Afternoon departure from London Heathrow on a Jet Airways flight to Mumbai.
On arrival in the early morning connect onto a Jet Airways morning flight to Jodphur, known for its white and blue houses dominated by an impressive hilltop fortress. Met on arrival and transfer to Rohet.
Late lunch at a local restaurant en route. Visit the impressive hilltop Mehrangarh Fort which dominates the town before continuing driving to Rohet to meet the horses, which are pure-bred Marwari, half-bred or thoroughbred polo ponies. They have all been polo trained and are light on the mouth. The height varies from 14.3 to 15.3 hands, and saddlery is English or Universal Steel Arch Cavalry. The pace will be moderate to fast with opportunities for long canters and, during three to five hours riding each day, covering up to 28km. Check into Rohet Garh, a 17th century fortified ancestral home, where two nights are spent. Dinner at the hotel.
Ride out (3.5hrs / 18km) past desert villages and through desert terrain to reach some Bishnoi villages. In spite of the region being quite dry and arid, it is surprisingly rich in wildlife including over 200 bird species.
Return to the hotel for lunch. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure to enjoy the beautiful gardens, swimming pool and spa. Dinner at the hotel.
Ride (5hrs / 28km) through sandy tracts and scrubland, passing quaint hamlets occupied by the colourfully clad Bishnoi desert tribe to Sardar Samand. Arrive and check into Sardar Samand Palace, a superb art deco former hunting lodge which was built by Maharja Umaid Singh in 1933 and retains many original features with an impressive exterior and elegantly decorated interiors and where one night is spent. It is set in extensive grounds on the edge of the lake and offers comfortable accommodation furnished in period style.
Lunch at Sardar Samand Palace. The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure to enjoy the hotel’s many facilities, which include an elegant swimming pool. Alternatively there are options for fishing or rowing on the lake as well as tennis or walks through the forest to observe a variety of flora and fauna or to the nearby village. Poolside dinner at the hotel.
Sardar Samand/Kotri Raola
Morning drive (2hrs) past the busy town of Pali to reach the Jawali Shiva Temples where we will meet our horses.
Picnic lunch. Ride (4 hrs / 20 km) into the low foothills and open grassland before reaching Kotri, a small shepherds’ village situated between mountainous Mewar and the desert of Marwar. Check into Kotri Raola, a 250-year-old ancestral castle owned by the nobility of Ghanerao, where one night is spent. Dinner at Kotri Raola.
Kotri Raola/Rawla Narlai
Ride (3.5hrs / 15 km) out past open farmlands to the rocky hills of Narlai. Check into Rawla Narlai, a 17th century former hunting lodge of the Jodhpur royal family where one night is spent.
After lunch at Rawla Narlai the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Dinner at Rawla Narlai.
Ride out (3hrs / 12km) past farms, lakes, colourful shepherds with their flocks and farmers working the fields, to Muthana Lake, a haven for wildlife and migratory birds. Continue riding through scrub forest land until reaching the road where we will transfer to jeeps and drive through the merchant town of Sadri. Arrive at Ghenerao Castle, which dates back to 1606, where one night will be spent.
Lunch at Ghenarao Castle. Afternoon visit to the intricately sculpted 15th century Jain temples of Ranakpur. Dinner at Ghenarao Castle.
Ride out (4hrs / 18km) pas Garasia tribal villages and farms along the Aravalli Hills before entering the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, home to leopard, flying squirrel, sloth and wolf, and ride up a steep trail, climbing 2000ft. Check into the Aodhi Hotel which offers wonderful views of the Kumbhalgarh Fort and features a swimming pool, where one night is spent and where the riding safari ends.
Lunch at the Aodhi Hotel. Afternoon visit to the vast 15th century Kumbhalgarh Fort, one of the most impressive fortresses in the ancient Kingdom of Mewar. Constructed in the 15th century, the perimeter walls are over 36 km in length and 20 ft thick. The complex of buildings, temples and palaces within these walls needs time to be explored. Kumbhalgarh fort and its adjoining areas have been declared a wildlife sanctuary which protects one of the India’s few families of wolves as well as leopards and flying squirrels. It is a fairly steep climb up to the fort but well worth the effort as the views are fabulous, out over the surrounding hills. Dinner at the Aodhi Hotel.
This morning you will be met and transferred to Udaipur, considered one of the most beautiful cities in India, where two nights are spent at Amet Haveli situated on the Western Banks of Lake Pichola. The hotel offers a unique panoramic of the old city, lake Pichola, Ghanghaur Ghat, Mohan Mandir, Lake Palace, Jagmandir and the beautiful Aravali ranges.
Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon tour of the grand City Palace Complex which towers over Lake Pichola, started in 1567 by Maharana Udai Singh with carefully integrated subsequent additions. Within are a series of courtyards, corridors and gardens, along with a fascinating collection of museums. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning visit to the superb 17th century Jagdish Temple noted for its imposing 25-metre pagoda covered with bas-relief of horsemen, dancers, musicians and elephants, along with black stone images of Vishnu as Jagannath. Also visit the small Saheliyon-Ki-Bari ornamental garden.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon at leisure. Evening cruise on Lake Pichola, followed by dinner at the hotel.
Early morning transfer to Udaipur airport for a domestic flight to Jaipur, known as the ‘Rose City’, having been painted pink in 1876. On arrival transfer to the charming Khas Bagh hotel where two nights are spent. Located on the outskirts of Jaipur, close to its ancient capital Amber and a stone’s throw from the 12th century Amber Fort, this farm retreat is tucked away in the Aravali hills and has a swimming pool.
Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon tour of the city including the City Palace Complex, Jai Singh’s model palace, with its magnificent Hawa Mahal, known as the Palace of the Winds, an elaborate five storey façade of windows and tracery from where the ladies of the court used to sit and observe the outside world and enjoy the cooling breezes (hence the name). Visit Govind Devi Temple, with its series of courtyards and gardens and also the 18th century Royal Observatory with its monumental sundials and signs of the zodiac. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning visit to the impressive Amber Fort which dates from the 16th / 17th centuries, where the majestic 18km ramparts rise steeply above its hilltop site and elephants carry visitors up to the entrance gate. Within, a series of courtyards lead to a rich interior of lavishly decorated pavilions, rooms and apartments – gold and silver, coloured and mirrored glass, carved marble, plaster and wood and exquisite wall paintings abound.
Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon city tour of Jaipur visiting the Maharaja’s City Palace and the Observatory (Jantar Mantar), the Albert Hall Museum and Ram Niwas Gardens whilst driving through the pink residential and business areas of Jaipur. Continue to Dera Amer, an elephant camp run outside a local family’s ancestral home. Located at the foothills of the Aravali Range and surrounded by just a few hamlets housing the local villagers, the birdlife in the area is thriving and occasionally hyenas and wolves have been sighted in the surrounding hills. Optional elephant trek through the local villages, agricultural scrubland and ancient ruins (at a supplement cost). Dinner at the camp.
Early morning transfer to Agra and check into the Trident Hotel where one night is spent. Set amidst lovely gardens, fountains, landscaped central courtyards, the Trident Agra is a modern style property, built in red stone reminiscent of the Mughal era. Ideally located, it is just a 1 ½ kilometres from the famous Taj Mahal.
Lunch at the hotel. Visit the impressive 16th century Agra Fort, which was started in 1565 by Akbar with later additions made by his son, Jahangir, and grandson, Shah Jahan. Continue to the white marble Tomb of Itimad ud Daulah, known as the Baby Taj, considered to be the forerunner of the Taj Mahal and profusely decorated with non-precious stone inlay work. End the afternoon with a visit to the Taj Mahal, the world’s greatest monument to love and devotion, with its superb craftsmanship of semi-precious stones inlaid into the marble in beautiful patterns, a process known as pietra dura. Dinner at the hotel.
Dawn visit to the Taj Mahal before returning to the hotel for breakfast. Transfer (with luggage) to Delhi and check into the Taj Mahal Hotel, where two nights are spent. One of the most distinguished addresses in the national capital, The Taj Mahal Hotel is located in the exclusive residential area of Lutyens’ Delhi, close to the seat of government.
Late lunch at the hotel. Afternoon visit to Qutb Minar, the world’s tallest brick minaret, and Humayun’s Tomb, an early example of the ornate Moghul style. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning drive through Sir Edwin Lutyens’ New Delhi, passing India Gate and the Parliament Building. Also visit Rashtrapati Bhavan – the President’s residence – where there is a visit to the famous Mughal Gardens designed by Lutyens for Lady Harding.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon rickshaw ride through Old Delhi’s bustling and vibrant Chandni Chowk market place and a visit to the Jama Masjid Mosque, the largest mosque in India. Continue to the fascinating Crafts Museum and the old fort of Purana Qila where there are excellent views across New Delhi. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning transfer to Delhi International Airport for a Jet Airways early afternoon flight to London arriving in the late afternoon.
Above and beyond expectations - very reassuring to know easy aspect to support before and during hol.- PC, Peru and Galapagos, 2014