This is so much more than just a 'Buddhist' tour. While it Visits the places of Buddha's birth, enlightenment, first teaching and death, the itinerary also covers some of India's most sacred and holy places and touches on 3 of India’s great cities (Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta) as well.
Day 1: You’ll be met on arrival in Mumbai and assisted with the transfer to your hotel. No set programme for the day but sightseeing of Mumbai can be included. Overnight in Mumbai.
Day 2: Transfer to Mumbai airport for a flight to Aurangabad, where you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel. Tour the nearby Ellora Caves in the afternoon; the 34 cave temples here are representative of the area’s Buddhist and Hindu past. The 17 Hindu caves in the centre are the most impressive with the massive Kailash Temple being the finest of all. The central depiction of the demon Ravana shaking Mount Kailash is a masterpiece. Overnight in Aurangabad.
Day 3: Today you’ll make an excursion to Ajanta Caves, which were carved from the living rock around 1500-2000 years ago but were largely unknown in more recent times until they were rediscovered in the early 19th century. This long period of abandonment contributed to the fine state of preservation of the Ajanta caves- some of the paintings which are believed to be over 2000 years old remain to this day. There are 30 caves in a horseshoe shape; your guide will explain the significance of each of these ancient treasures throughout your day long tour. Most depict scenes from the life of the Buddha and Buddhist fables and the level of artistic skill is truly astounding. Overnight in Aurangabad.
Day 4: Morning tour of Aurangabad Caves which date from the 1st century AD and a tour of Aurangabad city itself. In the late afternoon transfer to Aurangabad airport for a flight to Delhi where you’ll be met and assisted with the transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 5: A full day in the Indian capital with guided sightseeing in the company of a knowledgeable local guide. Although the heritage of Delhi is largely Hindu and Muslim, there are many fascinating sights around the city including ancient tombs, a grand mosque, vast temples and the more modern (but no less grand) colonial buildings of New Delhi. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 6: Transfer to Delhi airport and fly to Varanasi, the oldest continuously occupied city in India and a very sacred place in both Hinduism and Buddhism. You’ll be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. In the evening, head down to the ghats which line the banks of the River Ganges for the nightly Aarti ceremony. This ritual involves thousands of tiny oil lamps being lit and set afloat on the river to the accompaniment of chants, gongs, prayers and a general sense of devotional fervour. Overnight in Varanasi.
Day 7: Arise early and return to the Ghats for a dawn boat ride on the Ganges. The sight of thousands of pilgrims bathing in the river as the sun rises is a truly unforgettable one and one of the most compelling experiences of any trip to India. Later tour the Old City of Varanasi before making an afternoon excursion to Sarnath. This is the site of the Buddha’s first sermon and an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from throughout the world. Nearby there is an excellent museum housing an extensive collection of Buddhist art and sculptures found at the site. Overnight in Varanasi.
Day 8 : After breakfast drive 6 hours to Bodhgaya, remainder of the day free. Overnight in Bodhgaya.
Day 9: Full day of sightseeing around Bodhgaya including visits to Mahabodhi Temple and Niranjana River. You’ll also see the Bodhgaya Stupa which was erected in the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment some two thousand five hundred years ago and the Bodhi Tree, the place of Buddha's enlightenment. Many international Buddhist communities have their own Temples here, full of colour and devotion. Overnight in Bodhgaya.
Day 10: Depart Bodhgaya and drive 4 hours to Patna. En route you will visit Rajgir and Nalanda, two more important sites in the life of the Buddha. Buddha delivered some of his famous sermons in Rajgir and converted many early devotees here. Once a great city, Rajgir is just a village today, but vestiges of a legendary and historical past remain Nalanda was the site of a famous university, one of the greatest centers of learning in ancient times and itsmonastery was a centre of Buddhist teaching; arguably the most importance location in the initial spread of Buddhism from India to China, Tibet and into south-east Asia. Overnight in Patna.
Day 11: A full day drive from Patna visiting Vaishali and Kesaria en route to Kushinagar. Vaishali is an important site for Buddhists and Jains alike; it was a flourishing city during the rule of the Maurya dynasty in the 3rd to 1st centuries BC and later during the Gupta dynasty (AD 320-550). It was the capital of the Licchavi republic, one of several tribal republics that once flourished in northern India. Such republics operated as some of the first formal democratic societies in the world, with representatives of the tribe meeting in a large assembly hall, presided over by a nonhereditary chief or raja, and debating and resolving issues through consensus or, if needed, by voting. A large mound excavated at Vaishali is believed to be an example of one of these ancient meeting places. The Kesaria Stupa is huge at nearly 30 metres in height. Remarkably it was largely unknown in modern times and only fully excavated by Archaeological Survey of India in 1998. It is believed to date back to somewhere around 200 AD and 750 AD has a circumference of almost 1400 ft. This amazing stupa serves as a splendid example of Buddhist architecture and archaeological preservation. Overnight in Kushinagar.
Day 12: Sightseeing around Kushinagar, the place where the Buddha is believed to have left his earthly form. During the day you’ll visit Mahaparinirvana Temple and Ramabhar Stupa; overnight in Kushinagar.
Day 13: Depart Kushinagar and drive 5 hours to Patna. Remainder of the day free. Overnight in Patna.
Day 14: Sightseeing of Patna visiting various sites around the city sacred to Sikhs and Moslems. These include the Takht Har Mandir Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, a 17th century Sikh guru. The temple here is made of white marble and was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh an contains the personal belongings of the Guru as well as holy texts. Adjacent to Takht Har Mandir Sahib is the Pathar ki Masjid, a mosque built by Parwez Shah, the son of Emperor Jahangir, during his tenure as governor of Bihar. After dinner, transfer to Patna airport and fly to Calcutta. Here you’ll be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Calcutta.
Day 15 & 16: Calcutta has many great sightseeing highlights and these can be explored either by vehicle or as part of a walking tour of some of the most historic parts of the city. Renowned as the cultural capital of India (at least by its inhabitants) Calcutta was the capital of British India until the early 20th century and many of its most fascinating sites date from the Raj period. There are also spectacular Jain temples and several important Hindu temples on the banks of the Hooghly River. It is advisable to spend 2 full Days in Calcutta to begin to absorb the essence of the city and a combination of walking tours , a riverboat cruise and driving will allow you to experience as many aspects of this vast metropolis as possible. Two more nights in Calcutta.
Day 17: Free time in Calcutta prior to transferring to the airport for your flight home.