Itinerary Details: 18 days/17 nights
Day 1: Delhi Arrival
Namaste. Welcome to India! After exiting customs, meet our representative and transfer to your hotel.
Perhaps there is no other capital city in the world so steeped in history and legend as the Indian capital of Delhi. It was the magnet which drew the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals, and the British, all of whom contributed to its glorious but turbulent past. Amidst the skyscrapers, the monuments stand as a silent reminder to India’s legacy. Driving from the airport you will be impressed with Delhi’s spacious, tree-lined streets and garden parks. Overnight in Delhi. Hotel: Oberoi New Delhi
Day 2: Delhi
After breakfast, enjoy a city tour of Delhi. Begin with a visit to Raj Ghat, a simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Continue to the magnificent Red Fort, built during the years 1638 - 48 when the Mughal Empire was at its peak. Later visit Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Lunch at Oberoi Maidens.
After lunch, enjoy a spectacular rickshaw ride in Chandni Chowk. Chandni Chowk is considered the most famous and historic street of Delhi, built around 300 years ago when the walled city of Shahjahanabad was established in the 17th century. The energy of vibrant streets of Chandni Chowk is simply irresistible. This area of Delhi includes street food, vibrant bazaars, spice markets, and jewelry shops. You will also have the unique opportunity for an interactive kitchen tour of Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, the Sikh Temple. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Delhi
After breakfast, visit Mehrauli and the Qutub Minar complex. Originally an ancient Islamic monument, the Qutub Minar is the tallest tower in India. Built of red sandstone and marble, the minar is not without controversy. Some believe it was built as a tower of victory to signify Muslim rule in the country, while skeptics claim it was erected to call the devoted to prayer. The complex also houses the first mosque to be built in India and an iron pillar that mysteriously has a high resistance to corrosion, even after being exposed to the natural elements for centuries. Later, drive past the imposing India Gate, the Parliament building, and Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President’s residence.
After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy an afternoon at leisure. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 4: Delhi – Varanasi
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Varanasi. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
The antiquity of Varanasi is veiled in immortal times. The city has been the center of religion, learning, and civilization. It has an endearing universal mystique, best experienced to be understood. According to ancient texts, Varanasi was founded by the Hindu deity Shiva, making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. Situated on the banks of the Ganges River, Varanasi is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus. Lunch at a local restaurant.
Proceed on a guided walk of the narrow lanes in Varanasi. Visit the sacred ponds (believed to house healing waters) and the home of Kali, the powerful Mother Goddess who destroys the ego and liberates humans from the cycle of death and rebirth. In the evening, experience a Ganga Aarti ceremony. Hundreds throng to the ghats and offerings of lamps and flowers are made to the river. Dinner and overnight. Hotel:Taj Gateway
Day 5: Varanasi - Khajuraho
Rise and sunshine for a memorable sunrise boat ride on the Ganges River to view the morning prayers and baths. Hindus believe by immersing the mortal remains in the Ganges, it clears one from the birth circle and you are incarnated to human life in the next birth. The riverfront is a spiritually uplifting sight. Return to your hotel for breakfast.
Later in the morning, visit Kashi-Vishwanath Temple, the most sacred of shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, the patron deity of Varanasi. Reconstructed in the 18th century, its gold plating on the 'shikaras' was a gift of the one-eyed Sikh king, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Also visit Bharat Mata Mandir, a temple dedicated to Mother India and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. Lunch at the hotel.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Khajuraho. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Khajuraho has remained tucked away from the mainstream events of history. This is likely the reason why the famed temples escaped the ravages of invaders. Tour the world famous Khajuraho temples, built by the Chandela kings between 950 AD and 1050AD. The most important are the Chaunset Yogini Temple, dedicated to Goddess Kali; Mahadev Temple; Chitragupta or Bharatji Temple, with a lovely image of 11 headed Vishnu; Vishvanath and Nandi Temples; Lakshmana Temple; and Visha Temple, dedicated to Shiva. Dinner and overnight at your hotel. Hotel: Lalit Temple View
Day 6: Khajuraho - Agra
After breakfast, drive to Jhansi (4 hours). En-route visit Orchha, the capital of the Bundelas. It is presently a village set amongst a complex of well-preserved temples. Lunch at Orchha Palace.
Continue your drive to Jhansi railway station and board your executive train to Agra. Upon arrival in Agra, transfer to your hotel. Dinner and overnight. Hotel: Oberoi Amarvilas
Day 7: Agra
Morning at leisure. Visit Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity, a home for orphaned and disabled children. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Agra Fort. An outstanding example of Mughal architecture, the Agra Fort was the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations. The site is a magnificent citadel with marble palaces, ornate alcoves, and terrace pavilions.
In the evening, enjoy a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj took over 22 years and 20,000 men to build. The monument is truly a wonder of the world. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 8: Agra - Jaipur
After breakfast, drive to Jaipur (4.5 hours). En-route visit Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted red sandstone city. Built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as his capital and palace in the late 16th century, it was abandoned soon after it was built when the local wells went dry. It remains today in much the same condition that it was over 300 years ago. It is complete with palaces and mosques and used to be a town larger than London when it was originally constructed. Lunch at Laxmi Niwas Palace.
Continue to Jaipur and transfer to your hotel. Jaipur, the vibrant capital of Rajasthan, owes its name, foundation, and planning to the great astronomer and warrior Maharaja Jai Singh II. The city is fondly called the “Pink City” due to the pink colored buildings and avenues. Dinner and overnight. Hotel: Oberoi Raj Vilas
Day 9: Jaipur
After breakfast, enjoy a full day tour of Jaipur. Start with a visit to Amber Fort. The final descent to this ancient city is made by elephant back—a truly memorable experience! (Alternately, you may travel by jeep.) In the fort, you will see magnificent palaces and halls covered with mirrored mosaics. After lunch at Trident, explore Jaipur city. Visit the City Palace, a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture that is still occupied by the Royal family. The palace museum houses collections of rare manuscripts, armory, costumes, carpets and miniature paintings. Also view the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal) and tour Jantar Mantar, the solar observatory built in 1726.
From its creation in 1727, the royal families and nobles of Jaipur supported the craftsmen and artisans of the city. These traditions continue to this day and as a result many people consider modern day Jaipur as the craft capital of India. Traditional methods are still used to produce many valuable and highly prized items. Using skills passed down through generations, artisans and master craftsmen can be seen in the areas of Ghat Darwaza and Vishveshwar ji.
Later, enjoy a Maharaja-themed dinner at the City Palace. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Day 10: Jaipur - Udaipur
After breakfast, drive to Udaipur (6 hours). En-route visit Deogarh Mahal, a historic Mewar palace that is still partially occupied by the Royal family. Enjoy lunch at Deogarh and then continue to Udaipur.
With a wealth of enchanting lakes, Udaipur is a true oasis in Rajasthan. Dotted with marble palaces, hibiscus gardens and fountain pavilions, Udaipur appeals to the imagination of poets, painters and writers. The city's inherent romance, beauty and its remarkable past redolent with episodes of heroism and splendor continue to enthrall travelers. Udaipur, the City of Dawn, looms up like a vision in white.
Surrounded by hills and mountains and set on the edge of three lakes, it is a truly enchanting city. Narrow streets lined with vividly colored stalls, gardens, temples and palaces mirrored in the placid blue waters of Lake Pichola add to the magic of Udaipur. Overnight. Hotel: Oberoi UdaiVilas.
Day 11: Udaipur
In the morning, enjoy a city tour of Udaipur. Start at Jagdish Temple, built in 1651. Notice the many heritage mansions that line the city boulevards, the art shops, and boutiques that lead to the old bathing ghats that fringe the banks of Lake Pichola. Visit the City Palace (part of which has been converted into a museum housing the largest collection of crystal in the world) and see the gorgeous peacock mosaics, striking blue and white ceramics, Dutch inlaid tile work, glass and porcelain figures, and miniature paintings.
After lunch at Trident, explore the local markets. Later, enjoy a boat ride on Lake Pichola. Overnight in Udaipur.
Day 12: Udaipur – Cochin
In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Cochin via Mumbai. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Cochin, also known as Kochi, is one of the principal seaports of India and a growing center of international trade and information technology. The region has Arab, Dutch, French, Portuguese, and Chinese influences. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Kathakali dance performance. Overnight. Hotel: Vivanta by Taj Malabar
Day 13: Cochin
After breakfast, enjoy a heritage tour in Fort Cochin that includes the Dutch Palace, built in 1555; the Jewish Synagogue, housing scrolls of the Old Testament and copper plates inscribed in Hebrew script; St. Francis Church, where Vasco de Gama was buried in 1524; and the Chinese fishing nets at the entrance of Cochin Harbor. Lunch at Malabar House in Fort Cochin.
In the evening, visit the private home of an acclaimed Kerala chef for a cooking demonstration. Overnight in Cochin.
Day 14: Cochin – Kumarakom
Morning at leisure. Later, drive to Kumarakom (2 hours), a charming village on the Eastern bank of Vembanadu Lake surrounded by paddy fields. The lake's majestic canals, streams, and distributaries weave an intricate and enchanting web. Evening at leisure and overnight. Hotel: Kumarakom Lake Resort
Day 15: Kumarakom
Morning at leisure. Later, cruise the beautiful and enchanting Keralan backwaters. A backwater comprises of a unique web of rivers, lakes, bays, lagoons, and canals extending into the villages and towns. The kettuvallam or ‘boat with knots’ is held together with coir knots only - not a single nail is used during the construction. Enjoy lunch on board the houseboat. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 16: Kumarakom – Mumbai
After breakfast, transfer to the Cochin airport for your flight to Mumbai. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. . Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is often considered the commercial and entertainment capital of India. The city also houses India’s Hindi film and television industry, affectionately termed as Bollywood. Mumbai is considered the fastest moving, most affluent, and most industrialized city in India. Evening at leisure and overnight. Hotel: Oberoi
Day 17: Mumbai
After breakfast, proceed for a city tour. Visit Mani Bhavan, the house where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay. It is now a museum displaying photographs, letters, and personal items. Continue to the Prince of Wales Museum and the Jain Temple. Drive past the Towers of Silence, Kamla Nehru Park, and Hanging Gardens situated on the slope of Malabar Hill. Enjoy the panoramic views of Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach and then drive through Crawford Market. Lunch at a local restaurant.
Later, take a boat from the pier to Elephanta Island and view magnificent ancient sculptures and cave temples dating back to the 5th century CE. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Day 18: Departure
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Bon Voyage!