This 15-day adventure travels across two central Indian states using various modes of transportation for those who like to be on the move. After a city tour in Delhi, you and a guide will head into Madhya Pardesh to visit a vast array of holy towns, bustling bazaars, and cultural treasures. From here, continue to the state of Maharashtra, where you'll take two important day trips to UNESCO-listed cave complexes before ending in Mumbai for some urban action along the Arabian Sea.

Highlights

  • Explore Gwalior Fort with three temples, six palaces, and numerous water tanks
  • Stay a night in Indore checking out beautiful architecture and great restaurants
  • Experience river ghats (and sari shops) in the "Varanasi of central India"
  • Get up close to 30 different rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments in Ajanta
  • Enjoy guided tours and free time in India's two biggest cities: Delhi and Mumbai

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Delhi Delhi
Day 2 Delhi City Tour Delhi
Day 3 Train to Gwalior - Explore Gwalior Fort Gwalior
Day 4 Train to Bhopal - City Tour Bhopal
Day 5 Day-Trip to Sanchi & Bhumbetka Bhopal
Day 6 Transfer to Indore - Visit Kanch Mandir Indore
Day 7 Transfer to Ujjain - Temple Tour Ujjain
Day 8 Transfer to Dhar, via Mandu Dhar
Day 9 Transfer to Maheshwar - Free Time Maheshwar
Day 10 Transfer to Aurangabad - Free Time Aurangabad
Day 11 Day-Trip to the Ajanta Caves Aurangabad
Day 12 Day-Trip to the Ellora Caves Aurangabad
Day 13 Fly to Mumbai - Free Time Mumbai
Day 14 Mumbai City Tour Mumbai
Day 15 Depart Mumbai  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

Take a taxi to Dilli Haat, an outdoor craft market bazaar
Take a taxi to Dilli Haat, an outdoor craft market bazaar

Welcome to Delhi, the capital of India! Upon arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, you will be met by a representative and greeted with a traditional welcome. Then, you will be escorted to your vehicle and transferred to your hotel for the night. Check-in, take your first day off, and relax! If feeling energized, you could also visit Dilli Haat, an outdoor craft market bazaar selling handmade souvenirs. This is a great place to browse handcrafted items that come from all 29 of India's states. The bazaar is also home to a range of food stalls selling tasty regional cuisine.

Think of Delhi as two distinct cities: Old Delhi, founded in the 17th century, and New Delhi, established in the early 20th century by the British. Old Delhi offers an exotic vibe with bustling streets and historical monuments spanning several kingdoms and empires, while sprawling New Delhi offers international hotels, wide tree-lined avenues, foreign embassies, and shopping centers, etc. You'll get a feel for both during tomorrow's tour!

Day 2: Delhi City Tour

Part of today's tour includes the Red Fort
Today's tour includes the Red Fort

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time for a full-day guided tour of Delhi! 

Your first stop is the walled city of Old Delhi, which is rife with local activity and still influenced by the great Mughals who once ruled from the ramparts of the majestic Red Fort. During the visit, you'll see top sights like Jama Masjid, the largest 17th-century mosque in India, Chandni Chowk,  the typical Indian market (a treat for the senses), and Rajghat, the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi (also called the 'Father of the Nation’).

From here, proceed to New Delhi where you'll drive past the Presidential Palace, the Secretariat Buildings, India Gate, and other colonial buildings. Make sure to look for the early 20th-century work of Edwin Lutyens, a British architect, who is featured prominently in the colonial districts.

Finish the tour with a visit to the famous Qutub Minar, a minaret that forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mehrauli area of Delhi. The 239-foot (73-m) tower contains a spiral staircase of 379 steps. Each level has a balcony that encircles the tower, but due to a fatal stampede in 1981, visitors are not allowed inside anymore. You'll also see Humayun’s Tomb, a marvelous example of Persian-inspired Mughal architecture.

In the evening, you can head to Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, an important Sikh house of worship in Delhi. Fun Fact: This eco-friendly shrine complex recently banned the use of plastic.

Day 3: Train to Gwalior - Explore Gwalior Fort

Sasbahu Temple in Gwalior Fort
Sasbahu Temple in Gwalior Fort

After breakfast in Delhi, you'll be transferred to the rail station to board a morning train to the remote fort city of Gwalior. Upon arrival, you'll be picked up and transferred to your hotel.

Once settled, take the rest of the afternoon to explore on foot. A good place to start is by walking around the ancient Gwalior Fort—a renowned landmark that occupies a sandstone plateau overlooking the city, accessible from a path lined with sacred Jain statues.

Gwalior is also known for its palaces and temples, including the Sas Bahu Ka Mandir, an intricately carved Hindu temple, and the 15th-century Gujari Mahal Palace, now an archaeological museum.

However you choose to explore Gwalior, this is where you'll get your first taste of the history, way of life, and idiosyncrasies of Madhya Pradesh and its people.

Day 4: Train to Bhopal - City Tour

Taj-ul-Masjid Mosque in Bhopal
Taj-ul-Masjid Mosque in Bhopal

After breakfast in Gwalior, you'll be transferred to the train station to board a morning train to Bhopal. Upon arrival, you'll be transferred to your hotel.

This afternoon you'll join a sightseeing tour. Founded in the 11th century by King Bhoj of the Parmar Dynasty, Bhopal is a city of royal lineage and oozes with charm from a bygone era. The heart of the city is adorned with royal remnants, mansions, and palaces that take you back to this magnificent past. 

Your tour will include a visit to the Taj-ul-Masjid, considered to be the largest mosque in Asia, as well as Dhai Seedhi Masjid, Bhopal’s oldest mosque. If time allows, a walk along the narrow alleys of the Chowk area and its markets will give you some local atmosphere.

Day 5: Day-Trip to Sanchi & Bhumbetka

Ancient Buddhist Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh
Ancient Buddhist Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh

Today, you'll take a morning excursion to Sanchi Stupa, a Buddhist complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sanchi town, originally built by Emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century. The site is famous for its great stupa, located on a hilltop. 

From here, you'll take an afternoon excursion to Bhimbetka to view its ancient cave paintings, some of which are believed to be 12,000 years old. This archaeological site depicts amazing scenes based on the philosophy of life and death of the early man, spanning the prehistoric paleolithic and mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period. 

Return to Bhopal following this excursion and enjoy the city at your leisure.

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Day 6: Transfer to Indore - Visit Kanch Mandir

Rajwada is a historical palace in Indore city
Rajwada is a historical palace in Indore city

After breakfast in Bhopal, you'll continue the journey with a morning drive to Indore (121 miles/195 km), the biggest city in Madhya Pradesh. Once known as a trading hub between Deccan and Delhi of the 16th century, Indore was discovered by Rao Nandlal Chaudhary in 1710. Today, this bustling city offers majestic palaces from the Holkar Dynasty, lively bazaars, and mouth-watering culinary experiences.

Upon arrival, check into your hotel and pay an afternoon visit to the mesmerizing Jain temple called Kanch Mandir (or Temple of Glass), an exceptional architectural feat. As you walk through the interior, notice how the building's floors, ceilings, walls, doors, and pillars are all decorated with ornamental mirrors. 

Following the tour, you'll have free time to explore Indore's good eating scene.

Day 7: Transfer to Ujjain - Temple Tour

A ceremony being performed on the holy river in Ujjain
A ceremony on the holy river in Ujjain

Following breakfast in Indore, you'll begin the short drive to the holy town of Ujjain (34 miles/55 km), one of Hinduism's seven sacred places, drawing pilgrims year-round. Situated on the banks of the Shipra River, the city dates back to 600 BC and was once the residence of Ashoka, the Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty, who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from 268 to 232 BC. Today, Ujjain is full of various temples and cultural treasures. 

Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel. Once settled, join a temple tour starting with a visit to Mahakaleshwar Temple and Vedha Shala. You will also visit various other temples like Bade Ganeshji Ka Mandir, Kal Bhairava, Kaliadeh Palace, Navagarha Mandir, Gopal Mandir, and Harsiddhi Temple.

Following the excursion, enjoy some free time to explore Ujjain and its maze of alleyways on your own.

Day 8: Transfer to Dhar, via Mandu

Ancient architecture in Mandu
Ancient architecture in Mandu

After breakfast in Ujjain, you'll begin the drive to Dhar (118 miles/190 km). En route, you'll visit the vast deserted fort of Mandu, which offers a treasure trove of fine architecture and sculpted stones depicting the life of poet-prince Baz Bahadur and his love for the queen Rani Roopmati.

During this Mandu village excursion, you'll visit the Royal Enclave, with several beautiful buildings from the 15th- and 16th-centuries spanning the Ghuri and Khilji dynasties. You'll also get a chance to see the two monuments of the Rewa Kund Group: Baz Bahadur's Palace and Rupmati's Pavilion.

 From here, continue to the city of Dhar where you'll stay overnight.

Day 9: Transfer to Maheshwar - Free Time

Explore the ghats of Maheshwar
Explore the ghats of Maheshwar

After breakfast in Dhar, it's time to hit the road for the drive to the small holy town of Maheshwar (43 miles/70 km). Upon arrival, check-in at the hotel.

The rest of the day is free time to stroll along the beautiful ghats (stepped river bank) and explore the lovely temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Set along the banks of the Narmada River, it's said that only Shiva is worshiped where the Narmada flows, as he's the only god with the inner peace to calm her. Spend some time enjoying life along the ghats.
 
For those interested in authentic souvenirs, Maheshwari is known for producing exquisite saris and other local hand-loom items as far back as the 5th century. 

Day 10: Transfer to Aurangabad - Free Time

Panchakki Water Mill, a landmark in Aurangabad
Panchakki Water Mill, a landmark in Aurangabad

Today, after breakfast in Maheshwar, you'll begin a big drive to the historic city of Aurangabad (211 miles/340 km).

Located in the Maharashtra state, this tourist hub is known for a17th-century marble shrine called Bibi ka Maqbara, similar in styles to the Taj Mahal. The city is also surrounded by many historical monuments including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—both of which you'll experience in the coming days.

Upon arrival, check into your hotel. Take some free time this afternoon and evening to either relax or explore your surroundings on foot.

Day 11: Day-Trip to the Ajanta Caves

The Buddhist Ajanta Caves
The Buddhist Ajanta Caves

This morning, after breakfast in Aurangabad, you'll begin a guided day-trip to the Ajanta Caves.

Here, you'll have time to explore up to 30 different rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments that were constructed over an 800-year period. This UNESCO-listed site is famous for paintings and sculptures and is considered to be a masterpiece of Buddhist religious art. 

Ajanta is split into two main series of caves: one built-in 200 BCE and the other finished around 600 CE. Each cave opens up into bedecked grand halls that reveal details of the Buddha’s past life.

Following this excursion, return to your hotel for the evening.

Day 12: Day-Trip to the Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves
The Ellora Caves

Today, you'll take another day-trip to another fantastic UNESCO-listed site: the Ellora Caves.

This is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world, housing 34 monasteries and temples that date back from 600 to 1000 AD. The temples of Ellora are dedicated to Brahmanism, Jainism, and Buddhism, depicting the religious harmony of the country since ancient times. This attraction represents the spectacular workmanship behind its exquisite carving and paintings. 

While in the area, you'll also visit the Daulatabad Fort, a ruined but magnificent hilltop fortress that sits atop a craggy outcrop known as Devagiri (Hill of the Gods).

After this glimpse of the glorious past, you'll make the return trip to Aurangabad for the evening.

Day 13: Fly to Mumbai - Free Time

Mumbai is the the financial, commercial, and entertainment capital of India
The financial, commercial, and entertainment capital of India

After breakfast in Aurangabad, you'll transfer to the airport to board a flight to India's biggest city: Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). Upon arrival, you'll be met by a local representative and transferred to your hotel. 

From here, take the afternoon to either relax or get out and explore on foot. This sprawling city by the sea is the epicenter of Bollywood and a city of extremes. Here, you'll find everything from delicious street food to fine-dining restaurants, from busy bazaars to designer names. Prepare for some sensory overload!

Day 14: Mumbai City Tour

Victoria railway station located in the heart of Mumbai
Victoria railway station located in the heart of Mumbai

Today you'll join a full-day guided tour of Mumbai! The heart of Bollywood offers a variety of sites and attractions.

Your first stop is, fittingly, the Gateway of India, an arch-monument built in the early twentieth century to commemorate the first British monarch to visit India. Next, you'll visit the Prince of Wales Museum, which offers a priceless collection of art, sculpture, and china. The mid-Victorian Gothic style building is carefully preserved; make sure to walk around the beautiful gardens. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll visit Mani Bhawan, Mahatma Gandhi’s local house, which has been converted into a museum (also known as the Gandhi Museum). You'll also visit Kamla Nehru Park, named after the wife of the Prime Minister Mr. Nehru, which offers an amazing view of Marine Drive. Lastly, pay a visit to Dhobi Ghat, an outdoor laundry system offering a sensory feast of chaos, color, and sound. 

During the course of the day, you will also drive past important architectural and cultural sites like the University of Mumbai, Flora Fountain, Victoria Terminus, Municipal Corporation Building, High Court, Rajabai Clock Towers, Nariman Point, and Horniman Circle.

Following the tour, you'll have free time to enjoy the city at your own pace!

Day 15: Depart Mumbai

Goodbye, Mumbai!
Goodbye, Mumbai!

It's time to say goodbye to India! At the designated time, you'll be transferred to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport for your departure flight and onward journey. Safe travels!