Day 07: JaipurThis morning we visit Amber Fort, the former capital of the royal Jaipurs. Few fail to be moved by the dramatic Rajput grandeur of this hilltop fortress-palace 11 km north of Jaipur. Set on the dry wrinkled Aravali Hills, and surrounded by fortified battlements, the palace straddles two sepia-hued tundra hills overlooking Maota Lake, and its sprawling crenellated walls lattice the surrounding hills.
We will ride up to this hilltop palace on a caparisoned, painted elephant, passing through the ancient main gate where Maharajas of Jaipur have entered for four hundred years. Our guide will elaborate on the history of this architectural masterpiece with its mirror-studded alcoves, dazzling mosaics and water-cooled swings that delight today's visitors as they did their former royal residents.
We shall also visit the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a five-storied structure of pink sandstone with semi-octagonal and delicately honeycombed windows overlooking the main street of the old city. It was built in 1799 so that veiled royal women could peer down unseen by the world through its 593 stone screens.
Afternoon we will visit the City Palace in the heart of the old city is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The centre of the palace is a seven-storied building called Chandra Palace, with fine vies over the gardens and the city. The palace lies in the heart of the city and occupies the whole central grid. The fortified wall has seven gates and was built for protection from invading armies and animals that lived in jungles, which surrounded the wall that time. Next, we visit the Solar Observatory - an astronomical treasure house, with solar device that give accurate predictions till date.
Day 08: Jaipur / Fatehpur Sikri / Agra After breakfast we drive to Agra stopping at deserted Capital City of Fatehpur Sikri. This abandoned capital of the Mughals is a perfectly preserved city at the height of the empire's splendour. The city divided into religious and secular parts has interesting well-sculpted buildings. From here we will continue our drive to Agra.
Upon arrival you are individually checked in at your rooms at the luxurious Amarvilas hotel, which is one of the best boutique hotels in the world. The hotel of whimsical charm has several attractions. However, being in the city of the Taj Mahal, the most relevant charm of the hotels is the unhindered view of the Taj Mahal from your bedroom. It is the most beautiful and an amazingly uplifting sight. Only 600 meters from the Taj Mahal stands this luxury resort. Discerning travelers can now appreciate the fabulous Taj Mahal while enjoying world-class luxury. The elaborate Mughal gardens, terraced lawns, fountains, reflection pools and pavilions complement the classical architecture of the hotel.
Day 14: Varanasi / Delhi (Spice Jet 119 - 1615 / 1730 Hrs) Morning we visit the bustling Gadolia bazaar. You would never have seen so many cycle rickshaws and heard the cacophony of so many cycle rickshaw bells! It is an amazing spectacle of colour and lifestyles as you need to watch out for the pavement shops - especially the pavement dentist with a laughing set of dentures!!
Later transfer to the airport to board your flight to Delhi
Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to your hotel The Imperial.
A Home Visit & a Farewell Dinner with an Indian Family : This evening, we would visit an Indian family for an Indian home experience. The evening is designed to give you a 'feel' and insight into Indian family life as well as experience typical Indian hospitality and home made Indian food.
Day 15: Delhi / Departure Transfer to the International airport for your onward flight back home
Day 12: Khajuraho / Varanasi (9W 724 - 1330 / 1410 Hrs) Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to hotel Taj Ganges
Varanasi is quite possibly the world's oldest living city. Religious artifacts link it to the sixth century B.C. Said to be founded by Shiva, Varanasi's Vedic affiliation goes back to the beginning of time. It is also a city of many names. The present name, Varanasi (derived from the names of two nearby rivers) is mentioned in the Mahabharata. The ancient name is Kashi, the City of Light. To the devout it is also called Kashika, the shining one, referring to the light of Shiva. Many others prefer the anglicized Benares. Revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jain alike, Varanasi is considered the holiest city in all of India. It is presided over by Shiva in his manifestation as Vishwanatha, Lord of the Universe. Buddha delivered a sermon in nearby Sarnath and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, lived in Varanasi. As a result, more Indians will make a pilgrimage to Varanasi in their lifetime than any other place.
Evening, we visit the ghats of Varanasi to witness the performance of Ganges Aarti. We enjoy a special evening cruise on the Ganges. See the Hindu devotees performing the "Puja" with lighted lamps. The view is very mesmerizing and the ambience is spectacular in the backdrop of the beating of cymbals and bells as well as the incessant chantings.
Day 13: VaranasiAt dawn we visit the sacred Ganges for a boat ride. Every morning at dawn hundreds of worshippers can be seen bathing in the sacred waters. The great river banks are lined with an endless chain of stone steps-the ghats-that stretch from one end of the city to the other. The Ghats form an impressive part of the religious landscape of the city. Proceeding downstream at a leisurely pace, you would be pointed out the significant temples and buildings as well as the changing architectural style. Life and death go hand in hand in Varanasi. While young people seek prosperity and protection from harmful influences, the older generation comes to Varanasi to cleanse their souls in the forgiving waters in preparation for their ultimate dissolution. Believing that anyone who dies in the river of life in Varanasi gains freedom from the cycle of birth and death, the City of Light has become a haven for the sick and aged waiting out their final days. The smoke that billows from the crematoriums on the edge of the river gives testimony to their final release from life's earthly confines. We would dock our boat at Manikarnika (Cremation) Ghat. On any given day, anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred corpses are cremated here; the ghat is assiduous with activity as the cremated bodies threw up smoke and fire.
Following the boat ride we set off on foot to explore the inner city. Through a twisted maze of narrow alleys, home to numerous shrines and pilgrim shops, we walk back a few centuries. Life here has stood still for years. The homes, the shops and even the cattle have not changed over the centuries. It is a brilliant nostalgic experience of timelessness!
Day 01: Arrival / DelhiLate night arrival. Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car.
Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you.
Welcome to India, or as we say 'atithi devo bhava' (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!
Day 02: DelhiFollowing a leisurely breakfast, we proceed on a guided tour of New Delhi, Visiting such sights as Bahai Temple, Humayun's Tomb (1586), the Qutab Minar 72 meters high and one of the most perfect towers in the Persian world. The Iron Pillar which has survived the vagaries of weather for over 1500 years. Continue with a drive through Embassy area, the Government buildings (1921-1930) and Connaught Place, the heart and main shopping district of the capital.
Afternoon we cross the city and into the walled gates of the Old city with visits to the Jamma Mosque (1650) and drive through the fabled area of Chandni Chowk (aptly translates to Moonlight Square) where the throngs of shoppers and vendors meet in the oldest area of Delhi. Visit the Red Fort (1639-1648 built by Shah Jehan the builder of the Taj Mahal in Agra) to view the inlaid and carved Royal Chambers, on to Raj Ghat and nearby ghats where the founder of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and thereafter Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were cremated.
Evening transfer to the train station to board your overnight train to Udaipur
Day 03: Delhi / Jaipur (270 Kms) Morning transfer to the train station to board your train to Jaipur
Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to your hotel Rajvilas
After rest and relaxation, we explore the unending shopping options of Jaipur. An essential starting point for Rajasthan craftwork is block making and block printing and we will be exploring the process from start to finish in some of the popular stores here. The opportunity also exists here to tailor make outfits to your design and size.
We also explore one of the chief attractions of Jaipur - its jewelry, which offers a variety that ranges from chunky tribal jewelry to enameled gold to modern diamond jewelry. Kundan (art of stone setting) and enamel jewelry has been a specialty of Rajasthan, particularly that of Jaipur. The stones are embossed into decorative shapes & patterns and embellished with delicate enamel ornamentation in the champeve (raised field) technique. Jaipur is well known for its gold and silver enameling. Colorful bangles made of lac and set with semiprecious stones make an inexpensive buy. The craftsmen take great pains to embed the hundreds of stones into the lac. The skilled gem-cutters of Jaipur carve enchanting little animals and birds from rock, crystal, jade, smoky topaz and amethyst. Intaglio beads & buttons and crystal scent bottles are also available.
Day 10: Gwalior / Orchha / Khajuraho Morning we will drive to Orchha
Upon arrival in Orchha we proceed on a guided tour of the city. The medieval city of Orchha, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, seems to have frozen in time, its palaces and temples still retaining their original grandeur. The city, located by the side of the beautiful Betwa river, was founded by the Bundela Rajput chieftain, Rudra Pratap, in the 16th century.The word Orchha means 'hidden'. When the Tughlaqs, who were ruling Delhi in the 15th century, pushed the Bundelkhand rajas out of Garkhundar, they retreated to distant Orchha. Apart from the famous landmarks like Jehangir Mahal, the Laxminarayan Temple, the area is peppered with fascinating little shrines and memorials, all of which add to the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, the city evokes in the visitor. From here we will drive to Khajuraho.
Day 11: KhajurahoThis morning, proceed on a tour of the world famous western group of temples depicting erotic sculptures of love making images of Gods and Goddesses and celestial Nymphs. The fantasies displayed in the sculptures are mind-boggling. It speaks very highly of the artistic creativity and imagination of the sculptors. The frank depiction of uninhibited does hint towards a liberated society and times where people believed in dealing openly with all aspects of life. The graphic and realistic illustrated scenes of lovemaking elaborated on the Tantric texts.
Afternoon we proceed on a tour of Eastern group of Temples .If pictures speak a thousand words, then the temples of Khajuraho form a magnum opus... an expression of Indian sculptors of yore. These temples of Khajuraho were built by the Chandela kings following the tradition of Tantric art. Although famed for their erotic sculptures, the philosophy behind the temples is much more vast and encompassing. They are in fact a celebration of life!
Sound & Light Show: Evening, we visit temple complex to enjoy Sound & Light Show, where the history of the temples is narrated through the medium of Sound & Light. This fascinating Son-et-Lumiere spectacle evokes the life and times of the great Chandela Kings and traces the story of the unique temples from the 10th century to the present day. Amitabh Bachhan, the Indian Super Star, narrates the story of Khajuraho in his mesmerizing voice.
Day 09: Agra / GwaliorWe are about to witness one of the greatest sights of one's lifetime - the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Before departure for the monument we shall be served tea/coffee and cookies so that our eyes open real wide to behold this breathtaking sight. A dawn visit to the fabled Taj Mahal to witness the magical effects caused by the reflections of the changing colours of the rising Sun on this brilliant white marble building.
Following a leisurely breakfast we will drive to Gwalior.
In legend the history of Gwalior goes back to 8 AD when a hermit saint, Gwalipa, cured the chieftain Suraj Sen of leprosy. In a gesture of gratitude the city was founded and named after the saint. An inscription in the fort records that during the 5th century reign of Mihiragula the Hun; a temple of the sun was erected here. Over the centuries, Gwalior has changed hands many times - the Tomar Rajput, Mughal, Afghan and Marathas all ruled here at one time. Later the Scindia Maharajas took and held the fort, and even today the people of Gwalior revere their young Maharaja. The Maharaja of Gwalior was one of the five Maharajas awarded a 21-gun salute by the British, a reward for their loyalty during the Mutiny of 1857. After the Privy Purse was abolished the family played an active role in modern Indian politics.
Upon arrival check into Usha Kiran Palace
Gwalior's main attraction is the colorful fort that has awe-inspiring Jain sculptures, Jain and Hindu temples and the charming sandstone palace. The fort stands on a sandstone precipice 91 m above the surrounding plain. The forts size is impressive, and the first Mughal Emperor Babur described it as "The pearl amongst fortresses of Hind."
The Jai Vilas Palace is a much more recent structure, designed by Lt Colonel Sir Michael Filose in 1872. It resembles an Italian palazzo in places using painted sandstone to imitate marble. Part of the palace is the residence of the present Maharaja, but 35 rooms house the Scindia Museum, which displays an eccentric collection of royal possessions, curiosities and memorabilia. Of particular note here is the extraordinary Durbar Hall, approached by a crystal staircase. Inside the hall hang two of the world's largest chandeliers each weighing 3 ½ tons. In keeping with the idiosyncrasies of the Scindia Maharajas, the dining room beneath the Durbar Hall, still displays a battery operated silver train set that transported cigars, dry fruit and drinks around the table after dinner. The Royal Chattris or memorials are dedicated to a Gwalior Maharaja. The lighted images are still clothed and "fed" daily, and it is best to visit here in the early afternoon when the images are shown after their afternoon nap.