- Explore the enigmatic Elephanta Caves, whose exact origins are a mystery
- Ride a rickshaw through Delhi's oldest market
- See the famous erotic carvings at the Khajuraho temples
- Visit the beautiful Buddhist Sanchi Stupas near Bhopal
- Discover the Caves of Ellora outside of Aurangabad
|Day 1||Arrive in New Delhi||Delhi|
|Day 2||Sightseeing in Delhi||Delhi|
|Day 3||Drive from New Delhi to Agra||Agra|
|Day 4||Visit Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula, and Kachhpura Village||Agra|
|Day 5||Visit the Taj Mahal and Fly to Khajuraho||Khajuraho|
|Day 6||Sightseeing Tour of Khajuraho||Khajuraho|
|Day 7||Train from Khajuraho to Bhopal||Bhopal|
|Day 8||Sanchi Stupa Excursion||Bhopal|
|Day 9||Fly from Bhopal to Mumbai||Mumbai|
|Day 10||Visit the Elephanta Caves and Tour Mumbai||Mumbai|
|Day 11||Excursion to the Karla Caves||Mumbai|
|Day 12||Fly from Mumbai to Aurangabad||Aurangabad|
|Day 13||Visit the Caves of Ellora and Bibika Maqbara||Aurangabad|
|Day 14||Fly Back to New Delhi and Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in New Delhi
Arrive in New Delhi, meet your guide and transfer to your hotel. New Delhi, the capital of India, has a long and rich history and over the centuries has drawn to it the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals and the British, all of whom contributed to its storied but turbulent past.
Once you arrive at your hotel, you can relax and enjoy a free evening.
Day 2: Sightseeing in Delhi
After breakfast, your guide will pick you up for a full-day sightseeing tour of Delhi.
You'll start at the Red Fort (closed on Mondays), a red sandstone marvel. In 1638, the Mughal king Shah Jahan decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi, and he began constructing the Red Fort on the bank of Old Delhi's Yamuna River.
Then, you'll drive past Raj Ghat. The Ghat is essentially a black marble platform that marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated on January 31, 1948, a day after he was assassinated. An eternal flame burns at one end of the open-air memorial, and the road it is located on is officially called Mahatma Gandhi Road.
Next, you'll visit Jama Masjid, which was Old Delhi's central mosque in Shah Jahan's time. The Shah completed the mosque in 1656 and it is still one of the largest mosques in India today. The mosque's capacity is about 25,000 people, and around 5,000 laborers worked to build it.
Afterward, you'll go to Chandni Chowk, the city's most famous market. Old Delhi was once the city of Shahjahanabad, a fortified city under Mughal rule. Even today, the remains of this past can be seen at the Kashmiri Gate, Ajmeri Gate, Turkman Gate, Delhi Gate, and Feroz Shah Kotla. In those days, Chandni Chowk was the city's central market. Today, it's a massive area packed with stalls and people. You'll take a rickshaw ride in the market to get a different view of the hustle and bustle.
After the market, you'll visit New Delhi. You'll pass by the India Gate (a memorial to the Indian soldiers who died in WWI), the Rashtrapati Bhavan (formerly the viceroy's residence) and the Parliament House. Then, you'll visit the imposing Lakshmi Naryan Temple, one of the famous Birla Temples in India, built in 1938 and dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi.
Finally, you'll visit the 12th century Qutab Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Minar of Delhi is surrounded by a lush green garden, which is pleasant to walk through. You'll also see the Ashoka Iron Pillar of Delhi—which has withstood the ravages of time and not rusted in 1500 years—and the mausoleum of Emperor Humayun.
Day 3: Drive from New Delhi to Agra
After breakfast, check out from hotel and drive to Agra. Agra is a city built by the Mughals. It is known for its many beautiful monuments, including the Taj Mahal, its most famous. But Agra is also home to the massive but elegant Agra Fort, the delicate Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, and Akbar’s deserted capital, Fatehpur Sikri. Once you arrive, check-in at your hotel.
You'll also have the option to go on an additional outing to the famous Mohabbat the Taj Show presented by the Sanskritik Natyashala, a saga depicting the love the Mughal Emperor Shajahan had for Mumtaj Mahal, his wife. The show is a great way to learn more about the Taj Mahal, which Shajahan built as a memorial for Mumtaj Mahal after she died in childbirth.
Day 4: Visit Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula, and Kachhpura Village
After breakfast, you'll visit the Agra Fort, an outstanding example of Mughal architecture on the Yamuna River, which was the seat and stronghold of the Mughal Empire for multiple generations.
Afterward, you'll visit Itmad-ud-Daula, a tomb often referred to as the "Baby Taj Mahal." It's the tomb of Mir Gheyas Beg, who was a minister in the court of Shah Jahan, and is the oldest tomb in India made entirely of marble. If you take a bird's eye view of the monument, it looks like a jewel box set in a garden.
In the late afternoon, you'll go for a tour of the Mughal Heritage Kachhpura Village that includes high tea. A narrow path through the fields near Mehtab Bagh will take you to the ancient village of Kachhpura, as well as Humayun’s Mosque. You'll walk through the village to see the Sanji art that has been painted on the walls by girls in the community youth program. Then, you'll continue to Humayun’s Mosque, an unusual mosque built by the Mughals.
Next, you'll see the village's central courtyard, where activities like street theater and henna tattooing take place. The walk ends in Mehtab Bagh, from where you'll be able to watch the sunset on the Taj Mahal.
Day 5: Visit the Taj Mahal and Fly to Khajuraho
Today, you'll go to the Taj Mahal as the sun rises and explore its grounds. On this tour, you'll learn about its construction and architectural details, like the fact that it took 22 years and 20,000 men to build, while its white marble was quarried 200 miles away and carried by a fleet of 1,000 elephants. The monument was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an expression of his love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Then, you'll return to your hotel for breakfast and check out, and drive to the airport to take your flight to Khajuraho, a group of Hindu temples and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district. Khajuraho was built by the Chandela dynasty, which rose to power in Central India between the 10th and 11th centuries. It's home to around 25 temples that depict different facets of life, some of which are famous for their erotic depictions.
Once you land, your guide will take you to your hotel to check-in. In the evening, you'll see a light and sound show nearby.
Day 6: Sightseeing Tour of Khajuraho
After breakfast, you'll go on a sightseeing tour of the western and eastern group of temples.
The most famous of the western temples is the Kandariya Mahadev temple, which is 105 feet (32 meters) high and is the largest and most ornate Hindu temple in Khajuraho. Other temples you'll see include the Chaunsat Yogini—a granite temple—the Devi Jagdambe temple dedicated to the Mother Goddess, and the Chitragupta temple, which is dedicated to Surya the Sun God.
The eastern group of temples includes both Hindu and Jain temples. The largest and finest Jain temple is Parsvanath, and you'll also see Adinatha temple, Ghantai temple, and Vamana temple.
Day 7: Train from Khajuraho to Bhopal
In the morning, you'll leave your hotel and go to the Khajuraho Railway Station to catch your train to Bhopal. Once you arrive, your guide will meet you and take you to your hotel in Bhopal, where you can enjoy the evening and get settled.
Day 8: Sanchi Stupa Excursion
After breakfast, you'll go on an excursion to visit Sanchi Stupa, which is 28.5 miles (46 km) from Bhopal. Sanchi Stupa has some beautifully-preserved Buddhist stupas and also has the remains of two Buddhist saints, Sariputra and Mahamodgilya. Your tour will take you through the stupas, where you can admire the beautiful Buddhist artwork.
After your tour, you'll return to Bhopal for the evening. If you want to, you can use this free evening to visit Bhopal's markets.
Day 9: Fly from Bhopal to Mumbai
Early in the morning, you'll check out of your hotel and be drive to Bhopal Airport to board your flight to Mumbai. Also called Bombay, Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra and is India's main economic hub. It's the fastest moving, most affluent, and most industrialized city in India. Once you land, your guide will meet you and take you to your hotel to get settled. You'll also have the option to go on a food walking tour or a slum tour.
Day 10: Visit the Elephanta Caves and Tour Mumbai
After breakfast, your guide will take you to the Elephanta Caves an hour away from Mumbai by ferry. The caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there has been speculation about who carved them and when they were sculpted since at least the 19th century. Their exact origins are still a mystery.
The carvings narrate Hindu mythologies. Despite the damage much of the artwork has suffered, the caves are spectacular to visit, and stand in contrast to Mumbai's hectic streets.
To reach the caves, you'll take a ferry and then a tourist train to the entrance.
Later in the afternoon, you'll go on a tour of Mumbai. Stops include the Gateway of India, Mumbai's principal landmark, which was erected on the waterfront in 1924 to commemorate King George V's visit to this then-colony in 1911. You'll also drive past the Afghan Church and along Marine Drive, which is sometimes called the "Queen's Necklace" for the way the streetlights look like a string of pearls when seen from above at night. Then, you'll visit the Jain Temple and the Hanging Gardens—which offer spectacular views of the city—as well as Chowpatty, Kamala Nehru Park, and Mani Bhavan, where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visits to Mumbai.
Finally, you'll drive past Haji Ali Mosque, a shrine to a Muslim saint built on an island off the coast that is connected to the mainland by a causeway.
Day 11: Excursion to the Karla Caves
After breakfast, you'll go on a full-day tour of the Karla Caves, three hours away from Mumbai by car. Also called the Karla Cells, these caves are ancient Buddhist rock-cut caves near Lonavala, in Maharashtra. They were constructed somewhere between the 2nd and 5th centuries, and one of the oldest cave shrines has been dated back to 160 BCE. Buddhist traders and manufacturers built monasteries near trading routes to offer traveling merchants shelter.
In the caves, you'll see sculptures of elephants, lions, and men and women, as well as an Ashokan pillar. After visiting the caves, you'll be driven back to your hotel in Mumbai, where you'll have a free evening to relax.
Day 12: Fly from Mumbai to Aurangabad
Today, you'll check out of your hotel and fly from Mumbai to Aurangabad. Once you arrive, your guide will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. You'll have the rest of the day free to relax and explore the city.
Day 13: Visit the Caves of Ellora and Bibi Ka Maqbara
Today, you'll visit the Caves of Ellora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site carved into the side of a hill 19 miles (30 km) outside of Aurangabad. Here, you'll see some beautiful examples of cave-temple architecture, including 34 rock-cut Buddhist, Jain and Hindu shrines that date back as far as the 4th and 5th centuries.
The 12 caves to the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the center Hindu, and the 5 caves to the north are Jain. The most remarkable one is probably Kailash temple, which was designed as a replica of Shiva’s celestial abode Mt. Kailash.
In the afternoon, you'll visit Bibi Ka Maqbara, a mausoleum built for Aurangzeb’s wife Rabia Daurani in 1679 and modeled on the Taj Mahal. Nearby, you'll also see the Pan Chakki—a 17th-century mill that was used to grind grain for pilgrims—and a marble shrine to Aurangzeb’s spiritual advisor.
Day 14: Fly Back to New Delhi and Depart
On the last day of your tour, you'll head to the airport and catch your flight back to New Delhi. From there, transfer to the international airport for your flight home.