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 - Delhi/Kathmandu
After you check out of the hotel, you will say goodbye to your Indian tour leader at the airport and take a short flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kathmandu is a mixture of ancient architecture and modern development and, with its rich artistic and cultural heritage, it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change in Kathmandu. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary in the afternoon or evening of day 12 and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 13 - Kathmandu
In the early morning you will make an attempt at the Mount Everest scenic flight. This amazing experience will take you over Sagamartha National Park, through a crescendo of the highest peaks in the world, climaxing by getting up close to Mount Everest. Later in the morning you will explore Kathmandu on an organised sightseeing tour. You will visit Bodhnath Stupa, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world, where you can observe Buddhist monks in prayer in the monasteries surrounding the stupa. You will also visit Pashupatinath, the most famous Hindu temple in the country, located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Here you will see Hindu holy men (sadhus) meditating, pilgrims bathing, and occasionally funeral pyres burning on the ghats. The rest of your afternoon in Kathmandu is free for further sightseeing and exploration. Perhaps head out into Durbar Square, in front of the old royal palace and home to numerous beautiful temples, and browse the stalls of merchant's wares.
Day 14 - Pokhara
Today you will have an early departure from the hotel for your transfer to the domestic terminal at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport. From here you will fly to Pokhara, with a flight time of about 30 minutes. There are often spectacular views of the main Himalayan chain to the north on this flight. On arrival you will take a boat ride across the lake (Phewa Tal), which is the second largest in Nepal. Visit the Peace Pagoda, where spectacular views of the mountains await. You can see the Annapurnas from here, and the famous fishtail peak, Machhapuchhare, and back across to Pokhara. You will also visit the fascinating International Mountain Museum to learn some amazing tales of past climbing expeditions – some ending in triumph, some ending in tragedy.
Day 15 - Pokhara
Enjoy a free day for further exploration in the peaceful surroundings of Pokhara. Your leader can advise you of sightseeing opportunities. It is worth taking a boat for a row out on the lake, especially if the weather's fine. The lakeside area has great shopping opportunities and internet cafes. Pokhara has an interesting old area as well as an elaborate Hindu temple and a Buddhist monastery.
Day 16 - Bandipur
In the morning you will drive to beautiful Bandipur (approximately 2 hours). You will fully explore this incredible settlement and take the many opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture of Nepal as it once was. Enjoy the spectacular views, the incredibly maintained architecture and nice walking trails. This traditional Nepalese settlement is a natural treasure and one of the country's true hidden gems.
Day 17 - Bandipur
Enjoy a day of free time to further explore Bandipur. The surrounding hills are ideal for hiking along trails that will take you through tribal villages, verdant forests, 'power places', and hilltop shrines that once doubled as fortresses. As you explore the area you may feel as though you're stepping back in time; though development increases, the aura of this place has been beautifully preserved. As tourism in Nepal developed along the main roads and airports, for over 30 years there simply was no road linking Bandipur to the main infrastructure, leaving it almost untouched by touristic influence. The village is saddled on a high ridge above Dumre, 700 metres beyond the Marsyangdi River Valley, making for an exceptional view of the Himalayan panorama.
Day 18 - Chitwan National Park
After breakfast you will be picked up and driven to Chitwan National Park (approximately 4 hours). After arriving and settling in, you will be introduced to the camp staff and resident naturalists who will discuss the program. There is some flexibility, and activities may vary depending on the time of the year, and on wildlife movements. A late-afternoon safari will take you through forests and across grasslands to observe the varied and exciting wildlife in the park. In the early evening the local Tharu dance troupe may perform a cultural program. You will then enjoy dinner and afterwards you will be free to relax in the bar and discuss the day’s sightings or listen to the exotic sounds of the jungle at night.
Day 19 - Chitwan National Park
Embark on an early-morning excursion. This could include either another safari to different parts of the park (in search of the great Indian rhino, deer, and exotic bird life) or joining one of the other activities available in the park. Tiger sightings are rare these days, but these magnificent animals do inhabit the park. After breakfast you will leave the lodge and go on a dugout canoe adventure on the Rapti River. This is an exciting trip with chances to view marsh mugger crocodiles and various birds that inhabit the riverbanks. A program will be organised for the rest of the day, and may include further excursions by jeep or a visit to one of the nearby villages.
Day 20 - Chitwan National Park - Bhaktapur
If you are an avid wildlife lover, there is an optional early-morning birdwatching safari available today – a worthwhile addition to your trip. After breakfast you will drive on to Bhaktapur (approximately 4 hours), which was once the capital of Nepal and the Great Malla Kingdom during the 15th century. Its rich heritage, inspiring temples and artisanal history played a big part in Bhaktapur being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy an evening of exploration on your own, soak up the lovely atmosphere in one of the local cafes, or simply relax in your hotel.
Day 21 - Bhaktapur - Kathmandu
Spend the day exploring Bhaktapur’s famous temples, starting at Durbar Square, which is reputed to be the most beautiful piece of art in Nepal. Durbar Square is home to the majestic Lion Gate and Golden Gate. You will also visit the Pashupati Temple, a replica of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. This will be an enlightening morning of discovery and enrichment, as you delve into all Bhaktapur has to offer. In the afternoon, drive to Kathmandu (approximately 2 hours). The evening will then be free, however the group leader will usually organise an optional evening meal at another of Kathmandu’s great restaurants.
Day 22 - Kathmandu
Your trip officially comes to an end after breakfast today. Your tour leader will be on hand to advise and assist with your onward travel arrangements.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money