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Few countries can match the splendor of India, an ancient culture imbued with exotic traditions. A beautiful land of world-class sites, both natural and man-made awaits you. From the plains to the rugged Himalayas, India is one of the world’s great travel destinations. Our program highlights the famous sites of the north as well as lesser-known, but equally fascinating sites such as Ranthambhore National Park. In New Delhi, we tour India’s regal capital, then travel to Varanasi to witness the rituals of bathing, prayer and funerals on the Holy Ganges River as they have been performed for thousands of years. In Khajuraho, we visit the exquisitely carved temple complex, then board the train to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal — one of the most sublime structures ever built.
Ancient Cities of North India Tour Package begins with an arrival in New Delhi, the bustling capital of India and transfer to comfortable hotel in the city. Delhi is the fastest growing of the large cities in India and is rapidly catching up to the size of Mumbai (Bombay) and Kolkata (Calcutta). In addition, Delhi has long since eclipsed them in political importance. In some areas it remains a spacious garden city, tree-lined with beautiful parks, but it can also be crowded and raucous. Turbanned Sikhs, colorfully dressed Rajasthani and Gujarati women working as manual laborers on building sites, Muslim shopkeepers along Janpath Road and Kashmiris in the handicraft emporia around Connaught Place, all add to the cosmopolitan feel of the city. The rest of the day is free to relax or to explore.
Overnight in New Delhi.
We spend the day in Delhi, exploring some of the sights in both the “Old” and the “New” cities. In Old Delhi, we visit the Red Fort, built by Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal), the Jama Masjid, India’s largest Mosque, as well as enjoy a rickshaw ride through Chandi Chowk, Delhi’s famous “Silver Street”. In New Delhi, we see the Qutab Minar, Ghandi’s tomb, the Bahai Temple and see India Gate, the “Arc de Triomphe” that leads to the Indian Parliament. Tonight we enjoy a cultural show and dinner. Overnight in Delhi.
We depart Delhi by plane to the “Eternal City” of Varanasi, also known as Benares. The city lies on the west bank of the Ganges at a point where it sweeps in a great bend north before resuming its southeasterly course to the sea. India’s most sacred city, it was already an important town in the 7th century BC when Babylon was at the peak of its power and was certainly well established by the time Buddha arrived here in 500 BC. Varanasi is said to combine the virtues of all other places of pilgrimage and anyone dying within the area is transported straight to heaven. This is why many devout Hindus move to Varanasi to end their days and have their ashes scattered in the holy Ganges. In the afternoon, we visit Sarnath, the ancient site where the Buddha gave his first sermon. Today, the monks are long gone and the buildings are in ruin but its setting among green grass and beautiful trees makes it an ideal place to experience India’s profound past. In the evening we travel by rickshaw to visit a ghat at aarti (prayer) time. Overnight in Varanasi.
An early morning boat trip on the Ganges River takes us past the ghats where pilgrims have come to purify themselves and where bathing and cremations are regular activities in these sacred waters. In the afternoon, we take a short flight to Khajuraho, a medieval city filled with intriguing temples. Overnight in Khajuraho.
In the morning, we explore Khajuraho’s temples. Intricately carved, these ancient temples depict human and divine forms engaged in daily life. In the afternoon, we drive to Jhansi where we board the train for Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. We arrive in Agra in the evening. Overnight in Agra.
We have a full day to explore the sights of Agra, including the Taj Mahal. This white marbled jewel was built over a 22-year period by Shah Jahan as a monument to his great love for his wife. Later, we visit the Agra Fort built by Akbar the Great, which includes the Pearl Mosque, the Palace and the Halls of Private and Public Audience. We also visit Sikandra and Itmad-Ud-Daulah tomb. Overnight in Agra.
In the morning, we depart Agra for Jaipur, stopping en route to visit the ancient ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri, and wander amongst its beautiful stone buildings set in the desert. Onward, we stop at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, we explore the park by rickshaw, a 20 sq. mile marshland, reputed to be one of the best bird sanctuaries in the world — over 360 bird species have been recorded here. We enjoy lunch in Bharatpur Forest Lodge and continue to Jaipur. Overnight in Jaipur.
Jaipur, the “Pink City” of Rajasthan, was built in 1728 and holds many attractions for the traveler. It earned its moniker as the Pink City because the rock that was used in the city’s construction has a pink hue. In Jaipur, we visit the Amber Palace and Fort, the City Palace, Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and the famous Astronomical Observatory. Lunch in a local restaurant. Overnight in Jaipur.
We depart Jaipur for Ranthambhore. We arrive in time for lunch followed by an afternoon visit to the Fort and the surroundings of Ranthambhore National Park. Overnight in Ranthambhore.
We spend the day in this park, famous for its tiger population. Here we learn about these elusive creatures as we travel by open vehicle. There are two safaris: one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon. Lunch is at the hotel. The chances of seeing a tiger in the wild are small, but it provides a great opportunity to learn about them and to take in the beauty of the park at the same time. Other wildlife includes deer, crocodiles, Asian Sun Bears, leopards, monkeys and a wide variety of birds. Overnight at Ranthambhore.
Today, we go overland to the idyllic desert town of Pushkar. Situated on the edge of the Thar Desert in Rajastan, the town of Pushkar is a peaceful oasis where travelers escape the bustle of big city India — a place frozen in the ancient days of India. We stop in Jaipur for lunch on the way to Pushkar. We arrive in the afternoon, after settling into our hotel we can sit by the lake and watch the pious perform their ablutions in the holy waters, or wander through town and watch the troops of monkeys perform their antics. Pushkar also has India’s one and only temple of Lord Brahma, Creator of the Universe in Hindu Mythology. Overnight in Pushkar.
We have planned our departures around one of India’s largest festivals, the Pushkar Camel Festival. Pushkar is an oasis in the desert and is a special place in its own right. Every year Pushkar becomes a world class spectacle during the Camel Festival, whose dates are timed with the lunar calendar. There are competitions, camel safaris, street theatre and a variety of vendors selling interesting handicrafts. For centuries, traders have been coming to this event to buy, sell and trade oxen, cattle, mules and even elephants, but it is camels who hold center stage at Pushkar. It is estimated that up to 50,000 camels are bought, sold and traded every year at the Camel Fair. Overnight, Pushkar is transformed. Devotees, traders, musicians and jugglers flock to the town. Pushkar bursts with color, people and gaiety during the week of the autumn full moon. Held for five days and culminating on the auspicious Purnima (full moon of the Hindu month of Kartik), the Pushkar Camel Fair is one of India’s greatest festivals. Overnight in Pushkar.
Today we depart Pushkar for Jodhpur, arriving at our hotel in time for lunch. The former capital of Marwar state, Jodhpur was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha who claimed descent from Lord Rama (the hero of the epic Ramayana). The massive fort — Mehrangarh — came first and around it grew the city of Jodhpur protected by a high stone wall with seven gates and countless bastions. Today, the city has grown to become the second largest city of Rajasthan while still maintaining its medieval character. As in the past, Jodhpur is still one of the leading trading centres of wood, cattle, camels, salt and agricultural crops. However, the past is never very far behind and Jodhpur boasts of some very fine reminders of this glorious past — palaces, forts, temples and other elegant monuments of architectural and historical value. We spend the afternoon sightseeing in Jodhpur, including Mandore Garden, Jodhpur Fort and Royal Palaces. Dinner and overnight in Jodhpur.
This morning, we visit the villages of Bisnois — protectors of wild life and trees. As we drive in our jeeps, we can see men and women in colorful attire and plenty of wild life, such as, peacocks, chinkaras, black buck and partridge along the way. We have free time in the afternoon to explore the old city of Jodhpur. In the evening we have dinner at Meherangarh Fort. Overnight in Jodhpur.
After breakfast, we depart Jodhpur for Udaipur, stopping en route to see Ranakpur Jain Temples and have lunch. We arrive in Udaipur late afternoon and settle into our hotel. Dinner and overnight in Udaipur.
After breakfast, we depart for a sightseeing tour of Udaipur City. Set in the Girwa Valley amidst the Aravalli Hills of south Rajasthan, Udaipur is a beautiful city, regarded by Indians and foreigners alike as one of the most romantic in India. It is a lovely city to explore with fairy tale white marble palaces, placid blue lakes and green hills that create a feeling of serenity. Udaipur is undoubtedly an oasis of color in an arid region of India.
Today, we take in Sahelion Ki-Bari, the City Palace, Jagdish Temple and we take a drive around the Fateh Sagar Lake. In the afternoon we enjoy a boat ride on the lake, with views of the Lake Palace and dependent on time maybe the sunset. Overnight in Udaipur.
We have the morning free and have lunch in Udaipur before we are transferred to the airport for our flight to New Delhi. Upon arrival, we are transferred to our hotel. This evening attend our farewell dinner, in a local family home, where we will savor our adventures in this spectacular country. Overnight in New Delhi.
After breakfast at the hotel, spend the day at leisure until your departure transfer to the airport, or connect to our Backwaters trip in Kerala.