Start in New Delhi and end in Mumbai! With the in-depth cultural tour Essence of India - Pushkar Camel Fair tour, you have a 23 day tour package taking you through New Delhi, India and 14 other destinations in India. Essence of India - Pushkar Camel Fair tour includes accommodation in a hotel as well as flights, an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
Arrival Day.? Delhi is an exciting, busy and often chaotic city and one of the most interesting cities in India. With a past that stretches far back into the mists of time, it is rich with the splendor and vitality of an eternal city. Divided into an ancient and a modern part, 1000 years of history greet the visitor at every step. Mosques, monuments and forts from many different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars lie scattered across Delhi?s sprawling expanse. After a group meeting at midday to discuss the trip, and then lunch at a local restaurant or cafe in Connaught Place, we spend the afternoon visiting New Delhi. We take a drive down Rajpath, the ceremonial avenue lined with impressive and imposing government buildings, India Gate and Rastrapati Bhavan, the Presidents residence. We also visit the spectacular UNESCO world heritage Humayans Tomb. We finish off our day with a visit to the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, Delhis largest Sikh temple.
After breakfast at our hotel we head out to Old Delhi, the walled city once known as Shahjahanabad which was the creation of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. We join the crowds to walk in the bazaars and ride cycle rickshaws through the laneways of the old city, immersing ourselves in the noise and smells of the crowded narrow streets and alleys, where different areas specialize in festival paraphernalia, silk, copper, brass, jewelry and spices. There is more to see and do than we can possibly fit in during our short time here. If you arrive earlier than day 1, there is an opportunity to make more discoveries - the ruins of Qutb Minar and Purana Qila, the Lotus Temple, Indira Gandhi Museum, the Craft Museum and Rajghat are all recommended, as are the markets of Dilli Haat, Hauz Khas village and Khan Market.
Said to be the oldest city in the world, Varanasi, also known as Benares or Kashi, seems to encapsulate all of India within its boundaries. The ultimate destination for all Hindu pilgrims, the city is full of temples, shrines and devotees. Life in Varanasi revolves around the Ghats along the Ganges where the bulk of the temples are located.? After breakfast at our hotel, we check out and head to New Delhi airport from where we take a morning flight to Varanasi. We transfer to our hotel on the banks of the holy Ganges before taking an orientation wander along the ghats and around the streets of the old city. This evening we experience the magical atmosphere of a ceremony as old as time itself as the sun sets over the Ganges to the beating of drums and the ringing of bells.
This morning we take a boat trip to see the sun rising over the holy river and witness the pilgrims and locals performing their ancient dawn rituals by the river bank. After breakfast at our hotel we take a short drive to the ancient city of Sarnath, on the outskirts of modern day Varanasi, After receiving enlightenment at Bodhgaya, The Buddha traveled to Sarnath to preach his first sermon. Since then, Sarnath has remained a major Buddhist site. Most Buddhist nations have built beautiful temples in Sarnath, and we take the opportunity to visit one or two of them, along with the Bodhi tree, main temple and stupa marking the spot of Buddhas first sermon.? Returning to Varanasi, we take a walk through the old city with its maze of narrow twisting alleys full of small shops and stalls and there?s time to visit the markets here as well as a chance to just hang out on the ghats and watch the pilgrims go about their rituals.
After breakfast at our hotel we check out and head to Varanasi airport for a direct flight to Agra.? Agra is famous as the home of the Taj Mahal, however the city also offers other amazing World and National heritage sites - all legacy of the Moghul dynasty that had its capital in Agra on and off for over 200 years.? We check into our hotel, have a late lunch and in the afternoon visit the exquisite Itimud-ud-daulah, or Baby Taj, the first Moghul building to be made from Marble. We also have the option to enjoy sunset at the Mehtab Bagh (moonlight garden) across the river from the Taj Mahal.
The icon of India, probably the most famous and beautiful building in the world, the majestic Taj Mahal surpasses all expectations and it truly is a wonder of the world, if not the greatest ever testimony to love. We make a sunrise visit to see the Taj in the magical morning light. Today, we also visit Akbars mausoleum at Sikandra and the remarkable Agra Fort, built by Emperor Akbar in the 16th Century, and added to by 3 successive Moghul Emperors. Whilst we are in Agra, there?s the opportunity to see how handmade carpets and marble inlay work are produced and a chance to return to the Taj again this afternoon for sunset.
This morning after breakfast, we check out of our hotel and drive to Jaipur via Abhaneri stepwell and Castle Kanota.? Abhaneri stepwell is one of the oldest and largest stepwells in India. Built between the 8th and 9th centuries, it is a remarkable architectural monument of 20m depth and with over 3500 steps.? We will then head on to Kanota, a small village just outside of Jaipur to visit Castle Kanota, which has found fame in recent years as the film location for the Viceroy Club in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies. The Castle is now a Heritage hotel and has a fascinating museum of family artifacts which offer a glimpse of the royal courts, colonial encounters and connected histories of Rajasthan. We arrive in the late afternoon in time for drinks at our hotel before dinner, either at the hotel or out at one of Jaipurs wonderful local restaurants.
After breakfast at our hotel we visit Jaipur?s famous landmark building, the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds en route to Amber. Crowning the crest of a hill, the palace at Amber was the former capital of the Rajasthan state, and this morning we spend a couple of hours on a guided tour through this beautiful palace complex. ?Afterwards, we will visit the stepwell made famous in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and if the group is interested we can visit the Anokhi blockprint museum, both of which are in Amber village, just below the palace. ? We return to town for lunch, stopping at Jal Mahal (The water palace) on the way and in the afternoon we explore the streets and markets of Jaipur - the colourful and busy capital of Rajasthan, with its palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk-based arts, is sure to be a highlight of your holiday. ?We also visit the Jantar Mantar, the 18th century astronomical observatory which is sure to amaze and delight you.
We have a leisurely breakfast at our hotel. Today is a free day to explore some of the many other sights in Jaipur such as Jaigarh Fort, Giator (the memorials to Jaipurs past rulers), the City Palace Museum, Albert Hall museum and the many markets. Jaipur is one of the fabric capitals of the world and also a major centre for Gemstones and jewelery. The colourful and busy capital of Rajasthan, with its palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk-based arts, is sure to be a highlight of your holiday. Tonight, we experience a Bollywood extravaganza at the opulent art-deco inspired Raj Mandir cinema.
In and around KhimsarAfter breakfast at our hotel we check out and travel west to the edge of the Thar Desert. We have a five hour drive today and will have a late lunch when we arrive at Khimsar. Our home for the night is the stunning Khimsar Fort. This unique 16th century fort offers hundreds of years of history and majesty. Stroll the ramparts and laze around the pool. Enjoy a massage or sip a cocktail whilst listening to the peacocks mew as the evening descends.? We have dinner at our heritage hotel.
In and around JaisalmerAfter breakfast at our hotel we check out and drive further west 5 hours into the Thar desert. We arrive at the magnificent Fort of Jaisalmer, having had lunch on the way.? This ancient trading town is just like something out of 1001 Nights where a large number of the town?s inhabitants still live in the narrow, paved streets and alleyways of the towns fort. Jaisalmer is a great place to wander around and watch the passing scene. Later this afternoon we head off by local auto-rickshaws to a sunset lookout spot for picture postcard views of Jaisalmer?s Sand-castle like fort. Tonight we will enjoy dinner at one of the fabulous local restaurants in Jaisalmer.
After breakfast this morning, we have a walking tour of the fort and the streets below. The merchants and wealthy families of Rajasthan built beautiful homes - or havelis - and some amazing examples are to be found herein Jaisalmer. We explore one or two before we check out the markets ? Jaisalmer is famous for embroidery, Rajasthani mirror work, block print fabrics and leather. Or you may want to have an Ayurvedic massage to sooth those travel-weary muscles. You might like to visit one of the interesting museums in town or wander down to Gadi Sagar - this small lake is the towns water supply and is picturesquely lined with temples and shrines.? The best way to explore the desert around Jaisalmer is on a camel safari. Later this afternoon we meet up with our camel crew and introduce ourselves to our new form of transport - the ship of the desert - the camel. Each camel is lead by a camel man, and there is always the option to sit on a camel cart if you dont want to ride. ?We set off into the Thar desert 40km west of Jaisalmer to the dunes for sunset and a delightful dinner under the stars
After breakfast at our hotel we check out and leave Jaisalmer heading for the Blue City - Jodhpur. Situated at the eastern edge of the Thar Desert, and dominated by the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, which sits atop a sheer rocky ridge in the middle of town, Jodhpur is the 2nd largest city in Rajasthan. We will decide on the day whether to stop for lunch along the way or to have lunch in Jodhpur. We spend an afternoon exploring the magnificent fort and the bustling Sadar Market in the blue city below. It?s a great place to stroll around at leisure, with alleyways leading off to various bazaars selling all sorts of fruits, vegetables, spices, textiles and handicrafts. Jodphur is also famous for the creamy makhani (butter) lassi?s which are found nowhere else in India. And yes, this is where the pants come from!
After breakfast at our hotel we head out in jeeps to explore the Bishnoi tribal villages in the rural regions south of Jodhpur. The Bishnoi Tribals are the original "tree huggers" who have been saving the flora and fauna in their district for centuries. They are a Hindu sect founded in 1485 in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India. They follow a set of 29 principles/commandments given by Guru Jambheshwar, eight of which are directly related to bio-diversity! Amongst the Bishnoi villages south of Jodhpur are also wildlife reserves where we?ll see various antelope and deer as well as migratory birds. Additionally, in this area are communities where local handicrafts are still being produced. We visit a potters village and a durrie rug weaving cooperative where we also enjoy lunch prepared by the family. This afternoon back in Jodphur there is free time to explore the unique Stepwell square, a renovated urban development project in the heart of the Blue City.
Today after breakfast we head to Pushkar. With Indias only Brahma temple and a holy lake, Pushkar is a major destination for pilgrims and sadhus (holy men) from all over India. A firm favourite with travelers and modern-day hippies, Pushkar?s small town atmosphere is very friendly and mellow and peaceful. However for two weeks every November the town comes alive when tens of thousands of people and camels descend on the small town for the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. In the afternoon we?ll have a guided walk around the town and lake, including the main temple and out to the camel fair site for an orientation through the campgrounds, where the traders are found with their herds of camels, cattle and horses, as well as the fairground which provides entertainment for the pilgrims who come to Pushkar during the fair to bathe in the holy waters of the lake to absolve their sins.
We have a leisurely breakfast at our hotel and today is a free day to enjoy the fair. You?re sure to want to spend more time out amongst the camels and pilgrims, or at the mela ground ? where various events are held ? from fancy dress and the longest moustache competition to camel races. Pushkar market is filled with Rajasthani handicrafts, ethnic-inspired western-style clothing, handicrafts and jewellery. There are dozens of cafes and restaurants and the town is small enough that one can stroll around it with ease, shopping and eating to your heart`s delight.
In and around BijaipurAfter breakfast at our hotel we leave behind the organized chaos and crowds and travel south 4 hours to Chittorgarh. Chittorgarh Fort has probably the most tragic history in all of Rajasthan. Having been sacked and lost three times, Chittorgarhs story is one of valour, resolve and sacrifice. We explore the massive hilltop fort before lunch in Chittorgarh.? In the afternoon we travel onwards through some of the most picturesque rural countryside of Southern Rajasthan to the magnificent Castle Bijaipur which has been run as a hotel by the Rao, or local ruler since 1991. There is the opportunity to relax by the pool or have a massage. In the evening expect to be treated like royalty with a Rajasthani buffet accompanied by music and dancers.
Today is free to explore the local village, enjoy a massage, ride a horse into the countryside, or just laze by the pool. In the afternoon, we take a jeep safari through nearby tribal villages where we get to see first-hand the traditional way of life for Rajasthani villagers. We finish up for sunset drinks by a small lake before heading back to the castle to enjoy another traditional Rajasthani dinner this evening.
Today we have a 3-hour drive to Udaipur via Ravla Kempur for lunch. Ravla Khempur is better known as "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and we enjoy a tour through the hotel and seen where many of the iconic scenes were filmed.? Without question Udaipur lives up to its reputation as Indias most romantic city. Rolling hills, white marble palaces and lakes all combine to give Udaipur a very special appeal. Its a centre for artists, dancers and musicians and the shopping is superb. We will enjoy a sunset boat ride on Lake Pichola before a thoroughly entertaining cultural show.
This morning we have a visit to the City Palace museum, part of one of the largest palace complexes in India. We then take a guided walking tour through the old city, exploring the various markets and residential areas, from the wedding, jewellery and shoe markets to the local vegetable market and laneways where you?ll see local potters at work. Later we visit an artists cooperative where you?ll have a demonstration of the Mewar school of miniature painting, and you can even try your hand a creating a miniature painting yourself. There?s free time this afternoon to perhaps take a trip out to the Monsoon Palace or the cable car to Machhla Hill, both which offer amazing views of the lake city. There are markets to explore, spas for massages and plenty of spots to sit, enjoy a drink and soak up the ambience of this beautiful, relaxing town.
After a leisurely morning, we have a late morning cooking demonstration to learn how to whip up a traditional home-style Indian curry, which then becomes our delicious lunch. In the afternoon we head to the airport to take a short flight to Mumbai from where we will transfer to our hotel in the Fort District of downtown Mumbai.
Today we visit the Gateway of India, built to commemorate the arrival of the King George V and Queen Mary in 1911 and take a wander through the adjacent Taj Mahal Hotel. We visit Crawford market, and the Mahalaxmi Dhobi (laundry) ghats. In the afternoon we visit Mani Bhavan, the Gandhi museum before taking a stroll along nearby Chowpatty beach and sampling some of Mumbai?s local delicacies ?at the food stalls on the beach.? Tonight is our final night, so we will celebrate with dinner at one of South Mumbais fabulous restaurants.
Today is departure day. There are no activities. You may depart at any time, although Mumbai is such a fascinating and vibrant city, you might wish to extend your stay for another day or two. Known as Bombay until its name change in 1997, Mumbai is Indias financial, commercial and industrial capital, and its property prices are some of the highest in the world. As such the city hums with activity and its more than thirteen million residents seem to be constantly on the move. There is a distinct multicultural feel here, with people from all over India and abroad having gravitated to the metropolis in search of a better life. ??Mumbai is also Indias entertainment capital, and the home of Bollywood, so if you?re lucky you might bump into a star, a film shoot on the streets or even get offered a part as an extra in a Bollywood extravaganza.