- Explore the markets and bazaars in Old Delhi's Shahjahanabad
- Tour the stunning and historic grounds of the Amber Fort in Jaipur
- Witness the staggering beauty of the Taj Mahal in Agra
- Experience the iconic rituals along the holy river Ganges in Varanasi
|Day 1||Arrival in Delhi||Delhi|
|Day 2||Tour Delhi||Delhi|
|Day 3||Travel to Jaipur||Jaipur|
|Day 4||Tour Jaipur||Jaipur|
|Day 5||Tour Bagru Village||Jaipur|
|Day 6||Travel to Agra||Agra|
|Day 7||Tour Agra and the Taj Mahal||Agra|
|Day 8||Travel to Delhi Airport and Fly to Varanasi||Varanasi|
|Day 9||Tour Varanasi||Varanasi|
|Day 10||Departure From Delhi|
Day 1: Arrival in Delhi
Welcome to India! Upon your arrival, you will be greeted with a “Namaste” by your private guide, who will drive you to your hotel. He or she will provide helpful information and updated tips to assist with your trip. Once you are settled in and rested, it will be time to explore the beauty of Delhi.
Today, you can become acquainted with Sikhism, a northern Indian monotheistic religion, at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, which is the most important temple in Delhi. Gurudwara means “Guru's Gate,” and fittingly, the Sikhs have nine gurus whose teachings have been collected in the book of Grant Sahib. You will learn of the teachings on this Sikh pilgrimage while you explore the temple’s landmark architecture. During your visit, keep the following tips in mind:
- Keep your head covered while inside the complex
- Leave your shoes on the shoe rack at the entrance
- Dress in clothes that are not revealing
- Do not take photos
- Remain silent while inside the temple
A trip to the kitchen is also an essential part of the exploration. More than 20,000 vegetarian meals are prepared here each day, and you are invited to join in the crowd for langar, a free, public meal to experience the communal cooking and atmosphere. Participating in langar is looked to as a spiritual act by the Indian people.
After you have fully explored the temple grounds, you will return to your hotel in Delhi and get some rest after your long day of travel.
Day 2: Tour Delhi
Good Morning! Today, you will explore Old Delhi, which is also known as Shahjahanabad, and was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan–who also erected the Taj Mahal. You can walk on foot or aboard a rickshaw to get around. To start, you will get to experience:
- Kinari Bazar: This is a wholesale-style retail market, where you will find traditional and festival garb. You will find lots of wedding-related customs here, along with decorative items, like colorful kites, embroidery items, and more. While shopping, you can practice the art of bargaining.
- Chandni Chowk: Be prepared for one of the most crowded places in all of India! However, you will get to enjoy tons of local street food here. Additionally, you will find jewelry, accessories, fabric, and antiques galore! You can even opt for a personal shopping guide to chaperone you through this famous bazaar.
- Khari Baoli: Known as the largest spice market in Asia, you can shop both local and exotic items here. You will see hundreds of buyers and traders exchanging different spices, too. You can also shop for dried fruits, nuts, and grains.
After you have had your fill of shopping, you can visit Jama Masjid, which is one of the largest mosques in India. Built in the 1600s, Jama Masjid cost 1 million rupees to erect and is made out of red sandstone and marble. This Islamic mosque can host 25,000 people during prayer, and the courtyard hosts a hauz to cleanse your hands, feet, and face before entering the main building for prayer.
The day continues as you make your way to New Delhi, with photo stops at the Red Fort of Delhi and Gandhi Memorial at Rajghat along the way. You will also drive past India Gate, the home of the president, and other government buildings on your route. Once in New Delhi, you can visit the Humayun's Tomb, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens, and was built at the request of the emperor’s wife in the late 1500s. Nearby, you will also find the Qutab Minar, which is the tallest stone tower in India. The complex fuses both Islamic and Hindu styles, measures 238 feet high, and hosts the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, which was the first mosque in India.
For dinner, you can choose between enjoying a meal at a local family’s house, or you can indulge in an Old Delhi local food tasting tour.
Day 3: Travel to Jaipur
After breakfast, you will begin your 5-hour journey by car to the Pink City, also known as Jaipur. The capital of India’s Rajasthan state, it commemorates the former rule of Jai Singh, and was designed by Vidyadhar Bhattacharya. With a population of more than 3 million people, Jaipur is one of the largest cities in India and is known for its pink hue that paints the surrounding buildings.
You will drive past the beautiful buildings–many of which you will explore tomorrow–on your way to your hotel. Once you are checked in, it is time to learn and eat! Tonight, you will take a cooking class at the home of a local family. You will indulge in the local flavors while learning about the gastronomic art that unfolds in Indian kitchens.
After your hands-on evening, head back to the hotel and get a good night of rest before your big day exploring Jaipur tomorrow!
Day 4: Tour Jaipur
If you are an early riser, you will have the option to take advantage of a four-hour, early-morning cycling tour of the Pink City. If not, you can wake up at your leisure and begin the day of exploration when you are rested.
Your tour of Jaipur begins with a visit to the Amber Fort. The capital of the state until 1727, you will find stylings of Indian Muslim architecture at this UNESCO World Heritage site. As you enter the fort, you can explore a variety of four courtyards, palaces, gardens, and halls. The primary courtyard is known as Kaleb Chowk, where the king’s soldiers formerly assembled. You can take the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate) and Chand Pol (Moon Gate) to enter this courtyard.
Next, take the steps that lead to Shila Devi temple, which remains open throughout the day, and was the former site of sacrifices and rituals. Then, you can take a stroll through the colorful king’s quarters, known as Ganesh Pol, and includes the stunning Diwan-e Khas (Hall of Private Audience) that is adorned with mirror work featuring glass from Belgium. It is also known as Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) and hosts Jas Mandir, which is the upper-portion made of floral designs.
Still, there is Sukh Niwas, a place known for pleasure, where the king entertained his ladies. And, the back of the fort hosts the fourth courtyard, along with the Palace of Man Singh, which was where the king’s wives resided. In the center, there is a pavilion where the various queens once met.
If you are seeking more exploration in the area, you can take the open-air passage that leads you to Jaigarh Fort. You can make the trek on foot, or be transported by golf cart.
In the afternoon, you will visit the City Palace, which is located in the center of Jaipur. Just like Amber Fort, you will find various gardens, courtyards, and buildings to tour. The temple and museum give you an especially grand look at the royal influence. The former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur, City Palace was built by Raja Jai Singh in the 1700s.
Nearby, you will find Jantar Mantar, which is an astronomical observatory that hosts the largest sundial in the world and calculates the local time. This structure was also erected by Singh.
In the evening, you can enjoy dinner at your leisure. Then, venture to a Bollywood movie at the famous, vintage Rajmandir Cinema Hall.
Day 5: Tour Bagru Village
Today, you will take the 20-mile trip to Bagru Village. Famous for its wooden block printing techniques that color many styles, you will get to see the designs come to life in person. The origin can be traced back to more than 300 years ago, when the Chhipa Mohalla, known to be the craftsmen of Bagru, continue to preserve the process. Today, a walk along the village will reveal dozens of families still working from the blocks and dyes born from the original tradition to then print on different fabrics.
While experiencing the Bagru Village, you will meet Viju Chhipa, a fifth-generation dyer and Master Printer, who is the founder of Bagru Textiles. You can learn about the company, which builds on Chhipa’s family business. Many international brands utilize the local work and continue to propel the trend into the designer limelight.
Following your field trip to Bagru, you will have the afternoon to enjoy on your own time. Return to Jaipur with your private driver, and you can visit:
- Chokhi Dhani: Experience the culture of Rajasthan at this resort that hosts magic shows, puppet shows, folk performances, acrobatics, and more.
- Jaipur bazaars: Feel free to stroll through Johari Bazaar for precious gemstones, Tripolia Bazaar for jewelry, and Chandpol Bazaar for marble sculptures.
- Treehouse Resort: Enjoy a jungle safari, birdwatching, camel rides, gold, movies, archery, and more at this outdoor resort playground.
Day 6: Travel to Agra
In the morning, you will begin the 5.5-hour drive to Agra.
On the way, you will stop at Abhaneri to visit the Harsha Mata Temple. Built during the 8th century by King Chand, the structure is ancient and very much in ruins. Still, the architecture and pillars are admirable and worth a visit. Across the way from the temple, you will also find the Chand Baori, which is the largest and deepest constructed stairwell.
You will continue the drive to Agra with one more pit stop along the way at Fatehpur Sikri, which is a small city in northern India, just west of Agra, founded by a 16th century Mughal emperor. Red sandstone buildings are clustered at its center. Here, you can explore the Jama Masjid mosque, and nearby you will find the marble Tomb of Salim Chishti and a carved central pillar in Diwan-E-Khas Hall. You can also stroll the Jodha Bais Palace, which includes a mix of Hindu and Mughal building styles, and is next to the five-story Panch Mahal, which towers over the site.
Then, you will continue on the drive to Agra. When you arrive, you can check into your hotel and relax for the evening.
Day 7: Tour Agra and the Taj Mahal
Today, you will wake up at dawn to visit the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! You will be dazzled by the beauty of this tomb, which was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the image of his deceased queen. The ode to love is made out of marble and took 22 years–and 20,000 workers–to complete! If you happen to be visiting around the time of a full moon, you are also welcome to a night viewing (though this option is not available during the month of Ramadan). You can opt to join an in-person tour, use an audio guide tool, or simply explore on your own. You can also view the Taj Mahal from across the riverbank if you do not want to visit the property, itself.
Once you have enjoyed this enchanting site, you will return to your hotel for breakfast. Next on the agenda is a visit to the Red Fort, which is a strong representation of the power of the Mughal Empire. Formerly a military fortress built by Akbar, the fort was partially transformed into a palace by Shah Jahan. Its massive 82-foot-high walls are home to a succession of palaces, kiosks and pavilions, including the famous and finely carved Pearl Mosque.
Next, you will stroll through the Mehtab Bagh Gardens, which are facing the Taj Mahal on the opposite bank of the Yamuna River. They are in perfect alignment with the immaculate mausoleum, and offer a privileged view, especially right before sunset. To end the day, you will view the nearby Itmad-Ud-Daulah mausoleum. Described as a jewel box, the architecture is said to have been a blueprint for the Taj Mahal.
After a full day of sightseeing in Agra, treat yourself to a nice meal. Your choices for dining include:
- Dasaprakash, which specializes in South Indian cuisine.
- Esphahan, which is known as Agra’s finest traditional restaurant, and is located in the Oberoi Amarvilas hotel.
- Joney’s Place, which is an affordable local spot where dishes are prepared tableside with fresh ingredients.
- Shankara Vegis, which is vegetarian-only, and is located on a rooftop.
- Jahanpanah, which features authentic Awadhi fare and ingredients from Lucknow.
Day 8: Travel to Delhi Airport and fly to Varanasi
In the morning, you will embark on the last leg of your trip by taking the 4-hour drive to Delhi Airport. From Delhi, you will take a late afternoon flight to Varanasi. Once you arrive, you will make your way to your hotel for check-in.
Varanasi, which is also called Banaras, is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi has a strong influence on Hindu mythology. When you arrive, you will notice public rituals and baths taking place along the riverside ghats, along with everything from yoga and blessings to massages and shaves.
Since you’ve had a long day of travel, take some time to relax on your own time. Along with strolling the ghats, you can enjoy a meal at one of the popular eateries, like Pizzeria Vaatika Café or the Aum Café. Get a good night’s rest, so you are refreshed and ready to explore tomorrow.
Day 9: Tour Varanasi
Today calls for an early wakeup, so you can board a small, local boat and go for a 1-hour cruise on the Ganges, along the ghats. You will witness the long stairs being occupied by pilgrims, locals, priests, and students, most of them busy with morning cleansing, prayers, and yoga. You will also admire the diverse architecture of the ghats and the numerous temples or old palaces that they are named after. This boat ride is a must-do and is an excellent way to experience the ghats and their unique ambiance.
Next, you will make your way to the sacred Buddhist town of Sarnath, which is less than 10 miles from Varanasi. It was here that Buddha first taught and turned the "Dharmachakra" (The Wheel of Dharma), about 2,530 years ago. While in Sarnath, you can visit the peaceful Deer Park, where Guatama Buddha gave his first teachings. It is one of the four holy Buddhist sites sanctioned by the Buddha for pilgrimage and attracts those seeking solitude and relaxation among the gardens.
When you return to Varanasi, you can pay a visit to the historical Banaras Hindu University, a public, central university located in Uttar Pradesh. It was established in 1916 by Madan Mohan Malaviya. With more than 30,000 students residing on the campus, it claims the title of largest residential university in Asia. Once inside the University, you can visit the New Vishwanath Temple, also called the Birla Temple. Open to all, this temple is famous amongst tourists for its beautiful architecture. This temple is the larger version of the ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple located near the Dashaswamedh Ghat, which is one of the oldest Lord Shiva temples in India.
As night falls, you will find plenty of evening ceremonies underway in the ghats. You can even partake in a water ritual to close out your journey to North India.
Day 10: Departure from Delhi
On your final morning in Varanasi, you can continue to learn about life on the ghats. Have a nice breakfast at Open Hand Shop and Café, Varnasi Café and Restaurant, or Aadha-Aadha Café.
In the afternoon, your driver will take you to Varanasi Airport, where you will board a flight back to Delhi. You can either choose to fly out of Delhi the following morning or connect directly to begin your journey home.
As you depart India, you can look back on your collection of memories surrounding the ancient teachings, beautiful mosques and mausoleums, and delicious food, until your return for more exploration!