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Highlights of North India

Overview

A thorough introduction to unique wildlife, fascinating culture and spectacular Moghul architecture.
Northern India will provide the visitor with memorable and colourful sights and experiences including the Taj Mahal, the holy River Ganges, tigers, turbans, saris, great food and rickshaws. We visit Fatehpur Sikri and the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, home to the wonderful former Maharaja's Palace and the splendid hilltop Amber Palace. Agra and the serene Taj Mahal are must-see experiences any visit to India and we are certain they will live up to all your expectations.
For many, Varanasi is the city that lingers longest in the memory; located on the River Ganges it is one of the most sacred in India. Religion dominates life with throngs of pilgrims around countless Hindu temples and ghats, creating an unforgettable onslaught of the senses. For a change in pace we visit the tranquil Ranthambore National Park that boasts an abundance of prey animals, monkeys and bird life - a truly wonderful spectacle, especially if you see the elusive tiger!

 

Day1
Arrive Delhi; transfer to Jaipur, 5 hour drive to Jaipur.

 

Day2
Built in the late 18th century, Jaipur consists of a plethora of broad sandstone avenues, which were later painted pink. In the centre of Jaipur is the City Palace, formerly the residence of the Maharaja. It is now a fine museum which contains rare manuscripts, paintings, royal garments and weapons. Close to the palace is one of the most intriguing sights of India: the observatory of Jai Singh. This is an assembly of colossal astronomical instruments, which are made of marble and brass, and are set in a pleasant garden. You will also see another of Jaipur's impressive landmarks: the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. A few miles from the main city is the splendid Amber Palace, which rises above a lake where you may see elephants bathing. The imposing hilltop palace contains large courtyards and exquisitely decorated interiors, including alabaster panelling and a chamber of mirrors. You can then walk up the hill through the enormous gateway to the courtyard. There are also a number of handicrafts that you can see in Jaipur, such as durries (woven rugs), carpets, printed cloth, semi-precious stones and leatherwear.

 

Day3
You will windy our way through the villages of rural India to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (approximately a 5 hour drive). You will stay in a hotel near the park entrance, and make two game drives into the park: one in the late afternoon, and one in the morning. Ranthambore is one of India's tiger reserves under Project Tiger. After the project’s initial success, poaching has drastically reduced the tiger population, and the chance of spotting a tiger is slim, but not obsolete! There is other wildlife, too, such as several species of deer, crocodiles, and bird life, including purple heron, kingfishers, cormorants, parakeets, jacanda, waders and partridges.

 

Day4
In the morning, you will take your second game drive, and attempt to find that elusive tiger! Following this, you will begin your journey to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri. Formerly the capital of the Mughal Empire, this wonderfully preserved 'ghost town' was constructed by Emperor Akbar between 1570 and 1585, and reflects his ideals in art, religion and architecture. This impressive and well-preserved citadel became his capital in 1571, after the blessing of a local Moslem holy man correctly predicted the birth of a longed-for son, his successor the Emperor Jehangir. The mosque, designed to hold ten thousand worshippers, as well as the palaces, residences and halls, are all constructed from decorative red sandstone. The Mughal city lasted only 14 years before, in 1584, Akbar left Fatehpur Sikri to secure his outlying territories, leaving this city much as you will be able to see it today. The site is one of the most atmospheric in northern India, and, since it is positioned on a ridge, it overlooks the modern village below. Its wonderful state of preservation provides us with a taste of this city's majestic past. This is a very full, but very rewarding, day.

 

Day5
You will have a very early start to see the incredible spectacle of the sunrise over the Taj Mahal. The Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan had this beautiful marble landmark built in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. The Taj is serenely beautiful and never fails to amaze a first time visitor; the white marble exterior changes colour according to the position of the sun during the day, the beauty of which is matched only by the rich interior detail. Nearby is the imposing Red Fort of Akbar, the third of the Moghul emperors. The mighty sandstone walls of the Red Fort enclose the beautiful white marble Pearl Mosque, and the palaces, halls, courtyards and fountains of his sons and successors, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. It is here that the latter spent his final years, imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb. Agra also offers a wide variety of handicrafts including jewellery, carved marble statues, carpets, and clothes, and there should be time for some shopping! Later in the day, we will transfer to Agra train station in order to catch the overnight sleeper train to Varanasi.

 

Day6
We arrive in Varanasi in the morning and transfer to our hotel. Varanasi, situated on the River Ganges, is one of the most holy cities in India, and is central to the Hindu religion. As such, the city lives and breathes Hinduism: there are thousands of pilgrims, wandering holy men (Sadhus), religious leaders, as well as casual visitors. Immerse yourselves in the city by exploring its maze of narrow lanes, the numerous temples, and watch the Hindu ceremonies that occur around the clock. There will be time for you to explore the emporiums that specialise in silk and brocades, or maybe have a massage by the banks of the Ganges. There are various optional sightseeing trips that your leader will organise for the group, during your two days in Varanasi, if you wish.

 

Day7
Just before dawn, you will be taken out on the Ganges in a boat to witness the extraordinary spectacle on the ghats, the steps leading down to the river. Every day thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to these three miles of riverbank to immerse themselves in the waters. The rest of the day is free for you to continue to explore the city, relax at the hotel, or go on optional sightseeing excursions. In the late afternoon you will board the overnight train back to Delhi.

 

Day8
You will arrive in Delhi in the morning and transfer to the hotel. Today you are free to relax, explore the sites of New and Old Delhi (an optional sightseeing trip will be organised if you wish) or you can do some last minute shopping!

 

Day9
After breakfast depart transfer.

 

Profile
Travel is by private air-conditioned bus, air-conditioned sleeper trains, canters, rickshaws and boat.

 

Accommodation
6 nights hotels, 2 nights sleeper trains.

 

Food
All breakfasts included.

 

What to Expect
This itinerary is designed in such a way that you will be able to experience the best parts of Northern India in a short period of time. Therefore this is a jam-packed itinerary. There is a lot to see in the time you are there, but everything is scheduled so that it doesn't feel too rushed. You should come equipped for an all-encompassing experience: India can be hard work and the heat and bustle of some of the cities can be a little overwhelming. That said, there are places where you can find peace and there are few places in the world where you will return with great anecdotes, photographs, souvenirs and memories that will last a lifetime.

 

Group size and age
4 min, 16 max, plus leader and local guides. Minimum age 16.

 

Wildlife
Trips may be wholly wildlife focused, or contain an element of wildlife viewing within a less specific itinerary.

 


What kind of food should I expect?
There is a real mix available and you won't be disappointed! The local cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, with lots of rice. You can enjoy everything from traditional spicy curries to stalls selling tasty sweets and desserts and even some Western food, if you want some home comforts. Vegetarians and 'non-spicy' food people are easily catered for, and the leader will make sure a wide range of dishes are ordered for each meal.

 

 

What is the overnight train like?
The overnight trains in India are nothing if not an experience! You will normally be booked in 2-Tier sleeper A/C, although this can vary depending on business. All seats are pre-allocated at the time the tickets are issued, meaning that we are not able to guarantee the whole group are together on the train but your leader will manage this as best as possible and will always check on you during the journey. You could end up sitting beside a Mumbai businessman or a sadhu on pilgrimage! There is usually a stream of friendly hawkers, chai boys and fascinating faces passing through at all hours, which makes for a memorable experience and one you won't forget!

 

 

Will the hotels have towels?
The hotels you stay at will all be good quality, with en suite facilities. As such, towels are usually provided but it's always a good idea to pack an emergency one in the end of your bag as well, just in case. You may have an odd night where the standard is slightly lower but this will usually be due to where you are and, as such, limited by what is available.

 

 

Any good shopping tips for India?
Where do you start?! Half the joy of shopping in India is the sheer scale of what's on offer, from upscale boutiques in New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta to the crowded and sweaty markets of pretty much any town or village you come to. Handicrafts, art, leather goods, spices, hand carved statues, silk, the list goes on - all the way to cheap knock offs of western brands!
Remember, outside of the proper shops, haggling is the key but don't waste your time trying to split the difference over a few pence - the best result is when everyone comes away happy!

 

 

Do you have any advice about malaria and rabies?
We strongly recommend you contact your GP or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information.

 

 

Can I catch a Bollywood movie?
Fancy a night out in India just like the locals? Head to a Bollywood movie and join the local in an evening packed with entertainment. The Bollywood masala movies are a mixture of dance, drama and musical with a break in between as many of these movies run 3 hours movies. This gives you the option to leave the theatre discreetly should you wish. The songs and dances give the films a 60s musical feel, and you may well find the locals singing and dancing to all the songs. Movie theatres that you may want to visit are; Raj Mandir in Jaipur, Odeon in Canaught Place, New Delhi, Filmistan, Karol Bagh in New Delhi - but all cities have theatres. A word of warning--try to avoid the rush when entering and exiting the theatre and the crowded area and keep valuables with close to you zipped at all times and enjoy the show.

 

 

I have some free time in Delhi - what should I see?
Akshayadham temple. Situated on the outskirts of New Delhi in the embankment of River Yamuna, this sprawling Swaminarayan Akshardham spreads over 100 acres of land and is renowned for its carved pillars, water fountains and 20,000 statues. Made from white marble and pink stone this new temple was only completed in 2005 which makes it less well known by Western tourists or the guide books. A visit to the temple is the perfect way to explore the amazing world of Indian culture and get a unique view of the Hindu religion.
Another option is the Gandhi Smriti, a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. This building (also known as Birla House) was where Gandhi spent his last days and also the site where he was assassinated on 30 Jan 1948, giving the name of the whole street Tees (30 in Indian language) January Road. The Museum houses pictures and articles associated with the life and death of Gandhi. You can take a tour of the building including the room where he once lived and visit the garden sight where he was shot. This visit can be combined with a visit to Indira Gandhi Museum and the market of Canaught Place which are both about 10 minutes driving away.

 

 

Can you recommend a good restaurant in Delhi?
A popular restaurant situated in Old Delhi on the ground floor of Hotel Broadway is the Chor Bizarre Restaurant. It has good selection of North Indian and Kashmiri cuisine. The hotel also regularly has Indian Cultural programme in the evenings that you are recommended to check with the hotel/restaurant beforehand for reservations should you want to watch it. Also being a popular restaurant it is advisable that you make an advance table booking to avoid disappointment.

 

 

Is it possible to get visas upon arrival?
No. Indian visas must be pre-arranged in advance. Check the Indian embassy website for details.

 

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A BRIEF PROFILE of your needs and expectations should ensure a personalised, detailed, yet concise email reply from us. Information such as the following is helpful:
  • Primary purpose(s) and highlights of visit, including regions of interest.
  • Duration of stay
  • Probable number of people and short profile and level of physical challenge sought
  • Any specific queries or concerns

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