Day 1 - New Delhi
Welcome to India. You adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting in the hotel at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. You can use any free time before the meeting to explore this excitingly chaotic capital city. Filled with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars, there’s much to see and you will be briefed on sightseeing options.
Day 2 - New Delhi
This morning join your group leader on an excursion into the sights and sounds of Old Delhi. Set off on the city's modern metro system, then get a taste of India's famed public transport with an optional cycle rickshaw ride through chaotic streets, such as the famous Chandni Chowk. Make a visit to the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings, then visit the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion. The rest of the day is free for further exploration or maybe to join an Urban Adventure (booked locally). Perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb, the first garden tomb in India, built in 1570. Wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started all the way back in the 12th century, or explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, it played an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers.
Day 3 - Jaipur
Today you’ll get your first experience of Indian rail travel with an express train into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately 5 hours). Then you'll take a walking tour through the crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks, and bicycles, past traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches. Walk to the city's crowded bazaars filled with handcrafted textiles, folk art, and the local specialty of semi-precious stones. Make a photo stop at India's most photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds'. You'll also visit Jantar Mantar; not a series of elaborate sculptures but actually an observatory filled with instruments to track the stars, built by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Jai Singh. This evening continue to indulge in the wonders of Indian culture by watching a Bollywood blockbuster at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema - a vivid combination of action romance, drama and music.
Day 4 - Jaipur
Drifting high over the pink city while it’s bathed in early morning sunlight is a highlight for many visitors to Jaipur, and so there’s the option to take a hot air balloon experience this morning. For additional information please see the important notes section of your trip notes. Later, climb the twisting roads of the Aravalli Hills and round the final bend to see the massive Amber Fort loom into view. The legacy of a fallen empire, the opulent palace is a superb example of Rajput architecture and is packed with elaborate rooms of lavish murals, frescoed arches and delicate jali work. Don’t miss the sparkling Mirror Palace, covered floor-to-ceiling in thousands of reflective tiles, the hall becomes a dazzling fantasy with the light of a single match. The rest of the day is free to explore more of Jaipur that you might have missed yesterday.
Day 5 - Agra
This morning you will leave Jaipur and journey across the plains of Rajasthan by private vehicle to reach Agra (approximately 6 hours). Agra is home to one of the world's most recognisable monuments, the Taj Mahal. The best way to uncover Agra is by cycle rickshaw, so after arriving you’ll be taken on a rickshaw tour of the city. You’ll visit the spectacular and iconic Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. Enter the dark red sandstone stronghold of Agra Fort - part fortress, part palace and part prison - and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. You might take this opportunity to try some local dishes.
Notes: Please note that in the case of an unreasonably hot, or cold, foggy day, the cycle rickshaw tour will be replaced with a battery-powered rickshaw tour.
Day 6 - Orchha
Leaving the majestic Taj behind you, travel south by express train to the state of Madhya Pradesh (approximately 3.5 hours). Upon arrival in Jhansi, you will be met by automatic rickshaws and carried through traditional rural Indian landscapes to reach the beautiful town of Orchha (approximately 45 minutes). Here you will have the opportunity to uncover a very different side of India. En route you will make a stop at Taragram, one of our Responsible Tourism projects. Taragram is a paper making factory that enables local tribal women to work outside the realm usually afforded to them. The paper is crafted from wood pulp and recycled clothing. Continue on to Orchha, a lovely town on the banks of the Betwa River. Initially a hunting area, Orchha has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its small size it is filled with many beautiful temples and palaces, build here in the 16th century by the ruling Bundelas clan. Visit the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler. Take note of the grand Iwans (domes) that were built large enough to allow the movement of war elephants.
Day 7 - Orchha
Enjoy the laid back, relaxed, and hassle-free atmosphere of the town. Later today you’ll get a closer experience of the district's flavours at a cooking demonstration by the town’s local people. This evening witness the Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony at the shrine at the heart of the city.
Day 8 - Khajuraho
Travel south to Khajuraho (approximately 3 hours) a place famed for its incredible 1000-year-old temples, untouched by foreign invaders for centuries thanks to Khajuraho’s remote location, far from any major historical or modern centres. These temples are especially reputed for their explicit carvings that illustrate the entire Kama Sutra. The reason behind their existence and more interestingly, the inspiration for the intricate, erotic carvings is open to wide interpretation. Some argue that the carvings, all located on the exterior of the temples, signified the act of leaving sexual desires behind upon entering the holy temples, while others think them descriptive learning tools for young boys in the area about life beyond religion. You will discover more about these buildings, built during the Chandela Dynasty, on a tour of the western temple complex. Later, watch a traditional performance at the famous classical dance festival that occurs here. Before leaving the town, visit the home of a local Hindu family, where you will enjoy a home-cooked meal and be immersed in the life of middle-class Indians.
Day 9 - Varanasi
Continue your immersion in the spirituality of India with a short flight from Khajuraho to the holy centre of Varanasi (approximately 1 hour). Varanasi is awash with shrines and temples, and the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Varanasi is not known for its cleanliness, but it is recognised as one of India’s most inspiring cities. Take a walking tour of the old city, through narrow laneways packed with stalls and shops, past the dhobi wallahs, burning ghats, and the endless temples that echo with bells and the pungent aroma of incense. This evening soak up the unique atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony.
Important Information: Please note that due to ongoing construction works at Khajuraho Airport, many airlines have reduced the number of flights into and out of this airport. As a result we have had to reroute some trips between Khajuraho and Varanasi to an overnight train replacing the flight. Please be aware that while we will continue to do all we can to secure tickets on the limited flights available, this change may need to be made last minute to your itinerary. Your leader will notify you at the Group Meeting of any changes. All activities will continue to be included.
Day 10 - Varanasi
Today starts early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, where you can watch the light gradually illuminate the many ghats and temples along the river as you pass. There is an option to take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The site is where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment and features a number of stupas and museums to explore. Alternatively the day can be spent exploring the laneways and alleys behind the ghats, or picking up some examples of the excellent local silk industry. Perhaps witness pilgrims performing ancient bathing rituals and ceremonies as your time in this sacred city comes to an end.
Day 11 - Varanasi/New Delhi
This morning will be free for you to soak up the atmosphere of Varanasi during your final time here. Maybe do some last minute shopping in the incredible bazaars or merely wander through the ghats. Then you will return to Delhi by plane (approximately 1.5 hours). This evening there will be an (optional) group farewell dinner organised for those interested.
Day 12 - New Delhi
Your journey comes to an end after breakfast. There are no other activities planned for the day and you can leave the accommodation at any time. For those who wish to stay on in Delhi to further explore the city, we are happy to help in booking accommodation (subject to availability). If you have time, Hauz Khas village is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Delhi - a chic artistic enclave set right next to the remnants of a historical site. Or maybe pre-book an Urban Adventure and see Delhi with a knowledgeable local.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money