London – Delhi
An Overnight Flight to Delhi.
Welcome to the picturesque bustle that is Delhi. A city with two distinct faces – that of the British Raj, alongside the extravagant architecture of the Mughals. In Old Delhi your tour will take you to the Red Fort, Jama Masjid – the largest mosque in India – and Raj Ghat, the beautiful park where Gandhi was cremated. Then you’ll amble around the metropolis of broad avenues and colonial architecture characterised by Sir Edwin Lutyens in New Delhi, visiting Humayen’s Tomb and Qutab Minar, a 234 foot high fluted minaret built in the 13th century. You’ll also see sights like India Gate, Raj Path, the Parliament Building and Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president’s residence.
Stay: Two nights in a Manor room at The Manor.
A short flight takes you from Delhi to Varanasi, India’s most holy Hindu city. It sits on the banks of the sacred river Ganges and is a hectic mix of worshippers and bathers, bazaars and markets, festivals, temples, mosques and palaces. You’ll visit Sarnath where Gautama Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining nirvana. You’ll be able to browse around the enlightening Archaeological Museum containing a diversity of Buddhist relics and the Ashoka Pillar with its back-to-back lion carvings, before venturing off to the buried city ruins, stupa and temple. In the evening you’ll witness an Aarti Hindu ceremony.
Stay: One night in an executive room at the Gateway Hotel Ganges.
After a boat ride on the holy River Ganges to see the bathing and cremation sites you’ll walk through the Old City to the Mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Then another short flight takes you to Khajuraho. Prepare to be left breathless by the astounding decorated temples – no less than 22 of them – featuring exquisite Indo Aryan carvings dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Jain Thirthankar.
Stay: One night in a superior garden view room at the Taj Hotel Chandela.
Orchha - Agra
Today you travel to the beautiful town of Orchha – an atmospheric place that was built on an island in the 16th century. Today you’ll find a fortified palace with turreted walls embracing romantic gardens, grand gateways, pavilions, temples and walls covered in frescoes. The whole palace exudes an air of graceful neglect but is, nevertheless, breath-taking. In the afternoon you stop at Jhansi to board your express train to Agra.
Obviously the highlight of your trip to Agra is a visit to the wonderful Taj Mahal, but you’ll also tour the famous Agra Fort, with its views of both the Taj Mahal and the inspiring ‘Baby Taj’ – the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. Make sure your camera is fully charged – the glittering white marble of the Taj Mahal is supremely photogenic from any angle.
Stay: Two nights in a Mughal room at the ITC Mughal.
Fatehpur Sikri - Ranthambore
From Agra you drive to the Fatepur Sikri, the astonishing red sandstone city and palace of Emperor Akbar, built in the 16th century but then abandoned when its wells ran dry – leaving perfectly preserved buildings for today’s sightseers. In the afternoon you take the express train from Bharatpur to Ranthampore.
At Ranthambore National Park you’ll have 400 sq miles to explore. The park has a huge diversity of game, including tigers, and a large number of exotic bird species – many of which you’ll see on early morning game drives and late afternoon safaris to catch the animals as they come down to numerous lakes and watering holes to drink. You’ll return again to watch one of the country’s most impressive sunsets.
Stay: Two nights in luxury cottage at Khem Vilas.
Ranthambore - Jaipur
You have time for another early morning game drive – you’ll see something different every day – before taking a four hour drive through interesting countryside to the magnificent city of Jaipur. The City of Victory, also known as the Pink City because of its rosy toned stone, was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. You’ll visit his previous court at Amber, riding round the deserted complex on an elephant and visiting the Hall of Victory glittering with mirrors, Jai Mahal and Temple of Kali.
In the afternoon you’ll return to Jaipur to tour the Palace of Winds and City Palace; an overwhelming collection of exquisite royal residences, gardens and courtyards, decorative art and carved doorways. Browse around the Palace Museum with its rare manuscripts, armour, costumes, carpets and miniature paintings before taking in the Astronomical Observatory, built in 1726 and still making accurate predictions to this day.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Samode Haveli.
Today you drive off to Shahpura for some chill out time amidst a garden estate that was originally the summer home of the rulers of Shahpura and is now two beautiful residences. Expect a mixture of Rajasthani architecture and colonial style, combining to give you a sensation of elegance from a bygone time.
Stay: One night in a suite at Shahpura Bagh.
Your tour of Northern India culminates in the City of Dreams. Udaipur is possibly the most romantic city in India, an enchanting mixture of white marbled palaces, sparkling blue lakes and green hills. You’ll spend your days visiting the fabulous fort at Kumbhalgarh – one of the most impressive fortresses in the ancient Kingdom of Mewar. The massive walls encompass buildings, temples and palaces, and beyond them lies a wildlife sanctuary for wolves, leopards and flying squirrels. The Jain Temples of Ranakpur in the Aravalli Valley and the Chaumukha Temple with its 29 halls and 1444 marble pillars is next on your agenda.
The following day a tour takes you to see the elephant carvings at Jagdish Temple, the grand City Palace that is actually a collection of major and minor palaces connected by a single façade. At the Crystal Gallery in the Fateh Prakash Hotel you see a rare collection of English Osler’s crystal including chandeliers, chairs, dressing tables and even a bed.
Stay: Three nights in a Renaissance room at Fateh Garh.
Udaipur – Delhi - London
Fly from Udaipur to Delhi to meet your international flight back to the UK, arriving in London in the early evening.
First class in every respect- NH, Indochina, 2013