Day 1: Australia – – Delhi
Depart Australia today on your flight to Delhi (please note, some flight may depart 1 day before). You will arrive at New Delhi International Airport. Following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
India’s capital and a major gateway to the country, contemporary Delhi is a bustling metropolis, which successfully combines in its folds – the ancient with the modern. Amidst the fast spiraling skyscrapers, the remnants of a bygone time, in the form of its many monuments, stand as silent reminders to the region’s ancient legacy. Delhi is a food-lovers haven and has something to please every palate. There is an unlimited variety available across cuisines, across price-brackets and across experiences – from street food of North India to International cuisine and from road-side dhabas to finedining – Delhi has it all.
Day 2: Delhi (B)
Today we head out on a full day to explore Delhi. Begin your day with a guided tour of the Old City of ‘Shahjahanabad’. Your introduction to the city will start with a visit to Raj Ghat – the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, drive past the Red Fort—the magical monument in red sandstone built at the pinnacle of the Mughal Empire. From here proceed by bicycle rickshaws through the bustling streets of Old Delhi to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in Asia built by Shahjahan.
Continue on a guided tour of New Delhi which reflects the legacy the British left behind. You will visit Bangla Sahib Gurudwara – one of the most prominent Sikh Gurudwara, Humayun’s tomb – the first great example of a new distinctive style, which developed to become the hallmark of the Mughal Dynasty. The tour also includes a drive past the imposing India Gate [War Memorial Arch], the Parliament buildings and the Rashtrapati Bhawan [the President’s residence].
Following sightseeing, return to your hotel.
Optional Tour (at own expense): Dinner at a local restaurant
Day 3: Delhi – Jaipur (B)
In the morning, we drive to the pink city of Jaipur (approx. 7hrs drive). Jaipur, one of the most enticing places in India, is nestled between mighty forts and the rugged Aravalli Hills. It is known as ‘the pink city’ as its prominent buildings are washed in this colour. Founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh in 1727, Jaipur is steeped in Rajput history and is characterised by sites such as the City Palace with its astronomical Observatory, Hawa Mahal and the beautiful Amber Fort. Jaipur is a bustling capital city and a business centre with all the trappings of a modern metropolis yet flavoured strongly with an age-old charm that never fails to surprise a traveller.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Optional Tour (at own expense): Sound & Light Show at Amber Fort. Enjoy an evening filled with a mesmerising play of sound and light, that blend together to retell the glorious story of Amer. Witness the history come alive with powerful narration, enchanting music and learn about the town of Amer, its traditions and the grand lifestyle of the royal family. [Does not operate on rainy days]
Day 4: Jaipur (B)
An exciting day awaits you as begin your sightseeing tour with a photo visit at the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) – a five-storied wonder with a spectacular pyramidal facade and overhanging windows with latticed screens, domes and spires. Continue your tour as we drive to the ancient capital of Amer to see the fabulous Amber Fort situated on a ridge just outside Jaipur city, surrounded by fortified battlements. Maharaja Mansingh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started the construction of Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. The fort is surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the Moat Lake. Ruins and remains are spread over the Aravalli hills and sprawling crenelated walls lattice the surrounding area.
At the foot of the hill you will be taken on the jeep up to the main gate. Tour the chambers and hallways of the palace, famous for the excellence of its design and decoration. Within the complex is Ganesh Pol, an imposing gateway painted with the images of the elephant-headed god, Ganesh. The merging of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles is captured in the Sukh Niwas and Jas Mandir apartments, and the Charbagh garden with its perfectly proportioned landscaping. Pierced screen windows offer views from different vantage points and shimmering mirrors encrust the walls of Sheesh Mahal.
This afternoon, enjoy a heritage walk in the pink city. Starting from the massive Tripolia Gate, make your way through the bustling lanes of Jaipur as you walk past the beautiful old temples and painted havelis. Wander through the streets as you see some of the gorgeous temples on both side of the roads dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman and the many forms of Lord Krishna. Proceed through the narrow alleys seeing a collection of textiles, utensils, wedding attires and street food vendors.
Optional tour (at own expense): Interaction with Indian Family followed by dinner. Familiarise yourself with the climatic, cultural and historical influences that make India so diverse. Experience culinary delights, savour the tantalizing flavours and bask in a blend of aromas of Indian cuisine. Celebrate the love of food and listen to secrets from your hosts who are highly inspired from the rich traditions and exuberant hospitality that India is famous for!
Day 5: Jaipur – Abheneri – Agra (B)
After breakfast, we head to the Mughal city of Agra (approx. 8hrs drive) en-route visiting the famous Abheneri Step Well. Abhaneri was originally named Abha Nagri, which means “city of brightness,” but due to mispronunciation, the name was changed. The city is now in ruins, but it attracts tourists from across the globe. Abhaneri is prominent for ‘Baoris’, step wells which were invented by the natives to harvest rain water. These tanks were used as cool places of retreat and as water reservoirs during parched times of the year. Chand Baori is the most popular of the wells in the region, and it is one of India’s deepest and largest. There are three ways to reach the water using the steps, which are divided into stories. This colossal, delicately carved well is located in front of the Harshat Mata Temple.
On arrival in to Agra, we check in to the hotel. This afternoon explore the Agra (Red) Fort, an outstanding example of Mughal architecture and the seat and stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations. Shah Jahan, the Taj’s creator, spent the last years of his life imprisoned at the fort by his son Aurangzeb. It was built in the late 1560`s by their predecessor, Akbar, with later embellishments by Jehangir, his son, and Shah Jahan, his grandson.
Tonight, get ready, tomorrow we visit the Taj Mahal!
Day 6: Agra – Orchha (B)
This morning we head out for the big one! The Taj Mahal, for a spectacle not to be missed— a sunrise visit to the legendary Taj Mahal, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a masterpiece in marble and one of the world’s most famous landmarks. As the sunrises, a chaste and secretive image of the Taj starts to emerge, casting a very soft light illuminating the contours of this enchanting monument in marble. Referred to as one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal in Agra is the epitome of tourism in India and is celebrated for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty. There is plenty of time to explore the grounds of the Taj Mahal gardens before returning to the hotel for breakfast. Post breakfast we make our way to Orchha.
This historic village on the banks of the boulder-strewn Betwa River showcases a supreme display of Mughal architecture, some of which is similar to that of nearby Khajuraho with much grander palaces and cenotaphs dotting the pastoral landscape as well. The atmosphere in Orchha, though, is far more laid-back and hassle-free, which makes for a relaxing stay.
Day 7: Orchha – Khajuraho (B)
This morning we explore Orchha fort complex. The entrance of which is a multi-arched bridge, has three impressive palaces placed in an open quadrangle. The first of these is the Jehangir Mahal, built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in the 17th century, to mark the occasion of Emperor Jehangir’s visit to the city. Fragile chhatries and ornate trellis work heighten the effect of artistic richness. The Raj Mahal was built by Madhukar Shah, the religious predecessor of Bir Singh Ju Deo. The interiors boast of intricate murals, depicting various religious themes. The Rai Praveen Mahal was built for the famous musician-poetess paramour of King Indramani, Rai Praveen, as a mark of admiration by Emperor Akbar. There are 14 cenotaphs or chhatries to the rulers of Orchha, across the Kanchana Ghat of the Betwa River.
Following sightseeing, you will be driven to Khajuraho [approx 05 hrs drive]. Upon arrival, check-in at the hotel.
Later your tour begins with a visit to the Western Group of temples which are entirely Hindu, and constitute some of the finest examples of Chandela art at its peak. The largest being the Kandhariya Mahadev dedicated to Lord Shiva, followed by a granite temple – Chaunsath Yogini. The Chitragupta Temple is dedicated to the Sun God, while the Vishwanath Temple sports a three-headed image of Brahma – the Creator of the Universe. The Lakshmana Temple is superbly decorated, while the Devi Jagdambi Temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali. Other temples in the Western Group include the Varaha Temple with a nine-foot high boar-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Matangeshwara Temple with an eight-foot high lingam, and the Brahma Temple.
Day 8: Khajuraho – Allahabad (B)
After breakfast we leave Khajuraho behind us and continue our journey east to Allahabad [approx 7 hrs drive]. Allahabad is among the largest and holiest cities in Uttar Pradesh. It stands at the confluence of two of India’s holiest rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna. Sangam, as the confluence is called, is the venue of many sacred fairs and rituals and attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year. This number swells to millions during the world famous Kumbha Mela. A third mythical river, the Saraswati, believed to flow underground towards the Sangam, gives the confluence its other name ‘Triveni’.
On arrival, the rest of the afternoon is free to explore this holy city at your own pace.
Day 9: Allahabad – Varanasi (B)
This morning enjoy half day sightseeing tour of Allahabad including visit to The Allahabad Fort [in ruins], built from 1583 onwards by Akbar at the confluence of the two great Rivers Ganga and Jamuna. The largest of Akbar’s forts, although most of its original form has been impaired by poor early restoration work. The fort consists of a beautiful zenana palace with a fine baradari or pavilion with a central square hall, carved on 64 columns surrounded by a deep veranda of double columns with clusters of four in each corner. [Note: Visit subject to prior permission].
We then continue on to one of India’s holiest meccas, Varanasi (Approx. 4hrs drive). Located along the west bank of the holy River Ganges in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the city of Varanasi is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage site and is one of the oldest. It is a city, which enshrines the very essence of Hinduism—temples, shrines and devotees, sunrise boat rides, flower ceremonies with traditional music and walks on the ghats. A city of colourful bazaars exquisite and bright silks, festivals – all centring around the teeming ghats of the Holy Ganges.
Every evening at Sunset, a magical Aarti is performed at Dashwamedha Ghat. Halt your boat right at the steps for the best view. The presiding priests stand on a wooden chauki in the water. To the chant of Sanskrit mantras, and the clash of cymbals and drums, the river is worshipped with flowers, incense, sandalwood, milk and vermilion. First the blazing camphor lamp and then the many- flamed aarti lamps are raised high and then arched back to the water, the dark river reflecting the golden flames as Ganga accepts the worship.
Day 10: Varanasi (B)
Varanasi’s principle attraction is the string of bathing ghats, which line the western ghats of River Ganges. The spectacular 4 Km sweep of the Ghats is a unique sight, best viewed at dawn. This morning we take a boat cruise on the Ganges to soak in the vibrant colour and life of Varanasi (subject to water levels). An early morning boat ride presents an incredible scene as the multitudes of devotees come to the river to pay homage to the Sun God. Pass the bathing ghats where thousands of pilgrims immerse themselves in the holy water of the Ganges River and the burning ghats where cremations are conducted. On our return we visit the bazaars (local market) and Kashi Vishwanath Temple – the most sacred of the shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. We then return to the hotel for breakfast where to morning is at leisure.
The rest of the day is free to explore Varanasi.
Optional Tour (at own expense): Visit to Sarnath Visit the site where Lord Buddha had preached his first sermon or in religious language, set in motion the wheel of Law (Maha-Dharmachakra-Pravartan) enshrining the principles of his teaching into laws. 200 years later, in 3rd century BC, the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka who spread the Buddhas message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, built massive stupas, viharas and monasteries making it the centre of the Buddhist world. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between 3rd century BC and 11th Century AD and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail. [Sarnath Museum remains closed on Friday].
Optional Tour (at own expense): Visit to Kachori Gali [Walking Tour] Walk through the maze of back lanes in the old quarters that exude the smells and sounds of this holy city. Visit Kachauri Gali, a lane filled with a tempting bouquet of spices, where cooks sit beside huge pans of smoking oil, balanced on earthen ovens. From spicy vegetables to pickles and jalebis or a glass of lassi, food in Varanasi is a serious business. On your way interact with local food sellers and know the interesting facts about Varanasi street food. Discover the finger licking delicacies that Varanasi is renowned for.
Optional Tour (at own expense): Visit to Muslim Weavers Colony & Silk Factory Today the city is renowned for its silk weavers, who prepare the finest types of woven silk fabrics. A Banaras silk sari or shawl is traditionally a single colored textile with motifs and patterns woven in gold or silver threads. The technique is intricate, the procedure complex and demands great expertise. As the warp and the weft are interwoven on the loom, small, often minute shuttles with gold thread are introduced to form the motif. When the design of the motif is completed, a knot is made and the gold thread cut. The weaving continues until the next design. The smaller the motif or the more intricate the design, the more complex the weaving skills required. Silk weaving in Banaras is a cottage industry and in many areas of the city, especially the Muslim quarters, one can see looms at work all day. Entire families are involved, Children often pick up the art from the elders at an early age. There are shops in Banaras, and throughout India, that sell these fine silk fabrics.
Day 11: Varanasi – Lucknow (B)
This morning we leave Varanasi behind us and head to Lucknow [approx 09 hrs drive].For all its modernity, Lucknow remains true to its cultural past, impeccable manners, a courtly diction, and a love for the arts and all beautiful things. The capital city of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, the erstwhile Awadh or Oudh still preserves the spirit of the past era. On arrival the afternoon is free to explore and enjoy this old World city.
Day 12: Lucknow (B)
Today, enjoy a highlights tour of Lucknow. Proceed to Bara Imambara, built by Nawab Asafuddaula to provide relief to his subjects during the famine of 1784. The splendor of this edifice is a reminder of the past glory of Nawab of Oudh. The Imambara is unique for the absence of pillars or supports in the main hall, which stands 50 feet tall. Continue to the Shah Najaf Imambara, the tomb of Nawab Ghaziuddin Haider, and his family is housed in this majestic white domed building. The tombs are plated in silver and gold and the interiors are ornate with floral designs and chandeliers. Also visit the Jama Masjid [drive past], this grand mosque was built by Muhammad Ali Shah in typical Mughal style with tall minarets and onion-shaped domes; Lucknow Residency [Museum remains closed on Friday] built during 1780 – 1800, it was once the political residence of the British officials and Husainabad Picture Gallery, located near the Husainabad Tank houses portraits of the rulers of Awadh.
Optional Tour (at own expense): Heritage Walking Tour Lucknow is not just any other city, but a chapter that unfolds itself each time one visits this epicenter of culture. We have exclusively designed a Heritage Walk, discovering the lanes and the bylanes of Chowk. On this walking tour we explore the unexplored and explain the inexplicable. Understand how vast a history, this city of superlatives holds. History in Lucknow, stretches beyond the concrete walls of its monuments, spreads into the lanes of Lucknow and has many more nuances that can only be understood and appreciated in the lanes and bylanes of Chowk. Heritage Walk is an endeavour of sharing discoveries and knowledge that make Lucknow look so new and fresh every time. Our expert Walk Leaders take you into the bygone era of this city that is a world unto itself.
Optional Tour (at own expense): Culinary Walk Lucknow as a city has carved a niche by attracting gastronomes, for the want of discovering and re-discovering the Awadhi Cuisine. Till date Lucknowites spend the most of their earnings and time on their kitchens. Lucknow is one place that has a full colony of chefs called, ‘Bawarchi Tola’ and then there is a full street, where one can find the best from Lucknow’s very own traditional kitchens. We take you for this evening walk and make you hop-in, hop-out of the traditional roadside eateries, making you try the best that is on the menu. This is a guided tour with our own set of cutlery and basic dining essentials. It allows you to experience the best of the best, at the unpretentious eateries, without having to worry about how to eat without a fork or to wipe your hands clean after you are done.
Day 13: Lucknow – – Delhi (B)
After breakfast we have a leisurely morning before making our way to the train station to board our train to Delhi. No trip the India is complete without experiencing a train journey! Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to see India is not on a plane at 35,000 feet, but at ground level on the incredible Indian railway system. You can safely forget media images of overcrowded suburban trains with people sitting on the roof. On a long distance train in an air-conditioned carriage all seats are reserved and it’s a safe, civilised & comfortable way to get around India. Our train journey to Delhi takes around 7 hours giving you time to watch the world go by.
On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel in Delhi.
Day 14: Delhi – – Australia (B)
After breakfast, the day is at leisure. At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the airport.
Day 15: Australia
Arrive home in Australia today.