Tailor-made Tour 15 days from £3295 per person
Places Visited: Delhi, Agra, Ramathra Fort, Bundi, Udaipur, Ranakpur, Rohet Garh, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Shekhawati
One of our signature routes around India’s vibrant Desert State, this varied two-week trip combines visits to the must-see cities of the Golden Triangle and southern Rajasthan with stays at a selection of beautifully situated rural and small-town retreats. Set amid bucolic landscapes, our lesser visited stopovers are destinations in themselves, offering not just the chance to experience life in splendid old country houses and palaces, but also insights into traditional life in the bucolic Indian countryside. Horse riding, wildlife safaris and hot-air balloon rides provide additional perspectives on the gorgeous desert scenery, along with visits to craft workshops and farmsteads.
Cultural Tours Walks, Hikes and Rides
Overnight flight from the UK to Delhi.
On arrival at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, you’ll be met by your TransIndus guide and driver, and transferred to your hotel, 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. Depending on the location of your hotel, you might also be able to visit a nearby tomb garden at sunset time, or go for a stroll at the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, near Connaught Circus.
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, pilgrims 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 ride or walking tour of Old Delhi, typically including the Jama Masjid mosque, the spice and silver bazaars of Chandni Chowk and imposing Red Fort. In the afternoon, visit Lutyen’s imperial capital, Humayun’s Tomb, and the spectacular Qutb Minar complex on the southern outskirts.
A great way to explore Old Delhi’s warrenous backstreets is on a guided walking tour. You’ll visit one of the few surviving Mughal-era havelis (or courtyard mansions) and explore different portions of the bazaar specializing in silver jewellery, spices, textiles and fresh produce. The neighbourhood’s pride and joy, however, is the gigantic Jama Masjid, or ‘Friday Mosque’. After admiring the extraordinary view from the minarets, enjoy lunch at one of the famous kebab restaurants below, before driving past Lutyen’s imperial capital to Humayun’s Tomb and Qutb Minar victory tower on Delhi’s southern outskirts, where you’ll gain a vivid sense of the city’s great antiquity.
Enjoy an evening of traditional kathak dance in your hotel this evening.
Delhi - Agra
Take a morning train to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and other iconic Mughal monuments.
An early start is required to catch the Gatimaan Express, which takes a little over an hour to reach Agra from Delhi. On arrival, you’ll be driven to the city’s great Mughal Fort, where Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned at the end of his life by his son, Aurangzeb. On the opposite bank of the Yamuna River, the exquisitely decorated Itimad-ud Daulah tomb provides the next stop. 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.
Agra - Ramathra
There's the option this morning for an early start to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, or for a completely different experience, spend a few hours with the kabooter baz. After breakfast back at your hotel continue to Ramathra, pausing at Fatehpur Sikri en route to visit Akbar’s deserted capital.
Pigeons – ‘kabooters’ in Urdu – are nothing short of an obsession in India’s former Muslim cities, where they are are flown in flocks, with their owner – the ‘kabooter baz’ – controlling their movements in the sky with shouts, whistles and waves of rags tied to the end of long canes. Join a kabooter baz for a flying demonstration on a rooftop in Taj Ganj, the highpoint of which will be the “capture” of a neighbour’s flock, driven to ground and later held for “ransom”.
As you leave Agra, your first port of call will be Fatehpur Sikri, former capital of the Mughal emperor, Akbar. The complex was built at lavish expense at end of the 16th century but only occupied for sixteen years. Today, its finely carved, dark-red sandstone buildings remain in fine condition and vividly evoke the opulence of the Mughal era.
Overlooking a glorious sweep of mustard fields, wooded hills and acacia scrub, Ramathra Fort – today’s final destination – is among our very favourite spots in India, and a perfect antidote to the packed cities of the previous few days.
Explore the village and beautiful countryside around Ramathra, either by car, on foot or on horseback.
After a leisurely breakfast, spend the morning exploring the idyllic countryside around the fort with your guide. Kalisil Lake offers a dreamy backdrop for walks, birding safaris and trips out on to the water in the hotel’s own rowing boat. In the afternoon, visit a local village, hilltop fort and temples, before soaking up the gorgeous sunset views from the comfort of your own balcony.
Ramathra - Bundi
Drive to Bundi, in southern Rajasthan. In the afternoon, visit the town’s palace (famous for its murals) and fine stepwell.
The seventh day of your tour takes you further south to the town of Bundi, one of our favourite destinations in the country thanks to its unspoilt, un-hurried feel and fabulous Rajput architecture. Built during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the town’s palace retains a particularly fine set of murals depicting episodes from the life of Krishna, rendered in evocative turquoise, jade-green, scarlet, ochre and white. You’ll have ample time to explore the complex in the late afternoon, when the lake below it swirls with reflections of domed cuppolas and sun-bleached plaster. Around sunset time, head into town to explore the old-fashioned bazaar district.
Bundi - Udaipur
Drive west from Bundi to the lake city of Udaipur, pausing at Chittaurgarh en route to visit one of India’s grandest forts.
Spend a couple of hours in the morning visiting local step wells, havelis and temples before embarking on your journey to Udaipur, where you’ll be spending two nights. It’s worth considering a stop at Chittaurgarh on route. The town is the home of one of India’s most dramatic hilltop forts, the scene of several bloody sieges that ended in the mass suicide of its entire population.
You’ll arrive in Udaipur at a time of day when the lakeside palaces look at their most exotic. Enjoy the sublime views over a sundowner on a haveli rooftop looking across the water to the Aravalli Hills in the distance.
Explore Udaipur’s City Palace complex and old town in the company of your TransIndus guide.
Begin your day's sightseeing at Udaipur’s City Palace, seat of the Sisodia Dynasty and a feast of opulent Rajput architecture. 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. Late afternoon is the time to be at the water’s edge, soaking up the sunset colours and unique atmosphere of this romantic city, perhaps taking afternoon tea on the lake.
Udaipur - Rohet Garh
Drive over the Aravalli Mountain range to Rohet Garh near Jodhpur via the Jain temples at Ranakpur.
Today’s journey west across the Aravallis from Udaipur ranks among the most scenic in India. The landscape culminates during a twisting descent through a forested valley to Ranakpur, where a beautiful white-marble Jain temple nestles at the foot of the range. Dating from fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the shrine’s interior domes and 1,444 pillars are all sumptuously carved with deities, mythical creatures and dancing maidens.
Today’s final destination will be Rohet Garh, near Jodhpur. Another of our old favourite heritage properties in Rajasthan, it rests beside a glinting lake, and has a wonderful pool and gardens to relax in.
Join a safari to a nearby Bishnoi village.
Rohet Garh’s ‘Village Safari’ is a fantastic way to gain a glimpse of life in the various local communities who inhabit the estate, from Rabari herders to Brahmin farmers, weavers and the Bishnoi, whose special relationship with the blackbuck has ensured the survival of this rare and beautiful antelope.
Horse lovers should also not miss out on the chance of a ride on one of Rohet Garh’s magnificent Marwari thoroughbreds. The owner of the property is a passionate horseman and polo player, and the surrounding estate perfect country for riding. Routes lasting anything from one hour to six days are offered (additional costs apply).
Rohet Garh - Khimsar
Drive to Jodhpur to visit Mehrangarh Fort, before continuing on to Khimsar for an overnight stay.
Crowning a giant sandstone cliff, Mehrangarh Fort is the most awe-inspiring of all Rajasthan’s citadels, and one with a view to match its colourful history. Below its lofty ramparts, which enclose a particularly interesting museum of royal artefacts and apartments, sprawls a giant patchwork of flat rooftops, painted in shades of blue.
The tour continues with a drive to Khimsar, a 15th century fortress-palace set in 11 acres of lawns and orchards. Guests have the option of sleeping in the main wing or out in the nearby dunes, in specially constructed thatch-roofed chalets. Flights in hot-air balloons, village visits and black buck safaris are optional extras.
Khimsar - Jaipur
Drive northeast to Jaipur for a two-night stay in the Rajasthani capital.
After checking in to your hotel and freshening up, consider a trip by rickshaw into the city centre to experience the bazaar at full tilt. Each of the state’s major cities have a distinctively different atmosphere and Jaipur, with its trademark salmon-coloured buildings, is no exception!
Explore Jaipur’s Amber Fort this morning followed by the City Palace complex and surrounding 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’, 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 greatly enjoy a visit to the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, located in a beautifully restored haveli down 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.
Jaipur - Shekhawati
Your journey today takes you on to Shekhawati known for its extraordinary murals.
The crop of former merchants’ havelis (mansions) dotted around the dusty desert towns of Shekhawati in northern Rajasthan are unique in India for their superb murals, dating from the time before the arrival of the railways when the region lay on a major trade route.
Spend the day exploring the painted havelis and markets of Shekhawati.
As well as featuring the usual Hindu themes and decorative motifs, much of the art of Shekhawati depicts early British officials, military scenes and fangled new modes of transport dating from the early colonial era, such as hot-air balloons and trains. Outside money has helped restore some properties, but sadly the majority are, quite literally, crumbling into the dust.
Shekhawati - Delhi
As your tour comes to an end, drive back to Delhi for a final night before your flight home.
Delhi - UK
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
Tailor-made Tour 15 days from £3295 per person
✓ International flights from London
✓ 16 nights accommodation
✓ All road travel and transfers by private chauffeur-driven vehicles
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
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 impressi…
Prayers at the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
The gilded domes of the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib dominate the skyline to the west of Connaught Circus, New Delhi’s commercial core. In contrast to the hubbub of the nearby shopping m…
Viewing The Taj
Viewing the Taj Mahal, with TransIndus In over 30 years of creating holidays for people, we’ve never heard of anyone who wasn’t enthralled by their first glimpse of the Taj Ma…
Discover Forgotten Agra
The Taj Mahal is deservedly India’s principal visitor attraction, but hardly any of the millions who pour through its gates each day explore the city nearby. Yet Agra, the former c…
Bundi is truly one of Rajasthan’s “hidden gems”, sufficiently far off the region’s most popular tourist trails to receive only a trickle of visitors, yet full of traditional atmosp…
Chittaurgarh (or ‘Chittor’), in the far southeast of Rajasthan, is famous for its majestic fort – the scene of a succession of medieval sieges and battles between the Rajputs and M…
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, ov…
Tea on the lake
Jag Mandir is one of two whitewashed island palaces seemingly afloat on Lake Pichola. It was built by the royal family in the 17th century as a summer retreat and once accommodated…
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…
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 wal…
The crop of former merchants’ havelis (mansions) dotted around the dusty desert towns of Shekhawati in northern Rajasthan are unique in India for their superb murals, dating from t…
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