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Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) British Airways BA 199 departing London Heathrow at 20.40 hrs.
Arrive at 11.40 hrs and transfer to the 5-star Taj Mahal Tower Hotel, centrally located in the heritage district of Colaba and overlooking the harbour, and where two nights are spent.
Lunch under own arrangements and time to relax by the lovely swimming pool before checking into rooms (guaranteed check in from 14.00 hrs). Afternoon transfer and walking tour of Bombay old town, Fort area and Kala Ghoda area. Enjoy a Parsi afternoon tea at Yazdani Bakery Café famous for its brun maska, hot toasted white buns slathered in melted butter with crunchy crusts that you dip into hot chai. Return to the hotel for a sunset stroll around Colaba and the Gateway of India. Seafood dinner at Trishna renowned for its mouth-watering garlic butter pepper crab and tiger prawns.
Enjoy a private speed boat ride to Elephanta Island to see the mysterious and dramatic 5th-century Shiva Caves, one of India’s most impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites, hardly ever visited by foreign tourists, and it is a lovely boat ride across old historic Mumbai harbour. Return from the island by boat.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Stroll through the spice and vegetable markets of Crawford Market, known as South Mumbai’s most famous market. Also visit the antique markets of Chor Bazaar, one of the largest flea markets in India. The word chor means thief in Marathi and Hindi. According to popular legend, if you lose anything in Mumbai you can buy it back from the Chor Bazaar. Walk around Khotachiwai, a hidden enclave of Portuguese mansions, and call in on Mani Bhavan. Early evening experience of the lively Chowpatty Beach food scene at dusk with quick shopping stops at Anoki and Bungalow 8. Return to the hotel. Dinner under own arrangements.
Optional walk at dawn to Sassoon Dock, Koli fishing village and market to see the fishing boats come in from a night out on the Arabian Sea with their catch. Return to the hotel for breakfast. Transfer to Mumbai Airport for a domestic flight to Udaipur, known as the gateway to Rajasthan.
Lunch under own arrangements. On arrival, transfer to the 18th century palace, Raas Devigarh Hotel. The hotel is nestled in the Aravalli Hills, holding a commanding position over one of the three main passes into its valley. Enjoy a walk in the Delwara village, visiting many temples and the beautiful stepwell which is a marvellous example of stone carving and is about 15 metres deep.
Drive to Narhdwara. Visit the famous Krishna temple, Shrinathji, a 12th-century idol of Krishna and the temple’s namesake. Originally situated on Govardhan hill, near Mathura, it was moved to Nathdwara in the 17th century to protect it from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s campaign against Hindu worship in his empire.
Lunch under own arrangements. Rest of the day at leisure enjoying all of the hotel’s amenities. Dinner at the hotel.
Check out of the hotel and transfer to the luxurious Jawai Leopard Camp, encapsulated in a landscape of towering granite formations, caves, kopjes, Anogeissus scrub and winding sand riverbeds. Check into the camp.
Late lunch at the camp. Afternoon leopard game drive, hopefully getting the chance to sight the enchanting leopard. Safari / hunter dinner in a secret outdoor location.
Early morning leopard game drive, stopping off for a bush breakfast and a curated Rabari shepherd encounter. Rabari translates itself to outsiders which is because of their trade and what they used to do in times past. They have roamed the deserts and plains of what is today western India for almost 10 centuries. Check out of the camp and transfer to Lakshman Sagar Hotel.
Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning village and farm walks.
Light lunch at the hotel. This afternoon enjoy the local area and grounds followed by a cooking demonstration. For dinner this evening the group will cook their own dinner using the ingredients gathered on the farm and village walks earlier in the day.
Check out of the hotel. Late morning drive to Jodhpur and check into the 5-star Raas Hotel where two nights are spent. The whole hotel is overlooked by Mehrangarh, an awe-inspiring 15th-century fort looming 400 feet above the Jodhpur skyline.
Lunch under own arrangements. Afternoon walking tour of the markets, cafes and the old town. There will be a chance to have a taste of the famous local lassi at the Gateway Clock Tower. Return to the hotel. Dinner at the hotel.
Early morning drive up to Jaswant Thada, a cenotaph located in Jodhpur, built by Maharaja Sardar Singh of Jodhpur State in 1899 in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, and serving as the cremation ground for the royal family of Marwar. Explore the cenotaph’s grounds featuring carved gazebos, a tiered garden and small lake. Continue to Mehrangarh Fort which spreads over five kilometres of perpendicular hill and houses a palace, intricately adorned with long carved panels, latticed windows exquisitely wrought from red sandstone, and a turban museum.
Lunch under own arrangements. Walk or drive back to the hotel. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Enjoy a special outdoor stepwell dinner.
Drive to Nagaur, one of the most picturesque of Rajput townships surrounded by massive ramparts. Between the 12th and the 16th centuries it was important as a resting place for traders and travellers and became a centre for sufisim. At its heart is the Ahichattragarh Fort, the setting for the World Sufi Spirit Festival. This spectacular Rajput-Mughal bastion dates to the 5th century and its Baradari or courtyard has walls painted with beautiful murals in a synthesis of the Persian and Nagaur styles. Check in at Ranvas Nagaur, where two nights are spent.
Lunch under own arrangements at the hotel. Afternoon private tour of Nagaur Fort. Enjoy a special outdoor stepwell dinner.
Morning hike around the perimeter of the 12th-century fort’s magnificent ramparts, peering down onto the busy streets of Nagaur below.
Lunch under own arrangements at the hotel. Afternoon desert excursion and jeep safari with high tea and Sufi shrine tour. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning departure (with luggage) for Bikaner and check into the Narendra Bhawan Hotel where one night is spent. It was once the home to the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner, who was influenced by the Bombay art deco movement, a love of travel and contemporary European tastes which can be seen in the décor of the hotel.
Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon tour of Bikaner Old Town. The labyrinth of narrow, winding streets conceals a number of fine havelis, and a couple of notable Jain temples. The old city is encircled by a 7km-long, 18th-century wall with five entrance gates, the main entrance being the triple-arched Kothe Gate. Return to the hotel. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning at leisure. Check out of the hotel and drive to Bikaner airport for a domestic afternoon flight to Delhi.
Lunch under own arrangements. Upon arrival, transfer to the Trident hotel for one night. Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) British Airways BA 256 departing Delhi at 11.05 hrs arriving London Heathrow at 15.20 hrs.
It was a complicated and very individual trip, and several changes were made by me during the planning. None of this seemed to worry Ayesha and everything went according to plan.- AM, India