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Departure: Mumbai
Duration: 15 Days
Best Season: October to May (Possible all year round)

This 18 days voyage offers a glimpse of the princely State of Rajasthan, the holy Hindu towns of Varanasi, Allahabad, and Pushkar and the opulent remains of Nawab rule in Lucknow and Allahabad. It's an unusual cultural exploration that will astound you with the variety and drama of India's history, and the fascinating ways in which these traditions still remain. The tour begins with a visit to Udaipur regarded as the ‘Venice of the East' and the hilltop fort of Chittorgarh . Then it is off to Jaipur -- a place of wild contrasts and grandeur. From here, we take you to the wondrous Taj Mahal, a momument built for love! We sleep through a night on train to arrive in a city founded by the Persian ‘Nawabs' known for their extravagance – modern time Lucknow. From here the route leads us to the ‘Sangam' (confluence) of the holy Gangas and Jamuna rivers, the city of Allahabad and a required stop on any hindu pilgrimage – Varanansi. It's a fascinating exploration of the remaining legacies and tradition that weave the web of India.

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 01: Delhi
You are met at the airport in Delhi and transferred to your hotel. The day includes a sightseeing tour of the British-built capital of New Delhi, the garden city built in 1911. We visit Humayun's Tomb built in mid 16 th century, the Rashtrapati Bhawan (the Viceroy's House) the stone arch of triumph – India Gate, and the Birla Mandir (Lakshmi Narayan temple).

Day 02-03: Udaipur
We begin our journey by flying to Udaipur, set in the Girwa valley amidst the Aravalli hills. It is a beautiful city, regarded by many Indians and foreign visitors as one of the most romantic in India. We visit the imposing City Palace, towering over the lake, which is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. We also stop at Jagdish mandir – the fine Indo-Aryan temple enshrines a black stone image of Vishnu. We also visit the Sahelion-ki-bari, or Garden of the Maids of Honor. From Udaipur we take a full day excursion to Chittaurgarh, one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan. The sprawling hilltop fort of Chittaurgarh epitomizes the romantic, doomed ideal of Rajput chivalry. One evening, we go by boat to the Lake Palace, where we enjoy a gourmet dinner.

Day 04: Kumbhalgarh
We continue our journey by road, to Kumbhalgarh. On the way, we visit Ranakpur – one of the biggest and most important Jain temples in India. The main temple is the ‘Chaumukha temple', or Four-Faced temple. Built in 1439, this huge, superbly crafted temple has 29 halls supported by 1444 pillars – of which no two are alike. We also visit Kumbhalgarh's impressive fort. It was here that the rulers of Mewar retreated in times of danger. The walls of the fort stretch some 36km and enclose many temples, palaces, gardens and water storage facilities.

Day 05-06: Deogarh
Today we continue to Deogarh. The Deogarh Mahal, a castle of medieval Rajasthan was built in 1670 as a family residence. The Mahal offers a commanding view of the surrounding Aravalli hills. Renowned as a school of miniature painting, some of the Deogarh miniatures are still in the personal collection of the present Rawat Sahib. In Deogarh we undertake a village-safari tour known as ‘rural ramble' into the rugged countryside, in country-designed motor vehicles. We also have plenty of time free for relaxation or exploring.

Day 07-08: Pushkar
From Deogarh, we continue our journey to the holiest and most ancient of Hindu pilgrim centres, Pushkar. The beautiful lake in Pushkar, is surrounded by 52 bathing ghats (steps). Pushkar has the only Brahma (creator of the universe) temple in India. The town is a maze of temples and hermitages, and is filled with ascetics and devotees. In the evening, we visit Pushkar lake and witness the arati (worship) and chanting ceremony at the Brahma temple. While in Pushkar, we also visit nearby Ajmer, one of the most important centers of pilgrimage for India's Muslims. The great Sufi saint Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti (1143-1235) is buried at the Dargah Sharif in Ajmer. It is said that a visit to his shrine will fulfill a devotee's wish. We also visit the mosques, pavilions and gateways now surrounding the mausoleum. In particular, we see the Adhai-din-ka Jhopra, built in 1155, one of the finest monuments of medieval India.

Day 09-10: Jaipur
We continue our journey by surface to the vibrant capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur. On the way, we stop at Kishangarh, a charming little town famous for having the finest school of miniature painting in eighteenth century India. From Kishangarh, we continue our journey to Jaipur, popularly known as the ‘pink city'. In Jaipur we visit the City Palace complex in the heart of the old city, and the Jantar Mantar (Observatory). We also visit Amber Fort, riding up to the hilltop on elephant back. The fort is a superb example of Rajput architecture, stunningly situated on a hillside and overlooking a lake.

Day 11: Agra
We continue our journey by surface to Agra, to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. En route we visit Fatehpur Sikri, founded in 1571 by Emperor Akbar as a thanksgiving to a Muslim saint, Sheikh Salim Chishti. Fatehpur Sikri casts a haunting spell on visitors, especially at dawn and dusk. The following morning, we visit the Taj Mahal, described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love. It was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, whose death in childbirth in 1631 left the emperor so heartbroken that his hair is said to have turned grey overnight. Construction of the Taj began in the same year and was not completed until 1653. We also visit the massive red sandstone Agra Fort (Red Fort) on the bank of the Yamuna river.

Day 12-13: Lucknow
In the evening, we transfer to the railway station for our train to Lucknow. Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, rose to prominence as the center of the nawabs of Avadh. These decadent Muslim rulers controlled a region of north-central India for about a century after the decline of the Mughal empire. We visit the Bara Imambara or Great Imambara (an ‘imambara' is the tomb of a Shi'ite Muslim holy man) built in 1784 by Asaf-ud-Daulah as a famine relief project. Also built by Asaf-ud-Daulah, is the imposing Rumi Darwaza, a replica of an entrance gate built in Istanbul. Then we visit the Hussainabad Imambara, also known as Chhota, or small Imambara built by Mohammed Ali Shah in 1837 as his own mausoleum.

Day 14: Allahabad
Today we journey onward by surface to Allahabad. For the Hindus, Allahabad is particularly sacred because it is at the junction (‘sangam') of the Ganga and the Yamuna. It was in Allahabad that the East India Company officially handed over control of India to the British government in 1858. Here, we visit the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, considered to have great soul-cleansing powers. We also visit the Anand Bhawan, the shrine to the Nehru family, and experience a boat-cruise at sunset.

Day 15-16: Varanasi
Our journey today takes us by surface to Varanasi –one of the holiest places in India. Hindu pilgrims come to bathe in the waters of the Ganges, a ritual which washes away all sins. The city, also known as Benares, is an auspicious place to die, since it is thought that expiring here ensures release from the cycle of rebirth. It has been a centre of learning and civilization for over 2000 years. Mark Twain noted that ‘Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together'. From Varanasi we also visit Sarnath, one of Buddhism's major centres in India. The Buddha came to this hamlet to preach his message of the ‘middle way' to nirvana after he achieved enlightenment at Bodhgaya. Later, the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka erected magnificent stupas and monasteries here. We visit the Sarnath Museum which is a treasure trove of Buddhist sculptures, inscriptions and pottery. On our second day in Varanasi we wake early for a boat cruise on the Ganges River to witness the sunrise. At first light the Hindu pilgrims come to bathe in the sacred Ganga, facing the rising sun. We also witness an evening cultural show of music and dance at one of the ghats.

Day 17: Delhi
After a relaxing morning in Varanasi we fly back to Delhi. Here, we visit the Old City. We pass by the red sandstone walls of Lal Qila (Red Fort) and take a bicycle rickshaw ride through the narrow lanes, to the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India and the last great architectural work of Shah Jahan.

Day 18: Delhi
Our tour finishes with breakfast, after which you are transferred to the airport to board your international flight.

 

 

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