This India tour operator was fabulous. From the early stages of the planning until the last day of our visit to India, we could not have asked for better service or more accommodating people. Everyone we encountered on this trip was exceptional: the guides, our driver, the professors with whom we visited, the staff at the hotels. We felt very well cared for.
Please see my blog post of this trip: http://travelwithjere.tumblr.com.
Probably the people we met as we visited the forts, temples and monuments in India. of course, seeing the Taj Mahal in the early morning was spectacular. It brought tears to our eyes. And then having our guide share how he played and picnicked with his family there as a child made it even more touching
We plan to return to India. It is the first time we have said this about a country. There is so much to see and it is so diverse.
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Detail Itinerary of This Luxury India Tour
A Journey Through the Fabled Cities of North India
OverviewThis 15 day journey is a comprehensive, in-depth look at the fascinating cultures and history of North India. The journey begins from Delhi – the capital city. As the capital of India, it is the second largest city (following Mumbai) with about 12 million people, and the world's eight largest metropolis. Considered to be the nations political, cultural, commercial and trading hub, a large segment of its population is of Indians from another states, migrating to the capital in search of work. Leaving Delhi, the travel will take you to Varanasi with a history dating back at least 3000 years, it is one of the world's oldest living cities in the world. The next stop is Khajuraho -a fascinating village with a quaint rural ambiance and a rich cultural heritage. The fascinating temples of Khajuraho, India's unique gift of love to the world, represent the expression of a highly matured civilization of Chandela Rajputs. Onward to Agra – the city of Taj to the colourful state of Rajasthan its palaces, forts, unique villages, experiencing a short journey on India rai and understanding the culture, life style of the people, learning the techniques of farming and meals with local people. Witness the cultural heritage of India as you drive through the various historic cities of the North India.
Keywords – Culture, History, Temples, Monuments, Fort, Palaces, Boat ride, Elephant ride, Jeep Safari, Villages,
Highlights• Discover the cities Delhi, Varanasi-, Khajuraho, Agra, Jaipur, Masuda, Jodhpur, Ranakpur, Udaipur.• See the icons of India including the Gandhi’s home and museum, the Forts and Palaces of Rajasthan and the Taj Mahal.• Experience “Sufi music” performance at Nizamuddin Durga (mausoleum) - one of the world's most famous Sufi saints, Nizamuddin Auliya.• Exclusive boat rides on river Ganges and Lake Pichola• Cycle rickshaw ride through the myraid streets/lanes for Chandani Chowk Delhi, walk through the ghats in Varanasi and the quietvillage of Khajuraho.• Meeting and inter-acting with local people and understand the farming techniques at the villages• A meal with an Indian family• Jeep ride into the Bishnoi village.
DAY WISE ITINERARY
Day 01: Fly to Delhi (In Transit)
Day 02 : Arrive Delhi• Arrive Delhi by the International flight where you will be received and taken to your hotel. The drive from the airport to hotel would normally take about an hour on normal traffic and little more at peak traffic.
Delhi : The capital of India, is a fascinating city with complexities and contradictions, beauty and dynamism, where the past co-exists with the present. Many dynasties ruled from here and the city is rich in the architecture of its monuments. Delhi is not only the present metropolis of India but also a necropolis. Because of its location on the banks of the river Yamuna, Delhi has witnessed the rise and fall of many cities over the last five millennia.Overnight in Delhi
Day 03 : A day in Delhi to explore the highlights• Full day guided tour of the highlights of Old & New Delhi.• The places to visit are :-
Jama Masjid – the Friday Mosque
Chandni Chowk – the “silver street”. Enjoy a “cycle rickshaw ride through the lanes and by-lanes of this famous bazaar (market).
Humayun's Tomb – the magnificent structure in red sand stone and white marble is one of the finest examples of the garden tomb, and a precursor of the Taj Mahal.
Qutub Minar - a tower of Victory which was built in the 12th century by Qutabuddin Aibak. Within the spacious courtyard of the adjoining Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque stands the famous Iron Pillar, which dates back to the 4th century AD and bears a Sanskrit inscription.Drive past the India Gate - a war memorial of the First World War, the Rajpath towards the residence of the President of the Republic of India – the Rashtrapathi Bhawan. It is flanked by the houses of Parliament and the Government Secretariat buildings.
Lotus Temple - The Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, popularly known as the Lotus Temple due to its flowerlike shape, is a Bahai house of worship and also a prominent attraction in Delhi. The place provides immaculate environment for meditation, peace and wisdom.
Akshardham - Delhi Akshardham or Swaminarayan Akshardham, the complex displays millennia of traditional Indian and Hindu culture, spirituality, and architecture.Overnight in Delhi
Day 04 : A day more in Delhi• Breakfast at the hotel• A day in Delhi to complete the visitsOvernight in Delhi
Day 05 : Fly Delhi to Varanasi• Morning transfer to the airport for flight to Varanasi – considered to be the most religiously significant place for all Hindus, with over a million people making a pilgrimage here every year.• After breakfast, leave for domestic airport for a short flight to Varanasi.• Arrive Varanasi and drive to “Sarnath” to visit the museum and the site with the famous “Dhamekh Stupa”. Sarnath is the place where the Buddha delivered his first Sermon ‘Turning of the Wheel of Law’. See the Chowkandi and Dhamek Stupas, the ruins of 9th and 10th century monasteries and temples, the temple built by the Mahabodhi Society in 1931, and the Tibetan Temple.
Varanasi is one of India’s most important pilgrimage sites and the holiest of holy cities for Hindus. Known also as Kashi and Benaras, Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest living cities, and has been a centre of learning and culture for well over 2000 years
Later check-in at the hotel.• Before sunset, drive to the heart of the city an take rickshaw ride to the Ghats on the banks of the river Ganges and witness the evening prayers – also knows as the “aarti” ceremony held on the river bank, from a boat in the river. After the “aarti” you can walk through the streets, stopping at the various shops and smaller tempers along the way. It is possible to interact with one of the many astrologers and palmists who can be found in this ancient city.Overnight in Varanasi
Day 06 : Fly Varanasi to Khajuraho• Today wake up early for a short drive to Ghats, and row along the river Ganges to watch sunrise as the city comes to life and the devout go about their prayers and bathe in the river. After the day has begun, disembark and walk through the streets to see some of the most sacred temples, the shops selling articles for the prayer rituals and see the throngs of devotees who come to Benaras or Varanasi seeking salvation.• Later in the morning, you will be taken to the airport for a short flight to Khajruaho. You will be received on arrival at the airport in Khajuraho and taken to the hotel.
The temples here were constructed between 950 and 1100 A.D. during the reign of Chandela Empire. Khajuraho derives its name from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree) which predominated the area. These temples are considered the "epic point" of Indian architectural genius of the Medieval period.
Originally there were 85 temples, of which only 22 are exists. They scattered over an area of about 21 sq km. The 85 temples were built in North Indian 'Nagara' style of architecture. All the temples were constructed amazingly within a short span of 100 years (950 AD - 1100 AD). With the wane of the Chandela empire, these magnificent temples lay neglected, and vulnerable to the ravages of nature. They were rediscovered in the last century, restored and granted the recognition of World Heritage Monuments. The murals depict the life and times of the Chandelas. If the temples of Khajuraho can be said to have a theme, it is “Human form”. A celebration of woman and her myriad moods and facets- writing letters, applying kohl to her eyes, brushing her hair, dancing with joyous abandon playing with her child and men marching to war doing acrobatic and making love. Depicted in a wealth of detail, sharply etched, sculpted with consummate artistry.
• In the afternoon the visit will take you to the Eastern & Southern Group of temples .• In the evening attend the sound & light show at the Western Group of temples.Overnight in Khajuraho.
Day 07 : Drive to Jhansi and take a short train ride to Agra – the city of Taj• Today before leaving for Agra you will be visiting the most important Western group of temples.
In the Western group of Temples – The Laxmana Temple, dedicated to Vishnu, the Preserver of the Universe with the four subsidiary shrines in the four corners of the platform with the main shrine in the center is the only Temple of the 10th century AD built by the Chandelas which is complete, intact and in good condition. The Kandariya Mahadeo temple of this Group is the largest and is dedicated to Shiva. In both these temples, the main shrines are exquisitely carved and feature, in delicate detail, gods, goddesses, celestial maidens and lovers.
• You will be then taken to Jhansi train station – a four hours drive with a stop at Orchha, a city of the medieval times was the principal town with palaces and temples built by the Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries.•Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, the palaces and temples retain much of their pristine perfection. Of the succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo who built the exquisite Jehangir Mahal, a tiered palace crowned by graceful chhatris, in the 17th century to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha. its strong lines are counterbalanced by delicate chhatries and trellis work, the whole conveying an effect of extraordinary richness. From here the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular. Ram Raj Temple, the palace-turned temple with its soaring spires and palatial architecture, is one of the most unusual in India. Other notable temples worth visiting are the Chaturbhuj temple and the Laxminarayan temple.
After the visit proceed to Jhansi train station and enjoy a short ride to Agra. The train leave at 17h55 and arrive Agra at 20h25. The journey will be on air-conditioned first classOvernight in Agra.
Day 08 : A day in Agra – the city of Taj• Today take a guided visit at sunrise to the Taj Mahal when the colours on the marble dome change from a golden hue to marble white as the sun rises in the azimuth. During the day you will be taken to the important sites along with a visit to the Old park of the city to see the crafts persons at work. The sites today covered are :
An inimitable poem in white marble, the Taj Mahal was built over a period of 22 years (1631-1653), using a workforce of 22000 people, by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his Queen Mumtaz Mahal to enshrine her mortal remains. The Taj Mahal presents a wonderous sight at different time of the day – at dawn, during the day, at sunset and even on a moonless night. Needless to say it is exquisite on a moonlit night.
Agra Fort : Built by three Mughal Emperors starting from Akbar the Great in 1565 AD, the Agra fort is a masterpiece of design and construction. Within the fort are a number of exquisite buildings.
The Mughals were connoisseurs of needlework. Rich tapestry embroidery in gold thread, beads and semi precious stones and ornate Zardozi work of gold, silver and silk on velvet were court promoted crafts. These are still done in Agra.See authentic crafts persons at work in their homes. No expense was spared for the pietra dura decoration of the Taj Mahal. It is believed that this craft was introduced to India through inlaid panels. The Mughals realized the potential of this craft and patronized it. The Indian craftsmen who were adept at the `intarsia work’ perfected this craft with ease. Today, pietra dura has been mastered and is crafted not only by the direct descendants of craftsmen but also by many who have been trained by them. The finished products of this craft in the form of tables, vases, coasters, boxes, wall plaques and many more have a great market at home and abroad.
• In the evening visit Mehtab Bagh – the garden located opposite to Taj across river Yamuna to have an un-interrupted view of the Monument at dusk.Overnight in Agra.
Day 09 : Drive Agra to Jaipur with a stop at Fatehpur Sikri• Today after a leisurely breakfast, you would be driving to Jaipur visiting Fatehpur Sikri on the way. Your guide will take you through the Main Palace complex as well as the “Bulund Darwaza”, the mausoleum to Sheik Salim Chisti – a Sufi saint Experience Sufi devotional music – the Quawalli (Qawwali) performed at the forecourt of the mausoleum in praise of the Almighty.• After the visit, continue drive to the Pink city of Jaipur.Arrive Jaipur before dusk and check-in at the hotelOvernight in Jaipur.
Day 10 : A day in Jaipur “the pink city”• Today after breakfast, you will be taken on a guided tour exploring the palaces, forts and museums of Jaipur. Along with a photo stop at Hawa Mahal “the Palace on Winds” you will be visiting the Amber Fort, Jantar Mantar>
Amber Fort - the capital of the erstwhile State of Jaipur until 1728 is perched on a hill. It has halls of Public and Private audience, a Sheesh Mahal (hall of mirrors) various marble palaces which are marvelous examples of ancient Rajput architecture. The Temple of Amba (Mother Goddess), the patron deity of the Royal family is at the entrance to the palace. Ride an elephant to ascend the hill on which the Fort is situated.
Jantar Mantar - an astrological and astronomical Observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh in 18th century, which is remarkable for its accuracy of the instruments even in the present times.
City Palace - the former royal residence built in a blend of the Rajasthani and Mughal styles. It now houses a museum with a superb collection of Rajasthani costumes, an armoury of the Mughals and Rajputs with weapons of arms, an art gallery with an excellent collection of miniature paintings, carpets, royal paraphernalia and rare astronomical works in Arabic, Persian, Latin and Sanskrit.
The markets of Jaipur are famous for block printed textiles, precious and semi precious gems, silver jewellery, brocade and carpets as well as handmade paper. Take a walk through the bustling and colourful bazaars of the Pink City.• Spend the evening with an Indian family and return to hotel after a meal with them.Overnight in Jaipur.
Day 11: Drive Jaipur to Jodhpur• Today after breakfast, you will be taken to Jodhpur with an option to visit :
Kishangarh - This small town is a treasure trove of art and craft that was at its zenith from 1637 to 1657 during the reign of Raja Sawant Singh. The town is popular for Bani Thani Paintings.
Ajmer - The city of Ajmer is a true amalgam of two rich cultures, Hindu and Islamic. A Sanskrit College, Jain and Hindu Temples of the 7th century have housed one of the first mosques built in India in the 12th century known as the Adai din ki Jompdi. The great Muslim divine Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti of Persia lived and died in Ajmer in the 13th century and is buried here. His Dargah is sacred to the followers of Islam as also to those of other faiths who are his devotees. Ajmer is considered a second Mecca/Medina for the Muslims.
Pushkar - the town of Pushkar is holy to the Hindus. The sacred lake of Pushkar is believed to be from the beginning of time and there is a temple to the Creator of the Universe - Brahma - on its banks of the Lake Pushkar has been a place of pilgrimage through ages. An annual fair is held on the full moon day of Oct/Nov to celebrate the creation of the Universe when thousands of Hindu devotees take a dip in this holy lake. This year it is on Monday 2nd Nov. It is also a site for a Camel & Cattle Fair, which is organized on this occasion.
At the edge of the Thar Desert, the imperial city of Jodhpur echoes with tales of antiquity in the emptiness of the desert. The massive 15th century AD Mehrangarh Fort looms on the top of a rocky hill, soaring 125 mts. above the plains. A high wall encompasses the city - 10 km long with 8 gates and innumerable bastions. The lifestyle in Jodhpur is unusually fascinating with people wearing lovely multi hued costumes, artistically designed. Shopping in Jodhpur bazaars is a heady experience with a colourful display of the rich collection of exquisite handicrafts. The tie-and-dye fabric, embroidered “jutis” or slippers in suede, camel skin, velvet and leather, beautiful silks, durries, marble souvenirs from Makrana, an extensive range of useful and decorative items etc., are of interest.Overnight in Jodhpur
Day 12 : A day in Jodhpur• Today in the morning, take a guided tour of the “Blue city” of Jodhpur visiting the majestic Mehrangarh and the interesting markets around the Clock-Tower.
Mehrangarh fort is one of the most impressive and formidable structures. Invincible from the outside, the fort has four gates approached by a winding road. Within the fort are some magnificent palaces with marvellously carved panels with latticed windows. These palaces house a fabulous collection of trappings of Indian royalty including a superb collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs, miniature paintings of various schools, musical instruments, costumes and furniture.In the afternoon take a jeep ride into the Bishnoi village – spend some time with a local family and after an evening snacks with the family return to hotel.The Bishnois are perhaps one of the earliest known ecologists and protectors of wild life and forests. Their preceptor or Guru lived a few hundred years ago and followed by 29 principles. The word 29 in local dialect is pronounced Bishnoi. These people are non violent - protect all life - animals, birds and trees and are vegetarians. They wear a particular kind of a dress - women wear red skirts with floral prints (all of the same kind) the men Dhotis and cross over jackets. Silver and gold jewellery are popular. They live in groups according to their clan and are adept in local handicrafts of shoe making, pottery and hand weaving. Photograph of wild life including black buck, chinkaras and peacocks, which wander free without fear, can be easily taken.Overnight in Jodhpur
Day 13 : Drive to Udaipur with a stop at RanakpurToday the journey will take you to the remarkable 15th century Jain temples at Ranakpur. Though over 500 years old, the temples here are superbly preserved in a near-perfect condition. In the centre is the main Chaumukha temple dedicated to Adinath. The most distinctive features are the 29 halls supported by 1444 pillars, of which no two are exactly alike. Every conceivable surface is carved and every corner and angle is engraved with Jain images.
Note : There are dress restrictions to visit the temples – they do not permit leather items like belts, wallets or purse. The dress should cover the body.
After the visits, you would be driving to Udaipur and before check-in at the hotel, you will be taken to the Monsoon Palace from where you would get a spectacular view of the city of Udaipur. After high tea at the monsoon palace, which was also the setting for the 1983 James Bond movie Octopussy, you would be taken to your hotel.
Udaipur, the city of Dawn, is the Jewel of Mewar - a kingdom ruled by the Sisodia Dynasty for 1200 years. Its kaleidoscope of fairy-tale palaces, lakes, temples, gardens and narrow lanes strewn with stalls, carry the flavour of a heroic past, epitomizing valour and chivalry. The reflection of these building in the placid waters of the Lake Pichola is an enticing sight.Overnight in Udaipur.
Day 14 : A day in Udaipur• Today you will be taken to a full day guided tour of the city. The visits take you to the Jagdish temple, the City Palace & museum, the interesting markets famous for jewelery and miniature paintings.
• In the afternoon visit the Durbar Hall & Crystal Gallery - The Gallery has the magnificent collection of Oslers Crystals. These precious crystals were ordered by Maharana Sajjan Singh around 1877 A.D. Although, the Maharana could not see the most valuable crystals due to his premature death. These treasured crystals are kept in the charismatic City Palace Complex, overlook the majestic and imperial Darbar Hall. The visit will end with an exclusive boat ride on the Lake Pichola.Overnight in Udaipur.
Day 15 : Fly Udaipur to DelhiMorning the day is at leisure, late evening take the flight back to Delhi. Meeting and assistance at the airport and transfer to a hotel, where a room will be booked for wash and change. Later transfer to the airport for your onward flight back home.
Recommended books and articles :
Literature, Culture and History in Mughal North India, 1550 – 1800 by Sandhya SharmaThe Majesty of Mughal Decoration : The Art and Architecture of Islamic India by George MichellBanaras, City of Light by Diana L EckHinduism : A Very Short Introduction By Kim KnottHoly Cow : An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonaldhttp://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/modern/taj_oak.htmlhttp://www.thehindu.com/arts/books/article1519784.ecehttp://www.indiapicks.com/annapurna/D_Rajput.htm
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