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Welcome to India and the start of your holiday! We will be there to meet you at the airport and transfer you through to your hotel. The remainder of today at leisure.
Today we explore both Old and New Delhi - the order of New Delhi is a huge contrast to the unorganised chaos of the Old City. But both are just as appealing. In Old Delhi we take in the Red Fort, Jama Masjid mosque and the bazaars of Chandni Chowk. This afternoon, we tour of New Delhi, designed by the eminent Sir Edward Lutyens. Highlights include the India Gate, Rajpath and bustling Connaught Place. A visit is also made to Qutab Minar, essentially a massive tower built to proclaim the arrival of Islam in the 11th century and a carpet emporium.
This morning we head into Rajasthan by road for our drive to Mandawa. Mandawa lies in the heart of Shekhawati a painted arched gateway adorned with Lord Krishna and his cows leeds to the bazzar. Mandawa was founded by Thakur Nawal Singh in 1755,Mandawa is known not only for its havelis but also for its Fort Palace. The structure of the palace reminds of the cultural and social importance of this region in the past. Of the havelis, the most important are the Chokhani, Ladia, Binsidhar Newatia, and Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli. Rest of day is free.
This morning we drive West further into Rajasthan to Bikaner. Situated in the state of Rajasthan, Bikaner was founded in 1486 as a link in the overland trading route by Bika, one of 14 sons of Rao Jodha, the Rathore king who founded Jodhpur. A 7 km wall with five entrances was built to protect the city. Once an important staging post on the great caravan routes, much of the atmospheric old town which we will explore is still encircled by massive fortified walls, housing old havelis and many artisan shops. On our city tour this afternoon we also visit the spectacular Junagarh Fort & museum, built between 1587 & 1593 during the rule of Rai Singh.
Today we continue on our in-depth exploration of Rajasthan, driving through the spectacular Thar desert where we arrive at the medieval caravan outpost of Jaisalmer, one of the jewels in India’s crown. Exquisite wood and sandstone buildings dot the town and within Jaisalmer Fort are homes, hotels and shops hidden in ancient lane ways. The remainder of the day is free.
During our stay in this stunning Rajasthani fortress town we’ll enjoy some touring during the day. And for something special in the evening, it's off to the desert dunes for an bit of exploration atop a camel!
Continuing on into the Rajasthani countryside, we drive to Jodhpur. Dominated by Meherangarh Fort which sits majestically atop a hill, Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City, because of the coloured houses in the old town, painted indigo. It's straight to our hotel when we arrive into Jodhpur and the rest of the day is free to explore at your leisure.
We’ll enjoy some touring in this colourful Rajasthani city this morning, taking in the mighty fort and bazaars of the old city which are gathered around the city’s tall clock tower. It's then a short drive to Rohetgarh, the fortified desert home of the descendants of the 16th century Rathore. Rest of day is free.
Rohetgarh is an evergreen oasis and has linked its blue-green lakeside environs to a perennial stream, which irrigates the desert lands of Jodhpur. A small but quaint village, and you can also visit nearby Bishnoi settlements with their flamboyantly dressed and bejeweled women. It's a free day to explore this area at your leisure.
This morning we drive to Udaipur - the famous lake city of Rajasthan - visiting Ranakpur enroute. Ranakpur is widely known for its marble Jain temple, and for the much older Sun Temple. Built in 1439, the main Jain temple at Ranakpur is dedicated to Adinath. Known as the Chaumukha Temple, or Four-Faced Temple, this huge and superbly crafted building possesses 29 halls supported by an astonishing 1444 pillars, no two alike. The temple, with its distinctive domes, shikhara, turrets and cupolas rises majestically from the slope of a hill.
An oasis of cool, with its massive and Venetian-like appearance, Udaipur is one of the most romantic towns in Rajasthan and a favourite amongst the wealthy and the elite. A fascinating walled city n the shores of Lake Pichola it’s renowned for its palacesand our sightseeing tour of the city this morning, includes the City Palace, Jagdish Temple and Sahelion-ki-bari. For lunch, you could consider visiting the beautiful Lake Palace Hotel, the former summer palace of the local maharajah - highly recommended! In the evening, it's an exclusive boat ride on Lake Pichola.
This morning it's a 5 hour drive to Pushkar, famed for the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. Sitting on the edge of the desert and clinging to the side of a small lake, Pushkar is an ancient Rajasthani town considered by Hindus to be one of the most sacred places in India. Rest of the day is free.
This morning it's then a short (approx 3 hours) drive to the Pink City of Jaipur, a real favourite amongst travellers. Hotel check-in and the rest of the day is free.
It's an early start to visit the magnificent fort-palace of Amber - a wonderful example of Rajput architecture just north of Jaipur. Youwill ascend to the top of the fort in style atop an elephant, though this can be subject to change due to government regulations. Later in the afternoon you'll tour the City Palace, which boasts an interesting museum of regal attire and Jantar Mantar, an ancient astronomical observatory. There is a bit of free time this evening, and we recommend exploring the mighty fort and colourful bazaars of the old city.
This morning we head to Agra, home of the inimitable Taj Mahal, visiting the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri enroute. This deserted Mughal city was built by Emperor Akbar in 1569 and abandoned after fifteen years due to scarcity of water. After hote check-in in Agra, we head out to visit Agra fort, built under the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565. It contains numerous palaces and a white marble mosque, with Itmad-ud-Daulah’s tomb a marble forerunner to the Taj. For a real treat, at sunset we visit the inimitable Taj Mahal for! Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, this fine example of Mughal architecture was built by Emperor Shah Jahan.
This morning we catch the Shatabdi express train to Jhansi (d: 08:32 a: 10:45) for an onward drive to Khajuraho via Orchha. Situated on the banks of the River Betwa, Orchha is set amongst a wonderful complex of well-preserved 16th century temples and palaces. Then on to Khajuraho, home of the resplendent Hindu temples which were built during the Chandela dynasty over a 100 year burst of creative genius from 950-1050 AD. Immortalised in stone, the carved temples are famed above all for their delicate sensuality and forthright eroticism, how and why they were built still remains a mystery.
It's a bit of sightseeing around Khajuraho this morning, before we are transferred to the airport for our short flight to the holi city of Varanasi on the River Ganges (d: 12.20 a:13.00). On arrival in Varanasi we are transferred to our hotel. This evening, we are treated to an Aarti Ceremony - a Hindu religious ritual - on the banks of the River Ganges! From dawn to dusk the Ghats (riverside steps) are thronged by thousands of devotees, who perform their holy rituals in the hope of attaining eternal salvation, the ‘nirvana’.
We start early this morning with a boat ride at dawn on the holy Ganges River at dawn. Later in the day we embark on a half-day tour of India’s spiritual city, with its an incredible array of temples and ancient buildings. There are 2,000 temples and shrines in Varanasi, but the holiest, Vishvanatha, is closed to non-Hindus.
This morning we are transferred to the airport for our flight to New Delhi (d: 11:30 a: 12:45). Arrival into Delhi, transfer to our hotel and the rest of the days is free.
Bright and early this morning we board the Shatabdi Express bound for Kalka. Here you will transfer (independently) to the narrow gauge Himalayan Queen Toy Train travelling to Shimla. The Guinness Book of 'Rail Facts and Feats' records the Kalka to Shimla railway as 'the greatest narrow gauge engineering feat in India’. The scenic 96 kilometre journey built on a 2 feet six inches gauge has 919 curves, passes through 20 railway station and clatters across 5 level crossings. There are 102 tunnels to navigate and some 863 multi-arched galleries bridges. Arrival to Shimla, transfer and the evening is free.
Shimla sprawls along a crescent-shaped ridge at an altitude of over 2100m. The famous main street, ‘The Mall’, lined with stately English homes and the fortress-like former Viceregal Lodge, reinforces Shimla’s quintessential English look. Today we enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the lofty settlement, venturing into the narrow streets, which fall steeply away from the ridge giving way to colourful bazaars and fine views of the surrounding valley and snow-capped peaks.
Today offer free time for you to independently explore, opt to stroll, drop by the colourful Lakkar Bazaar or hike to the summit of Jakhoo Hill, Shimla’s highest point where visitor’s are rewarded with panoramic views of the eternal snows set as a backdrop to the sleepy township of Shimla beneath.
The mornign is at your leisure. Hotel check out is at 12 noon, opt for some lunch and pack an evening picnic meal before boarding the Kalka Shatabdi Express at sunset and arriving to Delhi at 21:55pm. Onward tranfer to your hotel.
End of touring arrangements. We transfer you to the airport for your onwards international flight home.
Often called the 'open air art gallery of Rajasthan', the region of medieval Shekhawati in northeastern Rajasthan lies in the ...