There is so much to see in the princely state of Rajasthan, as well as around Delhi and Agra, that if you have the time to spare it is well worth exploring the area in more depth. This tour will overload your senses perhaps even more than it will your camera’s memory card!
Day 1: On arrival in Delhi you’ll be met and assisted with the transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 2: A full day of sightseeing in Old and New Delhi, covering some of the many highlights of India’s capital city. You’ll visit many fascinating and historic sites including India’s grandest mosque- the Jama Masjid, the tallest minaret tower in Asia (Qutb Minar), Raj Ghat, a simple but evocative memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and many more places. A highlight for many people is the chance to ride around the markets of Old Delhi aboard a cycle-rickshaw- a truly unforgettable way to travel on your first full day in India. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 3: Depart Delhi and drive to Agra, a journey of around 5 hours. After lunch, meet your guide and visit the Taj Mahal- this iconic and famous landmark is so multi-faceted that many people appreciate the opportunity to visit twice- once with a guide to get ‘the facts’ about the Taj and then on an unescorted visit to have time to simply absorb the atmosphere of one of the world’s most remarkable structures. Overnight in Agra.
Day 4: Dawn can be the most spectacular time of all to see the Taj, depending on the time of year. After leaving Agra you’ll be able to pay a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, another spectacular architectural achievement of the Moghul rulers of northern India dating back over 400 years. Fatehpur was brilliantly planned but unfortunately a prolonged drought soon after its initial occupation wasn’t accounted for and the entire complex was deserted after less than 20 years use. The result is an almost perfectly preserved royal compound with some stunning buildings. Tour this site with a guide and then proceed to Bharatpur. In the early evening, visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park, famous for its diverse bird life. Overnight in Bharatpur.
Day 5: You’ll be able to pay another visit to the Park at dawn- like so much of this part of India there was a time not so long ago when the presence of vast quantities of wildlife was seen as a great chance for hunting and ‘tributes’ to the vast numbers of birds slaughtered here can be seen throughout the park in the form of plaques and monuments. Happily such wanton destruction of life is now a thing of the past and birds from all around north Asia, the Middle East and even Australia come to Keoladeo to winter over. Later in the morning drive to Deeg- a small town famous for its Water Palace, and then continue on to Jaipur, the ‘Pink City’ and capital of Rajasthan. Overnight in Jaipur.
Day 6 & 7: Two Days in Jaipur with sightseeing including Amber Fort (where you can ascend the ramparts on elephant-back or by jeep), the sumptuous City Palace, Birla Temple, Jantar Mantar Observatory and the Palace of Winds. As well as allowing plenty of time to rest and relax, this two day stop also affords you the opportunity to thoroughly explore the markets and bazaars of Jaipur’s Old City. While India (and Rajasthan in particular) is blessed with many fantastic market areas, those in Jaipur are the benchmark by which all others are judged- this vast and fascinating area is worth at least half a day to properly explore. Two more nights in Jaipur.
Day 8: Depart Jaipur and drive to the Shekhawati region, famous for its traditional havelis (houses with a central courtyard) which are bedecked with spectacular fresco paintings. Explore the village in the afternoon- it is referred to by many people as the world’s largest open air art gallery- and stay in a converted haveli. Overnight in Mandawa.
Day 9: A full day to explore the Shekhawati region- several villages near to Mandawa have similar styles of frescoes. This is also an excellent chance to explore on foot as the villages and towns of Shekhawati are compact and quiet enough to encourage walking. Overnight in Mandawa.
Day 10: Depart Shekhawati and drive to Bikaner, home to some unique sights including Asia’s only camel breeding centre. At Deshnok is the notorious Karnimata Rat Temple where these rodents (which are generally no more popular in India than elsewhere in the world) are revered as sacred, fed and protected! This is definitely not to everyone’s tastes and if you’d rather explore the Old City of Bikaner, it is equally fascinating (and rodent-free!). Overnight in Bikaner.
Day 11: In the morning take a sightseeing tour of Bikaner covering Junagadh Fort, Jain temples and Lalgarh Palace, before departing for Jaisalmer after lunch. On arrival in the Golden City, check in at your hotel and later make a short trip out into the desert to watch a spectacular sunset- the light on the walls of the Jaisalmer Fort is quite beautiful. Overnight in Jaisalmer.
Day 12: The undoubted highlight of Jaisalmer is its fort- the only Living Fort in India. You could easily spend a couple of Days ‘lost’ in this vast compound with narrow lanes, hidden passages and myriad small tea stalls and shops. Clustered around the base of the fort is the compact and historic old city area of Jaisalmer- the havelis here are among the most spectacular in Rajasthan. You’ll have the entire day to explore the city - overnight in Jaisalmer.
Day 13: For a true desert experience, there is nothing to top the Osiyan Camel Camp, perched on a sand dune right in the heart of the Thar Desert. Here you will gain an understanding of the lifestyle of desert dwellers and the long-standing emphasis in this region on conservation. Later take a ride on camel-back deep into the desert, Overnight Osiyan Camel Camp.
Day 14: Depart the Camel Camp and drive to Jodhpur to tour Meherangarh Fort. In the significant pantheon of Rajasthani forts, Jodhpur’s Meherangarh is well known and justly famous. It dominates the skyline of the city and contains many great treasures within its wall. Tour the fort and nearby royal mausoleum before continuing on to Rohet Garh. Overnight Rohet Garh.
Day 15: A full day at Rohet- options include a horse trek into the desert, or an excursion by jeep to visit Bishnoi tribal villages. The Bishnoi people are the ‘guardians of the desert’- conservation minded and acutely aware of the fragility of their environment. Enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the Singh family, overnight at Rohet Garh.
Day 16: Drive south to Ranakpur Jain Temples and tour the site with a guide. Jainism was, at one time, the dominant religion in north-west India and Ranakpur remains the most important site in the religion today. Jainism proscribes the nurturing of inner beauty while paying little regard to outward appearance. To this end, the temples are simple on the outside, while the insides are incredibly lavish- the central hall of the main temple boasts 1,444 non-identical carved pillars and the overall impression is of an intensely beautiful place with an air of quiet devotion which is one of the most stunning temples in all of India. Later continue on to the fort at remote Kumbhalgarh- a place which sees few tourists despite it being perhaps the most impressive fort in Rajasthan. You will almost certainly have the fort largely to yourself in the late afternoon- the perfect time to climb the ramparts and survey the surrounding landscape. Overnight at Kumbhalgarh.
Day 17: After breakfast continue south to Udaipur with the afternoon at leisure for exploring this most romantic of Rajasthani cities. Here is yet another ‘old city’ which cries out to be explored. The narrow alleys of Udaipur are a mixture of residencies, craftsmen’s studios and shops of every kind. Udaipur is also known for the number of rooftop terraces which overlook the waters of Lake Pichola- choose any one of these and enjoy a wonderful evening of music, dance and fine food while enjoying one of the best views in India. Overnight in Udaipur.
Day 18: Sightseeing tour of Udaipur including the sumptuous City Palace and a boat ride on Lake Pichola. The City Palace imposes itself upon the city’s skyline- it is a 5 storey edifice built over several generations and is a monument to the somewhat excessive tastes of its creators. Overnight in Udaipur.
Day 19: Drive to Dungarpur, home to the Bhil tribe. The Bhil people have one of the widest geographic distributions of any tribal group in India- Bhil people live in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other parts of central India.Overnight in Dungarpur.
Day 20: Sightseeing of the area around Dungarpur including the Juna Mahal- the old palace of the town, the local museum and the beautiful and intricate Deo Somnath Temple which combines elements of temple architecture from different time periods and many regions India to create a rather unique structure.Overnight in Dungarpur.
Day 21: Drive to Udaipur where you will be transferred to your flight to Mumbai or Delhi for international departure.