Tailor-made Tour 15 days from £3665 per person
Places Visited: Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur, Nagaur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur
Focussing 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 figure-of-eight 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.
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Fly overnight 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.
Full-day’s sightseeing, starting 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 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.
Train to Agra to visit the city’s Mughal Fort and tombs, followed by sunset walk around the Taj Mahal.
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.
The tour continues with a drive west to Samode, on the outskirts of Jaipur, pausing at Fatehpur Sikri to explore the remains of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s palace.
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.
A fabulous pile of domed pavilions, cusp-arched windows and interconnecting courtyards, an exploration of labyrinthine Samode Palace (where you’ll spend two nights) rounds off the day’s travel.
A full day’s sightseeing in Jaipur takes up day six, beginning with a 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.
Today you’ll drive west across the fringes of the Thar Desert to Nagaur, for a night halt at one of our favourite palace hotels in India. Spend the evening walking around the ramparts for memorable views over this old market town.
In centuries past, the town of Nagaur used to be an important waystage on trade routes across the desert. Although little visited today, it retains some spectacular vestiges of its former prominence, foremost among them a sumptuous fortress-palace of ‘Ahhichatragarh’, ‘Fort of the Hooded Cobra’. The palace itself comprises a series of interlocking havelis, each with its own walled courtyards overlooked by frescoed halls, collonaded walkways and pleasure gardens grazed by peacocks and cooled by fountains and babbling water channels. Some of the prettiest wings are occupied by a heritage hotel, Ranvas, whose rooms are simply magical!
Guided walking tour of Nagaur’s historic mosques and madrassas in the morning, before beginning the drive west to Jaisalmer, whose ochre bastions will slip into view shortly before sunset.
Admirers of early Islamic architecture may wish to wander around the backstreets of Nagaur to see the town’s Sufi shrine and antique mosques before embarking on the long journey across the Thar Desert to Jaisalmer. You’ll arrive around late afternoon, when the bastions of the famous citadel glow ochre in the low sunlight and troupes of local Manganiyar Gypsies sing on the flat rooftops of hotels up in the citadel, accompanied by tabla and harmonium – a perfect accompaniment to the expansive views.
Explore the narrow alleyways, walled havelis and medieval Jain temples of Jaisalmer Fort on a guided walking tour after breakfast. In the afternoon, you’ll drive out to the Desert National Park for an evening walk on the great sand dunes at Sam.
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).
In the afternoon, your guide will accompany you on the drive out to a magnificent tract of dunes near the village of Sam, in the Desert National Park, where something of a festive atmosphere prevails at sunset time.
Most of today will be spent covering a long drive across the desert to Jodhpur, the fabled ‘Blue City’, where you’ll be spending two nights.
Passing through a string of small market towns and villages, the drive to Jodhpur 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.
With its awe-inspiring fort and labyrinthine, blue-painted old city, Jodhpur is without doubt one of the great highlights of this region. With luck, you’ll arrive in time to freshen up and sample its unique atmosphere before supper.
In the morning, visit Mehrangarh Fort and the bazaars and old city at its foot. In the afternoon, you can either relax at your hotel or visit the imposing Umaid Bhavan Palace on the outskirts.
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 be free for more leisurely ambles around the old city – and endlessly fascinating jumble of blue houses, havelis and temples, where the atmosphere has changed little in centuries.
The twelfth 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.
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 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.
A day of low-key sightseeing, shopping and relaxing by the pool will fill the final day of your trip.
Countless shops around the lake offer a tempting array of Indian arts and crafts, ranging from carpets to miniature paintings, devotional sculpture and beautiful textiles. Hand-made paper, fashioned into notebooks and writing sets, is another local speciality.
There’s also the option of a horse ride in the countryside around the city, or a spa session at the dreamy Devi Garh resort in the nearby hills. To really bring the sights around the bathing ghats and bazaar to life, how about a tour with a traditional local storyteller?
Catch an early morning flight back to Delhi to pick your onward departure to the UK.
Tailor-made Tour 15 days from £3665 per person
✓ International flights from UK in economy
✓ 13 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
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