Upon arrival at Delhi airport you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. We then plan to spend the rest of the day sight-seeing around New Delhi – the British-built side of the city. Key monuments we hope to visit include: India Gate(a memorial arch honouring soldiers who were killed in WW1), Lakshmi Narayana Temple, Rashtrapati Bhawan (the president’s house) and Humayun’s Tomb –an exquisite example of Moghul architecture, set in a magnificent formal Persian garden.
Overnight: Royal Plaza Hotel or similar
This morning we visit the Raj Ghat which is the cremation ground of the father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi and continue to the Humayun's Tomb which is believed to have been designed in 1565 AD by the widow of Mughal emperor Himayun. Its design and layout is based on the description of Islamic paradise gardens and is known to have inspired the Taj Mahal and many later Mughal tombs. The Qutab Minar has walls inscribed with intricately carved quotations from the Koran and is one of the most perfect towers of the Persian world. In the afternoon you will be transferred to the train station for your overnight journey to Varanasi aboard the Shiv Ganga Express. Food is available on board for a small additional cost though it is a good idea to ask your driver to take you to a market or shop so that you can stock up on provisions for the journey.
Overnight: Sleeper train, 2 AC compartment
Our overnight train should see us arrive in Varanasi no later than mid morning. From the station you will be transferred to your hotel where you will be given the opportunity to get breakfast and freshen up before undertaking an orientation tour of the city.
Overnight: Hotel Hindustan International or similar
Before dawn you will go on an unforgettable sunrise boat ride on the River Ganges. A principal attraction is the long string of bathing ghats where pilgrims make their morning cleansing wash in the river. Also there are the burning ghats where cremations are undertaken. Return to the hotel for breakfast. The rest of the day will be full of sightseeing activities including the old city which stands on the west bank of the sacred Ganges and extends back from the ghats in a winding maze of narrow streets. The city tour will include visits to a range of temples and sights including: Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banras Hindu University, Golden Temple (Vishwanath Temple), Aurangzeb Mosque, Monkey Temple (Durga Temple), and Mother India Temple. This will be followed by an afternoon excursion to the excavated site of Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon.
Transfer to the airport to board our flight (12:35 / 13:25) to Khajuraho. Upon arrival in Khajuraho you will be transferred to the hotel. Remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Khajuraho offers a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the busier Indian cities. You may wish to visit the local Archaeological Museum, or Adivart Tribal & Folk Art Museum which showcases the local vibrant tribal art and culture, or rejuvenate with a relaxing Ayurvedic massage treatment, or indulge in the local flavours and taste authentic north and central Indian delicacies.
Overnight: Hotel Clarks or similar
The Khajuraho temples are one of the seven wonders of India, second only to the incredible Taj Mahal. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Khajuraho temples were built during the Chandela dynasty which came into power at the beginning of the 10th century. The temples belong to the two distinct religions of Hinduism and Jainism, and are masterpieces of Indian architecture and sculpture. The sensuous and spiritual carvings that cover the Khajuraho temples are amongst the finest temple art in the world and depict all aspects of the society during that medieval period. Our tour will visit both the Western and Eastern group of Khajuraho temples. Afternoon at leisure for optional activities or sightseeing. This evening we will attend the Sound and Light show at the Temple Complex.
Transfer to Jhansi railway station (172 km – 4 hours approximately), en route visiting Orchha. Lunch at Orchha Resort. Arrive at Jhansi station to board Train 12001 Bhopal New Delhi Shatabdi Express (17:55 / 20:25) for Agra. Upon arrival in Agra, transfer to the hotel.
Overnight: Hotel Howard Plaza or similar
Built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal the beauty of the Taj Mahal is unmatched. On the death of his beloved wife, in wild extravagance, Shah Jahan built her this memorial. 20,000 men laboured for over 17 years to build this wealth of white marble and precious stone. The Agra Fort, with its grand courtyards, royal pavilions and palaces, it is a fitting testimony to the Great Moghuls – Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan – during the era when Agra was the capital of the Moghul Empire. The most impressive part of the Fort is the Dewan-e-Am, where the Emperor sat on his throne to dispense to his subjects, and the Dewan-e-Khas where he received foreign dignitaries. We also visit Itimad-ud-Daulah, known as the ‘Baby Taj’; it was built before the Taj Mahal by Nur Jahan, queen of Jehangir, for her parents. The first Mughal building to be faced with white marble and where ‘pietra dura’, (precious stones inlaid into marble) was first used. Agra is a great place to try barbecue meats (kebabs) mixed with Indian spices. Petha, pieces of white pumpkin dipped in sugar syrup, and Gajak, a crumbly sweet made with sesame and jaggery, are delicious local sweets and sold everywhere - try them.
Overnight: Hotel Howard Plaza or similar
40km from Agra, we stop to explore the fortified city of Fatehpur Sikri. Built during the second half of the 16th Century by Emperor Akbar, this so-called City of Victory was only the capital of the Mughal Empire for ten years, but it bears exceptional testimony to the great vision of Akbar, and the architects of his day.
From Fatehpur Sikri we continue on to Jaipur – the colourful, chaotic capital of Rajasthan. We have plenty of time here to explore several of the city’s medieval palaces and monumental forts. But be warned -- travelling between each iconic building can be an adventure in itself. Expect to see camel carts and elephants, scooters, trucks and bikes all jostling for space on the roads.
Overnight: Mandawa Haveli or similar
After breakfast, we head out for a day of sightseeing in Jaipur. We begin at the Amber Fort, the honey coloured fortress-palace in the Aravalli Hills just north of the town centre. The sombre exterior belies the richness of the royal apartments, which open to striking views of the gorge. The Hall of Victory presents a galaxy of decorative art - panels of alabaster with fine inlay work of the tenderness hues and the intriguing Chamber of Mirrors. We return to town to view Jai Singh’s Observatory built in the 17th century by the founder of Jaipur who, besides being a prince was also soldier, astronomer and builder. We conclude at the City Palace, now a museum that contains fine Rajput and Moghul paintings, rare manuscripts and an armory, old carpets, and even amazingly embroidered clothes of the Maharajas and the Maharanis.
After breakfast our Classic North India adventure comes to an end. But please, don’t hesitate to ask if you need help planning any forward arrangements.