- Experience the Taj Mahal and delve into the romantic saga that brought it to life
- Celebrate the colorful festival of Holi
- Discover India's culinary heritage in a cooking class
- Visit the Golden City of Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert
- Go on a sunset camel ride across sand dunes
|Arrive in Delhi
|Jaipur cooking class
|Jodhpur sightseeing; excursion to Bishnoi Village
|Photo Deval; Ranakpur; Udaipur
|Bundi via Chittorgarh
|Ranthambore National Park
|Agra via Fatehpur Sikri
|Agra sightseeing; overnight train to Varanasi
|Arrive in Varanasi; excursion to Sarnath
|Varanasi sightseeing; fly to Delhi
Day 1: Arrive in Delhi
Arrive at the airport in Delhi and after a traditional swagat (welcome), transfer to your hotel to check in for a well-deserved rest.
Day 2: Jaipur Cooking Class
You'll spend the morning driving to Jaipur, about five to six hours southwest of Delhi. Often referred to as the "Pink City," it is rich in cultural history and is one of the most important historic cities in India. Explore its dazzling palaces, imposing forts, beautiful gardens, lakes, and markets. Upon arrival check into your hotel, then spend the late afternoon attending a cooking class with a local Indian family. Enjoy the fruits of your labor with a deliciously spiced traditional meal.
Day 3: Holi Celebration
Put on the provided traditional dress for celebrating Holi, and start the festivities at a local resident's home. Enjoy live music, dance, drinks, and mouthwatering delicacies. Smear colors and splash water on each other with pichkaries (water guns) and water balloons in the company of your host, his friends, and family. In the late afternoon, join a Jeep safari of Jaipur's neighboring villages.
Day 4: Jaipur Sightseeing
After breakfast, drive to nearby Amer and ride in style on an elephant up to the massive Amber Fort. Amer was the ancient capital of the Kachhawaha Dynasty for six centuries. Visit City Palace, a perfect blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, followed by a visit to Jantar Mantar, a solar observatory built in the 18th century. Explore Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) with its five-story pink sandstone facade before returning to your hotel.
Day 5: Pushkar
Drive to Pushkar today and check into your hotel. Visit Brahma Temple and the Sacred Lake. This is an important pilgrimage spot for Hindus as it is the only temple of Lord Brahma in India. In Hinduism, Brahma is the creator of the world. Afterward, spend the evening exploring the local bazaar.
Day 6: Bikaner
Rise bright and early this morning and walk to Savitri Temple. Situated on top of Ratnagiri Hill, you'll have to climb several steps to reach the shrine. Your efforts will be rewarded, however, with the lovely panoramic view of the beautiful lake and surroundings. Return to the hotel for breakfast. Afterward, drive five to six hours to Bikaner and visit the unconquered Junagarh Fort. This formidable fort houses a number of richly decorated palaces, temples, and pavilions. Spend the evening as you choose.
Day 7: Jaisalmer
In the morning visit the famous Bhandasar Jain Temple — the oldest existing structure in Bikaner. Continue on to Jaisalmer, a six-hour drive away. Founded in 1156, it is often described as the "Golden City" or a "golden mirage" rising out of the heart of the Thar Desert. The 19th-century merchants here built havelis (traditional townhouses or mansions), which are exquisitely carved from golden-yellow sandstone and are still in excellent condition. After checking into your hotel, it’s time to visit the garden complex of Bada Bagh, an ideal place to admire the sunset.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 8: Jaisalmer Sightseeing
After breakfast, visit the old town of Jaisalmer and Jaisalmer Fort. Perched on a 262-foot-high hill, the golden-hued fort stands like a sentinel in the bleak desert landscape. Since part of the city's population still resides within its ramparts, it is considered to be the only "living fort" in India. As you wander its meandering, narrow lanes dotted with havelis, palaces, and beautifully sculptured 12th- and 15th-century Jain temples. In the heart of the town, visit the magnificent Patwon Ki Haveli — the most elaborate of all the Jaisalmer havelis, showcasing Jaisalmer's legendary architectural wealth.
Later take a short drive to Sam to ride camels on the sand dunes as the sun sets.
Day 9: Jodhpur
Today drive the five to six hours to Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur. Built in 1459 near the Thar Desert, this city is also known as "The Blue City" for its blue-tinted houses, which helps keep the homes cool in the heat and also wards off mosquitoes. On arrival, check into your hotel. Spend the rest of the evening as you like, perhaps wandering the local market.
Day 10: Jodhpur Sightseeing and Bishnoi Village
Join a heritage walking tour and learn about the people of Jodhpur, the city’s architecture, and its historic monuments. Examine the vast range of architectural styles and planning elements, and enjoy tracing the social and cultural history of the city. The walk begins at Mehrangarh Fort and ends at the Clock Tower.
After lunch, climb into a Jeep to and make your way to Bishnoi. The village of Guda Bishnoi is located a couple of miles outside of Jodhpur, where a local Indian organization has developed programs to help the community conserve the surrounding natural area. The Bishnoi are a Rajasthani ethnic group with strong ecological convictions. Learn about the economic solutions the villagers have invented and implemented to help protect the land. After this excursion, return to the hotel.
Walking duration: 2 - 3 hours
Day 11: Kumbhalgarh
Today, drive four hours to Kumbhalgarh, a small town in the Rajsamand district. Here you'll find the magnificent Kumbhalgarh Fort, built during the 15th century by Maharana Kumbha. Arrive in Kumbhalgarh and check into your accommodation before visiting the fort, which sits on the western range of the Aravalli Hills.
Day 12: Ghanerao Trek
After breakfast drive to the starting point of your trek to the village of Ghanerao. Accompanied by your hiking guides, begin the trek in the sanctuary area. Discover a wide variety of flora and fauna, including wild hogs, antelopes, grey jungle fowls, partridges, quails, and black-faced monkeys. You will also pass through an area where the Bhil tribe —one of Rajasthan's largest ethnic groups — reside before lunching and returning to Kumbhalgarh.
Hiking distance: 8.7 miles
Hiking duration: 5 - 6 hours
Day 13: Photo Deval, Ranakpur, and Udaipur
Drive a short distance to the small village of Photo Deval to begin your trek to Ranakpur. Hike through dense forest to the magnificent Jain temple, famous for its ornate architecture. Made from marble, the temple complex is an important place of pilgrimage for Jains.
After your visit, drive three to four hours to the beautiful lakeside town of Udaipur. Known as "The Pearl of Rajasthan," "The City of Sunrise," and the "Venice of the East," Udaipur is a beautiful place regarded by many Indians and visitors as the most romantic city in India. Upon arrival, transfer to your accommodation before watching the Dharohar Folk Dance show, where you'll see traditional Rajasthani folk dancing and other cultural performances.
Hiking distance: 7.5 miles
Hiking duration: 4 - 5 hours
Day 14: Udaipur Sightseeing
Today visit the City Palace, a fascinating collection of buildings built by various Maharanas (warrior kings) and completed in 1725. The magnificence of the palace starts right from its entrance at the northern Tripolia Gate, which brings you to the central courtyard — the best place to view filigreed balconies and ornate cupola-topped towers. Visit the Jagdish Temple — an Indo-Aryan temple built in 1651 and considered to be the largest and most beautiful temple in Udaipur. In the afternoon, visit Sahelion ki Bari (Garden of Maids of Honor), an ornamental garden built by a king for his daughter and the women of the Queen's court.
In the late afternoon, enjoy a beautiful sunset on Lake Pichola, a 2.5 mile-long and 2-mile-wide lake surrounded by hills, temples, palaces, embankments, and bathing ghats (used for religious rituals).
Day 15: Bundi via Chittorgarh
On your five- to six-hour drive to Bundi this morning, make a detour and visit Chittorgarh. Formerly a fortressed city, Chittorgarh was the capital of the former Rajput state Mewar and is remembered for the bravery and valor of its rulers. Continuing your drive, arrive in the small, sleepy town of Bundi, located in southern Rajasthan. Bundi is known for its palaces and intricately designed baoris (stepwell reservoirs). In the afternoon visit the Bundi Fort.
Day 16: Ranthambore National Park
In the morning, drive three hours to the Ranthambore National Park, a former hunting reserve of the Maharajahs of Jaipur and current wildlife sanctuary since 1955. After checking into your hotel, go on a safari and tour the park. The rest of the day is free for you to rest or explore as you choose.
Day 17: Agra via Fatehpur Sikri
Start the day early and go on a second safari in Ranthambore National Park. This north Indian nature park is famous for its tiger population and is home to 250 species of birds. Ranthambore is also a paradise for cats, such as marsh cats, wild cats, and caracals. After the safari, return to the hotel for breakfast.
Drive for five to six hours towards Agra, visiting Fatehpur Sikri along the way. The now-deserted royal city was built by the 16th-century Mughal Emperor Akbar. The well-preserved and impressive citadel served as Akbar's political capital for 14 years before being abandoned in 1585 due to lack of water. After the visit, resume your journey to Bharatpur (outside of Agra), and transfer to your hotel. In the evening, attend the Taj Mohabbat Show for a live theatrical performance of the love story of Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.
Day 18: Agra Sightseeing
In the morning, visit the Taj Mahal and experience its enchanting beauty first hand. Constructed in 1653 by Shah Jahan for his love Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal represents their romantic saga through its architecture and intricate carvings.
Return to the hotel for breakfast and check out before going on the Agra Heritage Walk. The walk traces the birth of Akbarabad (Agra's former name when it was the capital of the Mughal Empire) until present times, beginning at the impressive Jama Masjid and continuing on to Mankameshwar Mahadev Temple before ending in front of the Akbari Mosque. Visit Agra Fort in the late afternoon before being transferred to the train station to board the overnight sleeper train to Varanasi (12 hours).
Day 19: Arrive in Varanasi and Excursion to Sarnath
Arrive at Varanasi early in the morning and check into your accommodation before heading back out to Sarnath — a Buddhist holy site, where Buddha is believed to have preached his first message. Here, Emperor Ashoka built monasteries and stupas (dome-shaped Buddhist shrines), one of which was 328 feet tall. Visit a museum of Buddhist objects and sculptures found on site.
Return to Varanasi to attend the nightly aarti ceremony (a Hindu fire ritual to honor the holy river and deities) at the edge of the sacred Ganges River, where 7,000 to 8,000 people meet every day.
Day 20: Varanasi Sightseeing and return to Delhi
Start the day early with a boat trip on the Ganges, where you will see hundreds of pilgrims completing their morning rituals in the ghats. Visit Vishwanath Golden Temple, the most beloved temple in Varanasi, before making your way through the narrow, winding streets to return to your hotel for breakfast. Spend the rest of the day exploring Varanasi and the city market with a possible visit to a silk sari workshop.
In the late afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Delhi. On arrival, meet your driver and transfer to your hotel.
Day 21: Departure
Transfer to the Delhi airport and board your return flight home.