Discover the birthplace of Buddhism on this enlightening two-week journey through some of northern India's most important spiritual sites. Setting off from Delhi, you'll boat down the Ganges River in Varanasi, meditate under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, and hop over the Nepalese border to visit the Buddha's birthplace in Lumbini. After touring the markets and sampling the local delicacies of Lucknow, your trip draws to a close with a train ride back to Delhi.

Highlights

  • Take an early morning boat ride along the holy River Ganges in Varanasi
  • Meditate under the tree where the Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bodhgaya
  • Visit the birthplace of the Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal
  • Sample Lucknow's best street food & local delicacies
  • Admire the architecture of Delhi's Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Delhi! Delhi
Day 2 Explore Old & New Delhi Delhi
Day 3 Fly to Varanasi, Evening Aarti Ceremony Varanasi
Day 4 Varanasi Boat Ride & Sightseeing Varanasi
Day 5 Transfer to Bodhgaya, Site of Buddha's Enlightenment Bodhgaya
Day 6 Visit the Mahabodhi Temple & Tree of Enlightenment Bodhgaya
Day 7 Transfer to Patna, via Nalanda & Rajghir Patna
Day 8 Excursion to Vaishali, Transfer to Kushinagar Patna
Day 9 Transfer to Lumbini, Tour the Buddha's Birthplace Lumbini
Day 10 Lumbini to Sravasti, via Kapilavastu Sravasti
Day 11 Transfer to Lucknow, Market Tour & Tea with a Nawab Lucknow
Day 12 Lucknow Sightseeing & Food Tour Lucknow
Day 13 Train to Delhi Delhi
Day 14 Farewell India!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Delhi!

Lahori Gate of the Red Fort, Delhi
Lahori Gate of the Red Fort, Delhi

Welcome to Delhi! This ancient city has seen the rise and fall of many empires, each leaving behind monuments and memories to explore. Upon your arrival in the Indian capital, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Relax and rest up for a busy day of sightseeing tomorrow. 

Day 2: Explore Old & New Delhi

Jama Masjid
Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque

Begin your sightseeing tour this morning in Old Delhi, with its ancient monuments, narrow streets, and bustling bazaars. Passing the dramatic Red Fort, you'll reach India's largest mosque—Jama Masjid. It was completed in 1658 by Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal in Agra. Continue to Chandni Chowk, the most famous market in Old Delhi and the center of the city of Shahjahanabad in Mughal times. You'll find everything here, from saris to silver jewelry. Take a cycle rickshaw ride through the crowded market for the full experience.

In the afternoon, visit New Delhi. Drive along Rajpath, in front of the British colonial-era government buildings, and past the Presidential Palace and India Gate, a stone arch commemorating the Indian soldiers killed in World War I. An eternal flame burns beneath India Gate, and thousands of names are engraved into the arch. Then, head to beautiful Humayun's Tomb, built in the Mughal era, and predecessor of the famous Taj Mahal. If time permits, you can also visit the imposing minaret of the 13th-century Qutab Minar, south of the city.

Day 3: Fly to Varanasi, Evening Aarti Ceremony

Ghats of Varanasi
Ghats of Varanasi at the river's edge

This morning, transfer to the airport and board your flight to Varanasi. On arrival, you'll be met and transferred to your hotel. Considered the holiest Hindu city, Varanasi is spread along the banks of the River Ganges (Ganga) and is famous for its array of shrines, temples, and palaces rising in several tiers from the water's edge.

At dusk, head to the banks of the river to witness the nightly Aarti ceremony, where devotees and priests gather on the steps leading into the river and perform religious songs and meditations while lighting lamps and offering them to the Ganges. It is a mesmerizing and spectacular experience that shouldn't be missed.

Day 4: Varanasi Boat Ride & Sightseeing

Narrow lanes of Varanasi's old town
The narrow lanes of Varanasi's old town

Just before dawn, take a boat trip out on the Ganges to witness the amazing spectacle of events on the ghats—the steps leading down to the river. Every day, thousands of Hindu pilgrims and devotees make their way to Varanasi to offer prayers, meditate, and purify themselves by taking a dip in the holy river. Here, you will see life and death together, and perhaps even capture a glimpse of a Hindu cremation on the banks of the river as you cruise past.

After the boat ride, set off on foot to explore the inner city. Walking around the streets is one of the best ways to explore, and offers us a unique insight into the life of the people here and the surroundings, which have changed very little over the last few centuries. After the walking tour, you can drive out to the Banaras Hindu University, visit the Indian art museum Bharat Kala Bhawan, and Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple. If time allows, you can also visit the Durga Temple (monkey temple), Tulasi Manas Temple, and the Bharat Mata Temple (Mother India Temple).

A few miles further out of the city lies Sarnath, one of the holy places of Buddhism, where Buddha made his first sermon. Here you can visit the museum of Buddhist objects and sculptures found on the site. 

Day 5: Transfer to Bodhgaya, Site of Buddha's Enlightenment

A temple in Bodhgaya
A temple in Bodhgaya

After breakfast, you'll set off on a drive to Bodhgaya, about six hours from Varanasi. Bodhgaya is famous as the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting under a Bodhi tree, and remains one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world. You'll have two days to explore the city and its many fascinating monasteries, temples, and museums.

Day 6: Visit the Mahabodhi Temple & Tree of Enlightenment

The famous Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya
The famous Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya

Today you'll pay a visit to the Mahabodhi Temple. Here you will find tall stone lotuses, figures of Buddha sitting in different postures on the walls, his footprints on the stones, and a colossal golden Buddha in the sanctum sanctorum. The Bodhi Tree where the Buddha attained enlightenment is situated in the premises of the temple. You can also meditate under the tree yourself.

Day 7: Transfer to Patna, via Nalanda & Rajghir

Ruins of the university at Nalanda
Ruins of the university at Nalanda

Today, you'll set off for Patna on a journey of five to six hours. En-route, stop at Nalanda, an ancient university town founded in the 5th century B.C.E. Visit the archaeological museum that houses the Nalanda University seal, sculptures, and other remains found at the site, then continue driving to Rajghir, where you'll visit Griddhkuta, the "hill of vultures" where Buddha delivered some of his most famous sermons. You can also stop at the Saptparni Caves, the source of Rajghir's hot springs and the site of the first Buddha Council. 

Day 8: Excursion to Vaishali, Transfer to Kushinagar

Parinirvana Temple, Kushinagar
Parinirvana Temple, Kushinagar

This morning takes you to Vaishali, where the Buddha preached his last sermon. The excavations conducted here have unearthed stupas (burial monuments) containing caskets holding ashes of the remains of the Buddha. Check out the Ashoka Pillar, erected by Emperor Ashoka to commemorate the spot of the last sermon.

Later, drive to Kushinagar, where Buddha finally achieved mahaparinirvana after his death. Among the ruins are the Mukutbandhan Stupa and a beautiful statue of the reclining Buddha.

Day 9: Transfer to Lumbini, Tour the Buddha's Birthplace

Maya Devi Temple, Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha
Maya Devi Temple, Nepal: the birthplace of the Buddha

Today a five-hour drive takes you across the Nepalese border to Lumbini. Upon arrival, get settled in at your hotel, then take a tour of the city to visit the birthplace of the Buddha. Rediscovered by archeologists in 1890, Lumbini is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains the ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Asokan pillar, and the Mayadevi temple— the precise place of Buddha's birth. From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at this important spiritual site.

Day 10: Transfer to Sravasti, via Kapilavastu

The Myanmar Golden Temple in Lumbini
The Myanmar Golden Temple in Lumbini

Hop back over the border this morning as you drive to the ancient Indian city of Sravasti, stopping en route at Kapilavastu. This Nepalese city offers age-old stupas, majestic monasteries, and several temples. It was here that the Buddha led a family life with his wife and son, and was said to have performed miracles in the area.

Continue to Sravasti, a total of five to six hours of driving from Lumbini. After some rest and relaxation, visit Jetavana Monastery,  an ancient monastery with the remains of Lord Buddha’s hut. Other nearby cultural sites include Ananthapindika Stupa and Agulimala Stupa.

Day 11: Transfer to Lucknow, Market Tour & Tea with a Nawab

Lucknow
Sunset over Lucknow

This morning, a three-hour drive southwest takes you from Sravasti to Lucknow. This lively capital of Uttar Pradesh was once the center of princely Awadh, among the most ancient of Hindu states of northern India.

Begin by exploring the city's vibrant markets, including Hazrat Gunj (the fashionable shopping area), Aminabad (the busiest market in the city), the Chowk district, Nakhas (the Sunday market), and more. Pottery lovers can head to Chinhat, where there are pottery factories that offer attractive planters, bowls, tea sets, mugs, vases, and dinner sets at very reasonable prices.

In the afternoon you can make an optional visit to the descendant of a Nawab (the ancient rulers of Lucknow) for afternoon tea. During the visit, you'll talk to your host about the changes that have occurred over the centuries, learn about the culture, traditions, and lifestyle of Lucknawis, and check out their small family museum that houses inherited antiques.

Day 12: Lucknow Sightseeing & Food Tour

Lucknow
Lucknow's magnificent Bara Imambara

After breakfast, take a quick tour around the highlights of Lucknow, beginning with a visit to Bara Imambara—a stunning Shia Muslim shrine that was built without using any pillars—and Rumi Darwaza, one of the finest examples of historic architecture in the Awadh style.

In the evening, enjoy a food walking tour of the city, where you can sample famous Awadhi cuisine and taste the best of Lucknow’s traditional kitchens and unpretentious roadside restaurants. 

Day 13: Train to Delhi

India Gate, Delhi
India Gate, Delhi

Rise early today for a morning excursion to the ghats on the River Gomti. Here, washermen launder garments from manufacturers in the river. The whole scene is quite mesmerizing, with the rhythmic sound of clothes being beaten, the colorful clothes drying in the sun, and the songs the washermen sing while working.

Later, take a last walk through the city, admiring Lucknow's architecture and monuments. In the afternoon, you'll transfer to the train station and catch an express train back to Delhi, a journey that takes around seven hours.

Day 14: Farewell India!

Transfer to Delhi's airport to catch your departing flight

The time has come to say goodbye to India. Depending on the time of your flight, you can spend your last day relaxing in the hotel, drinking chai and people-watching in the neighborhood, picking up some more gifts and souvenirs, or squeezing in even more last-minute sightseeing. When the time comes, you'll be transferred to Delhi International Airport to board your departing flight. Safe travels!

More India Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to India? Check out these other India itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Or, describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.