Mystical and spiritual, chaotic and confounding, India overflows with riches. Staying at excellent hotels, your small group, limited to 24 travelers, travels the classic Golden Triangle: bustling Delhi; Agra, home of the sublime Taj Mahal; and Jaipur, great city of the Rajput.
Begin the 17-day exploration with a three-night stay in the Indian capital, touring the important sights of both Old and New Delhi and enjoying a rickshaw ride through colorful Chandni Chowk market. Get acquainted next with the “pink city” of Jaipur, where highlights of a three-night visit include the stunning Hawa Mahal palace, Amber Fort, and a home-hosted dinner with a Rajasthan family. A singular experience follows with the opportunity to search for the elusive Bengal tiger on game drives during a two-night stay near Ranthambore National Park, once a royal hunting ground, with its picturesque ruins. Departing for pastoral Kalakho, embark on a village walk to meet Meena tribespeople. En route to the ancient Mughal stronghold of Agra, visit the impressive 3,500-step Chand Baori step well. Marvel at the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal and imposing Agra Fort, and take an Indian cuisine cooking lesson. The journey ends with three nights in Hinduism’s holiest city, Varanasi. Cruising on the Ganges, experience life along the sacred river and witness a traditional aarti ceremony. Visit nearby Sarnath, one of Buddhism’s holiest sites; and Sarnath Museum, housing a superb collection of Buddhist artifacts. Absorb the beauty of the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal on an optional 5-day/4-night post-tour extension that includes extensive sightseeing.
Day 1: Depart U.S. for Delhi, India
Day 2: Arrive Delhi We arrive in India’s hyperactive capital late evening and transfer to our hotel.
Day 3: Delhi After a morning at leisure followed by a briefing about the journey ahead, we set out to discover Old Delhi. Our first stop is Qutb Minar, the 379-step tower dating to 1192. We continue on to Gandhi Smriti, a museum dedicated to the Indian icon; and pass by India Gate, the majestic arch honoring the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died fighting alongside the British in World War I. Late this afternoon we return to our hotel, where tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner together. B,D
Day 4: Delhi We encounter more of this pulsating city today, beginning at Raj Ghat, the simple black marble slab honoring Mahatma Gandhi. After stopping for photos at Lal Qila, the Red Fort complex of palaces, we visit a Sikh temple followed by lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon’s sights include the red sandstone and marble Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque; and the colorful Chandni Chowk market, where we ride rickshaws. Then the remainder of the day is free for further exploration and dinner on our own. B,L
Day 5: Delhi/Jaipur 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
Day 6: Jaipur 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
Day 7: Jaipur/Sanganer 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
Day 8: Jaipur/Ranthambore 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
Day 9: Ranthambore 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
Day 10: Ranthambore/Kalakho We depart early for Kalakho, where we set out on a village walk to meet local Meena tribespeople in their homes. Tonight we enjoy a traditional folk dance performance. B,L,D
Day 11: Kalakho/Agra En route to Agra, we stop in the ancient village of Abhaneri to see the fortified Chand Baori step well (c. 800 CE), whose 3,500 steps descend some 13 stories into the ground. Continuing on, we reach the ancient Mughal stronghold of Agra, where this afternoon we visit Itimad-ud-Daulah, the two-story marble “Baby Taj” that inspired the Taj Mahal. B,D
Day 12: Agra 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
Day 13: Agra/Delhi/Varanasi We depart by coach this morning for Delhi, where we board a late afternoon flight to Varanasi, Hinduism’s holiest city. B,L,D
Day 14: Varanasi/Sarnath Before breakfast today, those who wish can join in a private yoga session. Then 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. Late afternoon we attend a traditional aarti ceremony: as we cruise along the Ganges, we watch as devout Hindus offer their lit lamps to the deities. B,D
Day 15: Varanasi 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 and private performance of classical sitar. Tonight we celebrate our journey at a farewell dinner at our hotel. B,D
Day 16: Varanasi/Delhi We fly this afternoon to Delhi, where the evening is at leisure. B
Day 17: Return to U.S. Very early this morning we transfer to the airport for our return flight to the U.S.
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking, as well as some lengthy coach rides. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to its fullest.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included