13 nights from £2,195pp
Departing on 11 November 2012
If ever a tour was aptly named, our new “Essence of India” is perfectly titled. Further to the tremendous success of our southern India tour, we have constructed this wonderful tour that truly captures the majesty, variety and character of this amazing country.
As well as the traditional “Golden Triangle” of Delhi, Agra (for the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur, this tour goes several steps further in taking you to the extraordinary town of Varanasi on the Ganges where the daily prayer rituals are a never to-be-forgotten sight, the wonderful temples and statues at Khajuraho and to a jungle camp at Bandhavgarh, famed for its tigers and spectacular wildlife.
Day 1: Fly from Heathrow to Delhi overnight.
Day 2: On arrival transfer to your hotel in Delhi for 2-night stay on bed and breakfast basis. Remainder of the day free to enjoy the hotel’sfacilities and relax.
Day 3: Guided morning city tour of Old and New Delhi - visit the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, drive past the Presidential Palace, the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the secretariat buildings down the main avenue, see the impressive Rajpath India Gate, the High Court Building and the Old Fort. Visit Humayun’s Tomb built in 1565 AD by his grieving widow Haji Begum, visit the Qutub Minar, 72 metres high and the uncorroded Iron Pillar, dating back to the 4th century AD. Afternoon free for continued personal exploration – perhaps visit the impressive National Museum that chronicles five millennia of Indian history.
Day 4: Depart by road to Jaipur (268 kms /approx 6 hrs with stops). On arrival check in to your hotel for 2-night stay with afternoon free for independent exploration or to relax and enjoy the hotel’s facilities. A great place to soak up the city’s atmosphere is the Badi Chaupar (large square) and Tripolia Bazaar area of town, which is a hub of activity, rich with pungent smells, vibrant colours and a cacophony of temple bells and street sounds.
Day 5: A fascinating historical day awaits with two of India’s most prized treasures - the Amber Fort and the pink city of Jaipur. The day commences with a morning tour to the honey-coloured Amber fortress-palace in the Aravali Hills which can be mounted by elephant. The sombre exterior belies the richness of the royal apartments, which open on to striking views of the gorge. The citadel was established in 1592 but the 17th century additions by Jan Singh I lend the fort its distinictive character. Don’t miss the mirrored chamber of Sheesh Mahal, Ganesh Pol gateway and ornate Shila Dev temple. The day continues with an afternoon city tour of Jaipur - drive past the stunning ‘Hawa Mahal’ (Palace of Winds) an elaborate building encrusted with delicate honeycomb screens and carved balconies from which the royal ladies, confined to their quarters, could view the world outside, visit Jai Singh’s Observatory built in the 17th century and the City Palace, part of which is now a museum that contains fine Rajput and Moghul paintings and rare manuscripts.
Day 6: Depart by road to Agra with en-route visit to Fatehpur Sikri (203kms 5 hrs). Another lesser known highlight of India’s remarkable collection of architectural and historic treasures is the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri 37 kms, west of Agra - an epic poem in red sandstone, built by Emperor Akbar the Great in 1569. It was the Mughal capital for just 14 years after which it was abandoned because of a lack of water and has remained virtually untouched for more than 400 years. Highlights here include the 134-feet high victory gate of Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal pavilion, Turkish Sultan’s house and Diwan-i-Khas meeting hall. Afternoon city tour of Agra, where you will see Agra Fort, a palace that tells the story of the Moghul Empire behind its forbidding red sandstone battlements. Finally, a long and rewarding day is completed with a sunset visit to the symbol of India, the incomparable Taj Mahal. This lavish building is associated with perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever told. On the death of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahalin in 1631, Shahjahan built her this stunning memorial. One of the world’s most famous buildings, its perfect proportio
Day 7: Early breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to the Railway Station for 07.55 Shatabdi Express for Jhansi by Chair Car with arrival scheduled at 10.24. On arrival Jhansi proceed to Khajuraho (approx 200km - 5 hours) with enroute visit to Orccha for a lunch stop (own account). On arrival check in to your hotel for overnight stay with evening Sound & Light show at the Temples.
Day 8: Leave Khajuraho for Bandhavgarh with en-route visit and lunch at Rewa Palace (162 Km - 5 hours). You will be met by the Maharaja of Rewa who will host you for a lunch at his private dining room. Rewa the ancient capital of Baghelkhand was ruled by the Baghela. Set in the midst of the mighty Vindhya and Kaimore ranges, this area has dense forests and large rivers such as the Narbada, Sone and Tumus which create picturesque waterfalls. The fort is the typical module of medieval architecture and over the years this fort was improvised by each new ruler. In the afternoon, continue your journey through the Wilderness of Madhya Pradesh to the camp at Bandhavgarh (122 Km - 4 hours). Dinner at the well-appointed deluxe lodge which has a restaurant, bar and very comfortable airconditioned villas with private facilities, bathrobes, slippers, colour TV, internet access, safe, sit-out area, hair-dryer, tea/coffee and (for the energetic) a bicycle! The complex also boasts a large pool and spa treatments (extra cost), lounge, library, bar and excellent restaurant with opportunity to dine under a canopy of stars. A stay here is a truly remarkable experience and one of the many highlights of this superb tour.
Day 9: Early morning (06.30) game drive with return to the hotel for breakfast. Morning free to relax and enjoy the lodge’s excellent facilities with lunch at the hotel and afternoon game drive. Animals that you are likely to encounter include gaur (Indian bison), sloth bear, leopard, porcupine, wild boar, sambhar and spotted deer, among others and of course, the tiger. Dinner and overnight stay at Lodge.
Day 10: Early morning game drive and return to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast check out of the lodge and drive back to Khajuraho - (280 kms / 6 Hrs). On arrival transfer to the hotel for overnight stay.
Day 11: Breakfast at the hotel. This morning we will visit the Eastern group of temples - Adinath Parshvanath and Shantinath Temples. Later we visit the Western group of temples including Laxmana, Khandariya Mahadeo and Chitragupta Temples. The amazing collection of 25 temples at Khajuraho (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) were built under the Chandela rulers in the 9th and 10th centuries and lay undiscovered for some 700 years until they were “rediscovered” by Captain TS Burt of the Bengal Engineers in 1838. They represent the pinnacle of North Indian temple art and are richly adorned with sculptures depicting gods and goddesses, beasts and warriors, sensuous maidens, dancers, musicians and, of course, the erotic scenes for which they are so famous. In the afternoon transfer to the airport for your flight to Varanasi, departing at 13.30. On arrival at 14.10 transfer to hotel for overnight stay. Varanasi (also known as Benares and the City of Light) is India’s holiest Hindu city with a religious and spiritual legacy that dates back nearly 3,000 years. The river is lined with sacred “ghats” (steps that lead down to the river) along some 6km of the Ganges, and many are adorned with temples and statues. All are thronged with worshippers (particularly at dawn) who trickle out of the labyrinthine lanes of the city down to the river to wash clothers, perform yoga, offer flowers and incense to the river and take a ritual dip. The city
has a magical atmosphere derived from the sanctity and reverence in which it is held and a visit here is truly an unforgettable experience.
Day 12: Breakfast at the hotel. Early morning boat ride on River Ganges, where you will pass by the bathing and cremation ghats that line the holy river. This is an amazing experience at dawn with legions of worshippers along in the river and a soft light bathing the entire process. After the boat ride enjoy a guided tour of the city with its many temples and colourful stalls and shops. This afternoon we will visit Sarnath, which is the site where The Buddha preached his first sermon in the Deer Park and visit the archaeological museum.
Day 13: Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to airport fro flight to Delhi. On arrival transfer to the hotel conveniently located close to the airport for overnight stay.
Day 14: Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to the international airport to take your flight back to the UK.
NB: Exact order of itinerary may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion. Some of the distances involved on this tour are considerable and will involve several early starts and long days, so please bear this in mind when considering the tour.
- Return scheduled flights with Virgin from Heathrow to Delhi including all payable taxes
- 10 nights' accommodation on bed and breakfast basis at four- and five-star hotels, plus two nights spent in Bandhavgarh National Park with game drives
- 2 nights’ full board accommodation at Bandhavgarh Bandhav Vilas
- Game drives as detailed in the itinerary
- Transfers, trains, internal flights and full touring itinerary as detailed in the itinerary
- English speaking tour manager/guide throughout your stay in India
- Single room supplement
- Holiday insurance
- Meals other than those stated
- Porterage and gratuities
- Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls etc