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Spirituality and mysticism have always been major attractions for people visiting India. This two-week itinerary explores them both, delving into ancient India with visits to the millennium-old caves at Ajanta/Ellora, the temples of Khajuraho, and religious Benares (also known as Varanasi). Built on the banks of the holy river Ganga (Ganges), Varanasi is the oldest living city of the world, and could well be thought of as the “Soul of India.” From ancient India, continue exploring the country’s cultural heritage under Rajput, Mughal, and British influences with visits to Delhi, Agra (for the incomparable Taj Mahal), and the Pink City of Jaipur. Also included is an overnight at the Dera Village Retreat, a perfect base for perspective on rural life of India.
Easy to Moderate Touring
Easy to Moderate Touring generally indicates walks or time on one’s feet of 3-5 hours each day during sightseeing excursions; possible adverse weather conditions (heat, humidity); and some driving on dirt or poorly maintained roads. Please note that road conditions in India leave a lot to be desired: The traffic can appear to be wild and unregulated, and horns are used more often than brakes. Bathroom facilities during excursions and long drives are frequently nonexistent or limited to the facilities at a local restaurant or shop. Overnights will be in deluxe accommodations/lodges. Elevations throughout the trip remain below 5,000 feet.
Day 1: Arrive Mumbai
You are met on arrival and escorted to your hotel. Depending on your flight schedule, you may have time to explore sites in Mumbai.
Day 2: Exploring Mumbai
Spend the day experiencing the living cultures of Mumbai: Meet the dabbawallas and see the dhobi-ghat (a manual laundry system). The dabbawallas have been the subject of international attention as they have evolved a fool-proof system of picking up countless meals from people’s homes far outside the city and delivering each one to the correct office—with virtually no mistakes. Later, visit historical sites such as the Gateway of India and the Mani Bhawan, and drive past the Victoria Terminus. Explore the Crawford Market in the afternoon.
Day 3: Fly to Aurangabad
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to board a flight to Aurangabad; you are met on arrival and transferred to your hotel, where you have the balance of the day to relax.
Day 4: Exploring Aurangabad
This morning make an excursion to the Ajanta caves, a two-and-a-half hour drive. The 30 rock-hewn caves at Ajanta, cut into the cliffside, are either chaityas (chapels) or viharas (monasteries). On the walls of the caves are paintings, many still glowing with their original colors.
Day 5: Fly to Delhi
Start the morning with a 40-minute drive to the Ellora Caves, which belong to the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain faiths. The most remarkable of the carved shrines at Ellora is the Kailasa Temple, chiseled from a single rock and lavishly carved and sculpted. After an early lunch, transfer to the airport for a flight to Delhi. You are met on arrival and transferred to your hotel, where you have the balance of the day to relax.
Day 6: Exploring Delhi
After breakfast, explore the historic sites of Old and New Delhi. The day begins with a visit to the Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Drive past the Red Fort on your way to the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Tour the bazaars of Chandni Chowk, followed by a drive past the historical India Gate, the President’s estate, and the Parliament House. The day concludes with a visit to the capital’s most striking monument, the 230-foot-high Qutab Minar.
Day 7: Drive to Jaipur
This morning, drive 5 hours to Jaipur, the home of India’s legendary Hindu warriors, whose historic forts, palaces, and gardens lend a timeless quality to this storied region. After checking in to your hotel, the rest of your day is at your leisure.
Day 8: Exploring Jaipur
You have a full day of sightseeing of Jaipur. In the morning, visit the Amber Fort, where you will have the opportunity to ride an elephant, then stop for a photo at the Palace of the Winds, or the Hawa Mahal. In the afternoon, make a visit to the City Palace, which now houses the royal residence and fine collections of textiles, costumes, armory, manuscripts, and paintings. A stop at the Jantar Mantar—a group of ancient, building-sized astronomical instruments—wraps up the day.
Day 9: Drive to Kalakho
After a relaxed breakfast, drive the two-and-a-half hours to Kalakho, a remote region of Rajasthan where you will have the opportunity to experience local village lift. On the way, visit the Abhaneri step wells, an architectural marvel. In the evening, enjoy a lively traditional folk dance performance at the Dera Village Retreat.
Day 10: Exploring Kalakho
After breakfast, ride on a camel (or in a camel cart) to a nearby village where members of the colorful Meena tribe reside; meet the villagers and learn about rural Indian life. If the school is open, you can visit and interact with the students. Your evening is free to relax.
Day 11: Drive to Agra via Fatepur Sikri
This morning drive four hours to Agra, on the way visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the ruins of Fatepur Sikri, once a capital of the Mughal Empire. The afternoon is free to relax at your hotel. In the evening, behold the glorious sight of the sun casting its mellow rays on the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the new world and surely its greatest symbol of love and devotion. (Note: The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays).
Day 12: Exploring Agra
Enjoy sunrise on the Taj Mahal before returning to your hotel for a late breakfast. Later, visit the imposing Agra Fort, which for generations served as the seat of Mughal power. Also visit Akbar the Great’s mausoleum in Sikandra; this grave complex—a Mughal architectural gem completed in 1613—owes its design to Emperor Akbar the Great himself. Expressive of its designer’s renowned religious tolerance, the mausoleum incorporates architecture from the Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Jain traditions.
Day 13: Train to Jhansi & drive to Khajuraho
Morning finds you transferring to the railway station to board the train to Jhansi. Once there, visit historic Orchha and have an early lunch in this charming town. This afternoon, drive five hours to Khajuraho. If you arrive early enough, enjoy a sound and light show this evening.
Day 14: Fly to Varanasi
This morning explore the famous carvings of the Khajuraho temples before taking the afternoon flight to the ancient city of Varanasi, the soul of India. With over 500 hundred temples, Varanasi (or Benares, as it’s also known) is the oldest living city in the country. Take a walking tour of the ghats (steps leading in to the river), followed by a sunset boat cruise on the sacred River Ganga.
Day 15: Exploring Varanasi
At sunrise, enjoy a boat ride on the Ganga, watching the Hindu pilgrims perform their time-honored rites along the ghats. Later in the day, take a walk through the lanes that crisscross the oldest part of Benares, a chance to visit the havelis of aristocratic families, communicate with locals, watch handicrafts being made, and enjoy mouthwatering delicacies. In the afternoon, visit Sarnath, where Buddha delivered his first sermon—and which remains a major center of Buddhism today.
Day 16: Fly to Delhi & Depart India
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Delhi; on arrival, transfer to a hotel to relax before returning to the airport in the late evening to check in for your flight home.
Trip Dates: Private Departures – on demand year round
Trip Duration: 16 days / 15 nights
Staring City: Mumbai (airport code – BOM)
Ending City: Delhi (airport code – DEL)
Land Cost: October 2015 – April 2016*
Deluxe Hotel Option 1
(Mumbai – The Oberoi; Aurangabad – Vivanta by Taj; Delhi – The Oberoi; Jaipur – Oberoi Rajvilas; Kalakho – Dera Village Retreat; Agra – Oberoi Amarvilas; Khajuraho – Lalit Temple View; Varanasi – Nadesar Palace)
2 – 3 participants: $6153 per person
4 – 9 participants: $5846 per person
10 + participants: $5669 per person
Single Supplement: $4,079
Deluxe Hotel Option 2
(Mumbai – Taj Mahal Palace & Tower; Aurangabad – Vivanta by Taj; Delhi – The Taj Mahal; Jaipur – Jai Mahal Palace; Kalakho – Dera Village Retreat; Agra – ITC Mughal; Khajuraho – Radisson Jass; Varanasi – Radisson)
2 – 3 participants: $3,154 per person
4 – 9 participants: $2,846 per person
10 + participants: $2,675 per person
Single Supplement: $1,611
*During Pushkar season (Nov 14 – 25), the Christmas/New Year period (Dec 20 – 15 Jan) and the month of February, an additional supplement applies
Internal India Airfare (subject to change by airlines)
Mumbai – Aurangabad: $65
Aurangabad – Delhi: $70
Khajuraho – Varanasi: $60
Varanasi – Delhi: $65
IMPORTANT NOTE: Kindly note that names of hotels mentioned above only indicate that the Land Cost is based on usage of these hotels, and it is not to be construed that accommodation is confirmed at these hotels until and unless we convey such confirmation to you. In the event that any of the above-mentioned hotels are not available at the time of booking, we shall book alternate accommodation at a similar or next-best available hotel and shall pass on the difference of rates (supplement or reduction, as applicable) to you.
Included in Land Cost
• All accommodations, based on double occupancy
• All taxes and service charges
• All transportation using private, air-conditioned vehicles
• All arrival/departure airport/hotel transfers
• All entry fees at all temples, museums, and monuments on sightseeing excursions
• Breakfast every day
• Lunch and dinner while at the Dera Dune Resort
• Bottled water (two 1-liter bottles per person) every day
• Services of certified, English speaking local guides during all sightseeing excursions
• TourDirect’s Medical ($25,000), Accident and Evacuation Insurance ($500,000) and Assistance Plan
Not Included in Land Cost
• International airfare to/from India
• All internal India airfare – cost listed separately
• Movie, video, and still camera fees
• Gratuities to local staff (guides, drivers, bell boys, porters, etc.)
• Items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, laundry, phone calls, etc.
• Trip Cancellation insurance
At TourDirect, we will assist you in obtaining any necessary visas or other travel permits required for your journey, all done through our Visa Service Partner. Detailed visa instructions, application forms, and information about applicable visa fees will be included in your Pre-Departure Packet.
You must have a valid passport with an expiration date more than 6 months from the date of your return to the U.S. The passport must also have at least 2 blank pages for each country that you will be visiting in Asia.
India: Visas on arrival (with pre-authorization) are available for most nationals, but can only be applied for 30 days prior to arrival, and are valid for single entry only. Visas can also be procured prior to departure from your home country.
No immunizations are required for entry into India or to return to the U.S. However, proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from (or have recently visited) a country that has risk of yellow fever. Several immunizations are recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.
A copy of the CDC’s recommended immunization list and additional health information will be included in our Pre-Departure Packet.
Please let us know if you wish to arrive early or extend your stay to visit any other sites in India or other South Asian countries—Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka—and we will be happy to make the additional arrangements.
I cannot imagine anyone better at being a Trip Leader than Shagzil. It was a real pleasure knowing him and seeing Kerala through his eyes. Don’t lose him!
– Tony H, CA
I cannot thank you enough for helping us plan our trip across India. Your knowledge of India, combined with your sensitivity to traveling with children made us so grateful to have you guiding us through this! Thank you Sanjay!
– Laura T, CT
- Carol S, CT
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