One of the questions we’re most frequently asked by clients contemplating their first trip to India is ‘whether to go north or south’? This two-week…
Experience India’s most iconic sights and luxury hotels on this two-week tour of the popular Golden Triangle region. A great option for a honeymoon, this holiday features the Taj Mahal, Red Fort of Delhi, and the Pink and Blue cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur, it includes everything you could wish to see and do on a first trip to Asia’s most compelling country, with stays in a succession of glittering five star romantic hotels.
Whether you’re celebrating a honeymoon, landmark anniversary or birthday, or merely wish to build a perfect holiday around a visit to the Taj Mahal, this trip offers the best possible mix of experiences and value for money.
Enjoy some of the world’s most lavish hospitality at a bargain price on this trip of a lifetime to India.
Cultural Tours Honeymoons in Asia
Fly overnight to Delhi.
On arrival in Delhi, you’ll be met by your TransIndus guide and driver and transferred to your hotel for a two-night stay in the Indian capital. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from your journey with a leisurely swim in the hotel pool. Later, energy levels permitting, you might wish to visit the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, an atmospheric Sikh shrine a short drive from your hotel.
Made of white marble and crowned by a gilded onion dome, the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and shimmering pool inside it are places of great sanctity for Indian Sikhs, and offer the most atmospheric introduction possible to the capital. The complex in its present form dates from the late-18th century and was constructed at a place associated with the eighth Sikh Guru, Har Krishnan. At a Langar, or ‘canteen’, in the temple, visitors and devotees are fed nourishing, free meals of chapatis and black dal by volunteers. If you’re lucky, you may see groups of Akalis, members of a Sikh warrior sect, dressed in traditional ceremonial garb.
A full-day’s sightseeing today starts with a cycle-rickshaw tour of Old Delhi, including the Jama Masjid mosque, the spice and silver bazaars of Chandni Chowk and Mughal-era Red Fort. In the afternoon, visit Lutyen’s imperial capital, Humayun’s Tomb, and the spectacular Qutb Minar complex on the southern outskirts.
The narrow lanes of Old Delhi once formed the hub of the Mughal capital, formerly known as ‘Shajahanabad’ after the great Emperor Shah Jahan. Individual streets are given over to different trades in this atmospheric district and before setting off your guide will quiz you on your interests in order choose the sights most likely to inspire, whether street-food hot spots, crafts workshops or hidden architectural gems. Whatever your chosen itinerary, an obligatory stop should be the splendid Jama Masjid mosque, whose giant white domes dominate the skyline of the old city.
Humayun’s Tomb, one of the India’s greatest early Mughal buildings, stands in manicured gardens a little further south and may be visited en route to the iconic Qutb Minar victory tower on Delhi’s southern outskirts, the day’s final stop.
A recommended option for lunch would be the famous Olive Bar and Kitchen, an ultra-stylish restaurant housed in a converted haveli (courtyard mansion) which consistently wins awards for its fine, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
As an alternative to the Islamic tombs of South Delhi, you may prefer to spend time in the afternoon shopping in Hauz Khas village. Clustered around a collection of medieval madrasas, mosques and a large water tank, the neighbourhood’s winding lanes are crammed with galleries and boutiques. Towering flame and laburnum trees filter the sun and there are plenty of cool cafés to relax in.
After breakfast, drive via the new Interstate Highway to Agra to visit the city’s Mughal Fort, followed by a romantic sunset tour of the Taj Mahal. Your hotel room will also have a view of the tomb and its eastern gate.
Shah Jahan, the emperor who created of the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned towards the end of his life by his son, Aurangzeb, in the gilded splendour of the Mughals’ great fortress-palace overlooking the Yamuna River – your first sightseeing stop of the day. Through its finely carved pillars and cusp-arched windows you’ll be able to savour the same romantic views as the ailing ruler enjoyed 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.
Afterwards, return to your hotel for a Mughal-themed supper, featuring dishes that would be been served in the courts of the great emperors.
Rise early for a second visit to the Taj Mahal in time for sunrise, followed by breakfast back at your hotel. Later, explore the city’s other Mughal wonders, including the Jama Masjid mosque and the tombs of Itimud-ud-Daula (Shah Jahan’s Prime Minister) and the Emperor Akbar the Great.
Agra’s beautiful Jama Masjid stands in the heart of the old city, neglected among a chaos of railway overbridges and cluttered bazaars. Foreign visitors are a rarity, yet the building, which is adorned with geometric designs of marble-inlaid sandstone, numbers among the most elegant and exotic in the country. More splendid still is the tomb of Mughal Emperor Akbar, on the northern outskirts of the city at Sikandra, which presides over 119 hectares of leafy, green parkland, where langur monkeys and black-buck antelope roam wild, like scenes from a Mughal miniature painting.
En route back to your hotel after sunset, pause with your guide at Sadar Bazaar, a lively street market specializing in leather goods and tourist souvenirs, as well as the favourite local sweet, ‘petha’ – a type of candy made from white pumpkin.
Drive in the morning to Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted former capital of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, then onwards to Jaipur, pausing on the way to visit one of India’s most impressive stepwells. You’ll arrive in the Rajasthani capital around mid-afternoon.
First stop on the fifth day of your tour is the once splendid palace complex built at lavish expense at end of the 16th century to accommodate the Mughal emperor and his court. The finely carved, dark-red sandstone buildings were only inhabited for sixteen years and remain in superb condition, vividly evoking the opulence of the Mughal era. During his sojourn here, Akbar gathered together the finest artists, poets, calligraphers, musicians and dancers in the land, as well as representatives of its major faiths, whom he engaged in philosophical debates. Among many architectural highlights are the Diwan-i-Khas audience hall, with its ornately carved throne pillar, the beautiful white marble Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti (a revered Sufi mystic) and imposing Buland Darwaza gateway.
Just off the main Agra–Jaipur highway, the magnificent stepwell at Abhaneri is your second stop of the day. Comprising 3,500 carved steps spread over thirteen storeys, the well is the deepest and most intricate of its kind in India.
Most clients prefer to spend the rest of the day relaxing by their hotel pool on arrival in Jaipur, but when suitably refreshed we recommend an acclimatizing visit to city’s atmospheric market area or a drive up to Nahargarh Fort – one of India’s finest sunset viewpoints.
Begin your day’s sightseeing with a trip out to Amber to visit Rajasthan’s most splendid fortress-palace, whose ochre walls rise from a craggy hill half an hour’s drive north of Jaipur city. After lunch, spend the warm hours of the afternoon relaxing by the pool back at your hotel, or shopping for jewellery and carpets in the city’s colourful bazaars.
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 lined with intricate mosaics, where the Maharaja and his consorts would enjoy music and poetry recitals.
Jaipur offers some of the best shopping in India and you may wish to include a guided tour of its top textile showrooms, fashion boutiques and jewellery shops in your afternoon’s programme. We particularly recommend Anokhi’s flagship Prithviraj Road store, which specializes in traditional, block-printed Rajasthani textiles, which Anokhi’s designers transform into gorgeous garments. If inclined your guide will also be able to suggest private jewellers & emporia where you could commission handcrafted custom pieces in silver or platinum using top of the range stones – from lapis lazuli and amber to emeralds, rubies, sapphires, aquamarine and diamonds – for delivery overnight while you enjoy Jaipur.
Rise early for a walking tour of Jaipur’s old quarter, followed by a visit to the city’s world-famous royal palace complex. The afternoon will be free to enjoy exploring at your own pace, or relaxing back at your hotel.
We always recommend starting our popular walking tour of the Pink City at first light, with a visit to a typical Jaipuri tea shop for chai and hot ‘jalebis’. Then follow your guide to see gem cutters, jewellers, perfumiers, flower vendors and sweet makers beginning their day, pausing at a local Hindu shrine or two along the way (there are an estimated 2,000 temples crammed into the Pink City).
Jaipur’s City Palace provides the focus for the rest of the morning. Royal treasures are display in its sumptuously colonnaded halls. You’ll also be shown a huge open-air observatory, the Jantar Mantar, and ‘Hawa Mahal’ (‘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.
For the afternoon, consider an optional trip to Dera Amer, outside the city, for a walk in the countryside with a pair of rescue elephants, Laxmi and Rangmala.
The longest drive of the tour today takes you southwest from Jaipur to Jodhpur, the ‘Blue City’, where you’ll be spending two nights in the fabulous Umaid Bhavan Palace, home of the Maharaja of Marwar.
With its awe-inspiring fort and labyrinthine, blue-painted old city, Jodhpur is one of the great highlights of this region. You’ll arrive in time to freshen up and sample its unique atmosphere before supper, with a walk around the main market area, Sadar Bazaar, and clock tower square, Ganta Ghar.
In the morning, visit Mehrangarh Fort and the bazaars and old city at its foot. Later, travel out of town for a taste of the surrounding desert with a short camel trek and supper at a camp in the dunes.
Photographers may wish to make the short detour up to the white-marble cenotaph next to Mehrangarh Fort shortly after breakfast, when the great fortress is bathed in warm morning light. We generally allow at least a couple of hours to tour the palace, museum and temples, and to soak up the amazing views over the old city from the ramparts.
The afternoon will entail a change of pace, as you swap the jumble of blue houses, havelis and temples of Jodhpur for the dunes of the Thar Desert. An hour’s drive out of the city is a specially created camp from where you can trek into surrounding sands on camel back. Afterwards, enjoy a sundowner around a blazing bonfire, seated on campaign chairs wrapped in warm blankets, as the stars appear in the opalescent desert sky. A BBQ dinner will be accompanied by performances by a troupe of Rajasthani folk musicians and dancers.
The eleventh day of your tour is mostly taken up with a drive into the Aravalli Mountains, via the intricately carved marble temples at Ranakpur.
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, you’ll 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.
On arrival at the side of Lake Fateh Sagar, at the foot of the great City Palace, you’ll be transferred to a launch for the short trip across the water to your hotel. Having checked in, you’ll probably be reluctant to tear yourself away from the sublime views and serene ambience of the Lake Palace, but sunset cruises are on offer should you wish to explore.
Tours of the city’s royal palaces, and nearby temples, ghats and royal gardens take up most of the morning. Spend the afternoon by the poolside, or shopping in the lakeshore emporia.
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 to explore the markets in the company of your TransIndus guide. Late afternoon is the time to be at the water’s edge, soaking up the sunset colours and unique atmosphere of this romantic city.
Transfer to the airport for your morning flight to Mumbai, where you’ll be spending two nights at the famous Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Colaba. Spend the evening mingling with the crowds and enjoying the seafront atmosphere beneath the Gateway of India, immediately outside your hotel.
Bombay, or ‘Mumbai’ as it’s officially called these days, has been India’s busiest port and industrial centre since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1969. As famous for its traffic jams as record-breaking movie industry, the Maharashtran capital is above all a place to gain a flavour of modern India.
A full day’s sightseeing and shopping take up the final day of your tour.
Stroll across the piazza in front of the Gateway of India first thing after breakfast to catch a launch across Bombay Harbour to Elephanta Island. Hollowed from a hill of brown-black basalt 13 centuries ago, the pillared shrines contain a series of awesome bas reliefs, the most iconic of them the three-headed ‘Trimurti’, representing the three aspects of the God Shiva.
After lunch, visit the Prince of Wales Museum and join a heritage walking tour of the Fort and Kalagodha in the afternoon. The districts hold the most splendid colonial-era landmarks in the city, dating from the era when British India was the world’s main exporter of cotton. Join a local expert for a history-focussed tour ticking off all the big buildings, including the GPO and VT Station, with a stop at the time-warp Yazdani Bakery for chai and traditional Parsi biscuits!
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK, which will arrive the same day. Fancy extending your trip further? The Maldives, Sri Lanka and Southern India's beaches are just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Transfer to the airport for your flight from Mumbai to Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh
A popular optional extra for clients wishing to mark a special celebration – or merely experience how life might have felt for the Nizams who once occupied the palace – is the ‘Royal Arrival’. Guests are transferred from the airport in a limousine and arrive at the steps of the building in a horse-drawn carriage. Feel like royalty as you ascend the grand central staircase, as staff swathed in brocaded silk sarees shower you with rose petals!
Enjoy a guided tour of the Falaknuma Palace in the morning. Later, venture into the city to visit the Char Minar – its most iconic monument – and adjacent market district, Lal Bazaar. For the afternoon, we recommend a tour of Golconda Fort and nearby Qutb Shahi tombs – two of the great historic landmarks of the Indian Deccan region.
Spend the last day of your tour enjoying the luxurious confines of the hotel, which has a wonderful outdoor pool.
For your return flight, we usually recommend BA’s daily, direct service from Hyderabad to London, which departs at 7.20am; flying time is approximately 10 hours. You arrive in London at 1pm GMT.
We suggest adding this extension to the start of your holiday. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Varanasi. On arrival, you’ll be greeted by a TransIndus representative and escorted to the Nadesar Palace. At sunset time, make your way with your guide to Dasashwamedh Ghat for evening ‘Aarthi’.
Countless shrines and temple towers cluster along the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi, visited by pilgrims from across the country. The redemptory waters are said to wash away the sins of a lifetime: Hindus believe that the soul of anyone who dies here is liberated from the cycle of rebirth.
Dashashwamedh is Varanasi’s largest and most spectacular ghat. Each evening at sunset, large crowds gather on it to watch a spectacular ritual in which a row of bare-chested Hindu ‘pandits’ (priests) dressed in saffron robes swing large, smoking oil lamps and sacred fires in tightly choreographed routines. ‘Ganga Aarti’, as the ceremony is known, has taken place on the banks of the Ganges for many centuries, but only in recent decades has it taken this larger-than-life form – an unmissable spectacle!
Enjoy a full day’s sightseeing in the sacred city today, starting with a boat ride on the Ganges at sunrise. Later, join one of our fascinating heritage walking tours of the riverfront area to discover more about the area’s history and culture.
Rituals on the Ganges begin before dawn when mist blurs the contours of the sacred ‘ghats’, or steps. The best vantage point from which to savour the spectacle of morning prayers is a rowing boat on the water itself. Chanting, drumming and the ringing of temple bells intensifies as the sun rises, casting the holy steps and their backdrop of sanctuary towers, saffron pennants and parasols in a sublime glow. The first smoke from the cremation grounds curls from the pyres of Manikarnika Ghat just after dawn and continues through the day.
Our heritage walking tours are a great way to get under the skin of the city. Your guide will first discuss your interests and make suggestions for the route, building an itinerary bespoke for you. Experiences he or she might suggest include: visiting a traditional wrestling gym, or ‘akhara’; attending a small recital of Hindustani Classical music; learning the basics of Kathak dance; or attending an Indian cookery workshop in a family home.
After breakfast, drive from your hotel to Sarnath to visit the site of ancient Isipatana, where the Buddha delivered his first sermons in a deer park after achieving enlightenment. Return to the city for lunch, before transferring to the airport for an early evening flight to Delhi, where you’ll pick up the main tour itinerary.
Just a half-hour’s drive from the Nadesar Palace, Sarnath became a place of pilgrimage in the lifetime of Buddha’s disciples and was one of the holiest centres in the time of the Mauryan Empire, when Ashoka erected one his famous Edict Pillar, surmounted by an iconic Lion Capital. A thousand years later, the site was one of the largest and most venerated in the Buddhist world, with a large complex of stupas, temples and monasteries. Most of these have disappeared, but numerous Buddhist countries have built their own temples here, attracting pilgrims from all over Asia and beyond. The Archeological Museum holds a wealth of finds from the site, including the famous Ashokean Lion Capital and a most beautiful black-granite carving of the Buddha.
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