The one and only Taj Mahal, the famously erotic temples of Khajuraho, and the intensity of Varanasi this trip covers some of the significant historical and cultural sights of the North, while also focusing on the finer details of everyday, uniquely Indian experiences.
Often referred to as the cow belt of India, the state of Uttar Pradesh, population 175 million and rising, is the Hindu and Hindi heartland of India. The River Ganges dominates both religious and secular life, providing the necessities of life, such as water and fertile land for farming and grazing, while also inspiring the people in their personal religious lives.
Group size: max 10.
Tempo: on the go.
Included: accommodation, transport, western leader and local guides, all meals, entrance fees.
Accommodation: small guest houses, homestays and heritage hotels
Transport: 11 seater air-conditioned van and overnight train
Notes: this is an action packed, activities-based trip that would suit families with teenagers
Combines with: ends in time for start of Just Kerala Small Group Trip.
Day 1: Arrive Delhi On arrival you will be met by your trip leader and transferred to your hotel.
Day 2: Delhi Believed to have been founded around the 3rd century BC, Delhi is one of the oldest and most fought over cities in India: it has been rebuilt out of ruins at least seven times. Among the principal sights are India's largest mosque Jama Masjid, Gandhi's simple memorial Raj Ghat, the chaotic shopping street of Chandni Chowk, the lotus shaped modern Bahai temple, and the towering observatory Quatab Minar. Our guide today will give us a sense of Delhi's epic history, along with the background to the sights we visit.
Day 3: Delhi - Jaipur Morning departure for Jaipur, a 6 hour drive away. The capital of Rajasthan is washed in pink - the colour associated with auspiciousness and Rajput hospitality. Afternoon walk through some of the many bazaars of the old city, with a stop (or two) in search of the perfect lassi and kulfi (buttermilk ice cream).
Day 4: Jaipur A busy day exploring Jaipur lies ahead, with a visit to Amber Fort, the oft-photographed Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), City Palace and Museum, and Maharaja Jai Singh's astronomy park. Late afternoon free for relaxing at our heritage hotel or head out shopping for Jaipur's folk
Day 5: Jaipur - Dausa Morning drive 2 hours to Dausa. Our home for the night is a restored palace, in an area normally passed over en route from Jaipur to Agra. In the afternoon head out into the local village with hotel staff to get a feel for life in a typical small Rajasthani town.
Day 6: Dausa - Agra Morning drive 4 hours to Agra, with a visit to the deserted ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri en route. This former capital of the Mughal empire was abandoned promptly after completion, leaving it in a particularly well preserved state. Arrive Agra in time for lunch followed by an afternoon visit to Agra Fort, where a guide will fill you in on Agra's intriguing and ruthless royal past, as well as the Forts innovative architectural features.
Day 7: Agra - Orchha Early start for sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal. Our guide will explain all the intricacies, history, and myth of this amazing monument. After breakfast, begin the drive to Jhansi with a stop en route at Gwalior for lunch and a visit to Gwalior Fort.
Day 8: Orchha - Khajuraho Orchha is dominated by a series of magnificent 17th century temples, which are still in use today, visited regularly by thousands of devotees. The soaring spires of Ram Raja Temple and the well-preserved murals of the Lakshmi Naraya Temple are especially worth a visit.
After morning sightseeing in Orchha, continue on to Khajuraho, where we will arrive mid-afternoon. The famously erotic temples of Khajuraho are one of India's gifts to the world; beautiful physical manifestation of the images conjured up by the Karma Sutra. In the evening enjoy a sound and light show at the main temple complex.
Day 9: Khajuraho Today we will see a few of the more significant temples which are scattered throughout the area; firstly at the Western Group of temples, where the main shrine soars 31 metres high, and is in an almost perfect state of preservation. In the afternoon visit the Eastern Jain and Hindu temples. For the active amongst the group, Khajuraho makes for great bike riding, with flat, quiet roads arriving at some magnificent yet less visited temple ruins. In the evening there is the option to watch a folk dances of India performance.
Day 10: Khajuraho - Panna - Allahabad Early start for 1 hour drive to Panna National Park, where we take a jeep safari into the park for wildlife viewing. There are tigers in the park, which the wildlife officers are able to track and thus give us the best possible chance of seeing. After safari and lunch near the park, drive 6 hours to Allahabad.
Day 11: Allahabad - Varanasi In the morning we visit the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers. This is a particularly sacred place for Hindus to bathe; it is said to wash away all sins. Afterwards drive 3 hours to Varanasi. Later in the afternoon head out for a walk through the old city, which has an unbelievable amount of life crammed into its very narrow, ancient laneways - walking is really the only way to get a sense of Varanasi. We will reach the main ghat in time for the evening 'Aarti' ritual, a beautiful sight for visitors and a sacred ceremony for Hindus, which our guide will help us to understand.
Day 12: Varanasi In Varanasi life and various activities revolve around the river. The city stirs before dawn when thousands of pilgrims come down to the river to offer early morning prayers. This morning we take a dawn boat ride on the Ganges, enjoying a spectacular view of the sunrise of the river and the sight of the city coming to life. After breakfast, we take a guided walk, visiting some of the various ghats and important temples. Afternoon free for enjoying the tranquillity of our hotel after a busy morning.
Day 13: Varanasi - Delhi This morning we can enjoy a leisurely breakfast; we then take a short drive out of the city to the small town of Sarnath, famous as the location of Buddha's first sermon. This is a pleasant place, and a welcome respite from the intensity of Varanasi. In the afternoon, we encourage you to head out into the heart of the old Varanasi without a guide or escort: to wander and discover at your own pace, have a chai from one of the many tiny laneway stalls, join a game of cricket on the ghats. After an early dinner we transfer to the station to board a Delhi bound overnight train.
Day 14: Depart Delhi Early arrival in Delhi; transfer to hotel. Today, our final day, there are many options: shopping will no doubt be high on the agenda for some; a chance to see some of Delhi's 'secondary' sights that we didn't catch the first time around; a walking through Old Delhi, including the spice market; or just taking it easy at the hotel. After a final dinner together, transfer to the airport for flights home or to onward Indian city for further travel.