History & Culture Journey - 21 Days

Day 1. Arrive at Delhi

Overnight – The Oberoi New Delhi

Once upon a time, a modern jetliner landed at Delhi Airport.

VIP Arrival Services. 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.

The Oberoi Delhi. 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.

Once upon a time, a modern jetliner landed at Delhi Airport.

VIP Arrival Services. 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.

The Oberoi Delhi. 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.

Once upon a time, a modern jetliner landed at Delhi Airport.

VIP Arrival Services. 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.

The Oberoi Delhi. 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

National Museum. 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 BCE ago and include sophisticated pottery, tools, coins, and jewelry, and a lot more. Please let us know if you prefer a more comprehensive tour, or want to skip this visit.

Lutyens New Delhi. 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.

Humayun’s Tomb. 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 may want to have lunch at this point and options can include your nearby hotel.

Qutab Minar. 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 after a major war, the awe-inspiring 12th Century Qutab Minar is 240 feet high and is still the tallest brick-built minaret on our planet.

Iron Pillar. 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.

Lodi Art District. 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

Old 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.

Chandni Chowk Bazaar. 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.

Jama Masjid. 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. 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 - Aurangabad

Overnight – Taj Vivanta

You can opt to check-out in the morning and visit one or more of the places mentioned below, or you can choose to enjoy your hotel until noon before heading to the airport.

Lodi Gardens – This garden is spread over 90 acres in the heart of Delhi and contains the tombs of various rulers of the Pashtun Dynasty which ruled much of Northern India during the 16th century. There are lush lawns and a plethora of flowers and plants mixed in with all the monuments.

Bahá’í Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (Lotus Temple): As you approach this monument, the architectural masterpiece will captivate you from a distance. Nature’s perfect balance has been captured by the architect & creators of this masterpiece. The temple has received multiple international design awards for its architectural genius, and has received similar praise for the contentment and bliss it evokes in visitors. Marble imported from the Penteli Mountains in Greece, the same marble that was used in many ancient Greece monuments, such as the Parthenon, created the 27 beautiful petals that are laid out in clusters of 3 to make the 9 sides of the massive structure. Nine ponds surround the structure, and the complex, including its beautiful gardens, is spread over 26 acres.
While all Bahai Temples around the world have nine sides, the architect chose the Lotus Temple’s shape because the lotus represents divinity in Indian spiritual belief. It portrays the magnificence of God as the unblemished flower rises from stagnant water. In a land where all the world’s religions are practiced and where the dominant religion has an abundance of Gods and Goddesses, as well as an incredible plethora of idols, the Lotus Temple contains no idols or deities to be worshipped, and is a house of worship designed for all of humanity.
National Gandhi Museum: You are driven to the

National Gandhi Museum. The museum has a priceless collection of items associated with the Mahatma, as well as Mrs. Kasturba Gandhi, and the Indian Freedom struggle. It is also where the Mahatma was assassinated on January 30th, 1948. The Mahatma lived here for the last few months of his life, and the museum has photo, audio, and video collections of his life, along with the lives of many other prominent Indian’s that were involved in the freedom struggle. Your guide will show you around and you can select the sections that most interest you. Particularly moving is an open-air photo and mail excerpts collage that traces his life from his birth onwards.

Flight to Aurangabad. After breaking for lunch, you are driven to the airport to board your afternoon no-frills flight to Aurangabad. Arrive at Aurangabad and you are driven to your hotel and assisted with check-in to your suite. Please note that although you are staying in a top suite at the best lodging in Aurangabad, this upscale hotel does not compare with your previous luxury plus lodging.

Day 5. Aurangabad

Overnight – Taj Vivanta

The Ajanta & Ellora monuments and caves (both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites) make the city of Aurangabad India’s most amazing archeological destination. The roughly two millennium old sites are among mankind’s most amazing achievements and our guests’ often wonder why they are not more widely offered on travel itineraries. After breakfast you will head to Ajanta with a packed snack from your hotel.

Ajanta History: Buddhist monks and local craftsmen began excavating, sculpting, and painting at Ajanta in the 2nd century B.C to about 500 CE. The most significant features of these caves are the stunning murals and frescoes adorning their walls and ceilings. The incredible variety of paintings and sculptures were created in hard rock by using primitive yet ingenious lighting, tools and materials. These 28 caves are a testimony to the devotion of the Buddhists, as well as the talents of their skilled craftsmen.

Ajanta Paintings: The paintings at Ajanta primarily depict the Jataka tales, which are stories about the previous lives of the Buddha, both in human and animal form. The Ajanta paintings are known for their sophistication and skillful execution, exhibiting a detailed understanding of color, form, and perspective. The colors used are mainly mineral pigments, and the figures are characterized by their graceful and elegant forms, expressive faces, and fluid, dynamic postures. The backgrounds of the paintings often depict detailed architectural elements, palaces, or forest landscapes. They showcase an impressive sense of depth and realism, creating a rich tapestry of life during those times.

Ajanta Sculptures. Most of the sculptures at Ajanta are carved into the rock walls of the caves. There are numerous statues of Buddha in different postures, and the most common may be the depiction of him in a meditative state. Others depict Bodhisattvas—beings that seek enlightenment. There are also several depictions of Yakshas (nature spirits) and Apsaras (celestial nymphs). Some statues tell stories from the Jataka Tales depicting Buddha’s past life experiences, others feature carvings that narrate specific events like Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, preaching, and death. Apart from these, there are also several statues and reliefs of other deities and figures from Indian and Buddhist mythology.

Vertical Excavation. Of particular interest is the concept of Vertical Excavation, which was done by craftsmen hanging upside down as they chiseled away at the hard rock. Although the caves themselves are very impressive in their design and massive volume of sculpturing and excavation, it is the art inside the caves that will take your breath away. The incredible artistry and colors of the paintings and sculptures is unique – such art has not been found elsewhere on our planet.

Day 6. Aurangabad – Mumbai

Overnight – The Taj Mahal Palace

You are assisted with your checkout from your hotel after breakfast – we recommend that you leave your baggage with the bell desk until the late afternoon.

Ellora Caves. Proceed for an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ellora with a packed snack from your hotel. Explore the magnificently sculptured cave temples and monasteries of Ellora. The site at Ellora comprises 34 monastic caves carved out of the basalt hills: 12 Buddhist (caves 1-12), 17 Hindu (caves 13-29), and 5 Jain (caves 30-34) spanning a period from the 5th to the 10th centuries.

Ellora History. The Buddhist caves are the oldest and are predominantly viharas (monastic dwellings), with intricate interiors and detailed carvings. The Hindu caves are known for their deep spiritual symbolism and artistic exuberance. The Jain caves, the latest among the three, represent the Jain values of austerity and non-violence through delicate and detailed carvings.

Kailasa Temple. Among them, the Kailasa Temple (Cave 16) stands out as the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is an architectural marvel. The entire structure, including intricate carvings and sculptures, was carved out of a single piece of rock. It is supposed to evoke Lord Shiva’s abode in the Himalayas, Mount Kailash. More than 200,000 tons of rock was excavated and 6 generations of craftsmen worked for 125 years to create this masterpiece.

Daulatabad Fort. On your way back to Aurangabad you have the option to stop at Daulatabad Fort. This 14th century hilltop Fort is an impressive sight but what will amaze you is your guide’s illustration of the multiple ingenious tools that were used to make it virtually impregnable. The once sloping sides of the massive stone hill were manually carved sheer to make ascent impossible.

Flight to Mumbai. Return to your hotel to pick up your baggage and use the facilities to freshen up. We recommend that you consider eating at one of the hotel food outlets before heading to the airport. At the appropriate time you are driven to Aurangabad airport in time to board your late evening no-frills flight to Mumbai.

Taj Mahal Palace. At Mumbai your gorgeous historic hotel has an enviable location, across the street from the Gateway of India and the ocean. The legendary palace part of the hotel started construction at the end of the 19th century, and was completed in December 1902, well before the Gateway of India monument that it faces. Your suite in the Palace Wing includes Taj Club facilities and its associated benefits.

Mumbai Culture. The seaside in front of your hotel is where middle class residents of Mumbai like to spend their evenings enjoying the ocean breeze and socializing. It is a great place to walk on your own, as locals sit on the seaside promenade and street vendors hawk their wares to them, from street food to toys to foot massages! You can safely and comfortably explore the surroundings of your Mumbai lodging until the late evening.

Day 7. Mumbai

Overnight – The Taj Mahal Palace

Gateway of India. A guided city tour of historical Mumbai begins across the street from your hotel at The Gateway of India, overlooking Mumbai’s harbor. This structure was built to commemorate King George & Queen Mary’s visit in 1905 and serves as one of Mumbai’s landmarks and is home to a jetty from which ferries and tourism boats operate.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. A short drive takes you to the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most impressive structure that the British built in India, the Italian Gothic architecture and design is a delight to behold. It also happens to be one of the world’s busiest railway stations, making for quite a unique experience. Architecture and design lovers will want to spend some time here, including inside the massive and busy station.

Historic Walk. From here you will enjoy a walk, with stops every few minutes to admire historic attractions, while being surrounded by local residents going about their daily activities. The next 2 to 3 hours can be an experience where you will walk just under 2 miles, stopping frequently at a multitude of attractions, or you can ask to be driven for most, or all, of the stretch.

You will admire the historic Flora Fountain, and then, passing Horniman’s Circle and Mumbai Town Hall, you will stop to admire the fascinating architecture of Mumbai’s premier museum, designed in the Indo-Saracenic style and built in the early 20th Century. Those who are so inclined can tour the museum – it includes wonderful sections of archeology, natural history, and a lot more.

Leopold Café. We recommend an informal snack or lunch at the iconic Leopold Café, a charming and busy eatery that opened in 1871 and was one of the targets during the 2008 Mumbai terrorism attack. Many fine dining options are also available.

Dhobi Ghat. After lunch you will drive to Mumbai’s main Dhobi Ghat where you will observe the Dhobi’s doing Mumbai’s laundry by flogging the clothes on stone in the same manner that they have for more than a century. Over 100,000 pieces are laundered every day and hung to dry on seemingly unending clotheslines. Then they are all ironed and delivered to far reaching areas of Mumbai. The profession and small stone washing stations are passed on from generation to generation.

Marine Drive and Hanging Gardens. Continue your exploration by driving further on Marine Drive and go up Malabar Hill where the Hanging Gardens provide a panoramic view of the city and bay. Avoiding the infamous Mumbai rush hour traffic, you are driven back to your hotel in the mid-afternoon. Your guide and chauffeur are available to you for more explorations – we recommend that you remain near your hotel – it is the best part of Mumbai for visitors. Your gorgeous historic hotel’s extensive facilities are also well worth experiencing.

Day 8. Mumbai - Varanasi

Overnight – Taj Nadesar Palace

Join your guide for the drive to Mumbai Airport and the morning 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.

Sarnath Buddhist Site. 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 spread 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.

Lion Capital. 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.

Nadesar Palace. 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.

Day 9. Varanasi

Overnight – Taj Nadesar Palace

Walking Tour. 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.

Ghats of the Ganga. 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.

Hindu Cremations. 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.

Sunset Cruise & Ancient Ceremony. 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.

Day 10. Varanasi – Khajuraho

Overnight – The Lalit Temple View Khajuraho

Sunrise Cruise. 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.

Morning Rituals. 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.

Flight to Khajuraho. Return to your palace for breakfast. You are assisted with your check-out just before noon and driven to Varanasi airport to board your afternoon no-frills flight to Khajuraho.

Lalit Temple View. Upon arrival at Khajuraho, you are driven to your comfortable hotel and assisted with check-in to your Temple view room.

Temples Tour: Experience the awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site of Khajuraho. These magnificent examples of Hindu religious art were constructed between 900 and 1400 years ago, and are sometimes referred to as the Kama Sutra Temples. Roughly twenty thousand extremely detailed stone sculptures adorn the facades of these temples, and about 10% of the sculptures portray very explicit erotic scenes. The sophisticated design and building techniques that were used in the creation of these temples and the detailed artistry of the sculptures cannot be described in words – you have to experience them personally to grasp their impact.

You have the option of attending the sound and light show at the western group of temples in the evening – it is hard to understand and not of high quality.

Day 11. Khajuraho – Agra

Overnight – The Oberoi Amarvilas

After a slightly early breakfast, you will enjoy a scenic road journey that goes by sweeping pastoral regions and small villages. Arrive at Orchha and there is a break for lunch.

Orcha Exploration. After lunch you will experience a brief exploration of some of Orchha’s archeological treasures, built by the local Hindu kings in the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Train to Agra. After this exploration you are driven about 20 minutes to the Jhansi Railway Station. An Indian railway station is an experience an itself, always abuzz with activity as India’s vast masses travel on the world’s largest rail network. Although the stations premises are not particularly sanitary, your train and your compartment are very clean and the best that India has to offer on its passenger trains. Your seats are in the best compartment of the train, with comfortable and wide reclining seats, and great views of the rural countryside and small towns that you will pass on the 2.5-hour journey.

Your guide assists you in getting seated in your assigned seats and gets your luggage ported to the appropriate location above your seats. Refreshments are served by Indian Railways during this journey – we recommend that you refrain from consuming these (except for the bottled water).

Oberoi Amarvilas. Upon arrival at Agra, you are driven to your gorgeous luxury resort where you will check-in to your Taj Mahal view room.

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.

Day 12. Agra

Overnight – The Oberoi Amarvilas

Sunrise Taj Mahal. 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.

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.

Agra Fort. 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.

Kinari Bazaar. 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.

Sunset Taj Mahal. 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 13. Agra - Jaipur

Overnight – Rambagh Palace

You can enjoy a late lunch at Jaipur 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.

Chand Baori Stepwell. 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.

Rambagh Palace. Continue on the drive 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.

Train and Platform Restaurant. 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.

Shopping in Jaipur: 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 during your time here.

Day 14. Jaipur

Overnight – Rambagh Palace

Pink City. 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.

Bazaar Walk. 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.

Hawa Mahal. 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 people on the streets. The gorgeous design and architecture are supremely functional as they guide prevailing winds over water bodies and through ingenious lattice windows, resulting in naturally cooled chambers for the royals.

For an interesting meal within the Pink City bazaar area, we recommend the excellent cafe at the small historic lodge, The Johri. Locally sourced fresh organic vegetarian cuisine is served here, and the Indian chaat items are recommended. Other options, including fine dining at your palace hotel, are available.

Jantar Mantar. 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.

City Palace. 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.

Day 15. Jaipur

Overnight – Rambagh Palace

Albert Hall. 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.

Monkey Temple. 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.

Amer Fort: 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.

Fort Architecture and Design. 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 16. Jaipur – Mahabalipuram

Overnight – Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay

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.

Flight to Chennai. You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel in the late morning and driven to the airport and assisted with boarding your early afternoon business flight to Chennai. This is a one stop flight with a plane change at Mumbai. Your baggage will have been through checked in at Jaipur.

Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay. You are greeted at the airport and driven to your hotel in nearby Mahabalipuram and assisted with your check-in at your ocean front resort.

Mahabalipuram is a quintessential Tamil small town and is a great place to take walks and explore the local culture. The locals are very friendly and welcoming. A captivating sight can be experienced from the beach twice a day as the local fisherman head out in their colorful fishing boats early in the morning and then again when they return in the afternoon with their catch.

Day 17. Mahabalipuram

Overnight – Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay

Shore Temple & Rock Sculptures. Begin your exploration of South India with a guided tour of the ancient port of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site This laid-back coastal town south of Chennai is world famous for its 8th century shore temple and other historical marvels. The massive rock sculptures carved into softly sloping hills, monolithic temples, ancient manmade caverns with incredible sculptures and the world’s largest bas-relief in stone, all combine to make Mahabalipuram a living museum.

Vying with this splendor is a beach and the picturesque Bay of Bengal. The famous Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) Temples, the Penance of Bhagirath (also known as Arjuna’s Penance), the Shore Temple, the massive bas-relief Descent of the Ganges and the eight Mandapams (Shallow halls carved out of sheer rock) are all located within the small coastal community. Return to your resort for lunch at any time during this touring as all sights are relatively close by.

Guided Walk on the Beach. Late afternoon – Enjoy a guided walk down the beach as this allows you to mingle with the local fishing community and their colorful wooden boats. You will see a variety of activities going on – many of the fishermen are returning from their day’s work and they are going through various processes of pulling their boats up on the beach and organizing their nets and other gear. The fish are stacked into plastic bins which are then weighed right there on the beach. Now the negotiating takes place.

You will witness women repairing nets and a lot of other similar activity. Boats will be coming ashore, and some of the larger boats will actually head out at this time of day. Photo opportunities abound, including the famed 8th century Shore Temple, from which you are only a stone’s throw away.

Day 18. Mahabalipuram – Chennai – Fort Kochi (Cochin)

Overnight – Brunton Boatyard

You are assisted with your check-out from your resort after a slightly early breakfast and driven to the Chennai airport. You are assisted with boarding your no-frills (no full-service airlines fly this route) flight to Cochin.

Brunton Boatyard. Upon your arrival at Cochin Airport, you are driven to historic Fort Kochi and the bayfront location of the charming Brunton Boatyard. Built on the foundations of a historic Dutch boatyard, this boutique 22 room lodge does not boast the luxury of most of your previous hotels, but it oozes a magical charm and has incredible service levels and is by far the best lodging in the ancient historic seaport.

Sunset Harbor Cruise. Late this afternoon you can enjoy the Brunton Boatyards complimentary tea, which includes some delicious finger food and good coffee options, before boarding the Brunton Boatyard’s boat (the last boat made by the Dutch shipbuilder, over 60 years ago) and joining other hotel guests for a sunset cruise on Cochin’s massive Harbor.

Day 19. Cochin

Overnight – Brunton Boatyard

Fishing Nets. This day will start with a 1-minute walk from the Brunton Boatyard to the most photogenic of Cochin’s attractions, Kerala’s massive pole mounted fishing nets. Folklore will have it that these enormous nets (or at least their design) were brought here by famed Chinese explorer Zhang He about 600 years ago. Local fishermen manipulate these massive nets with an ease that comes from centuries of generational experience.

Ownership of the net and its prized location is handed down from generation to generation. The lowering and raising of the nets, with the fishermen deftly walking up and down the angled wooden poles and manipulating them in and out of the water with thick, well-worn ropes, has a synchronicity and rhythm that is fascinating to observe.

Historic Kochi Walk. Continue exploring more with an 8-to-10-minute walk through historic Fort Kochi’s charming streets and alleys. You will be surrounded by Portuguese, Dutch and British architecture that is home to chic small cafes, boutique stores, art galleries, and a lot more.

Basilica and Church. Arrive at Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica and experience its impressive collection of colorful artworks. A 5 minute walk from here will bring you to the St. Francis Church, which was established by the Portuguese Franciscan Friars in 1503. This was the first European church built in India and its simple yet elegant façade showcases wooden doors and arched windows, while the interior boasts ornate altar decorations and intricate carvings.

Dutch Palace. After a break for lunch a 10-minute drive through Fort Kochi will bring you to the Dutch Palace. The unattractive squat building was actually built by the Portuguese in 1555 and its beauty lies inside, where the walls are covered by exquisitely carved wooden murals depicting scenes from the epic Ramayana and really ancient Puranic tales.

Jewish Synagogue. Very near the palace is the Jewish Synagogue which was built in 1568 and is still an (barely) active house of worship for the couple of remaining Jews in the area. The synagogue is closed on Fridays and Saturdays and to get to it you will walk on Jew Street, which runs through Jew Town – you will see ancient street signs with those names as you walk past the antique stores and souvenir and art outlets. A Jewish presence existed in Kochi from at least 70 A.D. and the charming synagogue was once a busy house of worship for locals.

Spice Processing. Very near Jew Town lie the inconspicuous but thriving spice processing plants and warehouses of Mattancherry. On weekdays you can watch the finest Malabar Spices as it is processed, combining time-honored techniques and state-of-the-art machinery to preserve the flavors and essential oils of the spices. Housed in colonial-era buildings, these warehouses are characterized by their red-tiled roofs, weathered walls, and wooden accents.

Optional Cooking Lesson. Optional: In the evening you are hosted by a well-known Keralan Chef and at her home. A Keralan cuisine cooking lesson will be followed by a delicious dinner, along with opportunities to learn about their daily lives and the local culture. You will be asked about this option soon after reserving your tour.

Day 20. Cochin – Delhi

Overnight – The Oberoi Gurgaon

Cherai Exploration. You are assisted with your check-out in the mid-morning and you will now experience a public ferry ride to Cherai – your baggage will remain in your vehicle as you explore during the early afternoon, and your vehicle will take a long drive to meet you at Cherai. Visit the 19th century Azheekkal Sree Varaha Venkateswara Temple – the temple Ratha (Chariot) is unique and very impressive. You can briefly stop at the Pallipuram Church which was completed in 1577 by the Portuguese.

Flight to Delhi. You are driven to the Cochin airport and assisted with your check-in for your afternoon business flight to Delhi. At Delhi your guide assists you in getting checked-in at your gorgeous hotel and then bids you farewell. If you do not require lodging in Delhi as your international flight is on this evening, there will be a nominal cost reduction.

Day 21. Delhi – International Flight

VIP Departure Services. Check-out at the appropriate time (your room is available until noon) and a private Oberoi vehicle will transfer you to the airport. At the airport you will be introduced to your Airport VIP Services Representative who will escort you through check-in, customs and immigration.

Lodging Details

Destinations Lodgings
Delhi
The Oberoi New Delhi – Oberoi Suite
Aurangabad
Taj Vivanta – Premium Suite
Mumbai
The Taj Mahal Palace (Palace Wing) – Executive Suite 1 Bedroom
Varanasi
Taj Nadesar Palace – Historical Suite   
Khajuraho
The Lalit Temple View – Luxury Suite
Agra
Oberoi Amarvilas – Premier Balcony Room with Taj View 
Jaipur
Rambagh Palace – Historical Suite  
Mahabalipuram
Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay - Sea View Villa
Fort Kochi
Brunton Boatyard – Sea Facing Deluxe Suite  
Delhi Airport
The Oberoi Gurgaon – Deluxe Room  

Inclusions

  • Daily breakfast at all the hotels except for Arrival Day
  • Accompanying Connoisseur Guide to assist you during your on-tour flights & drives
  • 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
  • Optional Cooking Lesson & Dinner at Cochin with a Chef at her family home
  • 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

Pricing

Availability of our Journeys is Limited
Please call us at 512 387 1111
Or send us Your Preferred Dates below

Land Cost

Double Occupancy

$21,058.00* Per Person

Single Occupancy

$40,010.20* Per Person

Internal Flight Costs

Business Class

$736.00* Per Person

These are Smart Fares. Cancellation and Change Fees Apply.

Business Class Flights included in Internal Flight Costs: Cairo – Aswan – Abu Simbel – Aswan / Luxor – Cairo

Days 

1 - 21

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21