India: Mysteries of India
Our Itineraries are provided as a preview of what to expect on our tours. Please, note, that itineraries are subject to change.
Upon arrival at the Delhi International Airport, you will be met by a representative that will transfer you to your hotel for your stay. Delhi is India’s capital and a major gateway to the country. Perhaps there is no other capital city in the world so steeped in history and legend as the Indian capital Delhi. It was the magnet, which drew the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals and the British, all of whom contributed to its glorious but turbulent past. The fascination with Delhi was such that even though it was abandoned many times, its rulers returned to it again and again rebuilding it at least seven times. Today, the twin cities of Old and New Delhi still intrigue Indians and tourists alike as the cultural and political capital of the largest democracy in the world.
Following breakfast, be ready for a welcome briefing and introduction to the Tour Director. Your tour guide will help you discover the origin and history of the Hindi language, teach you key words and phrases that will help you communicate with locals. Begin exploration of Delhi, India’s capital city that sports a rich history spanning over 2,000 years. Discover the secrets of the only clearly visible historic settlement of Delhi. From the majestic Red Fort to the gold lined shops of Dariba Kalan, this tour allows you to savor a 350 year old culture up-close. Arrive in Old Delhi and drive past Red Fort and Jama Masjid - the largest mosque in India built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in year 1650 AD. From here, you board a cycle rickshaws for a tour of Chandni Chowk (Silver Street) for a glimpse into an old world lifestyle slowly fading from Delhi. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can be felt in the Chandni Chowk's narrow lanes. While on the tour, stop at Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest wholesale spice market - operating since the 17th century. Learn about the spices on sale and smell their aromas. The street is congested with shops on both sides selling spices, nuts and herbs. The overall appearance seems to be very chaotic but in reality it is very well managed! There will be great photo opportunities here!!! Continue to Raj Ghat – a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, set within a beautiful park. Continue your drive through New Delhi, passing by Presidential Palace- the one-time imperial residence of the British viceroys; the India Gate - a memorial raised in Honour of the Indian soldiers martyred during the Afghan war, Parliament house and other government buildings built in the first quarter of the 20th century by two famous English architects, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was during this time period that the capital of the British Empire was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. End the day with a visit to the World Heritage site of Humayun’s tomb. It is the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent (“the predecessor of the Taj Mahal”). Built by the wife of Humayun, Haji Begum in the mid 16th century, this monument is a wonderful example of early Mughal architecture. At Humayun's Tomb, the Mughals brought with them a love for gardens, fountains and water. The tomb is set in a geometrically arranged garden crisscrossed by numerous water channels and probably representing symbolically a paradise setting. Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner arranged at Veda. The acclaimed restaurant has been designed by a celebrated fashion designer Rohit Bal and offers a contemporary interpretation of classic Pan Indian cooking.
Follwing breakfast at the hotel, you will depart to Jaipur, known as the “pink city” for the abundance of pink plastered stone used to build its massive forts, magnificent palaces and exquisite temples. Jaipur – The city built in 1727 A.D by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II followed a grid system, which made it the only planned city of its time. A young Bengali architect Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya designed the city in accordance with Shilp Shastra - an ancient Hindu treatise on architecture. There is far more to the city than just its famous monuments and to get a complete experience of Jaipur, uncover the mysteries of the bazaars and visit silversmiths, turban sellers and traditional markets. When you arrive Jaipur, you will check in to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at your leisure or explore on own. In the evening, visit the ancient Hindu Birla temple for Aarti (prayer) ceremony which is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of puja for the devotee is making a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: an element of nature, a sculpture, a vessel, a painting, or a print.
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel. Set off to Amber Fort. Jaipur’s Maharaja Man Singh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started constructing 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. You will ascend the hill leading to the fortress on elephant-back and then walk through the sprawling complex of courtyards and halls. Many of the rooms have delightful wall paintings, with precious stones and mirrors inlaid in the walls. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the Sheesh Mahal (hall of mirrors) where a single lamplight is reflected in the many mirrors, lighting up the room. Later, embark on a city tour starting with a photo-stop at Hawa Mahal (the Palace of Winds) made famous because of the 953 windows, or jharokhas, that make up its structure. Five stories in height, and built of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white quicklime, it is thought that the women of the royal harem used the many casements to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. Continue to Jantar Mantar, an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh ll in the 18th century. The Maharajah, a scientist as well as an astronomer, had the principles of Euclid translated into Sanskrit. One of the most remarkable sites in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar has fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and planets. Just next to the observatory is the City Palace. Built within the fortified area of the original city, it has one of the finest monumental entrances in India. The Palace is now principally a museum housing a collection of great treasures, including miniature paintings, carpets, royal garments and other interesting objects from Jaipur's intriguing past. The former royal family retains a part of the palace for their personal use. End the tour with a fascinating walk in the old city. Mingle and talk with the locals whilst observing some of the regions culinary delight. Observe local artisans in their workshops; jewelers and silversmiths, gold and silver foil makers. The iconic Hawa Mahal also called the Palace of the winds is the meeting - point at which this walk begins. During the walk, ladies will get the opportunity to try the art of Henna tattoo painting.
Following breakfast at your hotel, you will head to Agra. This route takes you through the region’s typical villages, where you can appreciate various scenes of traditional life. Comfort stops are made en route. Stop for lunch at a charming heritage hotel before continuing to Fatehpur Sikri, the city of victory. Built by Emperor Akbar as his capital and palace in the late 16th century as an act of gratitude to a penniless saint, this splendid red sandstone city was inexplicably abandoned just fourteen years later. It was a veritable fairy tale city and its 'ruins' are still in a pristine condition. From Fatehpur Sikri, head to Agra reaching your hotel late in the afternoon. On arrival, check in for your stay. Once a small village on the banks of the Yamuna, Agra was transformed by two great Mughal monarchs, Akbar and his grandson Shah Jehan into the second capital of the Mughal Empire – Dar-ul-Khilafat, or ‘seat of the Emperor’. The Mughals besides being great rulers were also great builders and preserved their best architectural wonders for Agra & its neighborhood. It has many wonderful monuments and the Taj Mahal, the greatest of them all, is a masterpiece of Mughal architecture at its best. Their architectural genius can also be seen in the forts, palaces and aesthetically laid out gardens - each one a silent witness to a grand style of a golden era.
At sunrise, visit Taj Mahal (closed on Friday). It is fitting to see this extraordinary monument by the first light of day as its exemplary beauty is awe-inspiring and will create an unforgettable memory. Said to be one of the most elegant and a harmonious building in the world, Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in 1630 AD to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal manifests the wealth and luxury of Mughal art as seen in architecture and garden design, painting, and calligraphy. The 144 foot double dome of the Taj is capped with a finial and the four minarets each 131 ft high and crowned by an open octagonal pavilion highlight the perfect symmetry of the tomb. Return to hotel for breakfast. Later, make your way to the Agra Fort, which was the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations. This was the seat of Mughal rule and administration and the present structure owes its origins to Akbar who erected the walls and gates and the first buildings on the eastern banks of Yamuna River. Shah Jehan added the impressive quarters and the mosque while Aurangzeb added the outer ramparts. Visit its Hall of Public Audience and its Royal Pavilions. From here, continue to the 18th century Roman Catholic Cemetery – a 450+ year old and North India’s oldest christian cemetery. The tombs in Agra’s Roman Catholic Cemetery are the resting places of initially the Armenian Christians in the 1550s and thereafter, of other European Catholics in the city. The European Christians in Agra were creating their own fairy-tale like mausoleums in a cemetery dating back to Akbar’s time in carved red sandstone, yellow basalt and whitewashed plastered walls. However, the tomb that stands out from all the rest is that of British Colonel John Hessing also popular as Islamic mausoleum for Christian souls… The Red Taj Mahal (small replica of Taj Mahal built in red sandstone). The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Towards the evening, join your local hosts for high tea and local savories with interactions on the Indian family value system.
Following breakfast, take a train to Jhansi. This train journey will offer opportunity to see the early morning life around the country side, as you cover 235 kilometers. Please note: This train seat will be on air-conditioned coach class. Though Indian Railways is the largest rail network in Asia, traveling by train in India is not similar to traveling on Amtrak or European rail service. You will be assisted in boarding the correct coach and seat. Once you have reached the destination, just wait at the platform and do not leave the station. Upon arrival in Jhansi, head for Orchha. Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela king, Rudhra Pratap, on the banks of the Betwa River. This is a a medieval city f rozen in time and space, it exists today as it must have done in the 16th and 17th centuries. The countryside undulates gently between riverine plains and rolling forest-clad hills and the landscape is dotted with palaces and temples, a fortress and cenotaphs. The architecture is a synthesis of traditional Hindu, hybrid Indo-Saracenic, and ornate Mughal. One of the finest sights is the view of the cenotaphs from across the Betwa River. Visit the Jehangir Mahal, the most grandiose structure in Orchha; the Raja Mahal Rai Praveen Mahal. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant and continue drive to Khajuraho where all of life — joy, love, divinity, war — is depicted in fine detail on every inch of its 85 Hindu and Jain temples. Khajuraho was built by the Chandela dynasty, which rose to power in Central India between the 10th and 11th centuries and is home to some 25 odd temples depicting the different facets of life, including the erotic. These erotic carvings on some panels have given rise to much speculation since Khajuraho’s rediscovery by a British officer in 1838. To preserve it for posterity, Khajuraho has been declared a World Heritage Site and is among the prominent destinations on the world tourism map.
Following breakfast, explore the temples. Visit the western and eastern group of temples. Among the western group of temples, the most famous is the Kandariya Mahadev Temple, 32 meters high with a fantastic range of sculptures with sensuous themes. Other temples include the Chaunsat Yogini, which is a granite temple, the Devi Jagdambe temple dedicated to the Mother Goddess, the Chitragupta temple, dedicated to Surya the Sun God, etc. The eastern group of temples includes both Hindu and Jain temples. The largest and finest of the Jain shrines are Parsvanath temple. You will also see Adinatha Temple, Ghantai, and Vamana Temple. In the afternoon, fly to Varanasi. Flight from Khajuraho to Varanasi - Not included, to be booked by agent. Varanasi is a city with more than a thousand temples and shrines, sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike (Please note: luggage allowance on this flight is 15 kilograms of checked-in baggage and 7 kilograms of hand luggage). On arrival, a representative will transfer you to your hote. The ‘eternal city’, Varanasi or Benares, is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India, and the Ganges, which flows through the city, is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. Known as Kashi in the 7th century BC, it constitutes a microcosm of Indian life. For the Satpious Hindu, the city has always been a special place, and it is considered a particularly auspicious place to die, ensuring an instant routing to Heaven. In evening, make your way to the banks of the sacred Ganges for a special evening cruise on the Ganges River on candle-lit country boats to see the devout Hindus performing the ``Arti Puja`` with lighted lamps. The presiding priests stand on a Chauki (wooden stand) near 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 arched back to the water, the dark river reflects the golden flames as Ganges accepts the worship. It is the Ganges that gives Varanasi its spiritual resonance.
Early this morning, take a boat ride on the sacred Ganges. Hindus regard the Ganges as the elixir of life bringing purity to the living and salvation to the dead. Watch the wonderful colors of the sunrise as you meander along the sacred Ganges River in a boat. As part of their pilgrimage rites, the faithful walk down steps into the river to perform their religious ablutions. Watching the people worshipping at the ghats is an extraordinary experience. You may also witness a funeral pyre, an essential part of the traditional Hindu funeral ceremony. Disembark the boat and walk through the narrow streets of Varanasi before returning to the hotel. This walk will take you through an inextricable maze of small streets and alleyways, hiding in disorderly array no less than 2,000 temples and shrines. Domes, pinnacles, towers and derelict 18th-century palaces dominate the left bank of the Ganges River. The streets are noisy, colour is rife. Return to the hotel for breakfast. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure. In the evening, interact with a Hindu scholar to discuss the philosophy of Hinduism. Tonight, gather for a farewell dinner at the hotel.
In the morning partake in a yoga session at the hotel. Yoga, the word derived from the Sanskrit word ``Yuj``, means to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one's attention on, to use and apply. While practicing yoga, one exercises yoking of all the powers of body, mind, and soul. The remainder of the morning is at your leisure. In the afternoon, you will fly to Delhi. Flight from Varanasi to Delhi - Not included, to be booked by agent. (Please note: luggage allowance on this flight is 15 kilograms of checked-in baggage and 7 kilograms of hand luggage). Upon arrival in Delhi, you will head to your hotel in Delhi.
After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the international airport for your flight home.
• 2 nights in Delhi at Pride Plaza Hotel Aerocity or similar
• 2 nights in Jaipur at Holiday Inn Jaipur City Centre or similar
• 2 nights in Agra at Crystal Sarovar Premiere or similar
• 1 night in Khajuraho at Radisson Jass Hotel or similar
• 2 nights in Varanasi at Radisson Hotel Varanasi or similar
• 14 meals: 9 breakfast, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners
• Transportation in air-conditioned motor coach
• Services of English speaking local tour guide as per the program
• Entrance fees to the places of visit as per the itinerary
• Train fare for sector Agra – Jhansi in air-conditioned chair car class
• Rickshaw ride in Delhi
• Elephant ride to ascend Amber Fort in Jaipur
• Local market walk in Jaipur
• Henna tattoo demonstration in Jaipur
• Hi tea with local family in Agra
• Boat ride on Ganges River
• Yoga session with an expert in Varanasi
• Packaged drinking water in the coach throughout
• Domestic flights for Khajuraho - Varanasi - Delhi (approximately $250 per person)
• Any room service, telephone charges, mini bar, gratuities, or tips
• Personal expenses
• Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
Useful info about our trips