Day - 1
Location: New Delhi - Welcome to India. On arrival at the airport you’ll be transferred to the hotel. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel, to organise the transfer. There will be a Welcome Meeting in the hotel at 6pm on Day 1. 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 plenty to see.
Day - 2
Location: Jaipur - Get your first experience of Indian rail travel with an express train into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately 5 hours). Then 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, then make a photo stop at India's most photographed building (after the Taj Mahal), the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds'. There’s also the option to visit one of India’s finest palaces – Jaipur's Royal City Palace – or the astronomical instrument sculptures of the Observatory. This evening, continue to indulge in the wonders of Indian culture by watching a Bollywood blockbuster.
Day - 3
Location: Jaipur - Visit the opulent Amber Fort, the jewel of Jaipur. It is quite a sight, with its soft shades of red sandstone and white marble, and elaborate Hindu style flourishes. Explore the legacy of a fallen empire – ornate rooms of lavish murals, frescoed arches and delicate jali work. After spending some time here, the remainder of the day is free for you to explore parts of Jaipur that you might have missed yesterday.
Day - 4
Location: Rural Rajasthan Heritage Stay - Drifting high over the pink city while it’s bathed in early morning sunlight is a highlight for many visitors to Jaipur, so consider a hot air balloon ride this morning. This can be done between Septermber and June. For additional information see the Important Notes section of your trip notes. Today you drive to Kanota (approximately 1 hour). Your accommodation here is the beautiful Castle Kanota feature stay. Set on 8 acres and built in 1972, this heritage hotel is one of Rajasthan's finest.
Day - 5
Location: Ranthambhore - Drive from Castle Kanota to Ranthambhore National Park (approximately 5 hours). In the evening enjoy a safari through the park. Ranthambore National Park is one of the original Project Tiger reserves, a place where nature has reclaimed ancient fortresses and temples, and that is teeming with wildlife. In 4WD safari vehicles take game drives to search for animals and the majestic tigers which stalk through the jungle. You may also have the chance to explore the 1000 year old Ranthambore Fort, where two pavilions that have survived the ravages of war and time - Badal Mahal and Hammirs Court - give an idea of its old grandeur.
Notes: Ranthambhore National Park is closed between 1 July and 30 September each year. On those trips affected, we'll visit nearby Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary. Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary is located approx. 16 km from Ranthambhore and, due to its hilly terrain, isn't as affected by the monsoon. Tigers inhabit this area also and spottings are more favourable at this time of year as they move away from flooded areas of Ranthambore.
Day - 6
Location: Ranthambhore - Awake early for a morning safari, a second chance to spot tigers. Even if the tigers are too stealthy to see, the park is filled with other animals like gazelle, hyenas, sloth bears, crocodiles, jackals, three types of antelope (nilgai, sambar and chital) and leopards to watch out for. Afterwards, enjoy free time at the resort. Later, in the afternoon, spend some time relaxing or take a stroll around town.
Day - 7
Location: Agra - Drive to Agra (approximately 5 hours). Here you visit Agra Fort, and India's most famous icon – the spectacular Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his second wife and 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. Stop at the nearby Agra Fort, a fortress, palace and prison built of red sandstone by Akbar in 1565 and partially converted into a palace during the time of Shah Jahan.
Day - 8
Location: New Delhi - Travel from Agra to Delhi. Explore the bustling city streets on a walking tour. Also travel in the local style, by cycle rickshaw, to get another perspective on this frantic metropolis. Visit the Sisganj Gurudwara, one of the nine historic gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in Delhi, first constructed in 1783. Stop in at the awe-inspiring Red Fort, which is considered to be the peak of Mughal creativity. Also pay a visit to the 73 metre high Qutab Minar and about learn some of its history.
Day - 9
Location: Varanasi - Fly from Delhi to Varanasi. Awash with shrines and temples, this is the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience such a 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. Witness pilgrims performing ancient bathing rituals and ceremonies as your first day in this sacred city comes to an end.
Day - 10
Location: 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 finish the day with an optional Ganges river cruise at sunset.
Day - 11
Location: 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 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
Location: New Delhi - Your journey comes to an end after breakfast. There are no other activities planned for the day and you can leave the accommodation at any time. For those who wish to stay on in Delhi to further explore the city, we are happy to help in booking accommodation (subject to availability). Check out our Urban Adventures as a great way to experience more of this amazing city.