North India Highlight

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Delhi, India

With the most vibrant history among the cities or towns of India, Delhi, the capital of India, is a fascinating city. Successive dynasties have left their imprints in over 60,000 monuments scattered all over the city. Wide, tree-lined boulevards coexist with congested alleyways, making Delhi a city of mind-boggling contrasts.

On arrival you are met by an representative and privately transfered to the Hotel Imperial where you are assisted with check in.

Day 2: Delhi

This morning explore Old Delhi, pausing on the way at the monument to Mahatma Gandhi erected on the site of his funeral pyre and an important place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world.

Begin with the Jama Masjid, the great mosque of Old Delhi. It is the largest in India and the final architectural extravagance of Shah Jahan. Begun in 1644, the mosque was not completed until 1658. It has three great gateways and two minarets standing 130 ft high and constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble. The courtyard of the mosque can hold 25,000 people, and broad flights of steps lead up to the imposing gateways. It is possible to climb the southern minaret (if you’re a man or you have one with you), and the views in all directions are superb – Old Delhi, the Red Fort and New Delhi to the south.

Continue on to the Red Fort. The red sandstone walls of Lal Qila, the Red Fort, extend for just over a mile and vary in height from 59 ft on the river side to 108 ft on the city side. Shah Jahan started construction of the massive fort in 1638 and it was completed in 1648. He never moved his capital completely from Agra to his new city of Shahjahanabad in Delhi, because he was deposed and imprisoned in Agra Fort by his son Aurangazeb.

See the Diwan-I-Am, the hall of public audiences, where the emperor would sit in a marble-paneled alcove, set with precious stones, to hear complaints or disputes from his subjects. The Diwan-I-Khas, the hall of private audiences, built of white marble, was the luxurious chamber where the emperor held private meetings. The centerpiece of the hall (until Nadir Shah carried it off to Iran in 1739) was the magnificent Peacock Throne, made of solid gold, with figures of peacocks behind, their beautiful colors created by countless inlaid precious stones, and between them, the figure of a parrot carved out of a single emerald.

The final stop is at the bustling and colorful Chandni Chowk bazaar. In this old market area of winding, narrow walkways, you will find entire streets devoted to the sale of a particular item - a street for silver, one for gems, etc. and some excellent examples of Mughal architecture on the upper floors of the buildings. Mughal women were not allowed to be seen in public, so elaborate wooden screens were created to cover windows letting the ladies see out but not be seen.

This afternoon explore New Delhi, established as the new capital for the Indian Empire by King George V, who felt that Kolkata was too remote. The grand plans for the new city by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker can be seen in the results; the Rajpath and the Janpath (the two main avenues), Connaught Place, the India Gate, Parliament House, the Secretariat and the President’s Palace. The new capital was inaugurated in 1931.

Begin in the oldest part of Delhi, made up of the former Seven Capitals that were built between the 12th and 17th centuries. Qutb Minar is a five-storey sandstone tower, built to commemorate the victory of Muhammad Ghuri and Qutb-ud-Din over the infidel Chauhans of Prithvi Raj in 1192. Built in 1199 by Qutb-ud-Din, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi, the tower is inscribed with quotations from the Koran.

Continue to Humayun's Tomb, a 16th century monument to the Mughal Emperor Humayun who reigned between 1530 and 1556. The structure represents a combination of Persian and Indian styles, the result of part of Humayun's rule being spent in exile in Afghanistan and Persia. He returned in his last years and was the first Mughal Emperor to be buried in India.

The Rajpath, or Kings Way, is another focus of Lutyens’ New Delhi. It is immensely broad and flanked on either side by ornamental ponds. The Republic Day parade is held here every 26th January, and millions of people gather to enjoy the spectacle.

Stop at the India Gate, a stone arch of triumph that stands at the eastern end of the Rajpath. It bears the names of 85,000 Indian Army soldiers who died in the campaigns of WWI, the North West frontier operations of the same time and the 1919 Afghan fiasco.

Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the President of India, stands at the opposite end of the Rajpath from India Gate. Completed in 1929, the palace like building is an interesting blend of Mughal and Western architectural styles, the most obvious Indian feature being the huge copper dome. To the west of the building is a Mughal garden, which is only open to the public in February.

Prior to independence this was the viceroy’s residence. At the time of Lord Mountbatten, India’s last viceroy, the number of servants needed to maintain the 340 rooms and its extensive gardens was enormous. There were 418 gardeners alone, 50 of them boys whose sole job was to chase away birds.

Day 3: Delhi / Mandawa (275 Km, 6 hours)

Morning after breakfast, leave for Mandawa through the villages of Rajasthan. Arrive & check in at Hotel Castle Mandawa, afternoon visit the 150 to 200 year old painted havelies (big houses) by the natural colors in the streets of the village. You can also watch the daily village life while watching the havelies. Overnight stay is at the Hotel.

Day 4: Mandawa / Bikaner (190 Km, 4 hours)

Morning leave for Bikaner was founded by Rao Biked Ji in 1488 A.D. Arrive & check in at the Hotel. Afternoon visit Junagarh Fort founded in year 1593 by Raja Rai Singh who was general in the army of mighty Mughal emperor Akbar and rest of the Fort was improved by the successors. Afterwards visit Asia's largest Camel Breeding Research Farm and local busy markets. Overnight stay is at Hotel.

Day 5: Bikaner/ Deshnok /Khimsar (145 Km, 3 hours)

After breakfast leave for Khimsar via 600 year's old Deshnok Rat temple. After temple continue your drive to Khimsar was founded by 24th Jain Profit Mahavira 500 years B.C. Arrive 15th century Hotel Royal Castle Khimsar Fort, afternoon Jeep safari will be organized to visit local villages, wild life & sensational sun set on sand dunes. Return to the Hotel for overnight.

Day 6: Khimsar / Oscian / Jaisalmer (320 Km, 6 hours)

After breakfast leave for Jaisalmer, enroute visit at 7th century Mahavira Jain Temple and 2000 years old Jija Mata Temple at Oscian village. Continue your drive drive to Jaisalmer, founded by Rawal Jaisal in 1156 A.D. after shifting his capital from Ladurva. Jaisalmer was the main caravan route from Far East to the Middle East, arrive & check in at Hotel for overnight stay.

Day 7: Jaisalmer

Morning sightseeing of Fort (80 meters above plains ) & Jain Temples within the Fort built in 12th to 15th century which are very worth watching. The specialty of the Fort is that still approximately 5000 people are living inside. Visit Fort Palace & atop from Palace you can have the golden view of whole Jaisalmer city as whole city is built in yellow sand stones, when sun rays fall on the city, it give impression as golden city of India. Afterwards visit Patwon Ki Haveli and Nath Ji Mal Ki Haveli. In the afternoon drive to Sand Dunes to watch sensational Sun Set by camel ride. Return to Hotel for overnight.

Day 8: Jaisalmer / Jodhpur (285 Km, 5 hours)

This morning drive for six hours to Jodhpur visiting Ranakpur temples on the way. The drive today takes you across the Aravalli Hills, the oldest mountain range in the world. The scenery along the way is superb and you will see many vignettes of Rajasthani rural life. Among the sights you see are colorful villages, farms where an ancient system of irrigation using bullocks and a Persian wheel are still in practice, outdoor schools and the sartorially vibrant people who add a splash of color to the countryside. There are endless opportunities for photography. This is an opportunity to see life in India outside the cities and towns. Your destination for the morning is the white marble temples at Ranakpur. Considered one of the architectural gems of this area, this profusely and intricately carved temple belongs to the Jain religion. An austere religion, the temple belies the dictates of simplicity promoted by the founder.

The Kingdom of Jodhpur was established by the powerful Rathor clan who claim ancestry as far back as 470 AD. In the mid 15th century, Rao Jodha, the ruler of Marwar, abandoned his old capital and built a new fort on the rocky cliffs of what is now Jodhpur. According to legend, in the process of building the fort, he displaced a hermit who was meditating on the site. The hermit placed a curse on the descendents of Rao Jodha saying they would be plagued by famine every year. This is the reason the locals claim that the area has drought every three or four years. The gigantic Umaid Bhavan Palace where you are staying was built as a result of a project initiated by the Royal family during a famine to provide employment. Arrive and Check in at the hotel.

Of all the many forts in Rajasthan, very few compare to majesty of the Meherangarh Fort. Built on a high rocky cliff, the views from the fort stretch all across the plains as far as the Mewari fort at Kumbalgarh. Almost impregnable, the fort is entered through seven fortified gateways. Beside the last gate, the 15th century Loha Pol, or Iron Gate are the handprints of 15 royal sati, Jodhpur queens who immolated themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands. The fort is divided into three sections – the public areas, the Maharajas palaces, and the zenana, or queens’ palaces. The zenana is decorated with exquisite sandstone filigree work. Within the fort is the museum which among its varied exhibits has an excellent collection of royal palanquins and the howdah section which has perhaps the finest collection of old ornate elephant howdahs in the world. Walking down from the fort you stop at Jaswant Thada, the graceful marble cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II (1873-95) and other Maharajas of Jodhpur who died after that year. The cenotaphs of other maharajas and maharanis.

Day 9: Jodhpur / Pushkar (205 Km, 4 hours)

In the morning after breakfast, drive to Pushkar / Ajmer. This is one of the places with highly prestigious sites for both Hindu and Muslim Religions in the world. While Pushkar is known for its only Lord Brahma temple in the world Ajmer is globally known for the Mazar of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishty. People come to pray to the lords for the fulfillment of their desires, it is said whoever visit these places in their lifetimes their desires gets fulfilled soon. Pushkar also hold biggest annual Camel & Craft Fair, which is known all over the world. Check into your hotel for overnight stay. In the evening visit the Lake, Temple or the Mazaar.

Day 10: Pushkar / Jaipur (125 Km, 2 hours)

After breakfast leave to Jaipur, founded by Maharaja Swai Jai Singh in 1727 AD ( swai means a person 25% more intelligent ) after shifting his capital from Amber valley to the newly formed city in the plains after consulting so many maps of the world and finally organized own religious map Shilpa Shastra with the help of a young Bengali architect Vidyadhar Batacharya. Maharaja Swai Jai Singh was a builder, astronomer, astrologer, soldier, and philosopher and now Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan & world famous as the Pink City. Arrive & check in Hotel at Hotel, afternoon visit local markets of busy pink city. Return to hotel for overnight stay.

Day 11: Jaipur

After breakfast full day sightseeing of Jaipur visiting Hawa Mahal (palace of winds) where from royal ladies were watching daily processions and life. Afterwards visit Amber Fort by elephant ride, which gives you the experience and impression of how Maharajas & royal family members were using the services of elephants. After lunch visit City Palace Museum, Astrological Observatory and local busy markets. Afterwards return back to Hotel for overnight stay.

Day 12: Jaipur / Fatehpur Sikri / Agra ( 235 Km, 6 hours)

Morning leave for Agra, enroute one of the most important place of Mughal era Fatehpur Sikri founded by Akbar in 1569 AD as a ceremonial capital. But unfortunately this magnificent city was abandoned due to scarcity of drinking water and Akbar went back to Agra. Continue your drive to Agra, arrive and check in at Hotel Clarks Shiraz. After change and wash visit one of the wonders of the world, Taj Mahal ( monument of love ), founded by 5th great Mughal Emperor Shahi Jahan in the memory of his beloved queen Anjuman Bano Begum ( with love emperor called her Mumtaz ). After her death in 1627 AD, in her memory emperor started to built Taj Mahal ( Taj means crown & Mahal means Palace, so it is Crown Palace ) from 1631 to 1653 AD with twenty two thousand labors working since sun rise to sun set in twenty two years. The marble was transported from Makrana in Rajasthan by the help of animals. Return to Hotel for overnight stay.

Day 13: Agra / Gwalior / Orcha (235 Km, 5 hours)

After breakfast check out from the Hotel and visit Agra Red Fort which was built by three emperors Akbar & Jahangir built in red sand stones and Shahi Jahan in pure white marble. While driving to Delhi visit crematory of Akbar at Sikandra which he had started building himself and after his death, it was finished by his son Jahangir. Continue your drive to Gwalior and Orcha. Reach Orcha and check into the hotel.

Orcha arises out of the hills and greens surrounding it. The historic monuments of Orcha, still retains pristine charms and narrate the stories of war and peace, of war and destruction. Situated on the banks of River Betwa, it use to be the capital of Bundelkhand. Founded in the 16th Century by the Bundela Rajputs some of the paintings, temples, cenotaphs depicts the unforgotten era of Bundela Kingdom.

Day 14: Orcha / Khajuraho (170 Km, 3 hours)

After breakfast in the morning at the hotel drive to Khajuraho. Khajuraho is one of the most popular tourist destinations of India. It has the largest group of medieval Hindu temples famous for their erotic sculptures. Reach and check into your hotel. Visit the temples which were built over a span of over 100 yrs 950 AD - 1050 AD depict an example of religion laced with erotica. They have been listed in the UNESCO Heritage Site. There were originally 80 Hindu temples of which only 22 stands now. Return to the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 15: Khajuraho

Today, enjoy a morning and afternoon tour of Khajuraho. You have the opportunity to visit temples in both the Eastern and Western Groups including:

Kandariya Mahadeo: This 31 meter high temple is the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple. Dedicated to Shiva, the inner sanctum enshrines the lingam. The exquisitely carved main shrine pays homage in delicate detail to the gods, goddesses, celestial maidens and lovers. Particularly noteworthy are the entrance arch, the ceilings and the pillars of the inner compartments.

Lakshmana Temple: The lintel over the entrance of this beautiful Vaishnavite temple shows the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort. The finely carved sanctum has a three-headed idol of Vishnu’s incarnations - Narasimha and Varaha.

Varaha Temple: This temple echoes the same sentiment as the Lakshmana Temple; i.e. the various incarnations of Vishnu. The boar incarnation of Vishnu - Varaha appears in a nine-foot high statue at the temple.

Patasvanath Temple: The largest temple in the group, it is typically Jain and exquisite in detail. The sculptures on the outer wall are particularly noteworthy. The themes depict, in charming detail, the intricacies of everyday activity. Within, a throne faces the bull emblem of the first tirthankara, Adinath. The Parasvanath image was installed in 1860.

Adinath Temple: Dedicated to the Jain saint, Adinath, the temple is lavishly embellished with sculpted figures, including that of yakshis. This temple is exquisitely carved and echoes the true spirit of the Khajuraho temples.

Day 16: Khajuraho / Varanasi

Enjoy a leisurely morning before transferring to the airport for your flight for Varanasi. Upon arrival you are met and escorted to your hotel.

Varanasi stands on the banks of the holy river Ganges, a city of more than a thousand temples and shrines. It is here that millions of Hindus come to wash away their sins; where the great Gautam Buddha first preached 25 centuries ago; where Asia’s largest residential university was founded and is still a center for art and learning. Varanasi’s principle attraction is a long string of bathing ghats where pilgrims belonging to all religions/castes gather. Also renowned for its silk saris and carpets, Varanasi draws huge crowds of people who throng the shops to buy the famous Benarasi saris.

Later this afternoon, look around the ‘eternal city’ of Varanasi. Stop off at a few of the many Hindu temples that line the Ganges River, each dedicated to a different deity. (Please note: non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temples).

Continue by strolling along the fascinating lanes and colorful bazaars full of shops selling, among many other things, the world-famous Benaras silks.

In the evening, go down to the banks of the River Ganges and board your private boat to witness the ‘aarti’, a prayer to the mother river, conducted every evening by five priests on the banks of the river.

Day 17: Varanasi / Delhi

Early this morning, drive to Daswamedh Ghat and take a sunrise boat ride on the sacred Ganges River. Here the faithful walk down steps into the river to perform their religious ablutions. For the devout Hindu, Varanasi must be visited at least once in a lifetime to wash away sins. Watching the people worshipping at the ghats is sure to be one of the most extraordinary experiences of your visit to India. You may also see a funeral pyre, which is a part of the traditional Hindu funeral ceremony.

Later this morning you pay a visit to the buried Buddhist city of Sarnath. Located just outside of Varanasi, Sarnath is as holy to Buddhists as Varanasi is to Hindus. Here you witness the ruins of a once flourishing Buddhist monastery and visit a fine museum which houses an excellent collection of Buddhist art and sculpture.This afternoon you are transferred to the airport to board your flight for Delhi where you connect with your onward flight. Fly back to your country with the everlasting memories of the magnificent glimpses of Incredible India.

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