Places Visited: Delhi, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Orchha, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur
Experience India’s sacred and religious heritage on our 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 and many other fabulous medieval wonders of Agra, including a couple of rarely visited gems.
- Group Size 4-16 people
- Internal Travel Air-conditioned vehicle
- Accompanying Guide English-speaking accompanying guide throughout
- 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.
A full day’s sightseeing begins with a cycle-rickshaw ride through the lanes of Old Delhi, followed by a visit to the Jama Masjid mosque, Lutyen’s imperial capital, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutb Minar complex.
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.
After breakfast you’ll be driven to the airport for your flight southwest across the Ganges Plains to Varanasi, the most revered Hindu pilgrimage location in the country. Stay at the Gateway Hotel or similar for two nights.
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.
Take a boat trip on the Ganges in the morning, then join a walking tour of the old city with a specialist local guide. In the afternoon, visit the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Sarnath before a spot of silk shopping in the bazaar.
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.
After one final stroll at sunrise around Varanasi’s atmospheric waterfront, the group will transfer to the airport to catch the midday flight to Khajuraho for a one-night stay near the famous temple complex which you will visit later this evening. Stay overnight at Hotel Chandela or similar.
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.
A busy day of memorable Indian travel lies in store today as you drive in to the historic village of Orchha in the morning, where the group will pause for lunch before continuing on to the rail hub of Jhansi and the afternoon express train to Agra. stay at The Gateway Hotel 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 full day’s sightseeing in Agra starts with a visit to the city’s imposing Mughal Fort, followed by the Itimad-ud Daulah tomb and Taj Mahal around sunset time, when its richly decorated marble stonework glows an unearthly crimson colour.
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.
Most of today is taken up with the drive to the Rajasthani capital, Jaipur, via the deserted red sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri, former capital of Mughal emperor Akbar, and the 9th century Chand Boari stepwell. Stay at The Holiday Inn 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!
A full day’s sightseeing in Jaipur today takes up the sixth stage of your tour, beginning with a trip out to Amber Fort, followed by the Hawa Mahal, Janta Mantar Observatory and City Palace museum. Some of the afternoon will be free for shopping – or relaxing back at the hotel if you prefer.
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 The Bal Samand Garden Retreat 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.
In the morning, visit Mehrangarh Fort, pausing at the white marble Jaswant Thada cenotaph to admire the splendid view of the citadel and town. Later, your guide will lead you on of short tour of the old city. In the afternoon, you can either relax at your hotel or visit the imposing Umaid Bhavan Palace on the outskirts.
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.
Today is mostly taken up with a drive through the Aravalli Mountains, via the intricately carved marble temples at Ranakpur. 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.
Tours of the city’s royal palaces, and nearby temples, ghats and royal gardens take up most of today.
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 in the morning for your return flight to the UK, via Delhi.
Group Tour 14 days from £1635 per person
✓ 13 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking accompanying guide throughout
✓ 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 £865 per person
Single supplement £ 438 per person
Single supplement £ 438 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 £685 per person
Single supplement £ 419 per person
Single supplement £ 419 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 aiport for your onward flight.
2018/2019 tour prices for Classic India
|DEPARTURE DATE||PRICE PER PERSON||SINGLE ROOM supplement||AVAILABILITY|
|Sun 29 Jul 2018||£1635||£735||Please call us|
|Sun 19 Aug 2018||£1635||£735||Please call us|
|Sun 16 Sep 2018||£1635||£735||Please call us|
|Sun 07 Oct 2018||£2035||£925||Good|
|Fri 26 Oct 2018||£2085||£925||Good|
|Sun 11 Nov 2018||£2035||£925||Good|
|Sun 25 Nov 2018||£2035||£925||Good|
|Sun 20 Jan 2019||£2035||£925||Good|
|Sun 10 Feb 2019||£2035||£925||Good|
|Sun 24 Feb 2019||£2035||£925||Good|
|Sat 09 Mar 2019||£2095||£925||Good|
|Sat 13 Apr 2019||£1695||£795||Good|
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