonework to magical effect.
To avoid the heat of the afternoon, most sightseeing on this trip will be conducted early in the morning, and your first full day in the capital is no exception. Breakfast at first light, then re-join your driver for a trip across the city to Jama Masjid, Delhi’s grandest Mughal-era monument, followed by a cycle rickshaw of the old city. Return to your hotel after lunch and spend the afternoon relaxing in your room or by the pool. In the evening, visit the Qutb Minar complex and, if time and energy permits, the nearby Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin, Delhi’s oldest Sufi shrine.
Formerly known as Shahjanabad, ‘Old Delhi’ is the warren of twisting, narrow streets immediately west of the Red Fort, where the Mughal emperors founded their walled capital in the 17th century. It is among the most densely populated, labyrinthine and extraordinary urban areas on the planet, and one full of fascinating reminders of past ages. Foremost among them is the resplendent Jama Masjid, a huge mosque constructed at the height of Mughal power from a striking blend of creamy white marble and elegantly carved sandstone. The main courtyard is large enough to accommodate 3,000 worshippers and is prettiest in the soft light of early morning.
After visiting the mosque, jump in a cycle rickshaw with your guide for a tour of Old Delhi’s narrow, twisting lanes, or ‘gullis’, as the local population prepares for the day’s trading. Most of the district’s shops are tiny, hole-in-the-wall affairs. They offer a bewildering array of goods, from hand-made books to milky sweets and silver jewellery.
Once the heat has subsided around 4pm, you could venture to the southern fringes of the city to see the ancient Qutb Minar complex, a collection of monuments dating from the early Sultante period of the 12th century. India’s second most visited monument after the Taj Mahal, its centrepiece is huge, 72-metre (240-foot) victory tower, whose construction in 1192AD officially marked the start of Muslim rule in India. A short drive away, the tomb of the Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin is a wonderfully atmospheric shrine, still visited in large numbers by pilgrims from across the country. Time your trip to be here on a Thursday evening and you stand a chance of catching a performance of devotional music and song by a traditional Qawwali troupe.
Rise early to visit the delightful Lodi Gardens, a short drive from your hotel, before beginning the half-day journey to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, which you’ll see in the evening, after a tour of the city’s imposing Mughal Fort.
As well as holding one of India’s most beautiful Indo-Islamic tomb complexes, Lodi Gardens is a lovely place for a stroll in the early morning, when local people come here to practise yoga against the evocative backdrop of crumbling onion domes and ornate 15th-century Islamic calligraphy.
On the banks of the Yamuna river, Agra Fort was where the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned at the end of his life by his son, Aurangzeb. He is said to have spent his last years gazing wistfully downriver at his wife’s white marble tomb from a gilded pavilion high on the ramparts. You’ll enjoy your first of two visits to the Taj around sunset time, when, if you’re lucky, the monsoon clouds will part, bathing the richly decorated stonework in exotic light.
An early start today for a dawn visit Mehtab Bagh, the gardens on the opposite side of the Yamuna from the Taj, after which you’ll drive from Agra to Jaipur, pausing en route to visit Fatehpur Sikri. On arrival in Jaipur, spend the remainder of the day at leisure in your hotel.
The east bank of the Yamuna is idea for sunrise visits to the Taj, especially during the monsoons, when the former Mughal gardens are bursting with plant life, birds and butterflies. The view of the mausoleum looming in ethereal fashion from the riverside is only marginally less iconic than the one from its approach.
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 moved to Lahore. Today, the finely carved, dark-red sandstone 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 decorated throne pillar, the beautiful Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti (a revered Sufi mystic) and Buland Darwaza gateway.
Your sightseeing in Jaipur today begins with an early morning trip out to Amber Fort, followed by the Hawa Mahal, Janta Mantar Observatory and City Palace museum.
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.
Most of today will be spent travelling across central Rajasthan to the magical city of Udaipur, where you’ll arrive in time for a sunset boat ride of Lake Pichola.
If one city in India could be said to epitomize the romance of the monsoons, it’s Udaipur, capital of the Sisodia Dynasty. Under royal patronage, a famous school of miniature painting evolved here in the 17th and 18th centuries, and one of its major subjects were scenes of Rajput royalty enjoying the sensuous pleasures of the rainy season, from music recitals in their ornamental palace gardens, to the more intimate joys of coupling al fresco by moonlight!
The backdrops for the miniatures – the lakeside palaces of the Maharana of Udaipur and associated nobility – remain the city’s main attractions. You’ll be able to enjoy a fine view of them from the water, most likely will gilt-edged cauliflower clouds amassed over the Aravalli mountains to the south.
Enjoy a more leisurely start today as you embark on a guided tour of the City Palace complex. In the afternoon, visit the city’s bustling market area en route to the Saheliyon-ki-Badi, a walled water garden on the shores of Fateh Sagar Lake.
Few palaces in India can rival the opulence of the Maharana of Udaipur’s residence, whose sumptuously decorated apartments, halls, terraces and gardens make the most of the glorious views across the water to the distant desert hills. A superb collection of treasures – many of them gifts from visiting dignitaries – are on display on the royal museum.
During the monsoons, the Queens and consorts from the palace would often spend time in the Saheliyon-ki-Badi, a lovely garden focussed on an ornamental lotus pond from which fountains spray graceful domed pavilions with water – a heavenly spectacle.
Early in the morning, drive half an hour out of the city to the ancient temple complex at Eklingji. Later, visit the extraordinary ‘Monsoon Palace’ – one of Rajasthan’s greatest viewpoints.
Dating from the 8th century, but substantially rebuilt in the 15th, the Hindu shrines at Eklingji are a true gems of medieval Indian architecture. Every inch of their surface is embellished with ornate stone carving, while the elegantly tapered sanctuary towers seem to mirror the rise and fall of the surrounding hills, which at this time of year are carpeted in greenery.
Return to Udaipur around mid-morning for a spot of R&R by the poolside, or some souvenir shopping if preferred. Later, drive out to Sajjan Garh, better known as the ‘Monsoon Palace’, which crowns the top of Bansdara Peak on the outskirts of Udaipur. Erected in the 19th century, the white marble building was intended as a retreat where the royal family could enjoy the monsoon clouds swirling around the hilltop – a scene frequently depicted in miniature paintings from the period. It rests on ornately carved pillars, and centres on a delightful courtyard giving access to dozens of inner chambers with pretty projecting balconies (‘jharokas’) yielding fabulous views over the city and its lakes.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before transferring to Udaipur airport for your onward flight to Delhi, where you’ll spend the remainder of the day at leisure.
The hotel you’ll be staying in on your final night is located in Gurugram, around 30km from Delhi but convenient for the international airport. Ultra-modern and affluent, the city is India at its most go-ahead and contemporary, with literally hundreds of skyscrapers erected over the past decade. Should you wish to venture out of your hotel for one last spot of shopping, you’ll be spoiled for choice in its many mega malls!
Time to bid farewell to India as you transfer back to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
Tailor-made Tour 10 days from £2350 per person
✓ Accommodation for 9 nights in luxury 5-star hotels
✓ All internal transportation by air and road
✓ All arrival and departure transfers
✓ Services of local English-speaking tour guide throughout the journey
✓ Entrance fees at all monuments listed in the itinerary
✓ Meal Plan: Bed & Breakfast
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...
The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, has a markedly different feel from the other two corners of the ‘Golden Triangle’. The traffic is no less intense, but the architecture of its wa...
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