From tigers to temples, and ancient palaces to bazaars, India is one of the most magical places in the world. This 10-day trip takes you all the way from the bustling capital and the holy city of Varanasi to Rajasthan, where we'll wander in the footsteps of past kings. Top that off with a trip to the Taj Mahal at sunrise and a tiger safari through one of northern India's biggest and most beautiful national parks and you're in for a whirlwind adventure through the heart of this amazing country.

Highlights

  • Explore historic forts, magical palaces, and abandoned cities
  • Watch the sunrise over the Ganges on an early boat trip in Varanasi
  • Search for Bengal Tigers in one of north India's biggest National Parks
  • Visit female artisans in Jaipur and enjoy dinner with a local family

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Delhi Delhi
Day 2 Delhi Sightseeing Tour & Evening in Lodhi Garden Delhi
Day 3 Flight to Varanasi Varanasi
Day 4 Varanasi Sightseeing, Overnight Train to Agra Luxury Train
Day 5 Agra Sightseeing Agra
Day 6 Agra to Ranthambore National Park via Fatehpur Sikri Ranthambore
Day 7 Ranthambore Tiger Safari Ranthambore
Day 8 Ranthambore- Jaipur (160 Kms/ 4Hrs) Jaipur
Day 9 Jaipur & Amer Sightseeing Tour, Visit Local Women Artisans Jaipur
Day 10 Return to Delhi & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Delhi

Visit Delhi's Presidential Palace on an optional city tour
Visit Delhi's Presidential Palace on an optional city tour

Welcome to India! We will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel, where we'll get you checked in and go through all the information you need for your tour, before joining an optional half-day sightseeing tour of New Delhi.

One of the oldest living cities in the world, Delhi has been continuously inhabited for over 2,500 years, with every king, dynasty, and empire leaving their stamp in the palaces, fortresses, temples, tombs, and architectural styles of this fascinating city. You will begin your tour with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Qutb Minar minaret. Whilst construction started in the 12th-century, extra stories were added later.  Now, this soaring tower is over 239.5feet (73 meters) high. In the same complex, you can also see some Mughal tombs, and an iron pillar that dates back over 2,000 years. The pillar continues to mystify scientists who marvel at how it was cast to perfection.

After that, you will drive along the Rajpath passage in front of the European-style government buildings of the British era, including India Gate and the Presidential Palace, followed by a visit to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, one of the most prominent Sikh houses of worship in Delhi. Topped with golden onion domes, this magnificent white-marble temple is built on the site where the eighth Sikh Guru, Har Krishan, helped those suffering from smallpox and cholera by giving them water from his well. While he succumbed to the illness and died in 1664 aged just seven, the well remains there today and has become a place of great reverence for Sikhs. Raagis (classical singers) sing verses from the Holy Book throughout the day, adding to the overall spiritual experience.

You will also visit the large Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh Community Kitchen, a voluntary kitchen that feeds between 15,000 and 30,000 people of all races and religions every single day. Opt to help bake chapattis and cook rice and lentils, or just tour the massive kitchen and watch hundreds of volunteers working in unison to make meals for all the devotees, pilgrims, and visitors who walk through the doors.

Day 2: Delhi Sightseeing Tour & Evening in Lodhi Garden

Visit Jama Masjid, one of the biggest and most beautiful mosques in India
Visit Jama Masjid, one of the biggest and most beautiful mosques in India

After an early breakfast, start your guided tour of Old Delhi and New Delhi with a rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk and past the impressive Red Fort on our way to the center of the old city to Jama Masjid. Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan—who is perhaps better known for his eternal monument to love, the Taj Mahal—this beautiful red sandstone and white marble mosque is the largest and best-known in India.

Then, continue your city tour with a visit to Mahatma Gandhi's memorial, the Raj Ghat, and India Gate, a stone archway designed by the famous British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to commemorate the tens of thousands of Indian soldiers who were killed fighting for the British Indian Army in WWI.

After stopping for lunch make your way to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Humayan's Tomb. Built by his grieving wife in 1562, the impressive red-sandstone Humayan's Tomb is a marvelous example of Persian-inspired Mughal architecture, and has been referred to as a prototype for the Taj Mahal.

Round off your city tour of Delhi with an evening walk around Lodhi Garden.  This beautiful garden contains the elaborate royal tombs of Mohammed Shah and Sikander Lodi, as well as some smaller buildings and beautiful verandas dating back to the late-Mughal period. After a short stroll, stop for a cup of chai (tea) at the local teashop in the middle of the gardens where you can sit and admire the manicured lawns, colorful flowers, and crystal clear lakes before returning to th hotel.

Day 3: Flight to Varanasi

See life along the Ganges in one of the world's holiest cities, Varanasi
See life along the Ganges in one of the world's holiest cities, Varanasi

After breakfast, head to Delhi airport and board a flight to Varanasi. One of the seven holiest cities in India—and the world—Varanasi is at the center of the Hindu universe, is right next to the birthplace of Buddhism, and is vibrant with spiritualism, with thousands of pilgrims, holy wandering men (Sadhus), and visitors alike crowding the streets and the ghats (bathing stairs) of the Ganges river.

Once you arrive, you're free to explore and wander to your heart's content. We recommend finding a spot to sip on a chai (tea) and people watch—this is one of the best places in the world for watching life go by and learning about other countries, cultures, and religions and their different rituals and traditions.

Travel time: 1.5 hours flight
Travel distance: 510 miles (820 km)

Day 4: Varanasi Sightseeing, Overnight Train to Agra

Go on a sunrise boat trip along the Ganges to see pilgrims bathing in the holy water
Go on a sunrise boat trip along the Ganges to see pilgrims bathing in the holy water

Head out on an early morning boat ride on the Ganges to witness the dawn rituals on the ghats—the steps leading from the city down to the river. Sunrise is one of the most magical times to be out on the holy river and enjoy a glimpse of this city at its holy best, with pilgrims and devotees making their way to the river to cleanse themselves in the water or meditate on its shores.

Return to the hotel for breakfast before driving to nearby Sarnath, the founding place of Buddhism, to visit the ruins at the Deer Park where Siddhārtha Gautama gave his first sermon after achieving enlightenment about 2500 years ago. Now known as one of the four most sacred places in Buddhism, Sarnath Museum (closed on Fridays) has over 6,832 historic sculptures and artifacts including Ashoka's Lion Capital which dates back to 250 BCE. 

In the afternoon, return to Varanasi when you'll have the afternoon free to wander and explore the local markets before making your way to the railway station where you will board the overnight train to Agra.

Travel time: 13 hours
Travel distance: 373 miles (600 km)

Day 5: Agra Sightseeing

See the sun set over the Taj Mahal and the Yamuna River
See the sunset over the Taj Mahal and the Yamuna River

Arrive at Agra early in the morning where your local driver will be waiting at the railway station to pick you up. Spend the morning relaxing and enjoying a leisurely breakfast before heading out to explore the city.

The historic capital of the Mughal Empire, Agra which reached its peak between the years of 1556 and 1658 under the successive Mughal Emperors, Akbar, Shah Jehan, and Jehangir. Under Emperor Akbar, Agra became a leading center of art, science, commerce, and culture, drawing intellectuals and artists to its Darbars (halls) and Havelis (mansions).

Your first stop is the impressive Agra Fort, a massive red sandstone and white marble fortress built on the banks of the Yamuna River by the Mughal emperor Akbar. You can see various styles of architecture in the design and detail of the fort, as well as the characters of the individual Emperors, like the boldness of Akbar, the refinement of Jehangir's time, and the subtleness of Shah Jehan—who was imprisoned here for the last years of his life after his son usurped him from the throne.

In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Mehtab Bagh—Moonlight Garden—where you can enjoy a picture-perfect view of the Taj Mahal over the other side of the river Yamuna. After that, make your way to the Agra Bazaar, where you'll be introduced to some of the descendants of the families of the 20,000 artisans who worked on the Taj continue to create beautiful inlay work with precious stones and white marble.

If time allows, you can also opt to enjoy an evening cultural Show, 'Taj Mohabbat‛.

Day 6: Agra to Ranthambore National Park via Fatehpur Sikri

Explore the abandoned royal city of Fatehpur Sikri
Explore the abandoned royal city of Fatehpur Sikri

Wake up before sunrise to head to one of India's most amazing architectural feats, the Taj Mahal. Watch as the light changes the colors of the white marble as it reflects all the sun. Built by Shah Jehan as a memorial to his favorite wife who died in childbirth, this impressive monument to everlasting love is believed to have taken 20,000 craftsmen 22 years to complete.

Return to the hotel for breakfast before making your way to Fatehpur Sikri, the one-time capital of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Abandoned since 1585, exploring this impressive citadel feels like taking a step back in time. Spend a few hours wandering through the deserted streets, visiting the Diwan-i-Am, the Diwan-i-Khaas, and Jodhabai's Palace and admiring the red sandstone frescos before continuing your journey on to Ranthambore National Park where you will be spending the next two nights.

Travel Time: 5-6 hours
Travel Distance: 186 miles (300 km)

Day 7: Ranthambore Tiger Safari

Search for the elusive Bengal tiger on a game drive in Ranthambore NP
Search for the elusive Bengal tiger on a game drive in Ranthambore NP

One of the largest National Parks in north India, Ranthambore is one of the best places in the world to capture a glimpse of the notoriously shy Bengal tiger.  It is also home to leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, crocodiles, monkeys, and more.

To maximize your chances of capturing a glimpse of one of the park's most elusive residents, you'll go on two safari tours. Start the day with a sunrise jeep tour with the park rangers in search of tigers and other animals and a fun-filled morning driving through the park. After that, head back for lunch and a rest, and even head to the nearby Ranthambore Fort if you want to do even more exploring. In the afternoon, try your luck again, before heading back to camp around sunset.

Day 8: Ranthambore- Jaipur (160 Kms/ 4Hrs)

Today we make our way to the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur
Today, make your way to the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur

After breakfast, set off on a four-hour drive through the beautiful Rajasthani countryside to Jaipur.  Also known as the Pink City, the capital of Rajasthan was designed by a young Bengali architect in 1727, when the Rajput ruler and amateur astronomer Jai Singh II decided to move the capital from nearby Amer.

One of the first planned cities in modern India, Jaipur is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed city, famous for its beautiful palaces and sublime architecture with a strong influence of Hindu, Jain and Mughal styles. Upon arrival in the city, check into the hotel and relax for a bit before heading downtown to explore the colorful bazaars. Featuring everything from saris to silver and spices, Jaipur's markets are ablaze with sights, sounds, smells, and sensations. Enjoy a guided tour through the historic and modern markets before returning to the hotel for the night.

You can also opt for an afternoon Village Jeep Safari of Jaipur. 

Travel Time: 4 hours
Travel Distance: 100 miles (160 km)

Day 9: Jaipur & Amer Sightseeing Tour, Visit Local Women Artisans

We begin our Jaipur sightseeing tour with a trip to the Amer Fort
No trip to Jaipur is complete without a visit to the Amer Fort

Begin your tour of Jaipur with a drive out to Amer, past the distinctive and impressive Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. This unique five-story building was built in 1799 and was specifically designed to allow the royal ladies to discreetly observe the street parades and parties from the 953 jharokas (windows) without being seen from the street below.

The ancient capital of the Kachhawaha dynasty for 6 centuries, Amer is 6.8 miles (11 km) from Jaipur. These days, it's most well known for its Amer Fort—also known as the Amber Fort—which was the historic royal residence before Jai Singh II moved the capital to Jaipur in 1727.  Both fort and palace, Amer Fort has large ramparts and gates guarding the exterior, while the interior is beautifully designed and reflects the opulence of the royals at the time. Check out the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) and the Sukh Niwas (Hall of Pleasure), which has an early form of air conditioning created by wind blowing over a cascading channel of water that flows through the center of the room.

Following the trip to the fort, visit City Palace—the home of Jaipur's royal family since 1727—with its perfect blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, and impressive collection of weapons, before making your way to Jantar Mantar, Jai Singh II's personal observatory, an astronomical treasure trove in one of the largest and most well-preserved observatories in India.

In the afternoon, meet the local women artisans in Jaipur. Learn the art of block printing, one of the oldest printing techniques in the world, and make your own handkerchief using Rajasthani woodblocks. You'll also have a chance to chat with the women and learn about their lives.

In the evening, take a tour of the food market followed by a cookery demonstration and dinner with a local family. Your culinary experience will begin with a guided trip through the market where you will learn about all the ingredients necessary to create the perfect dish, including all the fresh spices. Then, you'll go to your chef's house for a cooking demonstration and a local feast of Indian delicacies, before your hosts will demonstrate traditional henna designs and give you a lesson in tying the Safa, a colorful turban that is even longer than a sari and is guaranteed to add some splendor to your memories of Rajasthan!

Day 10: Return to Delhi & Depart

Say goodbye to Jaipur as we make our way back to Delhi where the tour ends
Say goodbye to Jaipur as you make your way back to Delhi where the tour ends

After one last leisurely breakfast, you'll begin the 5-6 hour journey back to Delhi. Enjoy your last glimpses of India from the window as you drive straight to the airport to begin your onward journey, with your heart and your camera full of once-in-a-lifetime memories.

Travel Time: 5-6 hours
Travel Distance: 168 miles (270 km

Map

Map of Highlights of North India: Golden Triangle, Taj Mahal, Varanasi, & More - 10 Days
Map of Highlights of North India: Golden Triangle, Taj Mahal, Varanasi, & More - 10 Days