Highlights of North India - 13 Days

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Day 1. Delhi

Overnight – The Oberoi New Delhi

Most flights arrive either in the evening or at night, and we strongly recommend that our guests consider arriving at least a day earlier. Meet your assigned representative from VIP Arrival Services as you exit the jet bridge from your plane at Delhi Airport. You are privately escorted through the complete arrival process, including immigration, baggage claim, and customs.
  • VIP Jet Bridge Arrival & Transfer
Street Musician at Jaipur

Next you will be greeted by your Connoisseur Guide and driven to your top-ranked luxury hotel – check-in is available by 3 pm. Your suite at the Delhi Oberoi includes 24-hour butler service and access to the Resident’s Lounge with its associated benefits, and you are next to the historic Delhi Golf Club – tee time and more can be reserved with your tour.

Day 2. Delhi

Overnight – The Oberoi New Delhi

Recommended Morning Visit – India’s National Museum. This short museum visit will enhance the unique experiences that await you. There are a plethora of exhibits and artifacts and a comprehensive tour would take a few days. We recommend at least a short walk with your guide through the Pre-History Gallery’s Harrapan Collection, which displays amazing artefacts from the Indus Valley Civilization, one of mankind’s four ancient civilizations. Highlights among these invaluable artifacts are as old as 10,000 BC ago and include sophisticated pottery, tools, coins, and jewelry, and a lot more. Please let us know if you prefer a more comprehensive tour.

Begin your exploration of Delhi with a short drive through some of Lutyens’ historic New Delhi. You can stop for views of the exterior of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the massive home of India’s President, and the India Gate, a War Memorial to the 84,000 British Indian Army soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War. These sights are progressively becoming harder to explore on foot and we recommend a drive by viewing for all but the most interested.

Continue your exploration after another short drive to the magnificent tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, one of Delhi’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites for excellent reasons. Completed in the year 1562, the massive tomb’s perfect symmetry is quite magical to behold, and its unique beauty is enhanced by the surrounding manicured gardens. Your guide will reveal fascinating aspects of the structure as you walk around the tomb. You have the option to break for lunch at this point. There are multiple dining options nearby, including restaurants at your hotel.

  • Qutab Minar – UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Humayun’s Tomb – UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Historic Lutyen’s New Delhi
  • Langar Ritual at Historic Sikh Temple
  • Lodi Art District (Incredible Street Art)
  • Measurements by Tailor
Humayun Tomb

Next you will be driven to the Qutab Minar Complex. The large campus has a number of interesting ruins from different epochs in Indian History, all towered over by the Qutab Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built as a symbol of victory in a legendary battle, the awe-inspiring 12th Century Qutab Minar is 240 feet high and is still the tallest brick-built minaret on our planet.

The Minar’s massive size, and the scale and beauty of its seemingly sculpted exterior are hard to describe in words. The intricate carvings and inlaid calligraphy on its curved sides add to the effect and create an unmatched visual experience.

Within the Qutab complex, amidst the ruins of the once spectacular Quwat-ul-Islam Mosque, stands the legendary 2500-year-old Iron Pillar. The pillar stands 23 feet and 8 inches tall, weighs about 7000 pounds, and has inscriptions that are still legible to a great extent. This massive cast iron structure is said to have been moved from its distant cave shelter to Delhi around the 12th century.

Very near your hotel is the Lodi Art District and this will be your last experience today. The quality of the street art found here will both surprise and delight you. The subject matter includes a focus on women, and ranges from colorful visualizations by international artists to unique perspectives of everyday life in Delhi and India. Here is a Google Arts and Culture presentation on the Lodi Art District – https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/lodhi-art-district-st-art-india/NQKi787tb1GHJA?hl=en.

Day 3. Delhi

Overnight – The Oberoi New Delhi

We recommend a start around 9 :45 AM to avoid traffic. You are driven to ancient Old Delhi, where your exploration will focus on three historic masterpieces. One of the world’s largest populations flourished among these three attractions during the Mughal Dynasty’s two and a half century reign from the Red Fort. The Red Fort and Jama Masjid were built by Shah Jahan, the emperor who created the Taj Mahal. The now nearby Yamuna River ran directly on one side of the large forted city inside the Red Fort, and the bazaar and the mosque lay on the other side, surrounded by a city full of people.

Start by enjoying an easy walk through ancient and crowded Chandni Chowk Bazaar. This walk is a cultural revelation and it can be as short or long as you want. This massive shopping and mixed-use area is home to the world’s largest spice market and a lot more. As you begin the walk you will experience the sounds, smells, and colors of Chandni Chowk which, even today, is one of Delhi’s major wholesale and retail markets, as well as a street food destination. It’s narrow roads and alleys are surrounded by historic buildings with architecture featuring intricately carved facades, domes, and arches.

Next up is an e-rickshaw ride in the same area that ends at the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid (1650 A.D.). The Masjid is a magnificent example of Mughal architecture and is constructed of red sandstone and white marble. It is an active place of worship and its courtyard can hold 25,000 worshippers. Bare legs and shoulders are not permitted inside the mosque and we include sarongs for those who need them.

  • Red Fort – UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Jama Masjid – Ancient Mosque
  • Ancient Bazaar & Spice Market Walk
Jama Masjid

After a break for lunch, you will visit the incredible Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site described by the World Heritage Convention as “representing the zenith of Mughal creativity”. The massive sandstone walls of the octagonal Red Fort range from 59 to 108 feet, and the 1.5 mile long span is made even more imposing by turrets and bastions at multiple strategic spots. You can experience how the emperors lived and ruled, how the noblemen ran the kingdom, how the women’s section operated with the support of eunuchs, how food, water, and waste were handled, and much more with your guide.

After exploring the Fort, you are driven back to your hotel so that you can arrive before Delhi’s rush hour begins.

Day 4. Delhi – Varanasi

(Overnight – Taj Nadesar Palace)

Join your guide for the drive to Delhi Airport and the flight to Varanasi (Banaras). Food and soft drinks are served in business class, and you can also decide to eat something soon after arrival at Varanasi. India’s holiest city is the oldest continuously inhabited city on our planet with a history that dates back five millennia.

Your first stop at Varanasi will be Sarnath, a major Buddhism Site. The massive Dhamekha Stupa is located exactly where the Buddha preached his first sermons to his five disciples. A smaller Stupa at this spot is said to be one of the eight places where the Buddha’s ashes were placed, and 2300 years ago Emperor Ashoka, who is credited with the spread of Buddhism in the world, expanded the structure to many times its original size.
Currently the Stupa is 143 feet high and has a 92-foot diameter, and is said to have been more than twice this size 1500 years ago. Sarnath was where the first Buddhist Sangha was formed and the area is home to a number of other ancient Buddhist monuments that you will drive by and can stop at if you want.

A highlight of the visit to Sarnath is the tiny Archaeological Museum as its collection is highlighted by the spectacular “Lion Capital of Ashoka”, the 4 headed stone lion that is India’s national emblem.

From Sarnath you will head to your Palace Hotel, the only luxury lodging in Varanasi. Set in 27 acres of gardens and organic farmland in the really crowded city, calling the small Nadesar Palace ‘boutique’ is a vast understatement. Built by the East India Company in the 18th century, it was taken over by the local Royal Family in the late 19th Century and served as a guest house for British and other Royalty during visits to India.

  • Escorted Flight
  • 2300 year old Dhamekha Stupa

Day 5. Varanasi

Overnight – Taj Nadesar Palace

Venture out to truly ancient parts of Varanasi this morning for a fascinating introduction to ancient Hinduism and its deep connections to society. You will walk through the narrow lanes and alleys to discover a way of life that has not changed much over the past few millennia. Varanasi has been a center of learning, spirituality, and trade since ancient times. It is regarded as a sacred city by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists, who believe that a pilgrimage here can help achieve moksha, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Return to your palace for a little while. Acceptable dining options are very limited in Varanasi and we recommend lunch at the palace before heading out in the afternoon. You are driven to an outlying Ghat on the holy river to begin your introduction to the fascinating rituals, ceremonies, and plethora of activities that are everyday life on the Holy River. It is a lot less crowded on these Ghats before the evening ceremony and sunset rituals, and this allows for a close-up look as pilgrims and locals go about their rituals and related activities.

You can opt for a guided walk on Varanasi’s main cremation ghat, located close to the main Aarti ghats. Your guide will be happy to go into details about the cremation rituals and Hinduism beliefs, and you will be going by this Ghat with its eternal pyres during both your sunset and sunrise cruises on the river.

  • Ghat Walk & Sunrise River Cruise
  • Temples & Ghats of the Ganga
  • Sunset Cruise on the Ganga
  • Ancient River Ganga Arti
Family Ghat Morning Dip

Two of the can’t miss experiences in Varanasi are the sunset and sunrise cruises on the Ganga. Your walk ends with you boarding your private boat for a cruise along the river to experience all its evening activities, ending with a view of the sunset Ganga Aarti ceremony. The ceremony takes place on the crowded Dashashwamedh Ghat, the holiest place on the river, and you can add your own to the hundreds of clay lamps floating down the holy river.

We recommend that you prepare for your upcoming travel this evening. As your long day tomorrow starts before sunrise and ends in the early evening.

Day 6. Varanasi – Delhi – Agra

Overnight – Oberoi Amarvilas

Join your guide and drive to the holy river where you will board your private boat. It is a surreal experience to arrive at the Ghats (The wide steps leading to the Ganga) just before dawn and witness the eons old scene – devout Hindu’s are waiting at the holier Ghats to greet the rising sun by immersing themselves in the Ganga, while others on the wide riverbank steps meditate or practice yoga.

Your boat offers an excellent view of all the activity – women immersing themselves into the Ganga discreetly while still wearing their sarees and ascetics waist deep in the water offering prayers as they pour holy water over themselves. It is a great opportunity to experience some of Hinduisms ancient and iconic rituals, such as the ritualistic prayers as a recently deceased Hindu’s ashes are immersed in the river, while nearby another Brahmin priest orchestrates the naming ceremony of a newborn.

Return to your palace for breakfast. You are assisted with your check-out in the mid-morning and driven to Varanasi airport to board your early afternoon flight to Delhi. From the Delhi Airport you are driven to Agra on a roughly-3.5-hour journey. After exiting sprawling greater Delhi, you will be driving along lush farmland and villages on one of India’s best elevated tollways. Upon arrival at Agra, you are driven to your gorgeous luxury resort and assisted with check-in to your Taj Mahal view room.

  • Escorted Flight
  •  Special ‘Under the Stars’ Dinner

Day 7. Agra

Overnight – Oberoi Amarvilas

A note for photography enthusiasts: Although we include a sunrise and a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal, you may want to ask us to change the timing of one or both because the best photos are usually during the day. For five days a month, before, during, and after the full moon, a separate limited availability moonlight visit can also be added with prior notice.

Enjoy a sunrise visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the incomparable Taj Mahal. Morning is the best time to experience it during most of the year, except for some years during which morning fog in late December and most of January. Since it is more expensive for Indian tourists to enter at this early hour the massive monument and its surrounding Mughal gardens have a lot fewer visitors.

  • Sunrise & Sunset at Taj Mahal
  • Agra Fort – UNESCO W.H. Site
  • Agra’s Colorful Kinari Bazaar

The Taj Mahal is obviously a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we will not attempt to describe it – better writers have tried and failed. Suffice it to say that the years, expertise, and riches spent on it have bestowed mankind with its most magnificent creation. As the rising sun’s rays illuminate the precious stones inlaid in the marble they will gleam for a few moments and change colors. Return to your resort in time for breakfast and to freshen-up.

In the late morning you will experience the predecessor of the Red Fort, the Agra Fort. This UNESCO World Heritage Site Forted City was built in 1565 by India’s greatest Mughal ruler, Emperor Akbar, and much was then copied in Delhi’s larger Red Fort about 7 decades later by his grandson, the visionary builder Shah Jahan. There are unique views of the Taj Mahal from a section of the fort, including from the room where Akbar’s great-grandson Aurangzeb imprisoned his father Shah Jahan during the end of his life.

At some time in the early afternoon we recommend a visit to Agra’s ancient Kinari Bazaar. A ‘Kinari’ is a decorative edge in a fabric or other material, and here you will find sections of stores that offer a dizzying variety of tassels, borders, laces, beads, fabric and other edgings, and a lot more.

Enjoy a late afternoon visit to the Taj Mahal. You can admire the magnificent Taj Mahal in detail, and your guide will suggest spots to watch the setting sun’s rays play on the facade of the world’s finest monument. Return to your gorgeous resort that is a very short walk or drive away.

Day 8. Agra – Ranthambore

Overnight – Oberoi Vanyavilas

You can enjoy a late lunch at your resort in Ranthambore today, or have your Agra resort pack a to-go snack for the drive. You are assisted with your check-out from your resort and then you are driven to the Chand Baori stepwell at Abhaneri, located just off the highway before you turn into the countryside towards Ranthambore.

The massive 10th century Chand Baori stepwell is one of the most impressive in all of India and is located next to a charming Rajasthani village. The depth of the stepwell is that of a modern 7 story building, and there are stairs (no longer accessible to visitors) leading down to the bottom from three of the four 100 foott wide sides, creating the symmetry and beauty of the ancient structure. It highlights this travel article – https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/india-beautiful-stepwells-spc/index.html.

Upon arrival at Ranthambore National Park you are assisted with your check-in to your tent at the Oberoi Vanyavilas. This beautiful lush jungle camp is located at the edge of the National Park, and privacy is added to the luxury tents by handmade clay walls that surround your tent and its outdoor areas.

Since 2006 we have tracked the percentage of tiger sightings for our guests in Ranthambore National Park. More than 85% of our guests have had tiger sightings during this period, with most of them getting multiple sightings. The number of tigers in India’s best parks has steadily increased over the last decade, and good sightings are now even more frequent.

  • Beautiful 10th Century Stepwell

Day 9. Ranthambore

Overnight – Oberoi Vanyavilas

Enjoy private jeep wildlife safaris into the park in the morning and afternoon. As in all of India’s National Wildlife Parks, safaris are operated by the Forest Department in shared jeep and large trucks. Your safaris will be just for you in a private jeep with the driver and forest department naturalist. Having the extra space allows for better views and photo opportunities. Your guide can accompany you on any safari with prior notice. Ranthambore was once the Jaipur rulers’ private hunting ground. Dry deciduous forest covers most of the park, and the vegetation is lush around the many small lakes and ponds. The open grasslands that are the tiger’s favorite terrain account for much of the land on the higher slopes. This varied flora supports a large number of animals including a variety of deer and antelope, crocodiles, the sloth bear, over 320 species of birds, leopards and one of India’s highest densities of the Bengal Tiger.
  • Morn. & Aft. Private Jeep Safaris
  • 10th Century Ranthambore Fort
Alpha Male Tiger

In between safaris, you have the option of a guided visit to the 10th Century Ranthambore Fort, which is located near the main park entry gate. This excursion does have a fairly steep climb with almost 300 stairs that are always surrounded by dozens of monkeys busy in their daily activities. The massive Fort is one of the finest examples of the ancient Hindu concept of Vana-Durg, or a fort protected by a jungle. There are superb views of the park to be had from its ramparts.

Day 10. Ranthambore – Jaipur

Overnight – Rambagh Palace

Enjoy your last safari this morning and return to your jungle resort for breakfast. This morning’s schedule is flexible. You can check out at noon and have lunch at Ranthambore, or you can leave in the mid-morning and have a slightly late lunch at Jaipur – the drive normally takes from 3 to 3.5 hours. Whenever you are ready, you are driven to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Jaipur.

Upon arrival at Jaipur, you are assisted with your check-in at the Maharaja’s former residence, the Rambagh Palace. Jaipur’s most magnificent lodging is located next to the Rambagh Golf Course and tee time and more can be reserved with your tour.

While you are at the palace, we recommend dinner at an incredibly charming and atmospheric venue. The unique Steam Bar & Restaurant on the Rambagh Palace grounds is comprised of a lovingly restored 19th century narrow-gauge steam train and a recreated colonial era railway station – you can eat in the train compartments or on the authentic colonial era platform next to the train.

  • Morning Wildlife Private Jeep Safari
  • Drive to Jaipur. Try Indian Garments
  • Special Candlelit Palace Dinner

Day 11. Jaipur

Historical Suite – Rambagh Palace, Jaipur

Begin your exploration of the walled pink city of Jaipur. You will start with a stroll through the fascinating main bazaar in the heart of the pink city and watch the locals as they shop for pretty much everything a consumer can possibly want. This atmospheric and crowded bazaar has multiple rows of sellers, starting from the sidewalks and ending at the sometimes centuries old brick-and-mortar stores.

There are rows of busy street vendors with their displays or carts, usually offering fresh produce or inexpensive everyday essentials. Behind them the brick-and-mortar stores sell their wares in sections of the bazaar that focus on similar products. Almost everything under the sun has a section in this massive web of a bazaar, which includes scores of byzantine alleys leading into inner courtyard shops that only the locals know about.

A short walk or drive will bring you to the most photographed of Jaipur’s monuments, the enchanting Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Wind). This intriguing facade was built in 1799 so that the ladies of the court could use its unique windows and observe the bustling bazaar without being visible to the people on the streets.

Lunch today is when you are ready – there are multiple dining options, including your palace hotel. For an interesting meal within the Pink City bazaar area, we recommend the excellent cafe at the tiny boutique hotel, The Johri. Locally sourced fresh organic vegetarian cuisine is served here, and the Indian chaat items are recommended.

  • Amer Fort – UNESCO W.H. Site
  • Galtaji (Monkey Temple) Temples
Hawa Mahal

One of the wonders you will visit today is the Jantar Mantar (UNESCO World Heritage Site), an amazing stone observatory that was built by the founder of Jaipur in 1728. Beloved Sawai Raja Jai Singh was passionate about architecture, mathematics and astronomy, and had five stone Jantar Mantar astronomical observatories built in India, all of which allow calculations by the naked eye. The most impressive of these is at Jaipur, where a massive stone sun dial that is accurate to within 2 seconds.

Located next to Jantar Mantar is your next experience, City Palace, the royal residence. Members of the family still occupy a part of the palace complex that is closed to the public. You will enter through grand painted entrances and unique courtyards and experience how Jaipur royalty lived and worked over the last 2 plus centuries, and the beautiful artwork and other trappings they surrounded themselves with. You can visit your choice of the palace’s small museums that include displays of local armor, miniature paintings, and a large and impressive collection of ancient royal garments and accoutrements.

Optional activity: Jaipur is India’s shopping mecca for all sorts of exquisite hand-crafted items, including fabrics, carpets, pottery and jewelry, and those who are interested in shopping can have their Guide serve as a personal shopper.

Day 12. Jaipur.

Overnight – Rambagh Palace

You first experience this morning will be at the exterior of the Albert Hall Museum to admire the gorgeous Indo-Saracenic architecture. The building was completed in 1887 by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob and the extremely ornate structure was built out of marble and stone by Rajasthan’s unmatched craftsmen. Its exterior walls are painted with depictions of ancient civilizations. Rudyard Kipling (himself the son of a museum curator) on a visit was so impressed that he wrote “it is now a rebuke to all other museums in India from Calcutta downwards”.

We recommend touring some of the museums exhibits as, being Rajasthan’s State Museum, it was designed to reflect Rajput design and color. You can explore the sections that interest you, picking from many fascinating collections of historic craftsmanship such as pottery, jewelry, weavings, sculptures, paintings, to a collection of coins spanning many eras of India’s long history.

From the Albert Hall you are driven into Jaipur’s Aravalli Hills and the ancient Hindu pilgrimage site of Galtaji. The 15th Century group of temples here are sometimes called the Monkey Temple because of a large troop of monkeys makes their home in this part of the hills. They jump into and swim around the main pond with reckless abandon and their social behavior and grooming rituals can be fascinating to watch.

The picturesque complex of temples has seven ponds that are fed by springs on the surrounding hilltops. You can explore inside the beautiful pink stone Galtaji Temple, and there are other ancient temples in the complex for those interested. The Rajasthani architecture makes them very different from most temples in North India. A bit of an uphill hike can bring you to the hilltop Sun Temple.

  • Qutab Minar – UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Humayun’s Tomb – UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Historic Lutyen’s New Delhi
  • Langar Ritual at Historic Sikh Temple
  • Lodi Art District (Incredible Street Art)
  • Measurements by Tailor
Amer Fort and Palace

You have many options for lunch today from which your guide will assist you in selecting. Your last and most awe-inspiring experience in Jaipur is the gargantuan Amber Fort and Palace complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 16th century complex sprawls over a number of hills and their valleys, with rolling defensive walls surrounding the hills around it and was home to the Jaipur Royal Family for about a century and a half.

The massive citadel is visually stunning from the ground with just the façade of the visible walls, towers, gardens, and ramparts as they conform to the contours of the hills. Inside the citadel the views only improve, but now, changing the scale, it is time to admire the intricacy and creativity in the breathtakingly beautiful displays in chambers and hallways that you will experience. You will see how the king lived and ruled, how the noblemen ran the kingdom, how the proud Rajasthani Queens ran the women’s section, how food, water, and waste were handled, all while admiring the wonderful architecture and craftsmanship.

Day 13. Jaipur – Delhi – International Flight.

Although your guide and chauffeur driven vehicle are available to you this morning if you desire to explore more (after checking out), we recommend that you enjoy this morning at leisure for your last couple of hours at your gorgeous palace.

You are assisted with your check-out just before noon, and then you can choose to enjoy lunch there, or at a restaurant in the city before you are driven to the Delhi airport for your international flight. At the airport you will be introduced to your Airport VIP Services Representative who will escort you through check-in, customs and immigration.
Our services end at Delhi Airport.

  • Historic Flora Fountain
  • Prince of Wales Museum
  • Dhobi Ghat
  • Marine Drive
  • Hanging Gardens

Lodging Details

Destinations Lodgings
Delhi
The Oberoi New Delhi – Oberoi Suite
Varanasi
Taj Nadesar Palace – Historical Suite
Agra
Oberoi Amarvilas – Premier Balcony Room with Taj View
Ranthambore
Oberoi Vanyavilas – Luxury Tent
Jaipur
Rambagh Palace – Historical Suite

Inclusions 

  • Daily breakfast at all the hotels except for Arrival Day
  • Accompanying Connoisseur Guide to assist you during your on-tour flights & drives
  • 3 Private Jeep Safaris at Ranthambore National Park
  • All safari related costs at Ranthambore, including park entry, naturalists, vehicle fees etc.
  • Sunrise and sunset boat cruises on the holy river in Varanasi
  • Sunrise and Sunset visits to the Taj Mahal
  • E-Rickshaw Ride in Old Delhi
  • Lunches/Dinners include regular hotel bottled water
  • A Supplement to include Lunches and Dinners is available but not recommended
  • Hotel check-in is at 3pm and checkout is at noon for almost all the hotels
  • All transfers and sightseeing by personal luxury vehicle
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi in all vehicles, except for remote regions
  • All currently applicable taxes.

Exclusions

  • International Travel
  • Expenses of a personal nature like tips, laundry, telephone calls, etc.
  • All alcoholic and non-alcoholic premium beverages during included meals
  • Meals other than those specified above
  • Travel insurance, visa etc.
  • Camera fees for professional DSLR (Over 200 mm lens) and Video Cameras

Pricing

1st October – 20th December, 2023 / 5th January – 15th  April , 2024

Occupancy Rooms/Suites On Tour Flights Cost
Double Occupancy
* Per Person
* Per Person
Single Occupancy
*
*

Check Availability Or Ask Questions

This Exclusive Journey has very limited availability and online reservations are not possible. Some of the included luxury boutique resorts are very small and the few enhanced room/suite types we use can be sold out months in advance. Yes, even in 2022! Please fill out the Inquiry Form to see if your choice of dates is available.

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