Start in New Delhi and end in Kolkata (Calcutta)! With the discovery tour North India Explorer, you have a 16 day tour package taking you through New Delhi, India and 8 other destinations in India. North India Explorer includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
Arrive in New Delhi, Indias bustling capital which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the tall and modern skyscrapers, there are still the remnants of a bygone time with numerous monuments and temples. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 2.00pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Delhi at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, youll need to arrive into New Delhis Indira Gandhi International airport (airport code DEL), which is 20km, around one hour from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to explore the nearby Hauz Khaz district which has narrow lanes, handicraft shops and 700 year old ruins, perfect to stretch your legs and soak up the sights and smells of India.Start point Hotel Good Times, Hotel reception, 8/7, W.E.A. Karol Bagh, Opp. Ramjas School Pusa Road, Between Metro Piller No 87-88, New Delhi, Delhi 110005, India 12:30
This morning you have the opportunity to join a guided tour (optional) to see the sights of Old Delhi. A great way of travelling around this city is by metro or cycle rickshaw (please note that these transport costs are an additional cost).This former capital was founded in the 17th century by Moghul emperor Shahjahan. It includes a magnificent blend of architectural splendour and vibrant chaos, the very image of an Indian city all of which is centred on the bustling Chandi Chowk Bazaar. On this tour, youll see the bazaar and the spectacular Jami Masjid Mosque, the largest in India and Shahjahans magnificent swan song. We will meet back at the hotel later to then transfer to the Nizamuddin station where we will board an overnight train to take us to the beautiful lakeside city of Udaipur.
Arriving early this morning, we travel to the hotel by taxis/auto rickshaws. Once settled in, we will explore this city on foot. Set before the serene backdrop of forested hills this is without doubt one of Rajasthans most elegant and sublime settings: a city of temples, palaces and gardens that is considered by many to be amongst the most beautiful in the state. Founded in 1559, by Maharaja Udai Singh II, today it encompasses some of the finest architectural examples of Rajput design and excess anywhere in India. Your tour will take in the lakeside ghats and the dhobi wallahs, who come down to the shore to wash clothes before the setting of Udaipurs regal grandeur. We will also visit the intricate carvings of the Jagdish Temple, home to a black stone image of Vishnu as Lord of the Universe, before moving on to view the exterior of the City Palace, one of Udaipurs most iconic buildings. Over the next 2 days there will be ample opportunity to re-visit some of these places in your own time.
In a state filled with testaments to a golden age of Indian nobility, the City Palace is the largest of its kind in Rajasthan, a magnificent edifice of towers and cupolas, halls and balconies that overlooks the waters of Pichola Lake. There is the option today to visit this extraordinary setting. Other possibilities for today include a boat trip on Lake Pichola or you can hire a bike and venture into the surrounding countryside. This is a great way of seeing the contrast in local life between the village and city. Other alternatives further afield include visits to the Eklingi Temple, whilst a sunset cruise on Lake Pichola, presents this idyllic setting in all its glory. Please be aware that during the dry season the water levels on the lake can drop considerably, and in the event of a poor monsoon season can dry up completely.
In and around AjmerA morning train takes us on to the city of Ajmer, a famous Muslim pilgrimage centre that is home to the tomb of a 13th century Sufi saint. Our train should get us into the city around lunchtime. From here we then drive by jeep to the nearby town of Pushkar, an important Hindu pilgrimage place which is the setting each autumn for one of the most famous camel fairs in Rajasthan. Set besides the shores of Lake Pushkar, to the north-west of Ajmer, this tranquil little town is one of the oldest in India and is referred to as one of the 5 sacred dhams of the Hindus, boasting one of the few temples to Brahma - the Hindu god of creation, that can be seen anywhere on the planet. This afternoon has been left free to enjoy at your leisure.
For those that wish, this morning offers a chance to take a hike up into the nearby hills to watch the sunrise from the Savitri temple (optional). Dedicated to Brahmas first wife, the temple lies at the end of a long series of steps that run behind the Brahma Temple and from its lofty vantage point the views out across to the lake and the surrounding desert offer a breathtaking setting from which to watch the arriving dawn. The rest of the day is then free to explore a little more of Pushkar, taking in its lake or visiting some of its colourful bazaars, before the opportunity to take a late afternoon optional camel safari out into the desert.
Catching a local bus this morning we head for the fabulous \ Pink City\ of Jaipur, a city steeped in the rich heritage of the Rajput princes. The journey should take around 3 hours and on arrival we will transfer to the hotel by taxi. Being the capital of the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur is considered by many to be one of the finest planned cities anywhere. The usual Indian urban chaos is replaced with wide streets and formal gardens. This afternoon we have planned an orientation tour of this city on foot, following which you might like to take in the unique majesty of the Hawa Mahal, the famous \ Palace of the Winds\ , whose extraordinary facade of red and pink sandstone towers some five storeys above the city streets. Other options include the remarkable 18th century observatory of Jantar Mantar, the fascinating creation of Maharaja Jai Singh II, which houses a collection of astronomical instruments capable of measuring time to an accuracy of 2 seconds, including the largest sundial in the world. Another alternative is a visit to the opulent splendour of the City Palace, a rich fusion of Moghul and Rajasthani design that houses an armoury and a museum that is home to a dazzling array of costumes, manuscripts and inlaid grandeur.
This morning theres the chance to pay an optional visit by taxi or rickshaw to the once mighty Rajput capital of Amber and its magnificent fortress. Lying at the mouth of a rocky mountain gorge, overlooking Maotha Lake, the fort is a stunning creation of white marble and red sandstone that contains a dazzling mix of Hindu and Muslim ornamentation, including the breathtaking mirrored halls of the Sheesh Mahal. Today it presents visitors with a staggering insight into the lives of the Rajput rulers. The rest of the day is free for personal activities.
An early morning transfer to the railway station sees us catching the train to Agra, once the capital of the Moghul Empire. Littered with some of the countrys most opulent and spectacular buildings, Agra provides a perfect setting for some fascinating sightseeing. The rest of the day has been left free to enjoy at your own pace. One option for the afternoon is take an optional tour of the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri. Founded in 1569, it was for a brief time the capital of the Moghuls under Akbar the Great. However, the city was then deserted just 16 years later following the emperors death. Today it remains a ghostly testament to the majesty and power of 16th century Moghul India and presents a perfectly preserved example of an imperial court.
In and around AllahabadThis morning we make an early start and take a rickshaw ride to visit one of the most universally recognised buildings on earth; The Taj Mahal. Built by the emperor Shahjahan to honour the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz, it was once described by Rudyard Kipling as the embodiment of all things pure. Built of marble and decorated with the most exquisite inlay work, it required the labours of 20,000 men and is estimated to have cost something in the region of 3 million rupees (at todays prices around $70 million). Here, you can watch the sunrise over this iconic masterpiece before breakfast, after which the rest of the day is free to enjoy as you wish. You may also like to visit the citys imposing fort, whose grandeur and importance has seen it inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Another recommendation is the exquisite Itimad-ud-Daulah on the east bank of the river, a 17th century tomb built for the Emperor Jehangirs chief minister, which mirrors the marble majesty of the more famous Taj Mahal (hence its rather apt title of Baby Taj). There is also a possibility of returning to the Taj Mahal, to watch the sunset later this afternoon, before we catch the overnight train to Allahabad. Please note: There is currently a restoration project taking place at the Taj Mahal, which involves applying a mud pack to the outer walls of the monument. In order to carry out the work, temporary scaffolding is being erected around the minarets and portions of the main dome. The work is being carried out in phases and is expected to continue until January 2017.
We arrive in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh early this morning and, after a chance to freshen up in a nearby hotel, we continue by road to Batoli Ghat on the shores of the sacred Ganges. Boarding our boats in the afternoon, we then begin our two day journey to Varanasi, drifting downstream in traditional crafts towards the historic walls of Chunar Fort. Overlooking the waters of the Ganges, the fort is steeped in five centuries of Indian history, providing us with a fascinating place to stop and explore, before we continue on to our simple overnight camp on the sandy beaches that line the banks of the river. Camping Batoli Ghat For our overnight stop we camp on a sandbank in the middle of the Ganges in 2-man tents. The actual location we use will vary according to local conditions, but wherever we stop youll be able to relax over dinner and gaze up at the stars before retiring to bed. The wild camping is a simple but unique experience and toilets are a basic set up in a single pop up tent.
We set sail again this morning, passing through a rural landscape of timeless villages and ageless landscapes and on towards the holy city of Varanasi. We hope to stop at the school in Sherpa village, before ending our journey at the Asi Ghat in Varanasi, from where we transfer to our hotel by taxi. One of the oldest Hindu pilgrimage centres in India, Varanasi is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth with its age making it contemporary with the ancient Thebes and Babylon. Lying on the banks of the scared River Ganges, it is steeped in the lore and traditions of Hinduism, and since its inception as one of the principal centres of Shiva worship some 1200 years ago, it has attracted devotees from across the world to its myriad of temples and ghats. Believed by many to be the place where the material and spiritual worlds cross, countless thousands come here to cleanse themselves along the banks of the Ganges and partake in the rituals of Aarti. This evening there should be an opportunity to attend an optional classical music performance.
This morning there is the chance to take an optional dawn boat ride along the Ganges. Here you will see the city bathed at first light and pilgrims performing the puja ceremony to the newly awaking sun. Or you can make a trip by taxi to the nearby site of Sarnath - one of the holiest sites in Buddhism. This is where the Buddha preached his first sermon following his attainment of enlightenment. This remarkable site is home to the Dharmarajka Stupa and the Dhamekh Stupa, the spot where Buddha first adopted the teachings that were to form the very principles of the Buddhist faith. The entire area constitutes the most expansive collection of Buddhist temples and monasteries on earth and represents one of the four holiest Buddhist sites in the world. Late afternoon in Varanasi provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy an evening sunset boat ride along the sacred Ganges, hopefully catching sight of the local priests performing the revered Aarti ceremonies. Varanasi can boast some 80 or so riverfront ghats, including a number of burning ghats where public cremations take place along the waters edge. Please be aware that photography is forbidden at the cremation ceremonies.
Today is a free day to explore. You may like to take the time to see the old city and the river-front by taxi, bicycle and rickshaw, or perhaps immerse yourself into the eclectic mayhem of the citys narrow streets and alleyways, a truly unforgettable experience that provides an incredible insight into traditional Indian life. Later this afternoon board an overnight train to Kolkata.
Once the capital of British India, Kolkata (Calcutta) has had a turbulent past. It was central to the struggle for Indian independence and thousands of Bengali refugees came here at the start of the 1900s. It is a city of striking contrasts and can be overwhelming initially, but the unusual sights, pungent smells and the chaotic sounds of the countrys second largest city are an experience unique to India. Arriving early morning, the rest of the day is free to explore. You could visit St Johns Church and the many historic Raj buildings around Dalhousie Square. Or you can take in the Jain and Kali temples or the magnificent marble dome of the Victoria memorial, which is where the grandeur of European and Mughal influences come together in a blaze of white marble. There is also the flower market and clay modellers village of Kumartuli, where the potters spend all year creating a wealth of images and idols for the annual festivals.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Kolkata. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Kolkata at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, youll need to depart from Kolkata Airport (CCU), which is around one hour from the hotel.End point Hotel Treebo Globe International, Hotel reception, Opposite Sangam Beauty Parlour, Near Fire Station, 204, Harish Mukherjee Road, Jatin Das Park, Patuapara, Kalighat, Kolkata, West Bengal 700026, India 09:00