Day 1: New Zealand – – Delhi
Depart New Zealand today on your flight to Delhi (please note, some flight may depart 1 day before). You will arrive at New Delhi International Airport. Following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection, a Webjet representative will meet you as you exit the arrivals hall and transfer you to your hotel.
India’s capital and a major gateway to the country, contemporary Delhi is a bustling metropolis, which successfully combines in its folds – the ancient with the modern. Amidst the fast spiraling skyscrapers, the remnants of a bygone time, in the form of its many monuments, stand as silent reminders to the region’s ancient legacy. Delhi is a food-lovers haven and has something to please every palate. There is an unlimited variety available across cuisines, across price-brackets and across experiences – from street food of North India to International cuisine and from road-side dhabas to finedining – Delhi has it all.
Day 2: Delhi (B,D)
Today we head out on a full day to explore Delhi. Begin your day with a guided tour of the Old City of ‘Shahjahanabad’. Your introduction to the city will start with a visit to Raj Ghat – the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, drive past the Red Fort—the magical monument in red sandstone built at the pinnacle of the Mughal Empire. From here proceed by bicycle rickshaws through the bustling streets of Old Delhi to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in Asia built by Shahjahan.
Optional Meal: Enjoy your first lunch in India and sample local cuisine
Optional Tour: Qutab Minar – Enjoy a guided tour of Qutab Minar, the tallest stone tower in India built to establish the might of Islam and onset of Muslim rule in India.
Later today we visit Humayun’s tomb, the first great example of a new distinctive style which developed to become the hallmark of the Mughal Dynasty. We also drive past the imposing India Gate (War Memorial Arch), the Parliament buildings and the Rashtrapati Bhawan (the President’s residence) before enjoying one of Delhi’s most incredible Sikh Temples.
Tonight, get to know your fellow travellers at a delicious welcome dinner.
Day 3: Delhi – Mandawa (B)
After breakfast, we drive to Mandawa (approx. 7 hrs drive). In the heart of the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan is the beautiful small town of Mandawa, known throughout the state for its forts and havelis. The structures of this place are a reminder of the cultural and social hotspot this place used to be in the bygone era.
This afternoon we explore the magnificent Frescoes Havelis. The beautiful havelis, painted predominantly in vibrant colours, have beautiful wall paintings that adorn their walls in this semi-desert region.
Day 4: Mandawa – Bikaner – Gajner (B)
After breakfast, you will be driven to Bikaner (approx. 5hrs drive). On arrival we head out for a sightseeing tour of Bikaner. Lying in the north of the desert state of Rajasthan, the city of Bikaner is dotted with many sand dunes. More popularly called the camel country, the city is renowned for the best riding camels in the world. Bikaner’s forts, palaces and temples are magnificent creations in red and yellow sandstone and are living manifestations of its rich historical and architectural legacy. We visit one of the most interesting forts in Rajasthan, with its sumptuously decorated interiors.
Junagarh Fort built in 1588 by Raja Rai Singh it is unusual in the sense that it was one of the few major forts of Rajasthan that was not built on a hilltop. Instead, it was built on the desert plains; its rugged sandstone bastions and graceful pavilions and balconies are silhouetted against the sky. Following Junagarh Fort, we go for a walk around the local bazaars of Bikaner and learn about the local trades and culture before continuing our drive to Gajner for our overnight.
Day 5: Gajner – Jaisalmer (B)
After breakfast we begin our drive to Jaisalmer (approx. 6.5hrs drive). Rising from the heart of the Thar Desert like a golden mirage is the city of Jaisalmer found-ed by Rao Jaisal. A commanding fort etched in yellow sandstone stands, with all its awe-some splendour, dominating the amber hued city. The name Jaisalmer evokes a vivid picture of sheer magic and brilliance of the desert. Famous for the Jaisalmer Fort, sand dunes, and ideal for camel rides and safaris. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 6: Jaisalmer (B)
After breakfast, proceed on a tour of Jaisalmer including a visit to Jaisalmer Fort – built in 1156 the fort stands proudly amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert. Located on the top of the Trikuta Hill, the ramparts, bastions and the long-stretching walls of the fort dazzle gloriously during early morning and at sunset.
Optional Tour: Jaisalmer Fort Museum – Situated inside the majestic Jaisalmer Fort, the Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre was an erstwhile royal residence, which was later converted into a heritage centre and museum. The museum houses a great collection of artefacts depicting the rich culture and heritage of Jaisalmer. It is a must-visit for history buffs and those keen on learning about the heritage of Rajasthan.
Optional Meal: Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.
Continue on to Gadsisar Lake, a rain water lake, adorned with an arched gateway. Many small shrines and temples are festooned all around the lake. After, visit some of the most exquisitely carved havelis of Jaisalmer. Built in the 19th Century by wealthy merchants, these havelis (or mansions) are intricately carved in yellow sandstone. The entrances of the havelis are raised high above the street to prevent sand from blowing into rooms; jharokhas (projecting balconies), jails (latticed stone screens) and the inner courtyards, which were protected places for the children to play and women to go about their chores, are some of the characteristic features of these mansions.
Later in the afternoon, drive to the outskirts to view the sunset on the picturesque sand dunes. The ripples on the wind-caressed dunes creating an enchanting mirage are surely a delight. An exciting camel ride on the sandy terrain will allow you to get the real feel of the desert.
Day 7: Jaislamer – Jodhpur (B)
In the morning, you will be driven to the blue city of Jodhpur (approx. 7hrs drive). Jodhpur, also called the ‘Blue City’ located on the edge of the Thar Desert was once the capital of the former princely state of Marwar state founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha and is now the second largest city of Rajasthan. Flanked on its western side by the Mehrangarh Fort, and on the eastern side by the stately sandstone Palace of Umaid Bhawan; the monuments temples and gardens of Jodhpur depict a multi-faceted grandeur.
On arrival, we’ll begin with an in depth tour of Jodhpur starting at the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, one of Rajasthan’s finest forts, looks down protectively over the city from the hilltop. Still run by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, this 5 km long majestic fort on a 125 metre high hill is one of the most impressive and formidable structures. There are seven gates that lead into the fort. Inside the fort is a series of courtyards and palaces. The palace apartments with marvellously carved panels, latticed windows have evocative names such as Sukh Mahal (Pleasure Palace), Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), the Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) and the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). These palaces house a fabulous collection of trappings of Indian royalty including a superb collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs (used when the Maharajas rode their elephants in processions), miniature paintings, musical instruments, costumes and furniture.
Day 8: Jodhpur – Ranakpur – Udaipur (B)
This morning after breakfast, you will be driven to the ‘City of Lake’ Udaipur (approx. 7hrs drive) en route visit the beautiful Ranakpur Jain Temples. Deep in the forest, tucked away in a remote and quite valley of the Aravalli Range, some 90 km from Udaipur is Ranakpur. It boasts of some of the most exquisite Jain temples in the country famous for their intricate friezes and sculptures. The main shrine of Adinath, with its 1444 exquisitely carved columns is the largest and most complex Jain temple in the country. Two Jain temples dedicated to Neminath and Parsvanath and a Sun Temple a little distance away are also noteworthy.
Optional Meal: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Ranakpur.
Udaipur – the ‘City of Lakes’, is the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Mewar, one of the oldest surviving dynasties in the world and was established around 1567 A.D. The chequered history of Mewar is showcased in the city of Udaipur, which is akin to an oasis in the desert state of Rajasthan. It is a rich and beguiling tapestry of lakeside palaces, forts, temples, havelis and gardens, reflecting the varied influences of the centuries. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 9: Udaipur (B)
This morning we head out to explore Udaipur. We begin with a visit to the Nagda & Eklinji Temples. Nagda, located 23 km from Udaipur has temples dating back to the 6th century, including the famous 11th century Sas-Bahu (mother-in-law-daughter-in-law) twin temples with intricate architecture and carvings and the Adbhutji temple. Both temples are at the edge of a lake and submerged within the lake are several later structures. Following visit, continue to Eklinji, a complex of 108 temples enclosed by high walls dedicated to Lord Shiva – the deity of the Maharanas of Mewar. Located about 22km north of Udaipur, the Shiva temple here was originally built in 734 AD. The walled complex includes an elaborately pillared hall under a large pyramidal roof and features a four-faced Shiva image of black marble.
Optional Meal: Enjoy a speciality Thaali lunch.
Later in the afternoon proceed on a city tour of Udaipur. Commence your tour with a visit to the City Palace which stands on a hill on the banks of Lake Pichola, surrounded by crenulated walls. Built in 1567, it is composed of 4 major palaces and several minor palaces that form a single façade. Its main entrance is through a triple arched gate, the Tripolia, built in 1725. The gate leads to a series of courtyards, corridors and gardens. Continue on to Saheliyon-ki-Bari (Garden of the maids of honour), a small ornamental garden which was a popular relaxing spot where royal ladies came for a stroll and hence the name. The garden has many fountains in its four delightful pools, chiselled kiosks and marble elephants.
Optional Tour: Boat ride on Lake Pichola – Lake Pichola derives its name from Pichola Village, with the City Palace extending along its eastern bank and the Jag Niwas Island and the Jag Mandir enclosed in its vast expanse. Maharana Udai Singh enlarged the lake after he founded the city of Udaipur. The lake is surrounded by hills and its panoramic beauty is best viewed against the backdrop of the setting sun.
Following, enjoy tour of the colourful Spice Market of the Old city. India – the land of spices plays a significant role in the global spices market. No country in the world produces as many kinds of spices as India.
Optional Meal: Enjoy an unforgettable dinner overlooking the spectacular Lake Pichola.
Day 10: Udaipur – Jaipur (B)
In the morning, we drive to the pink city of Jaipur (approx. 7hrs drive). Jaipur, one of the most enticing places in India, is nestled between mighty forts and the rugged Aravalli Hills. It is known as ‘the pink city’ as its prominent buildings are washed in this colour. Founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh in 1727, Jaipur is steeped in Rajput history and is characterised by sites such as the City Palace with its astronomical Observatory, Hawa Mahal and the beautiful Amber Fort. Jaipur is a bustling capital city and a business centre with all the trappings of a modern metropolis yet flavoured strongly with an age-old charm that never fails to surprise a traveller.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 11: Jaipur (B)
An exciting day awaits you as begin your sightseeing tour with a photo visit at the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) – a five-storied wonder with a spectacular pyramidal facade and overhanging windows with latticed screens, domes and spires. Continue your tour as we drive to the ancient capital of Amer to see the fabulous Amber Fort situated on a ridge just outside Jaipur city, surrounded by fortified battlements. Maharaja Mansingh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started the construction of Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. The fort is surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the Moat Lake. Ruins and remains are spread over the Aravalli hills and sprawling crenelated walls lattice the surrounding area.
Enjoy a guided tour of the fabulous Amber Fort. Crowning the crest of a hill, Amber Fort offers a view of Maota Lake and the historic old town located at the base of the hill, which formed the early seat of the Amber kings before the fort was made their capital. Tour the chambers and hallways of the palace, famous for the excellence of its design and decoration. Within the complex is Ganesh Pol, an imposing gateway painted with the images of the elephant-headed god, Ganesh. The merging of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles is captured in the Sukh Niwas and Jas Mandir apartments, and the Charbagh garden with its perfectly proportioned landscaping. Pierced screen windows offer views from different vantage points and shimmering mirrors encrust the walls of Sheesh Mahal.
This afternoon, enjoy a tour of the Pink City, an “abode of rajahs” on a guided heritage walk. Before entering one of the highlights of Jaipur, the City Palace Museum. A visit to the City Palace Museum, which has a superb collection of Rajasthani costumes, and armoury of Mughals and Rajputs including swords of different shapes and sizes with chiselled handles. Many antiques and artefacts belonging to the ruling family are housed here, including a collection of weaponry. It also has an art gallery with an excellent collection of miniature paintings, carpets, royal paraphernalia and rare astronomical works in Arabic, Persian, Latin and Sanskrit.
Optional Tour – Jantar Mantar Observatory – A guide will take you through the awe-inspiring Jantar Mantar Observatory, a stone astrological and astronomical Observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh in the 18th century. Located adjacent to the City Palace, Jantar Mantar is an impressive UNESCO World Heritage-listed architectural-astronomical observatory. It consists of some 20 major geometric devices for measuring time, tracking stars in their orbits, ascertaining the declination of planets, accurately determining the celestial altitudes and predicting the occurrence of eclipses.
The rest of the evening it at leisure.
Optional Meal – Sound & light show at Amber Fort followed by dinner – Enjoy an evening filled with a mesmerising play of sound and light, that blend together to retell the glorious story of Amer. Witness the history come alive with powerful narration, enchanting music and learn about the town of Amer, its traditions and the grand lifestyle of the royal family. After the show, enjoy a delectable dinner at a popular restaurant in Jaipur that serves traditional Indian and local Rajasthani cuisine.
Day 12: Jaipur – Abheneri – Agra (B)
After breakfast, we head to the Mughal city of Agra (approx. 7hrs drive) en-route visiting the famous Abheneri Step Well. Abhaneri was originally named Abha Nagri, which means “city of brightness,” but due to mispronunciation, the name was changed. The city is now in ruins, but it attracts tourists from across the globe. Abhaneri is prominent for ‘Baoris’, step wells which were invented by the natives to harvest rain water. These tanks were used as cool places of retreat and as water reservoirs during parched times of the year. Chand Baori is the most popular of the wells in the region, and it is one of India’s deepest and largest. There are three ways to reach the water using the steps, which are divided into stories. This colossal, delicately carved well is located in front of the Harshat Mata Temple.
On arrival in to Agra, we check in to the hotel. This afternoon explore the Agra (Red) Fort, an outstanding example of Mughal architecture and the seat and stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations. Shah Jahan, the Taj’s creator, spent the last years of his life imprisoned at the fort by his son Aurangzeb. It was built in the late 1560`s by their predecessor, Akbar, with later embellishments by Jehangir, his son, and Shah Jahan, his grandson.
Tonight, get ready, tomorrow we visit the Taj Mahal!
Day 13: Agra – Orchha (B)
This morning we head out for the big one! The Taj Mahal, for a spectacle not to be missed—a sunrise visit to the legendary Taj Mahal, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a masterpiece in marble and one of the world’s most famous landmarks. As the sunrises, a chaste and secretive image of the Taj starts to emerge, casting a very soft light illuminating the contours of this enchanting monument in marble. Referred to as one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal in Agra is the epitome of tourism in India and is celebrated for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty. There is plenty of time to explore the grounds of the Taj Mahal gardens before returning to the hotel for breakfast. Post breakfast we make our way to Orchha.
This historic village on the banks of the boulder-strewn Betwa River showcases a supreme display of Mughal architecture, some of which is similar to that of nearby Khajuraho with much grander palaces and cenotaphs dotting the pastoral landscape as well. The atmosphere in Orchha, though, is far more laid-back and hassle-free, which makes for a relaxing stay.
Day 14: Orchha – Khajuraho (B)
This morning we explore Orchha village. The medieval city of Orchha seems to have frozen in time, its palaces and temples still retaining their original grandeur. Orchha had the distinction of being the capital of one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of Central India. The Bundela Rajput chieftain, Rudra Pratap, founded the city, located by the side of the beautiful Betwa River, in the 16th century. The word Orchha means ‘hidden’. When the Tughlaqs, who were ruling Delhi in the 15th century, pushed the Bundelkhand rajas out of Garkhundar, they retreated to distant Orchha.
Optional Tour: Visit to Orchha Palace & Cenotaphs – The palace has three stories with 136 chambers. It has 3 types of balconies, 4 types of arches, 5 types of domes & 6 types of ceiling. A procession of stone carved elephants attracts the visitors instantaneously. The inner & the outer walls of the palace are decorated with cobalt & turquoise blue tiles. All the chambers had been painted with murals, remain of which are still visible. The riverside cenotaphs belonging to Bundela kings & members of their clan. Most of the structures are three storied. All the chambers on four corners have dome shaped tops surrounded by small cenotaphs resting on columns. Though most of them are in a dilapidated condition but a few are well preserved marble statue of Madhukar Shah.
Optional Meal: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
We then continue our journey to Khajuraho. In the afternoon we explore Khajuraho’s Eastern Group of temples. This group comprises of two historic Jain temples – the Adinath Temple lavishly embellished with sculpted figures, and the Parsvanath Temple, the largest Jain temple, sculpted with charming detail. There are other shrines such as the Vamana Temple with apsaras in sensuous poses, and the Javari Temple that has a richlycarved doorway.
Continue to the Western Group of temples which are entirely Hindu, and constitute some of the finest examples of Chandela art at its peak. The largest being the Kandhariya Mahadev dedicated to Lord Shiva, followed by a granite temple – Chaunsath Yogini. The Chitragupta Temple is dedicated to the Sun God, while the Vishwanath Temple sports a three-headed image of Brahma – the Creator of the Universe. The Lakshmana Temple is superbly decorated, while the Devi Jagdambi Temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali. Other temples in the Western Group include the Varaha Temple with a nine-foot high boar-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Matangeshwara Temple with an eight-foot high lingam, and the Brahma Temple.
Day 15: Khajuraho – Allahabad (B)
After breakfast we leave Khajuraho behind us and continue our journey east to Allahabad.
Allahabad is among the largest and holiest cities in Uttar Pradesh. It stands at the confluence of two of India’s holiest rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna. Sangam, as the confluence is called, is the venue of many sacred fairs and rituals and attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year. This number swells to millions during the world famous Kumbha Mela. A third mythical river, the Saraswati, believed to flow underground towards the Sangam, gives the confluence its other name ‘Triveni’.
On arrival, the rest of the afternoon is free to explore this holy city at your own pace.
Day 16: Allahabad – Varanasi (B)
This morning enjoy a tour of Allahabad. Witness the Fort (from outside), built from by Akbar at the confluence of the two great Rivers Ganges and Yamuna. Continue to the Khusrau Bagh, once the pleasure garden of Jahangir, son of Akbar. It houses the tomb of Prince Khusrau, elder son of Shah Jahan, who died in 1615. His tomb was completed seven years later and is a large domed structure in Mughal style. Built in the garden enclosure, the actual burial chamber is underground with enriched decorative plasterwork. The complex has two other tombs, one of Khusrau’s sister and the other of his mother.
We then continue on to one of India’s holiest meccas, Varanasi (Approx. 3hrs drive). Located along the west bank of the holy River Ganges in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the city of Varanasi is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage site and is one of the oldest. It is a city, which enshrines the very essence of Hinduism—temples, shrines and devotees, sunrise boat rides, flower ceremonies with traditional music and walks on the ghats. A city of colourful bazaars exquisite and bright silks, festivals – all centring around the teeming ghats of the Holy Ganges. In the evening you will be transferred to Daswamedha Ghat along the River Ganges to witness the special Hindu Aarti ceremony performed at the Ghats.
Optional Tour: Witness a Aarti ceremony by boat – This evening head to the Daswamedha Ghat along the River Ganges to witness the special Hindu Aarti ceremony performed. Every evening at 1730 hour (in Winter), a magical Aarti is performed at Dashwamedha Ghat. Halt your boat right at the steps for the best view. The presiding priests stand on a wooden chauki in the water. To the chant of Sanskrit mantras, and the clash of cymbals and drums, the river is worshipped with flowers, incense, sandalwood, milk and vermilion. First the blazing camphor lamp and then the many- flamed aarti lamps are raised high and then arched back to the water, the dark river reflecting the golden flames as Ganga accepts the worship.
Day 17: Varanasi (B)
Varanasi’s principle attraction is the string of bathing ghats, which line the western ghats of
River Ganges. The spectacular 4 Km sweep of the Ghats is a unique sight, best viewed at dawn. This morning we take a boat cruise on the Ganges to soak in the vibrant colour and life of Varanasi (subject to water levels). An early morning boat ride presents an incredible scene as the multitudes of devotees come to the river to pay homage to the Sun God. Pass the bathing ghats where thousands of pilgrims immerse themselves in the holy water of the Ganges River and the burning ghats where cremations are conducted. On our return we visit the bazaars (local market) and Kashi Vishwanath Temple – the most sacred of the shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. We then return to the hotel for breakfast where to morning is at leisure.
Optional Tour: Visit to Sarnath – Visit the site where Lord Buddha had preached his first sermon or in religious language, set in motion the Wheel of Law (Maha-Dharmachakra-Pravartan) enshrining the principles of his teaching into laws. 200 years later, in 3rd century BC, the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka who spread the Buddha’s message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, built massive stupas, viharas and monasteries making it the centre of the Buddhist world. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between 3rd century BC and 11th century AD and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail.
Day 18: Varanasi – Lucknow (B)
This morning we leave Varanasi behind us and head to Lucknow. For all its modernity, Lucknow remains true to its cultural past, impeccable manners, a courtly diction, and a love for the arts and all beautiful things. The capital city of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, the erstwhile Awadh or Oudh still preserves the spirit of the past era. On arrival the afternoon is free to explore and enjoy this old World city.
Day 19: Lucknow (B)
Today, enjoy a highlights tour of Lucknow. Visit the Jama Masjid, the grand mosque built by Muhammad Ali Shah in typical Mughal style with tall minarets and onion-shaped domes followed by visit to the spectacular Kaiserbagh Palace. The Kaiserbagh Palace is a landmark of Mughal architectural ingenuity, although parts of the palace were damaged during the attack of the British in the year 1858, as it was believed to be the stronghold of the Nawabs led by the valorous Begum Hazrat Mahal.
We then proceed to Bara Imambara and Chhota Imamabara.The Bara Imambara built by Nawab Asafuddaula to provide relief to his subjects during the famine of 1784 is a reminder of the past glory of Nawab of Oudh. The Imambara is unique for the absence of pillars or supports in the main hall, which stands 50 feet tall. Continue to the Shah Najaf Imambara, the tomb of Nawab Ghaziuddin Haider, and his family is housed in this majestic white domed building. The tombs are plated in silver and gold and the interiors are ornate with floral designs and chandeliers.
Optional Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
After, enjoy a shopping tour of Lucknow, where you guide can assist in showing you the best bargains and the art of haggling.
Day 20: Lucknow – – Delhi (B)
After breakfast we have a leisurely morning before making our way to the train station to board our train to Delhi. No trip the India is complete without experiencing a train journey!
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to see India is not on a plane at 35,000 feet, but at ground level on the incredible Indian railway system. You can safely forget media images of overcrowded suburban trains with people sitting on the roof. On a long distance train in an air-conditioned carriage all seats are reserved and it’s a safe, civilised & comfortable way to get around India. Our train journey to Delhi takes around 7 hours giving you time to watch the world go by. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel in Delhi.
Day 21: Delhi – – New Zealand (B)
After breakfast, the day is at leisure. At the appropriate time, make your way to the airport to board your homeward flight.
Day 22: New Zealand
Arrive home in New Zealand today.