Day 1 - New Delhi
Namaste. Welcome to Delhi. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. When you arrive for the welcome meeting, please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you have time, perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Humayun's Tomb, the 12th-century Qutub Minar or the Red Fort. India's capital is an exciting city with abundant historical sites, museums and bazaars.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the meeting, 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. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Day 2 - New Delhi
In the morning, set off on the city’s modern metro system to explore the sights and sounds of Old Delhi on a guided walking tour. Experience the chaos of an Indian traffic jam as you inch your way through the streets around Chandni Chowk marketplace in a traditional cycle rickshaw. Visit Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest and India’s largest mosque, and then stop by the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion.
Day 3 - Agra
Board one of India's faster air-conditioned trains to Agra (approximately three hours). Rich in Mughal heritage, Agra is a city of gardens, temples and open rooftops. Visit the Taj Mahal, a white marble mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz. Zip around Agra in a motorised rickshaw and explore the spectacular Red Fort, whose sandstone walls were built to enclose the imperial city of the Mughal rulers in the 16th century. If you like, continue on to Akbar's Mausoleum to pay your respects to the great emperor.
Day 4 - Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary
Travel by private vehicle for two hours to Fatehpur Sikri, which is a fortified city built by Emperor Akbar in 1569. A highlight of the settlement is Jama Masjid, a striking mosque featuring elements of both Persian and Hindu design. Afterwards, drive to Bharatpur by private vehicle to visit to Keoladeo National Park (approximately two hours). Once the domain of royal duck shooters, this World Heritage-listed park is home to over 350 species of bird. Explore the sanctuary in cycle rickshaws pedalled by local amateur bird-spotters.
Day 5 - Jaipur
Take a local bus to Jaipur. The journey can take between five and six hours, and the reclining seating is comfortable enough to relax and enjoy the passing scenery. Once you arrive, be treated to an orientation tour of Jaipur, known as the ‘Pink City’. A highlight of the walk is seeing the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal). Get among the crowds of the city’s bazaars to shop for artisan goods and semi-precious stones. In the evening, perhaps sit back and enjoy the extravagance of a Bollywood blockbuster at the iconic Raj Mandir Cinema.
Day 6 - Jaipur
For many travellers, a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over the city on the morning of day six between September and June. For additional information, please see the important notes section of the Essential Trip Information. Visit Jaipur's Royal City Palace and/or one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. Later this afternoon, we’ll visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is a superb example of Rajput architecture. Entering the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is also a particularly memorable experience.
Day 7 - Mandawa
In the morning, head to Fatehpur by local bus (approximately 3.5 hours). We then travel further by private vehicle to Mandawa (2 hours) A remote town in the centre of the Shekhawati region, this was once a trading outpost on the ancient caravan routes from China and the Middle East. Enjoy a guided tour of Mandawa's ornate havelis (private residences), with some of them crumbling at the foundations and others well preserved. There’s plenty of time to explore this thriving market town and its surrounds before spending the night in a beautifully restored haveli.
Day 8 - Bikaner
Take the four-hour journey to Bikaner via a combination of private jeeps and buses. Once an important staging post on the great caravan routes, the city still contains many bazaars, palaces and a historic fort within its impressive walls. Visit Junagarh Fort, which was built by Raja Rai Singh, the sixth ruler of Bikaner (AD1571 to 1612). In the evening, travel to a nearby farmhouse and enjoy an evening of traditional Rajasthani food, music and dance.
Day 9 - Bikaner
After an early morning walking tour of Bikaner, spend free time exploring bazaars before visiting the city’s famous ‘Rat Temple’. Travel out to the 600-year-old rat kingdom of Karni Mata Temple, which is believed to be home to the reincarnated followers of the Hindu goddess, Durga. Locals believe that it's particularly favourable if one of these rats takes a shine to you and scurries over your bare feet. For the squeamish, just stand still or view from afar.
Day 10 - Jaisalmer
Catch an early morning local train from Bikaner to Jaisalmer, which may take up to six hours. We travel in general class, where seating is unallocated and carriages are fan-cooled only. Stock up on plenty of food and water beforehand, as temperatures can get fairly warm on this long trip. The standard of the train is pretty basic, but it can be a fantastic way of meeting the locals and like-minded travellers. Once there perhaps explore the markets, ornately carved houses and museum before the sun goes down.
Day 11 - Jaisalmer Camel Safari
To get a taste of nomadic life, take a three-hour camel ride into the desert to watch the sunset behind sand dunes.
While here we visit a Hindu Temple, a Jain temple, step wells, a small rural market and the sand dunes. In the evening local musicians will join us at the campsite for a performance. Dinner & breakfast are included during our stay here.
Notes: During the winter, this experience may be changed due to weather conditions; however, we’ll still ride camels into the desert, but will ride back to Jaisalmer to sleep.
Day 12 - Jaisalmer
Head back into Jaisalmer by camel in the morning and enjoy a free day. The city is one of the oldest Rajasthan capitals and dates as far back as AD1156, so it’s teeming with history. Perhaps explore the Jain Temple, the Jaisalmer havelis or Folklore Museum. With imposing parapets and towers at every turn, the Old Town is full of intricate stonewalls that lead to the havelis. These private mansions once homed Jaisalmer’s nobility and resemble small palaces. Tonight we sleep in a haveli-converted hotel; a comfortable base after a long day.
Day 13 - Jodhpur
In the morning, travel to Jodhpur byrail (approximately 6 hours). The city is known for its antique shops and the best lassi in India. Enjoy an orientation walking tour around the ‘Old City’ and visit Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in India. It’s built around a clock tower amid spice and vegetable markets, juice sellers and sari materials. This is a great place to test your haggling skills. The evening is then free to do as you wish.
Day 14 - Jodhpur
This morning explore the colossal Mehrangarh Fort and take in the views from its ramparts, which dominate the city's skyline. Afterwards, possibly visit the nearby Bishnoi villages where you’ll find a welcoming, nature-loving community. Perhaps take a village safari tour, where you’ll come across wildlife and learn why the Bishnoi are so protective of their land. This evening, board an overnight train to Delhi for a comfortable trip of around 11 hours.
Notes: Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, and are a great way to travel long distances so maximum time can be spent in each place. Beds are padded berths and sheets, pillow and a blanket are provided, but you may prefer to bring your own sleeping sheet. Please be aware that you may be sharing with locals in a same gender/mixed gender situation.
Day 15 - Delhi
Arrive at the Delhi train station early in the morning. There are no activities planned for today and you’re free to depart once we’ve arrived. Train delays can occur so please don’t be surprised if we’re late. Due to potential delays, we recommend booking any international flights for after 2 pm today.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money