Settled in the early 18th century by the French, Pondicherry on the Bay of Bengal in the state of Tamil ...
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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. Highlights will be the impressive Red Fort, Jama Masjid - India’s oldest and largest mosque, Raj Ghat - the site of Gandhi’s cremation and more.
This morning we are transferred to the airport for our flight to the holi city of Varanasi on the River Ganges (d: 09.35 a:11.45). 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’.
New Years Eve - we start day with a boat ride 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. The rest of the day is free and we celebrate New Year Eve in Varanasi.
New Years Day! It's a leisurely morning before we catch our flight to Khajuraho (d: 12:30 a: 13:10). After a bit of a freshen up at our hotel we tour the infamous Chandela Dynasty temples, rated as one of India’s greatest attractions and mostly built during a major creative burst of genius from 950AD to 1050AD. Their beauty and immense size has confounded experts as to why and how they were built in Khajuraho, a small town then and still a relatively small town now. This evening we watch traditional dance at the Kandhariya Shilpgarm dance centre.
It's a 5-hour drive on to Orchha. Set on the banks of the River Betwa and founded in 1531, the village is set amongst an impressive complex of well-preserved palaces and temples. Jehangir Mahal, a 17th century palace is a stunning and rambling complex, offering great views of the countryside from its upper levels. We arrive into Orchha early this afternoon, check-in to our hotel and then enjoy a tour of the village and surrounding temples.
This morning we drive to Agra (around 5 hours). The afternoon is free to relax and early this evening, at sunset, we visit the inimitable Taj Mahal! 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 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 Tajit's. Then a short drive to the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. This deserted Mughal city was built by Emperor Akbar in 1569 and abandoned after fifteen years due to scarcity of water. Continuing on by road, you arrive in to Jaipur 'The Pink City' later this afternoon, with the remains of the day 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.
Getting a bit off the beaten track, it's a short drive out of Jaipur (around 1 hour) to nearby village of Samode situated about 40 kilometres from Jaipur. It is famous for the Samode Palace (where you will be staying) of the Nathawat family, whose scions served as the prime ministers of the Princely State of Jaipur. Situated in the Aravali Range of mountains, the Palace is today one of the finest and most celebrated heritage hotels of India. Little more than a fortified stronghold until the early 19th century, it was Rawal Berisal - Jaipur's principal representative at the 1818 treaty - who began shaping what would eventually become the Samode Palace.
Venturing further afield into rural India, its a 4-hour drive to Suraj Garh in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. It derives its name from the 18th century fortified palace which literally means "The Castle of The Sun". The rest of the day is free for you explore the beautiful part of Rajasthan at your leisure.
This morning we drive back to Delhi to catch our flight to Goa (d: 15:15 / a: 17:40). On arrival in Goa we are transferred to our hotel. Thanks to its picturesque location on the Mandovi River, between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, Goa is one of India’s prime holiday destinations.
Free days in topical Goa to spend your days relaxing on the beach, For a spot of shopping, browse around the local markets near your hotel in Candolim. Although best known for its massive stretch of magnificent, palm tree-lined beaches along the Arabian Sea coast, Goa offers other attractions, for example; the Portuguese Catholic Church of Old Goa, St. Anne’s Church (an ornate marvel from the 1600s) and the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The surrounding countryside is dotted with luxurious old estates built by wealthy Indians (many of whom converted to Catholicism), including Braganza Palace, which is open to the public.
Morning at leisure in Goa. This afternoon we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Mumbai (d: 15.30 a: 6.25). Formally known as Bombay, exhilarating and charismatic Mumbai is the most populated city in the world, India's financial powerhouse, the home of Bollywood and the setting of the hit film 'Slum Dog Millionaire'. On arrival we are transferred to our hotel. Evening at our leisure.
This morning after breakfast we take the cruise to visit Elephanta caves - Mumbai's premier tourist attraction. The rock-cut temples on peaceful Elephanta Island are thought to have been carved between 450 and 750 AD. The main cave contains large sculpted panels, including an astonishing 18-foot depiction of Shiva. Enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour one of the most highly populated cities in the world, accommodating approximately 18 million people! Highlights include the Prince of Wales Museum, Gateway of India and Marine drive. We have organised a late check out at your hotel and late this evening we transfer you to Mumbai International airport for your onward flight home.