Rajasthan Highlight Tour

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 transferred to the 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, 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 / Udaipur

Today you are transferred to the airport to board your flight for Udaipur.

Romantic, wistful and serene, Udaipur is a city built around shimmering, clear blue-water lakes that reflect the green of the surrounding Aravalli hills. The famous lake palaces, that seem to emerge from the peaceful Lake Pichola, whisper memories of tradition and glory. Built in 1567 by Maharana Udai Singh, who claimed to be a descendent of Sri Ram, hero of the ‘Ramayana’, the city of Udaipur is gathered around three lakes – Pichola, Fateh Sagar and Udai Sagar. It was the last capital of Mewar and remained so until the state was merged with the Republic of India in 1947.

On arrival you are met and transferred to the hotel.

This evening, water levels permitting, cruise the calm waters of Lake Pichola, on a motor launch, seeing the city of Udaipur rise majestically above the lake in the middle of the Rajasthan desert.

Day 4: Udaipur

In the morning, go across the lake by boat to the opulent City Palace, standing on a crest overlooking Lake Pichola. The majestic palace is a stunning blend of medieval European and Chinese architecture, surmounted by balconies, towers, cupolas and terraces with wonderful views of the city and lake. The entrance is through Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) along the main street of the old city. The main part of the palace is now a museum with an interesting, eclectic collection.

Stop off to see the Crystal Gallery in the Fateh Prakash Palace. This amazing museum in Durbar Hall houses the world’s largest cut crystal collection, with ornaments, fountains, vases, crockery, furniture and beds.

Continue on to Sahelion-Ki-Bari Park, the Garden of the Maids of Honor, on the shores of the second major lake of Udaipur, Fateh Sagar. The park was constructed for forty-eight young ladies-in-waiting who were sent to the royal house as a part of a lavish dowry. It is beautifully laid out with extensive lawns and shady walks and is an excellent example of the Hindu art of landscaping.

Stop off next at the three-storey Jagdish Temple, a wonderful Indo-Aryan temple built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651. Climb up stone steps flanked by sculpted elephants and admire the intricate pillars, carved ceilings, stunning frescoes and the massive black, stone image of Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe.

This afternoon your car and guide are at disposal to visit Shilpgram and local markets.

Day 5: Udaipur

Set off in the morning driving approximately 14 miles from Udaipur to the Eklingji and Nagda Temples, dedicated to Shiva. On the shore of a small lake bounded by the surrounding hills, the stunning main temple is built of white marble and has a breathtaking interior with doorway, screen and lamps crafted from ornamented silver.

The roof of the temple is decorated with hundreds of circular knobs and crowned by a lofty tower. Even now the Maharana of Udaipur visits this beautiful temple every Monday. Nagda was the scene of frequent Muslim invasions, and although most of it is in ruins, one can still see glimpses of the former glorious days.

Then drive up into the age old Aravalli hills of Rajasthan, to the 18th century Devi Garh Fort Palace. Explore the area by camel before enjoying lunch at the stunning Devi Garh Resort. In the village of Delwara, the Palace has a commanding view over one of the three main passes into the valley of Udaipur. This strategic principality was awarded to Sajja Singh, in recognition of his bravery and loyalty to the Maharana, and the Fort Palace was built in the 1760s, but later abandoned in the 1960s.

After years of restoration and rebuilding, the Devi Garh Resort embodies the look of modern India, with a contemporary, sleek interior, designed with simple colors using local marble and semi-precious stones.

The restaurant at Devi Garh offers an innovative menu with delicious Asian and International cuisine, each dish made with the freshest ingredients for an authentic home cooked flavor. Enjoy your lunch on whimsical, marble table-tops with inlays of semi-precious stones in the form of various indoor games.

Day 6: Udaipur / Jodhpur

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. Check in at the hotel and relax for rest of the day.

Day 7: Jodhpur / Jaipur

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.

This afternoon you will drive for six hours to your destination Jaipur, popularly known as the Pink City, is the capital of the desert state of Rajasthan and owes its name, foundation and careful planning to the great warrior and astronomer, Maharajah Jai Singh II (1699-1744), one of the greatest rulers of the Kachhawaha clan. Famous for its colorful culture, forts, palaces and lakes, the city basks in the glory of a rich and eventful past.

The pink color of the buildings was created with a wash used to give the impression of the red sandstone buildings of Mughal cities and was repainted in 1876 for the visit of the Prince of Wales.

Arrive and check in at your Hotel.

Day 8: Jaipur

This morning visit the Amber Fort, where you can enjoy a short Elephant ride like Maharajas and Maharani. This beautiful fortified palace was once the capital of the state of Jaipur (until 1728 AD) and the capital of the powerful princes of Jaipur. Among the best hilltop forts in India, with stern exteriors of white marble and red sandstone that seem to grow out of the rugged hills, the Amber Fort has mighty gates leading to beautifully decorated temples, huge ornate halls, palaces, pavilions and gardens.

The architecture is a combination of both Mughal and Rajput styles, and the chambers and hallways of the palace are decorated with paintings depicting hunting scenes, intricate carvings, mosaics and detailed mirror work.

This afternoon, explore the city, beginning at the Jantar Mantar, an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh ll in the 18th century. The Maharajah, a scientist as well as an astronomer, had the principles of Euclid translated into Sanskrit. One of the most remarkable sites in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar has fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and planets.

Move on to the City Palace built within the fortified area of the original city, with one of the finest monumental entrances in India. The Palace is now principally a museum housing a collection of great treasures, including miniature paintings, carpets, royal garments and other interesting objects from Jaipur's intriguing past. The former royal family retains a part of the palace for their personal use.

Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds, is a beautifully designed facade built in 1799 by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh, to extend the zenana, or women's chambers, of the City Palace.

Five stories in height, and built of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white quicklime, it is thought that the women of the royal harem used the many casements to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. (Rajput women traditionally observed strict ‘purdah’.) The side facing the street outside the palace, has 953 small windows and the breeze (hawa) which circulates through these windows gives the palace its name, and keeps it cool even in the hot summer months.

Day 9: Jaipur

This morning visit Samode. Nestling in the rugged Aravalli hills, the Samode Palace stands in serene splendor above the cobbled streets and stone houses of the village of Samode. Built around 1757, the Samode Palace was little more than a fortified stronghold, but in the early 19th century the castle was transformed into a lavish palace, with stately corridors, frescoed walls and ethereal audience halls. The palace is modeled on the geometric style of the Mughal garden, and members of the Samode family came here to enjoy rare moments of privacy and relax in the airy pavilions, surrounded by rippling fountains of water.

After lunch at Samode Palace, return to Jaipur where your car and guide are at your disposal for shopping.

Day 10: Jaipur / Ranthambore

This morning you are transferred overland to Ranthambore (approximately 4 hours) and check in at your hotel.

The forests of Ranthambore, in the state of Rajasthan, were once the private hunting grounds of the Maharajahs of Jaipur. Their desire to preserve game in these forests for sport was partially responsible for the tigers' conservation and subsequent rescue by Project Tiger. Tigers are often spotted in the daylight rolling lazily in the sun or hunting down sambar around the lakes.

Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary extends over an area of 392 square kilometers of thick forests. The park abounds in scenic beauty, requisite refuge for both the carnivore and herbivore. The numerous valleys and flat hilltops form picturesque surroundings of the 13th century historical Ranthambore Fort.

Late this afternoon you experience your first game-viewing excursion in the park. The tiger and leopard are the main predators found in this reserve. Hyena and jackal are the scavengers; sloth bear and wild boar are the main carnivores. The main herbivores found in this park are spotted deer, Sambhar deer, Nilgai (blue bull) antelope, Chinkara (Indian gazelle) and the common Langur.

Day 11: Ranthambore

Today you will enjoy early morning and late afternoon game viewing in the Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary.

The park has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the picturesque ruins that dot the park: lake palaces, old fortifications, and the majestic, centuries-old Ranthambore Fort. Old crumbling walls, ruined pavilions, wells and other ancient structures stand witness to the region’s glorious past. The lovely Jogi Mahal is located at the foot of the fort and offers a magnificent view of the Padam Talao, painted white with water lilies. Tigers are said to frequent these ruins. The park abounds with wildlife and, in addition to the animals noted above, you may see woodland, ground, and water birds, including the uncommon red jungle fowl and varieties of eagle. The lakes harbor marsh crocodiles and pythons.

Day 12: Ranthambore/ Fatehpur Sikri / Agra

This morning, you will drive will take you through rural India for an insight into village and countryside life. En route you stop at Fatehpur Sikri (a UNESCO World Heritage site) built by Emperor Akbar as his capital and palace in the late 16th century and abandoned after just a few years when the water supply was exhausted. It was a veritable fairytale city and its “ruins” are still in pristine condition. Also visit the Bulund Darwaza, the largest gateway in the world. From here, you continue your drive to Agra, where upon arrival you check into your hotel.

Day 13: Agra

In Agra, the second capital of the Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan built the peerless Taj Mahal in commemoration of his most favored wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Stricken with grief at her premature death, the emperor vowed to build her a tomb that surpassed any other in beauty. The best architectural and artistic talent in India and highly skilled craftsmen from Iran, Turkey, France and Italy worked for many years to create the most beautiful tomb in the world. Begun in 1631, it took 20,000 artisans and laborers to complete the mausoleum by 1653. Photographs do not adequately convey the legend, poetry and romance that shroud what Rabindranath Tagore calls “a teardrop on the cheek of time.” The Taj Mahal's white marble surfaces reflect the colors of the sky and the river Yamuna, appearing different throughout the day. See this beautiful monument as the sun rises, glinting gold on the marble and surrounding water.

Then return to the hotel for breakfast. You then have your car and guide at your disposal for the remainder of the morning for shopping.

This afternoon, visit the Agra Fort. On a bend of the Yamuna River, almost in the heart of the city, lies the great Agra Fort. Approachable by two imposing gates and constructed of red sandstone, the citadel was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar between the years 1565 and 1573. Encircled by a moat, this dramatic city within a city, was the palace of three emperors, Akbar, Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb, each of whom made significant contributions to the wonderful architecture of the inner buildings – a combination of Persian (Islamic) and local Hindu styles.

Return to the Taj Mahal at the end of the day, as the sun sets, gradually turning the marble of this romantic monument, from white to a soft, rosy pink.

Day 14: Agra / Delhi / Depart

This morning, enjoy a walking tour of the Old City before traveling from Agra to Delhi in the afternoon. Traveling through the Indian countryside for 124 miles, this is the royal road of the Mughal emperors of the 16th and 17th centuries, when the capital alternated between Delhi and Agra.

Just outside of Agra, visit Sikandra. Named after Sikandar Lodi, the Afghan ruler, Sikandra houses the majestic tomb of Emperor Akbar, who ruled an empire that stretched across North India. Akbar began building his own garden mausoleum during his lifetime, but his son, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, completed it. The red sandstone structure is surrounded by chahar-bagh, a formal garden, and an impressive marble inlaid gateway leads to the spacious four-tiered monument crowned by a white marble cenotaph and screen. Jahangir modified the original design, adding the top terrace with marble cloisters and a false grave, leaving the emperor’s real grave in the crypt-like sepulchral chamber, a peaceful setting for a ruler who led an eventful life.

In Delhi make a stop at a hotel/ restaurant (near the airport) for dinner (payable directly to the restaurant). Afterwards, you are transferred to the airport for for your onward flight.

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