Places Visited: Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Khimsar, Jaisalmer, Dechu, Narlai, Udaipur
Focusing on Rajasthan’s royal heritage, including the Taj Mahal and other great monuments of the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’, this popular two-week tour follows a classic route around northwest India’s more regal and opulent locations: from the Mughal wonders and packed bazaars of Delhi to Akbar’s ghost city at Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur (the ‘Pink City’) and the fairy-tale desert citadel of Jaisalmer. From there, you head back across the sandflats of the Thar to Jodhpur, known as the ‘Blue City’, before dropping south to end the trip in high romantic style, with a spell beside the shimmering waters of Lake Pichola at Udaipur. Along the way, you’ll get to spend time in some rural locations as well as cities, staying in elegant period palaces that give a flavour of the lifestyles enjoyed by India’s Maharajas before Independence.
Cultural Holidays Family Holidays
- Group Size 4-16 people
- Internal Travel Air-conditioned vehicles
- Accompanying Guide English-speaking accompanying guide throughout
- Accommodation 13 nights
- Meal Plan Breakfast daily, lunch on days 2, 4, 5, 10 & 12, dinner on days 1, 9
Itinerary for Rajasthan, Land of Kings
On arrival in Delhi, you’ll be met by your TransIndus team, and transferred to the Suryaa 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 (‘New’ Delhi), 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.
As an optional excursion to the cycle-rickshaw tour in the morning, we offer the popular Salaam Baalak Walk around some of the more off-beat and interesting corners of Old Delhi. Your guides will be former street children who, in additional to showing visitors around the historic houses and backstreets, also give a vivid account of what life is like for disadvantaged youngsters in the area. Income from the scheme helps the NGO fund its shelter and outreach programme, and provides a living wage and much needed boost to the self esteem of the enthusiastic young guides.
A drive to Agra this morning for an overnight stay at the ITC Mughal hotel or similar. Having checked in, the group will visit Agra Fort, on the banks of the Yamuna River, followed by the ornate Itamud-ud-Daula tomb and, finally, an unforgettable sunset stroll around the Taj Mahal.
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 Shahpura House the palatial house of the Shekhawat clan, 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 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 carved 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 carved steps provide a fine photo opportunity, and welcome chance to stretch your legs!
A full day’s sightseeing in Jaipur today takes up the sixth leg 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 at the hotel.
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.
Leave the Pink City straight after breakfast for the five-hour drive to Khimsar Fort, a beautiful 16th century palace on the fringes of the Thar Desert, where you’ll spend a night. The afternoon will be at leisure to relax by the hotel pool or visit the adjacent village.
One of our favourite heritage properties in Rajasthan, Khimsar is a richly decorated, authentic Rajput fortress-palace set in 11 acres of lawns, walled courtyards and orchards to the southwest of Nagaur. Guests have the option of sleeping in the main wing, or out in the nearby dunes, in specially constructed thatch-roofed chalets. Village visits (usually conducted by camel cart), cycle rides out into the surrounding desert, and black buck safaris are optional extras should the prospect of a sunny doze beside the hotel’s gorgeous open-air pool not appeal.
A long drive west to the desert city of Jaisalmer takes up the first half of the day. After lunch, you’ll be at leisure to enjoy the hotel’s facilities or venture up to the old walled citadel for sunset, when troupes of Mangaiyar Gypsy musicians perform in local rooftop cafés – a perfect accompaniment to the expansive views. Stay at the Desert Tulip Hotel or similar for two nights.
Jaisalmer is the undisputed jewel of the Thar. A honey-coloured fortress town surrounded a huge expanse of parched scrub and sand, it lies a long journey west of Rajasthan’s main transport hubs, but once the iconic bastions have appeared on the horizon, you’ll know the effort has been worthwhile. For centuries an important stop for merchants’ caravans crossing the desert, the citadel and its surrounding streets hold a unique collection of beautifully carved, ochre-hued havelis and palaces, whose intricate stonework turns a striking molten colour in the light of late-afternoon. Its handicraft boutiques are particularly good for puppets and traditional textiles.
Explore the narrow alleyways, walled havelis and medieval Jain temples of Jaisalmer Fort on a guided walking tour after breakfast. Spend the remainder of the day souvenir shopping, or enjoying the warm desert sunshine back at your hotel.
Begin your tour of Jaisalmer with a wander around the narrow, stone-paved alleyways of the citadel, which wind through a series of small squares to elaborately carved temples and fortified gateways, eventually converging on the main Chowk, where the Palace of the Maharawal is adorned with some of the finest carved stonework in the region. More painstakingly sculpted jarokha balconies and windows line the streets of the town below, where some of Jaisalmer’s wealthiest merchant families erected their havelis (courtyard mansions). A scattering of exquisite domed pavilions and shrines surround the Gadisar Tank, which used to be the area’s only dependable source of water.
Board the coach after breakfast for a half-day drive across the desert to Dechu, where you’ll spend the night in a beautiful, luxurious Samsara Tented Camp – a great place to enjoy the starry skies and remote feel of the Thar Desert.
Passing through a string of small market towns and villages, the drive to Dechu from Jaisalmer yields a vivid impression of life in the Thar Desert. You’ll see herds of camels at the roadsides, tended by luxuriantly moustachioed men in voluminous turbans, and groups of women dressed in vibrant saris carrying water and firewood on their heads.
Set amid a cosy depression in the dunes, Samsara consists of 21 individual Rajasthani hunting tents, each with their own en-suite bathroom and tiled verandah. The interiors are fitted with gorgeous block-printed textiles in traditional Indian hues, offering great luxury for such a wonderfully far flung location. Dinner will be served under the stars, with dozens of lanterns lighting the surrounding sand and a troupe of local folk musicians and dancers to add ambience.
Turning eastwards, the morning’s drive brings us to ‘The Blue City’ of Jodhpur, where we’ll pause to visit the implacable Mehrangarh Fort before continuing on to the village of Narlai, where we’ll spend two nights in an exquisite ancestral walled mansion the Rawla Narlai.
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 plains. The resulting wealth enabled the Marwari rulers to construct one of India’s most fabulous forts – Mehrangarh – on top of a near-vertical escarpment. The cuboid houses of the old town sprawling from its base are painted a hundred shades of blue – a practise said to denote the homes of local Brahmins (but which actually derives from attempts to discourage termites by adding copper sulphate to limewash). Also visible, to the south, is the enormous bulk of Umaid Bhavan, a palace built in 1929 by the local Maharaja.
You’ll be free today to explore the temple and towering boulder hills, at your own pace. Optional extras that might tempt you include a jeep safari, or an atmospheric candle-lit dinner on the edge of an ancient stepwell.
A Maharaja’s former hunting retreat, Rawla Narlai offers an all-encompassing, magical experience of rural Rajasthan. It lies in a small village where you can be sure of leaving the tour circuit well behind. The backdrop is the strikingly domed “Elephant Hill”, which guests are invited to climb for tea and sunset views over a serene boulder landscape. Signature experiences here include dining inside a 1000-year old baori stepwell, its layers lit by flickering oil lamps, and riding Merwari thoroughbred horses through the enchanting countryside beyond the village. Alternatively, simply relax in the hotel’s heavenly walled courtyard, against a backdrop of pink bougainvillea and medieval stonework.
After breakfast we’ll set off for the scenic drive over the Plains of Marwar to Ranakpur, where we’ll pause to visit a complex of sumptuously carved white marble temples before continuing on to Udaipur where you will spend two nights at the Lalit -Laxmi Vilas Palace or similar.
The first half of the day’s journey takes us across a vast, dusty plain studded with giant boulder hills and old-fashioned market towns populated by semi-nomadic Rabari herders and other traditional Rajasthani castes. 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. 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. In the afternoon, you’ll be at leisure to relax back at your hotel or shop for souvenirs in the lakeside boutiques.
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. Late afternoon is the time to be at the water’s edge, soaking up the sunset colours and unique atmosphere of this romantic city.
Catch an early morning flight back to Delhi to pick your onward departure to the UK.
Group Tour 14 days from £1485 per person
✓ 13 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking accompanying guide throughout
✓ Breakfast daily, lunch on days 2, 4, 5, 10 & 12, dinner on days 1, 9
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Holiday Extensions for this tour
Rajasthan, Land of Kings - Tigers of Ranthambore
5 days, 4 nights from £745 per person
Single supplement £ 265 per person
Single supplement £ 265 per personview itinerary
Drive through the Mewari countryside towards Bundi (4-5 hours) stopping to see the Chittorgarh Fort en route. Check-in to stay overnight at the Bundi Vilas hotel. Visit the Taragarh Fort and its impressive Picture Gallery in the afternoon.
Drive towards Ranthambore in the morning (3-4 hours). Stay at the Ranthambore Kothi for two nights. Enjoy an afternoon game drive in the park.
A full day of game drives in the park.
Enjoy a morning game drive. Journey by train to Delhi this afternoon. On arrival, transfer to the hotel, staying overnight at The Park hotel.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
Rajasthan, Land of Kings - Beaches of Goa
4 days, 3 nights from £765 per person
Single supplement £ 445 per person
Single supplement £ 445 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 for your onward flight.
2018/2019 tour prices for Rajasthan, Land of Kings
|DEPARTURE DATE||PRICE PER PERSON||SINGLE ROOM supplement||AVAILABILITY|
|Sun 25 Nov 2018||£1795||£798||Please call us|
|Sun 20 Jan 2019||£1795||£798||Good|
|Sun 10 Feb 2019||£1795||£798||Limited|
|Sun 24 Feb 2019||£1795||£798||Good|
|Sat 09 Mar 2019||£1855||£798||Good|
|Sun 14 Apr 2019||£1575||£675||Good|
Places and Experiences in this tour
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 amazement, no matter ho...
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 amid the chaos of its wall...
Jaisalmer is the undisputed jewel of the Thar Desert. The town lies a long journey west of Rajasthan’s main transport arteries, but once its honey-coloured bastions have appeared ...
Khimsar, also known as Khinwasar, is a village in Rajasthan nestled amongst the sand junes. It conjures up mystical tales set in the desert and embraces traditional Rajasthani cul...
Amber Fort (Jaipur)
Painted elephants have long been the traditional means of conveyance to the great arched gateways of Amber Fort, seat of the Kachwaha dynasty, who ruled over Rajasthan in the Mugh...
‘The most romantic spot on the continent of India’ was Colonel James Tod’s assessment of Udaipur in the 1820s, and even today, despite the hordes who come here each winter, his as...
Jama Masjid (Delhi)
Between twenty and thirty thousand worshippers mass in the courtyard of Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid each week for Friday prayers – a scene little changed since the mosque was inaugura...
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...
Pushkar Camel Fair
Puskhar really comes alive during the annual mela, or fair, held over the full-moon of Karthik month (which usually falls in November). Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims pou...
Camel trekking, Thar Desert
A camel trek deep into the Thar Desert is the perfect antidote to the cacophony and chaos of Rajasthani cities. Swaying across those seemingly endless sand flats, interrupted only...
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