Mystical and spiritual, India abounds with riches that invite personal exploration. Begin the tour exploring both Old Delhi and New Delhi. Continue to the “pink city” of Jaipur and enjoy a home-hosted dinner with a Rajasthan family. Spend two nights at Ranthambore Tiger Preserve and search for elusive Bengal tigers and other wildlife. Travel to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Witness Hindu pilgrims performing their rituals on the Ganges River in Varanasi.
Depart U.S. for Delhi, India
We arrive in India’s hyperactive capital late evening and transfer to our hotel.
After a morning briefing with our tour director, this afternoon we tour Delhi, including the 16th-century Tomb of Humayun; Qutab Minar, the 234-step tower dating to 1193; and India Gate, honoring the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died in World War I. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel. (B,D)
Today we explore Old Delhi, beginning with the Gandhi Memorial, the simple black marble slab honoring Mahatma Gandhi. Next, two renowned 17th-century landmarks: Lal Qila, the Red Fort palaces where we stop for photos; and the red sandstone and marble Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Then we ride rickshaws through Chandni Chowk market; visit a Sikh temple; and tour the National Museum. (B,L)
Mystical and spiritual, India abounds with riches that invite personal exploration.
Today we travel by coach to the “pink city” of Jaipur, one of the great cities of the Rajput, with historic forts, palaces, and gardens. We reach our hotel late afternoon. (B,L,D)
Our first stop is the stunning Hawa Mahal, the elaborately carved pink sandstone “Palace of the Winds.” We continue on to Amber Fort, built by the Kachhawah Rajputs as their capital from 1037 to 1728; Jantar Mantar, the open-air observatory; and City Palace Museum, housing the magnificent art collections of the Maharajahs of Jaipur. (B,L)
This morning we visit the village of Sanganer to see traditional block printing and handmade paper industries. Later we see local life up close as we explore an outdoor market. Tonight we are dinner guests in the home of a multi-generational Rajasthan family. (B,D)
We travel today to Ranthambore National Park, the former hunting ground of the Maharajah of Jaipur and now a 512-square-mile natural preserve that is home to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals, and of course, Bengal tigers. This afternoon we take our first game drive through the park. (B,L,D)
We take both morning and afternoon game drives today to see not only game (though tiger and leopard sightings are not guaranteed), but also picturesque ruins of forts and palaces. (B,L,D)
We depart early for Kalakho, where we embark on a camel safari to meet local Meena tribespeople in their homes: huts of mud, with walls decorated with floral and animal designs. Tonight we enjoy a traditional folk dance performance. (B,L,D)
En route to Agra today, we stop in the ancient village of Abhaneri to see the fortified Chand Baori step well (c. 800), whose 3,500 steps descend some 13 stories into the ground. Continuing on, we reach the ancient Mughal stronghold of Agra early this afternoon. After lunch on our own, we visit Itimad-ud-Daulah, the two-story marble “Baby Taj” that inspired the Taj Mahal. Dinner tonight is at our hotel. (B,D)
This morning we visit the Taj Mahal, the magnificent tomb built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz. Then we take an Indian cuisine cooking lesson and enjoy the results for lunch. Later: imposing Agra Fort. (B,L)
We depart by coach this morning for Delhi, where we board a late afternoon flight to Varanasi, the holiest city in Hinduism. We dine tonight at our hotel. (B,L,D)
Today we visit nearby Sarnath, where the Buddha first taught after achieving enlightenment. One of Buddhism’s four holiest sites, Sarnath draws pilgrims from the world over. We see some of the temples and stupas then tour Sarnath Museum, housing a superb collection of Buddhist artifacts from excavations here. Highlights include a statue of the Buddha turning the wheel of law, and the celebrated Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka, dating to 250 BCE. Back in Varanasi tonight we attend a traditional aarti offering ceremony as we cruise along the Ganges. (B,L)
Early this morning we return to the Ganges where Hindu pilgrims perform their rituals along the ghats (steps) leading to the river. We visit several ghats by boat as we experience for ourselves the spiritual aura of the hallowed Ganges waters. Then we return to our hotel with time to rest before this afternoon’s walking tour. Tonight we celebrate our journey at a farewell dinner at our hotel. (B,D)
We fly this afternoon to Delhi, where the evening is at leisure. (B)
Return to U.S.
Early today we transfer to the airport for our return flight to the U.S.